The rise of the proud ‘morena’

In Photo: Mary and Mike meeting a young fan

mike-groganDuring the question and answer portion in one my talks recently, I was asked: “Sir, what is the one thing you would change about the Filipino?”

Now there is a temptation for every foreigner in the Philippines to start making a list of observations of what they think is holding back the country, but I did not want to go down that route.

I love this country and living here has made me a better man. My dream for this nation is a first-world Philippines in our lifetime—I am convinced that it will happen. However, for this to happen, I believe the Filipino must overcome possibly the greatest lie that their people have ever been told.  The lie that somehow their beautiful brown skin is “not good enough”.

Mary sharing her story on stage
Mary sharing her story on stage

The lie was started by invading colonial forces that told the Filipinos that their brown skin was a reflection of their social status as second-class global citizens. That their brown skin color was not as beautiful or as desirable, compared with the skin color of their European (and later American) masters.

Today, many years since the end of colonial rule, so many beautiful young Filipinos still live with the false belief that there is something wrong with their skin color.

In tens of thousands of schools across the Philippines, beautiful young Filipinos are being bullied because of the color of their skin. These kids really believe that they are not worthy to be called beautiful.

They live their life with a voice in their head telling them they are not good enough. This breaks my heart.  But the good news is, this is changing. There is a new generation of Filipinos that are making a stand.

One of the most powerful moments of our inspirational talks is when I ask my Manager Mary to come to the stage and share her story.

“When I was young my dream was to become a flight attendant, but people told me that I could not become a flight attendant because negra ka. And I believed them, so when I asked my mom for pocket money, I did not use it to buy food I used it to buy gluta, kojic soap, chin chan su—you name it I tried it. I even used to intentionally stay longer in air-conditioned rooms, as people told me this is another way I could make my skin whiter. But as I started to grow up, I began to research on the Internet and I began to read blogs about proud morena, proud kayumanggi, like Bianca Gonzalez and Venus Raj. I started to ask myself—these Filipinas are so beautiful and are so proud of their brown skin—why am I so ashamed?”

Mary goes on to explain: “One article I read really had a massive impact on me. It was a blog about Caucasian women going to the tanning salons just so they could get a color like me. That, for me, was the turning point. I began to stop using all my whitening products and I started to believe in myself. I realized that for so long as I was trying to fit in, that I forgot that we, Filipinos, were born to stand out. God did not make a mistake in making me Filipino. God did not make a mistake in making me brown.”

As I travel across the Philippines, engaging new audiences every week, I am convinced more and more that this is really the greatest time in history to be in the Philippines.

Brave Filipinos, like Mary, will not rest until this lie is fully exposed. They know that Filipinos deserve better and, in the words of Mary, “No Filipino should ever be discriminated in his own country because of his skin color.”

This is more than just exposing a lie that brown skin is not good enough.  This is about fighting for the dignity and beauty that is within every Filipino. This is about the liberation of the Filipino from the false limiting beliefs that are holding them back.

Mary will never give up this fight, because she knows—just like the new generation of empowered Filipinos, that the Filipino is worth fighting for. Stories, like Mary’s, inspire me about the future of this country. The rise of the proud morena has already begun. The greatest days are ahead.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas,



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Mike Grogan is an international speaker and best-selling author who believes in the genius of the Filipino. As a lean management coach, Irish-native Mike has traveled to 39 countries around the world, but he believes that there is something very special about the Pinoy. Today he works as a consultant for People Dynamics, where he travels across the Philippines inspiring and motivating Pinoys every week to believe in the Filipino Dream.



1 comment

  1. Oh boy, another white guy who thinks he’s the savior of the Philippines, bringing insight to the poor pilipino. Mighty white of you, guy.

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