María Clara

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María Clara
Noli Me Tángere character
Created by José Rizal
Gender Female
Occupation Monastic
Family Father Dámaso (father)
Doña Pia Alba (mother)
Significant other(s) Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin (fiancé)
Relatives Capt. Santiago de los Santos (stepfather)
Isabel (step-aunt)
Religion Catholic
Nationality Filipino
A crayon sketch of Leonor Rivera, the basis of the "María Clara" character in José Rizal's Noli Me Tángere.

María Clara, whose full name is María Clara de los Santos, is the mestiza heroine in Noli Me Tángere, a novel by José Rizal, the national hero of the Republic of the Philippines. Her name and character has since become a byword in Filipino culture for the traditionally ideal woman.

María Clara is the childhood sweetheart and fiancée of Noli Me Tángere's hero, Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, the son of Don Rafael Ibarra. Although raised as Santiago "Kapitan Tiyago" de los Santos' daughter, María Clara is the illegitimate offspring of Father Dámaso, a Spanish friar, and Doña Pía Alba. Doña Alba is the wife of Kapitan Tiyago, who are both native Filipinos. Father Damaso (also known as Padre Damaso) is known to Maria Clara as a godfather. María Clara never met her mother because Doña Alba died during the delivery of her daughter. She grew under the guidance and supervision of Tía Isabél, Kapitan Tiyago's cousin. While her boyfriend Crisostomo Ibarra was travelling in Europe, Kapitan Tiyago sent her to the Beaterio de Santa Clara, a convent where she developed femininity under religion. Later in the novel, María Clara discovers the truth that Father Damaso is her biological father.


In the novel, María Clara is regarded as the most beautiful and widely celebrated lady in the town of San Diego. María Clara, being religious, the epitome of virtue, "demure and self-effacing" and endowed with beauty, grace and charm, was promoted by Rizal as the "ideal image"[1] of a Filipino woman who deserves to be placed on the "pedestal of male honor". In Chapter 5 of Noli Me Tángere, María Clara and her traits were further described by Rizal as an "Oriental decoration" with "downcast" eyes and a "pure soul".[2]

Basis and adaptation[edit]

Rizal based the fictional character of María Clara from his real-life girlfriend and cousin Leonor Rivera. Although praised and idolized, María Clara's chaste, "masochistic" and "easily fainting" character had also been criticized as the "greatest misfortune that has befallen the Filipina in the last one hundred years".[1][3] In fashion in the Philippines, María Clara's name has become the eponym for a Filipino national dress for females known as the María Clara gown, an attire connected to María Clara's character as a maiden who is delicate, feminine, self-assured and with a sense of identity.[4]

María Clara's song by José Rizal[edit]

Sweet the hours in the native country,
where friendly shines the sun above!
Life is the breeze that sweeps the meadows;
tranquil is death; most tender, love.
Warm kisses on the lips are playing
as we awake to mother's face:
the arms are seeking to embrace her,
the eyes are smiling as they gaze.
How sweet to die for the native country,
where friendly shines the sun above!
Death is the breeze for him who has
no country, no mother, and no love!

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vartti, Riitta (editor). Preface to the Finnish anthology Tulikärpänen - filippiiniläisiä novelleja (Firefly - Filipino Short Stories), Kääntöpiiri: Helsinki, Finland 2001/2007
  2. ^ Yoder, Robert L. Philippine Heroines of the Revolution: Maria Clara they were not,, July 16, 1998
  3. ^ The History of Filipino Women's Writings, an article from Firefly - Filipino Short Stories (Tulikärpänen - filippiiniläisiä novelleja), 2001 / 2007, retrieved on: April 2, 2010
  4. ^ Moreno, Jose "Pitoy". Costume at the Fin de Siecle - Maria Clara, Philippine Costume,

External links[edit]