“One whiteness can cover three ugliness”

Photo courtesy of nccj.org

“ White skin” is another issue.  The skin whitening craze in Asia and Africa has gone to, well , crazy  levels. And it is being fueled  by the  media’s love affair  with  white-skinned models  and  leading ladies. Whitening soaps, whitening lotions, whitening capsules. Then, there are whitening medical procedures  like  lasers  and  intravenous glutathione. The media continues  to send the message that white skin is  more beautiful than brown or black skin.  Although skin whitening has been done by women  for centuries —it has never been so popular  and widespread as it is these days. The ancient saying ” One whiteness can cover three ugliness” has become a modern battle cry.

Skin whitening advertisements  are  everywhere in Asian countries. Many of the endorsers  were born with white  skin in the first place. That is clear deception.  And it is infuriating  that governments  actually allow  them .

These marketing  ploys are succeeding. According to a 2004 study by global marketing firm Synovate, nearly 40 percent of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products that year. That was many years ago. The figure must be higher these days. In terms of  purchases, Asians  now  spend US$  13  to 18  billion annually on skin whitening products  alone .

 Before and after. What’s wrong with ” before “?  This  desire   for  white skin  is mainly rooted in colonialism , particularly in Eurocentrism . Most countries in Asia and Africa were once colonized by white people: Americans,British,French,Spanish.  White is the color of the masters. White is the color of wealth.  On the other hand, black is the color of the slaves. Brown is the color of poverty and ignorance.

Then enter Hollywood and K-Pop,  selling glittering  entertainment dominated by white-skinned artists.

Westerners who visit  Asian countries  are just shocked  at the skin whitening phenomenon  and the  prejudice that goes with dark skin.

There is a bit of irony here. Asians  and Africans  nowadays are  sensitive  when it comes to racism committed by Westerners. Yet, among themselves, there exists “ colorism ”.  Colorism is a form of prejudice that  favors lighter -skinned people  over  dark-skinned people in the same  ethnic group. When Asians and Africans denounce racism  yet condone colorism— that is hypocrisy.

( This is an excerpt from a longer article published on this blog. )

The negative effects of beauty ads

( This is an excerpt from a longer article already published on this blog.)

Philip Myers Jr. and Frank Biocca, both academic researchers, concluded in their study published in the Journal of Communication, that a woman’s self-perceived body image can change after watching a half-an-hour of television programming and advertising. On the other hand, the  research of  Yoku Yamamiya and Thomas F. Cash  yielded  a more alarming result :  “Even a 5- minute exposure to thin-and-beautiful media images results in a more negative body image  than does exposure to images of neutral object.”

 Tiggemann and Mcgill ( as cited in Serdar ),  on the other hand, discovered  that  even brief exposure to images of beautiful  females (11 images) led to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and weight anxiety among women. This finding is disturbing because the number of images used in the study is far less than what is present in any women’s magazine or shown in most television programming.

A study by Duane Hargreaves of Flinders University in South Australia had similar results. Females who saw ads with idealized female imagery experienced a greater degree of body dissatisfaction, negative moods and anger.  Teenage girls are more likely to be negatively affected by what they see on the media.

The studies mentioned above are just a small part of extensive evidence showing  that women suffer   emotionally  and psychologically  due to  exposure to  beautiful images in  ads and other forms of media. 

But  wait. Isn’t this the very intention of beauty advertising ?  To make a consumer feel  sorry for herself  because she has dark skin. Because she is fat. Because she has pimples.  Because  she’s getting old. Creators of the ad, and they are very smart, know what’s inside the deep recesses  of a woman’s  mind and  heart. Fully aware of a  woman’s vulnerable spots , they  hit her self-esteem  with underlying messages . You are not good enough . You are not pretty enough. You are ugly. But then, as she squirms on her couch with self-pity ,  she gets the other message . “ Don’t despair , lady! There’s hope! Use  our product  and you will be as beautiful as these models .You will get  perfectly white skin .You will have this body . You will catch Mr. Right. “ The woman now  rushes to the nearest mall — where sales agents wait for the prey who needs only  very little pushing  to buy the product.

And after spending a fortune, the woman realizes she will never look like those models.

2020 further exposed racism against Blacks

“Racism is not getting worse. It’s getting filmed.”, a quote attributed to Black actor Will Smith. And I agree.

There seems to be a semblance of diversity, integration and tolerance in some parts of the world, and in some aspects of our existence like sports and entertainment.  Despite this, racism is still pervasive.

Incidents of racial harassment and attacks against Blacks, Asians and other people of color have been committed by bigots for a long time now. However, with the aid of phone cameras and CCTVs, these things are now well documented, and they are impossible to deny.

