Being Filipino means staying away from the Sun and the rain and sometimes the sea. Many Filipinos quite rightly hate walking in the Sun. Not so much for the medical reasons of skin cancer and it being uncomfortable, but mostly because they do not want to have that awful thing called skin colour change.
The thought of going from a beautiful white, Asian skin to a brown or deeper brown Asian skin is something the guys and gals really try to avoid. To those of us with horrible snow white skin, we just cannot understand the lengths the Filipinos will go to to avoid the consequences of the sun on their skin colour.
It goes much further than that too. The use of so-called bleaching products to make the skin whiter is a huge business. The lengths some will go to make their beautiful Asian skins look white is frightening. The damage to the skin is often seen in blotches and red marks across the face and arms.
Many Pinoys will spare no expense to have whiter skin. That’s why store shelves are flooded with whitening products—from soaps, creams, and powders. And, oh, who hasn’t heard of glutathione? To be white is to be beautiful. At least that’s what the ads tell us.
But, of course, we can’t just blame the white skin obsession on ads alone. It goes without saying that Pinoy culture’s standards of beauty favor lighter skin. It’s the mestiza madness that was purportedly ingrained into our consciousness since Spain colonized us. They had more than three centuries to make us all believe that whiter is better.
Over a hundred years since the Spaniards left our shores, but now under the spell of American commercialism since then, many Filipinos are still obsessed with having whiter skin. Seth Kahi, a twenty-something UP graduate, was one of those people.
Sometime in 2006, Kahi fell asleep while sunbathing and woke up with a bad case of sunburn. She didn’t want to end up dark so in desperation, she used some supposedly mild whitening products to lighten her skin some days later. That turned out to be a big mistake. Kahi’s skin got irritated and she ended up scratching herself. Shortly thereafter, people began calling her piyaya, after the mottled Bacolod delicacy.
For the visitors from other countries, it is great to see the natural, beautiful Asian skin colour combined with the classic Spanish and American looks too.