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When I look in the mirror, I donʼt see anything new. It has become part of me now.

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Andrea, “I

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remember playing with his nose and apparently, dogs don’t like that,” Andrea shares. It was a sunny afternoon during her mother’s birthday party when two-year-old Andrea was playing with her pet dog during what would have been a joyous celebration. The agitated dog bit off a large portion of Andrea’s left cheek causing an open wound on her face. “It was basically really gruesome,” says Andrea. “They say I was near death that time, and the dog didn’t have rabies shots then. Good thing my lola’s a doctor, so basically I was saved.” Although scar reformation was an option as a teenager, Andrea opted not go through with the procedure even if it meant leaving a permanent mark of her childhood ordeal. “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see anything new. It has become part of me now,” she says. “I see other girls who find ways to hide their flaws. Make it a part of you, but don’t make it less of who you are,” she advises.

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Among the more important things Iʼve learned from my varied career is that beauty fades.

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Maan, S

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he might as well be called the Renaissance woman of today with her professional achievements changing the paradigm of the arts and cultural movement in the country. A woman who has dedicated her life and built her career around her passion for media and the arts, Maan knows importance of one’s physical appearance on and off-screen better than anyone else. “I’ve been in the television business since the ‘60s,” Maan shares. “And the one thing people always point out is my mole. Some people told me to keep it because it’s supposed to be lucky, but some people would also tell me to have it removed. People always had different opinions,” she says. “It amazes me that people still remember me because of my mole.” Maan recalls an incident in Mindanao when a woman approached her and said she remembers Maan from TV. When Maan asked how she was able to recognize her, the woman replied ‘yung nunal mo!’ (your mole!)” “Among the more important things I’ve learned from my varied career is that beauty fades,” Maan expresses. “To live a fully engaged life, you’ve got to do the things you enjoy doing. I know I am!”

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Itʼs a character thing.

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Aimee, A

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imee has moved on from her great liking for sweets back when she was five years old. Losing her two front teeth was reason enough for her to give up one of her childhood loves. “I seriously sang ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’,” Aimee shares with a chortle. So long before her milk teeth naturally came off, Aimee’s smile was defined by the huge gap for a year. “And when they grew out, even though they were crooked, I was really happy!” But then, Aimee is not just like any other crooked-teethed girl. Her pursuits range from playing the drums for The Dorques, heading a foundation for women and children, producing band gigs for a cause, and of course, her day job as content manager for a gaming website among others. It appears that everything about her is just greatly propelled by where her heart is and not by anything else. Aimee declares, “I’m blessed to be good at what I love doing!” Beyond family names, job titles and achievements, Aimee believes that character is what truly defines a person. “It is in the attitude, how one carries herself, and what she does with what she has.” As for her teeth, “I never thought of it as a flaw,” and with one proud smile she declares, “It’s a character thing.”

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Kaye, I

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t’s not everyday you meet someone brimming with confidence after an ordeal that left her physically scarred for life. No one paid much attention to the soft-spoken Kaye, until her accident, very few people knew who Kaye was. “It happened in my first year of college,” shares Kaye. “We were on our way to a party. My friend was driving quite fast and lost control of the wheel. We tried to avoid the lamp post we swerved into, but instead it was my side that it hit. It was a good thing there were no cars coming our way or else I would’ve died,” she recalls. “It was all very surreal. All I know is that I lost consciousness and woke up on a stretcher.” On account of her accident, Kaye had been subject to four major operations before she graduated from college. “It wasn’t a pretty sight,” says Kaye, who thereafter the accident, requested her family to cover up the mirrors in their house. “People at school would pity me because of what happened. But why wallow in self-pity? I shrugged it off and accepted I won’t be going out on too many dates!” Kaye candidly shares. “One thing I’m glad I’ve learned from all this is showing pride in my scars. I can give you a list of all the things I’m insecure about- my scars are not one of them.”

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I can give you a list of all the things Iʼm insecure aboutmy scars are not one of them.

