Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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Skin Color as Standard of Beauty in a
Former Colony
by Heidi M. Pascual
I love my original country, The Philippines, and everything it represents: all its sceneries and beautiful islands, its people and its cultural
traditions even if they are a mixture of influences from former colonizers — Spain and the United States. There is just one thing I dislike, which is
still a very strong legacy left by them:  skin color as a measure of one’s beauty. While not as strong as it was in the ‘60s, the belief persists to this
day that a fairer skin is more beautiful, more acceptable, more alluring, and an added plus, especially among women of all ages.

I have written about this issue in the past, but it still irks me each time I notice the huge billboards advertising skin whiteners, modelled by movie
stars and society celebrities who are more often than not, biracial, with one parent almost always Caucasian.  I must admit that Filipinos in
general, still have that colonial mentality of sorts, that a whiter skin makes one appear more superior, similar to a Spanish conquistador or a
Euro-American soldier regardless of rank. This would explain why our candidates for local beauty queens and those for international
competitions are always biracial. We just don’t think our “native-looking” girls can make it to any man-made thrones in the universe!

This would also explain why our lead actors and actresses in the movie and television industry are often biracial, with the fairest skin and faces
that copy Hollywood stars, even if they cannot really act, sing or dance (as required by some musical shows!) As a musician myself, I hate to see
on television, for instance, a movie star belting out a song with a voice that only her/his mother could love. Of course, there are exceptions,
particularly those with natural talent or those who try hard at undergoing voice lessons. But it pains me to listen to celebrities trying so hard to
reach a note or perform with the right emotions and a much deeper interpretation of a song.

Let me tell you a personal story that happened to me twice; once while I was in Namibia, Africa as secretary to a delegation of legislators in the
Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in 1998, and most recently, while attending a local party of former high-school acquaintances who, in
1964, formed a community-based social organization aimed at providing scholarships and service to the poor. In the first incident, I was
introduced by the Philippine Consul General (our host in Namibia that time) to a former high school teacher who hailed from Sta. Cruz, Laguna,
my hometown. Immediately I recognized the former high school teacher, Mr. Barrion. He used to teach a Philippine Military Training course to my.
town high school’s boys.

Mr. Barrion did not recognize me at all so I told him: “Mr. Barrion, I
am Heidi Manabat, a student of Pedro Guevara Memorial High
School, Batch ’68.” He looked surprised as he smiled and
answered: “Heidi Manabat? Of course I remember your name.  I
am very sorry I didn’t recognize you. You’re so pretty now. When
you were in high school, you were darker!” I was appalled that one
of a former high school teacher equated beauty with skin color.
What a jerk! (But I have forgiven him; I heard that Mr. Barrion
passed away a few years ago.)

Then in the second instance, my friends and I were joined in our
table by a member of the social club hosting the party. Right away,
my group noticed that the guy was interested in me. He talked to
me for a while, but later said the magic words that made him look
so bad in my eyes: “I didn’t notice you in high school because at
that time, you were darker.” I didn’t respond, but the guy definitely
noticed I wasn’t interested in talking to him again. I wanted to say,
“Well, I didn’t notice you in high school either because you were
never an honor student and more importantly, your appearance
didn’t call my attention.” The guy was another jerk, and every time I
see him in town, I show him he’s not a thing to bother me at all.
I am frustrated that up to now, I still hear some friends express
admiration and amazement whenever they see a man or a
woman with fair skin. “
Ang puti!!Ang kinis ng kutis! Ang ganda
ganda!
” (“So white; very smooth skin; very beautiful!) Most times,
these objects of admiration (and sometimes, affection) flaunt their
assets by wearing very short shorts and sleeveless/tank tops for
emphasis. They very well know that all eyes are on them and that
they exude an attraction that many darker species envy.

I truly wish my countrymen would be aware of what Martin Luther
King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech. "I have a dream that
my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will
not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their
character.”

That is also my dream, that people, regardless of where they
come from, will not be judged by their skin color, but what they do
for the good of the society they choose to belong to.