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.


  1. Hey friend, nice to hear from you. Miss the old days :)


  2. like you said discrimination is in the mind... in your mind. this is a non-issue why bother?


YOU deserve a holiday!
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