Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can You Get Any Whiter? (on the Whitening Craze in the Philippines)

Published by Planet Philippines Magazine distributed in London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Melbourne Toronto, Edmonton


Reveling in the blessings of the sun. (Bintan, Indonesia)


This was a whitening product’s commercial tagline a few years back. The ad shows a girl’s face magically being peeled, layer after layer until she turns deathly white. The TV ad ends with the statement: “Your whitest skin ever.” 

Ana Viajera on the cover!


“Why?” I yelled back at the TV, forgetting for a moment that it was called an idiot box for a reason. But I couldn’t help it. The commercial made my brown skin bristle. I wonder why ads like these would presume that I would like a pasty pallor. It baffles me and at the same time insults me. Why don’t we ever get commercials on bronzers that enhance the morena glow?

While Pinoys hide under whitening creams, halfway across the planet people bask under the sun (Waikiki).


A similar TV campaign caught the attention of the media in India, calling the ad, where a man replaces his former love with someone who had lighter skin, racist. The broadcast journalists were outraged, saying “she’s unbelievably beautiful, but if you want to get the guy, you have to get whiter.”

My husband getting his tan on. (Coco Loco, Palawan)


I was just as incensed, but as if to appease me, the clip was suddenly followed by a commercial showing a fair-skinned model surrounded by her bronze-skinned friends. She is questioned as to why she’s so pale. Has she been using whitening lotion? 

The secret? “Hindi siya nakasama sa beach”.

Milk or coffee? Either sounds good to me! (Marshall Islands)

Few commercials like this actually challenge the idea of what consumerism wants to capitalize on. White is not necessarily beautiful. Boldly, the commercial states that being white can equate to inactivity, being strapped for cash, and maybe even poor health.

The London edition of Planet Philippines. Ana Viajera is going global!


So while the sun worshipers in the commercial are showing off their tans, the pasty-skinned lead is left cooped up in her office.  The commercial suggests that she is missing out on the blessings of the sun and a much needed R&R. Although she was pale, she didn’t look ghastly, but the advertisement implies that if she did have a choice, she’d rather be out getting her tan on. 

Many women are lovely with their China doll complexion. Kris Aquino looks like a pretty kabuki doll in her porcelain skin. Gwen Stefani is the quintessential modern Snow White with her pouty red lips set against flawless ivory skin.

From the Planet Philippines website.

Then there are people who no matter what they do, just can’t get a tan. My husband is Caucasian and tanning for him is a futile and frustrating exercise. After baking under the sun for hours, he’d end up with angry red splotches on his cheeks that burn and itch. Like him, some people are naturally fair skinned and they’re beautiful that way.

What can I say? I worship the sun! (Bintan, Indonesia)


In the same way, morenas are beautiful in their own skin, but many choose to go lighter, believing that beauty is in the light. For instance, my morena friend, Summer: if not for her sunny personality, her name would have been an irony because she shies away from the sun for fear of skin darkening. Teasing her, I told her that bronze skin is very cosmopolitan and fashionable. Promptly, she answered, “pangit na nga ako, magpapaitim pa?” Correct me if I’m wrong but, is she saying that being dark makes one even ugly or uglier? Many kayumanggis like her cover themselves in globs of sun block, not because they want to be protected from photoaging or skin cancer, but because they abhor getting darker. 

I once took a friend to the pool a day before her wedding. People pointed accusing fingers at me on the day of the wedding.  “She dragged the bride to go swimming before the wedding! Lahat ng nagpapakasal, nagpapaputi.” The horror! The horror! Never mind that she looked radiant in her tan and white dress.

Read the full article at Planet Philippines.


3 comments:

Another enLIGHTening article!

Does anyone know what the whitening ad is called?

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