The sad story of Lester Llansang
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - September 10, 2002 - 12:00am
In the late ‘90s, a child actor who looked no more than 10 years old began to impress me with his performances in various TV drama anthologies. For the longest time, I could not get his name – until Gil Portes had him billed prominently in Saranggola, where he plays a schoolboy who witnesses a crime committed by his policeman father (played by Ricky Davao).

His name turned out to be Lester Llansang and he was actually about 14 when he did Saranggola.

It was obvious then that Lester had a lot of angst in him waiting to be released. But whatever angst or bitterness he was harboring inside, he released it by churning out inspired performances on screen. This served him well since – in no time at all – he became the toast of the critics and started reaping a string of awards for the Gil Portes opus.

But in spite of all those accomplishments as a young actor, he still seemed to carry the burden of the world on his shoulders. Even Albert Martinez noticed Lester’s "emotional baggage" when they worked together recently in Ang Galing-galing Mo, Babes.

Last Saturday, when Startalk did a feature on Lester Llansang (in the segment hosted by Rosanna Roces), I finally discovered the source of all his angst in life.

Lester was born on July 3, 1985 – the youngest child of Danilo Salansang and Jemmalyn Ferrer, who admitted on national TV last Saturday that she once worked as an ago-go dancer.

Lester has two siblings: Windilou, now 20 years old and Cindy, 18. Neither of them finished school.

He never knew his mother because he was taken away from her after his parents separated when he was practically an infant. His paternal grandfather obviously never liked his mother and Jemmalyn points to this as the main cause of the breakup of her marriage to Danilo.

Danilo turned out to be an only child who was often inclined to follow the dictates of his parents. "He (Danilo) never fought for me," she says, blaming her former husband.

Lester eventually grew up with his paternal grandfather, Carlos – or Lolo Aloy – and his second wife, Lolit, whom Lester calls Mommy. Although he had a place he called home, his family life was obviously dysfunctional.

But in spite of all the hurts he went through as a child, Lester would never speak ill of the people who raised him. Some people in show business, however, have heard of horror stories – although yet to be confirmed by Lester himself – about how he was maltreated by some people in the place he called home. In fact, there were instances when his cousins allegedly bullied him – with one throwing a drinking glass at poor Lester.

But if he was indeed battered as a child, we’ll never know because Lester keeps mum on all these supposedly ugly incidents in his childhood.

It is to his credit, however, that in spite of the not-so-ideal condition in the place he called home and the difficulties of maintaining a showbiz career, he managed to finished his secondary education at a public Quezon City high school.

Unfortunately – to his disappointment – he discovered he could no longer continue with his college studies because there was nothing left of what he earned in show business. No, he’s not implying that his grandparents spent all his earnings. After all – as he admitted last Saturday in Startalk – "they gave me the material things I needed." But then, they – the people who raised him – also pledged to send him to college, but are not inclined to fulfill this promise at this point.

When Lester realized he could no longer realize his dream of getting further education under his grandfather’s care, he packed his bags last July 2 (on the eve of his birthday) and moved to the house (in Muntinlupa) of his paternal grandmother, Virginia Salansang, the first wife of his Lolo Aloy. On his birthday, he was reunited with his two sisters and his father, Danilo, whom he calls Kuya.

Then, last Saturday, Startalk facilitated the reunion of mother and son in an emotion-filled scene that continued even backstage – away from the four-camera set-up and the blinking studio lights.

While the mother seemed drenched with tears and emotions, Lester looked confused and ambivalent at this new development in his life.

The problem about his tertiary education had been solved by AMA Computer College, which had generously offered the young actor a four-year scholarship.

But while he claims to be happy to have finally reunited with his mother, he seems to be battling an inner conflict that is probably preventing him from fully accepting Jemmalyn Ferrer into his life. For instance, he turned down – although very politely and tactfully – his mother’s invitation to come with her so he could meet her side of the family. But on Saturday, he promised to join his mother as she celebrates her birthday in a simple get-together.

At this point, Lester seems like he’s torn between the affection of his biological mother Jemmalyn and the foster grandmother, his Mommy Lolit, who treated him like her own son – the one who taught him his values in life and, in his own words, "ang nagkumpleto sa mga pagkukulang ng nanay ko."

Ironically, in spite of all those heart-rending performances he masterfully delivered on screen, Lester Llansang now seems to have difficulty facing this new drama in his life. Maybe because it’s more painful.

Maybe because it’s for real.

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