EXCLUSIVE: The Heal Project Southeast Asian Artists On Healing, Music, and Mental Health

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When the reality we live in today seems uncertain and unsettling, no matter where we are in the world, there is one thing that gets us by and brings everyone together, and that is music.

RELATED: Can’t Stop The Music: 10 Made-In-Quarantine Tracks That Will Make The Rest Of This Lockdown Bearable

The Heal Project is the first in the region to unify the voices of fourteen Southeast Asian Artists for a collaboration track.

On September 11, Heal, which delivers a message of hope and healing, was launched by ABS-CBN Music featuring a powerful all-female line-up of stellar artists across Southeast Asia. The talents for the project include Jayda, Jona, Kyla, KZ Tandingan, Lesha, Moira Dela Torre, and Xela from the Philippines, Yura Yunita and Rinni Wulandari from Indonesia, Valentina Ploy from Thailand, Haneri and Haven from Singapore, and Shalma Eliana and DOLLA from Malaysia.

Composed and collaborated by ABS-CBN Music Creative Director Jonathan Manalo, Xela & MOOPHS, the project was imagined, birthed, and finalized during the time of the pandemic. Produced by Jonathan Manalo, the record talks about healing and choosing love to overcome hate and negativity in the world.

During this season, it‘s only fitting that a song like this will make us want to band together and heal as one.

All proceeds of Heal’s streams will be donated to ABS-CBN’s Pantawid ng Pag-ibig fund-raising campaign which aims to provide relief to Filipinos who have lost their sources of livelihood due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this exclusive with MEGAstyle, we talk to six of the talented artists who participated in the Heal Project, so read on to find out what keeps Jayda, Moira Dela Torre, KZ Tandingan, Yura Yunita, DOLLA, and Valentina Ploy, healed during quarantine.


Jayda Avanzado

You’ve been doing a lot over the quarantine. From vlogs to recording music, and all throughout, you’ve had your parents by your side. How important has it been that you are surrounded by your family in these times?

The quarantine can definitely get to you mentally and the cabin fever can be a real thing to deal with, but with my family by my side, it makes this a whole lot more bearable. Not to mention, my parents are so supportive of me, my craft, and my passion and I’m really grateful for that.

The first time I saw you perform was when you opened for Niall Horan’s concert. Being die-hard Directioners, seeing you prosper on that stage was truly amazing—and you’ve come so far since then. What have you learned about music and performing since?

Thank you so much! That means a lot. Honestly, over the past two years, it’s been a continuous evolution of me and my artistry, and finding out new things about myself; things I’d like to experiment with, in terms of my sound. I think that’s something that comes with age and time. And I’d also like to think I’ve grown more, not only as an artist but as a performer as well. I feel more confident in movement on stage as well, which is great and still a work in progress. I’ve learned to perform each show with the right energy for each setting, yet at the same time, make sure to try and connect with the people I’m performing to, whether that be an arena or a small intimate venue. That is really the key to and the heart and soul of a good performance.

As a songwriter, I feel like I’m continuing to mature as well by branching out into other themes, and having more depth and an even more personal touch to my songs, as I experience love and life more. I also started writing in Tagalog, which is something new for me since my first language is English, plus I recently put out my first Tagalog OPM release too; a collaboration with Darren Espanto, called Sana Tayo Na.

You’ve naturally had your musical influences from your parents, but what was the biggest lesson they have ever taught you?

In terms of music, like I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my parents, specifically my dad, is above all, connecting with your audience is one of the most important things as a performer. There are plenty of good singers, but what’ll make you stand out is having the ability to entertain and make that connection with the people you perform to; that differentiates a singer from an entertainer.

Some other things I’ve learned, specifically from my mom, on the other hand, are to be original, to show respect to the people around you; from co-artists, veteran artists to the crew and staff members, and people who have been a part of your journey. And finally, another important lesson I’ve learned is that goodwill can really go a long way.

So what keeps you healed during quarantine?

Music is a given for me. It’s kept me preoccupied and I think it’s such a big part of who I am that it will always be a part of life. Whatever emotions I may feel, I listen to music to lift my spirits up, healthily express, and let things out. Another thing that helps me stay sane is keeping in contact with friends and the people I love, who are far away from me at the moment. Just hearing from them and having conversations with them totally makes my day, and is the closest thing to social interaction from the outside world that I get on a weekly basis. I also binge-watched a couple of new shows and movies on Netflix, like The Umbrella Academy, which is the most recent one on my list. Other things I’ve re-watched are The Twilight Saga again (aka my guilty pleasure), the entire Harry Potter series, and many more, which is something that I didn’t really have lots of time to do before.

