Maria Clara Speaks (pre-memoir)

[For Master’s Thesis Project]

As being part of the inaugural class for the M.A. in Biography and Memoir program at The Graduate Center, CUNY, I will be pursuing a memoir for my thesis project.

The working title is Maria Clara Speaks; part personal story, part literary analysis, part excavation of heritage, lineage, and history.

Maria Clara is a character from José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, a novel first published in 1887 that would become a part of the Philippine revolution against Spanish rule that lasted for more than 300 years. I read the Penguin Classics edition (translated by Harold Augenbraum) from 2013-2016, during a time when I was searching for my Filipino identity through literature. I was surprised to learn that this female character, written by a man of his time, stood as my only representation in books for more than a century–the demure, pious, obedient young woman serving as the love interest of the hero Crisostomo Ibarra–known to be “the ideal Filipina”.

I will be working on this project in two-fold. One side will focus on the academic and historical research on Rizal’s novel: who/what were Rizal’s literary and real-life influences; critiques on the novel and Rizal’s other literary works; Philippine history during Spanish colonization and American occupation, in relation to gender roles and politics; and how the character of Maria Clara transformed into an archetype that would enter the Filipino consciousness of how Filipinas should and are expected to conduct themselves, and the intergenerational conflicts surrounding this idealization among family and community members (particular focus on Filipino Americans).

The other side, which is the main reason why I started this sub-blog, is to share my (semi-filtered but let’s-keep-it-real) reflections on the research and recollections of how I came to (almost) embody the Maria Clara archetype… basically, “the fun stuff” of writing.

Some of what I write under this sub-blog may eventually become part of my manuscript for the memoir, which I hope to publish in the near future, when all of this comes together. It is in my hope that this memoir helps to expand on the ever-growing Filipino American literature for representation and to reach out to any other Maria Clara-esque Pinay that needs to hear and tell her own story.

Follow the Instagram account (@maria.clara.speaks), for updates on the project and graduate school confessions!

[updated 07/29/2020; thesis project description may change, under the discretion of the author, so that its purpose becomes more coherent and intellectual-sounding.]