Owning Your Voice
PARADISE RISING’s Ylona Garcia Finally Owns Her Voice
What were we doing in our youth? I ask myself that question in respect of today’s digital landscape. A healthy culture of self-love, accountability and allyship permeates the younger generation, made possible by the power of technology and social media. Truth be told, I do feel a generation gap. While we found ways to listen to Taylor Swift’s Fearless
(not Taylor’s version) pre-Spotify and navigated the genesis of social media while pouring out our feelings on personal blogs, we didn’t really go beyond our own lived experiences. But in self-isolation, I’m learning that’s valid, too.
We’re in the second quarter of 2021, still moving forward to an uncertain future, but with it, a discovery—a clarity—of our being. We’re emerging as different versions of ourselves, versions we’ve learned after a year of the longest lockdown in the world. This may mean confronting ghosts within and going through a whole lot of unlearning, which for many have become crucial steps towards becoming.
At 19 years old, PARADISE RISING’s newest addition to the family, Ylona Garcia, is a singer, songwriter, producer and actress all rolled into one, but she considers herself, simply put, an artist. She clarifies, “I just classify myself as an artist. An artist produces art, and art can come in many forms—making music, performing, songwriting or acting.”
Quarantine may have thwarted our day to day, but with all the time spent at home, we’re finding that creatives flourish in self-isolation. Ylona first appeared on 88rising’s virtual concert, Asia Rising Forever, in May of 2020. Now, she joins the PARADISE RISING family, the brainchild of 88rising’s Sean Miyashiro and telco giant Globe Telecom, which is embracing a new breed of Filipino talent.
With the help of technology and countless hours on Zoom, her empowering self-love anthem, All That, created alongside Grammy-nominated producer, Michael Fatkin, and Peter Hanna, is finally out. Ylona notes, “I got to spend more time with myself [in quarantine], and I annoyingly learned a lot about who I am as a person.” She adds, “When I got to fly over to Australia to be with my family, I was also given the chance to go to the studio and say everything I wanted to say through music. It’s been a rather cathartic experience.”
Moving back to Australia mid-pandemic offered “a really good learning experience” for the artist. While distance learning and creating music, she worked briefly at a fast food chain restaurant. It wasn’t necessarily a 180-degree shift from life as a full-fledged celebrity in the Philippines, but now, she’s more tethered to her family in a more “chill” environment, with social media as her only form of interaction with the entertainment industry of Manila.
Growing Up with Ylona
Starting in the industry at the impressionable age of 13 in reality TV show, Pinoy Big Brother, growing up was fast-tracked for Ylona. Being in the public eye has contributed to her fair share of unique struggles. Ylona narrates, “Growing up in the industry was definitely a challenge that, at that time, I didn’t see. I didn’t know that you can have an opinion of yourself. I thought the only [opinions] that [are] valid are the opinions of others. I had no identity; I had no true voice; I had no idea what self-love was. I thought self-love was being selfish, to be honest. I don’t think I ever recall anything associated with self-love at school.”
“[It’s a journey] learning what it truly is to love yourself and also what it takes to truly take care of yourself. The moment you learn to do so, the easier it becomes to care for and love others the right way,” shares Ylona.
The journey took a while for Ylona, who was raised with such strong beliefs. She relays, “I had to go through the realization that what I know isn’t everything. What I know could be true, but the perspective of [another] could also be true as well. To hear everyone out and process everything in my mind (maybe a little bit too much), I basically became a sponge towards life. It was a very cool, very peaceful journey.”
A Diamond Under Pressure
Everything changed for her at the age of 16, when she learned to filter out the voices coming from different directions, including her own. She recounts, “I went through a time where I just felt doubtful upon everything—upon my beliefs, upon myself, upon the people I surrounded myself with and upon my position in life. I was given this great opportunity to become an artist in the Philippines, yet I always found myself asking, ‘Am I supposed to be here’ or ‘Am I taking someone else’s position [who] deserves it more?’ [There were] a lot of unanswered questions…I couldn’t even sleep at night.”
On confronting her inner demons, she adds, “It’s not really something you can talk about with somebody else. I mean, you can of course, but to find out the answers you yearn for, the ticket there is starting within. For me, that took a lot of time, dedication and self-reflection. It takes commitment to heal yourself and to love yourself, so I wish you good luck, my friend.”
“I had no idea what self-love was. I thought self-love was being selfish, to be honest.
I don’t think I ever recall anything associated with self-love at school.”
While on the topic, she shares never-released-lyrics about growing up in the spotlight. She reveals, “I wrote a few lines yesterday, ‘I’m sure you’ve heard what they said, growing in the limelight makes you grow real fast.’ What’s that saying…pressure makes diamonds? Pressure can either make you break through or break down. So again, good luck, my friends.”
This month at Wonder, we’re exploring our relationship with our bodies, which is a topic Ylona doesn’t shy away from. She’s struggled with her weight her whole life because, no matter how much she ate, she couldn’t gain any.
For the artist, everyone is under a constant pressure to fit these ever-changing body ideals because we’re inherently “people-pleasers.” She points out, “In my opinion, we wanna make people look at us; we wanna make people appreciate us; we wanna make people give us their attention and their time. Whether it’s [from our] parents, siblings, crush, significant other or friends, we wanna at least feel reassured that we matter through other people’s attention… I feel like that’s what it is; we just want to feel validated.”
Now, she has a healthier relationship with her body, as seen on one Instagram video after another of Ylona enjoying the gym with her trainer. She’s grateful for the strength of her body that can withstand anything, even when pushed to the limit. To make peace with her body, she shares some valuable lessons: “Be careful with who you surround yourself with, and be careful with what you feed your mind. You don’t want it to cost you in the long run.”
What’s next for Ylona this 2021? This month, she’s moving to America to create more content. She reveals, “The reason I’m moving to L.A. is to make more music, work with really cool producers and just be with the energy I wanna be around. [I want to] work on myself to be the best possible Ylo I can be, make better music, better content and put that out and share my art with the world. But first thing’s first, I have to get burritos!”
Holed up in our homes, are we getting a better sense of who we are? Do we go back to life before coronavirus or, after a year of personal rediscovery, will this awakening shift our senses? These questions are difficult but necessary. Here’s to finding out the answers and embracing them without abandon.
Photography Erwin Canlas
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Elisa Aquino
Styling Amy Love
Beauty Direction Cessi Treñas
Makeup and Hair Celeste Gubb
Co-produced by Ash Lim