Friday, August 26, 2011

Imelda Speaks on Pinay and the Boondocks

Do you sometimes wish you were a man because being a woman impedes you from doing what male backpackers can do?
There were isolated cases where I would rather possess the inherent attributes or benefits of being male. Those thoughts linger for just a minute or two, like when confronted in an awkward position where some local men would inquire of your marital status… and when they found out you are still unhitched they could be very persistent and would ruin an otherwise perfect solo trip. (They had in mind that you as a female, travel far and beyond to look for a groom. Pshaw! I take it as an insult.)

Most of my solo trips I would get curious remarks like “Why are you alone?” or “Where’s your significant other?” or “Aren’t you scared?” Once or twice can be a bit amusing but when you are flooded by unwanted attention (which is not so with solo male travelers), it is not fun anymore.

What can women do in mountaineering that men can’t?
Let’s face the fact that TODAY, men technically rule the arena. They do more than women… which of course doesn’t mean they do it better. But in my opinion, one aspect that women can excel at is DISCIPLINE. If you put a group of women alongside a group of men on an overnight climb (given the current culture of our mountaineering society)… you will find that the group of educated outdoors women in general will be more in observance of LNT, sensitive to other campers regarding noise and disturbance and outdoors ethics than most group of educated outdoors men. Also, most of the time, we can be on the tail of the group without having to suffer the feeling of being less of a man. =D

In your opinion, are there gender-related risks in travelling/backpacking/trekking?
We cannot separate risks with traveling/backpacking/trekking. It doesn’t discriminate. But those dangers are amplified many times over if it is a woman that is concerned. For one, women are perceived to be easy targets by “predators” because of their trusting nature and confidence… strengths that
at times translate more to being weaknesses. Security is the main concern here.

Quite a few male mountaineers have told me, they wouldn’t wanna marry a mountaineer (for varied reasons). Are you aware of any stereotypes on female mountaineers?
I could think of several reasons why men would rather get hitched with girls not into mountaineering. I, myself, share the same view, of not tying the knot with a fellow mountaineer for more reasons than one. Females who are into the outdoors are more aggressive and/or confident to men’s distaste. “Amasona”, I think, is the proper term. Female mountaineers are less feminine and less refined than your average girl-next-door (since basically we have more testosterone than them ordinary girls… in fact maybe some of us have more testosterone than your male mountaineer friends hahaha kidding!). 
Also, those involved in the sport of mountaineering (men and women) are more social… and exposed to vices such as alcohol, smokes and even drugs. Most women (and men) are exposed to risks and temptations that are normally not present in the environment of non-mountaineer girls (guys).
In my experience before, female mountaineers are expected to be more open to physical closeness with “every” male mountaineer. I can recall how absurd it sounded to me and my then buddy when we were “post-climbed” because we were “mahirap akbayan”. We fought stereotyping early on, and are still fighting that kind of branding against female climbers.
To all guys (in a group) out there, please don’t generalize all female climbers. Don’t hold it against us if we don’t approve of such practices as physical closeness. Also, please don’t deny us our privilege to climb just because of that.
Two non-mountaineer friends, when I was still a newbie, confirmed the above-mentioned stereotype that based on what they’ve heard, all female climbers are “loose women”.  Girls, we should prove them wrong and crush that kind of reputation!

What should men know about women who climb?
Some women climb for the mountain itself. That the reason behind shouldn’t be misconstrued as a motive other than the love of the outdoors. Also, there are times when we want to do things on our own, and that we would immediately request for help when necessary.  Thank you very much for that unsolicited helping hand but no thanks, I think I can manage well by myself.

Do you think Mountaineering is Sexist?
Mountaineering in the Philippines is still young in age as only a few years back only a handful are involved in this sport. It became a cult sometime between 2009 and 2010 with the coming of age of Facebook, the rise of a for-profit organization I wouldn’t name, and the exposure of the sport in other media like TV, blogs, word of mouth etc.

