This Asian American Heritage Month, I wanted to commemorate what it's like to be not just an Asian American, but also to reflect what it means to be a Pinay. It is not just part of my history, but a piece of my identity that I can only hope to explore more in the future. I wanted to find something to write about that wouldn't really trigger me, but would propel me to write about something as a born and bred Pinay. Luckily, the wonderful minds behind Cut Video finally did a 100 Years of Beauty video that I've been patiently waiting for. The video below gives a sweeping timeline of 100 Years of Beauty: Philippines, which you can view below.
While I loved seeing how Pinay women have changed over time (I especially enjoyed the 1960s, because my Mom was part of the Imelda trend), there is a sense of sadness that I felt. As the video went on, I noticed the lasting effects of colonization and heavy influence of countries such as the United States and South Korea has on what it means to be a beautiful Pinay. Some people may see this video as a fun way to see how beauty has changed in the country over time, and it is. But as a young Pinay woman, I feel robbed for not experiencing the beauty of the non-colonized Pinay (seen below).
The video made me reflect how this standard of beauty affects not just as a Pinay, but as an Asian woman in general. Women of Southeast Asian descent which includes Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam, are usually known to have darker skin tone as opposed to other nations such as Japan or Korea. Unfortunately, Asian countries are not exempt in the mentality that white is beautiful. Most brown-skinned communities both in Asia and in the West are still heavily marginalized, and often deemed as less beautiful than their more light-skinned counterparts. This is primarily the reason why being a light-skinned Pinay is held at a higher standard than darker-skinned Pinays.
I am considered a mestiza in my community and within my own family (though you may not see it since I have a pretty permanent San Diego tan now). Growing up, I have received comments from relatives of how I should keep my skin light because it's a standard of beauty in Filipino society. I can't count how many papaya soaps and whitening products where recommended to me when there were signs of my skin getting darker. During my recent trip to the Philippines, there were aisle upon aisle of skin whitening products in groceries and shopping malls. It's disheartening seeing how something trivial like our standard of beauty in the Philippines reflects how deep seeded colonization really is in our nation.
While I celebrate this video as a means of visibility for my people, it is a reminder that our roots needs to be rediscovered and preserved, especially in terms of standards of beauty. It would bring my nothing but joy to see more brown-skinned Pinays get the spotlight they sorely deserve.