Wushu expert behind Imortal
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo () - April 6, 2011 - 12:00am

Because Imortal, the ABS-CBN fantaserye starring John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin, revolves around the lives of vampires, the first thing I asked Lester Pimentel, the wushu expert who choreographs the action/fight scenes (some of which done mid-air), is if he’s a big fan of the Twilight series.

“I watched the Twilight series but I’m not really a big fan,” corrected Lester who is, despite his Filipino surname, pure Chinese. “More than the love story, what I like is the way the fight scenes are executed.”

Co-directed by Jerry Sineneng and Richard Somes, Imortal is drawing to a close end of this month, that’s why the suspense is mounting and the action scenes are getting more breathtaking.

“Are John Lloyd and Angel hard to teach action routines?” Lester repeated the question. “Not really. They are fast learners.”

Coaching actors is not new to Lester who has worked on other ABS-CBN shows including Panday (with Jericho Rosales), Palos (with Jake Cuenca) and Lastikman (with Vhong Navarro).

Lester Pimentel, action director of Imortal

To Imortal followers, it must be a source of wonder how John Lloyd and Angel, and their co-stars Maricar Reyes, Jake Roxas, et al), cross swords several feet above ground and leap toward one another, eyes burning with rage and blood-dripping fangs showing. But to Lester, it’s, well, pie of cake, part of the day’s hard grind. Martial arts has become a way of life with him.

Lester trained in wushu for six years in Beijing, in the same school where the likes of Jet Li were also taught the intricacies of the art. It was also there where Lester began working professionally, and every now and then he goes there for new projects. No language barrier there, because Lester speaks fluent Fookien and Mandarin. His mom is from Naga City. It was his father, a martial arts enthusiast, who got Lester interested in wushu starting during his childhood in Binondo, Manila.

On the set of Imortal: Lester gives John Lloyd and Angel last-minute instructions before a take

“It was the Philippine Sport Commission (PSC) that sent me to train in China, together with the rest of the National Wushu Team, all 12 of us,” volunteered Lester who holds a degree in Philosophy from La Salle. “Some of those who trained with us went on to become actors, stuntmen and action directors.”

But before that, Lester, 36, was an athlete in the ‘90s and has competed in local and international competitions (the SEA Games among them), harvesting gold along the way. He has retired from competitive sport in 2000 and ventured into showbiz, with the Victor Neri first-starrer movie Ex-Con as his kick-off project. A gap of five years was closed by the advent of action-adventure TV series (Panday, etc.).

And then came Imortal, Lester’s biggest project so far.

“Before the shoot,” said Lester, “I did a workshop with the actors. I have to be on the set to choreograph their moves and direct them in the action sequences.”

Away from the set, Lester keeps himself busy by helping schools create training programs for kids, and train the trainers.

“Action directing is also my way of contributing Chinese culture to the mainstream Philippine showbiz,” added Lester.

What’s up?

• If you’ve been wondering why Raffy Tulfo (photo) has been missing from RMN dzXL since January, it’s because he has happily moved over to the Kapatid Network where he anchors the midday newscast and a radio show on the network’s sister company, on 92.3 AM, same time (after lunch, Monday thru Friday) with the same co-anchor, Nina Taduran. Only the station has changed. Raffy is as relentlessly-anti-crime/criminal as ever. In the same network with Raffy is his brother Erwin Tulfo.

• Anytime now, Pres. Noynoy Aquino will announce the appointment of Christian Bautista (photo) as vice president for Special Projects. Christian is the newest showbiz recruit to join the government, following Dingdong Dantes (for youth-oriented projects) and Ogie Alcasid (the music-related projects).

•  Remember the blind item in this corner a few issues ago about a singer and his wife having broken up after the singer squealed to a newspaper columnist that his wife’s business ventures were “anomalous”? Somebody close to the couple said that the couple haven’t separated and confirmed that, yes, he is back on drugs and it was he who sent those damaging text messages against his wife because he was “high” at that time, and that he is now in rehab. “It’s the wife who brought him to the rehab center,” said the couple’s friend. “In fact, she visits him regularly.”

* * *

Carmi Martin, the graduate

Carmi Martin was among those who joined the graduation march last Saturday at the PICC, with a B.S. Fine Arts from the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). She’s also graduating with a B.S. Interior Design degree from the same school in September. She’ll take the board exams in October.

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare.)

ACTION ARE JOHN LLOYD AND ANGEL CARMI MARTIN IMORTAL JOHN LLOYD AND ANGEL LESTER LESTER PIMENTEL
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