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Let’s Talk About Body Shaming in the Philippines

Let me start off by saying I am a fiercely proud mixed-race, Filipino-American woman. Growing up, I had the wonderful and rare opportunity to live in the Philippines for six years — I learned Tagalog, immersed myself in the culture, enjoyed the endless delicacies and most importantly, developed a very close bond with my family on my mom’s side. I am lucky to call both the Philippines and the United States my home.

If there’s one thing I can attest to during my six-year stay in the Philippines, it’s that Filipinos have earned their reputation for being some of the most friendly people in the world. And it’s true, we are! However, no culture comes without blemishes, and the Philippines is no exception. I want to highlight one of our societal flaws that no one seems to talk about: blatant body shaming.

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Illustration: Niki Waters

Although I do not live there anymore, I try and visit as much as I can — because as any true Filipino, family-time is important to me. Every trip starts off the same way: After a 14+ hour flight, I am greeted by my cousins, aunts and uncles. Their first words to me are tumaba ka ‘you got fat’ as they simultaneously squeeze my “arm fat”. My excitement for coming home instantly fades, and I immediately want to hop on the next America-bound flight — I know that this is just the beginning of a summer filled with unsolicited commentary pertaining to my body.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a textbook case of body shaming on an entire cultural level”

At least I have someone who goes through this with me — my beautiful, older sister. Keep in mind, my sister and I are pretty healthy gals, but whenever we set foot in our island home, we are immediately pinned as fat or chubby. Why? Because Filipino’s definition of beauty can best be described as: stick-thin. My sister and I just aren’t built that way.

These comments are not meant to be insulting; unfortunately, it’s normal in Filipino society to comment on other people’s physical appearances — good or bad. So, really anyone who doesn’t fit within this society’s beauty standards has to deal with this nonsense. My sister and I have grown accustomed to this practice, so we usually brush off the comments and try our hardest not to be fazed. But as much as we didn’t want to be, we were fazed, we were very fazed — to the point where we used to put our bodies through hellish and unhealthy diets to try and avoid unwanted remarks about “how fat we are” during our next visit. Yet, no matter how much we refrained from midnight snacking or how many miles we ran, we were still categorized as “fat” the moment we stepped off the airplane. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a textbook case of body shaming on an entire cultural level.

One summer, my sister and I had reached our breaking point. After a much needed, cousins-only staycation, a family member asked my sister why she’s “so big” for about the 100th time that month — as if her bone structure was her fault. She snapped, and rightly so! She wasn’t going to take this treatment anymore, especially not from family.

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”.

“The sooner we all realize that this language is toxic, the better.”

On the other hand, our cousins actually agreed with us. They grew up with pretty harsh nicknames related to their appearance — some as callous as panget ‘ugly’ or kuba ‘’hunchback’. And although they’ve always seemed unfazed by this, for the first time ever, they admitted that the name calling took a toll on their self-esteem — especially when they were all much younger. So, it wasn’t just my sister and me who felt this way, it seems like everyone our age is affected by this cruel practice, too.

Thanks to our united front, we were able to show our aunts and uncles our perspective, and they were able to put themselves in our shoes. Needless to say, my family has yet to comment on my sister’s or my physical appearance since that day.

I am grateful that my sister, cousins and I were able to get this off our chest, and that a positive outcome came from that conversation. However, I’m more concerned for my cousins’ children. As an adult, I was able to articulate how body shaming has affected me, but my younger family members are defenseless to this behavior. I remember exactly how being constantly reminded of my uncommon figure affected my self-esteem and self-worth, and I don’t want that for them. Sadly, this is not something I can shield them from since it’s so culturally accepted.

One conversation was all it took to make a change within my family, so maybe all we need is for more people to speak up and call this behavior what it is: body shaming. The sooner we all realize that this language is toxic, the better.

To my extended family — I love you and thank you for being open to change.

To my kabayans who may be reading this — let’s make a positive difference together by addressing this problem head-on.

____

Photo Credit: Shirley Waters

Illustration: Niki Waters

Website: kneesandkeys.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/kneesandkeysart/?hl=en

128 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Body Shaming in the Philippines Leave a comment

  1. In my case naman their form of greeting is “ang payat mo!” I just smile other times when I’m feeling bitchy i tell them “wala na akong kinakain kasi”. They say it as criticism not a compliment others just want to put people down. I do yoga, weight train regulary and eat healthy. Healthy or not they will find fault. We adapt to this body shaming and just continue to do what makes us feel good!

    Nice article by the way. Thank you.

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    • I feel you Angela! I was greeted last family reunion on Christmas with “ang payat mo” comment. I also do yoga, weight training and eating sensibly that is why it was a shock to hear it from them. I have vowed ever since to bulk up because I thought to myself, did I really become that thin? Or maybe you were right that they don’t have a concept of what is aesthetically pleasing (to us) and they just narrow it down to either your payat or mataba. 🙂

      Thank you Ms. Erica Dawn for your wonderful article!

      Gelo Amurao
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      FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/habitwhisperer
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      • I feel like The Philippines is slowly picking up on the culture of the leftist party in The U.S. Hopefully, I wouldn’t wake up to the site of a man-hating culture filled with SJW propaganda.