In the US, how many white people have called the police because they are threatened by the presence of black people? Innocent black people who are just going about their daily lives: jogging,  playing, shopping, working, entering their own apartments. How many black people have been denied entry to certain restaurants because of their footwear, while whites wearing the same type of shoes have already been allowed inside? There are also documented incidents of police officers and security guards questioning Blacks in posh places because “they don’t look like they belong”.

In other instances, it’s not just a case of a person feeling threatened by the presence of a Black person. It is pure, simple hatred. The case of Ahmaud Arbery is a stark example. Arbery, a 25-year-old African American was just jogging around his neighborhood on February 23, 2020. Three white guys chased him, and shot him to death. The suspects were arrested only on May 7, 2020—two days after a video of the encounter surfaced, and after prominent people started calling out the police department for covering up the case and inventing lies against Arbery. 

American Black activist Shaun King has been documenting police brutality against blacks. His social media accounts are full of harrowing tales of unarmed, non-violent Blacks killed by US police officers. The police, King says, consistently treat Black suspects with lethal force, much different from how they treat White suspects who are accused of more serious crimes like murder. Black suspects almost always end up dead while white suspects are arrested alive and well —-which should be the case for all suspects who are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd — suspected of paying a fake $20.—was killed by a police officer in broad daylight. The officer pinned George on the ground, with his knees at the back of his neck, for eight minutes. The black man groaned and moaned until he expired. In sharp contrast, white people like Dylann Roof—already convicted of mass murder — were arrested without much of a scuffle.

Massive protests erupted after cases and cases of documented racial attacks made rounds on social and mainstream media. And there are hundreds of cases which were not caught on camera.

There will always be racist people. There will always be bigotry and prejudices against Blacks and other people of color ( POC) . But we don’t have to accept them as an inevitable part of our reality. We should not allow other people to get comfortable mistreating us because of the color of our skin. Silence and forgiveness won’t do it. Within the bounds of the law, POCs should fight back.


Ahmaud Arbery: What do we know about the case. ( 2020, June 5). BBC News.


Dylann Roof appeals death penalty in South Carolina church massacre. (2020,January 29). NBC News.


Fausset,R.(2020,November 13).What We Know About the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery.NewYork Times.https://www.nytimes.com/article/ahmaud-arbery-shooting-georgia.html.

George Floyd: What happened in the final moments of his life. ( 2020,July 16).BBC News.


Getting married? Manage your expectations

“I do.” Uttered with quivering voice,  teary eyes and blushing cheeks.

Ten years later. “ What the hell is going on?”

Years into a marriage, a lot of couples begin to have a lot of questions, doubts and regrets. Some of them are unspoken, while some are  loudly voiced out.  Arguments, fights, separation and divorce ensue.

At  the pre-marriage phase of our  romance, we tend to look at our partners through a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors. They are exactly what we have dreamed of. But marriage is  more of a microscope that shows the smallest details many of which don’t look so good. 

When you decide to get married, make sure you are looking at your partner with open mind and eyes.  This will help you prepare for the unpleasant surprises and shocks.

You are marrying a human being. A mortal. With flaws and weaknesses.  Lots of it. Years of living together under one roof will reveal all of them. If you were blind to these flaws before, marriage will open your eyes.

 You will see your partner in their  most unappealing form.  You will see them snoring and drooling over pillows. They will wake up next to you with the stinkiest breath that your nose has ever smelled. And then, there’s  loud burping, indiscriminate farting and other gross habits.   Over the years, the physical beauty that caught your eyes will wither and deform. Stretch marks, wrinkles, bald heads and bulges. Both damsel and knight are gone. 

But more serious than the physical changes and the undisciplined biological functions  is the unpleasant attitude that begin to show up and persist throughout the relationship.  The reliable man you expected to   protect you and provide for you and your children turns out to be weak, lazy  and inconsistent. The sweet woman you expected to nurture you and your home  turns out to be an untidy gossiper and nagger. And  each day, you find yourself coming home to a house that offers no rest and comfort. Unpredictable temper, stubbornness, unreasonableness, impulsiveness. The list of disappointments can be endless. 

When “life” finally happens—when the bills start piling up, when work drains all your energy, when the children get sick,   when vices come back, when you cross paths with previous girlfriends or boyfriends who have a better life now — neither you nor your partner will be   the  same person you were on the day of your wedding. Both of you will have changed, even unrecognizable. Even the feelings may be different. Many couples find themselves just going though the motions. Just surviving. Just waiting to get old and die. 

