My Trip to the Philippines: The Power of Colorism and Colonial Mentality

The following blog entry is from The Huffington Post article “My Trip to the Philippines, Part 2: The Power of Colorism and Colonial Mentality” by Dr. Kevin Nadal, PhD (July 2017). Dr. Nadal is a Professor of Psychology, City University of New York.

Our brown skin, slanted eyes, and Spanish surnames often confuse people; depending on the day, season, or context, people may perceive us as Asian, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, multiracial, or sometimes Black. Some Filipino Americans are so racially ambiguous that strangers will have to stop and ask us what we are.

Others experience a variety of microaggressions based on whatever race people stereotype us to be. Sometimes, we are told (directly or indirectly) that we aren’t really Asian; that our skin is too dark; or that we are among the lowest of the Asian totem pole. Because these messages are often communicated by East Asian Americans (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, or Korean Americans), many Filipino Americans report feeling more affinity with Pacific Islanders, Latinx, and Black Americans, and some build coalitions with South Asians to proclaim that Brown Asians exist.

At the same time, our own Filipino family members and communities have taught us many messages about the meaning of being brown. Most Filipinos (in the Philippines and across the diaspora) have likely heard a parent, grandparent, or older relative encourage them to stay out of the sun or to avoid getting dark. Others may have even been encouraged (sometimes forced) to use Eskinol – a bleach cream that boasts the ability to whiten skin. So, even if many of us are taught to be proud of our ethnic identity as Filipinos, we can still carry with us an internalized oppression or colonial mentality, that teaches us that dark skin and indigenous qualities are bad.

On my recent trip to the Philippines, I learned just how prevalent colonial mentality still is in the Philippines, as well as how taboo it is to talk about it. I also saw first-hand how colorism (or prejudice and discrimination based on skin color) is promoted in almost all aspects of Filipino culture. In both metropolitan and provincial areas that we visited, most of the people around us were my skin color or darker. Yet, a vast majority of people featured in the media (e.g., television, billboards, and magazines) were light-skinned.

When I first stepped foot in a 7-Eleven, I noticed that almost all the soap and facial cleansers were infused with some sort of “whitening” element. When we visited a shopping mall, a large grocery store devoted a whole aisle to whitening products. Through these subtle environmental messages, Filipinos are taught that light skin is better or more beautiful, while dark skin is inferior or ugly. These messages are even transmitted to Filipino Americans who may not have ever stepped foot in the Philippines who may learn such messages from their immigrant parents or family members, while also being exposed to American standards of beauty which still perpetuates Whiteness as the norm.

Perhaps I should be more empathetic and recognize that Filipinos’ desires to be lighter-skinned are merely the results of 400+ years of Spanish and American colonialism. Perhaps I should be more understanding of a country that has experienced so much historical trauma and accept that colonialism and colorism have been integrated into what the Philippines is today.

However, it is hard for me to do so because I recognize the negative impact colorism and colonialism has on people. The research studies of scholars like Dr. Leny Strobel and Dr. E.J. David have found that colonial mentality is harmful and has long-lasting negative effects on our psyche. Colonial mentality has been linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and more. It affects the way we think about ourselves (e.g., how attractive we feel, how capable we feel about doing things). It also affects the way we think about others (e.g., how we view darker-skinned Filipinos and darker-skinned people of color).

Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed many ways that colorism and colonial mentality have affected people’s lives. I once heard one of my 6-year-old nieces say that she was “dark and ugly” as she looked at herself in the mirror. I’ve felt stunted in situations when multiracial Black Filipino Americans were being teased or called egots (a derogatory word for Black people), and I’ve felt awkward in instances when multiracial White Filipino Americans were praised for being mestizo (a glorified word for mixed race with Spanish or White heritage). I’ve listened to many Filipino American friends admit to a lack of self-confidence, or even self-doubt, because they don’t think they’re pretty enough, smart enough, or White enough.