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    • Correct me too I was “slim” so they always say “payat” ako. So when they say “Uy tumaba ka”, I like it since I like it better, I think I look better when I gain a little wait. My mom also doesn’t sugar-coat stuff when I get pimples, she says you have pimples. Maybe for some people it is rude, but it is typical. But again, in the US everything has a name. Here it’s body shaming, in the Philippines it’s just “pranka” (frank) you just say it as you see it. When people say it in the Philippines, people don’t mean any harm, but when people say it in the US they mean something else. So I think we shouldn’t compare how people is because it is really totally different. In the Philippines, there’s not much “heavy” (if people don’t want to be called fat) people it’s because of the diet. So when people say “tumaba ka” they don’t take it personally. But here in the US people some people really take it hard because it’s a problem. Food here is in bigger portion. I notice first time I got here I saw the bigger I was like “almost twice” the size of the burger in the PI Wendys. Anyway, don’t take it the wrong way and less sensitive. Just have fun, just think of it this way, people in PI mean it differently compared to people here in the US. I was sensitive before especially when my cousin always call me “pango” because I don’t have the high nose bridge, but guess what, when I got here no one really cares.. lot’s have bigger noses lol.. anyway, my nose improved as I grew but again. Physical appearances is subjective.

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    • Hi, Erica!

      Let me just say: this situation is a very tough one. Here’s why:

      I’m the skinniest girl in my family, and one of the skinniest girls in school. When us skinny girls get called ‘malnourished’ or ‘toothpicks’, they really say it to hurt us. At home, it’s different. A lot of my elders tell me that I’m too thin and I should eat more. When they tell me this, they don’t mean to be rude. They’re really saying that they’re concerned for me and my health – if I’m not eating well, I may be depressed or whatever. That, for me, tells that they really care for me and they just want to make sure I’m okay.

      I’m not saying that when you get called ‘fat’ or ‘thin,’ it’s always a bad thing. Sometimes, people have good intentions, but they don’t know how to say it without having to hurt one’s feelings.

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  2. This is really true, been raised for 17 years back home before being a canadian, i was timidly growing up when i was a kid as people call me “baboy(pig)”,”i-ta (dark colored skin)”, my body figure was just the “fatty” type and it actually runs to our genes. I was never slim or petite, im always the chubby fat one up until today.went back home last year for a personal trip but people around me just stare at me as if im a big chunk of fat walking.. I knew this kind of attitude since i was a kid however it was never been right,, people just make the bad out of you just because you’re fat.. But oh well my ears was shut and just responded”i was able to eat 3 times a day, and never starve” they don’t feed me anyway so why do i care about their words, they can have them all, it’s been a dynasty type so it’s hard to address but i hear you, thanks for speaking up about it, it does mean a lot. 🙂

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  3. I’m with you, the body shaming culture here in the Philippines needs to stop. My mom already got an earful about body shaming my nieces who are just kids. Just this morning an aqcuaintance from work, take note, an acquaintance told me “ang taba mo!! Anong nangyari sayo” like wtf why must this be the standard greeting! I just kept silent and looked her in the eye and walked off. But I wanted to strangle her because not only it offended me but because she is one of those who embraces “ang taba mo/ang payat mo” greetings. Ugh!! Thanks for writing about this. I’ll spread this article and hopefully a lot of people gets the message!

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    • No, she is not. Just because somethings is supposed to be “cultural” does not mean it should be okay with everyone. And just because she is offended does not mean she is sensitive.

      Cheers, Erica. I so feel you.

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    • No type of shaming is healthy but in this instance I agree with you Cris on a certain level. I feel something has got lost in translation. In Filipino culture originally it was a compliment to be called plump or greeted in such a way. This was explained to me by my relatives. I believe it stems from hard times where ready access to food during wars etc wasn’t always a given but often a privilege and symbolism of status. This is a long tradition of actually being given a hearty compliment. I think over time with western influences perhaps the idea of beauty has shifted so it’s easy for us to get confused. But one thing I’ve loved about the Philippines is how they actually appreciate and have a fun loving attitude around often being slightly sportier and rounder set than many other people from different Asian cultures. We are more mixed than other Asian races. It’s not so much about vanity but perhaps more of a misunderstanding from a modern perspective. Trust me in the good old days being plumper was considered very beautiful. I’m sure in most parts it still is. I think this is where the tradition of being greeted in such a way stems from.

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      • Me and a friend Filipino used to talk about this before. It’s annoying! Instead of saying Hi, how are you? How was your trip? They would say, “Ang taba mo”! …or “Ay bakit ang payat mo?” . Disgusting!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe it should stay in the “good old days” then. Obviously, the meaning has evolved to ridicule people instead, so it’s probably time to retire such a cruel and archaic “tradition”.

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      • Your society doesn’t have a monopoly on right or wrong. You do a lot of things wrong based on other people’s culture.

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    • I consider myself to be tough person, and I like that I’ve cultivated emotional balance in myself.
      strangely enough, i recently found myself shedding a few drops of tears as i lost my self esteem for what feels like the first time in my life after a number of these comments reared their ugly heads. i shed a tear for a body that I’ve never had or cared about, and I shed a few more because i actually considered getting rid of something as necessary as food despite knowing that that would become a fruitless endeavour. all that for a few stupid words that i shouldn’t have cared about. Would you believe yourself if you stared right into my eyes and accused me of being vain, and ignorant of a culture I was born in? How strongly do you believe in the words that come out of your brain?

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    • Just because it’s culture doesn’t mean it’s always right.

      Take, for instance, the female genital mutilation in some areas of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. (You may do a quick Google search if you haven’t encountered the term yet.) FGM has been practiced for a long time in their communities. It’s basically part of their culture, their traditions. Does that make it healthy? Does that make it right?

