In the Philippines: Women and Height

We are always born so differently from everyone in the world. Not every fiber in our body is the same as the next person. Even twins don’t get to be exactly the same. There will always be things that make us different, things that make us unique.

But enough with clichés, we are here to talk about the everyday struggles and advantages of a particular aspect in our bodies, which, in a society filled with people of different bloodlines and heritages like ours, is a common subject yet neglected. We, Modern Filipinos, come from various “lahi” or so they say, that almost confuses us what it is to ‘look’ Filipino. Some say Filipinos have flat noses, bigger eyes and most popularly, smaller than the usual Eastern/Western people. Yet some, if not most Filipinos, descended from our colonizers. Conveniently enough, some pure Filipinos these days are taller than the average and some, well—they stay below the scale, if you know what I mean.

Regardless, everybody is beautiful. No, I’m not saying this as a form of a “saving statement”, rather the truth. But this confidence in beauty isn’t always felt—not every day at least—by both tall and average Filipino women. Why emphasize on the women? This is the women’s section—plus, females are the most conscious to their physical appearance. As you read on, you’ll be realizing that not everything comes together perfectly when it comes to women’s height.

I’ve asked a few people (who I will not be naming) on what it’s like to be in their current state.

The Tall Girls’ Confessions

According to the 2014 survey of the ASEAN, in our country, the average height of a Filipino woman is 4’11 or 4’11 and a half. Thus, tall girls are those who are at least 5ft and above in height, also matching the surveys of Wikipedia. We’ve heard a lot about compliments towards tall girls, frankly, they’re all good compliments. Is it always that way? So, I asked these girls to mention the top 3 things that tall girls struggle with:

  1. Communication. “It’s always been hard to talk to those smaller.” Bending knees and lowering necks is claimed to be a painful task to tall girls. “We sometimes wish we could be like the rest,”. In their defense, at least you don’t get to stick your head around while you’re doing a groufie with your classmates. “Talking to someone smaller makes us feel like giants,” Tall height might be flattering they say, but it comes with a heavy price in socializing with other people.
  1. Dating. “Please don’t remind us that almost 60% of men in the country are smaller than us.” They want to date men taller than them too. (Or get a male partner during Folk Dancing in PE) “[and] we [also] like to wear our heels during a party (please don’t deprive us from that, too!)
  1. Transportation . You might be surprised that transportation is a big deal for the tall women of the country. “We get a head bump twice or thrice every week from a low-ceiling or low-door tricycle, Salamat na lang sa Diyos sa mga Taxicles! (Thank God for Taxicles!).” The tricycle is the most popular means of transportation, especially here in Naga. Imagine foreheads hit whenever they enter a tricycle from going inside or behind the driver. “The top of my head also can’t escape from the occasional bumps on the low ceiling.” See?

The Average Girls Upsides

Things aren’t always bad for those on the average and below average scale. Actually, there’s always an upside to everything.  Even average girls get to have advantages. As stated before, 4’11 to 5’ is the average female Filipino height. Since, there are more girls who wish they could be taller, below are just some of the points that emphasizes on the better vantage of short and average girls. I have interviewed a few “average girls” and asked them what makes them happy about being their height.

  1. Fashion. These average girls get the ultimate convenience on getting the clothes they want—for every size they want. According to one person I’ve interviewed, “Madali makakuha ng kahit anong size in any department store, (It’s easier to get clothes in any department store, they always have your size)” she says. Then she adds about how even ukay-ukays, in nature, doesn’t actually present definite sizes but if you were her height, you can get any clothes you want.
  1. Instant Escape/Easy Movement. Just a few slender and flexible movements, they’re sure to escape the crowd. They claim their height to be an advantage when it comes to avoiding a rising commotion or a raging crowd in which they don’t want to get involved in. Want to use a bathroom during a concert? Never fear, average girls, you can slip your way out.

But the instant escape/easy movement point doesn’t only apply to crowds. “It’s easier to avoid someone’s attention, especially if you don’t want it.” And there you have it.

  1. Adjustment. “No, THEY are the ones who naturally adjust…well, most of the time.” Groufies doesn’t always favour the tall ones, they say. “We tend to be kung nasan kami, and let the tall ones do the hard work,” I think they meant, reaching cookies on top drawers, human ‘monopods’—well, of course, they ask nicely.

“’Kala niyo lang.” or “That’s what you think.” is a phrase that can be orally delivered depending on which side you’re on. If you’re a ‘petite’ girl and you say this, it has a sense of empowerment that regardless of the circumstance, you still get by in life despite the struggles of being below or average in height. On the other hand, “Kala niyo lang.” is sarcastic and its irony is sometimes annoying to the tall girls, despite compliments like, “Tangkad mo! Daya! (You’re so tall! That’s unfair!)”. From one of the people I interviewed, “Not that we’re not contented, it’s just that, not all the time, we get to have a nice day,”.

Bottomline: It’s not always sunshine and rainbows to tall girls, and average girls (and below) don’t always cower in the shadows because they’re insecure. There’s equal weight on both sides; advantages and disadvantages of everything. I guess the lesson here, my tall and average girl ‘friends’, is that regardless, between it all, there’s equipoise—balance—that lets us live on: contentment. Learn to appreciate yourself a little bit more and consider others’ situation by, preferably, not laughing at them and degrading them to a state worse than they already are. To the Filipino girl, you are one of a kind. Love yourself!

This is my newest post in my new blog segment: In the Philippines. it features a lot about my country’s perspective on things as well as other common thoughts that a Filipino could possibly think about. Read more about the segment on the new page: About: In the Philippines.

This article is published in The Facade, my university’s magazine. (2015)



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