Hong Kong: Filipina domestic worker gets scholarship to New York University
HONG KONG -
Xyza Cruz Bacani joined her mother and her boss in Hong Kong nearly nine years ago. When she was in college in the Philippines, her passion for photography blossomed, but only managed to afford a camera a few years after she had moved to Hong Kong. Her first camera was a Nikon D90, bought with money borrowed from her boss.
Then she fell in love with the art.
“When I go out and shoot, I feel relaxed. It’s just me and my camera. I’m not an OFW (overseas Filipino worker). I’m not a domestic worker. I’m just a girl with a camera. That’s how I feel when I shoot,” she said. “It’s not that I’m ashamed of being a domestic worker. In fact, I’m proud of my job. But you also can’t deny that there’s discrimination, judgment and stereotyping when you’re an OFW. So, photography for me is a protection against racism and discrimination.”
On her days off, Xyza would go around Hong Kong and shoot up to 800 pictures on her own. She also joined the Filipino photographers group Daan on Facebook, and it was there that she met the award-winning photographer, Rick Rocamora, who has become her mentor.
“He thought that I was just another rich kid who had nothing else to do but shoot. He was really surprised when I told him what my job was. He began teaching me, sending me links to read. Actually, I have so much assignments from him that I need to do,” Xyza said.
Her stunning black-and-white photos have been featured by the New York Times and used by the Vogue Italia website. For the past three years, Xyza’s work has also been a finalist in National Geographic magazine’s competition in Hong Kong for best open documentary photo.
"All dreams are valid!" After learning she's one of 7 Human Rights Fellows of Magnum Foundation, Xyza wrote on her Facebook.
Xyza now plans to document the plight of her fellow domestic workers and, through her pictures, tell their story.
"When I see the girls, I talk to them, I absorb all their emotions and I can't really believe that some people can do that to other human beings," Bacani says. "We're the same. We're migrant workers. But I have a boss that treats me with respect and like a human being but these people — they were treated badly."
“I want to make a project about the domestic workers here and apply for grants and then give [the proceeds] to charity. I want to have a body of work that I know will help others,” she said.
Learn more about Xyza's story and her works:
Going to New York:
- Filipina domestic worker in Hong Kong gets scholarship to New York University | The Straits Times
- Filipina domestic worker-photog in HK wins scholarship to NYU | INQUIRER.net
- Pinay domestic helper in HK gets scholarship in NYU | GMA News
- OFW in Hong Kong gets NYU scholarship | Rappler.com
- Filipino Domestic Worker Earns Prestigious Magnum Fellowship for Her Photography | PetaPixel
Her passion in photography:
- ‘I don’t feel like an OFW, just a girl with a camera’ shooting HK’s street life | INQUIRER.net
- Filipino domestic helper Xyza Cruz Bacani finds street photography her passion | RTHK's The Works
- A lens into the hidden lives of Hong Kong domestic workers | CNN
- Taking Care of People and Pictures in Hong Kong | New York Times
Story Type: Story