Al Perez: Master painter of heritage churches


In the book Al Perez: Sacred and Profane, art critic Cid Reyes describes Perez as quoting “reality as he actually saw it with an artist’s wandering eye.” He further said that “the painterly churches of Perez come across to the contemporary viewer with the weight of centuries, the density of the passage of time, and the gravitas of our colonial past, which together, in the alchemy of history, created the identity, indeed the soul, of the Filipino.”

The book was launched 15 July last year at the Passion Art Gallery at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City and coincided with the exhibit Versatile Impressions. Published by Cebu-based Kawayan Press, the book was co-authored by Reyes, Jose Maria Cariño, Eugene Servigon and this writer.

A 2021 work by Perez.

Perez, born on 30 March 1947, passed away on 28 February at the age of 76.

A “miracle child,” as he often described himself, Perez is known for his paintings and reliefs of Philippine heritage churches and was a product of the University of Santo Tomas. There, he completed his degree in Fine Arts in 1968.

In 1984, he studied at New York’s Art Students League and at the School of Visual Arts, also in New York in 1996. His big break was his stint as an artist at the Ayala Museum in the 1970s where he was further exposed to iconic Spanish era churches in the Philippines through fieldworks together with the museum’s researcher Rey Resureccion.

‘Untitled’ (2020).

In 1976, he was selected as one of 13 most promising artists of the Art Association of the Philippines. In 1980, he was awarded the Most Outstanding Bulakeño in the Field of Painting and in 1985, the Outstanding Citizen Award of Hagonoy.

Perez was a Cultural Awardee for Visual Art during the 1989 Araw ng Maynila celebrations and in 2022, the Cultural Center of the Philippines gave him the Hiyas Award, given to outstanding artists, cultural organizations and cultural workers in Luzon.

The GSIS Museo ng Sining paid tribute to Perez in a Facebook post and thanked him for “his works as an artist for the nation.”

UST professor Mary Ann Bulanadi, Perez’s niece, also thanked the latter for the inspiration, describing him as a “colleague in the arts, a relative, and a fellow Thomasian.”