By Portia G. Malinao
I HAVE scars on different parts of my body. I have dark, lumpy spots on my legs that I do not want exposed. Heck, they are ugly. These scars are to blame for my limited fashion sense — they keep me from wearing the trendiest shorts in public. And when flawless skin is what every woman wants, scars are seen as a hindrance to beauty.
So I wanted my scars removed. I went to a drugstore to buy Contractubex, an expensive scar-erasing serum heavily advertised on TV, only to have a sudden change of heart. I realized that removing my scars is actually bidding goodbye to the memories they represent. Deep beneath these damaged parts of my skin are treasures that keep important chapters of my life. While these scars manifest pain, they, too, are recollections of the old times — the times I became myself.
I remember my girlhood. On late afternoons when the sky turns from light blue to lilac, many children would gather in the streets of our village and play. I was one of those kids — the girl wearing short hair that flew just right above my jawbone. Yes, I always had a boyish cut (it stayed that way because once it grew past my nose, my father would have it cut in a barber shop). Well-acquainted with every child in our street, I joined any game, running in the shorts and sleeveless shirt I wore under my school uniform in the morning.
My childhood was full of happy, adventurous moments: the first time I climbed up a sturdy mango tree, went up a roof to retrieve a ball that my playmates and I did not mean to put there, and jumped high over the Chinese garter. Sometimes I’d trip and fall. I’d get a painful wound that would later turn into a nasty scar.
Now that I am beginning to have a better understanding of things, I see my scars differently. The scars I once considered nasty have turned out to be marks of privilege I had when I was young, shiny, reddish reminders that my parents did not deprive me of my childhood. My scars are testimonies that silently bespeak the times I understood and felt the word home beyond its conventional meaning.
I have scars on both knees that I, as “it,” sustained from trying to outsmart and catch a playmate. I was taking a shortcut, and when I was sure I was going to get her, I tumbled with my face next to the ground. I did not cry, though deep inside I panicked because my knees were throbbing with intense pain. Our housekeeper who saw the incident immediately brought me to Papa Noel inside the house. I was afraid he was going to scold me, point out my clumsiness. But no, he asked me how I felt and treated my wound right away. He cleaned the wounded area with hydrogen peroxide, applied antiseptic, and put on a bandage. He did this every day for a week and a half. Since I could not stand properly — bending my knees hurt — I did not attend school for a week to speed up the healing process. Now, the wounds on my knees that used to cause me pain have become scars that remind me of my father’s care — of home.
My forehead, the inside part of my right leg, and lower part of left thigh just above the knee are dotted with scars. They were marks left by chickenpox. I felt lonely when I got infected with the highly contagious disease because I needed to stay indoors for a week, and even people inside the house needed to keep distance from me, all of them but Mama Tess. She took care of me, made sure I was taking the prescribed medicines, kept me hydrated, changed my clothing to keep me cool, and reminded me not to scratch the rashes (although from time to time I yielded to the temptation of easing the itch). Now, whenever I see my chickenpox scars, I remember the comfort my mother showered me — I remember home.
On my right arm, just below the elbow, is another scar. This one looks the ugliest, but it carries the happiest memory. I got it when I fell off the bicycle while Ate Grimpil was teaching me how to ride one. I used my arm to stop the fall and promptly got an aching wound, which expectedly turned into yet another scar. Nonetheless, this scar reminds me of the moments I bonded with my sister when we were younger. And possibly, this scar, like a tattoo, will become one with me forever, as a beautiful symbol not only of true friendship but of home as well.
For some, scars are barriers to beauty. For me, scars, my scars, make me beautiful.