When you have great dreams and high expectations, the probability of  disappointment is high. And this will take a toll on your marriage. This does not mean that you have to lower your standard.Rather,  before you say “ I do”, you have to anticipate the revelations and the changes. Setting a realistic expectation of your partner will help you navigate your  marriage and keep it intact. It should  prepare you  for the proper way to communicate your thoughts  and  to negotiate around issues.  It becomes easier to  understand, accept and forgive your spouse.  

“ I do” not only means “I do accept you  as my lawfully wedded husband or wife. It should  also mean “ I do accept you for what you are now and for what you will become in the years to come.”

Trivial overthinking

Here is a pre-pandemic scenario for my  dinner delivery.  At 5:00 PM, I would start flipping over the  glossy  flyers  I’ve collected. I would browse over the menu, then pause. Get another flyer,   and then browse again. Then I would mull over things like  glycemic index of ingredients,  and how many times the cook  re-use the cooking oil for frying. Minutes would pass and I would  browse again. This would go on for two hours. At about 7:00 PM. I would finally make the call for my delivery:   spicy chicken wings and Yangchow fried rice. Two hours wasted on  finally deciding to call a restaurant that has provided my dinner so many times,  to order food that I have been ordering for at least five years. 

  And that’s pre-pandemic. Imagine how this has changed for the worse in the time of corona. Two hours have become three or even four hours .  Now, aside from the hypocritical thinking about carbs, carcinogens and glycemic index, I dwell on all sort of things . Which restaurant has the highest sanitation standard? Which kitchen and delivery staff would likely wash their hands consistently ? And so on. Then, after three hours of  thinking and stalling , I would place an order for —-you’ve guessed it —-spicy chicken wings and Yangchow fried rice.   Yup. From the same restaurant. Or, if I feel over cautious, I would open a can of tuna.

This is just a small slice of my life where I waste so much time. 

I estimate that one-third of my life has been wasted on  indecisions and overthinking. And many times, it’s about the most shallow and trivial stuff. Another example, I would waste time thinking whether to my exercise indoors or walk around the neighbourhood.  I would analyse the pros and cons of each, just short of doing an  Excel sheet in tabulating each side. And  many times, I end up doing neither of the two because the overthinking has already exhausted me. 

I squander precious minutes trying to decide whether to start a fresh towel, or keep on using the one in the bathroom. I would sniff  the latter, try to recall how many times I’ve dried myself with it. Then, I’ll  try to find —- with my naked eyes—- any sign of  germs. Still undecided, I would linger around my room, then — go back to the bathroom.   Sniff again, and then decide to use it for one more bath. What a waste of a good twenty minutes. 

Should I download a slow,  sentimental song? Yes?  Wouldn’t that ruin my country rock playlist? 

Should I “like” a Facebook post? But I don’t really like it, though I do like the person.

Should I call the building maintenance boy to clean my ceiling fan? Or do I  protect my privacy , clean it myself and just  risk  my  life and limb while standing precariously on a chair?

Should I eat that SPAM  meatloaf that is three days past its expiration date? What if it kills me? What would they do with my body? I’m in a foreign land.

Indecisions. Overthinking. These are the wasters and killers of life.

I could have used those wasted minutes and hours learning a new skill, like video editing or coding. I could have used those times doing real exercise, and I would have freed myself from a lot of medication. Or I could just  have consistently, and actually,  written for this blog, instead of dilly-dallying about a topic,   and could have earned a thousand followers by now. 

 I could  have used those times to build a business, and I could have already graced the cover of  Forbes Magazine  by now.  I could have written a novel or a  blockbuster screenplay with all the days I have wasted —- and could have delivered an Oscar speech by now.  I could have already achieved great things . Could have…

I blame my busy life as a teacher for my mediocre achievements.    But no. It’s not that. I am terrible at managing my time,  my thoughts  and my habits.  Overthinking has always  immobilised me, and rendered futile a lot of days, months and years. And now I am overthinking again whether I have enough time and  the will power to overcome overthinking before it’s too late. 

Let it end with you

Were you born into a toxic, miserable family?

While no family is perfect, some families are plagued by serious problems that have caused so much suffering among their members.  So what do you do if fate put you into one of these families?

You have two options. The first one is to make excuses and perpetuate the vicious cycle that haunts your family. It is taking on the mindset of a victim. You justify your own poor decisions and actions by pointing fingers at your parents and siblings.  “ I am a loser because my family is a loser.” You pass the blame to others.

The second option is better. It is walking a different path and cutting the chains that have enslaved your clan. It is taking the mindset of a free human being who refuses to pass the buck, and holds himself accountable for his own life.

Take a hard look at your family’s failures, find the lessons and execute improvement.

