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  • Jesse Adryne Alonzo

Face to Face: Filipinos’ Harmful Take on Body Image



It seems to be a norm for Filipinos to comment on other’s bodies, be it positive or negative. No one would bat an eyelash if your tita commented on your short height, or maybe your lola would chastise you for gaining even more weight since the last time she saw you. You could meet your friends in school and they would laugh about your acne, maybe give a few snide comments on the fairness of your skin. You see this, you hear this, then you go about your day. It’s an everyday thing. It’s normal. It’s fine. Right? Or not?

Erica Dawn, a Filipino-American blogger, stated that however accustomed Filipinos may be with this behavior, it is a “textbook case of body shaming on an entire cultural level”.

She mentioned in her blog that however happy she and her sister might be going home to the Philippines, hearing her relatives say “tumaba ka (you got fat)” the second they see each other makes her want to fly back to America immediately.

When her sister finally confronted their relatives about the negative effects their offhanded comments, everything spilled out. “This big blow up turned into a constructive conversation where I finally explained the negative emotional and physical effects these comments have had on my sister and me over the years. Interestingly enough, we got two very distinct responses during this chat. The first came from the older generation of our aunts and uncles who defended this behavior because it’s so widely accepted. They basically told us that because we are in the Philippines, we should conform to Filipino norms, and quit being so ‘sensitive’”.

Erica ended her blog with a message to her fellow Filipinos, encouraging them to “make a positive difference together by addressing this problem head-on”.

This prompts the thought that everyone seems to have an opinion on one thing or another. They notice every single ‘mar’ on a person, every single flaw that there supposedly is and nobody seem to have any qualms on expressing their distaste. But no one ever notices what their words do. They comment and encourage the person to ‘fix’ it, yet they find a new one again. It’s like a never ending cycle of misery and toxicity.

Families carry a big role in the construction of a person’s body image. Especially in Filipino culture as Filipinos hold their families’ advice and opinions close to their heart. When our relatives tell us something, be it good or bad, we tend to take it in stride. And with the repetitive expressions of “Ang taba mo na!” or maybe “Para kang malilipad ng hangin”, we see it as truth. It may seem like something Filipinos should be used to. However our relatives aim their message to be, it still instills negative thoughts in our minds.

Social media isn’t helping much in building positive body images either. Filipinos spend approximately 10 hours a day on the internet, 3.5 of those in social media sites, Facebook being the most popular one as of late. A study by Child Health Nursing Research showed that social media had a negative effect on Adolescent Filipinos’ eating attitude. They are exposed to social media for long periods of time where thin bodies are the “ideal body image”. This ultimately led them to being dissatisfied with their own physicality. They see people with the supposed ‘perfect’ bodies and unconsciously compare themselves to models with doll like appearances.

Everywhere you look, you seem to be pushed down because of what you are, because of who you are. It feels like being trapped in a room covered in mirrors that only reflect ‘perfection’ and push thoughts of your supposed flaws in your mind. But the thing is, they are not alone.

Solenn Heusaff said that she used to be called names when she was younger as she weighed 200 pounds as a pre-teen which pulled down her self-esteem. She has now evolved into a fit and confident woman. “I will not do it for the people who put me down, I will do it for myself because I want to experience change”.

"If I feel good about myself, I know I'll look good and I’ll be happy," said Sarah Lahbati. "Just because society creates this image in our minds that 'perfect is the new beautiful' [doesn't] mean that we have to follow."

We all are different people with different personalities and appearances. No one is the same. No one should ever drown themselves with the ideals of conforming to the supposed “ideal body image”, a deceptive cookie-cutter form of falseness and plasticity.

This is said best by Liza Soberano, “We are all unique, we are all different in our own way, and we can stand out and be beautiful on our own.”

Perhaps you would see this, or, maybe you heard this, then you go on. It’s an everyday thing. But people are now fighting, stepping into the light. They showcase their flaws and scars and say that they’re proud of who they are.

The words of others are their opinion, good or bad. It’s your choice to make your own statement, to be the version of yourself that you want to be. Do it for you, not them. This is your body, and you should take charge of it. Be bold, be confident, be yourself. When people look, they see not fit and a curvy body, not pointed nose and a fair skin. They don’t see perfection, but they see beauty.

© The Middle Mag PH