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Marilen, M

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odeling professionally since she was 18, Marilen has already shrugged off the idea that her unusually big ears may become an object of ridicule. “I call them ‘Dumbo ears’ myself,” she jokingly remarks. She shares that her ears are one of her more noticeable features. In one instance during a pictorial, she recalls that the photographer pointed out how her ears stuck out, a detail that led them to carefully choose her angles, “They even had to put superglue behind my ears just so they wouldn’t be noticeable!” Some people would quip about Marilen’s picture-perfect looks, alongside others who still point out her peculiar feature. “There are people who even tell me to undergo surgery to correct it, but it’s not really bothering me. So why make the effort?” Despite this, Marilen is still in the modeling scene while pursuing another one of her passions: interior design. Even with all the comments from people close to her and those whom she has worked with, she continues to embrace her ‘Dumbo ears’ as a trait that essentially makes her who she is. Whether she flaunts her charm in front of the camera’s lens, or she proficiently creates plans in her interior design pursuit, Marilen believes, “It is best to stay true to yourself no matter what and just give it your best smile!”

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It is best to stay true to yourself no matter what, and just givet it your best smile!

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True, people would immediately notice the visible birthmark on my face, but Iʼm confident that Iʼm judged based on my abilities and experience.

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KC, M

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ost people live with the constant struggle to balance family, work, and school life, but, unlike KC, what we don’t have to contend with is someone constantly asking: “What’s that on your face?” Although she is completely at ease with her birthmark- a medium-sized reddish stain that covers a portion of her cheek- she admits using Photoshop to digitally manipulate her pictures, curious of what it would be like without her facial birthmark. “The pictures would show me a completely different person. I know I can alter all the pictures I want, but it wouldn’t be who I am.” Despite the rough patch when she was younger, KC is now comfortable with her birthmark. “I presume my life would be just the same, with or without my birthmark,” KC says. “True, people would immediately notice the visible birthmark on my face, but I’m confident that I’m judged based on my abilities and experience.”

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All those years when I was afraid of being looked at served as very formative for me, in finding my inner strength, my inner joy in being, regardless of what my external circumstances were.

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Olive, F

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eeling like an outcast while growing up may be a typical experience among young girls. Unfortunately for Olive, growing up with a mole on her face lead her to face her teen years unlike any other typical teenager would. “I have been facing this problem since I became selfconscious at the age of 19. I have had a wonderful life in Cagayan de Oro without any self-image problem,” Olive shares. “However, there was this one incident in the province- an old man approached me and said there was something dirty in my face. I think he meant it as a joke but that made me want to cry. It was awful.” When Olive moved to Manila for college, she decided to start her life anew. “I excelled in my academics and became active in several extra-curricular activities. I pretty much put myself out in the spotlight. I even joined the debate society,” says Olive who, in the past would hide her mole by keeping her hair falling down the side of her face. “Since then I’ve become more in touch with my spirituality and more understanding of things that happened around me. She continues: “All those years when I was afraid of being looked at served as very formative for me, in finding my inner strength, my inner joy in being, regardless of what my external circumstances were. I now realize the beauty in me simply by being alive.”

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Tina, “I I was too selfconscious. I have a lot of ideas and I know that eventually, Iʼll have to speak up or else nothing will happen. 78

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have always been shy,” Tina shares. She candidly describes herself as tall and lanky, a small face with big ears, “Unang nakikita talaga ng mga tao ay ‘yung ears ko, hindi ‘yung mukha. Kahit mga kapatid ko kasi, inaasar ako. (The first thing people see are my ears, not my face. Even my siblings tease me about it.)” Growing up, she was never the confident one among her friends, “I was not the typically pretty kid! I would always be in the shadow of my friends who achieved more than me.” Her insecurities even affected her participation in school, “I remember I would have a hard time reciting in class just because I was too self-conscious.” College was the major turning point for Tina. Realizing that it was time to decide on what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, Tina started to step up. “I chose a degree that forced me to be assertive. So I took up Mass Communication in college.” It was in this phase in her life when she realized there was more than how people initially see her. “I have a lot of ideas and I know that eventually, I’ll have to speak up or else nothing will happen.” She learned to explore more of her capabilities, in turn, finding her niche in the field of sales and marketing. “My job involves a lot of public relations! It brings out my capabilities in communicating dealing with people.” Brimming with much joy, Tina proudly shares, “Now I think that’s what makes me beautiful.”

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It is never wholly about your physical appearance. Itʼs another thing if you look at yourself in the mirror and you end up dwelling on what you think is flawed.

