AJ Perez’s father, Gerardo "Gerry" Perez, seemed serene as he welcomed mourners at Christ the King church at Greenmeadows for the third day of his son’s wake.
But deep down inside, he still feels pain, not just physically but emotionally, as he deals with the loss of his firstborn.
Shortly after midnight of April 17, Mr. Perez and several other companions accompanied AJ for the drive back to Manila. They had just come from Dagupan where AJ took part in a show for the Bangus Festival.
Mr. Perez was seated on the right side of AJ when their van collided with a bus. AJ was sleeping with his seat reclined. He was declared dead on arrival at the Rayos-Valentin hospital in Paniqui, Tarlac. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)
The left side of Mr. Perez’s face has visible scars left from the accident. He recalls, "Parang yung glass pumunta dito."
He lifted his left arm to show black bruises. He remarks, "Minor ito compared to AJ and the other road managers na kasama namin."
A source revealed that Nina, AJ’s road manager, is still confined in a hospital. Doctors advised that she wait for the swelling of her left arm to subside before undergoing needed surgery.
According to a source from Star Magic, the talent management arm of ABS-CBN for which Nina works, Nina needs surgery. The bones of her left arm were crushed during the accident.
A FATHER’S GRIEF. PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) had the chance to interview Mr. Perez shortly before midnight last night, April 19.
Where does he get the strength to deal with this tragedy?
"From AJ mismo...and my son Gelo," he says. "Siguro somehow he [AJ] wants me to continue what he started."
He admits, however, that he has trouble sleeping because he is haunted by flashbacks of the tragic accident.
"I don’t know if all this pain will settle down. Ang sa akin lang, puyat na puyat ako kasi ayaw kong matulog.
"Coz everytime I close my eyes, yung nightmare parang ano...ang hirap.
"When I attempt to go to sleep, nai-imagine ko yung...kahit sino naman siguro."
When asked to recall his son’s beginnings in the entertainment industry, he said that he didn’t think AJ would get this far.
In fact, AJ is one of the young stars listed in the April 2011 issue of YES! magazine as the "Next Big Thing." This is a list of names that his network has made of the stars that ABS-CBN will support with machinery and money in the next three years. Five of the network’s executives chose the names on the list.
"Nung ginawa niya yung second commercial niya, alam ko maii-spot siya. Pero di ko akalain na he wanted to be an artista or an actor.
"Kasi si AJ, noong bata pa, mahiyain siya," he reveals.
Was he supportive back then of AJ’s plans or was he hesitant to let AJ enter showbiz?
"Kami naman, supportive kami sa anak namin. Hindi naman dream ito ng parents, kundi ng anak."
Mr. Perez also revealed his son’s plans for college after graduating from La Salle Greenhills about a month ago.
"He originally wanted to take Entrepreneurship, which he passed, but later he shifted to Marketing at naaprubahan uli siya.
"One of his best friends, yung childhood friend niya, dalawa silang pumasa sa Entrepreneurship, pero they decided na lumipat sa Marketing. He was pretty excited kasi dalawa sila, kumbaga may kasabay siya."
NO BLAMING, FOR NOW. According to a report from ABS-CBN News, the driver of the van AJ and company were riding in allegedly tried to overtake a trailer truck and was then hit by an incoming bus.
The article of ABS-CBN News quoted Police Officer 2 Michael Millante of the Moncada Police as saying: "Nung makarating sa may Barangay San Julian, allegedly itong van ng ABS-CBN, um-overtake ng isang trailer.
"’Yung pagka-overtake n’ya po, in the process, nag-alangan po siya. Tinamaan po niya itong Partas na nagresulta sa pagkapinsala nung laman ng van."
Is Mr. Perez mad at the driver?
Mr. Perez paused for a few moments before answering, "Ah...galit? Hindi naman siguro. Hindi ako tao na...who will start pointing fingers.
"Not at this time.
"I’m just living by what I think AJ wants me to do.
"For once, hindi naman kung ano ang gusto ko.
"I think AJ wanted...ayaw niya ng gulo, ayaw niyang mag-point ng fingers kung sinong at fault.
"After all this, I’m going to look at the past and look at everything and sit down and find out what’s being done.
"Kasi nawala si AJ, kumbaga nawalan kami ng anak who had a bright future whether in showbiz or whatever field."