With this, I challenge Filipinos across the diaspora to have honest conversations about how negative messages about skin color affect our lives. I challenge those with lighter skin to examine the privilege that light-skinned people tend to have (e.g., they are favored by their grandparents; they are complimented on their beauty), while recognizing the ways that they may stereotype or indirectly hurt others (e.g., using the term “light-skinned” as a synonym for “pretty”). I challenge those with darker skin to combat the internalized messages they’ve learned about their brownness and to love the skin they’re in.

Finally, I challenge everyone (Filipinos and non-Filipinos) to critically analyze the ways we build hierarchies in all of our groups. While colorism is embedded in many countries around the world, systemic discrimination may also manifest based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, religion, ability status, age, size, and other identities. And because we know that these hierarchies cause some people to feel superior and others to feel inferior, let’s do what we can to speak up against the status quo and advocate for change.

Kevin Nadal
A sampling of products at a grocery store in Metro Manila
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Camillo Geaga: 2017 NEXTGEN Fellow, A Trip of A Lifetime

On January 14, 2018, 2017 NEXTGEN Fellow Camillo Geaga spoke at a Bayanihan Foundation fundraiser about his trip to the Philippines. He spoke eloquently and from the heart. Here is an excerpt of how profound the trip was and how it affected him:

2017 NEXTGEN Fellow Camillo Geaga sharing his thoughts about his trip to the Philippines in 2017

“Hello, my name is Camillo Geaga. I was a recipient of the 2017 Bayanihan Foundation NEXTGEN Program. I was born in California and in 2017 was my first time in the Philippines.  My trip gave me a valuable and enriching experience of my lifetime. In August 2017, we first landed in Manila International Airport. We visited a public hospital in Calamba, Laguna. Then, we visited the shrine of Apolinario Mabini and Taal Volcano.

My favorite part of the trip was the karaoke at our resort. The karaoke music played on until 4 AM in the morning. We stayed at a resort located below Mt. Makiling in Calamba, Laguna. I was suffering from severe jet lag and I fell asleep so early by 6 PM that evening. However, I woke up to the sounds of karaoke music blaring outside. The music did not bother me.  In fact, it showed me an emotional side. The trip fulfilled an emotional longing and affirmation.

(left to right): Camillo Geaga and Marc Butiong exchanging pointers about their NEXTGEN Trip in 2017

But most of all, the trip made me realized that I also had to take care of myself. Before the trip, I have not been taking care of myself properly. Now, I have to take those first steps of being well. I love the rich, fresh foods I ate in the Philippines. I love the bananas. I love the greens – the malunggay leaves, the monggo beans. I love the lugaw (rice porridge with ginger and chicken). I love how fresh the food was. It made me realize that taking care of myself is part of being of a community. The trip gave me as a sense of family. For the first time I had the sense that I belong. I realized how impactful the trip was. A little glimpse there, a little memory here. The journey of the thousand steps begins with healing myself now.”

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In Memory of Aurora Gagni – Humanitarian, Supporter of Bayanihan Foundation

‘The Adorables’ throwing a successful fundraiser in 2014: (left to right): Dr. Dorothy Anoina, Eva Torres, Aurora Gagni, Carminda Aldeza and Dale Asis)

(Excerpts of this blog entry came from the Chicago Tribune article “Local doctor, nurse among medical mission group killed in Philippines van crash” January 22, 2018)

On October 2014, Aurora Gagni was part of the “Adorables,” a successful fundraiser benefiting the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide that raised funds for a waiting area for indigent patients in Calamba, Laguna.  Unfortunately, on January 21, 2018, Aurora and seven other passengers were killed when the driver of their tour van in Cebu, Philippines fell asleep on the wheel.  Local police said, and informed investigators that the van driver had slept only one hour the previous night. Aurora was part of a group of about 100 Filipino-American medical staff who had traveled to the Philippines for a three-day medical mission.

The Bayanihan Foundation and the Filipino American community in Chicago will miss Aurora Gagni tremendously for her generosity and big heart in helping others. In 2014, Aurora joined a group of dedicated women that called themselves “Adorables” with Eva Torres, Dr. Dorothy Anoina, and Carminda B. Aldeza. They successfully raised thousands of dollars that the foundation directed to build two hospital lobby areas in Calamba, Laguna.

