Vilma and Niño’s Comparative Point of View

FILMS - Darna at Ding feat Nino Muhlach

Darna at Ding” starring Vilma Santos Niño Muhlach was shown in 1980. This is Vilma Santos’ 4th and last Darna movie. Vilma was in good company with the child superstar Nino Muhlach as her brother sidekick “Ding.” The super team zoomed in out of the screen with bravura. Humor is mixed with fantasy, magic and the duo’s thrilling encounter with ingenious villains who wants to rule the world adds excitement to this last Vilma’s Darna. Among their wicked adversaries was Marissa Delgado as the evil German scientist who summons cadavers from their graves to carry out her grisly plans. An impressive roster of big name stars in cameo roles completed the cast. The movie also stars Celia Rodriguez as Lei Ming the evil witch, Veronica Jones as the hawk woman and Max Alvarado as the giant. Niño Muhlach was the only “Ding” who shared title role and equal billing with the main bida – “Darna”, simply because he was the child wonder of the 70’s mid ’80’s. Most of the child superstars of local movies were girls like Tessie Agana, Snooky Serna, Aiza Seguerra and Onin broke that tradition.

FILMS - Niño Muhlach in Darna at DingThey were the child stars who made movie hits one after another, with the plots of their movies revolving around them. They were swamped with movie offers and became busy doing projects one after another. Ate Vi was also considered as a popular child star during the 60’s, she made hits like Trudis Liit, Ging etc and even received her first FAMAS award at a tender age. But as a child star, Ate Vi cannot be compared to Niño. Nino can carry a movie all by himself, while Ate Vi, though she made title role movies which also made good at the box-office, made and accepted a lot of supporting roles as a child star like the role as the young Imee Marcos in “Iginuhit ng Tadhana or the daughter of Eddie Rodriguez and Lolita Rodriguez in “Hindi Nahahati ang Langit.”

As one writer said: Nagrigodon si Vilma as daughter sa triangle nina Eddie Rodriguez, Lolita Rodriguez and Marlene Dauden. Their triangle was a big hit then and Ate Vi almost always acted as daughter to one of them. Niño, on the other hand, maintained his lead role character as a child wonder, if not bida it should be an equal role to the bida like a movie with FPJ or Dolphy and yes with Ate Vi as Ding in the title role. Unfortunately, Niño was not as blessed as Ate Vi, who was able to transcend from child star roles to teen lead roles with ease and success.

When Niño reached the awkward age, box-office receipts of his movies were not as good. He had no choice but to accept second or third lead roles like his movie with Aga Pops (Oks na Oks Pakner) in the 80’s, and worst, made an almost extra role in the Judy Ann-Mickey Arroyo movie “Mahal Kita Maging Sino Ka Pa”. Table turned and he became the supporting star of his cousin Aga who used to be his extra during the ’70s. In fairness, Niño became a business icon though he did not reach the stature of his cousin’s (Aga) success as an actor, the former is very much satisfied with his earnings right now, he was the youngest investor at the age of nine when he own a building in San Juan named after him, the El Niño Apartelle. He also owns and manages a bakery that makes delicious ensaymada that melts in the mouth. He is now enjoying the fruit of his labor.

ARTICLES - Vi feat Nino MuhlachThe famous child actress Vilma Santos grew up as a beautiful young star and was able to maintain popularity from the ’70’s up to the present. Her title “Star for all Seasons” fits her well because among her contemporaries, she is the only one who stays on top. She can choose the roles that she wants, and is still deluge with movie offers complete with top billing and huge talent fee, that even the likes of Claudine or Judy Ann can only hope for. And why not? She is the Queen! And she deserves nothing less! She is considered the Box Office Queen of all time. Blessings continued to pour for Vilma, from film awards to public service recognitions.

