Pili Ani is a skin care brand from the Philippines that focuses on the power of two skin-loving oils: Pili oil and Elemi oil (both from the Pili tree native to the Philippines). While many people are familiar with the skin care benefits of other herbal oils such as argan oil, tea tree oil and marula oil, the magic of Pili is not yet widely known. What makes Pili incredibly special are its unique, two-part benefits. Pili oil, which comes from real nuts, is rich in antioxidants and full of vitamin E and fatty acids, allowing it to protect the skin from aging, pollution and free radicals. Then there is Elemi oil, which comes from the juice of the tree. This oil has firming properties and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
When I first met Pili Ani, I felt a special connection to the brand. Not only because I’m Filipino and it was the first Philippine beauty brand I learned about at the time, but also because Pili is from the Bicol area of the Philippines, where my mom is from. I also liked that the brand was founded by Rosalina Tan and her daughter, Mary Jane Tan-Ong. When I told my mom about Pili oil, she was surprised – she did not know that it had so many benefits for skin care. In fact, my mom only knew about it as an edible snack!
I decided it was natural for my mom, Epiphany, also known as Fannie, to go to her first Zoom phone call so we could have a little mother-daughter conversation with Rosalina and Mary Jane about the Philippines, what makes their beauty Philippines so special. , and the magnificent Pili tree.
Mary: Mom, can you first tell us what it was like growing up in Bicol and your own relationship with the Pili Tree?
Mum: When I was growing up, we had this big tree on our back. So I know what Pili is. The fruit starts as green and when ripe it turns black. We boiled a little water, put it in and then ate it. It’s so good.
Mary Jane: So with us, we were never really from Bicol. It started more than 20 years ago for me, I was in a different business, distributing Ginebra San Miguel jeans. So I got more into the hard alcohol business and then we really got into the Pili business because [my mom] met the farmer who sold her this Pili bottle. My sweetest memory of the Pili tree is when I saw a very, very large tree that probably took five people to embrace. And it was an age-old tree.
Rosalina: We are not from Bicol, but I consider it my second home because when I was in the production of organic fertilizers I often went there. I went into the Department of Agriculture, so I went there and noticed that the people there are very kind, you know, very respectful. So far they have this mano-mano [a gesture that is made when greeting elders as a sign of respect]. I love the people from Bicol. I had said that whenever I moved, I would make it my second home. So I moved to Bicol and there I found out more about Pili.
Mum: Well, I left Bicol when I was young, at 18, to live in Manila.
Rosalina: How long have you been away from the Philippines?
Mum : Oh, I’ve been in the United States for 51 years. Where are you from the Philippines?
Rosalina: Our base is in Manila, but my second home is in Bicol, Pili. What a coincidence. I say it was destiny. I never thought we would have a Pili business and then move [the town of] Gate.
Mary: What was everyone’s beauty routine like when you were younger?
Mum: I did not have a mother who raised me and my aunt was very strict. You could not even put lipstick.
Mary Jane: Let me add to that. This is basically the beauty of Filipinos, very simple, more natural. We like to embrace anything natural. Just like the coconut in the backyard. And probably a little color. You can probably use it so much with it as your coloring, but it’s basically general, I think the Filipinos are very happy. This is how this happy feeling exudes and appears on your face with this glow. The Filipinos are very resilient. So it kind of exudes if you’re happy. From within, you shine naturally. So I did not have any beauty routine like your mom and she. How was your beauty routine? What happens before?
Rosalina: What did I do? Only my eyebrows and I wash my face. This is! Only now I use lipstick because it is my product.
Mum: When I was a teenager and away from my aunt I started wearing lipstick. Now I do not go out without lipstick and I always want a red, red. I do not know how many different types of lipstick I have, Marie keeps bringing me some.
Mary Jane: Lip butters will be perfect for your mom.
Mary: So that fits my next question, what kind of beauty tips did you get from your mom? As with my mom, it was red lipstick, I always wear red lipstick like that. It illuminates my face and makes me feel happier and more confident. And also to always moisturize.
Mum: A friend asked me, why do you always like to wear red lipstick? I said because it is easy for me to show you my lips. [laughs]
Mary Jane: You know, it’s the basics, which are the eyebrows, the tattoo [brows], and lipstick. And we are fine. I think basically, if you are happy with yourself, it shows confidence. And then moisturizer is basically the most basic thing you need.
Mary: It is really wonderful to see that there are even more beauty brands out there in the Philippines. I just felt it, finally!
Mary Jane: We also had so many Miss Universe winners. So we have this talent and that [impact on] beauty out there.
Mary: It’s great to celebrate what makes Filipino beauty unique. I’m so excited that you and other Filipino brands are circulating more in the US and that people are learning more about it.
Mum: Me too, I’m proud that you do this with Pili from Bicol. I could never have imagined that you could do such a thing with it.
Mary Jane: Yes, many Filipinos do not even know that Pili can be used on the skin. And this is something we are working on — to bring out the knowledge, to tell the story and to tell people what we are and how amazing these two kinds of oils are.
Buy our favorite Pili Ani options
Pili Ani lip and face set – $ 34.00
If you are new to Pili Ani, we like this set which includes two lip butters (choose between “Barely There” and “Berry” and you will also have a clean, midian lip color) and two face oils (Ageless Concentrate, and Night Recovery oil).
Pili Ani Youthful Glow Cream, $ 32- $ 70
This formula is rich in Elemi and Pili oil (these help smooth out fine lines and soak into the skin with intense hydration), along with oat extract that help protect the skin from UV rays.
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