Teen star’s rise cut short by Tarlac road accident | Inquirer News

Teen star’s rise cut short by Tarlac road accident

MANILA, Philippines—At 10 p.m. on Saturday, heading back to Manila after a show in Pangasinan, he posted a message on Twitter: “On the way home already from Dagupan. Long drive ahead. Thanks to everybody who watched.”

Two hours later, at around 12:20 a.m. Sunday, teen actor AJ Perez was pronounced dead in a Tarlac hospital.

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He was 18.

Perez, one of the stars in the popular ABS-CBN drama series “Sabel,” was killed after their van collided with a bus in Moncada town in Tarlac province, police said.

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Perez and his five companions were on a white Nissan Urvan when they met with the accident along MacArthur Highway in Barangay San Julian, Moncada, Police Officer 3 Lowel Directo said.

With him were his father Gerardo Perez, 46, and companions Cristina Ferrer, Danalyn Dunga, Edwin Petillos and driver Christopher Bautista.

Perez, his father, Ferrer and Dunga were rushed to Rayos-Valentin Hospital in Paniqui town, but doctors there failed to revive the actor.

Bautista was held by the police for questioning.

AJ was the only fatality in the collision.

How it happened

Police said a northbound Partas bus hit Perez’s van, which was part of a two-vehicle convoy. The first van in the convoy overtook a truck and the van of Perez’s group followed in its wake.

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The Partas bus hit the side of Perez’s van and, as a result, the van slammed into the truck, police said.

Reports said that in Pangasinan, Perez had joined other ABS-CBN talents in the network’s Kapamilya Caravan as part of Dagupan’s month-long celebration of the Bangus Festival.

At the Dagupan show, Perez sang two songs and danced.

The group left the city at past 10 p.m. after eating in a local restaurant.

‘Beautiful inside and out’

In the show biz world Perez left behind, peers were in agreement: He was full of promise, destined for bigger things.

Comedienne Eugene Domingo, who played his overprotective mother in the Regal Films comedy “Mamarazzi,” remembered Perez fondly. “He was a beautiful boy, inside and out. I told (fellow comic) John Lapus that I couldn’t wait to see AJ make it big in the business.”

Filmmaker Jose Javier Reyes, who directed Perez in the Metro Manila Film Festival movies “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo,” “Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo” and “Magkaibigan,” said he saw on the set Perez’s growth as an actor.

“After shooting AJ’s dramatic scene with Jinggoy Estrada, I called up Mariole Alberto [of Star Magic, his management firm] and told her that AJ had improved a lot and that he would eventually become one of ABS-CBN’s top leading men.”

Palace condolence

Off the set, this was how Domingo described Perez: “He was hardworking. I will always remember him as a sweet boy who never failed to greet me in the morning and say ‘thank you’ after a hard day’s work.”

Malacañang condoled with Perez’s family.

“I heard the sad news about AJ Perez and we want to extend our condolence to his family,” President Benigno Aquino III’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

The young actor, born Antonello Joseph Sarte Perez on Feb. 17, 1993, was set to be launched to full stardom by his home studio.

2 Lasallians

Perez was a high school graduate from La Salle Green Hills. Soon, a director was singling him out as “another Rico Yan” in the making. Yan was also a Lasallian and young achiever who died in 2002.

Bong Osorio, head of the Kapamilya network’s corporate communications, said: “ABS-CBN sympathizes with AJ’s family on his untimely demise and urges everyone to pray for the eternal repose of his soul … ABS-CBN continues to help AJ’s family during this difficult and discomforting time and to attend to the needs of the others that got hurt in the unfortunate accident.”

Show must go on

Perez was to have appeared on the weekly variety program “ASAP Rocks” on Sunday.

Instead of the usual song-and-dance number, “ASAP” dedicated its opening number to Perez. Gary Valenciano sang “Home,” while co-stars, all dressed in white, fought back tears.

Perez is survived by his father, mother and a younger brother. With reports from Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Christine O. Avendaño in Manila

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TAGS: Celebrities, Entertainment, Road accident, television
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