Friday, June 6, 2008

With Downcast Eyes: Why Maria Clara deserves to be six feet underground...

Maria Clara- delicate, demure, self effacing... the ideal Filipina image forever immortalized by Jose Rizal in his then controversial novel Noli Mi Tangere. To a typical Juan dela Cruz, she was the very epitome of an ideal Filipina. She is the type any guy would dream to bring home to their moms. She was the woman every lady dreams to be and every guy dreams to have.

On the other hand, I beg to differ. Coming from a family who values independence, success and education, I felt blessed I was raised the way I am. Had I been born a century ago, I might have succumbed to the same sad fate as Maria Clara did in that novel. Thus, I believe the Maria Clara ideal deserves to be buried deep into the recesses of forgetfulness like our national hero was buried six feet underground.

Sadly enough, people still choose to relive this ideal through movies, novels and what nots. She was either the lady love of the hero in FPJ movies who steadfastly waits to be swept off her feet or be rescued from the clutches of the evil villain or the meek and tragic heroine who allows herself be walked all over by the "contrabida" (Think "Sarah: Ang munting Prinsesa"). And these roles are appropriately given to mestizas, reminiscent of the original martyr herself, Maria Clara.

Nobody could really blame people like me for trashing that notion. First of, she was in every way, the symbol of oppression: meek, submissive and overly phlegmatic. She was in everyway a representation of our country during the Spanish regime. I guess Rizal creating such a weak, feminine persona, serves such purpose yet, still I cannot figure out why she was chosen to represent the ideal Filipina woman. We could have chosen someone like Gabriela Silang who screams "Girl Power" and "Hoy! Pinoy ako!" at the same time instead of someone who can't even speak her mind, if she has one. Even her signature garments were emblematic of a Filipina's loss of freedom, control over one's destiny and literally freedom of movement. Who'd be happy to be in piles and piles of petticoats and a big organza shawl in a hot, tropical country? But did they complain? No... And even if they did, they couldn't do anything about it. It was the only option back then. NOw I know why they rarely smile in their pictures.

Moreover, she's not even pure Filipina. Just in case you haven't figured that out yet, she's the love child of Padre Damaso, the Spanish friar, and her mother. So that explains her mestiza features. So, why again do we consider her a picture of Pinay beauty? Why send out Spanish or Chinese mestizas to represent our country in prestigious beauty pageants such as Ms. World or Ms. Universe? I'll leave the judgement to you fellow readers.

I do not demean the others who still look up to her as one of the greatest pinay icons in history. In fact, I guess anyone can learn a thing or two from her. For starters, there's simplicity, and upholding one's dignity as a woman. Though I see nothing wrong with showing a little bit of skin, there is still a clear distinction between being sexy and being down right sleazy. I guess girls today should know when to draw the line between them. Learn to cover up sometimes. And less make up is always more.

But other than that, there's nothing more to Maria Clara than an glamourized caricature of women in her time--unworthy of the icon status she has enjoyed for more than a century.

I do not demean others who still look up to her for divine inspiration on how to be a woman... Though I honestly pity them. Being a woman doesn't necessarily mean you're less valuable or subordinate. We women in fact have the power to change lives and to make a choice. It is up to us to choose to make a choice ourselves. We don't need men or other people to know our worth as a woman and an individual. This is, after all, the 21st century...

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