Kelra Was Once A Troublemaker. Here’s Why He’s Changed

How life changed the once notorious trash talker. 

Grant Duane “Kelra” Pillas grew up in a household of means. Everything that he wanted to have was a simple request away. Kelra’s mother always gave him everything he wanted, from the coolest toys to the latest gadgets. Kelra became used to a life of plenty.

Noong bata ako, sobrang spoiled ako sa Mommy ko. Kahit ano kaya namin bilhin,” Kelra tells ALL-STAR Magazine

(“I was really spoiled when I was a kid, especially with my Mom. We used to buy anything we wanted.”)

At five years old, Kelra would receive a daily allowance of P300. He would refuse to go to school without it. He described himself as a lazy student who is brilliant in Mathematics. At kindergarten, Kelra would spend his allowance to play video games. This would continue well into his grade school and high school years, turning Kelra into a somewhat ungovernable teenager. 

By 9 years old, the computer had become Kelra’s domain. He would compete at local tournaments alongside fully grown men. 

Grade 2, nagsimula na ako mag online games. Grade 2, sumasali na ako sa mga tournaments sa iba’t ibang lugar. Grade 2 pa lang ako, mga nakakasama ko mga nasa college na,” Kelra said. 

(“I started playing online games when I was in Grade 2. At that time, I was already competing in tournaments in different places. I was in Grade 2 while the people I play with were in college.”)

Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra, poses for ALL-STAR Magazine in February 2024.
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo


The Audacity of Coach Panda

Kelra The Troublemaker

It was 2014, the height of the computer shop culture in the Philippines, in which students and strangers would congregate in internet cafes and play DOTA2, Call of Duty, or League of Legends.  If you’ve ever been at a computer shop during peak hours in 2014, you’d know how rowdy it could get: Dozens of boys shouting profanities at each other at the top of their lungs as they slam the keyboards or throw their headsets in frustration or jubilation. In one corner, someone is eating pancit canton while his teammate is getting berated by a complete stranger on the next desk. But at the end of every match, everybody says “gg!”—good game. 

Kelra, at a very young age, grew up in that kind of environment, already a seasoned trash talker before hitting puberty. In 2020, when Kelra came to the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League along with his teammates from Execration, that kind of culture permeated into the pandemic years of Philippine esports. A year later in 2021 during his livestream, Kelra made homophobic comments against the Royal Duo, Danerie James “Wise” Del Rosario and Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna of Blacklist International, saying the two should give each other oral sex. 

Fans from both sides and the esports community erupted in uproar following Kelra’s behavior. The League fined Kelra and suspended him for two weeks, but more than that, his reputation among the community was severely affected. 

But in the two years that followed, we’ve observed a very different Kelra. Still a moderate trash talker for hype, he no longer crosses the line when it comes to gender or other sensitive issues. 

Oo, syempre, pinagsisisihan ko yung mga sinabi ko dati. Iyong mga pagkakamali ko rin dati ang naging dahilan kung bakit tumino ako,” Kelra tells ALL-STAR Magazine

(“Of course, I regret the things I said before. But that’s also the reason why I’ve changed to a better person.”)

Dati kasi, ano ako eh… Hindi talaga ako professional! Kung may naisip ako, sasabihin ko agad. Ngayon kasi, natutuhan ko nang pag-isipan lahat, iniisip ko kung masasaktan ba yung taong masasabihan ko. Ganoon na ako. Hindi na ako basta-basta na lang nagsasabi ng mga salita,” he added. 

(“In the past… I was not professional! Whenever something enters my mind, I will say it immediately. Now, I’ve learned to think first and consider if anyone will be offended by what I am going to say. That’s how I am now. I no longer speak without thinking.”)

Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra, poses for ALL-STAR Magazine in February 2024.
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo

But other things also compelled Kelra to mature quickly. One of them was the downfall of his mother’s livelihood, and consequently, the loss of Kelra’s lavish lifestyle. Forced to support his parents and siblings at the age of 15, Kelra had to let go of his wanton spending on clothes and gallivanting. 

Dumating sa point na nawalan kami hanggang sa ako ang naging breadwinner sa pamilya namin. Siguro ang dami kasing napautang ng Mama ko sa mga tauhan niya. Dahil doon. Hindi nabayaran,” said Kelra, who is the youngest in his family. 

 And for the first time in his life, he would stop spending on unnecessary things. 

Dati, kapag nagpupunta ako sa mall at pinagpawisan ako, bumibili ako ng damit para palitan yung suot ko.”