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Nicole, T

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he only morena among a brood of fair-skinned siblings, Nicole considers herself someone who looks differently in the family, with her features mostly acquired from her grandmother. “I remember my siblings would tease me about my mole. They’d joke around saying I’d always have something on my chin!” Even though Nicole has never viewed her mole as an imperfection, there was a time when she thought twice about getting her mole operated on primarily for health reasons. “Some people were hinting that my mole might be harmful, especially if there is continuous growth. But right now, nothing’s wrong with it. Having a surgery is not my primary concern.” Nicole currently works as a brand communications specialist for a local retail company. “I’m in marketing so I deal with a lot of people.” She mentions that looks shouldn’t be taken for granted. “In my line of work, we have to dress up well and be presentable. There’s nothing wrong with fixing up especially if you have to meet clients.” However, she emphasizes that there is a difference when one takes her looks too seriously. “It is never wholly about your physical appearance. It’s another thing if you look at yourself in the mirror and you end up dwelling on what you think is flawed.” She adds that her all her features, including her mole, make her who she is now. “I don’t think I would be who I am without it.”

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It makes a big difference knowing youʼre comfortable with who you are.

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Guada, G

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uada had an accident as a child that entirely changed her life. “It happened when I was three. Being the rowdy kids in the family, we were in a pillow fight when the zipper on one pillow hit my right eye.” But the effect of the unfortunate incident became apparent only a few years ago. “Growing up, it wasn’t completely blind yet. My retina detached just last 2002 and now I can’t see with my right eye,” she shares. What would usually get the attention of people is how her eye has gradually changed in color. For this, Guada became conscious of how people would look at her because of her eye. “I had this lip piercing so that people would look at my lip instead. And I would wear glasses, too, even though I don’t really need them just to cover it up a bit.” In spite of this, Guada remains to pursue her passion in the fashion industry, working primarily with visual means despite her condition. Since the recent change in her eye’s appearance, she has noticed how people have started treating her with kid gloves. “My dad treated me normal. He wanted me to learn how to drive and play sports, but my mom was really nervous about it. Some people would tell me that I couldn’t do certain things anymore and that I should be more careful,” she openly shares. Because of this, Guada had gone through a period of depression that led her to slowly gain a lot of weight. “It came to a point when I realized it’s as if I can’t do anything because of my condition.” Seeing what was happening to her, Guada decided to take full control of her self, and get back on track by exercising and engaging in self-defense martial arts classes. She admits that the time she dwelled on what she initially believed she lacks should have been spent on improving her capabilities, “All these years I should’ve developed my other senses and compensated for my weakness.” In the end, all that matters for her is confidence and embracing your true self, “It makes a big difference knowing you’re comfortable with who you are. As for me, I think I’ve been conscious about my eye for too long. It’s time to take off the glasses.”

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Mia, D

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espite being seemingly flawless because of her refined stature and smooth, porcelain-like complexion, Mia openly shares one thing about her appearance that she believes makes her even unique. “Yes, I do have ears that stick out, so what?” However, she recalls a time when she grew sensitive to the fact that her ears make her stand out and get noticed in a negative way. “I would try to make my hair puffy then to cover them up.” Regardless of the supposedly imposed idea that she has to hide them, Mia believes that her ears physically represent another trait she possesses. “Big ears show that you can listen well,” she wittily shares. Fittingly, Mia adds that one of her major interests include exploring and listening to different types of music, “I have always been into music! I even grew up listening to what my parents enjoyed when they were younger.” With this, Mia proves that she is all about embracing who she is and making her physical features manifest her true self, “Be appreciative of what you have because it makes you who you are.” Cheerfully, Mia recounts, “I remember my crush calling me ‘Dumbo’ before. It’s better to be called that for my ears and not because of my brain!”

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Dumbo... Itʼs better to be called that for my ears and not because of my brain!

