We have inherited our parents’ scars
Birthmarks that sting,
borne out of a history of strong brown backs standing straight,
pockmarked with smarting scabs.
We lash out in anger and pain at those who came before us,
until we begin to understand
how many hundreds of years it has been since
the wound was fresh.
I want to face my ancestors and ask:
How did you stand
……………..when Spanish bullets pierced your skin?
how did you walk
……………..through the fire of American cannons?
How did you plow the land of rice and mangoes
……………..with bleeding, burnt knuckles?
How can I have the same strength you had?
I can almost imagine their tan faces smiling at me,
feel the calloused fingers of my ancient lolas and lolos gently examining my own scars—their scars.
With their weathered hands guiding mine, we find the shrapnel, the bullet, and we slowly
extract the shards digging deep in our flesh.
I would not know where to begin healing
were it not for my ancestors
in whose great shadows,
that reached across
oceans and islands,
I took solace, when the scars stung under the sun.
We have inherited our parents’ scars,
still hurting but—
“Apo, our strength is already yours.”
—healed beyond our ancestors’ wildest dreams.
Karen-Luz is a Filipina-Canadian writer based in Toronto. She’s passionate about intercultural experiences and dialogue and loves discovering stories through reporting, radio production, and creative writing. Her work has been published in the Globe and Mail and Living Hyphen, a literary journal showcasing the art of hyphenated Canadians.
Katya Roxas is a Communications Officer at UBC Library who has experience with branding, content creation and social media. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Arts, specializing in graphic design and illustration, and a Diploma in Digital Marketing and Communications. Born and raised in the Philippines, Katya is well-versed with the sacrifices and opportunities that come with being an immigrant. Through her experiences, she strives to break the barriers of cultural misrepresentation by creating honest and inclusive visual expressions.