She is also the only actor to have crossed over from showbiz to politics and was graded satisfactorily. And like what Mar Garces, our famous house writed said, “you ain’t see nothing yet, the best is yet to come.” What do they have in common (Vilma and Niño)? They are both considered as among the richest celebrities in local industry. In wrapping up, we can say that Niño started as a child wonder ended up as a successful businessman; he is now accepting small roles. Vilma Santos on the other hand, continues to shine her star and is considered as the longest reigning Queenstar of all time. To you Darna at Ding. Fly high! – Franco Gabriel, V Magazine 2009 No. 5 (READ MORE)

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FILM REVIEW: DARNA AT DING

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The Plot: The movie started on how Narda got her power as Darna. As soon as Narda transformed into Darna, she quickly started her adventure with Ding fighting the Hawk Woman. And soon after Darna and Ding found a giant and both lost the fight to Darna. As the story unfold Dr. Vontesberg pretended as a good samaritan with an evil plan to destroy the towns people who killed her grandfather mistakenly accused as a devil worshipper. Dr. Vontesberg summoned the dead and terrorized the townspeople. Narda was captured by the mad Dr. Vontesberg and showed her how she operates her plans. Ding got on time to rescue her helpless sister and they both stopped Vontesberg evil plans. Then, Darna and Ding flew their way to the city. And on their way, they captured a bunch of loose prisoners, after this scene was a long lots of talking non-action scenes. Finally, Lei Ming and Darna measured their strength and powers. Lei Ming created an evil Darna to destroy the real Darna. At the end Lei Ming lose and took her own life. – Super Heroes Lives (READ MORE)

Upon Narda (Vilma Santos) and her younger brother Ding’s (Niño Muhlach) discovery of a glowing stone from the sky, Narda’s life is changed as she turns into a superwoman. From then on, the tandem of Narda and Ding embark on adventures, saving the world from evil. Together, they battle German scientist Dr. Vontesberg (Marissa Delgado), who turns healthy people into zombies. Narda and Ding also take on Chinese witch Lei Ming (Celia Rodriguez), who is out to kidnap children. (READ)

The Reviews: “…On it’s 11th year of presenting Asian cinema to Czech audiences, 2015 FilmAsia, the Czech Republic’s premier Asian film festival, is putting Filipino cinema in focus for the first time. Initiated by Czech Embassy in Manila, in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), this year’s FilmAsia premieres six Filipino feature films, old and new. Among the films brought to Prague are the recently rediscovered and restored classic Genghis Khan (1950) directed by Manuel Conde which opened the festival on Dec. 4, and the acclaimed political family drama Dekada ’70 (2002) based on the novel by Lualhati Bautista, a film which mirrors the similar experience of the Czechs, who were also fighting for their democracy in the 1970s and 1980s while under communist rule. “As only a single Philippine film, The King of Sulu and the Emperor of China by Eddie Romero, ever entered the Czech film distribution [system] as long as a quarter a century ago, and not more than a dozen, often independent, films have been screened at Czech film festivals in recent years, this very first Philippine selection will be a unique glimpse into otherwise unknown cinematography in my country,” said Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav Olša, Jr. The core of the Philippine focus are three independent Filipino films namely Lihis (2013), Sonata (2013), and Badil (2013), all co-produced by the FDCP. And to give the Czech audiences a glimpse of Philippine superhero films, the iconic Philippine superheroine will get the opportunity to fly over Prague with the Czech premier of Darna, starring Vilma Santos. “As the only Asian film festival in the Czech Republic, FilmAsia offers Czechs a glimpse of the best of what Asian cinema can offer,” said Karla Stojáková, the festival´s director and producer who has a long history of cooperation with Asian filmmakers. “Therefore I was happy to share the idea of Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, Jr. to present Filipino cinematography for the very first time in our country. Our festival is entering second decade this year and so it is symbolic and oportunity for our film enthusiasts to discover another Asian cinematography.” In previous years, FilmAsia has featured award-winning works by notable directors in the Asian region, among them Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk, Hou Hsia-hsien, Johnnie To, Wong Kar-wai, Tsai Ming-liang, and Takashi Miike…” – Interaksyon, 07 December 2015 (READ MORE)

