Maria Clara within the fashionable Philippines? This comedian book makes that point travel occur

Maria Clara from Noli Me Tangere is the idealized image of a Filipina. Full of finesse, grace and dignified beauty, she is on top of her mind when it comes to how a young lady should behave, wear herself in public and interact with men.

But her feminine demeanor has been used for so long, often to shame other Filipinas with this “magdamit Maria Clara upang hindi mabastos” line. This has led many to reconsider: does Maria Clara still embody what it is like to be a modern Filipina?

One thing is certain, Maria Clara is an icon and a role model, as resilient as she was on the pages of Jose Rizal‘s classic work. But if you are wondering how our favorite woman is doing with her Filipiniana and her fan in our time, then this comic book is for you.

Writer and illustrator Marian Hukom developed a story with Nagmamahal, the comic book series by Maria Clara, that continues Maria Clara’s life from the books to the busy and modern Philippines. In an interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, the 23-year-old comic artist tells how she saw Maria Clara back then and how we – men and women1 – should learn from her and get better.

How did you come up with the idea for Nagmamahal, Maria Clara? What was your inspiration for this?

Nagmamahal, Maria Clara was actually my college work! My thesis partner, Riza Malolosand I researched the Maria Clara archetype, the model that Filipinas follow. To be meek, obedient, and appropriately dressed. Although we are both from “conservative” communities, we were the opposite of that (haha!). We hated the way the model was carried over to us and we wanted to get rid of it through our thesis. So yes, basically our inspiration was our common complaint. However, research has made it clear to us that Maria Clara is a product of her time. Rizal literally wanted her to represent the Philippines under Spanish colonization, which is desirable but weak. Generations overlooked their tragic fate and passed it on as a tradition with a lack of thought. This created a rift between conservatives and liberals. To the point where they pound each other out lifestyle.

Marian Hukom and Riza Malolos

Maria Clara had brilliant qualities like her commitment to her values. Instead of getting rid of the model, we decided to build a new one. A model that could represent both liberal and conservative Filipina, but focuses on commitment and heart. Women should follow whatever beliefs they want. As long as they do it from their hearts, without stepping on anyone. We evolved from the old archetype Maria Clara and should leave it in the past as a stepping stone to learning.

How long have you been working on it

For work we worked on it for about a year. Our results were mainly two short films and the comic was just a complement with the same concept. But I decided to sell it in the comics section too, and it was surprisingly well received! So I continued it as a series and so far I’m still working on it. It’s in the fourth edition with the fifth on the way. I had to go to women-oriented fairs, connect with feminist organizations and learn a lot from comics. Glad I continued after college!

Nagmamahal, Maria Clara booth at Gandang Ganda Sa Sariling Gawa (GGSSG) by Gantala Press (Filipina Feminist Publisher)

What inspired you to take an artistic path in comics?

I originally wrote first and drawing was just a hobby. I loved writing stories and even wanted to be a journalist! But I got a scholarship from Benilde and MMA was the most attractive course available to me. So I took it and continued to improve my illustration skills. Then I combined it with my writing, which resulted in my comics! It was so much fun being able to write and draw my two favorite things at the same time that I kept doing it. I created my art pages, started posting, printed current books and now I’m here!

Your Instagram page is so much fun with your modern day illustrations playing with Filipino culture. Is that always part of your aesthetic?

I had to do a lot of research on Nagmamahal, Maria Clara, including looking at vintage Filipino clothing, re-reading Noli Me Tangere, and looking for reference photos of old Filipino barrios. I’ve even done field days traveling to Intramuros, the national museums and more. I finally fell in love with history, especially the Baro’t Saya! I’m so immersed in the details that they are over the top (haha!). So yeah, that wasn’t really part of my aesthetic at first. But I like to include my experiences in every piece I do, which is usually typical Filipino culture, so that I can understand how that is reflected in my art.

What would you like to convey to your readers through the story of Nagmamahal, Maria Clara?

Like my thesis concept, I just want women everywhere, even Maria Clara, to be free [live] their beliefs, lifestyle and choices. Instead of tearing each other down over our differences, let’s celebrate it. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone and we stay true to our hearts.

Marian speaks in Elbikon + Kwago

Do you have other stories for our readers to read?

In addition to Nagmamahal, Maria Clara, my first comic book Palaso is also there for reading. You can read both at Penlab, a comics platform with local comics and developers. There is so much good work out there so I recommend giving it a try!

See more of Marian’s works @marianieart on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter



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