MANILA - (UPDATED) The Department of Foreign Affairs will pay for the repatriation of the remains of the newly-wedded couple who drowned in Maldives while on their honeymoon, an official confirmed Tuesday.
Long-time couple Leomer and Erika Joyce Lagradilla got married on December 18 and headed to the island paradise, one of their dream destinations, last Friday. They drowned off Dhiffushi island while snorkeling, according to the DFA.
Their friends and family have been trying to raise over a million pesos, or P634,000 for each body, to bring the remains back home.
In an update to the original post calling out for donation, the couple's friend Nikko Quiogue said that after a meeting with Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr., the DFA said it will "shoulder the full costs of getting Leomer and Erika back home."
Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato confirmed the same to reporters in a Viber message.
Responding to an ABS-CBN News Twitter post, Locsin said it was the bereaved family's right to demand help from the government. He said the Assistance to Nationals Fund is "for nationals in distress and not for national officials to spend on themselves."
"We are beyond grateful and happy that Eka and Mer can finally rest having their loved ones around them," Quiogue meanwhile wrote in an update on Tuesday morning.
"We thank each and everyone who have joined their journey back home. As their best friends, we are deeply touched and thankful for the support you have given them. Binuhay natin ang diwa ng bayanihan at pagtutulungan. Walang hanggang pasasalamat," he said, adding that their fund drive will now be closed.
The proceeds so far collected will go to Leomer and Erika's families, who are sending their gratitude to those who donated, he added.