HINIGARAN, Negros Occidental -- The widow and the long time partner of Rep. Ignacio Arroyo Jr. sat eight meters away from each other near the altar of the St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church here at his wake at noon yesterday without acknowledging each other.
Arroyo’s long time partner Grace Ibuna, in a black dress, had been at the church all morning and was seated at the front pew on the left side, when his widow, Aleli Arroyo wearing a “Project Iggy” T- shirt and daughter, Alelu, walked down the center aisle to the coffin, and later sat on the right side in seats reserved for family.
The congressman’s daughter Dina Tantoco sat beside Ibuna while his sister, Marilou Lesaca, chatted with Aleli.
“As far as I am concerned she is not existing…in Catholicism there is only one wife. I do not know why there is another one being talked about,” the congressman’s wife, Aleli said.
Asked if she minded the fact that Ibuna was in the church, Aleli said “It doesn’t matter, I don’t really know who she is and I don’t care.”
She said Ibuna was not welcome at the necrological service in the House on Monday morning but she forced her way in. Ibuna could stay at the public area, where she was prevented from being at was the family area because she is not family, Aleli said.
Ibuna denied that she walked out when Aleli spoke at the House. “I did not, I just went to pee, if that’s a sin I confess,” she had said earlier.
Aleli said she will be at the funeral of her husband at the North Cemetery in Manila on Friday and will receive the flag draped on his coffin as his wife.
Asked if Ibuna can go to the funeral, she said, “as far I am concerned and the family is concerned she is non-existent, but if she wants to go, let her go.”
In their compromise agreement, Aleli said they had agreed on certain venues but this cannot really prevent any person from coming because it is a funeral. ”If they want to grieve and pray for my husband, nobody can prevent that,” she said.
Grace, on the other hand, said she did not want to comment on Aleli’s statements. “My priority is Iggy’s peace at the moment, I would like his dignity intact for he is really a respectable man. I think he deserves better. I love him unconditionally,” she said.
“I will swallow everything for Iggy. They can say all they want to say, I will not respond…I am closing my eyes, I am praying to God because I love him, I will keep my peace for Iggy’s sake,” she said.
In separate interviews, both Ibuna and Aleli thanked the people of the fifth district of Negros Occidental for the love they have shown the congressman and spoke of how they were part of his work in the area, and of their life with him.
ONLY IBUNA SPOKE
At the necrological service forthe congressman yesterday afternoon sponsored by theDepartment of Education, Ibuna was asked to speak to the crowd at the church while Aleli was not. Companions of Aleli felt slighted by the move and her daughter Alelu said she did not understand why someone who broke up a marriage was allowed to speak in church.
Fr.Greg Patiño, parish priest, said he had nothing to do with the necrological service that was organized by the DepEd.
Dr. Cora Mohametamo of the DepEd told ABS-CBN they did not know Aleli would be in church and they had a lot to be thankful for, as Ibuna had helped them access a lot of projects for the DepEd from the congressman.
The congressman’s brother, Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who was in Hinigaran stayed away from the church for most of the day while Ibuna and Aleli were there.
ALELI BACKS MARILOU
Aleli, along with Mike Arroyo, said they will support the congressional bid of Marilou Arroyo Lesaca in the fifth district of Negros Occidental, while Ibuna said anyone can run, she did not want to think of politics because she is grieving. ”It is so hard to get over someone like Iggy,” she said.
“I support Marilou…this is really her district so we as a family support her,” Aleli said.
Ibuna, on the other hand, said “I wish the next representative of the fifth district will be as hardworking, as loving, as caring, as responsible as Iggy has been for the fifth district.”
She refused to respond to questions of whether she will also run for the fifth congressional seat, but said if she will not run she would support the one she thought is best for the district.
Lesaca said she was thankful for the outpouring of affection shown to her brother on the arrival of his remains for a two-day wake that will end today.
“I want to thank the people of the fifth district in behalf of our family,” she said.
Lesaca said they will not abandon the fifth district, she is seriously considering running for the congressional seat of the area, but will hold consultations with its people and leaders.
Asked if there will be lawsuits after Iggy’s funeral, Aleli said “Right now the most important thing is let’s give him a dignified burial.”
Ibuna said she will answer all the issues and allegations hurled against her at a proper forum after the funeral.
Negros Occidental officials are set to attend a mass for Arroyo at the St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church at 6 tonight, and his remains will be flown back to Manila from the Bacolod Silay Airport at 6 a.m. tomorrow.
His body will then be brought to the Arroyo ancestral home in La Vista, Quezon City, and the congressman will be buried beside his mother at the North Cemetery in Manila on Friday morning.*CPG