Renovated hospital lobby of the Calamba Municipal Hospital, courtesy of the donations of ‘The Adorables’ and the many donors of the Bayanihan Foundation

Aurora and the group of doctors and nurses were traveling to the Philippines at their own expense to help the less fortunate in need of medical care. The group was traveling to the popular Kawasan Falls before medical mission work was to begin, police and family members said. Tragically, the tour van crashed in the town of Alegria in Cebu province. Seven passengers in the van including Aurora Gagni were pronounced dead upon arrival at area hospitals. Three others were listed in serious condition. Photos the police posted online show the crumpled front of the tour van smashed against the tree. The driver of the van survived and was taken into custody.

Friend Carminda Aldeza said, “Aurora loved the mission work. She just really enjoyed it. She’s just that type of person.” The Bayanihan Foundation and the Filipino American community in Chicago will sorely miss Aurora Gagni for her big heart in helping others.

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Plans for the New Year

2018 Bayanihan Foundation Plans for the New Year

Happy New Year!

For 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation would like to invite you to join us in a yearlong activities of promoting diaspora philanthropy and giving.

(left to right): Jeselle Santiago, Jane Baron, James Castillo and Marc Butiong

In February 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to do outreach in the Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA areas to promote the 2018 NEXTGEN Fellowship. In 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation will sponsor partial and full travel and accommodations for up to seven young adults ages 18 years old and above to visit the Philippines for 14 days in the summer 2018. The immersion trip is coordinated to promote diaspora philanthropy; know more about Filipino culture; learn about the foundation’s sustainable projects; connect and develop the participant’s potential sustainable projects; and connect with relatives and the participant’s heritage.

(standing second from right): James Castillo, foundation board member, leads youth participants in planting mangrove trees in Cebu, Philippines

In the Spring 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to have a house party presentation in Chicago, IL to share the foundation’s work in mangroves and environmental sustainability in Cebu, Philippines. Bayanihan Foundation board members Marc Butiong and James Castillo will share the foundation’s work in planting over 30,000 mangrove seedlings and its continued efforts for environmental renewal and sustainability.

(standing far right) Bayanihan Foundation board member Ted Kirpach urges guests to donate to the Bayanihan Foundation’s Community Power Giving Circle

In the Summer 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation would share updates of the Community Power Giving Circle. A giving circle is a form of participatory philanthropy where groups of individuals donate their own money or time to a pooled fund, decide together where to give these away to charity or community projects. The Community Power Giving Circle plans to center among young Filipino Americans helping and giving to other young Filipino and Filipino Americans in the US and abroad. Learn more the Community Power Giving Circle here.

Mural portraying the toxic contamination left behind by the US former military bases in the Philippines (courtesy of Alliance for Bases Clean Up)

In the Fall 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to host an advocacy panel and film screening about the toxic wastes left behind at the former US bases in Clark and Subic,Philippines. The foundation will also talk about plight of many Filipino Amerasians, often discriminated by the color of their skin and the stigma of their birth.  They are the sons and daughters of Filipina women (often though not always impoverished prostitutes) and American military service personnel stationed at the former US military bases in the Philippines.

Stay tuned for exact times and locations for these exciting events with the Bayanihan Foundation!

Posted in Amerasians, Bases clean up, Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, Environmental conservation, environmental sustainability, philanthropy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bayanihan in Review – You Make The Difference

What the foundation have achieved so far? 

Bayanihan Foundation IN REVIEW

Planting Seeds of Change, Nurturing Leadership

Youth participants planting mangrove trees in Northern Cebu, Philippines

Youth participants planting mangrove trees in Northern Cebu, Philippines


10 – 30,000 mangrove seedlings planted and hundreds of youth trained in environmental leadership to fight climate change in Liloan, Cebu



Street children receiving food relief in Tacloban City, Leyte



9 – 12,000 families received emergency food relief packages worth $15,000 distributed during super typhoon Haiyan in Samar and Leyte



Filipino Muslim children enjoying feast during Eid al-Adha in Iligan, Mindanao, Pihlippines (2010 )

8 – 10,000 indigent Filipino Muslim families provided meals during Eid Al Fitr celebrations, with the support of Zakat Foundation of America