“…On it’s 11th year of presenting Asian cinema to Czech audiences, 2015 FilmAsia, the Czech Republic’s premier Asian film festival, is putting Filipino cinema in focus for the first time. Initiated by Czech Embassy in Manila, in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), this year’s FilmAsia premieres six Filipino feature films, old and new. Among the films brought to Prague are the recently rediscovered and restored classic Genghis Khan (1950) directed by Manuel Conde which opened the festival on Dec. 4, and the acclaimed political family drama Dekada ’70 (2002) based on the novel by Lualhati Bautista, a film which mirrors the similar experience of the Czechs, who were also fighting for their democracy in the 1970s and 1980s while under communist rule. “As only a single Philippine film, The King of Sulu and the Emperor of China by Eddie Romero, ever entered the Czech film distribution [system] as long as a quarter a century ago, and not more than a dozen, often independent, films have been screened at Czech film festivals in recent years, this very first Philippine selection will be a unique glimpse into otherwise unknown cinematography in my country,” said Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav Olša, Jr. The core of the Philippine focus are three independent Filipino films namely Lihis (2013), Sonata (2013), and Badil (2013), all co-produced by the FDCP. And to give the Czech audiences a glimpse of Philippine superhero films, the iconic Philippine superheroine will get the opportunity to fly over Prague with the Czech premier of Darna, starring Vilma Santos. “As the only Asian film festival in the Czech Republic, FilmAsia offers Czechs a glimpse of the best of what Asian cinema can offer,” said Karla Stojáková, the festival´s director and producer who has a long history of cooperation with Asian filmmakers. “Therefore I was happy to share the idea of Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, Jr. to present Filipino cinematography for the very first time in our country. Our festival is entering second decade this year and so it is symbolic and oportunity for our film enthusiasts to discover another Asian cinematography.” In previous years, FilmAsia has featured award-winning works by notable directors in the Asian region, among them Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk, Hou Hsia-hsien, Johnnie To, Wong Kar-wai, Tsai Ming-liang, and Takashi Miike…” – Interaksyon, 07 December 2015 (READ MORE)

“Darna at Ding, Vilma’s fourth and final portrayal of Darna, takes her to another wild adventure, this time with her younger brother Ding. When a mysterious stone falls into the hands of Narda, she finds out that the stone is an amulet that gives her super power. This is the start of the many adventures of Darna, that have her battling with the evil sorceress Lei Ming and Hawk Woman. A whole new adventure with the popular Philippine heroine, Darna at Ding is another classic worth watching.” – UP (READ MORE)

“…The famous child actress Vilma Santos grew up as a beautiful young star and was able to maintain popularity from the ’70’s up to the present. Her title “Star for all Seasons” fits her well because among her contemporaries, she is the only one who stays on top. She can choose the roles that she wants, and is still deluge with movie offers complete with top billing and huge talent fee, that even the likes of Claudine or Judy Ann can only hope for. And why not? She is the Queen! And she deserves nothing less! She is considered the Box Office Queen of all time. Blessings continued to pour for Vilma, from film awards to public service recognitions. She is also the only actor to have crossed over from showbiz to politics and was graded satisfactorily. And like what Mar Garces, our famous house writed said, “you ain’t see nothing yet, the best is yet to come.” What do they have in common (Vilma and Nino)? They are both considered as among the richest celebrities in local industry. In wrapping up, we can say that Nino started as a child wonder & ended up as a successful businessman; he is now accepting small roles. Vilma Santos on the other hand, continues to shine her star and is considered as the longest reigning Queenstar of all time. To you Darna at Ding.” – Franco Gabriel, V Magazine Issue No. 5 (READ MORE)

“…produced by D’ Wonder Films Vilma Santos donned her Darna costume for the last time in 1980 with Darna at Ding. For the first time, Ding was mentioned in the title. And why not? The kid was now played by Niño Muhlach, the most popular child star of the day. The company that produced it, D’Wonder films, belonged to the Muhlach’s family. The Wonder films tried to captured the magic of 1973 monster hit “Lipad, Darna, Lipad.” By recasting some of the original cast of Vilma’s first Darna movie. Celia Rodriguez declined to play Valentina, instead they tailored a new character for her as Lei Ming the sorceress. Then Veronica Jones was asked to play Valentina but, ended up playing the role of Hawk Woman. Max Alvarado reprised his role as the Giant. Marissa Delgado also joined the cast as Dr. Vontesberg. The movie started on how Narda got her power as Darna. As soon as Narda transformed into Darna, she quickly started her adventure with Ding fighting the Hawk Woman. And soon after Darna and Ding found a giant and both lost the fight to Darna. As the story unfold Dr. Vontesberg pretended as a good samaritan with an evil plan to destroy the towns people who killed her grandfather mistakenly accused as a devil worshipper. Dr. Vontesberg summoned the dead and terrorized the townspeople. Narda was captured by the mad Dr. Vontesberg and showed her how she operates her plans. Ding got on time to rescue her helpless sister and they both stopped Vontesberg evil plans. Then, Darna and Ding flew their way to the city. And on their way, they captured a bunch of loose prisoners, after this scene was a long lots of talking non-action scenes. Finally, Lei Ming and Darna measured their strength and powers. Lei Ming created an evil Darna to destroy the real Darna. At the end Lei Ming lose and took her own life. Vilma finally relinquished the role of Darna to Sharon Cuneta, who appeared in a cameo role as Darna, in 1986’s Captain Barbel, also a Mars Ravelo classic creation. Years after, Dawn Zulueta was rumored to play Darna but the role of our beloved superheroine went to Nanette Medved who would have preferred to play Valentina…” – Eric Cueto (READ MORE)

