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Xyza Cruz Bacani Documentary photographer

Filipino maid captures dreams through photography

Filipino’s are considered hard working, loyal and devoted people, when Filipino’s leave their country for a new life as a domestic worker, they don’t expect a life of abuse and to be treated like modern slaves.

Former domestic worker Xyza Cruz Bacani turned to documentary photography to bring to the attention ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’. Xyza Cruz Bacani will be exhibiting her photographs at a 900 square feet exhibition entitled ‘Hidden Hope’ which is her story about domestic workers abuse in Hong Kong.

August 18th is International Migrants Day which aims to plant the seeds of awareness about what is happening to migrant workers and hope to harvest change someday.

Xyza Cruz Bacani is a 27-year-old female photographer based in Hong Kong. 

Bacani was recently named as one of the recipients of a fellowship by the Magnum Foundation, a prestigious scholarship that will allow her to study in New York for 6 weeks.

“The urge to survive is much bigger than the urge to do art,” she told Agence France-Presse in Macau where her photographs are on show as part of the city’s Literary Festival.

Her passion for photography really took off 4 years ago, when her employer – whom she describes as a “great lady” – lent her the money to buy her first camera, a Nikon D90.

“When I had (the camera), I shot landscapes to flowers to (portraits of) my mom, and then I did street photography.”

In the summer of 2014, Bacani documented migrant workers who had taken shelter at a refuge after suffering abuse at the hands of their employers, an experience she described as “life-changing.”

“I was angry at first, it was a roller-coaster of emotion when I saw this kind of situation.

“I think I was there to be the voice of those domestic workers who remain unheard, whose voices have been muted.”

In February, a judge sentenced a Hong Kong woman to 6 years in jail for beating and starving her Indonesian maid in a case that made global headlines.

Bacani’s own employer could not be more different, she says, offering support and encouragement to pursue her plans of becoming a photographer full-time.

“She said my domestic worker duties… are restricting me from growing up as a person. It’s a chain that holds me,” Bacani said, after stopping her domestic work mid-March.

Bacani’s story has inspired many other helpers in the city, and she is urging them to pursue their dreams too.

“They keep on telling me… now that they’ve seen me, I made them realize that it’s possible to do the things that you really want to do outside your job.”

“I want people to see that your job, your work, it doesn’t define who you are,” she added.

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A selection of images taken by Xyza Cruz Bacani

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