Debunking Kayumanggi Norms: What It Is and What It Is Not

beautyph colonization colorism kayumanggi morena ph philippines

In the Philippines, colorism is very prevalent. You can feel it everywhere. However, we’re no longer in the 18th century where society is deeply rooted in discriminating against any group they find less than. We are already in the 21st century where we have the opportunity to accept anything kayumanggi and let people know it has never been any less than anything.

To date, other people think of some kayumanggis as not brown enough. And it's an unnecessary, unsolicited comment. Hence, these need to be examined to form a more proactive society where people wouldn’t be invalidated for being simply who they are.

The root of Prejudice Against Kayumanggi Skin

Beauty companies have long been profiting from the desires of Filipinos to submit to American and European beauty standards, most particularly the lighter skin tone. In fact, it has been cited in the study, Language and Colorism Beauty Ideologies in Pond’s Philippines YouTube Advertisements, how Filipinos were affected by the Spaniard colonial period, among others. 

The over 300-year rule of Spain has wired Filipinos into thinking that those with kayumanggi skin are less than in terms of social class and social rights. In addition to this was the tenure of the Americans and Japanese in the country. The Philippines as a then colonized country is vulnerable to paradigm shifts. But that has to be shifted in the right direction now.

We were colonized by the Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese, who all had fairer skin tones than we naturally do. However, we live in a time and age where resources are accessible. It is about time we own the narrative and shift the paradigm the right way.

Kayumanggi Norms

Across social media, many people are throwing backhanded compliments at others. The most common of all happens to be, “I love your confidence.” Now, why is it harmful? To cut things short, it’s harmful because it implies there’s something not to be proud of, to begin with. 

Here are other kayumanggi norms that are wired into people’s systems:

Thinking that dark-skinned people are only limited to certain shades


It’s hard to label skin color in the PH. Our most productive course of action: Uplift the underrepresented. Thoughts? Still learning everyday too.

♬ original sound / IG: @aynbernos - Ayn Bernos

In a TikTok video, Ayn Bernos talked about the subjective experiences of kayumanggi people in the Philippines. And true to what she talked about, colorism is such a complex topic to dive into. There is no strong foundation we can base on because we are generally rooted in the idea that being white is the ideal.

However, just because you are a shade lighter doesn’t make you less of a morena. It’s more than just a term. Somehow, it developed into a collective experience rather than a label to skin color. 

Verdict: Being a morena doesn’t mean conforming to certain shades. It is fluid and inclusive. 

Whitewashing in media platforms is seen as okay

One of the occurrences in the film industry that sparked conversations about colorism and whitewashing is Gluta where Ella Cruz starred as an Aeta. In the film, she was painted brown to represent the tribe her portrayed character belonged to. However, this received countless disapproval from people in social media because of its inappropriateness.

People on social media are now more open about amplifying conversations related to colorism, so they are no longer holding back in terms of calling people out. Whitewashing in the film industry and all over media platforms is now slowly being countered against. 

Verdict: Whitewashing will never be considered representation. Cast the right talents instead.

People with Kayumanggi skin are either poor or ugly, or both

According to Hanes Marasigan-Anotado, she feels prettier and more confident when her skin became lighter than it was then. She’s done different routines and used different products that have made her skin look shades lighter. This then, among others, is one of the many that adds fuel to the idea that dark-skinned individuals aren’t good-looking, or don’t deserve to feel like one. 

Often, people label those who have darker skin as criminals, dirty, and vulgar. That should stop today. People in the industry like Ylona Garcia, Rain Matienzo, and Bianca Gonzales, among others, are living testament of the otherwise. 

Verdict: Kayumanggi people have different qualities that determine their individuality. That makes them stand out, not different.

The Bottomline

Colorism and being a kayumanggi in the Philippines is very complicated. You can’t make molds and let people shrink themselves to fit in them. Various factors affect the perception of one from the other, and just because yours is different doesn’t mean that it is any less than.

So to every kayumanggis out there, this is your reminder that you are your own self and that the way people see you should not necessarily be the same as how you see yourself. And if someone tries to bring you down, let it be known that your flaws are features, and it doesn’t make you any less of who you are.

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