These stories matter.
In the years that have passed since their daughter lost a hidden battle with depression, actors Shamaine and Nonie Buencamino have become outspoken advocates of mental health. Through the Julia Buencamino Project, they have made it their goal to spread awareness, create safe spaces, and encourage kids to open up about the problems they face and ask for the help they need.
This month, in partnership with the mental health advocacy movement “You Will Be Alright,” they are launching a live show and exhibit called “Will You Still Love Me,” directed by Jenny Jamora. Taking its name from a poem written by Julia, the showcase honors her life and legacy and marks the third anniversary of her passing. It will feature a spoken word performance from Shamaine, as well as visual art, performances, music, conversations and testimonials about personal experiences with mental illness and tools to care for loved ones who deal with mental health issues.
Speakers and performers include Gabbie Tatad, Issa Manalo Lopez, Alya Honasan, Cathy Sanchez, Agot Isidro, TJ Manotoc and Silly People’s Improv Theater. “We were asking each other, ‘What should we have noticed? Why didn’t we see it? How could we have missed it?’” said Shamaine during a preview for the show, explaining their decision to set up the Julia Buencamino Project. Citing the recent relevance of mental health issues following the passing of the Mental Health Law and the deaths of designer Kate Spade and chef and writer Anthony Bourdain, she added, “Suicide prevention cannot be occasional, and it has to be personal.”
Actress Isabelle Daza, in a powerful speech, opened up about her own struggles with mental health and helping those closest to her through their pain. “I’m here because I want to remove the stigma that (mental illness) is something that we need to be ashamed about,” she explained, and stressed the importance of reaching out and checking in with friends and family. “Mental illness and depression are around us and if we just took the time and asked people how they felt, they’d be willing to share. Maybe we can save a life.”
In the beginning, Shamaine was struck by how common mental health problems were — people were coming forward and sharing stories about their friends, family members and neighbors. “It’s just that everyone was silent about it,” she recalled. “And I was actually mad. Why didn’t I know and why wasn’t I informed as a parent that I have to watch out for this illness?”
For the past three years, she and her husband have been reading and doing all they can to learn more about mental health to better equip them as parents and as advocates. And through “Will You Still Love Me,” they will be able to continue building a community, one that “gives support to all of us, to the kids, (and makes) them feel that they are accepted, even if they’re broken.”
“Will You Still Love Me” will be held on July 14, 6 p.m., at Whitespace Manila, located at 2314 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City. Admission is free.