The Philippines' Real-Life Darna

The Philippines' Real-Life Darna

Chapter cover of The Philippines' Real-Life Darna from the Fearless Filipinas: 12 Women Who Dared to be Different.

Learn about Angel Locsin

The following is an excerpt from Fearless Filipinas: 12 Women Who Dared to be Different. The book features stories of Filipina women who broke barriers across a wide variety of fields, including sports, entertainment, academe, business, and more. Authored by Monica Padillo, this chapter tells the story of what made Angel Locsin a Fearless Filipina.


From Narda to Darna

As she and her friend were wandering inside SM North EDSA after buying groceries, 14-year-old Angelica Colmenares felt that she was being watched. She glanced behind her and saw a woman standing in a long line at a Lotto stall, looking at her. She didn’t look familiar. She stared so intently that Angelica felt creeped out.

She nudged her friend and asked if they could move farther away from the Lotto stall. However, as they walked, Angelica still felt uneasy. Her intuition was right: the woman was already following them.

Angelica told her friend to start running. As they sprinted inside the mall, the plastic grocery bags she was holding suddenly tore open and her purchases sprawled on the ground, allowing the woman to catch up.

“Hey! Do you want to become a commercial model?” the woman asked. Surprised, Angelica watched as the woman stretched out her arm and offered a small piece of paper―a business card with her name and number. Angelica relaxed but she still hadn’t fully absorbed what she had just said.

Me? A commercial model? Angelica thought. She looked down at her plain t-shirt and jeans and touched her unruly hair. Angelica never really saw herself as exceptionally beautiful, or at least pretty enough to be in front of a camera.

“Oh, I’m not really sure about that,” Angelica said.

“It’ll be fine! It would be a nice experience for you,” she insisted. 

After a pause, Angelica replied, “Will I get paid for that?”

“Why of course!”

Angelica and her similarly dumbfounded friend looked at each other. They couldn’t believe what was happening. Earlier that day, Angelica woke up and did what any other ordinary person would do on an ordinary day―eat breakfast, take a bath, and take care of her father, Angel (pronounced as Anghel), who was blind.

Suddenly, there’s this woman―apparently a talent agent―offering her an opportunity that not a lot of people get every day. Angelica saw her friend raise her eyebrows and shrug her shoulder. “Take it. You’ve got nothing to lose anyway if you try,” her friend said.

Still partly hesitant but also optimistic, Angelica took the agent’s business card. “I’ll ask my father about this first. Will that be okay?” she asked.

“No problem. When you’ve made your decision, just call my number anytime,” the agent replied.

Angelica and her friend went on their way after that unexpected  encounter. When she arrived home, she told her father what transpired at the mall as she organized their groceries.

“Daddy, I met someone earlier today. She was a talent agent and she asked me if I wanted to become a commercial model,” Angelica explained. “If I get accepted in video tape recordings and star in TV commercials, I would get paid and I’d be able to help here at home. What do you think?”

“That’s up to you. What do you want to do?” her father answered.

Angelica took a moment to think about her prospects. If she pushed through, no one would be able to accompany her. Since her father was blind she would have to go to auditions or casting calls and learn how to commute from Caloocan to other parts of Metro Manila on her own. She couldn’t exactly ask her siblings to come with her since they needed to go to school. Her mother wouldn’t be of help as well―Angelica’s parents separated years prior. Therefore, Angelica’s father was her only parent around.

“I think I can do it,” she confidently said.

Before the day ended, Angelica took the business card from her pocket, dialed the number written on it, and asked the agent if she had any VTR opportunities for her. Back then, VTR was the term for auditions and casting calls for TV commercials, films, and other similar projects.

Eventually, Angelica began attending auditions to hopefully land a job as a commercial model. She would commute and sometimes even pass by malls connected to the Metro Rail Transit Line (MRT) stations to spray some perfume testers on her before heading to the auditions. At 14, she had already starred in three television commercials (TVCs). Angelica took the talent fees from those gigs to support her family. When she received her first paycheck, Angelica’s father jokingly asked her to pay rent.

When she turned 15, Angelica joined Sta. Lucia Mall’s Generation East model search with the help of the same talent agent who discovered her at SM North EDSA. She eventually won the contest and had the opportunity to join an acting workshop in ABS-CBN.

For the next two years, Angelica continued to audition and star in different commercials and core presentations, which were draft commercials that agencies filmed and used to present to brands as pegs for actual TVCs. Her boyfriend at the time, who dreamed of becoming a celebrity, attended auditions as well. One day, Angelica accompanied him to an audition for a drama series produced by GMA Network. Like that fateful day at SM North EDSA, she didn’t
bother to dress to impress―everything she was wearing that day was so plain, from her worn-out cap down to her dirty rubber shoes.