School children of Iligan Central Elementary School made posters and signs showing their gratitude for the new latrines


7 – 6,000 families and children provided clean water and latrines in Iligan




High school students watched attentively during the brief ceremony donating the used computers to the high school in Giporlos Samar

6 – 2,000 school children impacted by donation of three computer labs and 3,000 books donated to build libraries in four different islands



Planned homes in Dingle, Iloilo sponsored by the PFK Family Foundation



5 – 20 homes built for indigent families in Dingle, Iloilo, with the generous support of PFK Family Foundation and the municipal government of Dingle




Members of the United Philippine Amerasians (UPA) celebrate 4th of July 2014


4 – Organizing and advocacy campaigns including environmental clean-up of former US military bases in the Philippines and Filipino Amerasians, America’s Forgotten Children


(left to right): Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga visiting the monument of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero in Manila, Philippines (August 2017)




3 – Five NEXTGEN Fellows, young Filipino Americans traveled to the Philippines, encouraging their own giving – locally and globally




Renovated hospital lobby of the Calamba Municipal Hospital, courtesy of the donations of ‘The Adorables’ and the many donors of the Bayanihan Foundation


2 – Two hospital lobby canopies were built for a public hospital in Calamba, Laguna




You make the difference!

1- YOU are important. 100% of the foundation’s income comes from individual donors. 97% goes directly to programs. The Bayanihan Foundation is planting seeds of change, nurturing leadership. Would you consider donating? Donate online at

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Planting Seeds of Change, Nurturing Leadership

Marc Butiong celebrating his birthday in honor of the Bayanihan Foundation

On November 12, 2017, NEXTGEN alumnus and Bayanihan Foundation board member, Marc Butiong celebrated his birthday in honor of the Bayanihan Foundation. What’s so special about this birthday celebration? Marc asked his friends and family to give to the foundation instead of birthday presents. Marc demonstrated the zeal of helping others and the true aspiration of the NEXTGEN Program of developing young people to help others and nurturing their leadership for the long-term. Bayanihan Foundation’s  NEXTGEN Program is planting seeds for change and it has blossomed into young Filipino American leaders like Marc.

(left to right): Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga visiting the monument of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero in Manila, Philippines (August 2017)

In August 2017, Marc took charge of the NEXTGEN Program that summer and made sure that the Bayanihan Foundation pushed forward with the program that year. Without his leadership, the program would not have pushed through or would be as successful. After our trip to the Philippines, Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga were both eager to share what they have learned and are finding  ways to fund raise for local and global projects. One of the projects they’re enthusiastically supporting is a local water drainage program in Cebu that benefits 60 impoverished families there. Such a project would prevent further cases of dengue fever and other water-borne illnesses for children and families.

(standing far right) Dale Asis and Marc Butiong talked to family and guests during his birthday celebration (November 2017)

In November 2017, when we got back to the US, Marc Butiong invited his family and friends to a birthday celebration at a local restaurant in Chicago. Rather than asking for birthday presents, he requested his friends and family to donate to the Bayanihan Foundation. Marc and I went around the table explaining to his friends and family the foundation’s mission and the many programs it conducts locally and globally, including the NEXTGEN Program. Marc was eager to share with his friends about the foundation. His enthusiasm is one of the reasons the Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Program is successful. And it worked. At the end of the evening, his friends and family raised enough funds to ensure that the Bayanihan Foundation would be able to sponsor partial scholarships for the NEXTGEN Program in 2018.

Jeselle Santiago announces the launch of the Community Power Giving Circle with Shirley Pintado (second from right) and Alicia Santiago (far right) looking on (June 2016)

Marc Butiong is not alone in helping the Bayanihan Foundation. Other NEXTGEN alumni are also pitching in. In 2016, NEXTGEN alumna Jeselle Santiago also opened up her home and invited her family and friends to raise funds for the Bayanihan Foundation.  Other NEXTGEN alumni Jane Baron and Camillo Geaga also offered to help the foundation and both continue to be involved. Is the NEXTGEN Program a worthwhile program? Yes. The program continues to nurture young leadership and plant seeds of change. It’s worth investing in young Filipino Americans so they can discover their roots and heritage, travel back to the Philippines, and find ways to help locally and globally.

