In 1951, Rosa del Rosario delighted Filipino viewers as the first actress to portray the role of Mars Ravelo’s titular heroine, Darna. In the following years and decades, different actresses have taken on Darna’s mantle to entertain and inspire Filipinos of all ages.
Nearly every Filipino has a core memory of Darna, whether reading the comics, dressing up as her, or watching the films or series. This 2022, Jane de Leon took on the responsibility of furthering the heroine’s legacy in the present and future generations.
Excitement welled up in Jane as she received the casting call for the titular role. However, things didn’t go as planned with the pandemic and the network shutdown affecting its production. Still, Jane did not lose hope.
After a meeting on the fate of Darna, the bosses of ABS-CBN broke the news to Jane, surprised that she wasn’t at all fazed by the decision. The young actress shared she only needed to wait for the right time and role as another opportunity to springboard her career. True enough, Darna returned to her grasp with an even more star-studded cast and production team.
Directors Chito S. Roño, Avel E. Sunpongco, and Benedict Mique lend their creative minds to creating Mars Ravelo’s Darna.
Jane wasn’t the only one who received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Darna. Actress Iza Calzado also stars in the series as Leonor, the first Darna. Iza auditioned for the role years before, but Angel Locsin landed the part. Like Jane, time and fate brought her back to portraying Darna on the small screen.
The modern retelling of Darna adds elements of dramatic flair but ultimately stays true to the original concept from the comics. But who is Darna in real life? Mars Ravelo’s son, Rex Ravelo, sheds some light on his father’s inspiration for the heroine.
As a child raised by a single parent, the late Ravelo was in awe of his mother and how she managed to sustain them throughout the years while only depending on herself. His mother instilled an image in Ravelo of a strong, independent woman. Eventually, Darna was born through paper and ink.
Other elements of Darna draw from Philippine themes. Aside from the strong Bayanihan bond from the superheroine’s good deeds, the magically-imbued stone represents agimat, a significant part of traditional Pinoy culture. Ravelo shared that when Darna swallows the stone, it goes to her heart, allowing her to transform and use her powers whenever she shouts the iconic line, “Darna!”
Ravelo added that his father created Darna as a woman without a weakness. The stone doesn’t leave her body, and she only has to shout, “Narda!” to switch back to her mortal self. However, someone from production suggested giving her a weakness to make it more interesting. Thus, the concept of the stone leaving Darna’s body was born. It also gave whoever played Ding, Narda’s brother, a more relevant part in the movie or series.
Mars Ravelo’s Darna takes flight today, August 15, Monday, replacing FPJ’s: Ang Probinsyano in its regular time slot.