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    • I’ve lived in the Philippines my whole life and saying this is a normal part of our culture is just shameful. I was called chubby by some “friends” when I was in high school, and I was skinny back then. I just happened to have an athletic build with broad shoulders and big ribs.

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    • Vain???? Just because it’s considered a “cultural” thing doesn’t mean it’s okay. Trust me, I’m Filipino and I understand exactly where she’s coming from. FAMILY members in the Philippines would greet you by saying you’re fat or that you gained weight and that is truly OFFENSIVE. It is not okay. Being offended =/= to being sensitive. Growing up in Westernized culture is completely different from the Philippine culture and I understand that. However, calling someone out because of their appearance (in a negative way) is something people in the Philippines don’t understand and that itself is the problem. Don’t get me wrong though, family members say it with good “intention” but if they are repeatedly saying it, it honestly becomes bullying. What they fail to understand as well, are the emotional and mental effects body shaming has on a person.

      So, no. Don’t ever call her vain for not understanding the Filipino culture. Trust me, she understands it – and so do I. You just failed to understand her point in her post.
      Body shaming is never okay no matter where you come from. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Interesting read, thanks for sharing and being so honest. My parents are from the Azores, an island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, and the women on the island (and in our family) used to do the same until my father shut them down when I was about 12 years old. Yay Papa!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting read, thanks for sharing and being so honest. My parents are from the Azores, a cluster of islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, and the women from our island (and family members as well) used to do the same until my father shut them down when I was about 12 years old. Yay Papa! Hope to see more posts like these!

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  6. As a Filipino, I actually agree but there’s a reason why I don’t think of it as family insulting us but rather, they might actually be complementing us!

    I used to hear the phrase “Tumaba ka!” in the province as a greeting to friends they haven’t seen in a while. It actually originated as a compliment to say they’ve noticed that you’re healthy and well-off.

    Back then, only the rich were big, middle were thin, and lower class were bones. Ergo they associated wealth and health with how big a person is.

    In this age though, it isint accepted as that all the time and for understandable reasons. I myself loathe the greeting, yet I don’t think of it as them shaming me.

    Despite this, I’ll also say that the greeting is sarcastic in nature and can come as focusing on the negative of a person who has mostly positives. The greeting itself has a certain hint of jealousy deep in there. In fact it maybe even wealth shaming and not body shaming! Haha!

    With all that in mind, take the greeting however you want it. It’s up to you to see it as shaming or complimenting. It’s really how you receive it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is by far the best explanation about the greeting habit of Filipinos. If you gained weight they assume you have a good life that’s why some people say “baka hiyang”. You don’t have to take everything so negatively.

      *Fyi* I am a heavy person and I’ve never been the thin one. So, to the author, I understand where you’re coming from but don’t let these comments take the best of you.

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    • Also consider the typical attitude of the Filipino host who will insist on feeding you during mealtimes, despite your protest of how you’re not hungry at all, or you’re already full from the previous three plates you just finished.

      “Body shaming” is a term reflective of a cultural issue in the US. It collides negatively with this cultural quirk that Filipinos exhibit, but the intent behind it is completely different.

      This is not to say it’s positive, negative, malicious, or not – it just has a different connotation because of the cultural differences between the greeter and the recipient.

      I would agree that Filipinos who aren’t well-traveled and have been exposed to many different cultures need to be more conscious of such differences. However, the same can be said of a lot of the people here who are culture-shaming them.

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  7. In my case, I have suffered humiliation by oldies, by acquaintances, friends, relatives that have not seen me in years, as in 15 to 20 yrs. and tells me point blank” what happened to you… you are so fat…you used to be slim and beautiful.
    OMG, yes, I gained weight through the years but I embrace what I am now. …the problem is the negative remarks that makes me retaliate by saying, ( even if I don’t mean but just want to get back at them) what happened to you, you look so old and most likely your love ones hates the way you look. At first , I feel good that I think I got what they deserve…”hurt them, too” Deep inside, I’m angry coz I don’t deserve to be talked that way.
    Guess what, because of all the insensitive people around me, I go out less with family and friends…reunions are a big no-no for me and worse, the fear of what next insult can they just throw at me.
    Guess where I am comfortable with, people I don’t know…I can just chat with them without thinking if they think I’m fat, old,etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you! I’m also Filipino-German and have lived in the Philippines most of my life and these remarks never get old; even after all these years they still hurt each and every time. Thank you for this article! These people need to know that what they’re doing is not acceptable at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reminded me of my most recent experience going back to the Philippines. I refused to eat at a distant relative’s house because the very first thing she said to me was that I was fat–this was my first time meeting her, by the way. Then she had the nerve to ask my mom if I was always “suplada” like that, but HOW does she think I’d be comfortable to eat at her house when she greeted me with an insult about my weight? Ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jeez grow some thicker skin. Your not in the US where people are easily offended. It is a cultural thing here and people who live here much longer than you get used to it. Same as when we call gay people bakla out loud. There is a reason why philippines is one of the most gender equal countries. Its because filipinos are very tolerant people

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    • The thing is, just because you see it as ‘cultural’ doesn’t automatically guarantee it as right nor should be accepted as a norm. You tell people to grow thicker skin but fail to grasp the concept that not everyone can brush off what you think are merely empty words that we should grow accustomed to. As a kid who grew up with relatives and most especially a mother who would fixate on her children’s weights and appearances, this was especially scarring. I was fat before and became obsessed with losing weight to the point that I had to be hospitalized a couple of times as a teenager. I’m better now but I can’t deny the fact that I still sometimes catch myself looking at the mirror and thinking I looked fat, when people have said I didn’t naman. Callous remarks like these hurt people and these hurts are carried up until they are adults. Stop being insensitive and use that heart, will ya?

