Once you hit that “Publish” button about your week-long trip with your partner (and your partner alone), you will have to be ready for the consequences.
A few days ago, I saw a tweet that resonated a lot with me:
Pls explain to me why (some) older people look down on non-married couples who go on trips that require sleeping in the same room? Is it because of the dumb idea that when you’re in a room w/ a bed it’s “impossible” to not do anything sexual????
I believe that the root of this concern isn’t the question of, “Why are they being judgmental?” or even “Are you really having sex when you’re traveling together or not?” I see it more as a question of, “Are you concerned with your image?”
Why you should not be caught traveling with a partner
Westerners or non-Asians who will read this might think it shouldn’t be a cause of a concern. But just to provide context, Filipino culture still leans towards the conservative side being still predominantly religious. I would not blame this on Catholicism since just about any religion has a provision for not having sex before marriage.
But while the only rule that you should not violate is not having sex before marriage, we all know that “image” plays a huge part of our culture. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if you had sex with your partner or not. Somehow, there is a need to prove that you are really not having sex, which means not traveling alone-together, not sleeping in the same room, or avoiding overnight stays altogether.
In short, something as innocent as posting about your happy relationship and your summer vacations in Palawan could be blown out of proportion. Once you click that “publish” button, it will be out there for your families, friends, relatives, and even neighbors to see. And with social media making it easier to share photos and information, vacation trips are usually a breeding ground for juicy rumors, judgmental speculations, and echoserang comments from Titas, if you know what I mean.
Just to provide example, people are so judgmental that they make it a point to count how many months pregnant my former roommate is after getting married, just to find out if she was pregnant before getting hitched. People have internalized those judgments that my fellow travel blogger had to post photos of separate beds and put in the captions that they have a chaperone! Unfortunately, the backlash mostly affect women more than men, what with the slut-shaming and macho culture we also have.
Now, I’m not here to moralize. This blog isn’t to tell you that having sex is okay or not, and if you should change your opinions on the matter. I’m writing so I can remember and share with you how I became okay with posting travel photos on social media.
The first time I posted travel photos with my boyfriend
First, let me provide context — my boyfriend and I travel alone-together for week-long trips since 2014. Initially, this included mountain climbing day trips, overnight camping trips, and out-of-town group trips that he used to organize. However, on our first anniversary in 2015, we booked a flight to go backpacking in Cebu. We didn’t bring friends along.
We had such a magical trip doing canyoneering, city tours, and swimming with the whale sharks (sorry, I participated in that). I wanted to share the joy of our first backpacking trip, Josh’s first flight ever (!), and our first anniversary on Facebook. So I uploaded various albums of Bohol and Cebu on my timeline and even wrote numerous blogs about our trip.
It was our first time “alone”, and it was there for all of my family, relatives, high school classmates, college blockmates, orgmates, workmates, and churchmates to see — and speculate. We may have gotten nothing but “Congratulations! Have fun! Enjoy your trip!” from true friends. But I can imagine the more silent ones saying, You went on a trip with your boyfriend only? You slept in the same room together? Or, cutting to the chase, You guys had sex?!
It really pays to do the internal work before ever posting on social media.
A year before posting those photos
Let’s do a rewind. My parents have known Josh since he started to court me. I brought him home to meet my mom and my dad separately when we were just dating. By our first anniversary, he has already maintained a level of visibility with my family and vice versa. In short, ligal kami on both sides.
We are, however, not in a relationship on Facebook even until now. After almost four years, we still do not have a profile picture with each other! Our stand is that those who matter to us will know that we are together. Who cares if we look good together on those DPs or not?
But as with any new relationship, it was a bit of a rough start because I used to attend a church. Josh didn’t, and I didn’t want to force him to. We both believed that religion is a major thing that you should not get into just because you’re dating someone.
It was really, really tough to have our relationship accepted at church. Getting my family’s acceptance was a breeze, but this one… After a few months, I made the tough decision of saying goodbye. Up until this point, it may have been mistaken that I left because I was starry-eyed over a boy. But in reality, it was because I no longer share (and perhaps never had) those dating values, among others. It just made no point for me to pretend I still do.
I realized that in order for me to be okay with other people’s opinions, I have to first be okay with myself.
How I felt okay with posting
The first acceptance that I have to get is from myself. Not from my family, my churchmates, my relatives, or even my boyfriend. I had to be okay with being seen traveling with my boyfriend and my boyfriend alone. I had to be okay with all the speculations and consequences that come after, which includes rumors and shattered images, no matter how dramatic those may sound.
You have to understand that my mom used to teach at my high school, so more or less her then co-workers (my teachers) and her students (my batchmates) will also see. My dad is a lawyer and a public figure at my hometown. So with all the parent-blaming posts we see on social media, I am fully aware that posting those things not only affect me, but may also reflect on other people’s perception of my parent’s parenting styles.
This is why before our Cebu-Bohol trip, I informed my parents that I am traveling alone with Josh. Do you know what happened? My mom paused, thought, and said, “I know this is a bit exaggerating, but just don’t go home pregnant.” It was so brief and frank that it made a mark on me.
She did not tell me not to have sex, to not to post pictures because it may reflect on her, or even forbid me to go on that trip. She respected enough that I am an adult in my own right and trusted me enough to make decisions for myself. Though I resolved to accept myself first, I cannot tell you how empowering and gracious her response felt.
The bottom line is…
In short, even before posting those photos, I did the dirty job of internal processing which included defining what my values are and being okay with being judged. I distanced myself from values I no longer agree with and I sought to inform those who will be truly affected by my decision to post. It wasn’t just a one-time clicking the “Publish” button thing. Believe me, there was a lot of work behind it and it took a year.
I can only imagine that my context might be different from other people from Asia. There are a whole lot more conservative families out there who literally might disown you or religious communities who will cast you out because of zero tolerance. Your decision matrix would look a lot more different than mine. But for those in more or less same circumstances, I hope sharing my experience helps.
If you’re not yet comfortable handling those rumors and speculations, you have the option not to post your photos or restrict the privacy of your posts. It’s completely fine! It’s not because you’re hiding something, but because you already know that some people cannot handle that information appropriately. Best, then, to keep it to yourself for now.
You cannot change the opinions of older generations or conservative friends if they think unmarried couples should not go on trips together. If keep on arguing about what is morally correct or not, we will never arrive at an agreement. Plus if others already speculate that you’re having sex, no amount of Facebook post about chaperones and separate beds could convince them otherwise anyway. So, what’s the point?
Find your truth, accept yourself, and know that you can choose the people you share with.
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