Emotional Lea Salonga opens up about mental toll of quarantine due to pandemic


Posted at Apr 03 2020 05:16 PM

Broadway star Lea Salonga turns emotional during an April 2 Facebook Live concert, as she opens up about her mental health in relation to the coronavirus crisis. Facebook: Lea Salonga

MANILA — In a rare moment, Lea Salonga turned emotional during an hour-long stream that marked her first live performance during the coronavirus quarantine, as she opened up about how the crisis has taken a toll on her mental health.

Salonga was among the artists lined up on Thursday as part of the "Bayanihan, Musikahan" online concert series, which aims to raise funds for healthcare workers and vulnerable sectors.

In between numbers — which ranged from OPM classics to her Broadway repertoire — Salonga spoke with her audience about her participation in the program spearheaded by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.

Aside from bringing aid to frontliners and those worst hit by the pandemic, "Bayanihan, Musikahan" is also helping artists on a personal level, Salonga said.

"The one thing that kind of happened once the quarantine was called — and that's a lot of us performers, most especially those freelancers who live from talent fee to talent fee — all of a sudden, means of livelihood are gone. For me, personally, I find that being able to sing for an audience of one, or a hundred, or a thousand, it's somehow integral to my mental health," she explained.

The first quarter of the year has seen successive cancellations of shows for Salonga. Before the pandemic, they were due to the Taal eruption in January.

"It just felt out of tune or off-key to have a celebration while a lot of people were suffering, and I tended to agree," she said.

"However, if I go through an extended period of time without me doing what this is that I love the most — doing theater or a live gig — it messes with my head. When I don't have an outlet — a creative, artistic outlet — it kind of drives me nuts," Salonga said.


The stage veteran, whose career spans over four decades, then tried to hold back tears as she shared the relief that "Bayanihan, Musikahan" has afforded her.

"Yes, we are helping and we're sounding the alarm for people to donate and give, but Mr. C, you have no idea how many of us are getting helped also," she said, referring to Cayabyab.

Addressing her audience, Salonga added: "Probably, to a bunch of you, it's kind of OA — 'Why is she of all people crying about this?' It's not about money, it's not about what we get to earn. It's not that. It's when we're able to exercise and express and share what God-given talent we have, it gives us an internal equilibrium."

"Being able to sing, being able to do this, it's been important. It's great that all of us have been given an avenue and a place to play and share what we do, because not having been able to do it, in the way that we've gotten used to, it is hard," she said.

Salonga, who raised over P1 million just within the hour of her stream, said she plans to hold another online concert under "Bayanihan, Musikahan."

"I'm thankful. This has just been an incredible release of emotion, of pent-up energy. Times like this don't make me happy, but I'm just grateful that we kind of have this, that we're able to sing, we're able to perform and express ourselves, and be able to help other people," she said.