Filipinos being socially biased flies under the radar. No one calls us out on it because it’s not overt or violent. It’s subtle, toxic, and starts with hating ourselves first.

My experience with social bias started with not being able to love the color of my skin or the texture of my hair. Growing up, television ads and teen magazines convinced me that what was attractive for a young girl is to have straight black shiny hair and white rosy skin. I convinced my mom to take me to the hairdressers to get my hair “relaxed”, “rebonded” or whatever hair straightening treatment was the fad that year.

Try this: Google “skin whitening in the Philippines” and you’ll get hit with hundreds of treatments and products — a whole country obsessed with being the fairest of them all.

With social media channels opening up different windows to the beauty and diversity of the world, the standard of beauty for Filipinos still remains the same. There are Filipina actresses and models who have darker skin but they still have to defend their beauty instead of celebrating their natural features.

I ask myself why do we Filipinos do this? I went to the late Carlos Celdran’s Intramuros tour two years ago during my trip back home. He described how the Americans (not the Spaniards – they didn’t care about educating Filipinos because the country didn’t have any gold) wanted to create Filipinos in their likeness – from language to way of dress, to values. Americans sold the American Dream to Filipinos and every product available commercially to achieve that dream from Philippine shores. ‘Being more American’ was better and grander, and the Americans packaged this neatly and sold it to Filipinos.  

Long after the Philippines gained independence from America in 1946, the hooks of colonization, self-loathing and identity crises are still there which spreads to Filipinos being hypercritical and judgmental of other races as well.

My message today is not to unearth all the societal ills caused by colonization, but to accept that I, as a Filipino have social bias too and can improve. I will start by loving my natural features and continue to educate myself on how to be an ally of POC.

We can be works in progress when it comes to being kinder and empathic to people of different races and walks of life. It starts with acceptance and humility that you can improve.

As RuPaul said “If you don’t love yourself, how are you going to love someone else?” So, start with loving and being more accepting of yourself, and you’ll find that you have love to give other people too – even if they are different from you.