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Kate, W

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ith a boisterous giggle, Kate remarks, “Okay rin pala ako! (I’m okay after all!)” In four short and simple words, Kate declares a recent realization of hers. “Yeah, I’m not conventionally beautiful, but I have my own thing going on.” It was not too long ago when Kate began to gain confidence for herself. “It really is true, when you start being comfortable in your own skin, that’s when the real you starts to shine. It unlocks that beauty within.” Kate was 28 when the feeling of contentment sank in. “It was then when I knew; men, women, and children who are touched and inspired by my works remind me how blessed I am,” she shares with a great sense of fulfillment. Growing up as a child, Kate had difficulty in appreciating who she was. “I felt I was ugly. I was often teased and called names. My brother would even call me ‘alien’,” Kate recalls. She believed then that it was everything about her: from her small stature, to her teeth, and quite noticeable her nose that served as grounds for her to gain that name. “I compensated for it by being creative. I told myself if I can’t be the prettiest girl in the room, I can be the best dressed!” What started merely as a creative vent helped her become the successful designer she is now. Seeing all this, Kate exclaims, “This is just the beginning.”

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When you start being comfortable in your own skin, thatʼs when the real you starts to shine. 87


Dindi, “I

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see myself as a regular girl just trying to get by.” With her strong personality and stunning confidence, one would immediately think that Dindi de Leon is beyond how she perceives herself. Standing five feet and nine inches tall, Dindi has used one of her principal assets in expressing herself by ramp modeling for some of the well-known designers in the country since she graduated from college. “I’m not the pretty face that gets on the magazines, mainly because of my nose. Profile shots in VTR’s usually ruin my chances in getting in a commercial seeing that my nose looks different. So basically my height made up for it that’s why I’m modeling.” Despite standing out because of her height, Dindi has always found herself easily distinguishable because of her striking facial feature. “Make-up artists would always ask where I got it done!” Not allowing to be bothered by the opinion of others, Dindi believes that everything about her was made for a reason. “I remember feeling the pressure of going through cosmetic surgery because most people I know in the industry have had their flaws operated on. But I stood my ground.” At the end of the day, she gives much credit to her family who has taught her the guiding principles she lives by. “I was taught to embrace what God has given me and be satisfied. I’m sure God has a reason why He didn’t give me big boobs or the perfect nose.” Dindi positively shares, “If it’s something you think you can’t live with, try to work around it instead.” She cheerfully adds, “The way to go about it is to highlight your strengths.”

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If itʼs something you think you canʼt live with, try to work around it instead.

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...as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, ʻwhat is essential is invisible to the eyeʼ.

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Cris, O

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ne would surely fall short of trying to encapsulate the humble performer that is Cris Villonco through simply describing her as an acclaimed singer with a sweet voice. For many, she’s the embodiment of an accomplished woman with her stellar career, but for one who has definitely been no stranger to the pressures of life in the limelight, Cris has also had her share of self-consciousness. “People always had something to say about my bulging forehead. I tried to hide it with bangs. Lots of bangs,” shares Cris. “As a child I also had very big front teeth. Sometimes people would come up to me in the mall and say, ‘You look so much better in person!’ Even if they were well-meaning it often made me wonder how bad I might really look on television,” she says. “People don’t realize how hurtful they can be. I cried many times, but it all seems so trivial and silly now.” However, Cris shares about the hidden advantages to being born into a family of critics, artists and perfectionists. “I’ve always been told that my voice is my instrument, so I’ve been taught to believe in practice and hard work,” She is not fazed by physical beauty, nor do the comments on her appearance bother her anymore. There is a decided strength behind Cris as she affirms, “As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, ‘what is essential is invisible to the eye’.”

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Nita, N

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ita plainly admits, “I am very vain!” What will immediately strike you upon meeting Nita are her glowing skin, bright round eyes and most especially her thin, well-defined lips, a trait not typically found in Filipina women. With a combination of these features adding up to grace in carrying herself, one may instantly take her for a doll.On the other hand, what captivates people about her the most is when she begins to speak of her heart for animal rights. As the president of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Nita assures that vanity is not merely self-love despite the meaning of the word. “I tell the members to look good. People would think that we care so much for the animals that we don’t take care of ourselves anymore. That isn’t exactly a good image to project.” With much experience and wisdom gained over the years, Nita shares that people must begin to familiarize themselves with beauty again. Nita even proclaims, “We are the destroyers of the universe, in perception and in action. We think that there’s so much ugliness in the world, we don’t know what beauty is anymore.” She believes that our view on beauty is impaired by how we treat our surroundings, and even by our negative view on things. “It is difficult to deal with tainted vision. At times, when we are presented with something naturally beautiful and we do nothing about it.” Now, how then do we rediscover beauty in its true essence? Nita firmly believes that real beauty emanates from one’s respect towards all creation. With much hope, she shares, “Empathy. It is when one learns to understand another and regards one’s existence that one’s self-value grows as well. Therein lies the beauty.”