When her boyfriend finished his audition, one of the casting agents
saw Angelica and approached her, encouraging her to audition for
the show as well. Angelica shook her head. How could she audition
looking so plain and unruly? Her only agenda that day was to accompany her boyfriend and go home afterwards. Auditioning for commercials before was fine because at least it was her decision to do so. But auditioning for a TV show she wasn’t even prepared for, nor interested in? Angelica wondered again what these talent agents saw in her, especially when she was not even all dressed up.

But the agent insisted that she head inside the audition studio and recite some lines. After giving it some thought, Angelica gave in and took the script that the agent handed out. She looked at it and saw Click (season two) written on the first page.

She was aware of the show based on the actors and actresses who
originally starred in it.

Inside the studio, it was silent and dark, save for the center of the room which was lit by a single light source. Angelica couldn’t see the other casting agents. As she stood in the center of the room and looked around, a voice suddenly echoed across the room.

Angelica assumed that the room was moderately big based on how the sound reverberated against the silence.

“Can you tell us your name?” a man said.

“I’m sorry. What?” Angelica replied.

“Please state your full name.”

“Angelica Colmenares, po.”

“Can you say that again?”

Angelica cleared her throat. “Angelica Colmenares.”

“Angel... what?”

Realizing that the man had a hard time understanding her name, Angelica replied, “It’s okay. I’ll just change my name.”

With that, the casting director let Angelica deliver some lines from the script. When she went home, Angelica told her father about the audition and how the casting director couldn’t make out her name.

“Why don’t you try Angel Locsin? Locsin is my mother’s maiden name. I guess it’s shorter and easier to say than Colmenares,” her father chuckled.

“Angel Locsin?” Angelica said. “Hmm. It has a nice ring to it.”

A few days after the first audition, Angelica got a call from the casting agent, saying that they wanted her to attend the second audition for the show. She was surprised at the unexpected invitation. She really didn’t think she’d get in, considering that she didn’t even mean to audition at all. Upon knowing that her boyfriend didn’t want to continue with the acting opportunity and foreseeing that she wouldn’t have a future in the show as well, Angelica decided to forgo the second audition.

However, to her surprise yet again, the casting agent called her to attend the third and final audition. In show business, actors and actresses typically no longer get invited to a third audition if they didn’t attend the second one. But lo and behold, Angelica was being given another opportunity to be in the show.

“Have you decided on your name now?” the casting director
asked her.

“Yes,” she said. “I’d like to go as Angel Locsin.”

Soaring towards complete stardom

Angel was stunned at the world of show business. While most people thought that landing acting opportunities immediately meant that actors and actresses would be treated like royalty, the reality is the opposite. Much like everything else in the real world, Angel realized that celebrities, especially those who were starting out like her, had to fend for themselves.

Even then, Angel remained humble as a young actress. She also respected everyone’s time by going to the set at least an hour before they started filming. She thought that remaining kind and unbothered had its merits but she later found it led her to become the subject of bullying―not by her co-stars or staff members, but some of the mothers who accompanied their children on set and other auditions. And this happened in different moments throughout the course of her career as a young actress.

“Who even are you?” one of the mothers once told her.

“My daughter’s more beautiful than you,” another retorted on a
separate occasion.

“You’re not even fit for the role. I don’t understand why you were chosen for the show.”

“Why are you wearing that outfit? My daughter wore that in another show.”

“Such a shame. You should have your own stylist. You can’t keep stealing the looks of other celebrities like this, especially that of my child’s.”

Their remarks stabbed Angel hard in the chest, with each word flying towards her like sharp knives. Already tired from the commute and the work at hand, their comments further brought her energy and confidence down. As much as she tried to explain herself―she barely had the time to obsess over other people because of her job―she just couldn’t win.

There was a time when Angel couldn’t hold it in anymore. As soon as she stepped inside her house after spending all day on set, she immediately started crying. There was also one instance where she locked herself in a bathroom stall so she could let her tears spill out from her eyes.

Until one day, Angel decided that she had a choice to turn things around―or rather think of things from a different perspective. Angel has always been the kind of person who knew herself to the point where hearing negative remarks from other people just didn’t sound true anymore. She didn’t change to fit in with the people around her. Angel also wasn’t the kind of person who would turn away from challenges just because she couldn’t handle them anymore.

Who are they to judge me anyway? They don’t own me, she affirmed herself. At the end of the day, I’m not really hurting anybody.

