The Boho Travels Learning How to be an Empowered Woman on the Road

Kalinga to Mountain Province: Learning how to be an empowered woman while on the road

Travel makes you an empowered woman. It expands you. It gives you the opportunity to go beyond the bounds of what you are used to. Travel empowers you to explore what is possible.

I had not fully embraced this truth until this backpacking trip – when I was confronted by my own fears, when I was forced to face my own vulnerabilities. No, it was not easy. But, experiencing #womensupportingwomen first-hand was empowering, liberating. 

Off to Sabangan, Mountain Province

After leaving Apo Whang-od’s place, we planned to trek back to Tulgao, take the jeepney ride back to Tinglayan, where we would pick up our things before heading to Bontoc. From Bontoc, we would hop on the bus to Sabangan to meet our Couchsurfing host, Russell.

We started the trek back to Tulgao after having breakfast with Apo Whang-od. For some reason, I found the trek much more enjoyable than when we didΒ the hike to Buscalan.Β 

Perhaps it is because of this. 

While getting ready to sleep the night before, I revisited my first hiking experience. And, as fulfilling as it was for me, I also felt so much shame. 

I told myself that I should be able to do it. That I should have prepared better. I felt embarrassed that, for half of the hike, our guide was pulling me up the mountain because I was having difficulty breathing and my legs were just about ready to give up. At one point, Tara even said that she doubted if I would make it and I had the same thought.

The Boho Travels Empowered Woman

Commit to just doing it.

This time was different. I made a pact with myself. I committed to doing it on my own and as far as I could go.

Our guide offered to assist me several times but I would say to him, “Hindi manong, kaya ko ‘to.” And, I actually could do it!

The Boho Travels with Manong Francis
I was slow, yes. There were even instances when I was not sure if I was on the right track because I could not see both Tara and our guide any more.But, I did not mind. I felt empowered.I enjoyed the trek with the heat of the sun, the cool mountain breeze, and the beautiful scenery. The only time that I asked for our guide’s support was on the last stage before we got to Tulgao. Good thing I did not strong-suit it because, otherwise, I would have fallen off flat on my face. That would have been embarrassing. And, painful!At the end of it, I was proud of myself. And, to me, that was what mattered.

Be open to possibilities.

We got to Tulgao ahead of schedule and so we just waited for our ride back to Tinglayan so we could catch the last trip to Bontoc. But, for some odd reason, the jeepney was super late, such that the last trip to Bontoc had already passed about 30 minutes before we got to ride the one back to Tinglayan.That was a hitch. But, as I would, later on, learn – in travel, not everything will go according to plan. We have to learn to be flexible and go with the flow. I believe in this: Everything happens for a reason. We just have to be open to what the universe has in store for us.

So, what happened?

When we arrived in Tinglayan, our homestay host Manong Brilliano apprised us of the situation. Apparently, as part of a road-widening project, they blew up a section of the highway that caused a landslide. It took a while before the strong Igorot workers cleared the road, which caused the delay of the jeepney back to Tinglayan. The landslide also caused a couple of posts to fall down the Chico River so we did not have electricity until later that evening. We had no choice. We had to stay for the night. 

Be present. Breathe.

It was not part of our plan to spend an extra night in Kalinga. But, I realized that it was a pause that I needed. See, this was my first time backpacking. And, as much as I was enjoying the experience, I was also expanding as a person – exponentially. There were so many beautiful stories I wanted to write. I met so many amazing people just in the past four days. I did so many things that I never imagined were in my realm of possibilities. But, I was nearing the point of overwhelm. I needed this break to catch my breath so I can be fully present once again.

So, Tara and I just rested and re-packed our bags. We also shared how the trip has been going for each, so far. It also became a lovely opportunity for me to spend more time with the kids. They did the “pick-up lines” on me and Tara (that was fun!) and we talked about our favorite actors and actresses, school, and dreams: Ligalig wants to become a policeman, like his father, and Bullet wants to become a nurse, like her mother. Bullet stayed with me until we were both sleepy. Then, we called it a night.

The Boho Travels Kalinga
The Boho Travels Kalinga

And we’re off to Mountain Province!

We took the first trip to Bontoc. We got to ride inside this time (phew!). But, I admit that the view from the roof was way better than from the inside. Before hopping on that ride, our hosts gave us lovely going away gifts: Kalinga head accessories from Ate Concepcion and coffee that Manong Francis personally grew. It was an honor to receive these from our host family. In indigenous communities, this gesture signifies that the outsider has made an impact on the community and that the community now considers the outsider as one of them. This made my soul smile.

Stand up to creeps.

When we got to Bontoc, we decided to first have breakfast in a restaurant and to also see if we could charge our camera batteries and phones. So, we found the restaurant that Manong Francis recommended to us. We went up and took our seats on the balcony.

While waiting for our food, Tara said to me, β€œI’m using you as a block.” She was referring to a guy who was sitting behind me, facing her. He, we assumed, followed us when we went up to the restaurant. He ordered a couple of beer bottles and was checking Tara out the entire time. Tara was annoyed, who wouldn’t be? And, then, she said, β€œOh my God, is that skin I see?” That’s the point when she emptied one of the bowls on our table and placed it in front of her. She was sort of knocking the bowl on the table as if biding her time. Then, the guy left.

The skin that Tara saw was from the upper part of his stomach, down to below his pelvic bone. He was standing and had his back on us. Tara was ready to throw the bowl to his thing if the guy would make the wrong move of showing even just a bit of it to Tara.

Travel with empowered women

I did not realize that this was not an isolated event until Tara shared with me her experiences in traveling around. It dawned on me that there are dangers of being a woman on the road. And, yes, our experience was just low-key manifestations of these dangers; some women have had it so much worse.And, despite these horrific occurrences, I am so proud and very much in awe of the strength and power that women travelers show every day. They do know that there are dangers, that things could probably go wrong. But, they power through. They know that they can handle it. They know that they are capable.On my end, I just genuinely hope that I would always be safe and that if and when I face dangers, I would be able to handle them with grace, strength, and empowerment as the women before me. I would be eternally grateful to these women, like my friend Tara, for giving me that extra push to go for my dreams, embrace what I am capable of.

I hope that I get to do that for YOU, yes you, one day. So, here’s for you: Just go and be free.

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