So when I got the call to write a cover story about her for the now defunct MANUAL magazine last year, I just had to take it. At that time, Isabel was already a household name for making life difficult for Nadine Samonte in the daytime teleserye, Maging Akin Ka Lamang. She was so good as the scheming Rosita Monteverde that fans of the show couldn't distinguish the actress from the character and actually hated her for real.
These days, Isabel continues to play third wheel types in teleseryes like Kaya Kong Abutin Ang Langit and the soon-to-aired Philippine version of the hit Korean drama, Full House. She is also hosting her own fashion tips show for the new myView channel of PLDT myDSL's recently launched Watchpad service.
And no, Isabel is nowhere near like the bad girls she plays in person. She's actually nice and quite candid. Here's a slightly revised version of the MANUAL cover story, originally published in June, 2008:
EVEN “BAD GIRLS” GET THE BLUES
By EDWIN P. SALLAN
ISABEL Oli is neither bad nor drawn that way.
Until recently, the 25-year old actress is not just blessed with one of the prettiest faces in all of showbiz and beyond. Isabel also possesses one of the sweetest demeanors in the industry. Given the rather tweetums turns of the GMA Network star in films like Moments of Love as well as in such teleseryes as Sugo and Mga Mata Ni Anghelita, the term hindi makabasag-pinggan easily comes to mind.
But that was, yes, until recently. That was when the GMA godfathers (and okay, godmothers) made her an offer she simply could not refuse: no less than the villainous title role of the obsessive and scheming Rosita Monteverde in GMA’s daytime Sine Nobela, Maging Akin Ka Lamang, a mini-series remake of the Lino Brocka classic.
“It’s the same role that won Lorna Tolentino an acting grand slam in the original movie,” she beams. “I wanted to do something different and when the opportunity presented itself, I just had to take it.”
“I just want to act and be really good at it,” she declares. “I want to be a better actress and someday win a Best Actress award.”
Well, something funny happened on Isabel’s way to becoming a better actress. She actually became one, almost overnight. Describing her character as “mayaman at sobrang malandi,” she initially had a hard time essaying the role of a rich, spoiled heiress who will stop at nothing to win the love of a man (Polo Ravales) who has no affection for her whatsoever and who instead married his long-time sweetheart (Nadine Samonte) who naturally became the object of her scorn.
“I thought it would be easy to play someone who’s always angry and so used to get everything she wants. It’s actually hard,” she admits. “And the role calls for sexy scenes where my character seduces Polo and Patrick Garcia so that wasn’t easy for me as well.”
With much of Maging Akin Ka Lamang’s high ratings and critical acclaim attributed to Isabel’s effective portrayal of the mentally unstable Rosita, her hard work obviously paid off. The actress knew coming in that with the right interpretation, Rosita Monteverde would emerge as one of the most hated vixens on afternoon television.
What she didn’t count on was the inability of many of the show’s fans to separate fact from fiction or to be more specific, the actress from the character. “Since the series gained a strong following, ilang beses na rin akong inaway ng fans,” she recalls. “May isang babae na kinurot ako nung nag-grocery kami at sabi sa kin, ‘ang arte-arte mo, mang-aagaw ka. There was another who told me, ‘Okay, you’re pretty pero puwede ba, huwag mo nang awayin si Nadine, siya ang true love ni Polo. And there was even another who confronted me by saying, Nakakainis ka na, ang maldita mo!”
How do they hate thee? Isabel can only count the ways. “It came to a point when even my mom told me not to go out of the house anymore. But I take comfort in the encouraging words of my director and the GMA people when they said all of these adverse reactions indicate that I did good in playing this character.”
Not that she intends to play another bad girl anytime soon after this. Isabel says GMA is grooming her in the mold of Iza Calzado, who started out playing the role of an antagonist herself in her first GMA teleserye, the award-winning Kung Mawawala Ka. Isabel, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Iza, admits to being an admirer of the latter’s work herself.
While she admits that adverse fan reaction and intrigues like the so-called sex video scandal supposedly involving her (“no, that’s not me”) do have a way of affecting her, she says she is kept strong by her Christian faith. “I just pray whenever I get hurt, even if what’s said about me isn’t true,” she admits.
Like her acting credits, Isabel's Information Technology degree is not just for show either. Even if she doesn’t really go out a lot, Isabel’s impressive computer literacy has served her in good stead. She leads a very happy social life online where she maintains active accounts in Friendster, Multiply, Facebook, MySpace and even in YouTube. She also likes to shop for clothes, bags, jewelry and shoes at yes, Ebay and Amazon.
“I’m a moody person so there are days when I want my clothes to reflect my mood. There are days when I feel sporty and there are days when I feel like wearing something simple and comfortable,” she enthuses. “Buti na lang I can shop online for the clothes I want.”
As for her type of guy, the very eligible bachelorette has this to say. “He must be a Christian, first and foremost,” she stresses. “He doesn’t have to be guwapo since ang crush ko, di naman talaga guwapo. He just needs to be himself. The rest, honest, loyal, willing to commit and all that, will follow if he can be the first two.”
Hindi makabasag-pinggan ha? Yes, whether it’s the silver screen, the small screen or even the computer screen, Isabel Oli knows how to make her presence felt. No, she’s neither bad nor drawn that way. And there is nothing out of character about that.
And here's the beautiful Isabel Oli in the 2006 Fantasy teleserye, Atlantika: