Singer-actress Lea Salonga vividly recalled Isabel Granada’s lustrous reddish brown tresses and just as thick eyelashes. The Broadway star first noticed Granada, then a wee kindergarten pupil, in their alma mater OB Montessori. “I remember the color of her voluminous head of hair,” Salonga told the Inquirer.
They would later join the same youth show, “That’s Entertainment,” in the 1980s.
“I watched her grow up in the business, and thought she was level-headed and sweet … but never cloying or put-on,” Salonga said of Granada, who passed away on Saturday after suffering an aneurysm in Qatar on Oct. 25.
Actress Eula Valdes also has fond memories of Granada, who was only 41 at the time of her passing. “She was always smiling and giggling,” Valdes said. “We often played with her long hair and thick lashes that could hold three matchsticks!”
Valdes pointed out that Granada was quite sporty, excelling in volleyball, badminton and track and field. “She was very athletic—the type who would never fail to save the day. As we were about to lose by default, she’d arrive just in time.”
Singer-actress Rachel Alejandro, Granada’s schoolmate and fellow “That’s” alumna, looked back: “She was a darling to everyone—well-liked by other kids and teachers. We were child stars many years before the internet was born. Everyone watched us. It would’ve been easy for all of it to get into our heads. But Isabel was always grounded and unassuming.”
Singer-actor Aiza Seguerra, chair of the National Youth Commission, volunteered: “No matter where we would cross paths, in school, on the set, wherever … she always had a ready smile and made you feel that she was happy to see you. She and her mother, Mommy Guapa, were a tandem in giving hugs. I will miss her warmth, sincerity and cheerfulness. She was a great person.”
Sen. Tito Sotto, who played Granada’s father in the 1980s sitcom “Hapi House,” shared with the Inquirer: “She was a joy to work with … We would always talk about our old show whenever we saw each other. My wife Helen (Gamboa) and I treated her like a real daughter, on and off camera. Until now, we still call her Bimbim, her name in the show.”
Her past directors likewise have nothing but praise for Granada, who studied to be a pilot.
Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Lav Diaz, who directed Granada in the 1999 movie “Hubad sa Ilalim ng Buwan,” recounted: “She was very humble and simple. I remember she once told me: ‘It’s not easy being too mestiza … you don’t know how to position yourself in the industry.’ It’s a pity we didn’t get to work together again.”
Lore Reyes who, with codirector Peque Gallaga, worked with Granada in “Isang Araw, Walang Diyos” (1989) and “Shake, Rattle & Roll 2” (1990), described her as “gentle and very professional, even at her tender age.”
“She was underrated, as were many of the teenagers who blossomed into full-fledged actors after their stints in ‘That’s Entertainment,’” Reyes remarked. “I had just bumped into her at the airport last August. I had no idea that that was the last time I’d be seeing her after three decades.”
Gallaga noted that she was “quiet, modest with good manners. She listened very intently to direction and understood what we were all doing.”
Carlos Siguion-Reyna, who directed Granada in the TV shows “Hapi House” and “Aawitan Kita” and the movie “Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin,” thought she was “extremely talented and versatile … She was very much in touch with her feelings and was always ready to work hard in a no-nonsense way.”
Granada’s diligence paid off, when she won best supporting actress at the Famas Awards for her portrayal in “Ligaya” in 1998.
Indie filmmaker Borgy Torre admitted that he got “starstruck” upon meeting Granada on the set of “Tisay,” an entry in last year’s Cinema One film festival. “Onscreen, she was powerful, quirky and scary, which was how I intended her character to be. I really wanted to cast her because she was down-to-earth,” Torre said.
Young director Sean Lim collaborated with Granada in the sci-fi flicks, “Xenoa” (2007) and “Xenoa 2” (2008). “She went the extra mile to promote our movies, even helping put up billboards in Pampanga, where she lived then. We were planning to work on a new project this year,” Lim related. “When I heard that she was in a coma in Qatar, I kept praying for her complete recovery. I can’t stop crying. It’s really hard because she was a good friend.”
Hubert, Granada’s son with former husband Jericho Genaskey Aguas, is now 14. In a Facebook post, husband Arnel Cowley paid tribute to Granada, calling her a “fantastic wife, mother and daughter. She did her best in everything she did, whether in front of the camera or in sports.”
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