Aiko Melendez and Jomari Yllana—whose whirlwind romance began in 1996 while they were filming Kahit Kailan—exchanged wedding vows in a civil rite in Bulacan on December 16, 1998.

 

Two years later, on July 23, 2000, the couple reaffirmed their vows before God in a church wedding held at the Archbishop's Palace. By then, the couple's firstborn, André, was already two.

 

In 2004, they called it quits. Jomari reportedly had an affair with Ara Mina. Photo: Aiko: Anna Pingol, Jomari and Ara: Tootoots Leyesa

 

Showbiz will not be as convoluted to the public without its fair share of controversies. Marital problems that—we, mere unknowns, shrug off as ordinary—becomes a novelty once a pair of showbiz names is on the spotlight. And the story becomes even more attention-grabbing when a "third party" enter the picture, whether that is on purpose or not. To ordinary people, it's like a telenovela in real-time.

 

Confrontations between the warring parties add an additional kick to the issue as the cliché of denial, "We're just friends, really!" line, is being said, and the assortment of snide remarks are thrown in for good measure. These get the chismosos and chismosas hooked.

 

The parties involved become noisy. Things get messy. The participation of media sometimes lead the dispute to a debacle. And the public stands as witness. It's totally distressing to know how much these stars are going through. And it's appaling that every detail of their lives is being exposed.

 

Case in check: the marriage of Aiko Melendez and Jomari Yllana and their controversial breakup.

 

The above case may look humdrum to people who aren't exactly fans of Filipino showbiz. But to the people in and out of local Tinseltown, this would be something unforgettable. It made headlines of nearly every showbiz magazine and entertainment programs three years ago.

 

As we all know, this issue has long been finished and the above mentioned have all gone their separate ways living their own lives, and leaving us with other things to worry about. But hey, Ara and Aiko still have yet to patch things up. PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) recounts the reason why, up to now, the two women have a three-year-old tiff.

 

Below are excerpts from YES! magazine's September 2004 issue. Read on.

 

THE STORY.Only about a year after the church ceremony—which happened on July 23, 2000—rumors about the already shaky marriage of Aiko Melendez and Jomari Yllana began circulating in the press. At the same time, the name of Ara Mina was being linked—quite consistently in the press—with Jomari's.

 

That same year, 2001, the news broke that Aiko and Jomari had finally gone their separate ways. The official announcement, however, came only after Aiko—who had campaigned hard from September to May of 2001—had already secured a seat as councilor for Quezon City's second district. Ara Mina's name continued to figure in the issue.

 

The following year, 2002, Aiko filed a petition for the annulment of her marriage to husband Jomari Yllana. The case, brought before Judge Abednego Adre of Branch 88 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, cited "psychological incapacity" as the petitioner's ground for annulment. The catchall term covered allegations of Jomari's extramarital affairs, battery, refusal to engage in intimate relations, and negligence to provide financial obligations to the couple's son.

 

While the case was being heard, Aiko agreed to grace the cover of the April 2002 issue of Good Housekeeping (GH) magazine with son André. The story tackled her life as a single parent and a politician. Inevitably, questions about Jomari and Ara cropped up. Although Aiko requested that a large part of the GH interview be off the record, she still revealed a lot in her brief statements. She appeared dead sure that Jomari was having an affair with Ara.

 

"Matagal na 'yan," Aiko told GH. "It started when they [Ara and Jomari] did this movie together, Sagad sa Init. I didn't believe it. Feeling ko, publicity lang 'yan. When I guested on their [Ara's and Jomari's now defunct] TV show Kiss Muna, I felt there was tension on the set.

 

"When we went home, I asked him: 'Bakit ganoon?' Sabi niya, wala daw 'yon. During the campaign, ayan na naman. May rumors na naman. But I was too busy. I didn't have the time to think about it."

 

Aiko: "Ang feeling ko talaga, para akong nagpalaki ng ahas sa sarili kong bakuran. Siya naman talaga ang may kasalanan. Bakit siya nagpadala? And please, 'wag na siyang mag-deny. Natutulog si Ara doon sa bahay nina Jom. They shouldn't underestimate my network. Bastusan na. Lalabanan ko na. Dignidad ko na ito."

 

ARA MINA. Ara Mina had no idea that what she wrote in her then thrice-a-week column in the tabloid People's Tonight could create a stir. Well, it did. She learned her lesson the hard way.