If you were born to a family addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling—then, it’s your job not to be an addict. You have to be very careful with how you are exposed to these things, because you could be unwittingly trapped as well. It’s your job to restrain yourself, stay sober and help your family members recover and heal.

If you were born to a poor, uneducated family whose members are always scraping the bottom of the barrel, it becomes your job to get an education and a vocation that will elevate your standard of living . You should do whatever you can to live a life of honest, sustainable prosperity. It’s your job to provide your descendants with a better fighting chance at life.

Do you come from a family of hostile and violent people? Then, it’s your job to rein in your anger and keep it in check. It becomes your duty to learn the art of diplomacy and tact. You should be able to de-escalate situations, and speak kindly and act gently.

If your mother was a mistress who broke another woman’s heart and ripped a family apart,  then , it’s  your job not to be one. It becomes your job to be a protector of another woman’s family, even if it means sacrificing your own heart.  Or, if your father was a womanizer who ruined your family and that of others,  then it’s your job to be a faithful man whose mind is stronger than his desires.

You don’t have to accept an unwelcome inheritance such as poverty  and attitudinal failures. You have the power to end negativity and change it to positivity. Yes, your parents may not change. In fact, it’s unlikely that you can influence your other family members to change for the better. But you can refuse to do what they do, and you don’t have to become what they have become.

You can choose to continue the sins and shortcomings of your family, and pass the curse to incoming members— and be a perpetrator of an endless, ugly cycle. Or you can choose to rectify these mistakes and start a generation of enlightened individuals living a life that is notches higher than the one initially given to you. MARILYSASOTAGAYETA

Social Media Friends Don’t Owe You Anything

Do you feel bad when your FB post gets just a few likes while you have a thousand friends?

Do you feel rejected when your singing and dancing videos do not get the heart reactions or the thumbs up?

Do you feel hurt when some people don’t greet you on your birthday even if FB has notified them?

Do you feel aggrieved when some friends decline to follow  your page or  channel?

Do you feel that people are unfair because you’ve been an ideal social media friend, with your consistent likes and follows — and yet they don’t reciprocate your efforts?

And do you openly express your gripes  with “ So many friends, and yet very few likes.”

If you do—I have two words for you.


First of all, friends on social media don’t owe you anything. They are free and can do as they please when it comes to interaction. They can choose to give you a “ like”, or they can choose to scroll you over.  They can even choose to unfollow you and to block you. It’s their call.  Social media users should not feel pressured to act and react in a certain way.  They should not be burdened by thoughts that someone out there would feel bad because they did not click the mouse or tap an emoji.

Second of all, social media should not be used to gauge affection. It is not fair to judge people’s feelings for you by what they do or not do on social media. Users have different ways of consuming social media. For some, it may be a vehicle for expressing their affection. But for others, it is a public space where intimate and sacred emotions should not be displayed.  

How many times have I come across this line:  “ Let me see who reads this up to the end.” Or,  “ I want to see how many of you really know me .” Really? You are now TESTING people’s sincerity through Facebook?  A person can read every word of your post and still be your worst hater. A person can re-send to you that nice flower you sent to her (and twenty other people), and still betray you.  And a person can totally ignore your face on her news feed, and still be your best friend in real life.

Stop being so juvenile on social media. Be mature enough to accept people’s freedom to engage with posts. On the other hand, you decide how you feel about the lack of attention and reaction. And be reminded that it’s an entirely different world. You don’t live there, and neither do your real friends.

Sunday Inspiration from Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde ( 1854 – 1900 ) was an Irish poet and playwright known for his literary flair. His notable works include The Picture of Dorian Gray and the Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde lived a controversial life and was imprisoned for homosexuality and “indecency”. He was flamboyant, humorous and witty. In one of his trips, when a US Customs officer asked him ” Do you have anything to declare?” , Wilde quipped: ‘ I HAVE NOTHING TO DECLARE BUT MY GENIUS!”

Here are other famous quotes from this genius.


To live is the rarest thing in the world.

Most people exist, that is all.


We are all in the gutter,

But some of us are looking at the stars.


Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.


I don’t want to go to heaven.

None of my friends are there.


Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.


Man is least himself when he talks about his own person.

Give him a mask— and he will tell you the truth.


Memory is the diary we all carry with us.


Life is a nightmare that prevents one from sleeping.


Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.


Be yourself. Everyone is already taken.


Some cause happiness wherever they go—others, whenever they go!


Hatred is blind, as well as love.


Men always want to be a woman’s first love.

Women like to be a man’s last romance.


Sometimes the poor are being praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.  