      Liked by 2 people

    • We are not gender equal because we’re tolerant. We’re gender tolerant because the women in our country speak their mind. And that’s what we’re supposed to be encouraging. Not to be conformists. I’ve lived here for 17 years and honestly many of us are close-minded people who speak before think. And yes, WE GOT USED TO IT but that doesnt make it okay. You have totally missed the message of this article. Why should we conform rather than start building a society where everyone feels accepted and not at all shamed?

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  10. Oh my goodness shutup – please don’t infect your meager opinion towards the Philippines with your stupid, hypocritical, Filipino-American backwards ass feminist ways (meanwhile women are ACTUALLY being oppressed in the middle east and other countries!). Being fat is not okay you buffoon. Sick of these fat women with tootsie rolls for stomachs and their hypocritical thoughts STILL SELECTIVELY CHOOSING WHAT EQUALITY IS – dating WHITE men because they’re “better” (meanwhile you’re just getting fetishized dumbass!), tall men because they feel “safer”, and still discriminating against their own. So please, just get out with your hypocrisy! Thank you kindly. There’s a reason why many countries laugh at America – it only benefits certain individuals and with each generation chooses another minority to hate.

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    • Yoooo… you are way too angry. You seem to have some unrelated baggage that you’re taking out on this blog. What is she supposed to “get out” of. You read her blog. Chill.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Aren’t you just the ball of repressed anger. Sure sounds like you’ve been turned down by a lot of fat Filipino American girls because they were dating tall white guys. Trust me, I hate that shit too, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the writer has a right to her opinion especially when it comes to others making comments that are personal to her. Our bodies are our own and no one, family, friends or countrymen should be allowed to make one feel shame for their own body.

      So don’t you dare throw your cultural excuses, obvious jealousy and backward old patriarchal chauvinist bullshit around as if it’s supposed to be gospel.

      I’m sure there are countries that laugh at America, but don’t act like there aren’t plenty of countries laughing at the Philippines… just spend time in other parts of Asia and see how Filipinos work as servants and house keepers and waitstaff being treated like slaves and looked down upon, but I bet you wouldn’t know about that because you are some uppity skinny light skinned Filipino elite, stuck in the past clinging to old ways that keep your shitty family in power over whatever province you live in.

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      • You need to take a reading comprehension course – There was no shape or form I was talking about “old ways”, and more about SELECTIVE EQUALITY this oaf is talking about. I’m also a tanned Filipino, and I work hard for a living. So sure buddy, keep on trying to guess things about me because you literally have no idea. This dumb broad probably comes from a navy family and has no idea how hard her father worked for her to complain about a culture that treats obesity just fine. Please keep America in America – where they shoot africans for their skin color, where they treat Filipino veterans like second class citizens – not giving them compensation for being WW2 veterans for DECADES, WHITE privilege, and WHITE/BLACK/MEXICAN sex tourists. Let’s talk about REAL issues, like how can we give children in the philippines an education, and not this fat filam oaf talking about being “judged” and her stupid “feelings” being hurt. Dumbass motherfucking Filipinos man.

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    • Insecurity is a typical Filipino male behavior too hahaha! They get mad at women who won’t even give them a second glance just because he’s got NOTHING to offer. Boo freaking hoo!

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    • Spoken like a true sexist. We don’t need your hateful comments here, so go home and tell your momma about your issues. Someone else’s body weight is none of your business and stop generalizing “Fat Women”as if they all wanna date white men. You talk about equality and yet you spew your hate on women just because their fat or they prefer foreigners. Who’s the hypocrite now?

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      • Aren’t you a hypocrite as well? Slinging insults my way for having an opinion on real topics – poverty, TRUE equality, and not SELECTIVE equality. Get out of here with your SELECTIVE hearing, dumbass Filipinos man. Always kissing other races ass and never supporting each other. Claiming Filipino pride but when they’re fellow Filipino is struggling they ignore them. HAHAH!

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  11. Will A. ~ how very judgemental and hypocritical of you to say these baseless assumptions.. this is an honest opinion from the author and I agree with that, albeit it being culture or otherwise, it’s wrong and must be put to a stop or have the decency to be discreet.. respect begets respect..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny because I bet when a white person asserts themselves over you, you probably submit because they speak loud enough, but when a Filipino speaks to you about real issues – you probably dismiss them inside your head… hahah – this is why I can’t stand Filipinos and their colonial mentality.

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      • Are you Filipino? Don’t generalize , poor you and your anger, you seem like a troll of negativity . We’re talking about whether body shaming is right and wrong per SE, and here you are with lots of issues and ideas of your own. Wow!

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      • Hey Will a ~ I think it has more to do with you being a judgemental piece of shit than you being a filipino and not an American. Just saying. This article is about body shaming and trying to change a dated, inconsiderate mentality to a more positive one. So take your angry ass away from your computer or phone or whatever youre using and go sit the fuck down and breathe.

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  12. Thank you, this was a very interesting read.

