Skin whitening and weight loss advertisements and the huge space allotted for such products in shops always make me want to cry. Why is it damn hard for us to love the skin we're in? the extra sexy body we’re in? Why does it have to take foreigners to appreciate our naturally sun-kissed skin?
Just like most of you, I spent my childhood and teenage years being told that white is right, and brown is macho, and thin is in, and stout is out. It doesn't help either that my mother and grandmother take pride in their complexion and slender figure (back then) and whatever better treatments they enjoy for such. My father, similarly, calls foreign seas as his home most of the time. His stage father moments involved cheering me on for my dramatic monologues and other performances. Anything but beauty contests - official or mere role-plays.
But the most damaging for any 7-year-old kid to hear was:
"Di ka kagandahan, di ka maputi, di ka payat at wala ka ring alam sa gawaing bahay. Iwasan mo na lang magka-peklat para makapag-asawa ka pa balang-araw". [You're hardly beautiful, skinny, fair-skinned and domesticated. You might as well avoid getting skin blemishes so you'd get hitched someday,"]
That statement robbed me of a child's zest for misadventures. I never got curious about riding a bike; all I could imagine was falling from it and getting bruised. I never donned neon prints, sleeveless and/or midriff-exposing tops either as I imagine I would be the laughingstock in class. I even had episodes of allergies and palpitations for trying various skin whitening and weight loss products, respectively. Evidently, I spent the rest of my salad days in bondage and negativity. I felt sure that better days will never come to pass. For being unable to attract suitors and being unattached until I reached 29, I may be proving my grandmother right. (Of course, she’s far from right. I’m currently in a relationship with someone who can return the self-love and acceptance I radiate, even during very bad hair days. And so, what if it were His will for me to be single for the rest of my eventful life? It’s still a happy ending, you know.)
I couldn't stand my appearance in all angles. There was no way I could deny my belly rolls and pango nose, the dark contours of my lips, my dark skin, and everything else that goes with my Pinay identity. But, this self-loathing magically ended after back-to-back encounters with inspiring strangers back in 2005. I was 22 then– I can't pin down what exactly made me realize that brown is beautiful and extra pounds are sexy, but I felt that there was nothing inferior with my kayumanggi skin and Coca Cola-in-can figure since being exposed to fellow carefree and comfortable-in-their-own-skin kolehiyalas in UP-Diliman. To sum it up, I, too, was created after God’s beautiful image and I’m not allowing anyone to dismiss me as unpretty.
Now my skin grew darker than before. But I won't trade each beach bumming, sunbathing and trekking opportunity for anything. My closet? You'd have to put on your sunglasses before you unlock it. A wide array of bright colors await! My skin had earned too many battle scars from the past months, too. Again, I wouldn't ask for substitution during any of those heated badminton games and out-of-town adventures with friends. Most importantly, I can't wait for new adventures to try and see how it will reflect on my skin. As for my big body, I learned to accept it and, instead of being resigned to its current condition, I started a healthier diet by giving up on red meat and I've embraced an active lifestyle by making sure I spend quality time on the mat, on the dance floor and on the boxing ring. And of course, finding reasons to laugh at life and at myself.
(Quick to laugh, Lornadahl Campilan takes her inimitable joie de vivre to her blog writing, aimed to spread the word of body acceptance and self love on Extra Seksi!, encourage Pinays to travel solo on Hindi Kami Nag-Iisa, document the hilarity of commuting on Tambucho Tales, share her adventures as an overpacking amateur on Traveling Dahl, and ramble about everything on ScorpionSyrup)