People are criticising Filipino actress Liza Soberano for not being “Filipino enough” to play a lead role in the television drama Bagani. This is interesting because, really, there really is no one single authority on who is and who isn’t “Filipino”. Some may say that the Bureau of Immigration is the final authority on who is. But that only goes as far as citizenship. Many Filipinos who have taken residence and even citizenship overseas — and there are millions of them — still identify as being “Filipino”. Who’s gonna challenge that?
The fact is, Filipinos still have a long way to go towards defining their own character as a people. For those who criticise Soberano, it seems skin colour is a primary criterion. For them, “Filipino” is a race. If that is so, what does that make Filipinos who are patrons of the country’s billion-peso skin whitening industry? If a Filipino gets a nose job to turn her nose from being pangò (flat and broad) to being matangos (narrow and pointed), does that transform her into a “lesser” Filipino?
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Soberano can’t help being born to her parents and being mestiza (of “mixed ethnicity”) as a result. In fact, being so gave her a huge advantage in the Philippines’ entertainment industry which caters to an audience that evidently favours fair-skinned performers. Indeed, the role models provided by Philippine showbiz is what pretty much fuels its vast cosmetics and cosmetic surgery industry.
The confused nature of the way Philippine society deals with its diverse ethnic brew is what makes the brouhaha over Soberano’s role in Bagani quite laughable. This is obviously a society that lacks ascendancy to define who is and isn’t counted as one of its members. Filipinos need to find a better and smarter way of defining themselves. Excluding Soberano because of her skin colour is just plain ridiculous and, quite frankly, a bit primitive.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.