Grace Ibuna: ‘We should never regret things that we have done’By Rogelio Constantino-Medina
Philippine Daily Inquirer
She admits to having had a colorful and dramatic love life. She has had a liaison with a popular movie actor, is estranged from her husband of 15 years and most recently, and painfully, lost her partner of four years, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo.
“We should never regret things that we have done, whether it’s good or bad,” Grace Ibuna once remarked to this journalist.
“When you fall, pick up from there. Do things right this time. Whatever happens to me, maybe it’s a moral lesson not only for me but also for my whole family or children. No regrets, basta no regrets,” she said.
Hardly anything is known about Ibuna, named in press reports as a businesswoman and long-time companion of Arroyo and who was the one by his side when he died in London last week.
Daughter of a mayor
Ibuna is the daughter of Nicanor Castillo Ibuna, for 12 years the mayor of San Juan, Metro Manila, where Grace was born in 1965. Her parents were engaged in the brokerage, travel and export-import business, so that Grace was from a young age quite exposed to entrepreneurship.
She remembers how even when she and her four siblings were quite small, their parents would bring them to their offices on Saturdays. When she was 9, she was already working in her parents’ shoe factory and store at the Cubao Shoe Expo during summer and Christmas vacations.
She began at the bottom, working as an errand girl, going to the bank, typing and filing documents.
“We were not spoiled brats. We were really trained to work because my dad’s thinking was that if anything happens to one of them, we could survive on our own,” says Grace.
As an incentive, apart from giving them an allowance, her parents would bring the children on trips abroad. The parents would also take the children on trips out of town on weekends, going to the beach, hiking in Mayon Volcano, boating around Taal Lake, taking the train to Bicol, having overnight stays in Montalban, or going to Palawan.
In business at 15
According to Grace, when she was still in high school (Dominican College), she promised she would support herself through college.
At age 15, she said she already had her own chandling business (supplying goods for ships).
She initially took up psychology in college, but later shifted to interior design.
“I was studying from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, then I was working from 1 p.m. onwards,” earning lots of money, she said.
“That’s why I was able to save and travel a lot,” she said with a glint in her eyes.
She later engaged in a trading venture, exporting fingerlings to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In 1984, she put up a travel agency, the Grace Travel and Tours Corp., with offices on Mabini St. in Ermita, Manila.
“I really love to travel. It’s the easiest way to be traveling around,” said Grace, who had wanted to be a flight stewardess, but her parents did not allow her.
She says her family is very clannish, “very close but we respect each other’s individuality.”
But when any member needs help, “we run to the rescue,” she says.
She recalls how when she and siblings were young, right after dinner, the family would gather in one huge room.
“Here, we would sit, tease and joke with one another. My dad and I would read a book. My mom and siblings would sing. My parents had a big, big bed where we could all lie together and relax. The structure of the house was very open, homey. We had 7 bedrooms, but we stayed in one room most of the time,” she says.
Believer in dreams
She is quite active in sports—swimming, basketball, obstacle race, scuba-diving and shooting. She also loves to read, her reading fare consisting of books by Sidney Sheldon, James Clavell and Jeffrey Archer, among others.
She also likes to read books about the supernatural, being a believer in dreams.
“I’ve a lot of prominent dreams that came true. I dream the way it happens,” she said.
Of her “forbidden” love for Arroyo, she said: “I felt I was selfish. When you fall in love, you worship the person you fall in love with”.
“You forget about God, but God makes you realize one way or another…Even if it was painful I learned so much,” she said.
Nowadays, she finds solace from reading the Bible to develop an interpersonal relationship with God and to be a better Christian.
“I can’t say I am born-again. I may offend some people. People would expect you to be good and better, to change 360 degrees. But I am still a human being,” she says.
Grace has three children, a daughter by actor Gabby Concepcion and two sons by estranged husband, Joseph Javier.
She is a doting mother. She gave her all-out support to daughter Garie Concepcion who appeared in “Umagang Kay Ganda” on ABS-CBN last November.
“I have trained my children to be survivors, not to be scared of being alone. I have trained them to stand on their own two feet. What if I die tomorrow? At least my children could survive, eating three times a day with or without me. That’s the essence of life—to live and to survive,” she says.
She says she has yet to set a date for her return.
“So many things to be done”, she says.