A couple of Saturdays ago, Lia told me it saddens her that her skin has turned significantly darker.
“Ang itim ko na. Mas maganda ako kung maputi ako,” she lamented repeatedly.
This is a six-year old. She’s not supposed to be worrying about skin color and its implications on beauty – what those billboards, advertisements, and everybody else say. She’s supposed to be out in the sun, just being a kid.
It’s a constant struggle to inculcate pride and appreciation for one’s heritage in a country where our kids are being taught otherwise.
Since we started traveling together, I’ve had the intention of discovering the world with Lia — but not before we do it in our own country. I feel that it’s only right she spends time in our three island groups, in our home, before she sees the rest of the world. My hope is that somehow, the rich and diverse cultural maps of her home will become an antidote to that numbing mindset.
Today, as we made the final descent to Sayak Airport, above Del Carmen’s lush mangroves, I thought how fortunate it is that she has made it here; that I am next to her when she did. She’s in Mindanao. Three of three.
“Saan na tayo (Where are we)?” she asked, blinking half-asleep.
“Siargao. Mindanao. Home,” I said.
There is no car, opulent condo unit, or a substantial amount waiting for her at the end of all this. What await are memories, a window to the world, new eyes. I hope that among our people, surrounded by her ancestry, she can see through herself; that she’ll always be reminded that to understand the world, she must remember where she comes from and who she is.
It’s a beautiful thing to be Filipino. I hope there will come a time when, wherever she goes, she’ll be able to say, “This is my country and this is my skin, and I am proud of both.”