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Here in the Philippines, it is very common for many Filipino women to use skin whitener thinking that they can look better. One of them is Aida (not her real name), who married Ryan, a white American whom she met online three years ago. They got married in California in June 2014, but Ryan filed for divorce two weeks ago.
Aida, who was born in Manila, has a brown skin just like any ordinary Filipina beauty. But as she was growing up, her neighbors, playmates and schoolmates tease her because of her skin color. Her parents, who also have brown skin color, have a total of five children, but Aida is noticeably the darkest child in the family.
Aida’s family is not rich, but her father was able to provide all their needs. Being the second to the eldest child, she finished a Mass Communication course and is very fluent in English. After graduation, she applied for a job in different local TV stations to fulfill her dream to become a TV news anchor or field reporter.
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Unfortunately, she was not hired and ended up working in hotel lobby receptionist in Makati. After a year, she resigned from her job because she felt the management does not want her to stay in dayshift. She later learned from a close friend (who also works in the same hotel) that the other receptionist has a fair skin.
Aida has only a few friends, and had some suitors but she was so insecure of herself so she never had one until she met Ryan on Facebook. Back then, she was a promising blogger who writes about local food recipes. She loves to cook, and gives cooking instructions on her blog. This is how Ryan got attracted to her.
Ryan, who works as an Internet marketing specialist in Santa Rosa, California, found Aida’s blog on Google and added her on Facebook. At first, she hesitated to accept his Friend Request but Ryan was very persistent. He said he wants to learn how to cook chicken adobo, a common Filipino dish known worldwide.
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At 25, Aida stayed at home most of the time and started to enjoy working at home. Although she has no YouTube channel, her blog is earning well from advertisers. Ryan suggested her to create one because that time, almost no one creates tutorial videos about cooking Filipino food. But Aida was not convinced.
Aida already knew about glutathione skin whitener, but she didn’t want to try it at first. But because of the strong negative experiences in the past, and the irresistible TV commercials by mestiza models and actresses, she slowly started using it. She began spending more than half of her earnings trying various brands.
When Ryan and Aida became a couple, she never told him that she was using skin whitener. On the other hand, Ryan did not care about her skin color as he was really attracted to her personality. Months passed by, Aida started to notice that her brown skin is slowly turning fair, and this helped regained her self-confidence.
Come March 2014, Ryan proposed marriage to Aida which she said, “yes” with all her heart. She was so happy that finally, someone loved her for what she is. But because of the strong temptation, Aida continued to use glutathione supplement. Ryan started to notice the change of her skin color, and ignored it at first.
Ryan visited the Philippines in April of the same year and met Aida’s family. He was surprised with how her parents and siblings treated him nicely. He realized that not all Filipinos are not after the money, just like he usually hears way back home. A month later, the couple got married in Quiapo Church, in Manila.
Ryan and Aida were so happy, especially when her parents agreed when they told them they want to stay in the US. Ryan’s parents and siblings are nice to her, and Aida did not feel any discrimination as compared to her bad experiences back in the Philippines. No one imagined that this will be start of a failed marriage.
Without Ryan’s knowledge, Aida continued using glutathione skin whitening products. She buys them online and spends unreasonable amount of money. She continued blogging, and Ryan did not care about her earnings. In fact, he gives her some money even if she doesn’t ask him. Money was never a problem.
One day, Ryan discovers some receipts and empty containers of skin whitening cream inside the garbage can. He didn’t get mad at Aida, but rather told her politely that she doesn’t need to use them anymore. But because she has been using them for years, Aida finds it hard to control herself, and they started fighting about it.
Ryan insisted that he has accepted her skin color since they met, and that the money should be used in other more important things instead of buying glutathione supplement. Their disagreement became stronger and went on and on. Ryan finally gave up and filed for divorce, and cited irreconcilable differences as ground.
Their divorce papers are still under process, and Aida went back to her family in Manila where she is currently staying. She told TN she plans to write her story on her blog so other Filipino women would learn from it. However, she said she doesn’t want to expose her identity so she decided to tell her story to us.
On this note, TN decided to tell her story to Lamberta Sayson, a retired professor of UP Department of Sociology. We asked her opinion on why many Filipino women (and even some men) are obsessed to have a white skin, and how history and culture played their roles in the beauty standard in Philippine society.
“Most likely, it started when the Philippines was conquered by the Spaniards. Our ancestors were treated badly and have judged us as inferior to their own. And because of our brown skin and our other conquerors are also white, skin color became a huge factor of feeling insecure among Filipinos.” Ms. Sayson tells TN.
“Not to mention, the Philippine entertainment industry has somehow cultivated our minds that Vilma Santos is more beautiful than Nora Aunor during their heydays just because Nora has a brown skin. In this era, only Richard Gomez was able to connect to the masses as the ideal tall, dark and handsome guy.” She added.
“I did not vote for Senator Nancy Binay because I felt she has no enough experience, not because of her skin color. I pity her for receiving tons of insults, but I pity more on Filipinos who are close-minded and think that being black or brown is ugly. In the US and Australia, our skin color is well admired.”
For her advice to Filipinos, she said we should be proud of being ‘kayumanggi’ and we must erase the notion that being white is more beautiful than black or brown. She said changing one’s skin color means being insecure in the wrong way, and emphasized that Filipinos should stop believing white as the better color.
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