Travel back into Jose Rizal’s fictional world with the quirky and outspoken Gen Z, Klay, in GMA’s historical drama, Maria Clara at Ibarra.
GMA’s modern adaptation of Jose Rizal’s famous novel Noli Me Tangere is a massive hit so far with almost 50 episodes. Maria Clara at Ibarra’s compelling storytelling of the revolutionary icon has caught the mind and hearts of many young people. It effectively bridges the gap between reality and fiction as well as history and the present through the perspective of a stubborn yet hardworking middle-class college student.
As I was scrolling through endless Maria Clara at Ibarra fan edits on TikTok a week ago, I thought of watching the pilot episode just to get the hype. I surprisingly ended up binge-watching the whole thing for a week straight. The show amazingly brings together elements of romance, drama, comedy, and patriotism that we normally do not get from primetime teleseryes. And for those who still question their Filipino classes and Rizal electives, Maria Clara at Ibarra will prove how far your knowledge of Filipino literature will get you in life.
Here’s why you should watch GMA’s ‘Maria Clara at Ibarra’
Disclaimer: Minor spoilers ahead.
A student’s perspective
The show follows the story of the protagonist Maria Clara “Klay” Infantes (Barbie Forteza), a busy nursing student who works part-time. As she struggles to manage her low-paying job and family problem, Klay fails to finish reading Noli Me Tangere for her Rizal class. Klay’s objective take on life led her to underestimate the importance of her minor subject to her dream as an OFW nurse. This prompted the professor to give her a chance by handing her a worn-out copy of the novel. This eventually took her into the fictional world, meeting the characters herself.
Klay is meant to be depicted as us, the audiences, as we look into Rizal’s works. Many of us were required to read Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in high school. It was honestly a headache getting through all the kabanata (chapters) with the deep Tagalog words and poetic format. In fact, we relate to Klay whenever she struggles to understand the characters’ Spanish conversations. It is a shame that I ended up not appreciating the novel as much as I should have.
Hence, the show Maria Clarra at Ibarra provides that visual and modern storytelling. This eventually entices students to understand the story and know more about the characters. As it promotes the importance of the Filipino language and History, it also encourages education and critical thinking. Furthermore, what better way to tell a story than being in the story, yourself?
Itong paaralang pinaplano kong ipatayo’y tiyak na makakatulong upang maiangat ang kaisipan ng mga kabataan, lalaki man o babae, lalo na’t ang kamangmangan ay isang uri ng pang-aalipin. Edukasyon lamang ang tanging susi upang ang mga mangmang ay maliwanagan.
[This school that I’m planning to build will surely help in developing the minds of the youth, whether they are boys or girls, especially given that ignorance is a type of slavery. Education is the only key to enlighten the illiterate.]Crisostomo Ibarra
Just like Crisostomo Ibarra (Dennis Trillo), the national hero suffered as he strived to educate Filipinos. As we all know, Rizal wrote thought-provoking novels with the aim to expose the injustices under the Spanish colonization. In return, his works became the reason for his tragic demise.
Maria Clara at Ibarra emphasizes the connection of the stories’ injustices to modern injustices. This enabled Klay to empathize with the characters as they fight for their rights and freedom. Given our protagonist’s experience with his abusive stepfather, she does not think twice about defending the women. Of course, we stan a feminist main character!
Hindi ka mahina, Maria Clara, at lalong hindi superiyor ang mga lalaki sa iyo. Malakas ka at kayang-kaya mo maging higit pa sa pagiging anak, jowa, at asawa lang. Sinasabi ko na sa iyo ‘yan eh. Kaya rin nating mga babaeng mangarap nang mas mataas pa sa ating mga sarili at sa ating kapwa.
[You are not weak, Maria Clara, and men are most especially not superior than you. You are strong and capable to be more than just a daughter, girlfriend, or wife. I have been telling you this. We, women, can also dream higher than ourselves and others.]– Klay
Aside from domestic violence and sexism, the show also tackles the power imbalance between the Church and its people. Rizal controversially revealed the hypocrisy of the religious with their actions towards the poor. Moreover, it also discusses the importance of education and freedom of expression. This is a part of our history that will truly push us to appreciate what we could enjoy today.
Klay’s subtle comedic relief
Modern twists to classic shows and movies always involve a bit of comedy to stray away from its seriousness and tense scenes. For that, we have Klay bringing in a bit of Gen Z attitude and references into the historical drama. Imagine teaching Ibarra the word, “Marites”.
Barbie’s portrayal of the quirky main character added to the accuracy of the acting. Her natural flair for comedy provided a sense of relief all throughout the stressful scenarios in the story. Despite Klay’s frustratingly stubborn and impulsive outbursts, we get to love her kindness and approachable character. She is a breath of fresh air in the show, and I love her for that.
FiLay’s slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance
The moment we have all been waiting for. After several episodes of them arguing, Ibarra’s amigo Fidel (David Licauco) and Klay finally met together halfway. And we all know bookworm psychopaths like me love the angst of a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance. Thus, I cannot help but feel the kilig watching the playboy Fidel make romantic advances on Klay.
Despite the flustering courtship between the two, we also expect a possibly forbidden and complicated relationship between Klay and Fidel. What will happen to them once Klay finishes the novel? Will Fidel have to continue a life without her or is there something hidden behind his character in the series? I guess we just have to find out in the next episodes of Maria Clara at Ibarra.
Casts’ superb acting
I was utterly shocked at how the actors perfectly executed their roles in Maria Clara at Ibarra. It truly suits their style of acting, especially Barbie. Her versatility in both comedy and drama shines in this series. In addition, Julie Ann San Jose’s role as the gentle and graceful Maria Clara adds a bit of an adventurous edge to her stereotypical obedient character.
On the other hand, Andrea Torres‘ portrayal of the longing mother Sisa trended for a reason. Imagine crying for that long and incorporating Sisa’s loss of sanity. It must have been difficult for anyone to perform the way Andrea did. Not to mention, I have also had my fair share of experience playing Sisa back in high school. Thus, Andrea’s incredible acting definitely had me in tears.
While I hate the characters, I also have to include their superb performance in their roles as villains in the show. Padre Damaso (Tirso Cruz III) and Padre Salvi (Juancho Triviño) absolutely did a great job of making people angry. Their depiction of the two most hated characters in Philippine literature was spot on. Hence, they will literally make you question the ideas you were made to believe in.
Are you convinced now? Watch the latest episodes of Maria Clara at Ibarra from Mondays to Fridays at 8:00 PM on GMA 7.
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Lea Briones' love for writing and reading books led her to the path of journalism, molding her to become the outspoken feminist she is today. At fifteen, she already knew she wanted to be a writer as she aspires to be her own version of the hopeless romantic it girl, Carrie Bradshaw. This introverted Virgo sun, Leo moon, and Libra rising is an astrology enthusiast and an avid crystal collector who found solace and comfort in writing her thoughts and innermost feelings.