I am No Maria Clara
There is no thrill in trying to be gentle — to be compared to a fictional woman written by a man.
When we were young, we were told to be the ideal Filipina. Reading the books of the great Jose Rizal, and seeing how Ibarra pines for Maria Clara. And that was what our history teachers ingrained us to be. To be Maria Clara. To be as gentle as the leaves when they fall from the trees. To be as fair and white as the Sampaguita flowers seen on the outskirts of the cathedrals. To have the strands of our hair as dark as the night sky when the clock strikes twelve. And do not forget the clothing of us women! — make sure it is well kept and put together, reflecting our timid personalities. To keep a straight and petite posture, take as little room as possible, and speak only when spoken to. That is what it means to be the ideal Filipina. Ah, to be called a Maria Clara.
But I am no Maria-Clara. Nor do most of us wish to be one.
Growing up, I discovered the liberation to be as wild as the Rafflesias found in Nueva Ecija. There is no thrill in trying to be gentle — to be compared to a fictional woman written by a man. I wish to stay in the sun with my skin burnt and the different hues of my skin showing the adventures Maria Clara couldn’t dare to even imagine. I dream not to age flawlessly, but to go through life with freckles and lines across my face due to laughing at the everyday mysteries of life. I wish for my hair to have its own personality — refusing to straighten them and dying them instead with the wildest of curls and the most colorful of hues. No, I do not wish to blend in with the crowds, just as the heroine of Noli me Tangere would have done. I wish to stand out in the crowd. I would rather speak out rather than keep my thoughts to myself. I wish to be confident in my own skin, to embrace the last five pounds I’ve been begging to lose. To enjoy the Friday margaritas, the Saturday night drinks, and the weekend brunches.
I am no Maria Clara. I am my own ideal Filipina.