For my Grandmother, Ina


In my family’s native tongue Tagalog, Ina translates to ‘mother’ and it’s what I referred my grandmother as. Not Grandma, not Nana, not nan- but Ina. One of my first childhood memories is of her pushing a shopping cart through the aisles in Value Village, scanning clothing racks for good deals or even better, vintage finds.

As I followed her through the store I remember Ina stopping to tighten the back of her earrings. They were a pair she wore nearly every day, but this was the first time I recall admiring them up close. Looking at them now they resemble a geometric flower and though their design is ambiguous, they’re beautiful.

My grandmother’s silver earring. (Anjelica Balatbat//Marked Magazine)

Last summer she gifted me with one of the earrings and I was ecstatic that she’d trust me with something she loved for so many years. Though she had lost the other earring of the pair some time ago, it’s still my favourite piece of jewellery in my collection.

I’ve always said if I got my sense of fashion from anyone in my family it was certainly from Ina, and that’s how her and I bonded. We’d go to thrift stores every weekend and we’d stay for hours before leaving with a shopping cart full of bags. I can’t recall a time where she didn’t love an outfit I styled, and that encouraged me throughout my life to wear whatever I felt good in.

She passed away last December and it was a sadness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Ina made such a big impact on how I express myself creatively and I wanted to memorialize her in a special way.

Since I only had a single earring to wear I reached out to my friend from high school who was a visual artist. I sent her pictures of the jewellery and had her draw up designs I could have tattooed.

A drawing of my grandmother’s earring. (Art courtesy Josephine Guan)

Now when I look at the drawing of Ina’s earring on the back of my arm, I’m reminded of the mark she left on my life.

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