What are you most hopeful for right now?

I’m most hopeful that things will eventually go back to normal, like to real, pre-pandemic normal. I hope to go back to performing live and doing shows as that’s an experience that I personally feel is unmatched, and there’s nothing like the adrenaline rush or fulfilment you feel after doing a show. I’m hopeful as well to see my loved ones scattered all around the globe, again one day. Not a lot of things will beat that feeling when that day comes.

Moira Dela Torre

What has been keeping you healed right now? 

Books. Narnia in general has been getting me back to that childlike faith. Writing my new EP of worship songs with the best songwriter I know–my husband. Baking–I started baking as a form of therapy with no intention of making a business out of it, but seeing that my loved ones genuinely liked it, and it made people happy, we kinda started something that can possibly be a stepping stone towards another dream of ours. I also started writing a book about the stories behind my songs and the lessons I learned along the way. It definitely helps me look back at how good God has been in the midst of trials and heartache and keeps me hopeful that times like these are nothing but a season and seasons pass. Always.

You recently opened up on Instagram about your anxiety attacks. I think it’s so important to share how you’re coping with it. How are you managing stress in these times?

I recently started my therapy with a neuroscientist. I was also diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome/disease and also suffer from psoriasis. All of which contribute to my mental health. I think it’s so important for that stigma surrounding therapy that deems it as “weird” or bad to stop, because regardless if you are diagnosed with a mental illness or not, being in our world today where everything is constantly changing at a rapid pace, therapy could be beneficial for anyone.

Aside from deepening my faith and trust in God, I’ve also learned to be a good steward of what I’ve been given by being practical in taking care of myself. I learned that routines, meditation, exercise, hydrating, exploring creativity through baking and painting, or whatever floats your boat helps keep us sane. Among these are also making it about other people. I never realized that actually taking care of myself will help me care for others more. Seeing my loved ones happy and filled with joy, and knowing I did something to contribute to that joy, brings me so much peace. I didn’t realize how creative healing can be until I actually started to do something about it.

What are you up to in terms of career, music, projects?

I think having been able to rest with my family in the States during lockdown helped me clear my mind enough to get back into the habit of writing again. I finished a worship EP with my husband during that time. I started writing a book. I got to collaborate with Tito Ogie Alcasid. We started a business. We are now about to release Heal, written by XELA and Jonathan Manalo with women from all over Asia. All proceeds of this song and this project will go to Pantawid Ng Pag-ibig by ABSCBN. And now we’re gearing up to release a new Tagalog single– the last song on my album, Patawad. And later this year to early next year, we’ll be releasing my first international single from my first solo international album under ABS CBN International Music.

I think quarantine, especially for creatives, has forced us all to think about our work differently. What was it like working during this time?

Definitely. I think, for me, it came by waves. Sometimes I was too hurt and stunned with everything happening, especially in our country, that I had absolutely no words to describe how I was feeling. There were times I was hopeful and remembered the pain I had felt from days ago knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling it, that I get to write songs to help encourage people at this time. We’ve taken so many things for granted. What used to be normal for us before, we now consider a form of luxury. So, now having gone back to work, I definitely see a difference with everyone. It’s almost like a different atmosphere in the same setting. There’s more grace, there’s more patience. And there’s a more conscious effort to be united. It’s a difficult time, but it’s still so inspiring.

Yura Yanita

What has been keeping you healed during these times?

I think right now, we all feel the same way about this current situation. We all have our ups and downs. Sometimes we feel insecure about ourselves, about what would happen in the future, and feel not good enough about ourselves.  And when I write a song , when I keep singing, music can really heal me. Like my lyric on my new song, HOOLALA,  I want to remind myself, even today I have this mantra: “you better be bold and strong enough, tough, and brave, and better be good, and you have to take care of yourself.” I keep telling myself and make it as a self-affirmation.

How do you spread hope to your supporters?

Whatever you do, don’t let negativity bring you down. Let the weakness be your positive energy to do better—from vulnerable to greatness. And if you make mistakes, that’s okay, too. But we need to be responsible to learn from our mistakes and do better. Don’t let your own insecurities stop you from your goals. Embrace Struggle. It’s okay not to be okay.

Did the pandemic change your perspective in music? If yes, how? 

