POV: You’re a Kayumanggi Experiencing Colorism in the Philippines

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“Sus, normal na lang ‘yan. Hindi ka pa ba nasanay?” 🔊

Colorism has been highly considered as a normal situation in the country — the derogatory remarks we hear, the unfair representation we see, the whitening soaps we scrub on our skins, and the discrimination we experience. According to Laforteza (2022), our colonial history, particularly on how the American, Japanese, and Spanish colonizers deeply reshaped our identity, should be traced to understand the deeply-rooted colorism.

It is just a natural, everyday encounter but for us, it is not just that.

It is our own skin and culture that are at stake.

Just because this problem is already normalized, it does not mean that it is also the right thing. It only means that we should shed light on the common examples of how colorism happens in the Philippines. 



📺Whitening products being marketed with the idea that being whiter is prettier

Specific examples:

“Mas maputi, mas maganda!”

“Say goodbye to your not-so glowy tan skin!”

Why it is alarming:

Although there are local beauty companies that genuinely advocate for inclusive beauty in their products, it remains disappointing that some brands still continue to embed colorism in their products and marketing strategies. What makes it alarming is the fact that the power of social media marketing and this colorism-driven advertising is a dangerous combination for us. 

Just imagine our Kayumanggi generation, most especially the younger ones, slowly believe that they are less beautiful beings and should use whitening products to be one. It would be unbearable.

Mallick (2021) articulates that it is a must to “We must break through our own collective biases, which inform who we choose to feature and whose stories get told in marketing.”


🗣️Backhanded compliments about one’s physical appearance, specifically skin color

Specific examples: 

“Mas maganda ka kung maputi ka!”

“Gwapo sana…maitim lang.”

Why it is alarming: 

Let us admit it: whenever we hear these offensive remarks pretending to be a sweet compliment, we get confused. 

Backhanded compliments are problematic; sadly, colorism also manifests in this form. It is not even considered as a compliment at all. Looking through the lens of colorism, this is highly alarming because it distorts our own perspective about our skin color — making us feel that our Kayumanggi skin hinders our beauty potential. 


📸Camera filters that lighten one’s skin color 

Specific example: 

*a filter that changes our skin to a lighter one*

Why it is alarming: 

Using camera filters in different social media platforms and applications is already a trend. This is because we can take pictures with computer-generated effects and elements like sunglasses, makeup, facial tattoos, and even an automatic green screen!

But sometimes, it becomes a tool for colorism. 

The wide range of camera filters that involve skin whitening and modification became easily accessible and available among users, particularly on Tiktok, Instagram, and Facebook. There is nothing wrong with using them; what makes it alarming is when camera filters are used because we want our skin to appear fairer and feel ashamed of having a tan skin. This perpetuates the tiring cycle of colorism and how it impacts our self-perception of beauty in the Philippines.


💬Derogatory name-calling 

Specific examples:

“‘Di ka na makita sa dilim, beh.”

“Kasing-itim mo na ‘yung uling.”

Why it is alarming:

It is a common thing for us to experience name-calling that involves discrimination of our own Kayumanggi skin and comparison to dark-colored objects. 

This is strongly alarming because we are being called unjustifiable names as if we do not have names of our own. In line with Gordon (2022), some of its notable impacts are damage on self-esteem, loss of interest, violence, mental health instability, and self-destructive behaviors. 

And it needs to stop. 

In fact, this has been our team’s inspiration to create an Instagram post challenging all the derogatory names and changing it to this: I am [insert name] and my name is Kayumanggi.

We would love to see you claim your name tags in this post.


🟫 Not casting real tan-skinned people for Kayumanggi roles

 Specific examples:

*hiring fair-skinned models because it aligns strategically better in media*

*casting fair-skinned actors/actresses and just painting them brown for Kayumanggi roles*

Why it is alarming:

Now we ask, how hard is it for the entertainment industries to cast the members of our community for Kayumanggi roles in TV shows, soap operas, films, and commercials?

It needs to be clearly understood that this is nothing against the fair-skinned individuals doing their jobs; rather, this is a significant talk about our lack of representation in the Filipino: media. We often see roles that need a tan-skinned person but then we see fair-skinned people — playing the role with the typical tanning process. 

This is what makes it alarming.


🔑 Key Takeaway

The more it gets normalized in our small or big actions, the more it becomes alarming. Colorism is a major problem, not a routine.

Let these examples be our gentle reminder that we still have a long way to go in advocating against colorism. Nevertheless, what counts most is we try. 

Look at the title of this blog article. One day, through our efforts and initiatives, it will change to “POV: You’re a Kayumanggi in the Philippines” and that could be our best gift ever.

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