Nognog. Charcoal. Tar. Negrito.

          I get it. My complexion is a bit darker than other people's. In different shades of brown, I stood on the darker side. People usually notice the color of my skin whether I just met them for the first time or after some time. On several occasion, I get ridiculed for it, especially during my childhood years. When I grew up and went to high school, things got even worse. My skin tone turned out to be one of the reason of my growing pains as a teenager. I can still remember the time when somebody sent me a hate letter, addressing me as the "black man" of  Freshman Eagle.

         So much with the scorn tease at school, even some of my family members make fun of me simply because I look darker than the rest of the clan. For instance, during our family reunion, one of my titas would make me sit beside my fair-skinned cousin just to emphasize to everyone "how fair my cousin is." Of course, everyone won't come up with that single conclusion in mind. They still looked at me mockingly and I would feel like I am the darkest person alive.

          I told myself that I've had enough when I went to college. So I started applying all sorts of cream on my face, only to incite hostility upon my facial pores. I would wake up everyday with a fresh bunch of pimples that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The rest of my day would become a total mess, with me becoming self-conscious every minute because of those little devils spewing out secretions of my sebaceous gland.

         With things becoming worse, I stopped using those creams that are supposed to turn my skin fairer and magically make me gwapo. I'll just let my color be the way it is. After all, I don't want to look like an endangered species of  monitor lizard walking around the school premises.

         I managed to boost my self-confidence after accepting the fact that having a dark complexion doesn't define the person you really are. The color of your skin, no matter what it is, is not the measure of your worth as a human being. I keep on repeating this to myself every time people make sarcastic remarks on how dark-skinned I am. I tried to stay cool. Though I still feel bad at times, I was able to shake their comments off.

         Fast forward two years after college, I was on board the training ship Spirit of MOL. There, I met people of different nationalities and culture. Russians, Ukrainians, Indians, Indonesians, light-skinned and dark-skinned. Our group was so diverse in color that even my classmates didn't bother to notice me at all. The shade of anybody's skin never turned out to be an issue or an object of derision.

         My experience as a cadet on the training ship made me realize two things on skin color and Filipino society. First, skin color is merely a portion of genetic make-up that varies from one person to another. It will never be the determining factor of your own worth, or limit you to attain things in life. Second, Filipinos still revere the idea of having a white skin. Majority still have obsession on a whiter complexion and often equate it to beauty. Take it from numerous ads on whitening products that never fail to catch the attention of most people in our society. 

         I also noticed that it was my Filipino classmates who used to tease me about my skin color before we were on the training ship but it was my Russian classmates who appreciated my complexion. One of them even told me that I should go to Russia, because girls would definitely dig me there.

          Our society may not teach us to be proud of our own complexion, but I believe that we should uplift ourselves by not clinging to the idea that having any skin shade will mold our own fate. It's not our passport to success. What really counts is the unseen qualities of a person that prompt him to act with such dignity and endeavor to accomplish his dreams and live life to the fullest.

           I still get some jokes on how dark I am. Nognog, charcoal, tar, negrito, etc. I even receive funny gestures sometimes (my friends would wipe their hankies on me every second week of January). I don't get hurt, but when I think I had enough, I just tell them to stop stating the obvious or check the color wheel pag may time.

           Being who you are is awesome. That awesomeness includes all the aspect of yourself, even your physical appearance or skin color. And when my complexion becomes the main topic of any conversation, I always express my pride of having a skin color that marks my Filipino roots. That having a dark color, like any other color, is simply awesome.