Yes, from my own life experience, I am becoming aware of who I am, especially in this situation. I am looking to discover more of who I am and how to be more authentic, without worrying about what other people think about me, my works, my music because they might like it better if I am just being myself. I realize that music can bring us together during the coronavirus pandemic. Communities around the world have turned to music during the coronavirus crisis. Much like singing, this external expression of gratitude is helping me and people to cope in times of crisis, providing personal and social development, mental health, and well-being benefits, and community strength and harmony.

What can people expect from you this year and/or in the coming year? 

For some reason, I don’t know why this situation gave me opportunities and inspirations to make a lot of songs and works.  So, this month I will release my new music video HOOLALA on September 18th and another single for my 3rd album next year. Don’t forget to check out my new single HOOLALA  on Spotify and all digital platforms. It is such an honor for me to sing for you guys.

What inspired you to take on the HEAL Project?

I decided to join the Heal Project because I love the spirit of this song.  We all feel the same way about this unprecedented time. I hope with this project we can do something positive that can help encourage changes. I believe that through music we can heal the world. I’m super excited to collaborate with all these beautiful ladies from South East Asia. This is a memorable experience for me.


KZ Tandingan

What are you doing to feel sane at this time?

Trying to make music every day, drinking coffee, and talking to my family through video calls keep me sane.

The quarantine has made us change a lot of our plans, which unfortunately included your wedding with TJ Monterde. So, how are you feeling about having that part of your life on pause?

I have accepted that in this situation, the only variable that I have control over is how I react to the problem. So, even though I’m a little bummed that none of our plans have pushed through so far, I’m just grateful that my family and TJ’s family are okay and healthy. We’ll just let the wedding worry for itself, haha!

How has the ABS-CBN shut-down impacted you?

It was pretty hard seeing people who matter to me lose their jobs in the middle of the pandemic, but I am hopeful that in God’s time, ABS-CBN will be back to be in the Filipinos’ service.

What do you feel most hopeful for right now?

I am hopeful that we all learn to be kind. Learn to be kind to the people around you and be kind to yourself.

What inspired you to take on the HEAL Project?

I was inspired to take on the Heal Project because I believe that it is now more than ever, that we need to be there for each other, not just as a country, but as a planet. If I can use my voice to help out those who need to be inspired and reminded that there is hope, I will keep doing projects like this.


Did the pandemic change your perspective in music? If yes, how? 

No, the pandemic did not change my perspective in music, because I’ve always found music as healing for me. But nevertheless, the pandemic however did inspire me to create more healing music for others who are listening. You can expect more singles coming in the next year, hopefully, some collaborations and more content that we hope people will enjoy and will lift their spirits in these times.

What inspired you girls to take on the HEAL Project?

When our label shared the details of this project along with the list of talented artists we were going to work with, we were thrilled at the opportunity for us to be a part of such an empowering song with so many female artists that we look up to within Southeast Asia. Also, a big part of our participation in this project was our belief behind the message, especially in this challenging time.

Any tips on how to stay healed during this time?

Honestly, I’d say making sure you always have something to do even if it’s house chores or running errands, or you could even be working out and spending some time on your personal growth. Being busy definitely helps with keeping your mind off the pandemic.


What inspired you to take on the HEAL Project?

I honestly could not find a reason not to join the HEAL project. I am extremely honored to have the chance to be part of it with other wonderful artists who are all women as well! I am so proud of this project and feel so thankful for the people organizing this. It is a chance to empower and give hope to the people around the world, telling them they are not alone and at the same time, it is also a charity project for which all of the income will be donated to people struggling for COVID-19. This just makes my heart very happy.

How have you been coping during this pandemic? 

For sure this pandemic has been playing tricks with my mind, but thankfully I’ve managed to go through it thanks to the family love I am surrounded by and my drive to create and write new music. Even though it’s been tough for everyone, I guess. I always try to look at the positive side of everything and I guess having time in this chaotic era could be precious sometimes. Music and my people have kept me sane so I try to share my experience with my supporters, try to cheer them up through my social media pages. I try to be more present and try to spread some good energy out there.

Has your perspective of music changed?

I would say that the pandemic just strengthened what music represents for me. Now more than ever, music can make a big difference in people’s lives…it gives strength, hope, love. It unites people and just makes everything a little lot better️ so grateful for music. This coming year, people can expect what matters the most to me and that is music. New music, new sounds, new songs. So many new experiences and projects to share with them hopefully soon! I literally cannot wait.

You can now stream Heal on these digital platforms