Drive along EDSA and you can pretty much take in society's perception of beautiful.
For a guy to be called handsome, he has to look dashing like Piolo Pascual in his billboard for a restaurant or as manly as Dingdong Dantes in his underwear campaign for a clothing brand.
A lady has an even longer list of qualifications if she wants to be considered attractive. She has to be as fashionable as Maja Salvador in her apparel pictorial. She has to be sexy like Marian Rivera in her jeans endorsement. She has to have a beautiful skin like Angel Locsin's in her road ad for a lotion product.
Majority of these brands enforce a stereotype of beautiful. For example, whitening products make a lot of money with their proposition, "White is beautiful." Slimming products are "in" because beauty supposedly comes with a drop-dead gorgeous body. Advertising gives people a distorted view of beauty.
The truth is, what we see on television and in print materials are the airbrushed images of the models.
And if we ask the celebrities themselves, you'll be amazed that physical appearance is just one small aspect of how they define beauty.
Last November 21, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) had a beauty-full tête-à-tête with a guy, a lady, a beauty queen, an ageless movie actress, a carefree soul, and two of the country's top surgeons.
Boy Abunda agrees with the cliché, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." But he stresses, "It has to be a total package."
The Buzz host elaborates: "A person has to be beautiful inside and out. It's not just about the physical... One should not be just beautiful spiritually, or intellectually, or physically, it has to be complete. It is also what emanates from you, how the people see you, how you see yourself. It should be holistic."
The Who's Who in his "Most Beautiful List?" He thought long and hard before mentioning the names of Gretchen Barretto, Dawn Zulueta, and Kris Aquino.
His favorite body part? Again he paused before answering: "My eyes."
Precious Lara Quigaman gave a realistic perception of beauty. According to the 2005 Miss International, beauty is a matter of looking good and feeling good.
She said, "Much as I want to say that it's the ‘inside' that counts, for me, it's really the outside also. To inspire someone, if you want to have that somebody, you have to look good outside first. If you want to attract the attention of someone, and then you can tell them what's good inside of you."
Lara revealed that it's the "face" she notices first in a guy. But, of course, given the lady's wit and beauty, the face should be coupled with guts and intelligence.
About her views on cosmetic surgery, she admitted casually, "I've always wanted to have larger breasts, but it's the fear of the pain which keeps me from doing it."
PEP asked if there's a chance she will overcome that fear someday. With a laugh she replied, "Baka hindi!"
Gina Pareño mentioned her one weekly beauty routine, a treatment she calls "Tenor tightening of the skin."
When asked about her beauty secret, she said: "Dapat lagi kang feel beautiful, kasi pag hindi ka palaging feel beautiful lalo kang bumabagsak, hindi ba? Basta ako, paggising ko, ‘I look good always.' Gano'n..."
And guess what, the Queen of Indie Films says she never uses soap on her face. "Ewan ko kung nature lang yon pero never ako nagsasabon ng mukha, eh."
She was not shy in saying, "Lahat sa akin ay maganda."
Asked to pick showbiz stars with the most beautiful faces, she simply replied, "Basta nasa pag-uugali ng tao yun. Yun, kaya maganda!"
Mariel Rodriguez issued a very beauty-pageant answer to our question about her definition of beauty.
"Beauty is from within. If you feel beautiful inside, if you have a good heart, you are beautiful, alam mo yun... I really think na lahat ng tao beautiful, in their own right, may kanya-kanya tayong features na maganda."
She considers her shoulders as the most beautiful part of her body, "kasi I'm a swimmer."
Mariel used to compete in national swimming competitions. She beamed, "Bronze medalist po ako."
The host of Entertainment Live did not have any qualms in saying she wants to do something about her thighs.
Victor Basa said he goes for "confidence." And, to this member of the Coverboys, a person should also be "honest, stick-to-one [type], and faithful."
Physical appearance matters to him. "Yun yung initial reaction, yun ang nakikita mo, eh." He pointed out that a person's lack of confidence prevents others from seeing his or her beautiful appearance.
His lips are his greatest asset, Victor believes. "Noon, Napaka-insecure ko. [Sabi nila] ‘Uy laki ng lips mo...' Ngayon, very comfortable na ako."
It's his hairstyle that he wants to change very soon, Victor declared, and he will.
Surprisingly, "physical appearance" is not the number one standard of beauty for our cosmetic surgeons.
Dr. Pie Calayan said, "Beauty is something that you don't have to show off, because nakikita talaga yun, eh, they can see it in your aura."
Dr. Manny Calayan: "The word depends on the [kind of] person he or she projects."
Even when a person undergoes treatments and cosmetic surgery, feeling good about oneself is still more important for the top honcho of Calayan Surgicentre.
The products may enhance your looks. Surgery may be effective in hiding or getting rid of flaws.
But the most tried-and-tested formula of the stars: Look good, feel good, be good-and you'll be the most beautiful person in the universe!