    I found your ‘One conversation was all it took to make a change’ very hopeful and who knows, maybe someday we will all make that first step towards a better understanding and a better world 🙂

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  13. I feel ya! It just seems like it’s a norm in the Philippines to tactlessly and shamelessly comment or ask questions about someone’s appearance or even ‘flaw’, which is tantamount to bullying already. It’s not just physical, too. For instance, if you have been married for so long and childless, you’d get asked, when are you going to have a baby? Or if single and already very matured, when are you getting married?

    And these are relatives we are talking about. They ask this as if it’s a funny thing,

    It’s stupid, inconsiderate and ignorant.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. i agree with you that generally, the norm is that filipinos comment on your physical appearance positive or negative. ive lost a lot of weight since my high school and college years and i was called chubby then. youd think theyll compliment me for the weightloss but no. they say youre too thin, its so ugly that youre so thin, or are you on drugs? i feel like filipinos or maybe the filipinos i grew up with are not used to complimenting people

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  15. Cultural thing? I got inflected with polio and so i have a limp and growing up in the Philippines there’s always one or two relatives and i mean adults who will make fun of you…call you “pilay” or “piang”(visayan) and as a child i remember getting hurt. I just don’t understand the cultural thing….tell that to a young child who had to endure all her childhood being made fun of by your own relatives.

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  16. I also got the comment”– what happened to you? after seeing a friend after like 25 years!!! I thought I got into an automobile accident or something!! She’s not a friend anymore!!! Don’t people change after 25 years? We’re not spring chicken anymore!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Here in the Philippines kasi, we were accustomed of small to medium built bodies with heights of no more than 5’5″ for the ladies, and 5″9″ for the guys…. Anything above that is considered “mamaw”, and you can be called “kapre”…. lool

    Kidding aside, it’s really a cultural and genetic thing din talaga, since Asians (of which Pinoys are included) are known to be stout…. and natanim na sa utak ng mga Pinoy yung ganun….

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  18. If you don’t want to be called fat. Them stop being fat or take it in.

    Do you know why filipinos are known for their great patience. It’s because of that type of cultural hazing. Filipinos poke fun of each other. Fat, ugly, gay, scrawny, stupid, etc. it does not matter who you are, we will find fault. This builds up a ressistence to being bullied.

    I remember living in Philippines and I was weak in speaking tagalog and they sure had a lot of choice words for me – ‘kano’ ‘speaking in dollar’, being not handsome also gave me niocknames like ‘barok’. But, in the end they are nothing and prepared me for the future.

    Like when I got bullied by someone and he said the worse things, I just laughed it out and said my relatives call me worse and walked away. It gives you sense that being made fun of is means nothing and to ignore , laugh about it, or accept it and do better.

    So if you are getting upset because people are calling you fat… Well baboy! blogging about it is not going to help you. Also being obese is an unhealthy lifestyle. This is coming from a pig like me. LOL.

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  19. “When in Rome, do what the Romans do”

    I don’the know if it was stated correctly but that’a the first thing that came to mind when I read the article.

    Yes, Filipinos, specially to people they are fond of they almost always greet you with what you call “body shaming” or other things that you might label as an insult. However, they do not have substance or any hidden meaning at all. This is considered as norm and sometimes an a form of compliment.

    Just remember that culture is relative. Not to use culture as an excuse? It may be right however one must remember that the culture has been around for since immemorial time and it cannot easily change for you. You have to adjust. Do not fit in your ideals on the reality that you face.

    And to people who has disabilities or healthier, probably the reason you are hurt is also because you do not accept yourself for what you are, thus you easily get swayed with these kind of comments.

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    • What a senseless and insensitive comment. People with disabilities don’t choose to be disabled. Reality is Filipinos need to step up their game when it comes to political correctness. You can’t dictate people’s emotions, you can’t tell people exactly how to feel when insults come hurling their way. What the heck are you talking about?!

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    • One of the most dangerous phrase in any language is “we’ve always done it this way”. Where do you think the human race will be if we always think like this? Not very far, I’d presume.

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  20. Lets all agree that body shaming is not a good thing. But you should really learn to take things less seriously. Take for example when your friend insults you, do you get mad at him/her? No right. Its the same with these type of greetings. Ill give you an advice the next time they greet you like this. You smile and say you’ve been earing lots of good food.

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  21. For me it’s not body shaming, actually these relatives are just telling the truth about how you look like to them. I can only get mad if someone will say, “You’re so fat that you already looked like a pig, disgusting!” That’s what I understand of body shaming. Telling you the truth, I am chubby too, and my grandma keeps on telling me that I got larger whenever she sees me. But I am not offended by her coz she’s telling the truth. If relatives of yours were telling that, it’s because they’re concerned about you too. I am from a family of diabetics so telling me how fat I am, reminds me to avoid eating too much sweets and junks, and eat healthy food instead. For me it’s better to be alarmed by the relatives, rather than other people getting mad at you coz you already occupying 2 or 3-person seater in the shuttle van and you only pay for the price of 1. I am thankful for my relatives because they keep on reminding me about how big I am today that I needed to reduce weight for my own health too.