Back in 2007 when I was still a fledgling, women in the outdoors were still viewed as just accessories to climbs (no woman, no climb) and needed to be taken care of every step along the way. I can distinctly
remember a climb in Tarak where the males of our group mandated all women to have a lights out when the men from another group professed intent to join the socials (yes they are that over-protective).  Another instance was when one of my first climbs in Pico De Loro, the guys would not allow us girls to climb the rock monolith because it was too dangerous for us they say. I could proudly claim that I have made it to the top when I did a duo climb with my female buddy.

And an all-women climb was still unheard of. Today, women mountaineers are growing in number and most of them have already proven that they could have a safe climb without the aid of the males. All-female climbs are now becoming a trend. It makes me proud as a female to witness that we have
come all the way from being the accessories to becoming the main man of the show.

Discrimination is all in the mind. Mountaineering could be sexist in one era, but everything can change in a blink of an eye nowadays. It is gearing towards a more leveled playing field for both genders. And I can see that more and more guys are accepting that indeed, with women equipped with enough know-how and proper outdoor mindset…. mountaineering is definitely for all genders.

Some of the guides, with me a female as team/expedition leader, are more comfortable talking to the males of the group so they ended up getting instructions from the guys so yeah, mountaineering is a bit still sexist and we women must be more aggressive in pushing for equal acceptance.

What is your message (if any) to women who aspire to climb?
Given the proper preparation and discipline, we could do anything what men can do. In the mountains and in the eyes of nature…all is fair.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Imelda Speaks

Nope! You’re wrong if it was Imelda Marcos that you had in mind! This Imelda has more sense when she speaks about a particular subject! And she doesn’t represent the mayuming Pinay in a Filipiniana costume but she can be a perfect beacon for all individuals who are still reluctant to climb a mountain because of some some loserly reason as money, gender and time.

I have always maintained that there is no mountain in the Philippines that tough that you can’t climb it. And a friend believes in the same thing too saying it is neither a matter of strength nor masculinity; it is a matter of how you make the climb easy and manageable and how willing and able you are to subject your own self to the challenges that you may encounter in your journey. Imelda Lim here doesn’t boast amasona strength and endurance. She will tell you ‘I struggled to make it to the top. But I CLIMBED THE MOUNTAIN!’ After all that’s what mountaineering is basically all about—climbing the mountain! Imelda, a close online buddy of mine back in the days of mountaineering, has climbed mountains across the country: from Mt Iraya in Batanes, Tabayoc, Timbak, Bakun Trio and Ugo in Luzon, Kanlaon, Manunggal and Napulak in the Visayas, to Kalatungan, Apo, Talomo, Dulang-dulang and Kitanglad in Mindanao. At least those are the mountains that are familiar to most of us. She has climbed other mountains in the country that you probably have never heard of. And most of them are either solo, or duo or unguided climbs. But it has never been the number of mountains she climbed. It has always been her genuine passion and uncompromising love for mountaineering. In this article and the next she will relate her story and her insights regarding women in the sport of mountaineering.  

Name: Imelda Lim
Alias: Imelda
Age: 28
City of Residence: Makati
Hometown: Valenzuela
Profession: Internal Audit

When was your first climb and where?
A co-worker invited me to join her in pursuing her mountaineering dream. I gladly obliged, and we did a research on her target mountain—Mt Maculot. With my naivete, I proposed that we climb Mt. Manabu for the sunrise, pass the idle afternoon trekking Gulugod Baboy (with visits to Lipa tourist spots), and finally spend the sunset hours in Mt. Maculot. I thought it was that easy even for a sedentary person like me.

As expected and out of excitement, I didn’t sleep early and woke up late. We ended up climbing only Mt. Maculot! Start trek was at 1500H, with little water (I’ve got less than 250ml), little food (3 garlic bread sticks, I was on a diet that time), no headlamps (my friend has a lipstick-size flashlight), no proper information, and we were two female trekkers with no mountain guide.

Up there, I witnessed the sunset for the first time, the tangerine-turning-crimson sun setting across the side of Taal Lake. At 1800H, we were set to making the descent when other campers discouraged us. They were so persistent in providing us with food and shelter that we decided to stay. Truth was we wanted to spend a little more time with the mountain. It was May 2007 and we were young and naive.

