The more popular Wenceslao when we were younger was director Jose “Pepe” Wenceslao. We didn’t know who this man was and whether or not Wenceslao was but his showbiz name. But we joked about him often, especially because a cousin was called Pepe. In Tudela, Camotes meanwhile, Wenceslao, to some relatives was “Big W.”
There’s a certain pride in seeing one’s family name linked to big achievements, more so with Wenceslao. No problem with my mother’s maiden name Ortega, which is Spanish-sounding and common. But Wenceslao? That’s why I would have wanted my cousin, long-time Sambag 2 Barangay Captain Noel Wenceslao to become city councilor.
I remember asking my father Tiyong what our relation was with the Wenceslaos of. Santander. That was when the Abineses still ruled Santander town’s politics and the Wenceslaos were content merely doing business there. My father told me the Wenceslao patriarch was Chinese and only borrowed the family name Wenceslao. What a choice.
I am talking Wenceslao because a Wenceslao was one of three Filipinas who reached the Mt. Everest peak Wednesday morning. Noelle Wenceslao (see foto), Karina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino will now be referred to as the “first women of Southeast Asia to summit Mt. Everest.” Did Noelle plant a flag with the Wenceslao name at the summit?
I actually don’t know who Noelle is. My father is dead and the other Wenceslao elders are either in Mindanao or in Camotes. And I am no expert in tracing the family tree. I once jogged around the new Talisay City Hall and a policeman there introduced himself as a Wenceslao. He was from Luzon. Another Wenceslao is a politician in Leyte.
An Inquirer report said Noelle’s father is Peewee Wenceslao. Don’t know him, but that “Peewee” name sounds interesting. A controversial Metro Manila mayor is nicknamed Peewee. His first name? Wenceslao. I said first name, not family name. So is Peewee Wenceslao actually Wenceslao Wenceslao. Oops, that’s the name of my brother.
Anyway, drama was not absent in Noelle’s feat. Reports say she earlier suffered from AMS or acute mountain sickness and expedition team doctor Ted Esguerra had to take care of her every step of the way. What courage. But that is what mountain climbing is all about, you don’t just give up. You push the limits of your endurance to make it.
It’s unfortunate that Wenceslao, Dayondon and Belarmino reached the summit of Mt. Everest at a time when this country is holding a political exercise whose practice we can never be proud of. And because we tend to gloss over real achievement for scandals and controversies (which incidentally our elections have a lot of), the feat got buried.
Of course, we have heard of people downplaying the achievement of reaching Mt. Everest’s summit. The argument is that the climb is no longer challenging, like what Mt. Manunggal has become with a road traversing its peak. These critics are no trekkers. They are ignorant of the dangers posed by Mt. Everest, especially to those Pinays.
Between the three Filipinas who reached Mt. Everest’s summit and most winners in last March 14’s elections, I would pay homage to the former. Those Pinays showed us what the Filipinos can achieve, while many politicians can only show us how deep we can plunge into the muck. Besides, a Wenceslao atop Mt. Everest? Come on.
—I wrote this for the May 18 issue of Sun.Star Cebu