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We think that thereʼs so much ugliness in the world, we donʼt know what beauty is anymore.

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Rachel, “T

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here was this phase when I was younger, when kids would pick a trait and call you names because of it. Mine was ‘fish lips’!” Rachel candidly shares. As a child, she never had issues about the way she looked. She shares, “My mom has full lips also, and any kid finds her mom beautiful!” Even with all the comments, Rachel just continues to happily live this inherited trait. “I remember a time when having thin lips was all the rage. Whenever I would have myself made up by someone else, they would skip the lip liner so as not to emphasize my lips.” But now with plastic surgery pushing the envelope in doing facial reconstruction, people are going for the look of popular stars and icons, and having voluptuous lips is one look that most women are going after. With the media imposing transient and forever-changing ideas of what beauty is supposed to be, Rachel simply embraces her feature and delights in the fact that everyone she cares about absolutely loves her full lips. “My husband loves my full lips! My lips are softer!” Rachel believes that she doesn’t need to change for anything. “There will always be a flaw, because nobody’s perfect. I am simply comfortable with who I am, and that’s all that matters.”

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There will always be a flaw, because nobodyʼs perfect.

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Charette, C

harette Regala recalls her happy adolescent years, filled with memories of playing dress-up with friends back in high school. With this she realized she wanted to work with garments for a living and decided to take up Clothing Technology in college. With fashion being perpetually known as an industry that always demands perfection, Charette never was intimidated. “I want to innovate, to create something different.” And as she continued to aspire to do more in the field that she is part of, up came the timely call for designers in the recently concluded first season of the reality show Project Runway Philippines. A regular viewer of the show may recall Charette as the finalist with the mole, a beauty mark that set her apart from the rest of the cast, and as the contestant who consistently made highly-appealing and clear-cut designs. “I remember being teased about my mole when the movie Austin Powers came out,” she light-heartedly shares. Charette affirms that imperfection is much more captivating than perfection as people expect it to be. “It is better not to fit some idea of being perfect, because you are much more special and you’re not like anyone else.” As a designer with a strong design sense and personality, Charette stands her ground by sharing, “I may be in the fashion industry but I wouldn’t change a thing about myself. At the end of the day it’s how the person relates to other people that makes the person beautiful.”

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Iʼve always known that splendidly imperfect people are interesting because they just surprise you with who they are. Perfection is predictable. 99


Ina, O

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ne would find it surprising that Ina is naturally calm and collected, and this not only manifested in the way she carries herself, but also in the way she speaks. “What you are on the outside does not define you,” she shares. Having experienced a lot for her tender age of 31, people expect Ina to be significantly assertive for a change. However, having survived a difficult bout with breast cancer, Ina has gone beyond having to act tough to staying innately compassionate towards others. “I remember having to shave my head because of chemotherapy. Even my kids were worried about what people would say about me,” she recalls one pivotal episode in her life. In all hope, Ina shares, “Getting my second chance at life basically inspires me to live on and give back by helping other people.” At present, Ina serves as a volunteer of I Can Serve Foundation and has already co-organized fund-raising events for a good cause. Ina shares, “My illness opened me up to a life I never knew.” It is in this spirit we can see how she fully embraces herself in all aspects. Born with a facial birthmark, Ina recalls how she was frequently told to go to the dermatologist to have it checked, “because it would get a lot darker whenever I went out under the sun.” Though she learned to live with this facial mark, Ina believes that it is part of what builds her up. Now with greater wisdom acquired through her experiences, Ina proclaims that no matter what the circumstance, beauty is rooted deep within one’s self and Ina’s life story personifies just that.

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What you are on the outside does not define you.

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They forget that they are already naturally beautiful to begin with.