Who and what inspired you to climb? That co-worker became my climb buddy. She became a mentor during my early days in climbing. She’s the one who’s always prepared, the one who researched more, the one who trains for every climb….the one who took climbing to heart. We did duo climbs back then including the Bakun Trio, Pico de Loro traverse, Mt. Tabayoc and Mt. Iraya. She is now semi-retired from climbing, and is pursuing other outdoor activities like SCUBA diving, surfing, photography and solo backpacking among others.

Also, “trying to prove something” is a powerful fuel in pushing someone to try to accomplish a feat. I am no exception to this one, as I started a climbing career in August 2008… trying to prove that even as a female, no one can dictate nor restrict the mountains I can and cannot climb.

Why do you climb? For as long as I can remember, I am smitten by gargantuan structures such as mountains. I marvel at the angles at which they appear the highest and proudest. I can recall a childhood scene where I stood staring at the grandness of Mt. Arayat…How huge, tall and near it stands that I could almost touch it! I was 4 or 5 then.

Over the years, the non-climbing me was forever mesmerized whenever I pass by a distinct mountain…until someone suggested that I do something about it and make things happen (ergo Mt. Maculot).

We all have different reasons for climbing. And that reason may change through the years. As said before, I started to climb reluctantly, then tried to prove people wrong. It became a calling a year after (I was literally dreaming of mountain hikes whenever I haven’t climbed for more than 3 weekends), until it transformed into a life journey.

Before 2007, I never knew the difference between Ilocos and Iloilo, nor that of Cagayan Valley with Cagayan de Oro. That although Pampanga and Pangasinan are both in Luzon, they are two different places. I never knew that Siargao is part of Surigao and that it is not just a typo error. And that Batanes is very far up north while Batangas is just down south of NCR. Mountain climbing taught me to go to places and learn geography by heart.

Mountaineering will also teach you values you don’t even know existed. It will fortify such values and give you something to stand for. It will make you stand for something.

What has been the riskiest thing you’ve done? Our hobby of mountaineering/backpacking is flocked by all kinds of risks. But among those risks, human factor is the greatest. When I climb, I inherently entrust my life to my fellow climbers. One of the riskiest
things I have done is to place trust on a fellow climber who clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of compassion, sympathy and camaraderie.

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a backpacker/adventurer/trekker? As an outdoors person, I don’t measure myself against other individuals, for I will always end up disappointed since there are others who are far more accomplished than I am in more ways than one. But given my nature of being an introvert besieged with so many phobias like fear of heights (yes!),
closed spaces, lightning, darkness, monsters, bovines, the unknown… practically everything,  I can say that it is in itself a big achievement on my part to get outside and smell fresh air and do what I do. More so when I do it solo. Indeed I am conquering myself, one mountain/trip at a time.

What is your ultimate mountaineering dream? I dream of absohute rcognition of female prowess in the mountaineering scene. Also, at a more personal level I can only wish for good health that I would still be strong enough to climb even after five years or so.

Who do you look up to or respect in the local mountaineering scene? I am not impressed with achievement alone. I regard higher those people with character and values. I basically look up to anyone who exudes respectable attitude towards the mountain, fellow mountaineers, mountaineering creed, outdoor ethics and practices what he preaches. It is hard to pinpoint a specific person because nobody’s perfect, and once you attach that admiration to a specific individual who in turn violates your personal idea of what a true mountaineer is, it can be very, very disappointing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


taken 6 years ago (on the way to Batya-Bataya)
It’s been six years and I’m still climbing. And so last weekend (August 13-14) I went back to Lagataw’s birthplace—Mt Romelo in Siniloan, Laguna. Through the years, a lot of things have changed. In me and in the world I’ve come to love! People have come and gone but the memories and the places lingered.
That’s probably the thing with us mountaineers: we meet each other one day, greet each other, and wander together for a brief moment then we say goodbye to each other as suddenly and purposelessly as we arrived.

And this is the story of Lagataw’s First Step.

