ALFREDO “Al” Santos Perez, a Thomasian visual artist who made a mark through his paintings and sculptures of Philippine heritage churches, died on Feb. 28 following cardiac arrest. He was 76. 

His death was confirmed to the Varsitarian by his daughter Christina. 

“It truly amazes me how he worked hard to be there to support everyone and was able to support me and my mom financially, and even his siblings, with his amazing talent,” Christina said. 

“He left a good legacy with his Philippine churches, mostly done in watercolor medium, that mirrored the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Filipino people,” she added. 

Perez graduated from the defunct College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CAFA) in 1968 with a degree in advertising arts.

After honing his skills in the University, Perez mastered painting important places of worship in the Philippines, like the Barasoain Church in Bulacan, Quiapo Church in Manila, and Miag-ao Church in Iloilo, among many others, using watercolor.  

Eleazar Abraham “Abe” Orobia, public relations officer of the UST Atelier Alumni Association, Inc., said Perez helped raise awareness of and conserve many heritage places of worship through his art.

“He contributed to the better appreciation of historical sites and houses of worship. More importantly, his genre works documented old and original features of the structures that are already lost or will be lost in the near future,” Orobia said. 

Asst. Prof. Mary Ann Bulanadi, a College of Fine Arts and Design faculty member and a distant relative of Perez, remembered the late artist as a supportive figure in the art community. 

“He was very supportive of all projects and exhibits we did… He was active in the national and Bulacan art scene,” Bulanadi said. 

Perez was born on March 30, 1947 in Hagonoy, Bulacan. 

His fervor for heritage churches can be traced to when he fell ill at a young age. His mother, wanting his son to be cured of fever, pledged the young Al to the icon of Santa Monica in the visita or chapel of Santo Cristo in Hagonoy, in exchange for his recovery. 

During his stay at UST, Perez was under the tutelage of the late Professor Emeritus Cenon Rivera, whose stained glass work is installed in various churches.

He pursued further studies in New York at the Arts Students League in 1984 and at the School of Visual Arts in 1996. 

Because of his virtuosity in making religious artwork, Perez was commissioned to paint gifts for pontiffs twice: in 1981, when he painted the Agoo, La Union Church for Pope John Paul II, and in 2015 when he did a portrait of Pope Francis. 

Perez had also participated in international competitions, including the Havana Biennale in 1986 and the 17th Singapore International Arts Festival in 1998, and group shows at the Vatican in 2000 and the Macau Museum of Art in 2002. 

His paintings of heritage churches and other religious figures have been reproduced in Philippine postage stamps. 

In 1989, Perez was feted by the City of Maynila with the Araw ng Maynila Award. 

Perez’s wake will be held at Loyola Memorial Chapels in Marikina until March 5. Interment will be on March 6.


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