“…The climax of this “Darna vs. the Dragon Lady” part of Darna At Ding sees Lei Ming conjure up an evil double of Darna to keep our heroine busy while, elsewhere in her lair, a towering robot bears menacingly down upon Ding. It’s a suitably whiz-bang finale to this loopy, kitchen sink confection, and one that makes the long, strange and circuitous route that we’ve taken to get to it seem perhaps less arduous in retrospect. Still, at a solid two hours, Darna At Ding is an example of a movie that pulls out all the stops, but perhaps shouldn’t have. While it’s combination of horror movie chills, superhero thrills and slapstick spills might have been catnip for the Filipino audience of its day, for the rest of us it might prove mildly exhausting. Nonetheless, I find Vilma Santos so appealing in her role that it’s hard for me to imagine hating any Darna movie that she appears in, and this one’s no exception.” – Todd Stadtman of “luchadiaries” (READ MORE)

“…Darna at Ding is a bit of a mess, even by nonsensical low-budget fantasy standards. The tone is incredibly inconsistent, ranging from broad slapstick comedy [as seen in a Benny Hill inspired speed-up sequence showing townspeople running from zombies], spooky horror [Ding nearly killed by voodoo], and violent action. The segue between the two wildly disparate plots, in which Darna must fend off a truck load of escaped convicts, seems particularly off key with its graphic Peckinpah-esque slow motion shotgun blast and neck-snapping conclusion. Children’s fare this certainly isn’t, though it plays as such for a good chunk of its two hour running time. Frequent shifts in tone and random outbursts of comedy/horror/violence I can deal with, but the sluggish plots really bog Darna at Ding down. The first narrative, in particular, just seems to drag on and on, with various groups of locals running into zombies, getting scared, and running away over and over again. I, for one, could have done with a lot less of that and a lot more of Darna kicking escaped convict ass. And there I think is the film’s biggest flaw – there’s just not nearly enough of Darna in it. She appears at the beginning, middle, and end for a few minutes each and in highly enjoyable setups, but the remaining four fifths of the film is left to languish in entertainment limbo without her.

That’s not to say that there aren’t fun moments to be had in this twelfth Darna outing – quite the contrary. The opening is fantastically absurd [I really dig those forced perspective giant effects], as is the Darna-versus-Darna battle that serves as the climax. But for every moment of overt glee there are twenty or so more in which nothing happens at all. It’s a pity, really, as the potential for entertainment is certainly there, but remains woefully un-tapped. From a production standpoint Darna at Ding was better than I anticipated, and there was obviously at least a little money put behind it. Special effects were about as good as I expected, and work well enough without becoming entirely embarrassing. The cast is quite good too, paltry as the material they have to work with is. Vilma Santos is always a pleasure to have on screen, and Nino Mulhach never becomes tiresome or annoying as Ding. The giant who sees such little action is familiar as well – Max Alvarado, who would go on to play Columbus, one of the multitude of villains in for y’ur height only. The soundtrack is groovy but of dubious legality. I recognized much of what was played, but could only pin down Pink Floyd’s Time for certain…” – Kevin Pyrtle, WTF-FILM (READ MORE)

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Filmography: Darna at Ding (1980)

