CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Overseas workers encouraged to pursue their dreams

HONG KONG (SE): With her camera, Joan Pabona, who was a foreign domestic worker in Hong Kong for six years, proved that working overseas does not mean an end to pursuing one’s dreams.
 
The Philippine Consulate General, in partnership with Wimler Foundation and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, put on the photo exhibit titled, Babae, Ipagbunyi (Celebrate Women): Empathy in a Click, featuring Joan Pabona, who placed second in National Geographic’s Wheelock Youth Photo Competition in 2017. The exhibition was held from March 10 to 17 at the consulate’s gallery in Admiralty. 
 
The event was organised under the Consulate’s Gender and Development Programme to celebrate National Women’s Month. The opening, which took place at 3:00pm on March 10,  was attended by around 100 people.
 
During the opening ceremony, Pabona said that photography had been her hobby since her university days. She believes that there is power in images, which can sway emotions, move hearts and inspire changes. 
 
“What excites me about photography is that it forces me to pay attention to things most people may take for granted, or not even notice,” she said.
 
She explained that when she takes photographs, she waits for a moment which tells a story and captures that in an artistic and creative way to express her views and feelings. Her talent has seen her to win many international photography awards.
 
In 2017, she won first runner-up in the People and Happenings in Hong Kong category of the National Geographic Wheelock Properties Youth Photo Competition with a black-and-white picture depicting a female construction worker sorting out the netting used to cover bamboo scaffolding in a construction site. 
 
She told the Sunday Examiner that she titled the series of pictures Sacrifice to express her appreciation of the hard work of construction workers. She noted that the award-winning photo was captured from the window of her employer’s house in Happy Valley, so subjects for photos can be found everywhere if one has the passion.
 
Germina Aguilar-Usudan, deputy consul general, said that many foreign domestic workers do not dare to dream big or pursue their careers, but Pabona has the courage the do so. 
 
Richard Rispens, of the Wimler Foundation, said Pabona’s pictures serve as an inspiration to all to pursue their dreams in whatever the circumstances.
 
A photo workshop was scheduled on March 17 at the consulate in which Pabona shared photography tips with the Filipino community.
 
Chen Ju-chen, senior lecturer of Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, whose current research is about the life aspirations of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong, said the exhibition and the workshop is what Pabona wants to offer to Hong Kong before leaving. 
 
Chen said Pabona’s pictures show her love for the city and help to clear the misconception that photos by foreign domestic workers will only be about their lives or people around them. 
 
The 36-year-old Pabona grew up in the La Union province, along with a brother and three sisters. She is a certified computer technician and holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. She also completed a six-month course on caring for the young and elderly. 
 
Having been a factory worker, cashier, debt collector and data entry clerk, she felt frustrated by the poor job prospects and finally decided to work abroad as a domestic worker. 
 
After working for four-years in Singapore, she started working for a Hong Kong family in June 2013. She plans to leave Hong Kong when she completes her contract this June and return to the Philippines to pursue her career as a full-time photographer. 
 
She told the Sunday Examiner that she may start a photography-related business. But before that, she needs to travel around the Philippines and explore her own country with her camera first.

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