ARNELL IGNACIOManila, June 8, 2003 (MALAYA) By Ethel Ramos - ARNELL Ignacio admits he's gay. Yet he's not the type, he says, who will get a boyfriend. In fact, everybody knows that Arnell has a wife and a child. He also has two stepchildren.

Even as a child, Arnell knew he was gay. "Pero, for a while, 'di ko puwedeng i-flaunt kung ano ako because my dad was a bank executive. Ayokong ikahiya niya ako," he relates.

After college, Arnell taught at the University of the East. It was from one of his co-teachers that he heard that a sing-along bar, Music Box, in Quezon City, was looking for a host.

"To make the story short, I got the job," he says. "And that's how I got to know Ai Ai (de las Alas), na mahilig ding kumanta at mag-host. We clicked and became good friends. Until now."

Arnell's first job was in a noontime show on IBC-13. He was the host of "Katok mga Misis" on GMA-7, after the late Giovanni Calvo, the original host, quit the program.

He is still a mainstay on GMA-7, as host of "K: The Videoke Challenge."

From time to time, Arnell does movies. He is most in demand, however, for corporate and out-of-town shows.

It was in one of his out-of-town commitments that we got to know him personally. He was assigned to host the Touch Mobile Grand Presentation, which capped the Magayon (for Maganda) Festival in Legaspi City. We were among those who attended the event. Featured with him in the show were Aga Muhlach, Charlene Gonzales and Talent Center artists Paolo Contis, Onemig Bondoc and Keempee de Leon.

Two of his personal assistants, Aquilino Loverita, whom Arnell fondly calls Van Damme, and Pacita Loyola, nicknamed Madonna, were in his entourage. They have been with Arnell for years. They have nothing but good words to say about him.

Van Damme is Arnell's personal make-up artist. He revealed he didn't know anything about putting on make-up when Arnell told him to pretend he was his make-up artist. "Para daw 'di ako mahirapang pumasok sa istudyo. But the truth of the matter was that I was his avid fan," Van Damme related, "Galing ako sa Leyte at pumuntang Maynila para makita lang siya ng personal. But before I knew it, I got stuck with him. Ngayon 'di ko alam how life would be without him.

"Dahil sa kanya, nagkaroon ako ng propesyon. 'Di na lang siya ngayon ang aking mini-make-up-an. Malalaking artista, they ask me to do their make-up. Pero siyempre pa, si Arnell ang palaging priority ko."

Madonna is in her 70s. She earned the monicker Madonna after entering a Madonna Look-Alike Contest for old women.

For a time, she was a permanent fixture in one of Arnell's shows. In due time, she became close to him. He offered her the job to be his personal alalay (chaperon).

She agreed, with her children and grandchildren's blessings. Now, if she's not in the house of one of her children, she is in Arnell's house, where she is welcomed not just by Arnell but by his wife Frannie and their kids.

In a conversation, Arnell revealed: "Sabi ko kay Madonna, hanggang kamatayan niya, sa akin na lang siya. I was sincere when I told her I'll take care of her as long as she is with me."

Madonna, for her part, said: "Mabait si Arnell. Pero may mga pagkakataong nagkakagalit din kami. Ganunpaman, wala akong maisip na dahilan para maghiwalay kami. Hinahanap niya ako kapag 'di niya ako nakikita. Ako rin, 'di kumpleto ang araw ko kapag 'di ako siya nakikita."

Arnell used to own a pizza parlor in Pasig, called Arnell's Pizza. Several of Madonna's relatives were employed there but it folded up because, Arnell said, it needed his personal supervision.

"Pero pangako ko sa sarili ko na magnenegosyo ako, para naman ako makapagbigay ng hanapbuhay sa ibang tao," he vowed.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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