The first movie I ever watched as a kid was a Looney Tunes one in Greenhills where I remember my dad taking me. One scene I recall getting excited over was the one with Marvin The Martian. During the mid-afternoon with my lola (grandmother), I would watch Piling-Piling Pelikula (Carefully Selected Movies in English) on IBC-13 and I would see this petite superhero clad in a swimsuit. The movie was Darna and it was in black and white. I especially loved the version with Vilma Santos fighting off the giants (Darna and The Giants). Soon I was watching betamax tapes of Superman (the first), 2, 3 and 4 at home. With my much older female cousins who love Filipino movies, I was able to watch Captain Barbel (with Herbert Bautista-Edu Manzano in the lead) where I saw Darna again in the form of Sharon Cuneta. It would take a few more years for the character to resurface in the form of Nanette Medved and Anjanette Abayari who I consider as the most voluptuous one onscreen.
When broadcast networks of Philippine television finally started reprogramming (finally producing locally-made shows) in a big way in the ’90s, the much loved drama and comedy shows gave way to other types of programs such as action and adventure that would normally cost so much to produce. Mars Ravelo‘s creation — Darna — got that chance when Angel Locsin was chosen to play the character. It could have been anyone and the Filipino public would still embrace Darna back in the new millennium.
As I mentioned, the superhero was already played by more than one Filipino actress in the past, so anyone taking on the role of Darna will always be appreciated for the fighting spirit that she represents in all of us. In the past, the superhero character was taken on by Rosa del Rosario, Vera Perez, Gina Pareno, and even Lorna Tolentino. The latest actress to wear the costume is Marian Rivera who will fly to the skies anytime soon.
Interestingly, though, the most eye-catching person to wear the Darna costume is not a woman, but a kid — the notoriously funny wonderboy Nino Mulach who appeared as Ding in one of Vilma Santos’ Darna movies. In the film, Vilma is chained to the wall and the young Nino takes matters into his own hands, er, mouth… the stone, that is. A minor explosion ensues, then lo and behold, the visual distraction that is Ding in a Darna costume, flying no higher than 10 feet to the horror of the then skinny German Moreno.
The idea that a small stone from space can turn an ordinary person into someone special made me recall what my old auntie once told me about Filipino provincial life in the time of the Spaniards. With superstition abound in the landscape, the mostly farming folks of various barangays back then would have no one to leave their young since even extended household members would help in the fields. Since Filipinos feared what they couldn’t see more than the living, so-called anting-antings where discreetly entrusted to little ones in whatever form the talisman may be in — a stone that’s tied around the waist, a stone safely tucked in a pocket, etc.