Although my first four climb buddies and my mentor were not present, I was happy to celebrate my anniversary climb with some new good friends. I know this won’t last but at least it made a mark in my timeline.
my newfound friends
And this year I am sending a message to everybody. You don’t need a group to start climbing. You don’t need a group to keep climbing for six years and beyond. All you need is that genuine passion to be one with the universe and discover new things in you and in the world you are exploring.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rhovee Dadis on 'Is Mountaineering Sexist?'

'Mas gugustuin ko pang gamiting pambili ng pagkain at ipagluto ng masarap na pananghalian ang mga locals kesa sa ipambili ko ng shirt ang P400 na yan na ako lang ang makikinabang!'
Rhovee at Mt Kinabalu
And I just took the liberty to share to the public one of her text messages to me. I think that text message represents the serious and people-oriented mountaineer behind the cool and fun aura that Rhovee Dadis emanates. I share a lot of beliefs with Rhovee. She doesn’t preach but she does things! And they don’t have to be noticed. She just believes that things have to be done whether on her own or with groups. She has travelled far and wide and learned a lot of lessons from life. We never climbed together but we once crossed paths in Mt Batulao. Since then, we’ve communicated thru SMS and online. And we’ve made many common friends in Manila, Antique, Benguet and Mindanao. If I am very dedicated to preserving Mt Timbak in Benguet, she devotes her time dealing with the local authorities in Antique hoping that the mountaineering activities in Mt Madja-as may not be smeared by politics and commercialism. In spite of her time-consuming job, she has found the time to be involved in a lot of outreach activities in different places across the country including Benguet, Bicol and Antique. Many regard her as amasona for her vigor and fortitude. Some address her as vaklush for her lightheartedness and sense of humor. But I think her boyfriend is happy singing to her the same song that Melo Sanchez enjoys singing to Kat Ocol—She’s Always a Woman to Me.
Rhovee rocks!
Personal Information
Name: Rhovee Dadis
Alias (if any): Roby, Rudy or Manay Rudy
Age or Age range (optional): 26
City of Residence: San Jose del Monte, Bulacan
Hometown: Bicol
Profession: Technical Engineer/Specialist
Website/Blog (if any):

When was your first climb and where?
My first climb was in Isarog (Panicuason Trail) with my Dad and his friends when I was seven. However, I started getting hooked on this passion when I was a freshman in college. I joined the mountaineering club until 2004 and rested until 2007 to give way to my studies and to focus on swimming. When I left my dear alma mater to join the corporate world, I joined SYOUT (SYKES OUTDOOR) and that's when I got back on track. Even when I left the company (SYKES), I still continue to climb with SYOUT and with my new group EMRUCKS (Emerson Rucksacks).

Who and what inspired you to climb?
A lot of people inspire me every climb...From my Dad up to the people I meet along the trail who share their mountain stories and experiences. One of them is Ute Aytin, the humble Mangyan guide of HALMS who helped me make it to Halcon. His humility and aim to share his love with the passion struck me and showed me what mountaineering is all about. It is how you enjoy, respect and value mountaineering. It's not how many mountains you climb but how many people you helped to make it to the top and share the serenity of the summit. Another one is Pastour Emata, who keeps pushing me to my limits every time I climb with him. He said, he didn't make it to the summit of Mt Everest alone but he took with him the hope and support of the group who assisted him from the day he started training.

Why do you climb?
Mountaineering is my path to liberation. This motivated me not just to struggle to reach the summit but also to negotiate my freedom in a sport achieved usually by men. It's cool to get to the top of something you didn't think was possible. I love possibilities. Mountaineering made me find the little girl inside me and it introduced me to the woman I’ve become. This makes me feel alive! Just going through life is so boring and feels like I'm on the edge of nowhere. When I climb there is a growing spark inside me. I love to meet people from all walks of life and understand their culture. Mountaineering itself opens a door of amazing things and mystery in us.

Mt Mayon on the background

The adventurer Rhovee
What are the things that you’ve done that you think many men can’t do?
Climbing with my monthly period.

