One of the most peculiar things I found in the Philippines is the array of whitening products available in the stores. The range of the products is impressive to the point of national obsession. There are whitening soaps, whitening creams, whitening powders, whitening deodorants, whitening pills, etc etc.
(And as a side note, you can see in these commercials that most of their actors / actresses are mixed Filipino / Caucasian, further promoting the white is better mentality.)
It took me a while to wrap my mind around the purpose of these products, because the concept of wanting to whiten your skin was entirely foreign to me. In the US, people like to have a tan, and on the extreme side may visit tanning beds occasionally. Plus, becoming more tanned due to sun exposure is natural and normal. The idea of popping pills (or using any of these other products) to try to force your skin to turn a color it’s not meant to naturally be is absurd.
First of all, how healthy can it be to use these products to change the color of your skin? Second of all, there’s nothing wrong with the color of Filipinos’ / Filipinas’ skin in the first place! That naturally tanned skin is part of a Filipina’s appeal, at least from my perspective anyways. It’s part of what makes them unique and desirable. I’m not a make-up artist or expert, but beauty products should be used to augment your natural beauty, not change it entirely.
My wife explained what she thinks is the reasoning behind this fashion trend. The Philippines has been repeatedly dominated and/or occupied by other countries, including Spain (300 years of occupation), the US and Japan. This constant domination by fair skinned peoples may have caused a “whiter is better” mentality to set in and eventually become part of the national media/pop/fashion mainstream. My wife went on to say that fair skin has an impact on social status as well. The darker your skin is, the more likely you are to be ridiculed or socially ostracized from your peers. This perception is also carried over to visiting foreigners, in that white foreigners are placed on a pedestal and black foreigners are seen simply as a curiosity and an opportunity to try to make some money.