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Never losing sight of his goals

Arnell Ignacio: Community service has ever since been my pleasure and joy

MANILA, Philippines - There are very few people in showbiz who can truly astound me with their awesome talent, amaze me with their extremely high intelligence, inspire me with their steely determination to succeed, and move me with their profound convictions in life. Unbelievable as it may seem but most of these very few people come from the comedy scene (to me, they are the most insightful of them all) — Willie Nepomuceno, Tessie Tomas, Candy Pangilinan, Nanette Inventor, Giselle Sanchez, Jon Santos, Tuesday Vargas, and now Arnell Ignacio.

I first encountered Arnell when he joined the UP Concert Chorus eons and eons ago. He was a fellow student at UP Diliman majoring in Music. He seemed quite aloof, then. The next encounter was when he became our music director at the Repertory Philippines (yes, he did!). He was utterly strict, and, uhhhm, a bit scary. Later, as a fellow artist at Backroom, Inc., under much-sought-after artist-manager Boy Abunda, we became quite close as he turned out to be rather friendly, candid and down-to-earth. Having left showbiz to be a lawyer and have babies, I contented myself watching Arnell on television as an outstanding game show host. I thought, “Wow! Arnell had finally found his niche.” He had perfect timing, was extremely sharp and witty and had great rapport with his audience. Add to that his gift of gab and a nice singing voice, and he was really ideal as a game show host. He was so good, I expected nominations and awards, which surely came.

I lost track of Arnell’s private life and got the shock of my life a few years back when I saw him at the Miriam College Grade School attending a parents’ activity. It turned out that his daughter Sofia was batchmates with my daughter (and Ai Ai de las Alas’!). My admiration for Arnell, and Ai Ai, too (the two are best of friends in real life), soared like the Petronas Twin Towers, as I saw them participate actively in school activities despite lack of sleep and physical exhaustion from shows and tapings the previous nights. I saw how he doted on Sofia, and how well he brought her up. She was his life; she was the reason for his being. Sofia in turn was so proud of his father, and must be even prouder now that Arnell is helping her former school raise funds to build much needed ramps for the younger schoolchildren in a concert with Bloomfields on March 28 at the Celebrity Club.

As we now both go to the M.L. Dental Cosmetics and TMJ Center of renowned celebrity dentist Dr. Malony Santos in St. Luke’s, we have had much opportunity to update each other on our lives. Presently on sabbatical from television game shows which he lorded over for so many years, Arnell is enjoying his daily radio show with Susan Enriquez at 11 a.m. at Super Radyo DZBB. It has sort of given him the medium that he had always wanted: That is, to have a positive effect on ordinary Filipinos by having his many advocacies in life heard by them. Although Arnell had already helped create a lot of jobs with his wig business at the Creative Hair System (located at the Greenhills Shopping Center), Arnelli’s Pizza, and haircutting livelihood projects, Arnell wants to reach out to more people to help them attain their dreams. He has seen so many Filipinos just go through life without a goal and this he wants to change.

“I think a lot of Filipinos, and even our country itself, has no vision at talagang nakakapanghinayang,” Arnel reckons. “With a little distraction, we easily get discouraged. Para tayong headless chickens,” Arnel states. “Without our vision and dreams, we end up clucking about and wandering around with no particular direction in mind.” Arnel compares having a dream to a horse race. “The horses have these special blinders on their heads that prevent their eyes from looking sideways and getting distracted; this is how our mindset should be,” Arnell stresses. “We must never lose sight of our goals until we reach the finish line.”

Constantly exposed to the poorest of the poor because of his livelihood projects (by which he is known to park his luxury vehicles inside depressed areas with all his valuables left inside, still believing in the honesty of the poor Filipino), Arnell observes thus, “Ang nangyayari, nagiging tawa na lang ang solusyon natin sa problema.” Although he is a comedian, Arnell is sad that Filipinos resort to entertainment not really to relax but as an opiate to help forget problems. On the other extreme, if laughter is not the best medicine, some people resort to wallowing in their misery. Arnell points out that, “some even appeal to mercy or naghihintay na lang na may maawa. They beat themselves up asking why the universe has connived against them and do nothing.”

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“Instead of asking why, we should be asking ourselves, what next? So, we can easily get on with what needs to be done. We just need passion to reach our goals,” says Arnell. “We have to hold on to our dreams because dreams are our own road map and secret to success.”

In a previous incarnation doing kiss-kiss and hug-hug with corporate and political bigwigs for show proposals (it is quite known that he is a favorite artist of Manny Pangilinan), Arnell now enjoys rubbing elbows with the same power tycoons not for entertainment but using his showbiz clout to put in some good word on socio-civic projects that he deems worth the effort. Clearly, with maturity came a broader perspective to Arnell, as he is now at that point when he has started looking for something that matters, something that has deeper meaning.

“Community service has ever since been my pleasure and joy,” relates Arnell. “Talagang kulang ang pagpapatawa lamang.” Because of this, Arnell has included in his plans that of becoming Councilor for District 1 in Quezon City where he resides. His candor is commendable. “I see the day-to-day lives of people in my district. I know there is hope. I know District 1 can be a model district and I want to be there to lead it to where it should be. I want to create more jobs. I want the crime rate down. And more importantly, I want people to start trusting and believing in the idea that life can be beautiful,” Arnell expounds.

For one who has always followed his dream, for one who has always trusted the goodness in people, for one who is well-loved by the less fortunate whose lives he has touched in ways simple and great, and for one who is adored and respected by his very own daughter, Sofia, who knows the real him inside and out, I say to Arnell, “why not?”

(E-mail me at celebrations-dot@yahoo.com or text 0927-5000833.)

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