Set to travel across the Philippines for History Channel’s Ride N’ Seek, American biker chick Jaime Dempsey talks to WindowSeat.ph about empowering women through riding, the zen of the open road, and driving unprepared in Manila.
Jaime Dempsey doesn’t know where she’s going.
This sweeping statement raises red flags in the attendant media during the scrum, especially since she’s most likely going to try to cover as much of the archipelago as possible, from north to southernmost tip. They did much the same on season one and two of her History Channel show Ride N’ Seek, where she explored Borneo, Malaysia and Brunei.
“When I travel, I don’t like expectations,” says the plucky American biker, her arms covered in tattoos of full-color sleeves. “I like to go in there with an open mind. I like to experience things as they come.”
The concerns about safety are valid in the context when you put a visit to locales which have a history of kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) groups abducting foreigners and the Mamasapano fiasco still fresh in Pinoy minds. Dempsey, a diminutive 5’ 5” who also surfs and snowboards, calms us down by reassuring us that she will have a security escort and a crew that, taken together, will number a little less under 20 people.
“I will have a group from [a local motorcycle club] and we’ll have two mechanics and I think three more riders. There will be the crew in a van,” she says.
Still, we are in awe of Dempsey’s courage both as an adventurer and a rider. Her approach to hosting her reality show relies on trust and faith in people, and Ride N’ Seek likely wouldn’t be what it was or as watched as it is without those two elements in the mix.
“Even though I’ve read some [information about the Philippines] I’d like to talk to locals and [find out about] what they like and where to go from there. I won’t buy a travel book and I don’t believe that’s the best way to go about it. I’ve already talked to some bikers here who’ve been telling me about some of their mountain roads to travel on and where to go camping. I’m excited to see all these winding roads!”
In the first season of Ride N’ Seek, she went on a 30-day shoot in Malaysia which saw her looking after Orangutans, taking part in the “Feeding the Dead” ritual with the Iban tribe, and sparring with One Championship fighter Ann “Athena” Osman, who is a Sabah native. Then, she did pretty much the same thing in season two, except in Brunei.
The Philippine itinerary, she confesses, is a long one that will definitely include Mount Mayon’s lava trails, playing Juego de Anillo or “Game of Rings” (which will require Dempsey to ride on horseback while holding a dagger as she tries to get rings off a pole), a dive into the Verde Passage, white water rafting, planting rice, learning balisong knife tricks, and getting a tribal tattoo in the mountains of Kalinga and Ifugao.
Dempsey is brimming with energy and anticipation: “I must get a map and when I go home I will mark the route that I’ve been to along the way! That will be my souvenir for this season.”
WindowSeat.ph: Why was the Philippines chosen for your next season?
Jaime Dempsey: There was a huge response from Filipinos in the previous two seasons. We just had a lot of positive responses on my Facebook and Instagram page. They kept asking “When are you coming to the Philippines?” so I asked them back: what do you ride, how do you ride, and where do you ride it? I got so many recommendations. Even my production company chose some of those suggestions as our destinations.
WS: Bikers are still thought of as hooligans and outlaws but you’re helping veer that image away from the classic template. What are your thoughts on that, especially in empowering and enticing more women to go riding?
JD: It’s very important to me to inspire women bikers in particular. When I started riding nearly 10 years ago, I hardly saw any women. And when I did see one I was: Hey, hey wait! I want to talk to you! I’m not the only one! I want to share this with you! But now, especially in the last five years, the scene has just exploded—in the US anyway. There’s a couple of events that I am a part of like Babes Ride Out and the Dirty Girl Project. These are all events geared towards inspiring women to go out and ride motorcycles.
Hopefully, they overcome their fears and become empowered. And I also hope that through the show and through social media I can help inspire women. We’re a very supportive community and we reach out to each other often. All you have to do is get in touch and there will be a whole network of other women out there who will be there for you to encourage and help you out.
WS: This is your first time in the country. Does that mean you’re totally unprepared for driving in Manila and the rest of the archipelago?
JD: Yeah, pretty much! [LAUGHS] I did meet with some of the local Ropali Motorcyle Club members today and the head rider there gave me a tour of the bike that I’ll be riding. It’ll be a Russian motorcycle with a sidecar. This is all new to me. We took a little spin and he gave me a few tips on riding in the Philippines and riding this particular model. So I’ve been prepped a little bit. In the beginning I will also have an escort and will also be going to places where I can practice.
WS: How has being on the road changed you or afforded you a unique perspective in life?
JD: It helps me become the kind of person I want to be. Patient and open-minded, fearless, independent. I think that those are all things that riding a motorcycle can offer. It’s very meditative. Like a moving meditation. I’ve read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and yes it’s exactly like that. You can feel the stress lift off your shoulders and you just kind of have this wanting to feel more connected to the world.
The new season of Ride N’ Seek will have a premiere telecast in August 2015. All photos courtesy of History Channel.