Police officer Neil Perez was feted to a hero’s welcome when he returned recently from Ansan, Korea where he won as Mister International 2015. Perez paid Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada a courtesy call at the Manila City Hall on Friday afternoon.
Mayor Estrada declared Perez a proud son of Tondo for bringing honor to the city, to the people, his fellow policemen and to the whole country. “You have set an example for the rest of our police enforcers, who think that once a policeman, there is no more hope. It’s a rare feat for a policeman to win in a male pageant. You could be an actor too and be idolized by our youth and surely women,” the mayor teasingly told Perez.
“Physical fitness is foremost a requirement in joining the police, you cannot qualify if you’re not fit and healthy, what is more important is that they serve truthfully, to protect, especially, our poor people. Like what President Magsaysay said ‘those who have less in life, must have more in law,’” Estrada said. He stood up and shook the hands of Perez who in turn gave the Mayor a hand salute.
From the Manila City Hall, Perez was given a victory parade starting in Intramuros, near San Agustin Church, to the Rizal Park, where he paid respect to the national hero Jose Riza. He proceeded to the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay from there.
People from all walks of life, who are accustomed to beauty queens, welcomed and cheered the good-looking cop. Officers of the Aviation Security Group who work at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport were present to greet Perez, their instructor and idol in the police service.
Neil Perez, whose real name is Mariano P. Flormata, Jr., dedicated his participation in the Mister International 2015 to the Fallen 44, seven of whom were his PNP batch mates. At the finals, when he heard his name called out the winner, an emotional Perez saluted several times in honor of his comrades killed in the bloody Mamasapano encounter. He was in tears as his victory was meant to be dedicated in the memory of the courageous cops.
When asked what has been his biggest disappointment in life, Neil answered in Filipino, “Unang-una ang aking disappointment sa aking buhay ay ang ‘di ko paggalang sa aking magulang. Kaya ko pinagsisihan ito dahil malaking bagay ang mahalin natin ang ating mga magulang, dahil sila ang pangalawang utos ng Diyos para sa ating mga Katoliko (My disappointment in life is when I disobeyed my parents. But I learned from it, that it’s important to respect your parents, and it is the second of the commandments of God for Catholics).”
The strategy to speak in his native tongue and an interpreter, the first for any Philippine delegate in an international contest, paid off as the judges, mostly Koreans, also do not communicate in English.
At the victory party held at One Esplanade, organized by Carlo Morris Galang of Misters of the Philippines pageant, Perez said he hoped that his winning could help in the efforts to encourage uniformed men to draw inspiration from the heroism and sacrifices of the Fallen 44 to become good law enforcers.
Perez, who was joined by his parents on the stage, thanked his supporters, his friends, PNP family and the media. He said that he would have no objection if ever the Mamasapano incident will be translated on screen, and would accept if offered to join the cast, as he believed the movie would be serve as inspiration for all the men in uniform, and as a tribute to the heroism of the SAF officers.
Perez also asked his supporters to extend the same support to the Mister Global Philippines Joseph Doruelo, a 20-year-old, registered nurse from Caloocan City, who is set to compete in the 2015 Mister Global pageant in Thailand on March 14.