Skin Lightening In The Philippines

Skin Lightening In The Philippines

Skin lightening and whitening is a huge industry not only in the Philippines, but in all of Asia.

I submit based on my experience in the Philippines, that there is a distinct correlation between skin lightening and racial tolerance. Some Filipinos are negative to any dark skinned individuals including those of their same race. Some Filipinos are accepting of darker colored people but yet still prefer to be whiter themselves. And of course there are Filipinos that embrace all colors and are comfortable in their own skin.

It is not this writer’s intention to promote racial division or racial hatred. Rather, I simply want to reveal a part of the Filipino culture that is akin to the Black American culture as skin lightening is prevalent in the Black American culture as well.

On a personal note as a Black American, I am very happy with my skin color as well as with my race and nationality. In addition, I accept all races and all colors as we are all children of the most high God.

In order to understand the why behind skin lightening in the Philippines we have to look briefly at the historical past.

The Philippines were discovered by the by Ferdinand Magellan, (a Portuguese explorer) and the islands were claimed for Spain. In 1565 Miguel Lopez de Legazpi ( a Spanish explorer) began colonization in Cebu and formed the first European settlements.

The natives found on the island were call “Negritos” meaning small and black people. So we see the first known people on the islands were dark skinned. It is through race inter-mingling with the Europeans through four hundred years that the skin color of the people changed to a lighter hue.

Negrito Tribesmen – Many believe that the Negritos migrated from Africa to the Philippines.

It is through European colonization and domination that the Negritos were heavily
influenced by the Spanish and they emulated them in many ways. They accepted the
Roman Catholic religion and to this day the majority religion in the Philippines is Roman
Catholic. The architecture of the Philippines cities is heavily Spanish in look feel and
structure. In the Tagalog language and the Cebuano dialect, there are many Spanish
words to this day.

This emulation even extended to the foods they ate. Lechon was a pork dish that colonial
Spanish partook of regularly. The dish has been adopted by Filipinos and to this day it is
used in meals of celebrations and parties in the Philippines.

The Spanish tradition of Noche Buena is another example of how heavily ingrained the
Spanish culture was on the Filipinos. In this Holiday tradition, food is prepared for a
meal to be served at midnight on Christmas Eve. Games are played with friends and
and family and Christmas presents are exchanged. It is truly a festive holiday even
rooted in Spanish colonial tradition.


The Spanish persuasion has permeated throughout the life of the Philippine people and most apparently it is the skin color of the people. The preferred skin color of most Philippine people is white. The closer to white, the more acceptance they feel towards themselves.

In the retail department stores, in pharmacies, in supermarket grocery stores you will find products for lightening the skin which the primary ingredient is Glutathione.

This chemical is one of the main anti-aging oxidation compounds known to man. It has many different functions, however one of the key uses of this chemical is for skin lightening and whitening.

Glutathione can be administered via a variety of different ways: injection, capsules, tablets, creams ointments, and soaps are some of the ways.

There are also retail skin stores that have licensed doctors in them that will provide a medical plan for lightening and whitening the skin.

In the colonial class structure, there were only two classes; the upper class and the lower class. The upper class consisted of lighter complexion Europeans. They maintained their fairer complexion by not venturing in the sun as they were able to afford slaves workers to any manual labor. The lower class consisted of slaves and overseers, that due to the intense sunlight while laboring held a much darker hue.

This two-tier system nurtured an intra-racial bigotry. The lighter Filipinos looked down on the darker Filipinos.

Even today, this complexion based bias can be seen in Province versus City residents in the Philippines. As most Province people from rural farming areas are requiring of many outdoor tasks in the sun, therefore their complexion is dark. On the other hand, most city dwellers retain a lighter skin tone due to the lack of having outdoor sun exposure.

Although, officially the Philippines boasts of an upper, middle and lower class, in reality it is a country of two classes, upper and lower – “the haves” and the “have nots”.

I have seen countless times where upper class Filipinos have belittled lower class individuals.

In the Philippines there are only two colors that are respected fully; the color white and the color of money.

Does skin lightening have a correlation to racial tolerance in the Philippines? Based on personal experience and observations and having lived in the Philippines; it is my opinion that is directly related.

It must be noted that not only did the Spanish influence the Philippines in regards to skin color but also the Filipinos were influenced by the European class structure,

The colonial class structure of the Europeans pitted
It is not uncommon to find lighter Filipinos non accepting of their darker complexion counterparts.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *