‘Kayumanggi’ as The Centrality of Filipino Representation

ben and ben colorism filipino kayumanggi

It might not seem like it now, but if you go down in history, indigenous or pre-colonial people of the Philippines valued their dark skin as spiritual and celebrated it through sacred ceremonies and rituals. This is also mentioned in a recent blog post by Maika Llaneza in Sojourners that claimed it was through the sun that they get spiritual energy from… Sunkissed, if you may. 

Kidding aside, it feels ridiculous thinking about the Filipino representation of yesteryear when only fair-skins were on the big screen. Until now, the Filipino media is dominated by those of lighter complexion which is mainly because the locals are in favor of the colonial beauty standard.

@askmanongowen #greenscreen #greenscreenvideo Let’s talk about this @monicajoelleo @joelle_theresee #kayumanggi #filipino #tiktokph #philippines #philippineculture ♬ original sound - Owen Layugan

On the brighter side, brown skin representation in the entertainment industry is starting to look better and I’ll tell you why:

Getting Down With The Brown

On the Netflix show “Jo Koy: In His Elements” starring Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy, The song “Kayumanggi '' by illmind and Moro Beats was featured. The song contained the following lyrics:



Everybody get down with the brown

Ako ay pilipino kayumanggi ang balat

Kahit hirap sa salapi meron itong iaangat

Di nyo ito magagapi kahit sino ang iharap”


These morenas ain't no joke

With our resources, you can choke

Carrying ancestral blood


Among other things, the song revolved around the true riches of the Philippines — its people. While Filipinos are portrayed as indigenous people belonging to different ethnolinguistic groups as unique as their dialect, They’re said to have one thing in common: brown skin. The word “Kayumanggi” can be heard being chanted throughout the track.

A Modern Kundiman 

Composed of soulful melodies, a Kundiman is a traditional genre of Filipino love songs to express undying love. Ben&Ben’s song, also called Kayumanggi, gives us a new perspective of that by adding their personal touch. As I see it, Kayumanggi by Ben&Ben is more than just a love song, rather, it’s a modern Kundiman on loving one’s self in every shade and every tone of brown.

The last line, “Yakapin ang kulay” which translates to embracing your colors is one of the best parts of this song and no one could’ve made a Kundiman about the skin color indigenous to Filipinos better than Ben&Ben.

Why Kayumanggi in Filipino Representation Matters

There's no doubt that this goes beyond the matters of skin color or dilemmas of beauty. To conceal and alter the physical traits of the indigenous people is also to strip the country off its culture and forget its history. After all, expressing realistic Filipino representation was never difficult, it was only hindered by misconceptions about the “ideal” standard of beauty.

Talented people suchlike illmind, Moro Beats, and Ben&Ben are only a few among many that lay claim to the Kayumanggi trait as the primary characteristic of a true Filipino, and rightfully so. The demand for the frequency of brown skin in the media can never be too sensationalized. It is the skin complexion that holds significant meaning about that person’s identity before anything else. 

Big platform or not, everyone has the ability to influence. Let this be your reminder to represent brown skin with conviction and a whole lotta confidence. 

Comfortable in My Own Skin | Sojourners

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