|Neil Perez in swimwear for the Misters of the Philippines pageant. He wants to promote a healthy lifestyle in the police force|
A couple of days after 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, on their way to arrest two terrorists, were massacred by Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters guerrillas in Maguindanao, a policeman, who will be competing in an international male beauty pageant, was feted with a send-off party at the One Esplanade Lounge at the SM Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.
Neil Perez, whose real name is Mariano Perez Flormata, Jr., dedicated his “fight” to his fallen comrades, some of whom he know personally.
The 29-year-old bomb and explosives technician of the PNP Aviation Security Group attracted considerable attention from the media and social networking sites middle of last year when he joined the nascent male beauty pageant Misters of the Philippines.
For the first time in history, a policeman joined a male beauty pageant, said Carlo Morris Galang, project director of Prime Event Productions Philippines Foundation Inc. (PEPP), organizer of the local contest. “We thought then only models will join our contest,” he added.
Perez, who represented the district of Tondo in Manila, clinched one of the major titles—Mister International Philippines—as well as the special awards Best in Swimwear and Most Photogenic at the finals night on September 7, 2014.
The criminology graduate of the Manuel L. Quezon University, who has been with the police force for about six years now, said he joined the pageant to be a role model for other policemen, especially promoting a healthy lifestyle, as well as to dispel the bad image of the police force. This was somewhat achieved after he won as fellow policemen became keen in knowing his methods and style even on what he eats. Perez showed that policemen can also be handsome and shipshape, said Galang.
The PNP has shown support from the time he joined the local pageant up until the international competition. Perez flies today, February 2, to Seoul, South Korea, where the Mister International 2014 pageant will be held, including the finals night on February 12, after several postponements from its original date in October and then in November 2014. This will be the ninth edition of the Mister International pageant, to be mounted at the Grand Hilton Seoul.
Perez has undergone several preparations for the pageant such as augmenting his fitness routines and polishing his grooming skills.
“The Mister International pageant is all about being a total gentleman, and Neil has been determined and passionate about his preparations in order to represent the Philippines in the best possible light in the pageant,” said Galang.
Perez will be participating in various pre-pageant activities and preliminary competitions for the next two weeks. While they also prepared for the question-and-answer portion of the pageant, the organizers have arranged for an interpreter for Perez, who is more comfortable speaking in Filipino.
As example, Perez answered a variation of a question posed at the recent Miss Universe pageant during the send-off party: What is the contribution of the Filipino to the world?
“Ang malaking kontribusyon ng mga Filipino sa mundo ay ang OFW (overseas Filipino workers) natin, ‘yun galing nila, ‘yung trabaho nila. Malaking bagay din ‘yun para makatulong sa ibang bansa,” (The big contribution of the Filipinos to the world is our OFW, their excellence and their work. It is a big thing to help out other countries) he said.
Perez’s national costume of fiery colors, inspired by the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo, is designed by Edwin Uy, who wanted something flashier. For the formal wear, Olan Roque designed a tuxedo.
After pageant, Perez expressed desire to go back to the police force even if there are offers in showbusiness. It is where his heart is, he said.
Perez will compere against 54 other contestants coming from Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Morocco, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Poland, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Venezuela and Vietnam.
In the past, the title was won by Wissam Hanna of Lebanon in 2006, Alan Martini of Brazil in 2007, Ngo Tien Doan of Vietnam in 2008, Bruno Kettels of Bolivia in 2009, Ryan Terry of Great Britain in 2010, Cesar Curti of Brazil in 2011, Ron Teh of Singapore in 2012 and Jose Anmer Paredes of Venezuela in 2013.
Founded in 2006, the annual Mister International is owned and organized by the Mister Singapore Organization, which also organizes the Mister Singapore pageant. Since its founding, 72 coutnries have sent representatives, and the pageant has an average of 31 contestants a year.
Past Philippine contestants are Ken Escudero (2006), who got into the semifinals and won the Mister Photogenic award; Jeff Surio (2008), a top ten finalist; Michael Manansala (2009); Raphael Cruz Carlos (2010), a top 15 finalist; Fhrancis Oliver Lopez (2011), a top 16 finalist; Mark John D. Gutoman (2012); and Gil Wagas Jr. (2013), who was fourth runner-up, the Philippines’ highest placement so far in the pageant.
The local franchise of Mister International is now owned by PEPPS, which also owns the Philippine franchise for Mister International, Manhunt International, Mister Global, Mister Tourism International, Mister Model International and Mister Asia pageants. Galang, who has experience in male beauty pageants, having joined the Mister Philippines International competition in 2009 and the Mister Philippines-World in 2010, said that there is rising interest in male beauty pageants and they want to be a counterpart of Binibing Pilipinas and other major beauty pageant organizations in the country.
He revealed that they have had heartening results in just two years. The contestants they have sent garnered favorable results such as June Macasaet winning the Manhunt International title in 2012; Wagas’s fourth runner-up placement in 2013 Mister International; Judah Cohen’s being one of the Mister Tourism International 2014 finalists; Wilfred Placencia Jr.’s Mister Global 2014 fourth-runner-up finish; and Adam Rhys Davies’s recent Mister Model International 2014 third-runner-up win.
PEPP is confident Perez will continue this favorable streak.
|Neil Perez says he still wants to be a policeman|
|Neil Perez with his family|
|Perez with Christian Mark Galang, Mister Asia Philippines; and Joseph Doruelo, Mister Global Philippines|
|The tuxedo and the national costume, inspired by the Dinagyang Festival, Perez will be wearing during the competition|
|Being a policeman, Perez garnered considerattention when he joined a male beauty pageant. He will be competing at the Mister International pageant South Korea|