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My Grandmother Taught Me To Be Maria Clara

Devorah Esguerra

My Grandmother Taught Me To Be Maria Clara
a poem by Devorah Esguerra

A fan, low bun, baro’t saya, and a little handkerchief on her hand

My grandmother was embrace by grace and small smiles,

a bit of patience and full of faith

Women before her covered their charms underneath the silk Filipinianas

Little chuckles on wits and jokes, no one must heard their voice

As a guitar strum and a gentleman sang

They hide their beauty behind windows and chamber walls

And snuggled on their slumbers after a peek on their lover’s crumpled notes

But my grandmother was different.

She dressed for her own body and not for anyone to admire it

She laugh on silliness and all the funny things her lips would smile upon

She stayed behind the curtains as a man confess a love she thought was too bold

And she slept with dreams in her mind and courage in her heart

Leaving unread love letters and unheard love songs behind

She was told to act like Maria Clara —

A character every Filipina would admire

A story she read not only once but most of her life

Maria Clara was feminine and beautiful;

docile, quiet;

but would smile when her lover’s around;

subservient and calm

She was born to obey, they must say

But my grandmother never came close to her

She was too far from perfection

But too close to her own self.

She never acted like Maria Clara

Instead, she became Maria Clara —

A woman who is seen beyond what eyes can vision

A woman who is described beyond adjectives the author wanted to perceive

A woman who is portrayed more than just a perfect Filipina

Maria Clara was stubborn;

a heroine;

teasing and free;

smart, courageous;

loving and brave;

a lost soul,

but found herself in strength

Like my grandmother,

like a Filipina has always been.

My grandmother never asked me to act like her, but she taught me to be like her;

A woman that is more than just a character —

A woman of her own identity.

Maria Clara is a character from Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal. Her story revolves during the Spanish Colonial era, portraying the lives of every Filipina during the time. Over the years her character is idealized more than just an embodiment of a perfect Filipina and now portrayed as a strong independent Filipina who embraces her own identity.


Devorah is a Filipina, currently studying her pre-medical program at a State University. She is a former Student Council President during high school. A Campus Journalist for 7 years. She is currently a freelance writer, taking academic writing commissions. She is an active leader in her church's Youth Ministry doing religious outreach and programs.

Instagram: @devgeuns

Cover Photo Source: makandmayamakes on Instagram

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