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  22. This is such a good honest article. I think the key is to communicate. If you did not like it, let them know. Tell them it makes you uncomfortable. I was raised around with my cousins calling me ‘ayat’ for payat, ‘kuneho’ (rabbit) because of my big teeth, at school ‘boses ipis’ (voice of roaches) because of my very high pitched, thin small voice. And to tell you, the mastermind of name calling me is my dad. He even teased me at family gatherings which i remember, made me cry a lot as a kid. Especially when we had our family reunion done and it was time for us to watch the video of it with the whole clan. When I went in primary, boys are just being boys teasing and started making more names for me, i can just ignore them. I got so used to it at home that I can just be deaf about it. And when I grew older, I thought that actually makes me stronger and made me appreciate what God has given me after all. It made me realized that it does not matter what people think about me especially physically, when in reality it is much more less valuable than anything else as a person. It is how I am to my family and how I valued myself. I am not saying you are supposed to agree with me, but I just thought I should share my side of story as everybody else did here.

    Anyway, such a good article.

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  23. You guys are not fat! Definitly not! it’s the ideal body outside Phil. so stay sexy and confident ladies! You both look gorgeous!

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  24. Culture use as an excuse for this behavior is pretty petty you think? This is the embarrassing part of our culture. Just realized that because I used to call names and body-shame people myself before. When I saw other people do it, it is just awful how this happens in front of you.

    And oh wait, that is a small thing? Small thing can lead to big things. You never know, a “small” bad comment can lead that person to look down on herself or worse, end her life.

    And please stop lecturing about sensitivity. It is human to be sensitive don’t you think? Not all can be strong like you all. Sometimes you have to step down and fit in their shoes to realize things and not be some close-minded person.

    PEOPLE WAKE UP!

    1. Being fat and dark doesn’t make you ugly so stop commenting on people’s weight and color like it is one of the basis of beauty.

    2. Why does beauty have to be defined as thin stature and fair skin when it can be diverse?

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    • Is that what you’d say to a 7 year old child? Stop being offended? Because relatives telling me I’m fat every time I see them started when I was 7 years old, when my family moved back to the Philippines from Saudi Arabia. My whole life that I’ve lived there, that is all I heard, and it never let up. Do you think a 7, 8, 9, or maybe 10 year old little girl knows or is mature enough to let comments like that slide through? Children believe when you tell them Santa is real, and you only tell them that during Christmas. If you tell them they’re fat and (based on social beauty norms) therefore ugly their whole life, they’d believe that as well.

      I love myself enough to know my worth, and have grown more open minded to know their comments are worthless. But it took years and countless hurt and insecurities for my to be able to love myself and feel like I’m worth something because of these comments. Not everyone is strong enough to overcome this, and I know people, people I love who feel this every single day. And it breaks my heart to see them hate their self more and more, no matter how much I say that they are worthy.

      Psychologically speaking (based on the Negativity Bias), humans let compliments easily slide by, but insults land harder and affect us more. Maybe we shouldn’t contribute to this very archaic “tradition”. If not that, since the Philippines is a very God fearing country, learn from this then “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

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      • ok, let’s make this about you.

        were you fat when you were 7?
        why did being fat make you feel bad?

        words you take are what you make of it. insult, compliment, anything beyond and in between.

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  25. As much as I want that to happen to me, I can’t. I remembered the time I used to tell my relatives about how bothered I was because they call me fat, and they ended up calling me ‘pikon'(I don’t know how to spell it. My bad) and maarte, and told me that if I keep being like that, they won’t make jokes with me, not even the ones unrelated to body shaming.
    As I grew up, I remain unfazed by it because I realized that I’m not the only one going through it. Everyone has experienced something similar to this in the Philippines, whether body related or not, and that just makes me think it is just our culture. I learned to just laugh at them, thinking of it as just a reminder to watch my health.
    To me, that move you did there was a brave move. Even though I couldn’t do much for my situation anymore, you gave me hope that there are still people out there to notice what’s wrong, and defend what is right.

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  26. I’m all against body-shaming all the same, but I would just like to point out that body shaming extends to both extremes. I can definitely vouch that being stick-thin to the point of not having curves is definitely not celebrated in the Philippines. Endlessly hearing comments like “ting-ting” and “walang-laman” can be equally hurtful, and people often imply that if you don’t have “big tits or a big booty”, you’re automatically undesirable or unattractive as a fully grown woman. Even the expression ‘stick-thin’ doesn’t sound all too flattering. So yeah, I hope when people stand up against body shaming, I hope they know to respect all types of bodies and embrace everyone’s form of beauty and not succumb to specifically skinny shaming either… Apart from that, bless this post. 🙂

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  27. It’s the same in Vietnam and I’ve learned to just ignore it completely. Even my mother does this to me from time to time and I simply ignore whatever she is saying and stop talking to her from that point onward or I would stand up and leave without saying anything. I have been acting this way for many years that my mom is aware that if she brings it up, I’ll walk away. Yet, she keeps doing it though less frequently.
    It took me almost my whole 20s to gain the confidence and be at peace with how my body is built. And I realized that I was able to do this by simply not caring at all. As long as I know fully well that I am healthy, I couldn’t care less about those who care more about my look than my health. And I think it’s the best coping mechanism while living here in Asia where the beauty standard for women is just crazy. You’re surrounded by them and if you let it get to you, you’ll certainly snap sooner or later.