 

In her June 27 (2004) column entitled "Strictly Me"—which came out 15 days after the result of the Aiko Melendez-Jomari Yllana annulment case was released on June 12—Ara wrote:

 

"May patuloy na nagtatanong sa akin ngayon kung may chance ba na magkabati kami ni Aiko Melendez. Pero s'yempre, aware sila sa naging problema namin noon, but they are insisting na magkaayos na kami. Well, noon pa naman ay wala na akong sama ng loob kay Aiko.

 

"Kung anuman 'yong mga nangyari noon, napatawad ko na siya. Hindi naman ako marunong magtanim ng sama ng loob sa kapwa ko eh. Pero 'yung reconciliation, medyo mahirap pang sabihin. Darating na lang kasi 'yun sa tamang oras at tamang panahon. Mahirap ipilit ang isang bagay lalo na pag hindi pa handa ang isa't isa."

 

Ara meant well. But Aiko read the message differently. The councilor from Quezon City's second district wasn't pleased. And she made sure Ara knew about it. After giving Cristy Fermin an exclusive interview for ABS-CBN's defunct talk show "S2 (Showbiz Sabado)," Aiko called a press conference to defend herself from Ara's innuendoes.

 

In her presscon, Aiko said: "Napatawad na niya daw ako? Bakit niya ako papatawarin? Ano ba ang kasalanan ko sa kanya? Hindi kaya dapat ako ang nagsabi noon?"

 

To which Ara reacted coldly. "Wala rin akong dapat ihingi ng tawad," Ara said in an exclusive interview with YES! magazine. "Dapat magpasalamat pa siya sa akin, e."

 

Asked to elaborate on her answer, Ara simply said: "Sa akin na lang 'yon. Baka pag sabihin ko pa, baka mag-react pa. Well, baka mag-react din siya dito..."

 

Choosing her words carefully, she continued: "Mahal ko ang kapwa ko, e. Di ako marunong manira ng tao. 'Yon ang masasabi ko, kaya dapat siyang magpasalamat."

 

In her own defense, Ara said matter-of-factly: "Ang sa akin naman kasi, 'yong sinulat ko, it's my point of view. Kasi, in a way, ako rin 'yong sinira niya sa tao. Noong-noon pa. So, ang tingin sa akin ng tao everywhere I go, I'm a home wrecker, kabit... which is nakakasira ng pagkatao talaga."

 

Ara was caught unawares by the brouhaha that resulted from her column.

 

The "S2" interview with Aiko was on a Saturday. "Kinabukasan, Sunday, may guesting ako sa ‘SOP,'" Ara recalled. "After that, ina-ambush-interview na ako. Paglabas ko ng CR, nandoon na lahat ng [TV] camera, ayaw na akong padaanin. Sobrang nakaka-stress. Pressured ako talaga.

 

Everywhere I go, may humahabol. 'Tapos, laging may tumatawag sa office na, ‘Puwede bang ma-interview si Ara?' E, ayoko ngang pag-usapan, ayoko ngang marinig,e. 'Tapos, makaka-receive ka pa ng mga texts... every minute, every hour: ‘Uy, napanood ko.' ‘Uy, grabe naman 'yon!' Achuchuchu. Naiyak na talaga ako sa sobrang pressure, dahil ayokong nagtatrabaho na marami akong iniintindi."

 

Ara admitted she called Jomari after the storm subsided.

 

"Nilabas ko muna 'yong sama ng loob ko bago ko siya tinawagan. Ayoko naman 'yong ano, mainit pa din ako saka ko siya tatawagan."

 

Jomari lent her his ears and nothing more.

 

"Alam mo naman 'yan, e, parang dedma for life," Ara sighs. "Parang dedma forever. Makikinig lang siya sa iyo. 'Tapos, sinabi lang niya sa akin na ‘Hayaan mo na.'"

 

Somehow, Ara knew that was going to be Jomari's reaction. For her part, she simply wanted to talk things out of her system. From the start, when she was being linked with him, Ara never asked Jomari to come to the rescue. She preferred to defend herself.

 

THE CLOSENESS OF ARA AND JOMARI. Ara never denied being close to Jomari. That closeness came about after the two of them were paired in two movies together: Banatan (shot in 1998 but released in 1999) and Sagad sa Init (1998). These movies were followed in 2000 by a weekly sitcom on GMA 7, "Kiss Muna," which also starred Joey de Leon, Elizabeth Oropesa, Arnel Ignacio, and Klaudia Koronel.

 

This closeness, it seems, was maintained throughout Jomari's journey from bachelorhood to married life, and to eventual separation from wife Aiko.

