December 23, 2008

Reflection and Observation

My experience in Asia was great and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to visit such an amazing destination! I enjoyed seeing so many new places and meeting so many wonderful people. Coming from the United States places like Boracay, Tagaytay, Manila, and even Hong Kong are exotic locales – reachable only in dreams or fairy tails. I feel lucky to have been able to visit all of these unique places in person. It was like a dream!

Growing up in New England, Southeast Asia is very exotic by my standards. This extends to many aspects of the culture and environment – and fruit is no exception. Everywhere I have lived tropical fruit was available, but considered a luxury – in the Philippines these same fruits are everyday and plentiful. Mangos, pineapples, and many other tropical fruits I have not seen previously are abundant as apples in New England. My fruit vocabulary now includes words like jackfruit, dalandan, and others. (Yes, durian is there too – but after smelling it decided to not to try it quite yet!)

Several of the ads in Asia surprised me. Not the way the ads looked or how many there are everywhere – but what they are selling. Coming from a country where sun-kissed models adorn the billboards and the pages of fashion magazines there was one product that shocked me – skin lightening creams. The number of billboards, posters, and magazine ads pushing these products was mind boggling to me. I grew up surrounded by tanning salons, self-tanning creams, bronzers, and other products and messages reminding women that darker tan skin was necessary to be beautiful. The actresses and models of the 70s, 80s, and 90s were mostly blonde with tanned skin – a sign of health and sexuality. Pale skin was not en vogue. So, the idea that so many women want to be pale – to try to lighten the natural bronze color of their skin is very odd to me.

Other goods and services that I noticed were advertised extensively in Asia were slimming products, weight loss solutions, and plastic surgery. It seems that the obsession with appearance does not stop at pale skin, but continues to every aspect of one's body. Billboards in Manila hawked discounts on liposuction; posters in the Hong Kong subway discussed the benefits of various weight loss clinics. Such blatant promotion of these types of products and services again seemed odd to me.

That said, the positive aspects of all the places I visited – Hong Kong, Manila, Tagaytay, and Boracay – by far outweighed the questionable. It was a wonderful experience to be able to visit and learn about these places. Since we was visiting family and friends for a good period of our travel we became immersed local culture in ways that would not be possible on a simple tourist trip. It was amazing!

Hong Kong is one of the most exciting, cosmopolitan cities I have visited. The food, culture, shopping, and city lights make this a really cool place. I look forward to visiting again in the future!

The Filipino people are very compassionate, warm, and extremely kind. They are some of the most gracious people I have ever met – often giving above and beyond what they are able. In this culture hospitality and caring for others is of the utmost importance. Being a guest in the Philippines was a wonderful and overwhelming experience!

1 comment:

Pamposh Dhar said...

Hi. Very interesting impressions. The "fairness" ads are now common in many Asian countries and rather disturbing to Asians like me who think skin colour in no way describes beauty.
I think the same applies to the preference for tanned skin in the West, especially since this preference does not necessarily extend to a preference for naturally dark skin. I don't think the tan is so much a symbol of good health as of something exotic and possibly of vacations in the Bahamas!
Really, one should look for beauty in the person, not in the colour of their skin!