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Why Saying 'Mukha Siyang Probinsyana' Is Problematic

Judging a person based on their looks is always problematic.
IMAGE ABS-CBN

Earlier this week, before Senator Tito Sotto opened his mouth and proved yet again, among other things, his sexism, lack of sensitivity, and deplorable sense of humor (he claimed he was just joking in the face of all the backlash, but we're not laughing), Tim Yap was being roasted on social media for his tweet during the recently concluded Binibining Pilipinas competition, in which he said, "Some of the girls don't look like the provinces they represent."

Immediately, people chimed in with their humorous takes on what candidates from certain provinces should look like, effectively calling the events host out for his comment.

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Tim Yap has since deleted his tweet and apologized, saying, "I think everyone is beautiful no matter where they're from." It's a fair sentiment, and he must be feeling somewhat relieved that some of the heat has been taken off him, given the still-raging firestorm surrounding Senator Sotto's comment.

 

But the incident should force us to take a hard look at our preconceived notions about what people should look like. No one seems to be scrutinizing the possibility that what the tweet essentially meant was that the women did not look like what people think of as typical probinsiyanas and could even be an act of discrimination and classism.

Unfortunately, there are still people who have their own ideas about what women from the provinces are like—at some point, any one of us has heard someone say something like, "Mukha siyang probinsiyana" and not always in a flattering way—so anything that goes against that image comes as a total surprise to them. Never mind the fact that Filipinos have wildly different features and you won't even know where anyone is actually from unless they tell you themselves.

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What does it even mean to look like you come from a certain province when families come from all over and you couldn't really tell where people are from just by looking at them?

Judging one another based on whether their appearance conforms to our own ideas and expectations (and personal biases) is commonplace. It is not unheard of for people to criticize a woman's looks by describing her as "mukhang katulong," a problematic comment on many levels, because it not only favors one type of appearance while disparaging another, but is also contemptuous of the idea of being a household helper and makes it sound as if those who are employed as such are less worthwhile.

 

There are women who are described as "mukhang cheap" (and subsequently judged and shamed) for looking and dressing up a particular way, even if they're simply dressed in a way that makes them feel comfortable and attractive. Some people are surprised when a person is smarter than they thought she was just because she doesn't fit the stereotype of what a "smart" person should look like.

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Commenting on people's facial features, body, and clothes is already a problem, but making assumptions about people's personality, character, and background based on how we judge their appearance takes it one step further.

If we think someone looks "cheap," "malandi," "mayabang," or whatever without actually interacting with them, then the people whose appearances we criticize are not the problem. The problem lies with us and our personal biases, which force us to assume we already know what they are like, or worse, judge them for what we think they are.

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PRIMO.

First. Pixie dust and paper cuts – these are the first things Wendy knew about Peter Pan. Aurora first met Prince Philip when she was sixteen. Learning how to ride a bike was also a first while I was growing up, but you are probably the first of too many. The first collection of dust and stars; maybe Luna will try to ask, who was your first? I might answer and tell her that it was you.

The first of too many stars in the sky. You are the first of too many fallen leaves during fall – and you will be the most anticipated snowflake as winter comes. A dark path that you can’t see without any light, hence, you were once the moon and there are the stars that shine so bright at night. Are we too early? Or we just really want to be ahead of time? Even in a glimpse, I would like to see the two of us connect as if we can reach the sky. There are other parts of the heavens you have never saw and other oceans you haven’t laid your feet onto – but the constellations will always wait for you. Close your eyes, love, close your eyes. Start counting backward: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Count backward until you see the twinkling lights that will guide you to the right path. To the right satellite; to the right person. A first.

There are many firsts – first love, first heartbreak, first sport you played, the first thing you do in the morning, the first thing you remember about the person in front of you. There are a lot. It’s actually up to us how we will consider something as a first. So, Primo, you are already a first of too many.

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