 

"Sa Banatan, mag-boyfriend-girlfriend pa lang sila noon," Ara recalled. "Hindi pa kami ganoon ka-close noon. Then, Sagad sa Init, I don't know kung nagka-baby na sila noon, kasi di naman ako nakikialam, e. Sa Sagad... doon kami naging magkaibigan, pero not that close like ngayon."

 

It was actually during "Kiss Muna" that Ara and Jomari became real friends. "Mag-asawa na sila [ni Aiko], pero 'yon na 'yong nagkakagulo na sila," Ara continued.

 

"Sa set, close kami lahat sa isa't isa. Even sina Tita Oro [Elizabeth Oropesa], si Arnel, Klaudia—nagsasabihan kami ng mga problema namin. So, alam namin na hindi sila okey. Di lang sa akin nakakapag-open-up si Jom, even kina Arnell and kay Tita Oro din."

 

Ara had learned then that "Patience is a virtue." From the way she said things, it seemed as though she knew something that YES! magazine didn't. But she won't be provoked to speak of it as a weapon to wage war.

 

"Ready ako sa lahat ng bagay," she said. "Pero di ko ugali ang makipag-away. Sinasabi ko lang kung ano 'yong nasa loob ko, kung ano 'yong nararamdaman ko. Pero it doesn't mean na porke sinabi ko ay nakikipag-away ako sa iyo or sa kanya [Aiko]. Kumbaga, this is a free country, e. May karapatan naman siguro akong sabihin kung ano ang nasa loob ko. Pero hanggat nakakapagpasensiya ako, magpapasensiya ako. Alam mo 'yon?

 

"Hindi ko kasi talaga ugali na manira ng isang tao kahit masama ang ugali sa akin. Hindi ko sasabihing, ‘Hoy, masama ugali niyan sa akin!'. Hindi ako ganoon, e. Di ko 'pinangangalandakan sa tao. 'Pinagdadasal ko na lang na sana itong mga nararanasan ko, may magandang resulta or may purpose sa buhay ko kaya ko nararanasan."

 

JOMARI'S SIDE OF THE STORY. On the day the court handed down the decision annulling Aiko's marriage to her husband, Jomari received this text message from Aiko: "Ganito pala, malungkot pala. Grabe ang tigas mo talaga."

 

Jomari texted her back: "Wala ka namang dapat alalahanin kasi ako naman ‘yong masisira dito, hindi naman ikaw. It's all about ‘yong grounds mo for annulment to support my psychological incapacity. Walang lalabas na hindi maganda tungkol sa iyo. Puro sa akin 'yon."

 

After the exchange of text messages, Aiko called him on the phone. She was, he said, in tears.

 

Did Jomari ask why she was crying?

 

"I didn't even bother to ask," he says. "I felt na she was seeking a reaction from me, but I kept my calm. She felt bad kasi, e."

 

Aiko, he said, told him: "Gusto lang naman kitang tulungan."

 

The statement baffled Jomari: "I really don't know what it meant. So I analyze it this way. She might be expecting me na magkaro'n ng isang reaction na baka pareho sa kanya? Or baka iniisip niya, kung ano 'yong nararamdaman niya, baka gano'n din ang nararamdaman ko? Or magdamayan kaming dalawa do'n sa desisyon? Wala talaga akong masabi, e."

 

When Jomari remained emotionless during the phone conversation and only spoke to say "okay" and "sige," Aiko put the phone down. "That was the last time that I spoke with her," said Jomari.

 

He told YES!: "I'm not seeking any sympathy sa kanya. I'm not even playing pity. But it's a fact—it's been going on for two years—me, not saying a word about the case; me, not even giving my side of the story; and me, not even contradicting 'yong sinasabi niya. Siya lang 'yong nagsasalita."

 

Jomari said he kept his silence because: "Walang mapupuntahang maganda 'yong usapan, from any angle mo siyang tingnan. Annulment is not something you talk about. It's a sign of failure. It's not something na puwede kong ipagmalaki. Secondly, 'yong main ground namin to prove that I am psychological incapacitated, which is "zero sex," is hindi talaga maganda, so I really don't want to talk about it."

 

By staying tight-lipped, Jomari thought, he was also protecting his then four-year-old son André. "Kung meron mang mga salita o kuwentong lalabas na puwedeng umabot doon sa anak ko, I'll make the most out of it na hindi na madagdagan," he said.

 

Did he feel any pain when the court granted the annulment?

 

Jomari did not answer the question directly. Instead, he said: "Matagal na akong nasasaktan, e. Mas masakit 'yong pinagdaanan ko bago kami naghiwalay at 'tsaka after naming maghiwalay. Mas masakit 'yong pinagdaanan ko no'ng campaign. [Aiko ran for councilor in the second district of Quezon City and won.] After no'ng campaign, naghiwalay kami. Namatay 'yong dad ko. Nawalan ako ng trabaho. Mas masakit 'yon, e. Masyadong madilim."

