The original Maria Clara from Dr. Jose Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" is considered by many as a delicate and subservient woman.
In "Maria Clara at Ibarra," however, Julie Anne San Jose portrays a Maria Clara that is more empowered, thanks in part to the influence of Klay.
Suzette Doctolero, the head writer of the series, explained this tweak to Maria Clara's character in an episode of "The Howie Severino Podcast."
"In-empower namin siya because hindi ako naniniwala na mahina siya katulad ng sinasabi ng marami," she said.
"The mere fact na nag-decide siya na kumbento o kamatayan, it means ang tapang-tapang niyang babae para sa panahon na 'yun, 'di ba?"
Doctolero is referring to Maria Clara's ultimatum to Padre Damaso towards the end of the novel. The priest, who was revealed to be her biological father, wanted to marry her to Linares after Ibarra's excommunication.
Maria Clara went along with it initially, but the news of Ibarra's death changed things for her. With Ibarra gone, she told Padre Damaso that she won't marry anyone—her future is inside the convent or the grave.
The priest relented, and in "El Filibusterismo," Maria Clara is already at the Royal Monastery of Saint Clare.
"'Yun 'yung aming sukatan, e, na 'Ah, dahil ganito si Maria Clara, kaya natin siyang i-empower dito kasi empowered 'yung choice niya naman doon sa dulo. Empowered for her 'yung choice na 'yun so kaya nating iangat pa," Doctolero said.
In the series, Klay introduced Maria Clara to progressive literature such as Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" set during the French revolution.
"I don't think ikagagalit ni Rizal 'yun kasi nandoon pa rin 'yun sa character ni Maria Clara, e. Inangat lang namin na hindi lang doon sa kamatayan o kumbento kundi mayroon dito, nagsimula na rito, di ba? Doon sa pagbabasa,
nanindigan na siya," Doctolero said.
"Maria Clara at Ibarra" added other scenes to show her as an empowered woman, such as when she refused to tell Ibarra to abandon his plans of establishing a school and when she told Ibarra her desire to teach.
In the latest episode, Maria Clara was the first to join Ibarra's call at the church, standing in the pew and shouting "Dinggin n'yo kami!"
"Maria Clara at Ibarra" airs on GMA Telebabad on weekdays after "24 Oras." The episodes are also livestreamed at GMANetwork.com/KapusoStream.
—MGP, GMA Integrated News