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Basic Information: Directed, story, screenplay: J. Erastheo Navoa, Cloyd Robinson; Cast: Vilma Santos, Niño Muhlach, Celia Rodriguez, Marissa Delgado, Veronica Jones, Max Alvarado, Panchito, Angie Ferro, Bayani Casimiro, Rez Cortez, Teroy de Guzman, Moody Diaz, Paquito Diaz, Ike Lozada, Lily Miraflor, German Moreno, Palito, Don Pepot, Jimmy Santos, Al Tantay, Tsing Tong Tsai, Donna Villa; Cinematography: Hermo Santos; Film Editing: Eduardo Jarlego Jr.; Production Design: Ruben Arthur Nicdao; Sound: Luis Reyes

Plot Description: Darna at Ding, Vilma’s fourth and final portrayal of Darna, takes her to another wild adventures, this time with her younger brother Ding. When a mysterious rock falls into the hands of Narda, she has no idea that it will change her life forever. Later, she finds out that the rock is an amulet that gives her super power. This is the start of the many adventures of Darna, that have her battling with the evil sorceress Lei Ming and Hawk Woman. A whole new adventue with the popular Philippine heroine, Darna at Ding is another classic worth watching! – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

Narda (Vilma Santos) and her young brother Ding (Niño Muhlach) find a glowing stone that has fallen from that sky and when swallowed by Narda turns her into a superwoman. From then on, the tandem of Narda and Ding embark into adventures of saving the world from evil. Together they fight the avenging German woman scientist (Marissa Delgado) who turns healthy people into zombies by injecting them with microbes that is transmittable through their saliva. Then Narda and Ding stay with their aunt in Chinatown, Manila where a Chinese witch is kidnapping children. But Ding is made ill by the witch’s sorcery. Will Darna’s power be effective to save her brother against black magic? – TFC Now (READ MORE)

Film Achievement: The last of the four Vilma Santos Darna films; Official Selection: 11th FilmAsia (2015) Czech Republic

Film Review: “…The climax of this “Darna vs. the Dragon Lady” part of Darna At Ding sees Lei Ming conjure up an evil double of Darna to keep our heroine busy while, elsewhere in her lair, a towering robot bears menacingly down upon Ding. It’s a suitably whiz-bang finale to this loopy, kitchen sink confection, and one that makes the long, strange and circuitous route that we’ve taken to get to it seem perhaps less arduous in retrospect. Still, at a solid two hours, Darna At Ding is an example of a movie that pulls out all the stops, but perhaps shouldn’t have. While it’s combination of horror movie chills, superhero thrills and slapstick spills might have been catnip for the Filipino audience of its day, for the rest of us it might prove mildly exhausting. Nonetheless, I find Vilma Santos so appealing in her role that it’s hard for me to imagine hating any Darna movie that she appears in, and this one’s no exception.” – Todd of “luchadiaries” (READ MORE)

The movie started on how Narda got her power as Darna. As soon as Narda transformed into Darna, she quickly started her adventure with Ding fighting the Hawk Woman. And soon after Darna and Ding found a giant and both lost the fight to Darna. As the story unfold Dr. Vontesberg pretended as a good samaritan with an evil plan to destroy the towns people who killed her grandfather mistakenly accused as a devil worshipper. Dr. Vontesberg summoned the dead and terrorized the townspeople. Narda was captured by the mad Dr. Vontesberg and showed her how she operates her plans. Ding got on time to rescue her helpless sister and they both stopped Vontesberg evil plans. Then, Darna and Ding flew their way to the city. And on their way, they captured a bunch of loose prisoners, after this scene was a long lots of talking non-action scenes. Finally, Lei Ming and Darna measured their strength and powers. Lei Ming created an evil Darna to destroy the real Darna. At the end Lei Ming lose and took her own life. – Super Heroes Lives (READ MORE)

