You would mostly recognize Neil Perez, or Mariano Flormata, Jr. in real life, as the handsome crime fighter who made a lot of women swoon when he won the Mr. International tilt in 2014. But little did many people know, there’s something more beyond his machismo and chiseled physique.
The 31-year-old bomb and explosive technician from the Philippine National Police’s Aviation Security Group has been active on TV and other platforms promoting different campaigns to uplift the image of the law enforcers in the country. Hence, amid showbiz opportunities coming literally on his doorsteps, Perez has sworn to keep his loyalty to his chosen profession.
“I can’t trade off my profession. This is my childhood dream. I’m just fortunate that I was given the opportunity to appear on TV. So, whenever I have showbiz and modeling engagements, I just ask permission to take a leave from work,” Perez said in vernacular during an interview with the Manila Standard.
Perez has already appeared in a few TV shows including Magpakailanman, where he portrayed himself as the “Poging Policeman,” and in TV5’s Wattpad miniseries opposite Isabelle de Leon.
According to “Poging Policeman,” or gwapolice as what some people would call him, he used to juggle his time between studies and work because he wanted to be a policeman just like his father. Born and raised in a family that struggled to make both ends meet, he had to learn to be independent and work hard to put himself to school. So, giving up his being a cop was never an option. It hasn’t even crossed his mind, to begin with.
“While studying, I was worki
ng as a security guard. There were times that I had to finish a 36-hour shift then still go to school. It was really hard but I was determined to finish school because I wanted to be a cop,” he revealed.
As a child growing in Vitas Street in Tondo, where he and his family still reside, he used to fetch water for his neighbor.
“Probably that’s the reason why I’m physically strong. I was already trained to lift heavy objects and do strenuous activities at a young age. Mahirap kasi ang tubig sa Tondo,” he chuckled.
It also helped that his father had introduced him and his siblings to sports like basketball at an early age. He has developed an active lifestyle that even he is a caught up in his busy schedule, he still finds time to exercise and keep himself fit.
“It’s funny sometimes that my father would say, ‘hey, you’re arms are getting smaller, go to the gym and build more muscles.’ He’s the one who really encourages me to take care of my body. But what I do…I don’t miss the chance to do some pushups and situps every single day,” Perez said.
Given that his training in the PNP had helped him develop self-control and efficiency at everything he does, Perez is already a disciplined person. He said, he’s gone through a lot of hurdles in life that’s why he’s learned to become focused and resilient.
Recognizing his being tough at life’s challenges, KIX, the ultimate destination of action entertainment in Asia, collaborates with Perez and assigned him as the new ambassador of R U Tough Enough, a nationwide search for the toughest Pinoy. In this search, ten people, comprising of men and women, will be recruited to compete in a series of challenges that will test the limits of their physical strength, mental endurance and emotional resilience.
“In my line of work, I see how tough and disciplined Pinoys are on a daily basis. I am happy to be part of R U Tough Enough? because it gives us Pinoys a chance to show how resilient, resourceful and tough we truly are,” Perez ended.
R U Tough Enough? is open to all Philippines residents aged 18 years old and above. The 10 finalists will compete against one another in a final showdown at The Block Atrium of SM North EDSA on Oct. 14. The winner of this final showdown, which consists of an obstacle course with numerous tough challenges, will win the grand prize of P250000.00.
PHOTOS BY SONNY ESPIRITU