Saturday, May 25, 2024

Mestizo/Mestiza Is Not a Compliment

by Lei Marie Danielle M. Tolentino | February 23, 2022

The Philippines is arguably one of the most diverse countries in Asia — with the different ethnicities and cultures it holds being evidence of such. Despite this, we Filipinos still fall victim to colorism today. Contrary to most Western countries, light skin is generally preferred here where it is seen as a symbol of not just beauty, but of high economic and social standing. We have even reached a point where being called mestizo, mestiza, or anything that would imply we do not “look 100% Filipino” feels gratifying — and I know there’s some truth to this statement because I and many people I know have been there before.

It is ironic because the Filipino people are known for their “Pinoy pride”. So, why do we feel such strange gratification and pride when we relate ourselves to foreign traits? Has “Pinoy pride” just been our way of overcompensating for our insecurity this whole time? I have some points beyond the colonial mentality that might lead to answers.

In the modern world, the problem usually starts at home. Many of the Filipinos I know, including myself, grew up being told that they have foreign blood. And it is not hard to believe, right? After all, our country has been through a lot in history, especially with the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and American people; and our ancestors survived that. So, I can understand why one would be proud of having mixed ancestry. However, it is crucial for young children to be taught that even if they may have traits that differentiate them from others, it should not mean that they are in any way better than anyone. 

Another factor that may have contributed to our way of thinking is the media we watch. As children, most of the shows we watch originate from the West where the faces of the characters we emulate are Eurocentric. The rest of our entertainment industry does zero favors to counter this too. From the whitening product advertisements to the repulsively apparent preference of mixed-race actors, anyone, no matter what age, is easily convinced that fair skin, along with other features like tall noses and bright eyes, is supreme.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not hating on Western features. However, it does bother me when something as simple as a compliment is based on one’s genetic and ethnic makeup. My main point is that we should not put any shade of skin, shape of nose, or any type of feature on a pedestal because they are and should be equal. Sure, they may look different, but not one is better than the others.

So, what can we do about all this? I have a simple solution for you: stop complimenting people with demonyms and other similar words. I know it sounds stupid, but there is a huge difference between saying ”Your hair is so nice. Mura jud ka’g Amerikana [You really look American],” and “Your hair is so nice. I like what you did with it.”

When we start to lift each other up for the right things, we also start to love ourselves for the good traits we have developed from our unique experiences, not traits that we were simply born with. 

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