Parents say AJ Perez's legacy will live on through Eye Bank

AJ Perez (Jerome Ascano, NPPA Images)Four months after his death, AJ Perez's legacy continues to live on.

This is after the Philippine Eye Bank Foundation formally announced last week that the late Kapamilya actor is the new poster boy of the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines.

It will be recalled that AJ’s parents, Gerry and Marivic donated their son’s eyes to the Eye Bank. His parents wanted to donate AJ's eyes to blind singer Fatima Soriano, who has a problem with her retinas. But since only corneas can be transplanted, John Daniel Delos Santos and Lawrence Villanueva received AJ's eyes instead.

Past celebrity eye donors include Miko Sotto, Christian Angelo Manhilot (Cesar Montano’s son), James Lim (Toni Rose Gayda’s son) and Jay Ilagan.
According to Gerry, one of the people who convinced them to donate AJ's eyes and to make him an ambassador for the foundation is host Ali Sotto, Miko’s mother.

“During the wake kasi, the support and sympathy just poured in. Ali asked if AJ could be a poster boy of this (Eye Bank) because kailangang kailangan din ng foundation ito,” he narrated. “So we just talked about it and then wala na.”

Marivic admitted it was “not really easy to decide right then and there,” but added: “I would say na alam ko naman na even if I don't ask AJ, he'd be willing to help. Matulungin din sya so I don't think it'd be hard for him to do something for a good cause. I don't have to ask him anymore kasi alam ko naman na yun ang gusto nya.”

She further said: “I think, para sa akin, nakakatulong ka rin, tapos yung legacy ni AJ will live on. Andun pa rin yung pagtulong nya sa tao. And I'm sure naman if AJ's still here, ganun dun. He's a very kindhearted person so it's not really hard for him to do such things na makakatulong sa tao.”

Marivic also said they are planning to start a foundation that will focus on education under AJ's name. This is still a work in progress, she said, although they already talked to people from La Salle Greenhills (AJ's alma mater) regarding a possible scholarship program.

“We'll start from there,” Marivic said.

“Time of My Life's” Steven Silva, who met AJ during a cover photo shoot with “Garage” magazine, said he can help by promoting the foundation.

“I didn't know a lot of people were affected by this, so I think what they're doing is very difficult. So ang kailangan nila, they need support, donations. So there I can help with promoting the awareness and with donations,” the Kapuso star said.

Meanwhile, AJ's leading lady of three years, Lauren Young, finds it admirable how even in death, one can give back through eye donation.

“Even though he met such a tragedy, AJ was still able to give back,” she said. “Hearing all their (eye recipients') stories, it's so inspiring how you can help even though you've passed away already. You're giving life to other people.”

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