Cultural Albinism: Our Concept of Brown Beauty

We Filipinos are known for our brown skin because of our Malay blood that run in our veins. In fact, we proudly mention 'lahing kayuman...


We Filipinos are known for our brown skin because of our Malay blood that run in our veins. In fact, we proudly mention 'lahing kayumanggi' (brown race) with nationalistic fervor in our history books and Jose Rizal epitomizes everything Filipino. Even our concept of beauty that is Maria Clara is portrayed as the morena model of what a Filipina should be.

However, as our gene pool got mixed up with Caucasian blood (American, Spanish and European), our concept of beauty shifted as we began to appreciate 'white' beauty. The mestisa or 'tisay' has entered our vocabulary. And more and more Filipinos began to appreciate people with fair complexion than those 'kayumanggi.' Even brown-skinned Filipinos have even separate themselves with those with an even darker shade.

We are not racist but we are now in particular with skin color that we tend to discriminate those who are not 'white.' Even career mobility and growth are restricted to fairer skinned individuals. Media has even portrayed fair-skinned people as rich, successful and beautiful while those darker-skinned people as poor and rabble.

As we watch television, read the newspapers and magazines and marvel at the outdoor billboards all around, we are now obsessed with being white. No wonder our department stores are flooded with whitening products from soaps, creams, and powders. Our role models are prominently 'tisays' and 'tisoys.' Many of them are product of mixed marriage -- in other words, Fil-Foreign of different nationalities. Even women who post their profiles in social networking and dating sites prefer Caucasians over regular Filipino guys like me. That is why there are so many of these women with foreign fiances/flings. Just wondering why we prefer refined 'white' beauty while these middle-aged veteran/pensioner foreigners go crazy with exotic 'brown' beauty?


But we can't put the scapegoat status on white skin obsession because of cultural albinism and our colonial mentality but lets face it, our culture's standards of beauty now favor fairer and lighter skin. Can we blame why Marian Rivera is the new Maria Clara epitome even though she has foreign blood? Its the 'mestiza' madness that was ingrained in our three centuries of Spanish occupation, intensified by American education and packaged in modern corporate advertisement and marketing.

Our media reinforced the idea that whiter is better. We have become so vain that even 75% of all content inside a woman's handbag are cosmetics and 90% of it are probably skin-whitening-related products. Gone are the days when people worshipped Ate Guy as the woman everybody wants, then enter Ate Vi and the world was never the same again.


According to journalist Tina Arceo-Dumlao in her work "A White Shade of Pale: Skin Whitening Products in Asia," market research company Synovate revealed that "one out of five women in Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines and Taiwan feel they are more attractive with fair complexions." Significantly, the Philippines had the highest usage of skin whitening products in the countries being surveyed.

Lets not forget that even politicians now endorsed skin whitening products. No wonder our skin obsession can now be transformed as a form of racism as we Filipinos inherently make fun of people with a darker shade of skin tone. In my stay in Singapore, Filipinos tend to brand Indians as dirty and filthy while associate African Americans as untrustworthy primarily because of our association with white American culture. Even former African-American serviceman Morgan Johnson, who spent time at the Subic Naval Base during its heydays, believe that we Filipinos have double-standards when it comes to people who are darker than us.


Mr. Johnson summed it in this way, "Actually, this is not racism in its purest form. Filipinos are not so much discriminating on the basis of race as much as mere skin tone. Philippine society is very much segregated by skin color. The paler your skin the greater the level of success is available to you. Likewise, dark skin is a fast ticket to the bottom." Though the word "negro" is already a taboo and a disparaging term, we still tend to call them as such. No wonder, they perceive us as racist.

I can't help but realize that we have become hypocrites because of their skin tones. Just read these real stories as to how Filipinos make them look like freak show animals. Its a shame, we need to rethink about who we are. Are we really racist?

In fact, colored people were once exhibited as ethnological curiosities in "human zoos" across Europe at the end of the century. Some Filipino ethnic groups like the Igorots and Aetas were even smuggled to Spain just fulfill the needs of the jeering crowd.

Do we want to be white? Or just be happy of what we are?

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Cultural Albinism: Our Concept of Brown Beauty
Cultural Albinism: Our Concept of Brown Beauty
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