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Caroline, B

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udding model Caroline never imagined herself to be where she is right now. “This used to be just a dream. I’m short; I’m not that voluptuous. I can’t believe I’m doing this for a living!” Not only did Caroline find her initially not suited to be part of the industry she is currently in, but she pokes fun at one of her most visible physical features: her wide forehead. “Actually, my brother calls it a ‘five-head’”, she shares with a laugh. Despite still believing that she does not fit the typical mold of how people know models should be, Caroline believes that she should not limit herself to only what she and the people around her think she can do. “And neither should the definition of beauty,” Caroline adds. “It’s sad to know there are people who feel pressured into trying to look like the stereotype of beautiful.” With a twinkle in her eye, she shares, “They forget that they are already naturally beautiful to begin with.”

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Jeane, W

You are multidimensional; who you are is a collection of your looks, your spunk, your attitude, your sense of humor! 104

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ith her mole set right at the center of her nose, Jeane shares that she was always noticed because of it, “I really don’t want to call attention to myself so it used to disconcert me a lot while growing up.” Despite this, Jeane continued to pursue a career in education as a professor: a vocation that requires her to regularly be in full view of people. “But at some point it did affect me since people were distracted by it,” Jeane recounts. While she declares that none has changed in her perception of herself, she believes that people still deduce an identity based on looks. “But that is only because they don’t know you really are. For me, the first thing they see is my mole and I am immediately known just for it.”In the light of all this, Jeane finds assurance in the fact that there is more to a person’s exterior. “You are multidimensional; who you are is a collection of your looks, your spunk, your attitude, your sense of humor!” Jeane adds, “There are so much more layers to one’s personality. I hope we even have enough time to regard each.” With her personal philosophy on beauty, Jeane reflects on her self-perception, “Yes, I may not be fashion industry’s model of beauty but I am loved and accepted by my body, with no reservation or judgment. I am at home with myself. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

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Becca, “K

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ulot salot” (cursed curls)” is just one of the funny names given to Becca for her outrageous hair. For Filipina women, Becca’s hair is found rather unusual. “The problem here is stylists don’t know how to cut curly hair. They cut it as if it’s straight.” Because of this, Becca has had her fair share of bad hair days and suffered wrong hair styling done in the salon; “I would be so ashamed of my hair that I would just tie it just so people wouldn’t say anything about it.” Besides getting singled-out for what apparently makes her project from the surface, Becca found herself unhappy and this led her to have her hair straightened for some time when she was younger. She puns about another name she was once called, “The worst, I think, was Santo Niño. Imagine being compared to a saint only because of his trademark hair.”Becca shares how instead of having to dwell on what people think is her flaw, she learned to adapt to her hair’s needs. “I used to have my hair blow-dried and it never worked for me. Since it requires the use a lot of hair products, I adjusted to this need instead.” She cheerfully adds, “Now I have found great hairdressers to cut my hair.” Becca takes pride in the fact that she made the decision to go through these adjustments herself, “I’m happy to say that even with my imperfections � and I can enumerate all of them � I love who I am. No one dictated my identity.” For her, beauty, being a positive thing, must radiate from a similar energy, “It is turning the situation into something positive. In my case, it is in understanding, and attending to my hair’s demands and to learning to live with them. Now, it works for me.” As for the name-calling, Becca mentions that she remains to be called the curly-haired girl. “Only because I still am. But on the other hand, people also say I’m different, and that’s the part I like.”

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Iʼm happy to say that even with my imperfections – and I can enumerate all of them – I love who I am. No one dictated my identity.

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If you give much emphasis on (your flaws), itʼs like devaluing the rest of your being.

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Ana, A

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na believes that the change that happened to her goes beyond the scars on her face. After getting into a car accident back in 1994 that led her to undergo a great deal of facial reconstruction, she finds that her attitude in life is better than ever. “I feel more beautiful now,” Ana shares. She remembers the first time she saw herself in the mirror after getting confined in the hospital for recovery, and how the surgery has significantly changed her figure. Instead of mulling over how the incident negatively affected her, “The first thing I noticed was that I looked sexier!” For Ana, the emotional bearing on her was never long term. “Back in college, I remember how rumors sparked that I died and other things happened to me because of the accident.” When she returned to school, she had to wear a mask to cover up the rest of what has not been operated on yet. With the ordeal, Ana recounts her experience and believes a transformation occurred inside and out. “Your flaws don’t wholly make you. They’re only a small percentage of who you are. If you give much emphasis on them, it’s like devaluing the rest of your being.”

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In the end, itʼs more important to be an individual, and an original at that.

