By Marie Francia
Julia Buencamino, daughter of acclaimed actors Nonie and Sharmaine Buencamino, was 15 when she took matters into her own gentle hands. Three years after her passing, mom Shamaine, still distraught but hopeful, spoke about what the family went through.
“The journey has been difficult. I think it is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can have. Survivors of suicide, or loss because of suicide, is a very complicated grief. It has been a journey and it is not over, but talking about it really helps,” she shares.
Earlier on, Shamaine recalls how she and husband Nonie would see cuts and wounds on either Julia’s arms or legs, and she would deny self-mutilation, saying they were just scratches from school activities. It wasn’t. Shamaine and Nonie didn’t make a big fuss out of it because Julia didn’t show any signs of depression. She was an active kid, doing theater and television work. They made sure there was time for family. Julia had sturdy emotional support, but with her clinical mental condition, that wasn’t enough.
“During the wake of Julia, I woke up and there was this loud voice in my head saying, make it public. I just didn’t know how,” said Shamaine. “I went through her stuff, I wanted to understand what happened to Julia. Because I was reading her journals and researching about her illness, I would write posts on Facebook and people were reacting and some of them were saying, ‘My child also suffers’ and ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’” That’s when the couple realized they needed to create a special project that would advocate awareness on mental health disorders, and why people should talk about it. Hence, the birth of the Julia Buencamino Project.
The Buencaminos, Shamaine particularly, got the courage to speak up about their grief a year after Julia’s death through the Julia Buencamino Project. She was invited to schools and universities to give talks to students and parents about the importance of communication and how it can make a huge difference in a child’s development. “You know when you put in your head the idea that anyone is susceptible to mental illness, that’s when you’ll see the signs,” she said.
On the third anniversary of Julia’s passing, Shamaine and the Buencamino family together with sportscaster TJ Manotoc, who has also battled with anxiety and depression, worked together on a very special exhibition called #WillYouStillLoveMe. It aims to encourage those in a similar situation to reach out and ask for help, to speak and be heard.
“I would just want to add that this collaboration is also here to ask people to listen and do their part. We are going to use #letstalkletslisten.
We can’t just all be talking. Someone needs to listen. We are hoping this initiative will bring a community together that is willing to listen, make a stand and together move to make a difference in each other lives.
This is why we have so many volunteers. Everyone is doing this pro bono. Everyone we asked help from said YES! We all feel the need to come together and offer a safe space - where they won’t be judged, where they will be accepted, and they will be loved.”
As the poem of Julia said –
Everyone is welcome to join the event on July 14, 6PM at Whitespace, Makati to celebrate life and the wonders that come with it, through the stories of individuals who either have gone through the same journey as TJ and Shamaine or knew someone who did. Award-winning director Pepe Diokno also offered his support to the team and has helped spread the word by volunteering to direct their promotional materials.
#WillYouStillLoveMe is a one-day exhibition of experiential art from spoken word to monologues to song and dance numbers to visual art.
The #WillYouStillLoveMe Project is a plea to everyone to face the demons of depression head and start speaking up about their battle even when their voice is shaking.
ALSO READ: In Focus: 5 Ways YOU Can Take Part In The Fight For Mental Health