Maria: The Embodiment of Filipina Femininity

I have chosen the stories of Maria Makiling and Mariang Sinukuan, although Philippine folklore still has lots of Marias like Maria Cacao of Cebu. Oftentimes famous stories about certain women in the Philippines have “Maria” as their first name, probably because of the Spanish influence of Christianity (obviously taken from Mary, the mother of Jesus). According to my own observations, most “Maria” characters depicted the ideal Filipina woman depending on the time these characters were invented – for example, Maria Clara. During the time of Jose Rizal, Maria Clara was the ideal Filipina woman – meek, religious, modest, and very beautiful.  Maria Clara is definitely different from Maria Makiling, but both of them really portray what Filipinos thought of their women back then.

These two women were described as follows: “Siya ay ubod ng ganda, kayumanggi, mahaba ang buhok, matangos ang ilong ngunit mahiwagang babae (Mariang Sinukuan),” and “She has light olive skin, long shining black hair and twinkling eyes. She was breathtakingly beautiful (Maria Makiling).” Although feminists would argue that women were only valued for superficial qualities like beauty, the divine feminine energy is actually also known as the “beauty-incarnate.” Women (or gays, I’m actually really generalizing here) have been endowed with delicate, soft, and curvy beauty and that’s what separates them from men who have angular or muscular appearances. Most women are attracted to things like Barbie dolls and makeup because they want to be beautiful. Sometimes we think that it is only the society that dictates that kind of behavior for girls. But personally, I have been attracted to pink, dresses, and to the idea of making myself beautiful even before I became aware that society, especially the media, sells the idea that women in themselves are not enough, so they have to wear makeup. Women (or feminine beings) are naturally beautiful and attracted to things that are beautiful, but the way society or the media twists that fact into something that makes women inferior frustrates me.

Going back to the topic, these two Marias were described to have a youthful beauty, long hair, Filipina features like tan skin, and an air of mystery. They were said to be diwatas, or fairies, that’s why I have come to the conclusion that long hair, beauty, and mystery makes up the ideal Filipino woman because diwatas are revered. I’ve noticed that women in folk tales always had to be beautiful, while men in folktales can get away with just being strong or clever. Somehow it has something to do with the evolutionary perspective that women are child-bearers so their beauty is important to make beautiful children, and men’s strong assets are their strength and cleverness because they are the providers of the family and they need to have these skills in order to keep their families alive. The description for Maria Makiling is really stereotypical of women (beauty, long hair, and an air of mystery), especially the mysteriousness because we can typically see in men the aggressiveness especially in getting what they want; while women, however, have a receptive, nurturing, and passive energy that’s why most of them are mysterious. But these are only generalizations, and our behaviors are not limited to our genders, because we all have feminine and masculine aspects of ourselves.

And as we may notice with these two Marias, they were depicted as the guardians of nature, much like Gaia or our mother earth. This is because the divine feminine energy represents these aspects in the universe: restoration, life, renewal, creation, birth, healing, receptivity, openness, nurturing, love, understanding, compassion, insight, intuition, wisdom, forgiveness, the moon, connection, harmony, and sensuality. Therefore, being a woman (or a feminine being) is not a shameful or inferior thing. It is a beautiful thing. We are life-bearers. We are creators. And we are healers. And these things are not only limited to diwatas like Maria Makiling and Mariang Sinukuan – they are already innate in us, maybe we are not just aware of it.

 Literature 161


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