Punched by a policeman in Tokyo and kicked as well by a Kuala Lumpur cop, “French Spiderman” Alain Robert only had praises yesterday for members of the Philippine National Police in particular and Filipinos in general.
“Here I have met the nicest cops ever,” thus said Robert after scaling without harness the GT International Tower in Makati City, the Philippines’ 9th highest building at 217 meters and 47 floors.
The 56-year-old Robert captured the imagination of Filipinos on social media livestreaming as he came one meter short of reaching the apex of the Metrobank Group’s headquarters named after its late founder George Ty.
Only the lack of a hand or foothold in the last meter or so stopped Robert from reaching the very top. He said he had to climb floor by floor gently like he was treading on eggshells.
With climbs in 70 countries already under his belt, Robert took one hour climbing the distinctive fins of the building located at the corner of Ayala Avenue and H.V. Dela Costa Street in Makati, the country’s premier business district and richest city.
The Frenchman then took just 30 minutes going down the building, which he capped by jumping into an inflated rescue cushion and the waiting arms of Makati City policemen led by Senior Supt. Rogelio Simon.
As a perspective, Robert needed six hours in 2011 to climb the Burj Al Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 828 meters. He used a safety harness in the United Arab Emirates climb to comply with regulation.
“I started climbing 45 years ago. It is as important to me as eating, sleeping and breathing. And I need that. It keeps me alive,” Robert told reporters. “If I can make it 100 countries, that would be nice.”
“I am a nice guy. I don’t want to disturb much the police,” he said, adding he’d stay in the Philippines for a couple of days more without climbing any other building.
Robert told Simon that even before he went to the Philippines, he already decided that he’d climb the GT Tower whose management he thanked for treating him well and, hopefully, not pressing charges against him.
He said climbing in the Philippines had been in his mind in the last six months.
In choosing the GT Tower, Robert bypassed eight other taller buildings, including the three tallest namely: Grand Hyatt (318 meters, 66 floors) in Taguig City, Trump Tower (280m, 57 floors) and the PBCom Tower (259m, 52 floors), both in Makati.
Simon said they are duty-bound to file charges against Robert, who was taken for a medical checkup and booking process, including the taking of his mugshots after his press briefing.
Aside from city ordinances that may have been violated, Simon said Robert may be charged with nuisance, trespass and public disturbance after he “disrupted” the normalcy of the surrounding areas.
“He was also a safety threat,” Simon said, who added the police can already act as the complainant against the Frenchman because they were at the scene during the climb.
Robert was with his lawyer during and after the climb as he said he has already grown accustomed to being arrested and jailed, including for a week in China and one other country he did not name.
He said he is considering climbs in Chile and Panama next.
“Not at all,” Robert replied when asked by a reporter whether he want others to follow his example of climbing buildings. “I am a professional climber and I have trained special forces.”
“I am also a motivational speaker who had been invited to speak at Oxford University along with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi,” he added, pointing out that some tried to mimic him but found they could not.
Robert said what really got his attention upon arriving in the Philippine was the heavy traffic and the security guards carrying long firearms. At the back of his mind was being shot by the guards during the climb, he said.
“In just a few seconds he already climbed high so no one could have stopped him, not even the security guards,” Simon said in a mix of English and Filipino.
But being shot while climbing was a gamble he chose to take, Robert said, even after a Filipino he asked about his chances of being gunned down replied “50-50.”
Among Robert’s notable climbs are global landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge in New York (41 meters), Sears Tower in Chicago (440m) and the Montparnasse Tower in Paris (210m).
The highest he climbed were the 828-meter Burj Khalifa on 28 March 2011; Taipei 101 at 508 meters; and the 420-meter Jin Mao building in Shanghai on 31 May 2007.
On 12 April 2012, he set a Guinness World Record for the fastest climb when he scaled the 300-meter high Aspire Tower in Doha, Qatar in one hour and 33 minutes and 47 seconds.
Aside from breaking records, the “French Spiderman” does urban climbing for publicity efforts. On May 2003, he was paid approximately $18,000 to conquer the 95-meter Lloyd’s building to promote the premiere of the movie Spiderman on the British television channel Sky movies.
In a 2005 interview, Robert said he has fallen seven times in his life, but he apparently got up in as many times.