“Due to the Internet, one day soon I’m sure information on all of the cinematic obscurities of the world will be available to us, but at the moment it’s still wonderful to uncover a country’s hidden pop culture hitherto unnoticed by the rest of the planet. Take Video48, a mind-shattering trip into the uncharted realms of Filipino cinema, featuring a menagerie of stills, posters and articles from films I never even dared to dream existed! I stumbled across home-grown super-heroes such as Mars Revelo’s Darna a few years back, and Eric Cueto’s fansite provided a wealth of information on her cinematic adventures, (whilst also revealing tantalising glimpses of her on-screen contemporaries), but I certainly hadn’t realised the extent to which comic book characters pervaded the Philippine big-screen. Chances are the country was second only to Turkey when it came to cinematic Super-heroes – Darna herself has starred in 14 films and two TV series, which certainly puts Wonder Woman to shame…Sadly most of these fantasy films are unlikely to have survived – the condition of the Vilma Santos’ early Darna movies is supposedly so wretched that a DVD release has been permanently canned, and ancient VHS copies of Darna & the Giants and Darna & the Planet Women are jealously guarded by the few collectors who salvaged them from rental shops. Just as in Turkey, these films were probably considered to be as disposable as the comic books on which they were based – but I for one would go ga-ga for a double bill of this years The Dark Knight with 1973’s Fight Batman Fight (fair enough, my brain might melt out of my ears afterwards, but what a way to go…” – Poptique (READ MORE)

Most Popular Darna “…Ding, ang bato!” yells Narda, the adolescent country lass, to her younger brother. Ding obligingly hands over a shiny pebble which Narda swallows to turn herself into the vivacious super-vixen, Darna. Mars Ravelo’s superheroine, clad in crimson bikinis and knee-high stiletto boots, may perhaps be the most famous local fantasy character given life on the silver screen. Though not actually considered a career-defining role, portraying Darna is, nonetheless, highly-coveted. Darna has been portrayed by no less than nine actress in 12 feature films. Rosa del Rosario first wore the scarlet two piece in May 1951. She reprised the role after three months. Liza Moreno, Eva Montes and Gina Pareno followed her. The inter-galactic pebble found its way to Vilma Santos’ throat in 1973 via the flick “Lipad, Darna, Lipad!” Santos, now a two-term mayor of Lipa City in Batangas, is probably the most popular Darna, with a total of four movies in a span of seven years. Some of these were made known to younger generations through afternoon airings on television in the late ’80s. Maybe RPN 9 should do that again so that even younger generations can marvel at Darna’s greatness, albeit antiquated, in such movies as “Darna and the Giants” and “Darna vs. the Planet Women…” – Armin Adina, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 06, 2003 (READ MORE)

“…That’s not to say that there aren’t fun moments to be had in this twelfth Darna outing – quite the contrary. The opening is fantastically absurd [I really dig those forced perspective giant effects], as is the Darna-versus-Darna battle that serves as the climax. But for every moment of overt glee there are twenty or so more in which nothing happens at all. It’s a pity, really, as the potential for entertainment is certainly there, but remains woefully un-tapped. From a production standpoint Darna at Ding was better than I anticipated, and there was obviously at least a little money put behind it. Special effects were about as good as I expected, and work well enough without becoming entirely embarrassing. The cast is quite good too, paltry as the material they have to work with is. Vilma Santos is always a pleasure to have on screen, and Nino Mulhach never becomes tiresome or annoying as Ding. The giant who sees such little action is familiar as well – Max Alvarado, who would go on to play Columbus, one of the multitude of villains in for y’ur height only. The soundtrack is groovy but of dubious legality. I recognized much of what was played, but could only pin down Pink Floyd’s Time for certain…” – Kevin Pyrtle, WTF-FILM (READ MORE)

Darna is Not a ‘Rip-off” of Wonder Woman – “…Because of the character’s immense popularity, several other studios would license the character and produce more Darna movies throughout the next several decades. After Rosa Del Rosario, Vilma Santos (who first played Darna in 1973’s “Lipad, Darna, Lipad”) would be the most well known and the most in demand to play the character. She starred in a total of 4 Darna movies. Her 4th and final one being in 1980. For years after that, no more Darna movies were produced…” – Raffy Arcega, Comic Book Movie (READ MORE)

Intergalactic Warrior – “…There were comic-inspired franchises that never travelled beyond their own borders, such as the Darna series from the Philippines in the 1970s – she was an intergalactic warrior disguised as an earthling – and which helped actress Vilma Santos turn the fame she achieved into a political career that still sees her serving as governor of Batangas province…” – Matt Scott, South China Morning Post, 20 April, 2014 (READ MORE)

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