 

Then he added: "Masakit 'yong case kasi pinagdaanan ko uli lahat. Para kong iniisa-isa lahat no'ng detalye. Ikukuwento mo doon sa korte. Puwera pa do'n sa korte, ikukuwento mo sa psychiatrist every detail—puwera pa doon sa kuwento mo sa abogado mo. Pero 'yong kaso kasi namin, walang lumalabas na winner. So it's not a question of who won, who lost, but it was a question of maga-grant ba o hindi."

 

When the court finally decided in favor of Aiko, Jomari admitted he felt a certain "relief and a mark on my life na this is really where you're gonna start all over again. If I was in a race, ito na 'yong starting line ko."

 

He said he does have some fond memories of the marriage:

 

"'Yong mga magagandang nangyari, I still cherish up to now, and they give me a smile every time meron akong naaalala. And 'yong mga masasamang nangyari naman, inalis ko na 'yong feeling ng bitterness, e. I convert it into a positive thought and into a positive energy na. Why make yourself miserable? Or why make myself feel bad every time may maalala ako? So ang ginagawa ko na lang tuwing meron man akong maaalala na hindi magandang nangyari, napapangiti din ako.

 

"Kasi 'yong point ko lang, everything in this world happens for a reason—masama, sobrang masama, pinakamasama na puwedeng mangyari sa 'yo. Hanggang hindi mo nagagawang positive 'yong thought na hindi maganda, hindi ka magmo-move-on. Gano'n 'yong healing na ginawa ko sa sarili ko."

 

Jomari's calm throughout the interview was only disturbed when he's asked about Aiko's media pronouncements that he is an irresponsbile father to André.

 

He said, seriously: "I am not required by the court to give support to my kid, but I do. I give my support. I have supporting documents of bank transfers from one account to another. I transfer money from my account to sometimes Aiko's account or the mom's account, 'yong lola ni André [Elsie Blardony]. Depende kung ano 'yong iko-confirm nilang account.

 

"Hindi ko na inilabas 'yon, e. Hindi na rin ako sumagot kasi I have my reasons. I was even giving support to André kahit nag-file siya [Aiko] ng sole custody. When you ask for that [sole custody], you don't really ask for support from the other parent, 'cause it's very contradicting. But still, I gave."

 

His freedom must have done Jomari good. During that interview, he was fresh-looking, more trim, and full of vigor.

 

"I'm starting a new life," he beamed. "I have my career with me. And marami akong gustong gawin ngayon na wala akong mabigat na dala-dalang bagahe. Wala akong bad vibes. Wala akong dalang masamang tinapay, so magaan 'yong katawan ko. Wala akong guilt. My God! I'm a bachelor again!"

 

Seriously, he added, "I have a new life. Parang maaliwalas 'yong hinaharap ko ngayon and I feel good. I'm happy."

 

But did he ever ask forgiveness from Aiko about the persistent rumor of his affair with Ara?

 

"Hindi ako humingi ng tawad kasi deep in my heart I know na hindi ko 'pinagpalit ang pamilya ko sa kahit anong bagay o tao. No'ng araw, 'yong priority ko lang sa buhay ko was 'yong pamilya ko."

 

THE PRESENT. A lot has happened since this issue.

 

After the controversy died down, Jomari and Ara revealed their relationship to the public—"November 23, 2003" was marked as their anniversary date. A year later, they broke up.

 

To date, Ara is loveless (she ended her relationship with Polo Ravales last February). Jomari, on the other hand, is the beau of Concert Queen Pops Fernandez. Ara and Jomari are now back to being friends; they rekindled their friendship last May, during the elections.

 

Aiko married ramp model Martin Jickain on February 19, 2006. The couple now have a one-year old daughter named Marthena. Aiko and Jomari remain civil to each other for the sake of their son.

 

Ara and Aiko are not yet on speaking terms. They chanced upon each other last May at the Quezon City Hall. According to spectators, "nagdedmahan lang sila."

 

A few days later, May 27, Aiko said in an interview with a major broadsheet that she's "open" to the possibility of reconciliation. She added: "Kung darating ang panahon na magkita kami, gusto ko yung hindi pilit. Gusto ko yung kusang dumating sa amin yung time na kapag nagkita kami, mag-usap lang kami bigla without really having to talk about what happened."

 

At press time, that aspect of the case remains untouched; and the public is still in a "let's wait and see" mode.