The stigma against those who face mental health issues is still widespread in Asia, where psychological symptoms are seen as socially disadvantageous. In the Philippines, psychiatrists mostly run private practices in urban areas, so seeking help can be inaccessible and expensive. Because of the country’s deep Catholic roots, a lot of Filipinos who open up about their illness are often told to turn to God instead.
This is something multi-talented Filipino singer/songwriter Coeli (pronounced like ‘cello’ but with an ‘i’) would like to change. On the song “Here Today” off her 2017 EP of the same title, she sings with sincerity, “I believe in / The little strength you find to get through every day and night / No crowd cheers as you / Get up from your bed even if you feel slightly heavy inside your head / You worry too much of tomorrow / Well I rejoice in where you are today.”
Her sweet voice running over her acoustic guitar strums feel like a tight hug after a long day.
She extends that warmth to her shows too, where she transforms an uncomfortable bar setting with mats and pillows for her fans to lie on. The event is called Duyan (hammock), which signifies a safe space away from the noise of the world that she would like to create for those who listen to her music.
And it seems to work. Fans have echoed the same emotion, crying to her songs amid the presence of 70 other people in the room. To the pink-haired songstress, it’s a powerful and overwhelming experience to share.
“I received so much gratitude after the show. Some would say that my music saved them, which is really humbling. I'd like to think it was more of a peaceful companion,” she told VICE.
“It's a cause that is closest to my heart. It's something I deal with everyday, not just within myself, but also with my family, as well as my friends. Everybody deals with their mental health and you don't even need to be diagnosed to face it. I'm privileged that I'm able to find the right support. Not everyone has the means and access to do so, which drives me to the point of advocating for it through my music,” she said.
From dealing with mental health issues herself to championing the cause to help her fans, it’s only natural that Coeli has popped up on our Radar. Read on to find out what's on hers:
I believe that… we have to take the courage to be vulnerable to ourselves, heal from our traumas, grow holistically, and find purpose in what we do.
My friends say that I'm… outgoing.
But I like to think I am… more introverted and contemplative.
I've been working on… my next EP as well as a book.
I am inspired by… the beauty in the little corners of the mundane.
Recently I've been really into… taking good care of myself better.
You can usually find me at… Cubao Expo.
On bad days I… give myself permission to stay in bed and cry.
I live for… the people I love.
In five years, I will be… more emotionally and financially stable, more established as an artist, a mental wellness advocate, and a music teacher.
Last words… Take time to listen and be fully present. If you're going through something, take the courage to open up and seek help.