What started out as a thesis requirement for school turned out as a laudable project, much larger than they ever thought possible.
Marian Hukom and Riza Malolos initially delved into the world of Maria Clara — the mestiza heroine of Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo — for their college film thesis.
Together, they pored over articles and clippings, pages and books — not to mention paintings and sculptures, exhibits and shows — of the once-upon-a-time ideal Filipino woman during the Spanish regime.
“Maria Clara is a character from Jose Rizal’s novels, but she is also a model for women before, up until now. Meek, demure and traditional, she became a paragon for Filipino women,” Marian said as a premise.
The duo, Multimedia Arts students from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde (CSB), took this concept and developed her Maria Clara’s admirable traits — a modern-day Filipino woman who could be conservative or liberal, but with a faithful dedication to her values.
The possibilities were endless, as she could represent the womenfolk of our country. The results were two short films, plus a bonus comic book, Nagmamahal, Maria Clara (NMC), that explored the same themes.
And that was supposed to be the end of Marian and Riza’s mission. After all, it was only a one-year project, just finish the course, then graduate, that was it, end of story.
However, Marian decided to debut the first issue of Nagmamahal, Maria Clara in one of the several colorful, independent publishing circuits and conventions in the country.
The initial release was in 2017 at Komura; Bookfair, organized by Kwago, a community bookstore and publishing lab. It was successful.
“We continued NMC as an online feminist platform. We had campaigns, stickers and other materials that spread awareness on women-oriented issues,” said Marian.
One of the fruits of this campaign was #WomenWednesday, a zine that discussed various issues and opinions from interviews with women and their organizations.
Marian and, at times, Riza, collaborated with other conventions such as the Gandang Ganda Sa Sariling Gawa (GGSSG) by Filipina feminist publisher Gantala Press and a women-oriented fair by Kababae Mong Tao.
By then, the author had likewise launched NMC’s second and third issues.
The fourth and latest installment of NMC was released at the highly-anticipated Komiket, an independent art market for Filipino comic book makers, artists and enthusiasts.
Palaso, a piece which was likewise written and illustrated by Marian that delves on Dark Cupid — who pulls out arrows from people who are trying to move on — was hailed with the Best Student Komiks Award in 2018 by the same organization.
Today, the 23-year-old Marian works as a full-time graphic artist while dabbling on comics. A self-confessed Virgo who is a busybody and a voracious reader, she likes to keep busy while expanding her hobbies. Amid the pandemic, she has dived into embroidery, accessory-making with polymer clay and resin and zine-collaging.
“But I end up coming back to comics since it’s a combination of my two favorite things — writing and drawing,” she said.