Note: This blog entry supplements the video I did a while back on Beauty in the Philippines. You can see the full video below.
Filipinos are some pretty damn fine looking folks – from exotic Pinays with long silky hair and even longer legs to smoldering Pinoys with equally luxurious locks and bedroom eyes, it’s not a wonder that the population of this lovely island nation jumped over the 100 million mark in 2015. And to say that foreigners come to the Philippines solely for the sunny skies, would do no service for what for many is the real reason – pretty Pinays!
[That is our latest copyrighted slogan, by the way: “Sunny skies and pretty Pinays….”]
Sugar and Spice
Filipinas are a heady medley of Malay, Chinese, Spanish and any other number of delectable all thrown into a delicate little blender and given a good shake. Without a doubt (and despite my rather obvious bias), they are truly some of the most beautiful women in the world having walked away with a number of international pageants (the most recent being Miss Universe in 2015). But they’re just not lookers – they also just happen to be some of the nicest and down to earth people populating the planet: For those who are lucky enough to have Filipinas in their immediate social circle, you’ll be able to relate to how sweet, compassionate and truly caring they can be – sometimes to a level that is humbling.
When talking about beauty in the Philippines, we first have to take a quick look at colonial mentality. One of the biggest pieces of baggage that modern Filipinos carry around with them is the idea that everything from outside the Philippines is better than those found natively in the Philippines. This colonial mentality has also pervaded the collective consciousness here when it comes the concept of beauty. The Spanish and American occupations in particular have contributed to the belief that whiter skin and longer noses are “more beautiful” than the native darker skin and flatter noses.
White is Right
Probably more than anywhere else, the Philippines showcases just how subjective good lucks can be – proving that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. While foreigners might be beguiled by their lovely natural peanut-butter brown skin, most Pinays consider darker skin to be less attractive than lighter colored skin. The quest for whiter skin takes all shapes and forms – from parasols when strolling down the street to wearing hooded sweatshirts on scooters to ingesting (or injecting!) glutathione skin whitening pills to using skin whitening creams and deodorants, the obsession with white skin is ubiquitous. The irony is that in my eyes (and many other foreigner’s eyes), “white” Filipinas actually look rather sickly and ill – and since most of them don’t shave their legs (the hair is so fine as to be invisible against darker skin), “white” Filipinas also tend to sport rather hairy appendages. Ewwwww – but again, beauty is subjective. They themselves probably think they look just fine….
Noses Like Hoses
Filipinas also aren’t too thrilled about what they consider to be their “unattractive” flat noses, preferring instead to have longer, more prominent proboscises. Another carryover from the Spanish and American occupations (and an additional example of colonial mentality), Filipinas will even go as far as to angle their heads forward or back while taking selfies in order to make their noses look “less flat.”
Thin Isn’t In
Body size is also part of the equation of what is beautiful or not in the Philippines. As with nose shape, larger and curvier is preferred over thinner and flatter, and since most Filipinas are naturally slender, meeting these standards of beauty are usually met through padded undergarments. Padded bras are far more prevalent than padded shorts, and even if a Filipina has some natural assets upstairs, she will still usually wear a padded bra just to make herself seem a bit larger. For examples of this “bigger is better” approach, one only has to look to Filipina entertainment celebrities – the vast majority of them are possessed of rather aggressive curves. The recent crowning of the Filipina Miss Universe (Pia Alonzo Wurzbach) is also a great example of a focus on larger, Western-type hips and breasts of which she possessed in plenty.
Dress for Success
Filipinos and Filipinas are all snazzy dressers. Even if dirt poor, they will always put effort into their appearance. Thankfully, the island republic is replete with inexpensive bootleg designer clothing and cheap cosmetics from China. Unlike more roughly attired foreigners (shorts and t-shirts or tank tops), Filipinos and Filipinas will typically be wearing nice blouses, collared shirts and jeans, no matter the heat. In their eyes, that is just part of the price that has to be paid for fashion.
Too Much of a Good Thing…
While celebrating the natural beauty of the Philippine people, we would be remiss in not mentioning some of the downsides. Filipinas look good and they know it. Makati was the selfie capital of the entire world in 2014, and you will constantly see Filipinas snapping photos of themselves in just about any conceivable situation. This tendency toward self-obsession isn’t only limited to the pretty Pinay, however – Filipinos also get in on the action. A study conducted around Asia in 2006 noted that Filipinos tended to think of themselves two times as sexually attractive as other men in Asian countries considered themselves. You will also see a lot more Filipino men (mostly younger) exhibiting characteristics of western metrosexuals: more attention to their hair and clothing, the use of light makeup and their side view scooter mirrors being angled inwards so that they check their appearance as they are driving.
It’s All Good
Subjective beauty in the Philippines is yet another interesting example of the cultural differences between the East and the West and just how they play out in daily life. Everyone has different concepts and beliefs around the world, and they can vary greatly from place to place. Understanding the historical reasons for why things are the way they are is just another piece of the puzzle that is Philippine society.
Or – if you don’t want to think too deeply about it – just appreciate the beauty around you and be thankful – if you’re Caucasian – for your pasty white skin and long nose.
Who would have thought such things were attractive?