You might wonder how Maria Clara, a fictional character of the 19th century and the ideal feminine hero of the Philippines influences the lives of the youth today. In the third episode of the Girl Power Talk podcast, a fiercely passionate panel with young adults from all over the Philippines–Jesse, Dennise, Kurtney, Anjo, Cate and Rafiel, along with host Cheska Kapunan–discuss just this. Maria Clara may not be the most relevant model today, but her vastly admired personality still embodies feminine ideals that are widespread throughout society.
How often do we find ourselves influenced by the projections and personas all around us? Give it a thought and you’ll notice how people often gravitate towards placing others into boxes and stereotypes, limiting them to orthodox gender roles. Maria Clara stood to be the much-admired example of what every Filipino woman should be–beautiful, obedient, graceful, demure. While her name may not directly be heard in the echoes of a household, these ideals tend to remain true for young girls as they’re growing up. Pulled away from doing anything considered masculine as children, girls are often encouraged to pay more attention to dressing modestly or talking politely. Ironically, expectations that have carried forward are based on a fictional character written by a man! At the same time, it also plays into how opposing standards were imposed on men, who were and unfortunately still are sometimes expected to be assertive, emotionless, and always capable of being leaders and providers.
This engaging discussion moves to a starkly different Filipino woman–Gabriela Silang–a lionhearted military leader, symbolizing strength and amplifying her voice. Through the changing times, women have also become open to raising their voices and speaking up for what matters to them. Gabriela’s principles capture the essence of this change.
The team members talk about how each of us should proudly exhibit who we are and stay true to our unique personalities. While both these women signify distinct values and characters, they symbolize how being a woman is not just limited to one thing but rather a specter of possibilities, waiting to be discovered. They emphasize how it’s more important to be comfortable in your own skin and do things that you truly abide by, rather than trying to please others–something commonly expected from women.
From bold and intelligent family members to inspiring Filipino women leaders like Leni Robredo, the panel covers a lively discussion on how more and more women in the Philippines are evolving to speak up for themselves and be equal contributors to society. They serve as the next set of role models for many growing Filipino girls and women today. In fact, when women are empowered as they are, each one will shine through as an inspiration and collectively drive the change that society needs today.