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Marga, “C

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onnect the dots,” answers Marga when asked about the constellation of moles on her face. She laces every diplomatic response with a touch of humor; and although nonchalant, Marga is candid in admitting to have wanted her moles removed in the past, but soon decided against it. “I came from a long line of similarly dotted individuals, so it was never anything I thought was extraordinary.” As one for whom the accessory and bag business is as much about the details in making everything beautiful, Marga draws the parallelisms between her line of work and defining today’s standards of beauty. “I am in a business that hopes to make beautiful objects. We’ve always tried to highlight what is unique about our materials with their distinct features- that which one person may look at as flaws, we see as character. That idea translates to physical characteristics as well.” “The rule of thumb is: if you can laugh at something, you can get over it,” says Marga. As with everything else about her, Marga stands firm in saying “In the end, it’s more important to be an individual, and an original at that.”

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Acknowledgements Thank you to the women ... Aimee Marcos Ana Pulido Andrea de Guzman Arriane Marzan Becca Rodriguez Bianca Salonga Camille Pilar Caroline Rüeggs Charette Regala Cris Villonco Dindi de Leon Erich Gonzales Erica Paredes Fely Chingcuanco Gina Choy Gina Flores Giselle Ordoñez Guada Reyes Ina Vergel de Dios Jeane Percullo Jinky Gallago Jo Bautista Joanne Consunji

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Johanna Garcia Karen Vizcarra Karla Vizcarra Kate Torralba Kaye de Guzman KC Niña Pusing Lexi Schulze Lindsay Ang Maan Hontiveros Marga Valdes Mia Fuentes Marilen Faustino-Montenegro Nicole Limos Nicole Mercado Nita Hontiveros-Lichauco Olive Hernandez Presh Ng Rachel Kairuz Timi Gomez Tina Geronimo Tippi Ocampo Wilma Doesn’t

Special thanks to Dennis Perez for creating the avenue for us to be inspired. Thank you to Missy Alejo-Acop, Justa Bautista, Nina Chua, Haydee Nuke, Angela Reyes, Claude Rodriguez, Riza Torres and Danny Veluz for working with me tirelessly . Thanks

to

Alvin

Chingcuanco,

Bianca

Consunji, Amanda Griffin, Cristalle Henares, Sabs Hernandez, Ria Romero, Joey Samson, Mo Zee for introducing me to some of the women. Thank you to my wonderful parents.

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Afterword Over the few years that I’ve spent photographing women I’ve come across subjects � whether they worked in front of the camera or behind the scenes -- that completely captivated me. Some of these women are here -- women who, in spite of possessing a facial feature that society would often label as an “imperfection,” carry themselves with much grace and have a knack for being able to laugh things off. The pressure to fit into that cookie cutter image of what the media presents as beautiful can be overwhelming for many. There’s nothing wrong in aspiring to be as beautiful as the icons of our day � I think it’s completely human to aspire for perfection. But when the obsession leads to circumstances (like over photoshopping or, at the complete end of the spectrum, surgery) where the inherent physical essence of the person is completely changed (read, it looks like another person) then to me, there is something to be a little bit alarmed about. Years ago, while I was still apprenticing to become a photographer, I came across this LatvianAmerican photographer, Philippe Halsman, who took a portrait of Jean Paul Sartre, founder of existentialism. Sartre was so pleased by this portrait that he wrote Halsman a note which expressed how he felt --that in one photograph, Halsman had said everything Sartre wanted to say in one book. Sartre had a defective eye which Halsman placed in a little bit of shadow � you couldn’t see it in the portrait. There is beauty in everything. It’s all just a matter of perspective. Imperfections to me are both enigmatic and alluring. Whether you are born with it or it was a matter of happenstance, facial imperfections serve as markers, perhaps even milestones, to a life lived. They serve as memories of life’s bittersweet moments � the day your life was saved after a terrible accident that left an indelible imprint on your face, or the day your boyfriend was in complete adoration of you because of your cute freckles. And it couldn’t be in a more apparent place, so close to you that when you look in the mirror there it is, a reminder, a keepsake, or if it’s far in your past, a whisper.

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About the Author

Sara Black was born in Manila in 1980. She currently works as one of the country’s leading fashion photographers, having made a name for herself by photographing women at their most beautiful. When I Look in the Mirror is her first book.

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When I look in the mirror - 2