Sunday, February 26, 2012

Papaya Soap Syndrome

There was a time when the hottest selling thing was Papaya. You can see the fruit in newspapers and billboards. You can hear Papaya on the radio and see it on TV. Almost everyone was crazy about Papaya! Unfortunately, we didn't want to eat the fruit, we wanted it on our skin.

Almost all soaps for sale bore the resemblance to the color and smell of Papaya. Even the biggest names in soaps have their own Papaya variant. The craze even went further when someone released a green Papaya variant claiming to be more effective that the ripe fruit. Their claim?  They give Filipino women a chance to become whiter.

Ages and ages ago when they were young, most of our mothers and grandmothers weren't allowed to go out of the house much. Their skin will get dark because of the sun, making them unattractive by Pinoy standards. It seems that having dark skin bears a stigma in the Filipino culture which still exists even up to now. For hundreds of years, we've been seeing our natural skin as inferior to the caucasians.

It has always been this way since the arrival of light skinned people in our islands. We see them better, more beautiful or handsome, more aspirational. We wanted to be like them or be among them. Is it a natural call of our instinct to improve our genetics or is this the effect of centuries of oppression and Hollywood? A lot of questions but no answers. One thing is sure, a lot wanted to get whiter skin.

Both Filipino men and women wanted to get fairer alike. You can hear a typical Filipina envying other women blessed with fairer skin. Seems like light skinned women get all the men. Pinays are also often heard to desire men of lighter skin or talk about how "dugyot" the darker skinned men are. Seems like light skinned men get all the women. Being light skinned in the Philippines denotes caucasian ancestry or just being wealthy. Quite an unfair advantage considering we are in a tropical country and its sunny 70% of the time.

In the past, exfoliation with "panghilod" does the job. Then came papaya and calamansi, then came the whitening soaps. Everyone jumped in because its a cheaper alternative than visiting a derm clinic. Every "inday" can get fairer skin just by taking a bath. Some men secretly buy them too. But this all went crazy when whitening soaps and papaya became one. Traditional and old school whitening meets new and scientific whitening got almost everyone to the trend.

Somehow we are all victims. Stereotypical views, colonial mentality, low self esteem and poverty contributes to these behavior and thinking. Its a system that is inconvenient for the average Pinoy, but easily circumventable when you're rich. But that's not the peculiar thing here. What's interesting is we are happy with what solutions we get to our concerns. We're happy that something's giving a solution no matter how effective or how long it takes. Its really true, we Filipinos are very easy to please.