What has been the riskiest thing you’ve done?
Travelling alone in remote places

Do you sometimes wish you were a man because being a woman impedes you from doing what male backpackers can do?
Not at all, because being a woman does not hinder me from being a free-spirited adventurer. It’s just a matter of how you make things easier and manageable for you and not an issue of gender. 

What can women do in mountaineering that men can’t?
Everyone can do that whatever he/she wants as long as he/she is determined to do that! Both genders are equal from my own perspective.

In your opinion, are there gender-related risks in travelling/backpacking/trekking?
I won't deny that a woman travelling alone may put herself in great risk considering the crime rate nowadays. It's just up to you as to how you will secure and ready yourself at all times. I usually don't fall asleep while travelling alone. I usually sit either beside an old lady or beside the driver. I always take note of the travel time from one place to another. I don't forget to bring a whistle and a pocket knife. I also keep someone informed of my location wherever I am. I get all necessary information of the place I'll be heading to and make courtesy calls on the head of the municipality I'm visiting. Lastly, I keep a good faith with Him and never under estimate a situation.

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a backpacker/adventurer/trekker?
I was able to find happiness and beauty and test my own limits in the simplicity of the mountains. I was able to share my passion to some and they have come to love the passion I enjoy doing.
The mountains taught me and still continue to teach me a lot of things. It made me realize how trivial and petty my personal problems are and that life should not be taken for granted.
Another thing, I have gone to less travelled places and was able to reach out to the locals in my own little way.

What is your ultimate mountaineering dream?
Still climb and enjoy mountaineering until I get old. Bequeath this passion of loving the mountains to my children and grandchildren.

Who do you look up to or respect in the local mountaineering scene? (International if no one in the country satisfies your standards)
The three Pinays who made it to the summit of Mt Everest: and they never stopped doing adventures.
Another one is my good friend Pastour Emata.
International - Junko Tabei. She is perhaps best known as the first woman to summit Mt Everest (1975)

Quite a few male mountaineers have told me, they wouldn’t wanna marry a mountaineer (for varied reasons). Are you aware of any stereotypes on female mountaineers?
I’m not aware of any stereotypes on female mountaineers. I am one of the few lucky female mountaineers who fell in love with a MAN...correction...MALE, who shares the same passion I have. It's nice to share your adventure with the person who can understand what you are doing.

What should men know about women who climb?
They should know that even how feminine we are, we still feel valued when we are treated equal.

Do you think Mountaineering is Sexist?
No, not at all. For me, it's more of how an individual makes his/her climb easy and manageable. It's not a matter of masculinity but a matter of determination and passion. It's not a matter of strength but rather of one's ability and capability to subject his/her own self to the obstacles or challenges he/she will encounter. Mountaineering involves life-threatening risks and that there have been times when I considered quitting altogether. But the unseen beauty of nature and its unlimited healing power have lured me back each time I'm on the foot of the mountain.

What is your message (if any) to women who aspire to climb?
"Anyone with a pair of feet who can walk can climb. The most important thing is not being concerned about having the money, time or skills to climb, but the desire. Don't think too hard. Just do it."
Love what you are doing. Do not limit yourself. Try new things. Always keep a positive mindset. Lastly, make things enjoyable and never underestimate yourself from doing something you think is impossible!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kat Ocol on "Is Mountaineering Sexist?"

...I climb mountains because of other people's stories that I want to retrace - the people they've met and the experiences and lessons they took home with them.

I am a kid at heart and I am fond of listening to stories from locals wherever I visit