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  28. For most of my life, I was “too thin” and was told I should “eat more” to gain more weight. Then, in the recent years, my body changed and I gained some weight, I wasn’t even overweight, but I was called “fat”. At first, I was hurt, especially when these comments came from people I care about., my friends and family…
    Then, last year I couldn’t eat anything for at least a month because of my jaw, even eating noddles was painful, then I had to be careful with what I ate for the next couple more months…It was painful and sometimes impossible eat anything chewy or hard or pretty much anything that requires me to open my mouth or chew.. it sucked..
    Naturally, I lost some weight, and people complimented me.
    I hated that.. I was always hungry but I cant eat, I was so unhappy and was in pain.
    So, since then, I just stopped caring.
    My jaw got better and I was able to eat normally again. So, I ate my chicken wings, BBQ, burgers, steak, bagels, and everything else that I want to eat and I was SOOOO happy and I didn’t care what people said. They can’t stop me driving thru Jollibee or ordering pizza delivery in the middle of the night. hahah

    I still hope people will be more sensitive with the things they say, cause I know there are a lot of people affected by them. And for everyone else that got body shamed.. don’t worry about what other people think, nobody’s perfect anyway.. just eat whatever you want and just be happy, at least your jaw works fine, don’t take that for granted! haha 😉

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  29. Judging by the comments, this blog has made quite the impact!
    My mother still greets my husband when we visit with – you look fat – and she totally means it as a compliment, so he takes it as one because he know that she is really saying – you look prosperous. After all, you can’t go around saying – you look rich!
    When she was young, she was embarassed not to be “fat” because that meant she was poor, which was far worse.
    I’m fact, in Western society they would often say a woman was “rather thin” meaning that she was poor. Again, judging someone’s prosperity by their body.
    Fast forward a generation and I agree that the Filipino phrase “you look fat” is often not a compliment, but a snide way to ridicule and is full of sarcasm.
    What is interesting is that in the modern world, being fat is associated with laziness and poverty.
    Why? The stereotype is that poor people eat junk food because it’s cheap. So they, the malnourished fat, are the new “poor”.
    After all, how many us would balk at “you look thin”?

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  30. it is very difficult for me to deal with. I have a binge disorder. After my depression at work i gained so much weight and my family is body shaming me. I was never considered “Payat” i am now more than 70kg . Even if i was around 54-56kg i was still being teased as “Fat”. Whenever i go home everybody says “Uy ang taba mo na. Mukha ka nang nanay” “Taba mo na mag diet ka na!” ” Anong nangyari sayo bakit ka tumaba?”. Since i started working i also wanted to experience other foods i have never experienced. i never ate at restaurants and buy all the foods i always wanted. I never ever regret eating foods and exploring my life. I am upset that my own family body shames me and the rest of my neighbors and friends does to. I cannot tolerate this anymore. It makes people have eating disorder. I believe what matter is to just be healthy and love yourself

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  31. Body shaming in the PH goes beyond just being told you’re fat—something I discovered when I joined the #GuiltyAndProud campaign for the International Women’s Month last March. 20+ Filipino women shared their stories online for the world to read, and while some of them are sad and heartbreaking, all of then are very empowering. You may want to look up Queen City Plus on Facebook to check it out 🙂

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  32. It us just wrong.Kids grow up but the psychological impact of words can be forever damaging it enhancing. I received comments like:” Why are you so thin? Are you on drugs? One even touched my belly at the public market and asked me if I was pregnant!!! I was called a “dapong”…a kind of stick back home that is very thin…i was called “kawayan” or a bamboo. Then as I seesawed with weight through the years, Even I just had my only child, they comment how fat I become…my face is too rounded or too thin or shoulder blade protruding et al…We can learn how to protect ourselves from all these negative comments by either getting do angry and aggressive too or slowly developed a quiet anger towards these people or too psychologically blocked it.
    At the end of the day, good, positive and kind words are easier to hear than harsh and negative ones.

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  33. I was born and raised in the states. I was always more of an athletic person, so working out and gaining muscle was necessary. But since I was 14, Ive been studying abroad in the Philippines and everything hit me so hard. Back in the states my body type was normal, of course for an athlete. But when I came here to the Philippines my classmates or teachers, yes even teachers… would call me man for my masculinity. It bothered me quit a bit due to the fact that most of them thought I was a tomboy (lesbian) no offense. It disturbs me just because since I’m into sports and my muscles are more prominent and my physique is more manlier than some of the boys, they think its okay just to say whatever they want. They would think that I was obese or my diet wasn’t healthy. They thought that if your bigger than usual, you need to diet right a way. But the cold truth is that I’m a healthy person, and my muscle mass is higher than my body fat. So no, Im not obese and I do not need to cut anything out of my diet.

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  34. This is really interesting. to be honest those names is just cultural thing and at the same time thats why filipinos has a really good sense of humor. compare living in the Philippines for most of your life and living in foreign country. look how people define BULLYING in foreign country. in Philippines we are molded to build a strong self esteem so pag may nag sasabi sakin na PAYAT PAYAT MO PARA KANG KAWAYAN. what do i usually do? do i get offended? no?! do i get insecure? NO. its part of the culture that makes young people stronger from their within hanggang when they get bigger. but do it in another country? goodness.. theyre having a hard time to deal with those things and they call it BODY SHAMING.

    its okay, different countries raise their kids differently and they have different ways to approach things.. but for me as a grown filipina being called payat, TB, panget, tanga.. i will say those are just names but at the end of the day.. the family, my family and specially myself knows WHO I AM.

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  35. I had the same experience but I was fat for medical reasons, I took steroids because I had a bad asthma (Hika) when I was only 2 years old so I really had to take it. Ever since I started to grow so much, every summer my family keeps on calling me fat and I don’t have a say to it. So I grew into it but I don’t want it anymore.

