Saturday, May 2, 2009


GANDA BABAE. A portrait of a Pampanga beauty, identified only as Soleng, sent to her friend on 28 September 1915.

Whitening products have been touting the beauty of a fair complexion as an aspiration of every kayumangging Filipina. But cosmetics companies recognize that being white is not enough, for there are undesirable kinds of whiteness with connotations of frailty and weakness. Pale white, uneven white, chalky white—these are beauty no-no’s. Instead, one should strive to have a rosy kind of complexion, exuding the pink glow of health and the vitality of youth.

Kapampangans too, have been obsessed with this notion that only white is beautiful. Their exposure to our fair skinned-colonial masters must have heightened their desire to transform their “kulay kastanyas” complexion—as islanders were described in Spanish colonial times-- to one of peaches ‘n cream. A PampangueƱa spent hours pampering her face so she could have that “kabalat kapaya” loveliness, as one song described it—smooth, at “malare puti”—fair and glowing.

The same song variant offered creative solutions to paleness, which is a sure sign of sickness. To regain that dewy, rosy white complexion, one just as to follow a series of recipes using exotic ingredients—if you can find them!

O cacang maputla, bisang lare ditac?

Matul cung panulu, queca macacayap

Sagu ning cabayu, quiling ning damulag

Saca me aruban qng ebun ning tarat

Ilutu mu naman, qng curan a dutung

Layun mu lang tamban, qng marimlang danum

Panga dalise na, agad mung ipainum

Camandag ning saquit, antimong melasun

Nung a sacaling eca pa cumayap

Manintun naca man balbas na ning tugac

Atdung e mapait, larang e maparas

Qng asung apagquit, carin mu padaldac.

(O pale friend, do you want to look rosy?
I will prescribe a medication that would make you well
Horn of a horse, mane of a carabao
Mix with an egg of a wren
Cook these in a wooden pot
Simmer in cold water
And when fresh, drink it quickly
The venom of your illness will be poisoned
If, by chance, you don’t get well
Find a frog’s beard
Gall that’s not bitter and pepper that’s not spicy
In a sticky mortar, have these powdered..)

The above recipe reads like a witches’ concoction rather than an effective medication. Now if all else fails, you could always run to the nearest neighborhood drugstore and get a bottle of whitener with all sorts of glutathione-methathione-and-mela-white magic!

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