TV host Ali Sotto had a heart-to-heart talk with AJ Perez's mother, Marivic Perez, last night at Christ the King chapel in Green Meadows.
April 19 marked the third night of AJ's wake following a fatal vehicular accident that took place last Sunday, April 17, in Moncada, Tarlac. (CLICK HERE to learn more about the accident.)
Ali herself lost her 21-year-old son, Miko Sotto, on December 29, 2003. Miko fell from the 9th floor of his condominium building in Mandaluyong City.
Ali and her husband Maru Sotto donated their son's corneas to the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines. Since then, the Starbox host has been actively involved in this advocacy.
The parents of AJ Perez, Gerry and Marivic, have also decided to donate his eyes to the Eye Bank.
They originally wanted to donate his eyes to blind singer Fatima Soriano, but Fatima's eye doctor said that having a corneal transplant would not cure her blindness since it was her retina that was the problem. (CLICK HERE to read related article.)
As a result, one cornea of AJ was given to an eight-year-old boy while another was given to a 28-year-old male.
In an interview last night during the wake, Ali told PEP and TV Patrol: "Like AJ, Miko also donated yung corneas niya. And I was telling Marivic that it has helped me cope.
"It's comforting to know that yung selfless act mo of donating the corneas ni AJ... It's comforting to know na hindi meaningless yung death ng anak mo."
Ali recalled that Dr. Menguita Padilla of Eye Bank asked her if they could make Miko the "poster boy" for cornea donation.
She revealed, "I was telling Marivic that they might want to consider that, kasi ang sarap ng feeling na...naghahanap ka kasi ng kahulugan, e, because it's very difficult for us to accept na he's so young, full of promise, and gone too soon.
"Si AJ, from what I heard—I did not have the privilege of meeting this beautiful boy—but from all the people who have been privileged enough to meet him, talagang he's a wonderful, wonderful son.
"Yun yung sinasabi ko kay Marivic, [AJ is a] perfect poster boy for cornea donation kasi somebody who's as well-known as him and a role model...mas madadalian ang Eye Bank na lumapit sa mga tao na namatayan pa lamang ng kamag-anak, minamahal sa buhay, at sabihing 'Gusto po ba ninyo i-donate yung cornea?'
"This time, sasabihin, 'Kamukha ng ginawa ni AJ.'"
AJ's MOTHER OPENS UP FOR THE FIRST TIME. ABS-CBN reporter Gretchen Fullido then asked Marivic how she came up with the idea of donating AJ's eyes.
Marivic calmly recalled that fateful Saturday night when she was in Manila, waiting for the arrival of her son AJ and husband Gerry from the Bangus Festival in Dagupan.
"Kasi before the accident, I was watching this late show of Boy Abunda called Bottom Line. His guest was Fatima and I was watching, and Boy Abunda asked Fatima if she can offer a prayer so televiewers can follow the prayer.
"I followed the prayer, so I was closing my eyes and then when I was praying. I just felt na lang that I was crying. I felt na parang there's something wrong.
"That was about past 11 in the evening and the accident happened at around 12 [midnight]. I think in less than 10 minutes, I got this phone call from my husband telling me about the incident, the accident.
"So I really cried. That's why I thought of Fatima. I want to donate sana the cornea of AJ to Fatima."
Does she consider this to be a premonition of his death?
"I think so," replied Marivic. "I was really worried because it was already late, e, and I didn't expect the show would end that late. So I kept on... I texted, I called up.
"The last time I received a call from AJ was 9:40 in the evening and he was telling me he will be home soon so I don't have to worry. I was hoping that he will be fine."
Marivic also recalled that on his last night in their home, AJ asked to sleep in the same room with his parents.
"That was a night before the accident," she said. "Ginagawa naman niya before kasi he's really a sweet boy. Ginagawa niya paminsan-minsan.
"Kaya lang that time, parang medyo matagal na hindi niya ginawa, and then he asked me, 'Mom, can I sleep with you tonight?' Sabi ko, 'Why not? It's ok, it's fine with me.'
"I didn't know that would be the last na pala na I can hug him, I can kiss him."
What will she miss most about AJ?
"I think I will miss everything. Everything. I love him so much, he's a very loving boy, and he always makes us proud until the last. He always makes us happy and proud."
Marivic then mentioned that AJ was supposed to take up Marketing at De La Salle University.
How is the family coping with this tragedy?
"We're trying to cope up," she said.
"We're trying to be strong kasi we have to do that also for our younger son," she says, referring to Angelo who will turn 13 years old this May.
"We want AJ to be happy, we want him not to worry naman. I'm sure he doesn't want to see na we're sad."
How is Angelo dealing with this situation?
"It's hard for Gelo, I know. It's not easy for him kasi he loves his brother so much. So I think he's trying to be strong din. He's doing it also for Kuya daw."
When asked to give her message to AJ's fans and the friends he left behind, Mrs. Marivic Perez had this to say:
"I really want to thank all the overwhelming support of the people, and I feel so good hearing all those good words for AJ and it makes me really, and not only me, my husband—so proud parents. He made us so proud and so happy.
"He's almost a perfect son, I could say."