Thimphu, Aug 25 (IANS) Xyza Cruz Bacani, a celebrated Filipino documentary photographer and visual artiste, has questioned the Philippines government and its economic system that relies on remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).
Bacani was speaking here at the Mountain Echoes 2019 festival, where she discussed her new book, “We Are Like Air”, that tells the story of migrant domestic workers across the world.
At an interactive session on Saturday, she said: “Unfortunately, our country does not export anything, we only export people. In the 70s and 80s, our government found a way, an export policy. So multi-millions are coming into our country through these OFW workers, who are sending remittances. These OFW remittances are a huge contribution to the economy. But it is quite sad. A country that encourages people to leave their homes is a broken country. The last two generations of children have grown up without their mothers.”
“Correct me if I am wrong, but for the healthy upbringing of a child, one needs nutrition, education, vaccination and affection. The affection that comes from the mother, is what was missing in our generation. It is still going on. They all have a motherless childhood,” she said.
Mountain Echoes is a festival of arts, literature and culture that completed a decade this year. It is organised by the India Bhutan Foundation and is graced by Bhutan’s Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.
Bacani said her book narrated the story of Filipino migrant domestic workers like herself. At 19, she had to leave her country to work abroad as a domestic help, just like her mother, who had left her and three of her siblings to work as a domestic help in Hong Kong.
“I was a child, who was left behind by my mother, a migrant domestic worker. Later I myself became a migrant worker. So I have seen both sides of the spectrum. And I was tired of the narrative about these women, whose lives are not celebrated but only shown as a tragic story.
“I realised that the spirit of these migrant workers, who serve others so they can run their household easily and achieve their dreams outside should be celebrated. I am not talking about Bhutan, but in many Southeast Asian countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and others they are hired as domestic workers,” she added.
According to the 32-year-old visual artiste though she has been photographing migrant workers, “I always managed to maintain a distance, and never looked into my own story. I always felt that the world was cruel and unkind and I should not open my family to that situation. It was very hard for me to be vulnerable.”
But she did decide to look into her own story. “Photography is easy for me, but writing is so hard. So when I started writing the text of the book, I was crying because I was visiting some of the old, painful memories that I never wanted to recall… When I finished the book, the process was cathartic. It was hard,” she said.