IN a society where fair and white skin is being branded as beautiful, it can be easy for women of color to lose their own sense of beauty in the sea of ubiquitous whitening products.
Growing up morena, I have experienced being laughed at for having brown skin. Sometimes the teasing is light, which is somewhat okay. Other times, the teasing is an insult in disguise.
Self-love is a personal journey which made me realize that brown, morena skin is just as beautiful as fair skin. Moreover, it is the kind of beauty that Filipinas are recognized for internationally.
The morena Filipina beauty has, in fact, dominated beauty pageants, both local and international. And as the Mutya ng Davao 2018 pageant competition draws near, the reigning Mutya ng Davao 2017, 19-year-old Reina Kobayashi, a proud morena herself, speaks her thoughts on morena skin.
“I think that the morena skin is one of the natural attributes of a Filipina. Though it does not necessarily define and identify Filipinas, it is something that links them to their heritage and identities as Filipinos and is something that bearers should be proud of,” Kobayashi said in an interview.
As the 2017 Ambassadress of Goodwill, Reina admits that the responsibility that comes with the title is a challenging task at hand, more so if one faces it with insecurities. The young beauty queen says she draws confidence from the whole City of Davao whose people she has represented as the reigning Mutya ng Davao.
“As Davao City has warmly accepted me as their Mutya and has fully accepted me for my abilities and flaws, I am given the confidence to conquer whatever is at hand,” she said.
Meanwhile, two of this year’s Mutya ng Davao candidates, Nikki Tan and Pamela Framil, mirror Kobayashi’s sentiments.
Nikki Tan, 22, who is a law student at Ateneo de Davao University, is blessed with good looks and brains to boot. Even from afar, Tan, with her morena color, stands out from the crowd. It is no surprise at all to see her walking down the stage, proudly bearing her pageant number, all the while confidently doing so with her vibrant morena skin.
“Morena skin is innate to us Filipinas which we, morenas, should all proudly wear. Instead of using whitening products brought by the belief that the mestizo look is 'beautiful' as how the Philippine media constantly presents it to [be], we should rather embrace our own skin and be confident [with] it for it symbolizes the true Filipina beauty which is recognized internationally,” Tan said in an interview.
Nikki aims to help empower women by educating them. For Nikki, a woman is empowered “through knowing your rights and by breaking that stigma that we should just stay at home and not be engaged in the industry.”
Pamela Framil, meanwhile, is another proud morena in this year’s Mutya ng Davao competition.
Pamela, a 22-year-old mountaineer and freediver, is frank and straightforward in getting her message across. “Filipina color is one of the unique skin colors and if you have one, you should just love it,” Framil said in an interview.
“I look up to women who are morena and feel beautiful about it because they are breaking the stereotype of how beautiful women should look – that is, having fair white skin especially here in the Philippines,” she added.
Pamela, both beautiful and smart, graduated from Ateneo de Davao University with a degree in Accounting Technology. Her sporty side shows in her passion for mountaineering and diving.
But the pageant arena isn’t the only industry that morenas are excelling in, but in the music industry as well.
Pae Dobles is 22 years old and already making her own name as a DJ at an admirable pace. Pae is also the brand ambassadress for Colourette Cosmetics, a Filipino makeup brand that has gained popularity in its campaign, Morena Love, featuring makeup with a color range that suits the morena skin.
Pae is vivacious and charming, bravely following her own rhythm. She shares her own struggles in finding and accepting her beauty, having dabbled in modeling at an early age. “There are times when we get to lose ourselves because of the standards we see in media and we tend to forget who we really are and what we really want to be,” Dobles said in an interview.
She said that she has found beauty even in her flaws.
Despite being a cosmetic brand ambassadress, Pae clarifies that makeup should not be the only thing that a woman should gain confidence from, but instead, one should seek confidence in the gratitude that one feels for being healthy and making the most out of life.
For Pae, beauty surpasses physical attributes.
“Beauty will not be based on how you look, how straight and white your teeth are, how flawless your makeup looks, but it’s about how genuine you are as a person, the confidence you show to yourself on how comfortable you are being just ‘you’, and how kind you are towards other people. Remember pale is beautiful. Brown is beautiful. Bushy brows is beautiful. Pimples and scars are beautiful. Flaws are beautiful,” she added.
And no matter what words they will say against me or you, know that words, however hurtful they may be, without meaning will become inconsequential - just mere murmurs. Truth, humility, and kindness will always be greater than those murmurs will be.
Be captured by purpose, not comparison. So rise, Filipina, and help each other rise as well.
Andrea Isabelle Mejos is a young writer from Davao. She likes to seek beauty from all angles