My heart is broken by the news that one of my guides, Mr. Valerian Joannes, was killed on the mountain.
Mr. Joannes taught and instructed my brother and me to scale the Feratta on one of the Mountain's walls. His patience made me feel safe and confident and his candour about his love for the mountain (his office with a view, he jested) was uplifting. I believe that he had the same effect on other climbers too.
Mr. Joannes was not the only one that was killed on the mountain as a result of the quake. The following was written after my climb on Mount Kinabalu two years ago. Today I dedicate this as a tribute to the heroes that helped to save the lives of the people who were stuck on the mountain.
PROMISES When I was a very young boy,
my teachers used to teach me about the pinky promise.
And as a young boy I always wondered,
if promises were such a big deal,
why in God’s name would you validate it
with the smallest and weakest finger of the human hand?
But when you’re up in the mountains at about 13,000ft,
standing in the shadow of an enormous rock,
soaking in the rays of an enormous sun,
both of which by faith you believe
were created by an enormous God
– You realise just how small and weak you are.
With a sudden sense of humility,
you start to understand that the only thing that is keeping you
from falling out of your existence is a single steel cable;
small, thread-like wires that coil around one another,
not unlike little pinkies, coiling around one another
to make an unbreakable promise to keep you alive.
And for that split second,
the mountain becomes your teacher
and you learn that it was never about validating a promise with a small finger.
Instead, it’s always been about acknowledging
how small and weak you actually are,
so small and weak that we need to coil our souls
with one another because we were never meant to exist alone.
And in that acknowledgement,
you began to appreciate
that our insignificance amidst the giants
of our lives becomes insignificant in itself,
Because the promise of our existence
was made by a creator with a significant purpose
of holding another fellow human being into a significant existence
- We, were meant to make each other’s weak lives stronger.
Because in the end, it is these little things that matter,
And as the mountain whispered into my ear, it is all that matters to God.
Mr. Joannes with us after the climb. May you rest in peace.