Not every showbiz newbie gets the chance to work with big stars and AJ Perez was fortunate enough to do so in his six years in the business. Prior to his tragic and shocking death last April 17 at the tender age of 18, AJ’s filmography included projects top-billed by some of the most respected people in the industry.
AJ got to work with Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo in the romantic comedy movie Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo in 2006, and also in the sequel Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo in 2007. A small role in the movie Bahay Kubo in 2008 gave him the chance to work with Diamond Star Maricel Soriano. The following year, he was seen in the blockbuster comedy movie BFF: Best Friends Forever featuring Ai-Ai De Las Alas and Sharon Cuneta. AJ’s last movie appearance was another comedy, 2010’s Mamarazzi where he played the son of Eugene Domingo. The movie also starred AJ’s real life friends Andi Eigenmann, Arron Villaflor, and Xian Lim.
Starring in a Metro Manila Film Festival entry for the third year in a row (after Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo and Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo), AJ starred in Magkaibigan directed by Jose Javier Reyes. The family drama also starred acting greats Christopher De Leon and Dawn Zulueta. AJ and Star Circle 13 batch mate Empress played their children. AJ described doing scenes with the Drama King as a very inspiring experience. “Medyo nahiya ako kasi siChristopher de Leon na yun eh, ang tagal na niya dito sa industriya na ito tapos he’s still here being a great actor and he still has the charisma. So it’s very inspiring to work with one of the greats.”
With the President and the Queen in ‘Ang Tanging Pamilya: A Marry Go Round’
The 2009 comedy flick Ang Tanging Pamilya: A Marry Go Round marked the return of former President Joseph Estrada to the big screen after 20 years. Erap, as known in showbiz, played husband to Box Office Comedy Queen Ai-Ai De Las Alas, and AJ played one of their children. The movie, directed by Wenn Deramas, also featured the hot tandem of Toni Gonzaga and Sam Milby. AJ couldn’t believe that would be working with these big names in the industry. “Hindi ako makapaniwala nung sinabi sa akin na they want me to play the role as isa sa mga anak nina Sir Erap at Ms. Ai-Ai. I didn’t hesitate to say yes to this project.”
The young star shared his observations of the former president and how they all bonded like a real family. “Whenever take na makikita mong serious talaga siya. Agad-agad he becomes his character, hindi mo na makikilala si Sir Erap. Pero after the take back to normal na siya. Mapagbiro na, nagpapatawa kasama si Ms. Aikaya lagi kaming masaya sa set. Nagkaroon talaga kami ng chemistry, para kaming isang tunay na familykaya walang stress kapag nagtatrabaho. Kung gaano kami kasaya sa set makikita niyo ‘yun sa pelikula.Viewers will really enjoy this film.”
Playing lead in ‘Cinco’
AJ, together with friends from the all-male dance group Giggerboys Sam Concepcion and Robi Domingo, was handpicked by Star Cinema to top-bill one of the five episodes in the 2010 horror film Cinco. The three played fraternity neophytes who are locked up in a morgue for one night as part of their initiation. But the lead role came with a catch, and that is, all throughout the episode, the three wore nothing but boxer shorts.
Rather than chickening out, the young men took their roles as a chance for growth. AJ explained, “Parang it’s a way of saying na this is one way of growing up as an artist. I’m up for it. Me and Robi are doing Muay Thai na so we can get into shape para when the time comes we need to do mature roles we are ready. And I can say naready na ako.”
AJ couldn’t believe that from playing small roles in movies, he finally got the chance to play lead because ofCinco. “Dati puro lang ako support. Dito isa na ako sa mga bida at horror pa so definitely magiging challengingsiya for me. Maganda kasi the viewers will finally see ‘yung presence namin.”
Movie with the ‘Mara Clara’ stars
As soon as his teleserye Sabel wrapped up last March, AJ was chosen by Star Cinema to be part of the planned launching movie for Kathryn Bernardo and Julia Montes who gained fame for playing the title roles in the successful remake of the drama Mara Clara. The movie also included the girls’ Mara Clara co-star Albie Casiño. In an interview with Push.com.ph following the story conference for the movie, AJ shared his best wishes for Kathryn and Julia. “Napapanood ko sila minsan. Hindi ko rin masubaybayan ‘yung show nila as much as I want to kasi busy rin ako sa taping ng Sabel. Nagagalingan ako kina Kathryn at Julia. This will be the launching movie of the three Mara Clara stars and including me. I hope this will be very successful.”
AJ was also excited about the project because he would be working with one of his best buddies, Albie. AJ and Albie both studied at La Salle Greenhills. “We have our group of friends sa school so we all go out together or sometimes eat together. Matagal ko na ‘yang kilala. Mas nauna lang ako mag-showbiz pero halos magka-agekami. Two years pa lang siya sa showbiz pero nakikita kong ang laki na ng improvement niya,” said AJ.
Thankful to Star Cinema
His movie career was about to take flight when it was cut short by the tragic accident. Nevertheless, in the six years that he was in showbiz, AJ got the opportunity that every celebrity dreams of, and that is to work with big screen icons. Starting out with minor and supporting roles, he went on to prove that he also deserved to play lead, and AJ never forgot to thank Star Cinema for the trust. “Ang dami ko na rin kasing ginawang movie sa Star Cinema kahit na in the past ay mga small roles lang. I'm happy to say that kahit papaano ay nabibigyang importansiya at napapansin naman ng Star Cinema ang kakayahan ko as an actor.”
ABS-CBN to file ‘reckless imprudence’ case against driver of AJ’s van
ABS-CBN will file a “reckless imprudence” case against driver of van that carried AJ and four other companions. The statement released by the network’s Corporate Communications reads, “Matapos suriin ang mga detalye sa insidente, magsasampa ang ABS-CBN ng kasong reckless imprudence laban sa driver ng Southbend. Ito ay karagdagan sa naunang kasong inihain laban sa driver ng PARTAS bus.” The driver is an employee of Southbend Express Services, Inc, a service contractor of ABS-CBN.
AJ died in the early hours of April 17 when their van collided with a bus along the road in Barangay San Julian, Moncada, Tarlac. According to the initial investigation of Moncada Police, the van attempted to overtake a trailer truck, but hit the Partas bus in the process.
Courtesy: Push.com.ph and ABS-CBN.com