It is depressing that it took a white guy like Paul Morrow to diligently research on our ancient writing system and even dedicate this website for it. It is equally sad to watch videos of foreigners who teach Filipinos and other nationalities alike the complex Filipino Martial Arts. And, just like what Filipino-Canadian entertainer Mikey Bustos recounted in the video below, a number of Caucasians actually spend a fortune to look bronzed.
So why is it damn hard for us to love the skin we're in? Why does it have to take foreigners to appreciate our natural gifts?
Just like most of you, I grew up being told that white is right and brown is macho. It doesn't help either that my mother and grandmother take pride in their complexion and whatever better treatments they enjoy for such. My father, on the other hand, calls foreign seas as his home most of the time. His stage father moments involved cheering me on for my dramatic monologues and other performances. Anything but beauty contests - official or mere role-plays.
But the most damaging for any 7-year-old kid to hear was:
"Di ka kagandahan, di ka maputi, di ka payat at wala ka ring alam sa gawaing bahay. Iwasan mo na lang magka-peklat para makapag-asawa ka pa balang-araw".
[You're hardly beautiful, skinny, fair-skinned and domesticated. You might as well avoid getting skin blemishes so you'd get hitched someday,"]
That statement robbed me of a child's zest for misadventures. I never got curious about riding a bike; all I could imagine was falling from it and getting bruised. I never donned neon prints either as I imagine I would be the laughingstock in class. I even had episodes of allergies for trying various skin whitening products. Evidently, I spent the rest of my salad days in bondage and negativity. I felt sure that better days will never come to pass. For being unattached at 28, I may be proving my grandmother right.
I can't stand my appearance in all angles. There was no way I can deny my pango nose, the dark contours of my lips, my dark skin and everything else that goes with my Pinay identity.
But this self-loathing magically ended one fateful day way back in 2005. I can't pin down what exactly made me realize that brown is beautiful, but I felt it during one of my earliest domestic travels, in exposure to carefree kolehiyalas in UP-Diliman and for other factors that I may be unable to identify at this point.
Now my skin grew darker than before. But I won't trade each beach bumming and sunbathing opportunities for anything. My closet? You'd have to put on your sunglasses before you unlock it. A wide array of bright colors awaits! My skin had earned too many battle scars for the past months, too. Again, I wouldn't ask for substitution during one of those heated badminton games with friends. Most importantly, I can't wait for new adventures to try and see how it will reflect on my skin.
All photos by Toni Cruz.