Yeng Constantino used to think that the day she got married was the happiest she had ever been in her life.
But after emerging from a “very dark phase”—four years of mental health struggles that paralyzed her creativity and consumed her well-being—Yeng realized that life can still be so much better.
“I thought that tying the knot with Yan (Asuncion, her husband) was already my happiest. But I’m happier now. We have been together longer. And it’s as if the curtain shrouding my vision has been lifted—I can finally see the beauty around me. Because there was a time when I couldn’t,” she told the Inquirer in a recent interview.
“Despite all the blessings in my life, I just couldn’t see them for some reason. My husband is always so kind to me. We get to eat every day. But I was so sad, so preoccupied with what I was going through that I failed to appreciate those things,” she said. “I have been at the opposite sides [of the spectrum]. And when you have been in the dark, you would never want to go back.”
After the release of her 2018 album, “Synesthesia,” Yeng underwent a series of “personal life problems,” exacerbated by the death of her mother in 2021. Before she knew it, all the setbacks and misfortunes had snowballed into something that was too much to bear.
“There was a point where I was like, ‘Lord, I love you, and I will never turn my back on you. But it’s very hard to be human. They say that we’re all just passersby in this world, but who knew it would be this hard?’ There were also times when I would think, ‘God, I don’t want to go to hell—just take me! Because this is so difficult, so painful,’” she said.
Yeng is the kind of music artist who relies on bolts of inspiration and surges of emotions to create music. But her mental battles robbed her life of color. And how could she write songs, she once wondered, when she couldn’t feel anything at all?
“Back then, I could easily write two to three songs in a week. But during that dark phase, I could go for about eight months and come up with only one song. I think I wrote only two songs for the entirety of the pandemic. You can’t give what you don’t have. Our bodies have a way of protecting us from pain; they make us go numb,” related the singer-songwriter.
“But the thing is, you can’t create anything when you’re numb,” she said. “How can you create when you can’t feel joy or even fear? Once in a while, the emotions would come flooding in. And when they do, the pain paralyzes you.”
Food became one of her coping mechanisms. “I would just eat, lie down, watch Netflix, stand up, space out, then eat and lie down again. I was like a robot. I didn’t want to see my friends. I had my windows closed because I hated it when my room was all bright. I was like a cat about to die,” she said, laughing.
Was she worried about regaining her creative spark? “I couldn’t even think that far ahead because I was too busy trying to survive. I would wake up in the morning, thinking that I just want to get through this day,” she said.
4 years of therapy
But as they say, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that there’s a problem. Yeng knew she needed professional help. She underwent therapy. She reexamined her purpose in life. And little by little, slowly but surely, the fog lifted.
“I had to undergo four years of therapy to get me to where I am now. I’m so happy. I couldn’t be more grateful to my therapist who was so determined and patient with me.
I started eating healthy and willed myself to go out on walks,” related Yeng, who also thanked Gary Valenciano for inviting her to join his concert tour in the United States last year. “That made me realize that I still have a purpose in life.
I was scared to go onstage because I didn’t want to be seen by people in the state I was in. But I remembered that I have plans for my future and that I still have to work to achieve them… Subconsciously, I was hoping for the inspiration to come back.”
It did. “I had to go through a lot to regain my old self—the inspired artist who’s hardworking, productive and focused,” she said.
Finally, she said, a new “season of creating” has come. And her recent acquisition of her catalog’s publishing rights—previously held by Star Music for 17 years—gave her an extra dose of motivation. Now that she has the freedom to rewrite, rearrange or come up with new versions of her songs, Yeng couldn’t help but get excited about all the musical possibilities.
“I’m excited to come up with new versions of my songs. I’m working with (producer-arranger) Ria Osorio to dress them up. Some of my songs’ arrangements sound dated, so I would like to make them sound more modern, but still timeless,” Yeng said. “Just updates, though. It’s not like I’m changing genres. The original intention will still be there—just with new elements.”
“I’m also considering having my songs used for films or commercials. I want to raise awareness that I already own my catalog,” she added.
Yeng also plans to edit or rewrite lyrics that she wrote when she was still young and emotionally inexperienced, or lines that she finds cringeworthy.
“When I read some of my old lyrics, they make me want to knock my younger self on the head… like, ‘Why did you write that? You did lazy work on the phrasing!’” she said, laughing. “Some of the songs weren’t emotionally charged, too, because I lacked the life experiences needed. This time, I will be able to breathe new life to the songs.”
The first batch of reworked material—“Salamat,” “Lapit,” “Ako Muna,” “Kasalanan Ko Ba” and “’Pag Ayaw Mo Na”—will be in an EP, aptly titled “Reimagined.” “This EP contains some of my mellower tunes. Some of them were my past singles, some weren’t put out officially, but are favorites of mine,” she said. “The next batch will have my more upbeat songs.”
Aside from the creative freedom it affords Yeng, acquiring the publishing rights will provide her a passive stream of income via music licensing. “Star Music understood where I was coming from. I’m not getting any younger. I’m thinking about my future as an artist. It can be embarrassing to discuss money matters, but there’s nothing wrong about wanting security,” she said.
Yeng has also started working on a new original studio album—all while promoting “Reimagined,” conceptualizing the next batch of reworked songs and writing for other artists. She’s striking while the iron is hot.
“I’m not the kind of songwriter that you can pressure with deadlines. Lalo akong ’di makasulat. But when I’m inspired, like right now, I can do so many things at once. That’s why it’s important for me to feel this way,” she said. INQ