Money lessons from the pandemic

While the economic fall out due to the pandemic is inevitable, its effects on some families could have been cushioned by a combination of foresight and frugal spending.

Financial experts advise setting aside 15% to 20% of income for savings. This proportion of the income should go to building up an emergency fund that is good for six to nine months of expenses. This emergency fund should only be touched in cases of emergency: a medical procedure, unexpected but critical car and household repair, and unemployment or bankruptcy.  But how many of us actually prepare for these emergencies? How many of us consistently save money and deposit it to an emergency fund? 

 In the pre-pandemic scenario, a lot of ordinary people, with ordinary—if not minimum— income, spend a big portion of their money on “wants” like expensive coffee, fine dining restaurant meals, upgraded gadgets and other trappings of the good life.  Women pay astronomical amounts on bags, shoes and make-up. Overseas workers squander hard-earned money on gifts and treats for people back home.  People max their credit cards to fulfill their travel goals and go on vacations they can hardly afford. Gullible people postpone their savings for the month and take advantage of “mall sales” (which happen almost  every month) — and buy a second giant TV, or other things that clever sales staff offer them. So many people just don’t know how to manage their money.

Some people justify their wanton spending with YOLO mentality. “You only live once”—they say.  This hedonistic philosophy is fine on two grounds—if we die young, and if life were a bed of roses all the time. But we also grow old, and tragedies do happen from time to time.

Now, we have a global pandemic. A disease that sucks the breath out of our bodies, and disable and kill us. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives.  Countless businesses have closed. Millions of people are now unemployed. Governments are scrambling for resources to bring aid to their citizens

Many of us, who—before the pandemic —were living the good life, are now struggling. We suddenly found ourselves with little money or none at all.  Three months into lock downs and quarantines, we are now scrimping and barely surviving. Our bank accounts have gone dry, and many of us—formerly middle class — are now poor.  Wallets are now empty, and we’re struggling to buy food, safety masks and sanitizers. We are stressed and depressed over the scarcity and the uncertainty.

Tough times should teach us tough lessons. People should learn from this pandemic. We should learn the habit of saving a portion of our income, and building an emergency fund. Instant gratification of wants is a risky habit that should be tamed. If it’s necessary for your sanity, about 10 percent of your income can be spent on little self-rewards. But more than that would be courting more disaster in times of disaster. As history tells us, pandemics and disasters are an inevitable part of human existence. While we cannot avoid them, we can lessen the damaging impact they will have on our lives. We can prepare.

A quarantine team from DOH assist repatriated OFWs from different countries into a hotel-turned isolation facility in Malate. Manila on April 2, 2020, for the start of their 14-day quarantine. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

The politics of lesser evil

In many countries, politics has devolved to a lamentable level. It is no longer for honorable statesmen who put the welfare of their countrymen before their own. Instead, politics has become an arena where gladiators compete for power and money.  And to win, they lie. They cheat.  They pay bribes. They maim. They kill. And all of this is done with no iota of compunction. It’s a dirty, deadly game. No wonder, it no longer attracts genuinely good and capable people. Gone are the true public servants, philanthropists and altruists.  Those who are left are mostly hooligans and criminals in Armani suits.

Nowadays, when people choose their leaders during elections, it is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. People no longer look for the good candidate. Instead, they look for the lesser evil.  During campaign, people no longer scout for the candidate who is telling the truth. Instead, they look for the candidate who is telling the least lies.

They no longer ask: which of these men and women will fight for better wages and compensation of workers? Instead, they ask: which of these scammers will not steal that much from me? Yes, they expect to be robbed. They no longer look for the person who will serve and uplift the people. Instead, they try to guess which person is less likely to abuse marginalized constituents.

People no longer ask which politician will try his best to educate the people. Instead, they ask which one will not take advantage of the people’s ignorance? People no longer ask: which of these candidates will protect me? Instead, they ask: which of these bastards won’t kill me?  Whose tenure will I survive?

Not voting won’t prevent bad people from getting into power. Most election laws, as well as bureaucratic structures and cultural mindsets, are skewed in favor of cheaters. Undeserving politicians almost always manage to win.

But this moral decline in politics did not happen overnight. It happened  gradually, in small imperceptible increments throughout the decades. People—the voters, the masses— tolerated small lies,  small thefts, small aggressions. As long as the politician spoke with eloquence, or with humor — and gave them favors as cheap as a can of  meatloaf—people were willing to ignore little infractions.   And when politicians realized that their little naughtiness was ignored, they got bolder.   They lied more. They stole bigger. The little aggression became murder.  And they still got away with it. And it has been going on and on and on, that we have become numb to the evil we helped create.  

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