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Five Things Solo Filipina Travelers Have to Deal With

For most of my travels, I’ve been moving out and about on my own, which I love very much and makes me vulnerable to all sorts of weird quips and questions from people that I met on the road. A few days ago, a friend posted on Facebook about her funny encounter with a bus driver who mistook her for a Japanese tourist (what with her golden brown skin and Cebuano accent) and then proceeding with a relentless conclusion that she’s a Filipina with a foreigner for a husband. Now, it’s not that I’m all hate and rage about I just find this funny and worth sharing some of the things I have encountered while I am out and about.

Here’s are some of the funny (and sometimes annoying) quips I encountered while being on the road.

1. Your English is so good!

Mostly it’s the foreigners that tell me about this and sometimes I end up telling them I learned English by watching 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother nonstop (I still hate the ending though). And most of the time they end up believing this, considering that we totally understand each other during our conversations while throwing in some Western jokes in between.

Things Solo Filipina Travelers Have to Deal With

Literally catching some waves in my hometown Misamis Oriental’s Lasang Adventure Park

It’s my fellow Filipino’s that annoy me the most. It’s either they tell me I’m uppity or pretentious. The two adjectives doesn’t justify, neither has it pleased me. I know at least three languages, excluding Tagalog and sometimes when I travel it’s hard to switch back and forth between Tagalog and Cebuano.

One time, I was asked by a Filipino traveler in Malapascua if I was a call center agent. I just went full Resting Bitch Face (RBF), knowing that you’ll never win with these kind of questions. Of course the inner bitch in me says, I finished Journalism in a prestigious university. Either they stop or press on for more questions like #2.

2. Your husband/boyfriend must be a foreigner.

Okay, let me stop you there. I work hard for whatever I had, including the money I spend for my travels. Just because I have brown skin, it doesn’t automatically mean that a white-skinned man is supporting me.

One fine sunny morning in El Nido, I decided to have a lavish breakfast on a beachfront property to reward myself for braving out my first ever solo trip. After the waiter repeated my order, he came back immediately with a tray with two cups on it. I asked him why he had placed two cups on my table and he said, “Your husband might want coffee. Is your husband a foreigner, ma’am?” I was so ready to flip the table, just so you know.

3. You should marry a foreigner.

 What for? So someone could pay my way to travel the world? To support my every whim? I don’t think so. I’d rather pay my own bills and still get by with whatever is left in my bank account. I may be living with a below-poverty-line life right now but it doesn’t mean that I would stick to a foreign sugar daddy to sustain me. That equates women to being mere objects, as someone who is paid to give men something to toy about. Women are not objects, we are humans. Homo sapiens with the capacity to support ourselves.

No, sir, you go stay with your patriarchal pack while I do my business here.

I’m not saying that I might not marry a foreign man, maybe I will or maybe I won’t. What matters is that I marry him because I am compatible with him and not because he can pay for me. My parents taught me the value of hard work and thriftiness, I might not have lived with being thrifty but I do sure know how to work hard.

My parents are sort of well-off, they started from the bottom too, but they worked so hard for whatever they have right now. This is the value that my parents taught me. I will not waste it by marrying a man for his money.

4. I am not Malaysian, Indonesian or Indian.

These happen to me tons of times when my fellow Filipinos talk to me in English thinking that I am a foreign tourist: airports, bus drivers, hostel receptionists, tour guides. Everyone.

Things Solo Filipina Travelers Have to Deal With

Newfound friends in Malapascua Island. Photo by Mari Kawano

While snorkeling in El Nido, I was stung by a jelly fish and our kind boat operator immediately went to my aid. I was mostly perturbed that he was asking me in English if I was alright and that he would put on an alternative cure for the stung area. He then asked me if we had these kind of jellyfish in Malaysia. This is the part where I actually answered him in Cebuano and we all had a jolly good laugh.

It’s kind of unusual for them to see a Filipina traveling alone, let alone stung by a jellyfish. They are already accustomed to seeing foreign tourists alone, but not a Filipina. Perhaps, this is one thing that makes me proud of #5.

5. Don’t travel alone, it’s boring.

 I am always asked if whom I am traveling with, it surprises people when I say that I am alone. Do I ever get lonely? Yes, I do feel lonely sometimes. But I usually end up meeting like-minded people (solo travelers) and it makes me feel better. Although it doesn’t stop me from wishing to have a companion every time I go on a trip, someone who is special to me (cringe).

Postcards from home, Palawan's beauty doesn't need filters

Postcards from home, Palawan’s beauty doesn’ravel need filters

Along the way, there are a lot of people especially Filipinos (including my mom) who will tell me that it’s dangerous to go out there alone because I am a woman. I don’t think so, it doesn’t sound logical to me why I shouldn’t travel alone, with a 30 liter backpack to hold all of my life in it and a few thousand pesos to sustain me, just because I am a woman. No, sir, you go stay with your patriarchal pack while I do my business here.

Rona Marie Avenido

The girl from the library next door, devotee of second-hand books, good tea and coffee. She writes random passages that she often passes off as essays, short stories, and fiction while traveling out and about alone. Currently, she's sorting out possible futures and writing a novel of cliches. Email her at avenidoronamarie@gmail.com. Or follow her on Twitter: @bellelaideroona

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