By Walter Ang
April 12, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer
He has a series of books, which includes "Mga Panibagong Kulam," that teaches readers how to cast spells. Another series chronicles the experiences of the Spirit Questors, a group of psychics that communicate with paranormal entities, which he formed in 1996.
He also has five books set in Cubao, where he has lived since 1955. Perez was born in Pampanga in 1951 but relocated as a young child. "My father was a colonel and set down roots in this area (near Camp Crame) that was allotted for military officers who served in Korea," he says.
Perez started writing in grade school, encouraged by his teachers. "They told me I should be a writer when I grow up. As a young child, it sort of stuck to my mind. I did end up as a writer," he says. "That's why I always tell parents to encourage their children to be creative."
Perez notes that his own interest in esoteric activities such as magic, shamanism, psychic powers and dreamwork stems from the fact that Filipinos have a natural affinity for the mystical. A rich heritage of folklore and mythologies, and a deep connection with religion, he observes, provides a breeding ground for Filipinos to connect with the paranormal.
His passion for spiritual matters led him to pursue a Masters in Religious Studies which he completed in 2004. His thesis "Pagsubok sa Ilang: Ikaapat na Mukha ni Satanas," an analysis of how Satan is portrayed by theologians, won the 2005 National Book Award for Theology and Religion.
Aside from writing, Perez is also involved in the visual arts. He's worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, art therapist, and fabric artist (by way of knitting). He also paints and has worked with different media from watercolor to craypas. He was named as one of the Thirteen Artists of the Philippines by the Cultural Center of the Philippines back in 1972.
All these years, he'd been doing all of his writing, esoteric work, and painting while working at his day job at the Public Affairs section of the United States Embassy. "I have to pay the bills," he says matter of factly. In addition, he used to teach in several universities while pursuing a (yet to be completed) Masters in Clinical Psychology.
"Mondays to Fridays, I would work in the embassy and teach classes in the evening. On Saturdays, I would still be teaching the whole day," he says. The extremely heavy workload took its toll and he suffered a mild stroke in 2005.
Perez no longer teaches. "I had to give something up!" he says emphatically. He now spends his free time organizing his files towards the completion of a 40-volume set of his collected works.
Volumes 1, 3, 4 and 5 have already been published. "The volumes won't come out in chronological order because I'm not a good archivist," he says.
Lovers of theater and drama will be pleased to know that the volumes that are already out contain his plays. Volume 1 "Pagkamulat Sa Kastilyo: Tatlong Dulang Pambata" includes Tolda, Kwentong Baboy, and Tagbituin, while Volume 3 "Hibik Ni Amang-Hari: Mga Unang Dula" includes Hoy Boyet, Gabun, and Anak ng Araw.
In 2008, he won the National Book Award for Drama for Volume 4 "Tatlong Paglalakbay: Tatlong Mahabang Dula ," which includes the trilogy Bombita, Biyaheng Timog, and Sa North Diversion Road.
Volume 5 "Limos na Tinapay" contains psychological case studies and some early prose.
Offering advice to aspiring playwrights, Perez says, "Many playwrights today start out writing plays with the ultimate objective of becoming a screenwriter and you just cannot do it that way. The theater is a very special medium and you can't write for it when you eventually want to write for another medium."
He mourns the lack of material dealing with adult themes. "My adult plays are for audiences 30 years old and above. They understand my subject matter because they've gone through intense love, death, separation, giving compassion, poverty, hunger, getting married, giving birth, burying someone," he says. "Most playwrights now write for elementary or high school audiences because that's where the market is."
"Don't be limited by the notion that to be nationalistic, you have to write only in Filipino," he says. "The Filipino now is a global person with a global audience. Young writers should write in English for their voices to be heard."
Perez encourages young playwrights to widen their scope. "They only think of single plays. They don't develop plays in the magnitude of trilogies or even writing in series," he says. "We Filipinos should think big."
Volume 2 "Pagbabaguntao Sa Berbanya: Limang Usap-usapan" (Alex Antiporda; Sierra Lakes; Biyernes, 4:00 N.H.; Sacraments of The Dead; The Wayside Café)
Volume 9 "Huling Tanawin Sa Bundok Ng Tabor: Three Journey Plays" (Bombita; Trip to The South; On The North Diversion Road) of The Collected Works of Tony Perez
recently launched by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House.
Call 731-3101 Loc. 8252/ 8278.
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