How would Maria Clara live in the 21st century?
Graphic artist and illustrator Marian Hukom explores the concept of family, community, and the essence of today’s Filipina with Rizal’s female protagonist as her muse in her comics “Nagmamahal, Maria Clara.”
In this series, Maria Clara, the embodiment of the traditional dalagang Filipina archetype, finds herself literally and figuratively lost in the chaotic city swarming with liberal values completely alien to her.
“She has always been the ultimate model for us despite present-day norms becoming more liberal. Thus, it leaves women stumbling through modern society,” shares the 23-year-old artist.
In her quest to find her family and friends in the strange metropolis, the protagonist discovers that she has transformed into a person who now dictates her own fate. Instead of dismissing her past, she learns from her mistakes, draws strength from her rich heritage, and takes inspiration from other strong independent heroes in history.
Hukom, together with classmate Riza Malolos, initially created this concept as a thesis film requirement to complete their Multimedia Arts degrees in the School of Design and Arts of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
Through their initial exploration, the teammates realized that what was once a very personal project actually encompassed a bigger picture that affected fellow women everywhere.
As they delved deeper, Hukom and Malolos consulted with Grrrl Gang Manila, a group that aims to create a safe space for women. They likewise immersed themselves in the advocacy works of Hella Pinay, Kababae Mong Tao, and Gantala Press, all independent feminist platforms.
“Nagmamahal, Maria Clara” then became a platform to understand Maria Clara as Rizal’s symbolism of the colonized Philippines— beautiful, meek, and obedient.
Hukom advocates a common ground wherein reconstructing the spirit of the modern Filipina does not mean forgetting the subject’s core values.
“We can leave the hurtful or irrational traditions in the past. But we can honor it as a stepping stone in our growth,” she elaborates.
“We shouldn’t follow her footsteps because she was a product of her time. We have evolved from that. Times have changed and our model should, too. Instead, we can leave her in history and take her devotion and pure heart with us moving forward.”
“Nagmamahal, Maria Clara” currently has four issues, all available on view on local online comic hub penlab.ink.
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