Is it or is it not?
The debate on whether Darna is appropriate as a national costume heated up when Miss Universe Philippines Celeste Cortesi strutted down the stage in a glammed up Darna costume during the national costume competition.
But who is Darna, the superhero that has become such a part of Philippine psyche and culture that it has spawned not just several movie versions but a massive TV franchise with various actors donning the iconic red two piece and winged helmet.
Almost every Filipino is familiar with the female superhero and her alter ego, Narda. Equally famous, of course, is her perennial nemesis Valentina (the Filipino Medusa), and Narda’s brother Ding (“Ding, ang bato!”).
Darna traces her roots to comics, from the fertile mind of Mars Ravelo, who thought of creating a character that would later on become a source of inspiration and entertainment for the Filipinos after the second World War.
Ravelo based much of the character of Darna on DC’s Superman, the gender flipped version.
In Ravelo’s version, the character got her powers from an amulet that apparently came from outer space and fell to earth, imbuing the powers of super strength and flight.
Mars Ravelo’s superhero initially appeared in Bulaklak comics as Varga in 1947. That’s right. Narda turned to Varga when she had the stone.
The character as Darna was serialized in Pilipino Komics by Ace Publications on 13 May 1950. Since Bulaklak owned the name Varga, Ravelo changed the name simply to Darna, the anagram of Narda.
And thus started Darna’s love affair with the Filipino people, which lasts up to this day.
The first incarnation of Darna has Narda channeling her, and the stone staying within Narda’s body.
When Darna has her live action adaptation with Vilma Santos playing her, certain changes to the character were introduced which endured to this day. This includes Narda becoming Darna instead of just channeling her, and the stone coming out of her mouth every time she changes back to Narda.
Darna has since become the most iconic Filipino superhero with multiple interpretations and incarnations the latest of which is Jane de Leon.
Darna has become the most enduring superhero character in the country making her undoubtedly and unarguably Pinoy.