I first heard of Kat Ocol from the Mt Guiting Guiting PaSu assistant in Tampayan back in 2009. That time, I and my two buddies had just finished our grueling 2-day-1-night trek in the same mountain via the traditional Tampayan route. But according to the PaSu assistant, this mighty woman Kat Ocol was leading a traverse trek over the same mountain! I had heard of their plan and I had known that another team was doing the same attempt around that time. It would be the first of its kind (an all-mountaineers group not supported by the local government attempting a traverse trek in Mt Guiting-Guiting). Personally, I think apart from her passion for adventurism, she surpasses a lot of men when it comes to planning and leadership!
Kat Ocol in one of her climbs in Mt Guiting-Guiting
This woman, who never posts pictures of herself, remained an enigma to me until last month (during the awards night for the Nomads Peak Competition where she was given some major awards) when I finally got to meet her in person.
She started climbing in 2007 and under her belt are the following feats:
Four climbs in Mt Guiting-Guiting including the traverse expedition she led in 2009 and a solo climb in 2010.
She has also done a Luzon 321 and a Mindanao 321 expedition.
And this year, in the Nomads Peak Competition, she was one of the recipients of the 32/7 Award (32 peaks in 7 days).
When she’s not climbing, she’s either swimming or doing martial arts. She has won gold and bronze medals in different swimming competitions in the past and last year she was the sole finisher of the 3.5K swim in Gabriel’s Symphony Ironman Relay. She aims to complete a full Ironman next year.
She also has won gold and silver medals in inter-school and national Taekwondo competitions. She also actively practices aikido and kung fu.
Kat with the other recipients of the Nomads 32/7 Award


Alias: (if any): Kat
Age or age range: 25 (and proud to be twenteen five)
City of Residence: Las Piñas City
Hometown: Las Piñas City
Profession: Human Resource Analyst
Website/blog: None as of now


When was the first time you climbed?
I started my formal mountaineering activity last June 2007, a few days after my birthday. I tried to climb on my birthday for a change and I never thought I'd like it.

Who/what inspired you to climb?
Hmmmmm.. first, other people's outdoors photos and stories. Back then, I was browsing summit photos and itineraries in and Google. Whenever I read a good story or see breath-taking photos, it was like, "Hey! I wanna climb this mountain." Perhaps, this was the story that struck me the most:
Mt Halcon is included in my bucket list because of this story.

Why do you climb?
I climb mountains because of other people's stories that I want to retrace - the people they've met and the experiences and lessons they took home with them.

Kat during her solo climb in Mt Guiting-Guiting

The adventurer Kat

What are the things that you’ve done that you think many men can’t do?
I don't know. I've met a lot of talented people in the climbs I have joined but I cannot compare myself with the rest. Most of the people I meet have something I aspire to have and/or I have something they aspire to have.

What has been the riskiest thing you’ve done?
It has always been risky to lead a team whether this may be a fun or an exploration climb. You are responsible for the lives of the people you lead.

Do you sometimes wish you were a man because being a woman impedes you from doing what male backpackers can do?
I have asked myself that question a lot of times ever since I was a kid - why I was masculine in spite of my gender. A few years ago, back when I was "soul-searching", I met a meditation guru who told me that I was a warrior in my past life and have reincarnated in this world as a woman to teach the people around me a lesson. Since then I stopped asking the question. Instead, I have been searching for answers on how to untap this "gift" I should put to good use. 

What can women do in mountaineering that men can’t?
Aside from being highly flexible, we don't start brawls at the latter end of the night socials. We are peaceful beings but can be fierce when provoked. I have proven my social sciences professor's claim to be true—men are the top rumor-mongers and not women.

In your opinion, are there gender-related risks in travelling/backpacking/trekking?
Yes. Physiologically, women are not built to carry heavy loads. That's why there have been bags which were built for a woman's physique to lessen the load. The hip belt serves another purpose aside from balancing the weight. It also binds the person's reproductive system and other internal organs around it, to hold them in place and lessen the risk of hernia. Unlike men, who can just walk into a department store to buy supporters, women have to improvise for comfort and protection. So I teach the women I meet to bind their tummies with a cotton cloth or buckle their hip belts tight.
Also, proper breathing should not be concentrated in the chest area but in the center of our bodies or the "tantien"—to be specific, in the navel - just how babies and children breathe and dying people breathe as the body's automatic response in "chasing" air. If we concentrate our breathing in the chest area, the heart takes in the pressure which may result in future heart complications. Y’see, the heart and lungs are protected by the rib cage and the lungs' diaphragm is placed below the chest area because the heart and lungs can only withstand a specific amount of pressure and the diaphragm's purpose is to absorb it. This is important stuff to men as they are more prone to heart diseases than women.
These are the things which are not taught in BMC's which I have learned from my sifu. I am happy that he allowed me to share all of these to my fellow mountaineers especially to women.

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a backpacker/adventurer/trekker?
I am a kid at heart and I am fond of listening stories from locals wherever I visit. Perhaps my greatest achievement was to gather different myths and legends told by the elders I interacted with, most of which can never be found in National Bookstore's children's Adarna books. If I have the time and resources in the future, I might write and publish some of them.

What is your ultimate mountaineering dream?
I have always been fascinated by K2 (Karakoram) way before I saw Vertical Limit. Then when I first climbed Mt Apo in 2008, The Tagabawa chieftain told me that katkat means ‘climb’ in their language. Surprisingly, that's how my dad calls me! Is it destiny? Who knows?

Who do you look up to or respect in the local mountaineering scene? (International if no one in the country satisfies your standards)
There have been a lot of people who inspired me. One of the people I highly respect is the highly talented, Sir Benjie Jovero. He's not only my mentor in mountaineering but my photography coach as well. I also received my first informal lessons on acupuncture from him.

Quite a few male mountaineers have told me, they wouldn’t wanna marry a mountaineer (for varied reasons). Are you aware of any stereotypes on female mountaineers?
Yes I am aware! When I was still starting, an experienced mountaineer told me that I couldn’t join their Mt Guiting-Guiting climb because I am a woman. So I trained hard and joined different groups until I led my own group to the said mountain. 
It's not just in mountaineering but in other fields as well. It's chauvinism which comes into play. Most men just can’t stand to be outdone by girls. I highly respect men who value women and their strengths and weaknesses.

What should men know about women who climb?
Given enough time and opportunity, we can equal them. Men and women are equal but not equivalent because we have different strengths and weaknesses.

Do you think Mountaineering is Sexist? 
My answer to this one is not related to the previous ones I have said. Anyway, mountaineering was sexist BEFORE. With more women getting interested in the outdoors and the Filipino society being more open-minded and confident of women's capabilities, it is inevitable that the Filipino mountaineering culture will produce more women-legends in the future, to follow in the footsteps of the Everest girls. They were the ones who broke the idea that women can't equal men in mountaineering.

What is your message (if any) to women who aspire to climb?
In Chinese medicine, it is proven that in physical activities, any body part which has sufficient amount of oxygen learns the fastest. Women were built with stronger hearts than men to sustain life or lives within her, to endure child birth and to withstand child rearing. So the female gender is not an excuse for becoming weak. If you pour out and open up your heart into the things you love—whether this be mountaineering or any other sport—you will definitely succeed!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cheryl Bihag on 'Is Mountaineering Sexist?"

...I am always amazed by how beautiful the world is! It is natural beauty untouched by the creative minds of people!

Cheryl Bihag climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (Africa's highest)
I met Cheryl at the Second Annual Hungduan Climbathon in Mt Napulauan (Ifugao) April this year. We ran the 17K mountain trail from Hapao to Hungduan accumulating an elevation gain of more than 5000ft. She finished 3rd in the women's category. I saw her again at the TNF Thrill of the Trail in CamSur. She finished 7th in the women's 100K event! Then when I looked through her 'mountaineering resume', I was utterly humbled by the accomplishments she's made so far. If I were to mention all her feats over the last few years, I would have to make a totally different post about them. To name a few, she summited Mt Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa) in 2008; she has done two winter climbs in Snow Mountain in Taiwan, a winter trek down the Grand Canyon and a climb up Mt Kinabalu. 
Cheryl atop Snow Mountain in Taiwan
She is also a big fan of The North Face Thrill of the Trail participating in its races in Singapore and The Philippines. She has also participated in a lot of other runs in Southeast Asia including the KL Standard Chartered Marathon (42K) and SG Standard Chartered Marathon (21K). And you can also see her in wall climbing competitions in the country! What else do you want to know to prove that Cheryl's the real deal?!  

finishing the TNF Thrill of the Trail in Singapore
Name: Cheryl J. Bihag 
Alias (if any):None
Age or Age range (optional):37 
City of Residence: Pasay City 
Hometown: Siquijor 
Profession: Human Resource Practitioner 
Website/Blog (if any): none. 

When was the first time you climbed and where?
The very first mountain I climbed is Mt. Talipanan/Malasimbo in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro (July 2000). That was the first training climb of the BMC that I was taking at that time. Up to now, before summiting Mt.Kilimanjaro, I can say that was my most difficult climb ever. At the saddle after the muddy part, I thought to myself "Why am I doing this, this is not for me". I was just so tired and wasted then; I couldn't even appreciate the beautiful view around me. Carrying a very heavy pack, sleeping in a tent, getting up so early despite my aching and tired body were some of the reasons I had to think a hundred times if I was really going to finish the course. Until I said "Ok I will give it a try to TC2 (second training climb)". I gained friends along the way, I learned more techniques on how to make my life easier on the mountain, until I finished the four-month course, and not just that, I became really obsessed with climbing that after my BMC I climbed most of my weekends. 

Who/What inspired you to climb?
Climbing was never in my mind at all until I got a job that gives me a chance to travel to different places in the country. It was then that my interest in the outdoors was awakened, I grew up in the province so I was really close to nature. In one of our travels, my co-worker and friend Joy Fallarme saw my interest in the mountain and she pushed me to take part in a BMC. It took me 3 years before I was able to join one. Mike Walde, another workmate accompanied me in my training days up to the several training climbs that I had. The two of them serve as my mentor in mountaineering, they were the two people who believed that I can do it in the outdoors. 

Why do you climb?
Because I love the beauty of nature, I love being one with it. No matter how tiring and difficult my climb may be, I am always energized by the beauty of the place that surrounds me. I am always amazed by how beautiful the world is! It is natural beauty untouched by the creative minds of people!

The adventurer Cheryl
What are the things that you’ve done that you think many men can’t do?
Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and Finishing a 100K Trail Run 

What has been the riskiest thing you've done?
Climbing Snow Mountain in Taiwan (our first winter climb in year 2008)! On our summit assault, the weather was so bad and there was less than 1-meter visibility. To make matters worse, we were climbing without safety devices like ice ax, rope and proper crampons. In other words, we were not properly equipped for an alpine climb. 

Do you sometimes wish you were a man because being a woman impedes you from doing what male backpackers can do?
No, not at all! 

What can women do in mountaineering that men can’t?
I can’t think of any. For me, men and women can equally do the same thing in the mountain. 

In your opinion, are there gender-related risks in travelling/backpacking/trekking? One could be unsafe if traveling in remote places alone or in an all-women expedition. To minimize the risk, I always make arrangements ahead of time when traveling alone. Or I join groups whom I know I can trust with my life. 

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a backpacker/adventurer/trekker?
Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro 

What is your ultimate mountaineering dream?
Summiting Mt. Everest and/or a multi-pitch climb at El Capitan

Who do you look up to or respect in the local mountaineering scene? (International if no one in the country meets your standards)
Romi Garduce and Conrad Anker

Quite a few male mountaineers have told me, they wouldn’t wanna marry a mountaineer (for varied reasons). Are you aware of any stereotypes on female mountaineers?
None that I can remember. I always admire mountaineer couples and wish I can find a partner of the same interest too. 

What should men know about women who climb?
That no matter how passionate we are about climbing or any extreme outdoor activity, there is still the soft side in us, the female side in us. 

Do you think Mountaineering is Sexist?
No, I don’t see it that way. For me, mountaineering and other outdoor activities offer equal opportunity to both men and women. What men can do, can also be done by women!
What is your message (if any) to women who aspire to climb?
Just go for it, keep the dream, and pursue it. Just enjoy being with nature and be with others who share the same passion. Start with the minor climbs, until you hit big expeditions!
I also have these follow-up questions:

*all images are courtesy of Cheryl Bihag

YOU deserve a holiday!
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