What is the essence of a modern Filipina? This was the question raised by 23-year-old graphic artist and illustrator Marian Hukom in her comics Nagmamahal, Maria Clara, which explores the concept of family, community and what makes a Filipino woman in the 21st century.
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,” Marian stressed.
In her quest to find her family and friends in the strange metropolis, the protagonist discovered that she has transformed into a person who now dictated her own fate. Instead of abolishing her past, she learned from her mistakes, drew strength from her rich heritage and took inspiration from other strong independent heroes in history.
Marian, 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.
Nagmamahal, Maria Clara became more than just slices of their lives, but a platform to understand Maria Clara as Rizal’s symbolism of the colonized Philippines, beautiful, meek, and obedient. Marian advocates for a common ground wherein reconstructing the spirit of the modern Filipina does not mean abolishing 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 elaborated. “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.”
As they delved deeper, Marian and Riza 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 currently has four issues, all currently available on view on local online comic hub penlab.ink.