If you've already seen Spider-Man: No Way Home, you'd know that there's a particular scene that made every Filipinos' ears perk up. Minor spoilers ahead.
A little after the midway point of the film, we meet Ned Leeds' (Jacob Batalon) grandmother, as she briefly steals the scene with an exchange with Spider-Man as she boldly instructs him in Filipino. Though the moment was brief, there's a certain pride in knowing that Filipinos don't need subtitles to understand the context.
The cameo has since solidified itself in fans' minds everywhere, with first-time actress Mary Rivera perfectly capturing the fierceness of the lolas in our life — Spider-Man sighting be damned.
One such fan reaction that's captured the Internet's eye is that of Filipino illustrator and animator Ben DeGuzman, who made a series of comic book covers with Ned's grandmother as the titular role.
With the imagined comic series titled the Further Adventures of Ned's Lola, DeGuzman's pieces see Rivera taking on Spider-Man villains such as The Green Goblin, Carnage, Venom, and more with her handy tools like the walis (broom), karaoke machine, tsinelas (slippers), and the ever-present Efficascent oil.
"Knowing Jacob Batalon is a Filipino was already inspiring me to create art," Ben shared with PhilSTAR L!fe. "I just assumed the movies would never even address that Ned's nationality, or introduce anybody in his family."
"Then came No Way Home to prove me wrong. Immediately when I saw Ned's Lola, I thought I absolutely have to draw her."
As an artist himself, Ben knew that he wanted to see that moment come to life, and he had the talents and skills to do just that.
"The most prominent thought was that, in this cinematic universe, at some point, Peter Parker was at Ned's house. And for sure, Ned's Lola has fed Peter Adobo or Pancit. Then more ideas came to my head where I thought, what if she fed all the Peters from the different universes at the same time?"
But Ben held his tongue and pen from sharing any fan art just yet, as he watched the film on its first-day release. As more and more people started to watch the film, however, Ben's curiosity grew alongside it and he began to brainstorm the scene with fellow artists.
"I was talking to my fellow animator friend, Jeremy, and he mentioned that he wanted to see Lola pull out the walis and I responded 'to fight Sandman with.' That's where it all clicked."
Soon enough, Ben's mind reeled with the possibilities of Ned's grandmother fighting off Spider-Man baddies, and he went back to the original source material to get it just right: "I started looking at old Spider-Man covers specifically as reference to emulate this. Once I did a rough sketch, I would immediately show my wife Gail to see if she thought it was funny or if she responded to it positively."
True enough, Ben's illustrations are reminiscent of the earlier Spider-Man covers, from its lighting, composition, to the uncanny price of just P99 per 'comic.'
Ben's work has since reached far and wide on the online sphere with thousands of likes and reshares of Rivera's sassy Lola character taking on Marvel's famous villains. Though his viral pieces are the brainchild of an artist's wandering mind, it was only because the iconic scene stole his heart.
"The part with Ned and his Lola was the most meaningful scene in all the Marvel films for me. For one, I'm a comic book geek through and through. I rarely see myself in any movie, much less a superhero film," Ben shared.
I no longer had to question if I could even exist in this fantastic universe, because I already did!
"Even though these films are fantasy, you want to be able to connect with these characters. So 100% when that scene played out, I saw my younger self. I was a chubby Filipino-American kid like Ned."
"My Lola was a huge part of my upbringing, like Ned. I've been in so many houses that look like Ned's. I no longer had to question if I could even exist in this fantastic universe, because I already did!"
As for the best feedback he's received so far? Getting his art prints bought by Mary Rivera herself! With the elder actress having no social media of her own, her family members caught wind of the viral posts and sent it over to her excitement.
"I still can't believe that happened. It made everything worth it."