Angel continued to affirm herself after that epiphany. Every day, she went to work, rehearsed her lines, delivered them, and went back home to spend time with her family. She remained kind and humble, often addressing staff members whenever they passed by her. She also never forgot to address her co-stars, especially her seniors in the industry, with respect, eventually gaining their trust and friendship as well.

It also helped that Angel’s boyfriend at the time always supported her and encouraged her to work hard. Whenever she felt down about work, he would say, “It’s okay. You can cry it all out today. But if I see you crying again tomorrow, you’re getting in trouble.” Angel then went on to accept as many projects as possible, even if it meant going out of town and driving on unpaved roads.

Despite the many challenges that she faced early on in her career, Angel still felt grateful for the opportunities given to her, especially to be in an industry that a lot of people aspire to be in. Through all the ups and downs, she felt happy gaining many experiences and learnings, and generally being able to show and grow her talent in acting.

As she persevered further into her career, Angel started gaining attention from the public, too. It was inevitable, after all. Her journey towards stardom further picked up when she gained a lead role in a GMA fantasy series or fantaserye―as how Filipinos coined it―called Mulawin, starring next to her Click co-star, Richard Gutierrez. Fantaserye was considered a genre still in its infancy during the early 2000s, despite it being started a few decades back. Even if many Filipinos were still not accustomed to seeing folklore and magic in mainstream media, they consumed Mulawin well to the point that it became GMA’s highest rating show of all time.

Mulawin put Angel in the spotlight. She suddenly became the public’s favorite artista. Because of their dynamic on-screen as well, she and Richard were tagged as a “love team”―a concept unique in Philippine media where an actor and an actress starring in the same film or show are depicted to the public as a romantic couple.

When Mulawin concluded, GMA went on to produce another fantaserye―Darna, named after the famous fictional Filipino comics superheroine created by writer Mars Ravelo and artist Nestor Redondo in the 1950s.13 If America has Wonder Woman, the Philippines has Darna. Angel was yet again cast to portray the protagonist. Angel’s outstanding acting in the TV series led to Darna surpassing Mulawin’s highest rating.

Suddenly, Angel was no longer this ordinary girl who dressed in
plain shirts and pants; she became a beautiful, bright star radiating light in a galaxy full of other stars. She was no longer being bullied for what she lacked as she finally reached the level of stardom that she only dreamed of when she was starting out.

Billboards, TV commercials, magazines, and newspapers became filled with advertisements bearing Angel’s face. Whenever anyone even mentioned the name “Angel,” they immediately thought of the 20-year-old girl from Caloocan who portrayed their favorite superhero on TV.

Angel only soared higher from there. She landed roles in more films
and TV series, starring alongside some of the most popular actors and actresses in the Philippines. Even when she moved from GMA to ABS CBN, her career only improved over time, making her win numerous awards along the way―a feat every celebrity dreams of.

With all the fame that she amassed over the years, Angel remained humble and close to her roots. It even reached a point where she would hear network executives tell her, “You don’t think like a celebrity, do you?” Even though she was treated like royalty, Angel refused to act like it. She found it true that fame changed people, that the showbiz industry can often be cutthroat and unforgiving. More often than not, many celebrities didn’t even realize that they’ve lost themselves along the way. And Angel didn’t want to turn out like that.

Sure, throughout the first few years of her career, she thought of buying a car and finally hiring a personal assistant who could help her get ready at filming sets and events like the celebrities she looked up to. But in between, she also vowed to herself that she would give back in any way she could to all the people who helped her get to where she was in her career.

Coming from a simple, middle-class family, Angel knew what it was like to have nothing. She also learned how to be grateful for everything that she had and use these blessings purposefully. What good would all this fame and money be if they only served me? she thought. With her fortune and fame, Angel strived to support anyone in need.

Not like a celebrity

In 2009, Tropical Storm Ondoy ravaged through the Philippines at an initial speed of 55 km/h.14 It affected various parts of the country, including Metro Manila, causing widespread flash flooding that led to power interruptions, relief disruptions, and unfortunate deaths. Authorities considered it the most devastating tropical cyclone to ever hit Manila in over three decades.

Angel watched from the living room of her new home how the typhoon affected the country. Suddenly, she felt her heart ache. She looked around her place and felt dismayed that she was comfortably sitting at home, with enough supplies and a roof over her head, while others wafted through murky waters in an attempt to find a safe spot from the flood.

The death toll was increasing on her TV screen. She saw the hundreds of Filipinos stuck on their roofs, waiting for aid to arrive and rescue them before the water could get any higher. She couldn’t stand it.

