05 June 2015

+JMJ+

Character Connection 50


Hosted @ The Introverted Reader

If you had to create an original superhero who embodied the best about your country, what would that superhero's defining power be?

When I first decided that The Filipino Heroes League of Giveaway Option 31 would be providing a member for a Character Connection post, my choice was between my two favourite supers--both of whom are wonderful embodiments of the cross between local talent and local aspiration. I certainly didn't think I'd end up picking my least favourite of the team. But serendipity and my subconscious should carry the day more often, because it wasn't until I had finished writing about her that I realised how much about her there is to like.


Maria Constantino
The Filipino Heroes League, Book One: Sticks and Stone
by Paolo Fabregas

"So you were the voice?"

"Yes . . . Sorry for the deception, but I really needed you guys to listen."

"Where's your grandfather?"

"He was killed . . . by the Republic Heroes."

"Now those Republic asses are tough, but it's hard for me to believe that they could outlast that old man. He could get into their heads and turn them into drooling idiots in a second."

"I know but . . . he was distracted . . . by
me. I fought with him but I was overwhelmed and he died saving me. I'm here because I'm looking for answers. These Republic heroes seem like they're out to kill supers. I want to find out why."

Ah, the "token girl"! =P A feminist reading of "Sticks and Stones" might not be very kind to Maria Constantino. She embodies a lot of stereotypes that we're supposed to be really tired of.

First off, she's definitely got the Dream Girl thing going on, being a dead ringer for the gorgeous actress whom Invisiboy is infatuated with. And since it is hinted that these two supers may end up together, she's holding the Love Interest card as well. She also has solid Princess cred, as the granddaughter of one of the most revered founding members of the Filipino Heroes League. But I'd say the most damning interesting thing about her is that her role in the current FHL lineup is best described as Glorified Secretary--which is, of course, merely the corporate incarnation of the Housewife. Yes, Maria has powers of her own and is a formidable telepath . . . but what she can do on a mission is less important than her tasks of passing on the mysterious Mr. X's orders and keeping the FHL's secret headquarters . . . and their suits . . . in perfect working order. (ROFLMAO!)

Not that I have any problem with that! I think that even the most realistic characters can be recognised as archetypes, and that we end up with the same ones over and over again the same way we end up with the same moral laws over and over again: they're just part of the pattern of the universe. Even the types that we think we made up ourselves have ancient roots: the Kick-butt Heroine who annoys me so much is only the latest descendant of the one-breasted Amazons . . . a lapsed devotee of St. Joan of Arc . . . a Gabriela Silang who doesn't need to marry a general to end up leading an army. But I think our age is mistaken in encouraging strength and competitiveness in our girls at the expense of nurturing, gentleness, and grace. An imbalance that we do not see in Maria Constantino.

While our lovely telepath certainly has a bit of Gabriela in her, truly coming into her own as a warrior after a male family member with authority over her is murdered, it is another woman from the Philippine pantheon whose "daughter" she truly is. If you've ever wondered what Maria Clara would be like in modern-day Philippines, look no further! =D

Well, okay, regular Shredded Cheddar readers have probably never wondered, but I'd like to think that fellow Filipinos coming across this post have just had their eyes bug out of their heads. While they're putting them back in, here's a quick explanation . . . Maria Clara de los Santos y Alba is a character from nineteenth-century Philippine literature: a beautiful, modest, religious, obedient, faithful, compassionate young woman who is supposed to represent the Ideal Filipina, according to her creator (and according to all the high school teachers who have had to assign the text since then). In her original incarnation, Maria's sphere of agency and influence was tiny: she could give generous alms to the poor and diffuse fights before they turned deadly . . . but that was about it. Nearly 130 years later, she's a freaking telepath saving her country from the most powerful enemies it has ever seen. And she totally rocks a mini skirt and thigh-high boots! 

In other words, the very typical Maria Constantino is not so typical after all! But if you've been conditioned to expect only a certain twist in your heroines, you'll totally miss it.

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Image Source: The Philippine Heroes League, Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas

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