It’s the final day of our series of shoots for Chalk.ph’s mutli-cover feature for the month of March, and musician Coeli San Luis, with her cute meekness and pastel pink baby bangs, is the last girl to take her turn on our roof deck set. She arrives in an outfit that matched the shade of her hair and an olive green parka, glowing with that effervescent light that she always carries whenever I see her around at a local gig or in the sunny selfies she posts online.
A singer-songwriter who plays the cello and guitar, Coeli is currently a rising artist who has captured a following by simply baring her truest self. From crooning about hard love to chronicling her everyday battle with anxiety online, it doesn’t take long for one to be endeared to this 25-year-old beauty.
I myself can vouch for Coeli and how easy it is to confide your innermost thoughts to her. I’ve previously interviewed her in April of 2018, and our topic back then was her idea of self-love. “Grabe, and dami nang nangyari since our first meeting,” she tells me. At that time, we were kindred spirits, both struggling through the soul-crushing aftermath of our first heartbreaks. Less than year later, we laugh it all off over pizza as we look back at our less-knowing selves and the lessons we picked up along the way.
More than her musical prowess, Coeli’s golden charm lies in her ability to connect with people in the most personal way, no matter how vulnerable she gets. She’s a living proof that our worst days are part of us, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to let the world know that we’re going through them.
Here, I touch base with Coeli on how she outgrew her traumatic experiences, developed her perspective on music, anxiety, and relationships, and thrived as the ever-evolving woman that she is now.
What's the most significant lesson you've learned when it comes to your creative process as a musician?
First is mindfulness of yourself in every aspect, your experiences, and your feelings towards the stimulation around you. Don't ever miss out on yourself. Take note of the mundane things, savour everyday conversations, and make use of all your senses.
Second is to allow yourself to grow in your craft. You have to know the tools you need. I realized how important it is to constantly practice my instruments (cello and guitar especially), and how it helps to upgrade my knowledge in music theory. This helps in stabilizing the framework.
Keeping these two points in mind, once I'm at point of creating music, I let go of everything I learned and trust whatever comes out of me. Creating is listening. It comes out as a raw mineral, and over time that is when I refine it even more.
In what ways do you feel limited, and how do you power through them?
I feel limited by my failures. Whenever I mess up, I tend to be hard on myself and allow my mistakes to define me. It really is an internal battle. But I power through it by constantly reminding myself of my truth. It helps to take time to think of the things I'm grateful for, no matter how small.
What's your flaw that you've learned to embrace?
I used to feel like my whole body is a flaw, how I don't fit society's standard of beauty. I used to feel insecure with the way I talk because I tend to linger and stutter with my words. I used to feel very awkward whenever I'm with people and it would often show how I'm uncomfortable with myself.
As cliché as this may sound, beauty really starts from within. Growing up, I've always been very hateful towards myself. But as I took steps to being more kind and loving from within, somehow this also manifested outward. I can honestly say that I'm finally carrying myself better and definitely more confident with my body, as well as in speaking and performing!
What do you do whenever you feel anxious?
Whenever I catch myself feeling anxious, if possible, I look for a space where I can sit down away from people. I take a deep breath, I take my time to listen to my breathing. I shift my focus on my hands or an object. Then I just embrace it. I allow my tears to fall. I also make sure that I hydrate myself. I also have people I can call whenever this happens. It helps to have a solid support system. Once I'm calm, I take time to eat afterwards. Then I write things down or talk things out, embracing things that are beyond my control and taking responsibility for things that I can still fix.
What were your struggles when it comes to your relationships?
My perspective on self-care back then was empowered by the thought of caring for people. I've always felt like I'm some sort of superhero. There was gratification in helping people out, in pleasing my family and friends. This also branched out to the two romantic relationships I've had back then. I used to be very self-sacrificing because I grew up feeling like that's the only way to go, that's how I felt loved. That's where I found validation. I would cater to other people's needs even if it meant compromising beyond my means. Whenever I failed to do so, I ended up hating on myself because that was the only way I knew how to function. When I had nothing left to give, I felt that I defeated my purpose. I was left with more questions of shame and guilt. This was amplified further after my last heartbreak.
What's one thing you wish you knew then?
I wish I knew how to love myself. I wish I knew how to communicate myself well to other people.
What's the best relationship lesson you've learned so far?
3 things I practice in maintaining a great relationship:
2. Constant Communication
And it's best to start with yourself!
Why should we be grateful for our struggles?
Pain is our ultimate guide to life. We just have to learn to listen and trust!
When do you feel most empowered?
I feel most empowered each time I pick myself up from a slump, or when I'm able to calm myself down after a panic attack. I feel empowered whenever I perform or speak in front of people, having no shame in being who I am.
What kind of message do you want to send out through your music?
I feel like it's so valuable to embrace one's pace and season: take the courage to constantly bloom and grow in love. Nourish yourself holistically.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Be patient with your process. Don't ever settle for less. There is more out there for you. You have so much love to give. You deserve a life that works for you.
Photographed by Andrea Beldua
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Aldrin Ramos
Makeup by Laila Al-Harthy
Hair by Jeff Valenzuela
Video By Spotlight Creatives
ALSO READ: In Focus: This Budding Musician Is Our Daily Dose Of Self-Love Inspo