A conversation with Pili Ani mother-daughter founders of Pili Ani

With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors use their years of expertise to select products (from skincare to personal care and beyond) that they bet you’ll love. Although our editors select these products independently, making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission. Good shopping! Explore the STORE

Pili Ani is a skincare brand from the Philippines that revolves around the power of two skin-loving oils: Pili Oil and Elemi Oil (both of which come from the native Pili tree in the Phillippines). While many people are aware of the skin benefits of other plant-derived oils, such as argan oil, tea tree oil, and marula oil, the magic of Pili doesn’t is not yet as widely known. What makes Pili incredibly special are its unique two-part benefits. Pili oil, which comes from the nut itself, is rich in antioxidants and filled with vitamin E and fatty acids, which allows it to protect the skin against aging, pollution and free radicals. Then there is Elemi oil, which comes from the sap of the tree. This oil has firming properties, it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.

When I first discovered Pili Ani, I felt a special connection to the brand. Not only because I’m Filipino and it was the first Filipino beauty brand I had heard of at the time, but because Pili is from the Bicol region of the Philippines, where my mother is from . I also loved that the brand was founded by Rosalina Tan and her daughter, Mary Jane Tan-Ong. When I told my mum about pili oil, she was surprised – she had no idea it had so many skin benefits. In fact, my mother only knew it as an edible snack!

I decided it was natural for my mom, Epifania aka Fannie, to be on her very first Zoom call so we could have a little mother-daughter chat with Rosalina and Mary Jane about the Philippines, which makes the Filipino beauty so special, and the marvelous Pili tree.

Married: Mom, can you first tell us what it was like growing up in Bicol, and your own relationship with the Pili Tree?

Mom: When I was growing up, we had this big tree out back. That’s how I know what Pili is. The fruit starts out green and when it ripens it turns black. We boiled water, put it in, then ate it. It is so good.

Mary-Jane: So back home, we’ve never really been from Bicol. It all started more than 20 years ago for me, I was in another company, the distribution of Ginebra San Miguel gin. So it was really more into the hard liquor business that I was in, and then we really got into the Pili business because [my mom] met the farmer who sold him this bottle of Pili. My fondest memory of the Pili tree is when I saw a very, very tall tree that probably took five people to hug. And it was a century old tree.

Rosaline: We are not from Bicol, but I consider it my second home because when I was in the production of organic fertilizer I used to go there often. I joined the Ministry of Agriculture, so I was going there and I noticed that the people there are very nice, you know, they are very respectful. So far they have this mano-mano [a gesture that is made when greeting elders as a sign of respect]. I like the people of Bicol. I said that every time I moved, I would make it my second home. So I moved to Bicol, and there I discovered more about the Pili.

Mom: Well, I left Bicol when I was young, at 18, to live in Manila.

Rosaline: How long have you been away from the Philippines?

Mom : Oh, I’ve been in the United States for 51 years. Where are you from in the Philippines?

Rosaline: Our base is in Manila but my second home is in Bicol, Pili. What a coincidence. I say it was fate. I never thought we were going to have a Pili business and then I would move to [the town of] Pili.

Married: What was everyone’s beauty routine when you were younger?

Mom: I had no mother to raise me and my aunt was very strict. You couldn’t even put on lipstick.

Mary-Jane: Let me add to that. This is basically what Filipino beauty looks like, very simple, more natural. We like to embrace all that is natural. So like the coconut in the garden. And probably a little color. You can probably use it as much as your coloring, but that’s basically in general, I think Filipinos are very happy with it. So it kind of gives off that happy feeling and it shows on your face with that glow. Filipinos are very resilient. So it gives off a bit if you’re happy. From within, you naturally glow. So I didn’t have a beauty routine like your mom and her. How was your beauty routine? And before ?

Rosaline: What did I do? Just my eyebrows and washing my face. That’s it! Only now I use lipstick because it’s my own product.

Mom: When I was a teenager and away from my aunt, I started wearing lipstick. Now I no longer go out without lipstick and I always want a red one, red too. I don’t know how many kinds of lipstick I have, Marie keeps bringing me some.

Mary-Jane: Lip butters will be perfect for your mom.

Married: So that goes with my next question, what kind of beauty tips did you get from your mom? Like with my mom it was red lipstick, I always wear red lipstick like her. It brightens up my face and makes me happy and more confident. And also to always hydrate.

Mom: A friend asked me, why do you always like to wear red lipstick? I said because it’s easy for me to show you my lips. [laughs]

Mary-Jane: You know, it’s the basic essentials, which are the eyebrows, the tattooed [brows], and lipstick. And we are good. I think basically if you’re happy with yourself, that shows confidence. And then moisturizer is basically the most basic thing you need.

Married: It’s really great to see that there are even more Filipino beauty brands coming out. It was as if, finally!

Mary-Jane: Plus, we’ve had so many Miss Universe winners. So we had this talent and this [impact on] beauty there.

Married: It’s great to celebrate what makes Filipino beauty unique. I’m so excited for you and other Filipino brands to launch more in the US and for people to learn more about it.

Mom: I too am proud that you are doing this with Pili de Bicol. I never thought you’d be able to do something like this with it.

Mary-Jane: Yes, many Filipinos don’t even know that Pili can be used on the skin. And that’s something we’re working on – spreading the knowledge, telling the story and telling people what we are and how amazing these two types of oils are.

Shop Our Favorite Pili Ani Picks

pili ani face set

Pili Ani Lip and Face Set — $34.00

If you’re new to Pili Ani, we love this set that includes two lip butters (choose between “Barely There” and “Berry,” and you also get a clear, minty lip tint) and two face oils ( Ageless Concentrate, and Night Recovery Oil).

pili ani youth radiance cream

Pili Ani Youth Glow Cream, $32-$70

This formula is rich in elemi and pili oil (which help smooth fine lines and infuse skin with intense moisture), as well as oat extract which helps protect skin from UV rays.

Want to be the first to hear about the latest (and greatest) SHOP products, custom collections, discounts and more? Sign up to receive the news straight to your inbox.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.