A new Darna takes flight

A SCENE from the new adaptation of Darna played by Jane De Leon.

AFTER the decision was finally made over whether to produce the new adaptation as a film or TV series (television won out), and who the actress to don the famous costume would be, the Pinoy superheroine Darna flies again beginning Aug. 15.

The character of Darna was created by writer Mars Ravelo and artist Nestor Redondo, with her first appearance in Pilipino Komiks in 1950. The story follows a girl called Narda who sees a falling star one evening and sets out to find where it landed. She finds the meteor and swallows the white stone which has “Darna” inscribed on it. She transforms into a superheroine upon yelling “Darna.” By shouting “Narda,” she changes back into her old self.

Very soon, Darna was flying through film and the small screen.

Darna was first adapted into a movie in 1951, starring Rosa del Rosario in the lead role. Since then, it has been adapted into multiple films and television series, with a long roster of actresses playing the role including Vilma Santos, Rio Locsin, Sharon Cuneta, Nanette Medved, Angel Locsin, and Marian Rivera.

“A lot of people don’t know na my father grew up very poor,” Mars Ravelo’s son, Rex Ravelo, said at the press conference at the Dolphy theater in Quezon City on Aug. 8. “Kaya nagkaroon ng Darna was because na-inspire siya ng nanay niya. Single mother yung nanay niya. (The inspiration for Darna’s creation was his mother. She was a single mother.) Watching the mother raise kids, with the inspiration of Superman, he created [Darna].”

ABS-CBN’s new adaptation follows young Narda, an emergency medical technician (EMT) in this iteration. She is a loving breadwinner to the Custodio family, and is destined to become the next protector of the powerful stone that enables her to help those in danger.

The new Darna/Narda is played by the very promising Jane De Leon.

“Sobrang nakaka-overwhelm. Ito na yung pagkakataon namin para ipakita sa buong mundo yung pinaghirapan ng production (It’s very overwhelming. This is our chance to show the world the production we worked hard on….),” she said.

Ms. De Leon noted that this adaptation shows Narda’s relationship with her mother, Leonor (played by the wonderful Iza Calzado), who was the first Darna. The white stone is passed down to Narda to continue the superheroine’s mission of helping others.

“If may kakayahan kang tumulong, tumulong ka. Malaki o maliit na bagay, malaking bagay na ’yun para sa mga taong nangangailangan. Hindi naman natin maipagdadamot iyon (If you have the capacity to help, do so. May it be a big or small, it is a huge help for those in need. We will not resent it),” Ms. De Leon said of what she learned from playing the role.

Meanwhile, Janella Salvador plays vlogger and lawyer Regina who is also Darna’s enemy Valentina, the goddess of snakes.

“We all know how iconic the role of Valentina is. Aside from the fact that it is physically draining, it’s actually a very complex character. It’s quite difficult to act, it’s emotionally draining as well,” Ms. Salvador said, giving credit the previous actors who played the role.

“I want to make it my own but at the same time, gusto ko siyembre tumatak siya (I want it to make a mark too),” she added.

DELIBERATE WEAKNESSDarna’s stone/amulet has changed through the years.

“Originally, ang bato ay hindi nailuluwa kasi walang weakness si Darna. ‘Pag nilunok niya ‘yung bato, yung power niya has no limits. Sisigaw lang siya ng ‘Narda’ para bumalik sa dati, pero yung bato hindi lumalabas, pumunta sa puso (Originally, the while stone was not spit out because Darna has no weakness. When she swallowed the stone, her powers had no limits. She’d just shout ‘Narda’ to change into her old self, but the stone would not come out, it went to her heart),” Mr. Ravelo said.

Unable to recall when and in which adaptation the detail was altered, Mr. Ravelo said that previous directors and writers found it unrealistic for Darna to not have a weakness.

“Hindi maganda na walang weakness si Darna, so ginawa nila na lumalabas yung bato para meron siyang weakness (It is not good that Darna has no weakness, so what they did was to have the stone spit out so she would have a weakness),” Mr. Ravelo said, adding that the tweak was an exciting change to the story which now sees Darna challenged or sometimes defeated.

Joining the cast are Zaijian Jaranilla as Narda’s geeky younger brother Ding, and Joshua Garcia as a police officer. Also in the cast are Paolo Gumabao, Rio Locsin, Richard Quan, Simon Ibarra, Jeffrey Santos, Eric Fructuoso, and Levy Ignacio.

The series is directed by Chito S. Roño, Avel Sunpongco, and Benedict Mique.

“I’m very pleased not only that she [Jane De Leon] focused, not only that she concentrated, she has done very well as an actress for ‘Darna,’” Mr. Roño said on Ms. De Leon’s portrayal.

P-pop boy group BGYO performs the series’ official title song, “Patuloy Lang Ang Lipad.”

Darna premieres on Aug. 15, 8 p.m., and will then air at the same time from Monday to Friday on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, Jeepney TV, and TV5. It will also be available on Kapamilya Online Live, iWantTFC, and The Filipino Channel. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman