#KayumanggiProud

So I had a coffee meet-up with three great friends on Black Saturday and as expected, we had a long chat about an array of hardly related topics. Of course, we had to talk about the status of their relationships, work, dream destinations, gossip about those who weren’t there (which is customary, admit that), goals and plans that may or may not materialize, food, movies, hugot lines…the list goes on for weeks.

But one subject that to me stood out is INSECURITY.

Face it, everybody is insecure about something at some point. On the surface, we can get really insecure about an acne the size of a grain of sand that you think diminishes your market value or a scar on your leg you got when you were a child playing patintero with kids from the neighborhood. Some of us get insecure because we do not have a job as highly-paid as our peers even when we actually had a higher GWA than them back in college. Now they got a new car, dream vacations, a hot bae, a house of their own, and other material stuff we can only imagine for ourselves.

And now more than ever, this insecurity or envy is even more inflamed because of social media.  Remember that high school classmate of yours who is now basking under the bliss of parenthood and marriage as evidenced by beautiful photos of his/her own baby you see every day on your Facebook feed while you are still very single contemplating on why nobody is even sending you signals of a possible love affair? Or you are probably following one of your classmates back in college over Instagram, and you are drooling over her #FoodPorn #TravelGoals #Wandelust posts while there you are aimlessly looking at the screen of you smartphone, munching unsalted popcorn.

Sometimes you just want to isolate yourself, block everyone, unfollow the world, but even that becomes hard labor.

Okay, those could send you some really bad vibes. And by bad, I mean BAD. And that exactly is why it NEEDS to STOP! The next logical question is “How”? How do you overcome your insecurity? How do you become self-sufficient? How do you become happy and confident with what you have and don’t have?

This is a colossal task and it is impossible to process at one sitting. So let us take just one insecurity and try to make a grand plan. I have to pick something that is literally skin-deep, and by that I mean being dark/ brown/ kayumanggi.

***

My best friend who I met in college was a confident young woman – outspoken, confident and generally an extrovert. From my perspective, I thought she was someone who can carry herself very well. But I was wrong. While I get to know her as the semesters passed, I also learned about her biggest insecurity – her skin color.

At first, I did not pay much attention to this detail because I never thought she was different in terms of how she looked. I mean, we are taught at an early age that Filipinos are naturally brown-skinned or more appropriately kayumanggi because of our genes and our climate. History also educated us that our relationship with foreign traders and colonizers somehow changed our skin color, which is the reason why some are fairer than the others.

But as a country obsessed with everything Western, we have become too enamored with the idea that White is Beautiful and is superior to what we have been originally blessed with. The cosmetics industry knows this. There are a million ways you can go white, from as simple as a bath soap to as extreme as injecting whatever chemicals to your body. Market experts estimate that the skin-lightening industry could grow to $20 billion dollars come 2018. (http://opinion.inquirer.net/86739/50-shades-of-white)

And who would forget about the fancy apps on our smartphones that could help us achieve fairer skin in an instant, literally by just touching a button!

To dream the porcelain white skin dream is a freedom nobody can remove from anyone, and that deserves respect.  For whatever it’s worth, do what you can to feel more empowered. Use every cream in the market that promises whiter skin in a couple of days or so, go to the dermatologist every week and get a peel, take pills, or by all means, never ever meet the glorious sun again. That’s fine.

But is the obsession with being white enough to devalue being Kayumanggi?

***

My best friend was bullied as a child because of her skin color. She was called a lot of silly things like uring (literally charcoal in Bikol) and Agta (Aeta – a group of indigenous people who live in mountainous areas). The last remark is what hurts because it maligns a group of people who are part of cultural heritage. When we laugh at them or use them as a derogatory remark, who are we laughing at other than ourselves?

I am not all holy. I am a bully myself. Some memes of a political family compared to all things black because of their skin color made me laugh. Until it was too much. It was Ash Wednesday when a photo of the patriarch spread again online for no good reasons. It showed him not only a cross on his forehead but black all over his face. It was too much. I didn’t think it was still funny.

So when I met with my three great friends on Black Saturday I wanted to tell them, “Why do you need to be whiter? We are Filipinos! We can be Kayumanggi and proud about that because it’s one thing that makes us unique in a world where everything is a version of another.” In reality, I just said in my usual spunky tone, “So what if I’m dark? I don’t care.”

I really don’t care. I love the beach and the outdoors. I don’t care if that makes me a shade or two darker than my fair-skinned peers. At least I’m different, right? And I wouldn’t want to miss those glorious moments under the sun just because I am preserving whatever fairness I have or don’t have.

Just because I am taking this position doesn’t mean I judge my friends for aiming for whiter skin. I give them the freedom to be whatever they need to be just so they could feel better about themselves; to feel less insecure and more confident.

***

To each his own.

***

My best friend now lives with her husband in Australia – a country where people are mostly Caucasian but spend as much or even more money on tanning than we Filipinos do on whitening. Ironically, everybody calls her beautiful there because of her skin, among other things Filipino that she has and will always bring with her.

I asked her once, “So you love Australians more now because they think you’re beautiful even with your skin?” Well, she didn’t say Yes. While this foreign land has welcomed her color and all, the Philippines is still and will always be the home she will always come back to. But if there is one thing Australia continues to teach her – that is to be Kayumanggi and Proud.

***

As for me and my three great friends, there will be more Saturday coffee dates to look forward to and deal with all the other things that make us insecure.

 

 

 

 

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