Filipinos on Twitter speak out against colorism


Filipinos from all over took to social media to post photos of themselves with the hashtag #MagandangMorenx where the hashtag translates to, “beautiful brown skin” in Tagalog that was curated by actress and YouTuber Asia Jackson.

Jackson was born to a Filipino mother and a black father. Growing up, she spent a lot of time in the Philippines for her education and vacation past time. Due to her father’s military background; wherever Jackson’s family was stationed, Jackson experienced firsthand colorism, or discrimination based on skin color.

“Every moment I spent there,” Jackson said on Twitter, “I became increasingly more frustrated with the colorism so deeply woven into the culture. . . the toxic idea that dark skin was ugly made me ashamed and embarrassed of my skin tone.”

The concept of being fair-skinned is valued in the Philippines, as it is in many cultures. From papaya soap, whitening creams, and an entertainment industry heavily emphasizing with mestizas, those of half white descent, the desire for white and lighter skin is coveted in Filipino culture.

Christina Tolentino, vice president of the Filipino Student Union at Skyline, talks about the widespread prescence of colorism in the Philippines.

“Particularly in the Philippines, there’s discrimination against individuals who have darker skin,” Tolentino said. “The Philippines heavily advertises skin lightening products, saying that lighter is better.”

Tolentino also expressed that many Filipino models have eurocentric features such as prominent noses, cheek bones, and light skin.

After the Philippines were under Spanish rule for over three centuries and then the United State’s (U.S.)’s annexation of the archipelago, there was an establishment of the light and dark skin hierarchy. Jackson wants to transform the colonial standard of beauty.

Gabriel Kyle Manalang, this year’s Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN) director said that is it “upsetting” to see that Filipinos prefer to have lighter skin due to the Filipino media.

“Our ancestors were brown,” Manalang said. “And most of us are brown. Ever since we were colonized by Spain and the U.S., the way we see ourselves have changed. A lot of people feel inferior because they feel like they’re not good enough.”

Josh Paras, English major planning to double major in Ethnic Studies, is also apart of the Skyline Kapamilya Mentorship program was asked about his experiences with colorism as a Filipino.

“I’ve noticed that there are rarely any darker-skinned Filipinos represented in television and the media in general,” reflects Paras on colorism and diversity in mainstream media. “As a tan Filipino myself, I guess I’ve always felt like other people think of me as an inferior type of Asian because of it. . . it probably has to do with the provinces—people in the provinces tend to work in agriculture and are darker, and so darker skin becomes associated with lower class citizens.”

Many of Jackson’s encounters stemmed from her experiences as a child in the Philippines. She, along with her mother’s side of the family, takes pride in their Igorot roots, an indigenous culture from the northern side of the islands. The Igorots, who were traditionally rice farmers, were often stereotyped as dark-skinned “savages”, Jackson said in an interview with NBC news.

On Oct. 27, Filipino men and women all across the Twitterverse participated in the Magandang Morenx hashtag, posting pictures of themselves and embracing their tan and dark skin. The hashtag instantly went viral.

The hashtag was timed to correspond with Filipino American History Month, which is annually celebrated in October.

Jackson started this hashtag in 2016, and since then has decided to make it an annual thing to target the “traditionally enforced beauty standards within mainstream Filipino media”. She repeated the hashtag again on May 5 for Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

Her goal is clear: colorism is a prevalent issue in the Filipino community, but now it is time for it to go. With the hashtag #MagandangMorenx, she hopes people will allow people to appreciate the diversity of the Philippines.

“I just want everyone to feel super confident in their skin,” Jackson said. “And really embrace what it means to be Filipino.”