Aleli Arroyo, Grace Ibuna: 8 meters of separation across the aisle
HINIGARAN, Negros Occidental—The widow and the longtime partner of Representative Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo Jr. sat 8 meters apart near the altar of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church here at his wake noon Tuesday without acknowledging each other.
Iggy’s longtime partner Grace Ibuna, dressed in black, had been at the church all morning and was seated at the front pew on the left side, when Iggy’s widow Aleli Arroyo and daughter Alelu walked down the center aisle to the coffin and later sat on the right side in seats reserved for the family.
The congressman’s daughter Bianca Tantoco sat beside Grace while Iggy’s sister Marilou Arroyo Lesaca chatted with Aleli.
“As far as I am concerned she does not exist. In Catholicism, there is only one wife. I do not know why there is another one being talked about. It doesn’t matter. I don’t really know who she is and I don’t care,” the congressman’s wife, Aleli, said.
Aleli said Grace was not welcomed at the necrological service held at the Batasang Pambansa session hall but she forced her way in.
“Ibuna could stay at the public area. What she was prevented from being at was the family area because she is not family,” said Aleli who was wearing a “Project Iggy” T-shirt.
Aleli also said she would hold on to the good memories of her times with Iggy as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had told her in a letter.
“And that is really how I was able to survive because we just remembered the good memories,” she said, which included her coming to Negros with Alelu and Iggy.
Aleli said she would be at the funeral of her husband on Friday and would receive the flag draped on his coffin as his wife.
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 accept 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,” Grace added.
Grace said she was very close to Iggy’s daughters Bianca and Dina. “We made a pact that we will stay together to keep Iggy’s memory alive and Iggy made that clear in his last will and testament,” she said.
However, she refused to discuss details.
“His purpose was to keep us all together and I will. I sincerely love his children and will take care of them,” Grace said.
Both Grace and Aleli, in separate interviews, thanked the people of the 5th 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.
Aleli spoke of projects she undertook in this district while she was with him. Aleli, as the spouse of Iggy in the early part of his term, implemented Project Iggy, which included supplemental feeding projects for those who are malnourished, values education for parents and a vegetable production program.
On the other hand, Grace also spoke of the work she had done in the area and of her plan of putting up a foundation in Iggy’s memory to carry on what he had started.