(“It came to a point when we lost everything and I was forced to become the family’s breadwinner. Maybe it’s because my mom lent money to a lot of people, they did not pay her back. Before, when I sweat at the mall, I buy new outfits just for a change of clothes.”)

If it weren’t for esports, Kelra would not have been able to support his family. 

Esports talaga ang bumuhay sa akin at sa pamilya ko. Malaking bahagi ng pagtaguyod ng pamilya ko ang esports.”

(“It was esports that supported me and my family. It’s a significant help to me and my family.”)

There was no hesitation from the former troublemaker when we asked him what his biggest sacrifice was. 

Yung pag-aaral ko. Iyon ang number one. Naisakripisyo ko talaga. Kasi, bata pa lang ako, nasa Grade 2, nagsimula na ako mag online games. Sakripisyo rin ang mahiwalay sa pamilya. Mamimiss at mamimiss mo talaga ang mga magulang mo,” said Kelra. 

Masakit din noong una. Hindi ko kayang hindi nakikita ang Mama ko. Lalo na sa mga panahong may sakit ka, walang mag-aasikaso sa iyo kung hindi manager mo lang org ninyo. Eh, syempre, kapag may sakit ka, sanay ka na andiyan ang nanay at tatay mo,” he added. 

(“I sacrificed school. That’s number one. I was young, in Grade 2, when I started playing. I also sacrificed time away from my family. I really missed my parents. It was painful at first. I couldn’t bear not seeing my mom, especially at times when I was sick, and my family wasn’t there to care for me. Of course, we’re used to having our parents take care of us when we’re sick.”)

“Natuto akong humawak ng pera, mag manage ng time, marami pa. Sobrang daming nagbago.”

Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra, poses for ALL-STAR Magazine in February 2024.
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo

Kelra, A Father At 18 Years Old

Now 18 years old, Kelra is supporting more than his parents and his siblings: he is now a father to Greyson Slake, who is the spitting image of Kelra. 

Many people raised eyebrows when Kelra became a father at a young age, but he couldn’t care less and is just focused on supporting his new family. 

As he spoke, it was as if he aged years in very little time. 

Ang dami ko pong na-realize noong lumabas si Slake. Sobrang dami. Natuto akong humawak ng pera, mag manage ng time, marami pa. Sobrang daming nagbago,” said Kelra. 

There was a different seriousness in his eyes that we saw for the first time. 

Dati, malakas ako gumastos. Relo, sapatos, pero kadalasan damit. Calvin Klein, ganoon. Ngayon, hindi na. Syempre una ang pamilya ko. Gusto ko rin magka championship. Gusto ko makuha lahat ng championship. Pero motivation ko ngayon ang pamilya ko. Hindi na ako bumibili ng mga luho. Mas inuuna ko yung para sa anak ko kaysa sa sarili ko.”

(“I realized many things when Slake was born. I realized a lot. I learned how to manage my finances, my time, and many things. A lot has changed. I used to splurge money on watches, sneakers, clothes, and brands such as Calvin Klein. Not anymore. Of course, I prioritize my family now. Although I still thirst for the championship, I want to win all the championships. But my motivation right now is my family. I no longer splurge on lavish things. I put my son before myself now.”)

Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra, poses for ALL-STAR Magazine in February 2024.
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra, poses for ALL-STAR Magazine in February 2024.
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo

Based on Kelra’s estimates, 30 percent of his income goes to his son, while 20 percent goes to his parents. The rest are saved in the bank. 

Hindi dapat basta-basta ka na lang gagastos, kailangan mo rin talaga mag-ipon. Gusto ko rin kasi maging virtue rin iyon ng anak ko,” said Kelra. “Na-realize ko na kailangan ko nang mag-ipon ngayon, kailangan ko mag-business, para maging stable ang buhay namin.”

(“You shouldn’t spend wantonly, you have to save. I also want that to be a virtue for my son. I realized the need for savings, for business, so that we would live comfortable lives.”)

For Kelra, securing a comfortable life for his family is what motivates him to keep on winning. 

“Naisip ko bang sumuko? Hindi. Kasi ang pinaka inspirasyon ko rin ay magkaroon ako ng P100 million sa bangko bago ako sumuko! Gusto ko magkaroon ng P100 million.”

The gold laner beams at the camera. His 24-karat gold necklace glints in the light, a memorabilia of his spendthrift days. Once a notorious troublemaker, Kelra is now a dedicated father and a focused athlete, now living proof that even the worst trash talkers can also change to become the best role models.

Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo
Grant Duane Pillas, aka Kelra. Photo: Greg Mayo

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