Marc Butiong celebrating his birthday (November 2017)

And Marc Butiong exemplifies the success of the NEXTGEN Program in planting seeds of change and nurturing leadership for long-term change. In November 28, 2017, the Bayanihan Foundation is joining a national online giving campaign in the US. Would you consider donating to support the NEXTGEN Program and other local and global projects it supports? Your support is critical to the foundation’s continued success. You can donate securely through PayPal at this link.

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History Matters: Four Things I Learned About the Philippine Revolution

(left to right): Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga visiting the monument of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero in Manila, Philippines (August 2017)

Last summer 2017, I traveled with NEXTGEN participants Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga to several historical sites and museums in the Philippines as we tried to learn more about the history of the Philippines. Unfortunately, Philippine or Asian history is not taught in elementary or high schools in the US.

(left to right): Camillo Geaga, Dale Asis, and Marc Butiong visiting the museum dedicated to Philippine revolutionary leader, Apolinario Mabini in Tanauan, Batangas


We visited several museums and historical sites including the birthplace of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero in Calamba, Laguna and the museum dedicated to the Filipino revolutionary leader, Apolinario Mabini. He was known to be the brains behind the Philippine Revolution in 1898. Both Camillo and Marc were asking a lot of questions throughout the trip.

I learned four things about Philippine Revolution I wanted to share:

1)The 1898 Treaty of Paris didn’t even mention the Philippine Revolution that was happening at the same time. In June 12, 1898, Philippine revolutionary leaders cried for independence of the islands. However, halfway around the world, the fate of the Philippine Islands were being decided without the voice of the Filipinos. In July 1898, the US fought a decisive battle against Spain in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In December 1898, Spain sold the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Cuba to the United States. Spain sold its colonial territories to the US for a bargain price of $20 million (about $500 million in 2017). The US and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris and the islands were sold in the stroke of a pen. The strangest thing is that US historical documents never even mentioned the Filipino uprising for independence happening at the same time.

Agueda Kahabagan of Santa Cruz, Laguna Philippine Revolutionary hero (Mabini Museum, 2017)

2) Filipino women played key roles during the revolution including the battle field. I always thought Filipino women were on the sidelines during the revolution – cooking meals, caring for the wounded, or sewing the first Philippine flag. I was wrong. Filipina women led hundreds of Filipino soldiers in the battle field. Have you heard of Agueda Kahabagan from Santa Cruz, Laguna? She was awarded the title of General during the Philippine Revolution and served under General Miguel Malvar with 500 troops under her command.

Teresa Magbanua of Iloilo, Philippine Revolutionary hero (Mabini Museum, 2017)


How about Teresa Magbanua of Pototan, Iloilo? She earned the title of Captain and was fighting both Spanish and American colonials. Locals nicknamed her one of the “bandits” of Panay Island.



David Fagen, African-American soldier defected to the Philippine rebel side and became a Philippine revolutionary hero (Mabini Museum, 2017)


3) Ever heard of David Fagen (1875-19010)? He’s an African-American soldier that became a Philippine revolutionary hero. David Fagen was one of the African-American soldiers and was part of the US “Buffalo Soldiers” regiment. In 1899, He was assigned during the Philippine American War but defected to the Filipino side in condemnation of the white American excesses. In 1901, the Philippine rebel troops that he joined surrendered but he refused to give up. He’s believed to have hidden in the mountains near the province of Nueva Ecija. David eventually became the symbol of African-American struggle against white American excesses and exploitation of other races (Mabini Museum, 2017).

Balimbing (Carambola) Philippine native fruit

4) ‘Balimbing’ – there’s more than one side to the story. It is often said that history is written by the victors. But according to Filipinos, like the Philippine native fruit, balimbing (carambola) there’s more than one side to the story.  I learned that the history of the Philippine Revolution is complex. It had multiple characters and a complicated plot played along with various competing interests. Philippine history, like the fruit, Balimbing has multiple sides and more than one side to its complex story.

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