A SCENE from the fantasy series Maria Clara at Ibarra — YOUTUBE.COM/GMANETWORK

THE PAST and present merge in GMA Network’s new fantasy series Maria Clara at Ibarra which premieres on Oct. 3.

Maria Clara at Ibarra is based on National Hero Jose Rizal’s two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, but unlike previous dramatic adaptations of the story, the series has fantasy and time travel aspects. It follows Maria Clara “Klay” Infantes (played by Barbie Forteza), a 21st century nursing student who overlooks her history lessons. When her professor gives her a magical copy of the Noli and Fili, she is transported back to the 1880s and meets the characters of the novels.

The story shifts between scenes set in the present and the Spanish colonial period, and tackles the socio-political and economic situation of that time.

“[Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are genius works because the issues faced by the main character is parallel to the issues at present…],” director Zig Dulay said in English and Filipino, during a press conference held on Sept. 23 at Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant in Intramuros, Manila.

Suzette Doctolero, the shows’ head writer and creative consultant, said the series has a feminist slant.

“At that time, hindi pa ipinag-aaral ang ang mga babae (women were not sent to study),” Ms. Doctolero said. “When I became a head writer at GMA, I knew that all my writing [projects would] lean on feminism.”

“With this, the stand of [Klay’s character] on education at that time when education was not available to women, was clear to me. There needed to be a stand about it,” she said.

The show stars Dennis Trillo as Crisostomo Ibarra, Julie Anne San Jose as Maria Clara, Rocco Nacino as Elias, Tirso Cruz III as Padre Damaso, Juancho Triviño as Padre Salvi, Gilleth Sandico as Doña Victorina, Lou Veloso as Professor Torres, David Licauco as Fidel, and Andrea Torres as Sisa. National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Ricky Lee serves as content development consultant for the series.

In the show, the main character, Klay, gets to interact with and be among the characters of Rizal’s two novels. She is challenged by the social norms of the past and gets to share 21st century practices and ideas.

Ms. Forteza — who studied in an alternative learning system in high school — said playing the role of Klay gave her the opportunity to immerse herself in the novels.

“…I will get to learn it now, portray it, and enter the word of [Noli and El Fili],” Ms. Forteza said in English and Filipino, adding that she is thankful to have access to what she missed as a student.

In preparation for the role, Mr. Trillo looked through online sources for how his character should look like. “I saw man variations, and I had options [for the look]. It was also important to study the script well to see the dynamics of merging past and present,” Mr. Trillo said in English and Filipino.

Preparations for the roles also included reading beyond the two novels and training with a Spanish language coach.

By watching the series, the show’s director Mr. Dulay hopes that the audience “gives importance to history” and that the show “elevates the conversations on love for country.”

“They will not only be entertained, but they will also learn,” Mr. Dulay said of Generation Z, which is its primary target audience. “It will not only end with learning. Similar to Klay’s character, action will be taken regarding issues she is faced with.”

The series’ theme song, “Babaguhin Ang Buong Mundo,” is performed by Julie Anne San Jose.

Maria Clara at Ibarra premieres on Oct. 3 on GMA Telebabad after 24 Oras.  — Michelle Anne P. Soliman