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  36. I’m not Fillipino, but being a Taiwanese/Kiwi and visiting my Mother’s family growing up, I can definitely attest to the fact this practice is widespread over Taiwan (and the rest of Asia). I am pretty slim, but being thin doesn’t stop the natural skin folds you get when sitting and hunching over. There was one instance I remember, I was about 11 years old and hadn’t seen my asian relatives for a couple years. During this time I was really loving this black crop top. I sat on the floor, hunched over and completely exhausted from the 12 hour flight. I was greeted with a unanimous ‘oohhh you’ve gotten fat’. Loving your blog, I lool forward to reading more.

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  37. Thanks for this. There’s no escaping these comments, no mater how “woke” or socially aware some people claim to be. And it’s not just for when people are large, it’s for when people get thinner as well. I recently lost a lot of weight, and everyone keeps telling me I look so much better at my current weight (bagay sa’yo payat!), or that I finally look “good” or “healthy.” It’s not like my body fat percentage went down because of the weight loss, so what makes them think I am healthier? Do I look more like myself if I’m considered “thin?” Wasn’t I myself before I lost weight? Like, was my not-stick-thin self not a valid self? It’s so irritating!!

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  38. Hi Erica!
    I agree with you a 100% because I’m a victim of the same thing! Compared to my siblings and other relatives who are my peers, I have the biggest structure while the rest are all petite! My sister has lived in the US for years and is fortunate that even if she is a foodie, she remained petite. Because clothes hang on her very well, she and my older sister plus our others cousins who also are like models would strike it off beautifully when she came for a visit. They got into animated conversations on how great each one looked while ignoring me like I was a none entity! No one noticed me perhaps because I am, to them, not as beautifully built as they are. They talked about where each one bought her clothes, make-up, shoes, etc! I found this kind of conversation very shallow plus ignoring me completely was rude to say the least!

    I am the kind of person who prefers to ask how a person is instead of commenting on her/or his appearance especially if we hadn’t seen each other for years. However, this was not so with my relatives. After I’ve had enough of this kind of behavior from them, I decided to have a heart-to-heart talk with my sister. I bared my feelings and resentments about this type of rudeness. From then on she changed and our relationship got better. She redirected the conversation whenever relatives would start getting into that kind of “vain glory” type of behavior. One needs to make others conscious so they become more sensitive towards others. Communication is the key in deprogramming a type of behavior.

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  39. I truly empathize with you and it’s a shame that those comments made you feel bad and ashamed of your body. I’d like to offer a suggestion…if you don’t believe them, just ignore them. You may be giving more weight to their comments by giving it life and believing them. You can’t change people but you can control your thoughts and reactions. You KNOW the truth and you can just let their words fly…and you move on.

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  40. I see some people defending this as a simple part of filipino tradition that this shouldn’t be taken seriously or offensively. There are interesting explanations like “back in the olden days its a compliment to be called fat because there wasn’t enough food”. Okay that sounds like a great explanation if modern filipino culture isn’t so westernized. (Come on guys look at filipino celebrities, we’re super westernized which means we PRAISE thinner body types). Also, one thing that I want to point out, I don’t know if it’s already been discussed, is the TONE people use. Maybe I wouldn’t be so offended with my relatives calling me fat if it was in a cheerful, amazed, wonderful and playful tone. Maybe that’s the case for some of you, but with my relatives, you can tell there a tone of “ayyy? Parang tumaba ka?!” in a shocked and worried/disappointed tone? I can’t pinpoint what words I’m trying to use to describe the tone, but it’s definitely not positive. So while some of you claim that it’s a simple greeting and we shouldn’t get offended, please think about the delivery. Tone is everything, and tone reveals a lot. Honestly I think I might write a post on this because my argument is all over the place and I need more room to explain. Thanks for bringing this to my attention erica!!

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  41. Filipinos are known to be resilient. And well… yes… i agree. Part of it basically came from this type of hazing even as a kid. You learn to find this so-called body shaming as something normal. I grew up in a world where i was the boss evem as a kid. Then when i loved to a different school and city… thats when i started to feel the real pressure. People there didnt respect me much and called me names. Body shaming was also a part of it. But to this day… i am truly thankful. Because now… even when people say ive lost weight or got fat… or even do something crazy… i can just laugh it off. No hard feelings. Thats probably why Filipinos are very resilient.

    And well… yeah… i really think most westerners are just so freaking sensitive. And dont even get me started with people who think spanking your kids is a crime. Now that is anothet topic that makes me think growing up in the USA is just stupid.

    Im glad to be asian. And im really gald i could go to the united states any time and just shop like a king.. or queen.. or live like one here and abroad. Hahaha

    To those who wish to bash all my comments here… i wont be readibg them anyway. But even if i did… yeah… im not really gonna care much. Hahaha hate all you want… im too calloua to freaking care. Because thats how u become resilient. Hahaha

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  42. “Because Filipinos’ description of beauty can be best described as: stick thin.”
    Wrong. Mas preferred nga dito yung may “laman” pero maganda ang shape e.
    I am sorry that you were hurt. Body shaming drives the growth of the beauty industry, so the more you feel insecure, the more you spend, and the better for them. You’d encounter shaming not only in the Philippines but even in your home country and more prevalently, although subtly, in media. My advice is that you learn to ignore shaming. That way, you’d be comfortable no matter what you hear and where you hear it. “The same heat that melts the wax hardens the clay.”

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