When the typhoon still raged, Angel quickly went out to volunteer at the Philippine Red Cross and other organizations, participate in relief operations, donate money from her own savings, and provide other forms of assistance for disaster response.

Since then, Angel mobilized relief efforts whenever the country was hit with a natural calamity. She consistently volunteered in relief packing and distribution efforts, often getting swarmed by the same Filipinos she was helping out.

On one occasion, Angel went to distribute relief goods at an evacuation center. A crowd immediately formed around her, stunned at the fact that their real-life Darna was there to give them supplies.

“Who’s there?” one refugee said as he jumped to get a peek at the

“You didn’t hear?” One answered. “Angel Locsin’s giving out relief packs!”

Others turned to social media to express their awe for Angel. They posted pictures of her carrying boxes and handing out bags to calamity victims, saying that they’re amazed at her and that she’s staying true to her name. After all, famous people didn’t normally get their hands dirty and mingle with the common folk all the time in evacuation centers.

Apart from the natural calamities, Angel provided support for other causes. She funded scholarships, donated to various charities, and reinforced campaigns about the environment and animal welfare in the Philippines. Fearless and determined, she even visited the war-torn city of Marawi in 2017.

At the time, militants affiliated with the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stormed the capital of Lanao del Sur to fend off the arrest of a wanted leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group. The militants had also intended to capture Marawi to establish an ISIS “wilayat” or state.

Thousands of civilians were affected by the war. Almost 50 people died and more than 48,000 families were displaced. Others, unfortunately, stayed in the city, where they sought refuge in evacuation centers and relied on donations and relief operations.

Rumor has it that Angel was part of a Muslim Royal Family in Marawi through her mother. Regardless if it was true or not, Angel still moved to support the victims of the war. Without a second thought, she booked a plane to Mindanao, mobilized relief efforts, and visited the displaced families. She also showed respect by wearing a hijab as she met with the Muslim refugees.

Fast forward to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines, Angel once again provided aid in her own capacity. She, along with a few collaborators, raised PHP11.35 million through a fundraiser to provide specialized tents, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment to 135 hospitals in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.19 As an ambassador of the Philippine Red Cross, she also found the time to donate blood to help patients with other illnesses amidst the pandemic.

In all of her causes and advocacies, Angel used her social media platforms to inspire more Filipinos to volunteer and support underserved Filipinos in any way they could. She also didn’t hesitate to air her grievances about the government’s mishandling of pressing matters. While she meant well, government officials took her opinions the wrong way.

One day, Angel discovered that a military official had accused her sister, Ella, of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), which the government labeled as a terrorist group on several occasions. Angel’s eyebrows pulled closer together, while her lips tightened. She fumed at the dangerous claim thrown to her family. It didn’t take long for the government to drag Angel into the issue, red-tagging her as well.

As much as she stayed strong throughout the years with her advocacies, she knew deep down that being red-tagged was a whole other story. Apart from the safety of her family, Angel openly expressed to the public that she was worried she wouldn’t be able to participate in relief efforts if they continued to label her as a rebel. At the time, Angel was already preparing relief efforts in advance as the Philippines was about to face a series of strong typhoons once again.

In a radio interview, Angel didn’t hide her dismay and frustration regarding the allegations thrown at her. “I don’t even know if I can still go out to help. As much as I want to provide relief, I don’t want my fellow distributors to be red-tagged too. We don’t have that much resources to protect ourselves,” she said.

Eventually, the issue died down when the country suffered from typhoons. Angel stopped at nothing to once again help out.

She launched an “Assistance Initiative” where she gave cash aid to victims. As part of Aktor - League of Filipino Actors, she, along with other local celebrities and volunteers, distributed relief goods while practicing safety protocols amidst the pandemic.

While it’s been years since she starred in the fantaserye, Angel continued to bear the title of the Philippines’ real-life Darna through her philanthropic efforts. Even global publications such as Forbes Asia regarded her as one of the region’s “Heroes of Philanthropy.”

Who would’ve thought that the ordinary girl who only went to get groceries for her family would one day become this highly influential person, not just in entertainment but in philanthropy as well? But one thing’s for sure: even if she didn’t take that talent agent’s business card, she would still be as insistent in giving back, no matter what level of success she could have otherwise achieved. Because for Angel, nobody needs to wear a costume to be a superhero.

To get more insights from other Fearless Filipinas like Angel Locsin, please check out the full book, available for purchase here

Fearless Filipinas - and women’s books - will soon be streaming on Audiophile, our platform for exclusive Filipino audiobooks.

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