“It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness.
We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”
On the last few days of 2012, I went back up to Kalinga. We made our way to the little tribe through fog, wet trails, and darkness. It felt weird coming back there. Nothing had changed (except for the tribal ban on gin), but I knew that I wasn't quite the same anymore.
Back in Manila, we'd often talk about that idea of never getting scars from happiness. I'd find other ways to preserve what I had learned from the Good Things that had come. I'd keep them in letters to friends, in writings on my hand, inside hugs, and in photographs. But they were never quite the same as having a scar.
So I decided to give myself a scar for happiness.
On that morning in the end of December, 92-year old Fang-Od used a thorn and some wood to hammer the ink just above my nape. It was an hour of pain, but my head was filled with happy thoughts--of seeing the Mona Lisa, the sound a shutter makes when the camera clicks, milk and cookie dates, being on a plane and seeing the city lights of home from your window, waves, sky, sunshine, love.
And while I was sitting there, I thought about how much I've had to struggle to keep and carry light. To keep believing in the good in a world that tells you otherwise is not a painless process. The happiest things in my life didn't come easy. I feel like I had to be brave to be happy. And now I have this in my skin--a tiny reminder of the value of having adventures, and of being gentle, and of staying foolish.
You should have seen mother's face when she saw it. It's a little sun beneath some tribal waves.
Happy New Year :)