Maria Izadora ‘Iza’ Calzado has always been a fighter.
As a chubby teenager, she remembers the boys wanting to get close to her, not because they were interested in her. Rather, they wanted Iza to act as bridge between them and the girl of their dreams.
That was one of the first battles Iza had to fight. And, as we’d all know by now, she won it.
She turned to dancing, which comes naturally to her as the daughter of the late director-choreographer Lito Calzado.
She tried CrossFitting and Pilates. Iza even came up with her own exercise video called Lebelap (Go Lang Nang Go) three years ago.
She watched her diet, got into tennis and yoga. No fat was too heavy, no body bulge too big, for her to quash.
Iza has been winning more battles, as a person and as an actress, since. Like most women, she’s had her share of heartbreaks, but feisty Iza refused to give up on love.
Today, she’s happy with British-Filipino businessman Ben Wintle, her boyfriend of five years. Wintle, who could pass for an actor himself, was with Iza when she received her Best Performer award at the recent Osaka Film Festival for the film Bliss.
When the psychological thriller directed by Jerrold Tarog initially got an X rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board – MTRCB has subsequently changed it to R-18 – Ben comforted Iza by saying that Bliss is like an extended version of British sci-fi TV anthology Black Mirror. It’s about how technology affects lives. This means he sees nothing wrong with it.
Iza adds that her boyfriend doesn’t usually watch her teleseryes. He’s more into nature documentaries like BBC’s Planet Earth. But he lets Iza switch channels if she asks him to watch a show she likes. Then he just goes off to his computer and does something else.
Besides, Ben can’t understand the Filipino dialogues, so he can’t catch up with any of the episodes say, Iza’s ABS-CBN primetime series A Love to Last, where she plays antagonist Grace Noble.
Sometimes, Ben pauses when he sees a familiar face on TV and says, “I know that person!” But often, he needs a translator to explain what he sees on Philippine television. That’s why Iza wants to ask ABS-CBN management to put English sub-titles in locally aired shows. It will help people like Ben to appreciate Filipino talent and culture more.
Not that Ben asks Iza to translate TV dialogue for him. Knowing that his girlfriend is doing what she loves most, even if he’s not part of it, is enough for him.
In return, Iza sees spending forever with him. And the possibility of leaving a stellar career in the Philippines for a life abroad when they get married doesn’t faze her.
“I can shuttle from one place to another. You don’t know where life will take you. It’s good to be open and go with the flow of life. You make the most of what’s given to you,” she explains.
What about having children of her own, and not the ones you see in A Love to Last, where Iza plays a troubled mom? “In two to three years – not that long,” she replies.
She has one condition, though. “I have to get married first,” she laughs.
Since babies can wait, Iza is in no rush to tie the knot. After all, she wants to explore her craft more. She wants to return to theater.
Like all serious actresses, Iza knows theater disciplines you in ways the star-oriented TV and film industry doesn’t. Theater directors treat actors – big or small – equally. Instant audience feedback challenges actors to sustain the public’s interest from start to finish. It is every actor’s training ground.
But there’s no telling when A Love to Last will wrap up. So Iza has to push her theater plans to next year. Feedback is positive, so far. Viewers want to see Grace spread venom on screen some more. Iza is tickled pink when netizens tweet about how mean Grace is. It only shows she’s pouring her heart and soul into her role.
Passion overflowing is something Iza’s late dad instilled in his only daughter. Tears flowing down her cheeks, Iza told a Japan-based Filipina in Osaka that her father “always taught me to put my heart into everything.”
She explained her dad taught her to “do things with sincerity, authenticity and passion.” Iza doesn’t claim that she does it all the time. But she’s trying her best, even in her relationship.
Iza sees her victory in Osaka as a sign of her dad’s continuous guidance and love. The city is special for Iza for many personal reasons. The family had a placement agency that sent entertainers to Japan. So Iza’s parents spent a lot of time in Tokyo and Osaka. And Iza herself went there as a child.
Now, when she doubts her own decisions, Iza still turns to her late parents for help. She asks for signs of their presence in her life.
Iza thinks she got it, even before she flew to Osaka. When the “normally strict” people behind her current teleserye allowed her to take a leave and fly to Osaka, Iza took it as a sign of her parents’ love.
“It was perfect timing. My character was Singapore-bound. Everything fell into place,” Iza recalls.
Everything’s falling into place for Iza herself, although she doesn’t mind aiming for more.
She won’t rest on her laurels and will keep on searching for “better projects.” She knows that competition in an industry where young stars are born every minute, is tough. But no way will she quit the race. Her positive outlook won’t allow her to. “I think I’ll always get work as long as I’m passionate with what I do, and I treat people at work with respect,” she beams.
By not letting success consume her, Iza will continue to make herself – and others – happy simply by giving her all in everything she does. This way, she’s also paying tribute to the man who raised her, and who continues to look after her, from the great beyond.