This Heartbreaking Exhibit Is All About the Plight of Modern-Day Heroes

Here's a glimpse of their daily lives.

( Most of us grew up learning about how women heroes like Gabriela Silang, Melchora Aquino, Teresa Magbanua, and Josefa Llanes-Escoda fought for our nation’s freedom. In today’s page, it is the many women overseas Filipino workers who have been labeled as modern-day heroes. Powering through loneliness and alienation of being away from home, they work day and night just to make sure that they can send money to their families back in the Philippines. Babaeng Biya(hero): Travels, Travails, and Triumphs of Filipina OFWs unmasks this narrative of our modern-day heroes’ plight in their day-to-day experiences offshore the Philippine coasts. It runs until December 18 at the second floor of Ayala Malls Manila Bay in Parañaque City.

Loved ones living abroad often send us balikbayan boxes. It's how they extend their love across seas.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

The exhibition, an initiative by the European Union, the International Labour Organization, and UN Women, is the main feature of the Safe and Fair program in campaigning for the elimination of violence against women. It welcomes its audience with 16 balikbayan boxes, an item often associated with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), that are painted with faces of migrant women. The different gazes and facial expressions delve on resiliency and grit of Filipina migrant workers despite their unpleasant experiences.

"We wanted to hear our battle cries that Filipina domestic workers are not slaves and that our lives matter," says one of the written stories placed on top of the balikbayan boxes.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
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In another pile, you can see the written story of an OFW who participated in a protest against exploitation of overseas workers instead of enjoying her free day. Through these boxes, their voices are heard—initiating discourses on issues related to the life of an overseas worker and revealing the untold stories of an individual working for their families back in their home countries.

Sometimes, OFWs make the sacrifice of not coming home for Christmas to save money or they're not allowed by their employers to go on a holiday. Instead, they send a box of gifts to their family. 
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Babaeng Biya(hero) also provides an immersive experience for viewers through a mock-up of a living room. The set-up features an opened balikbayan box, which contains the usual items that a mother abroad sends to her family—from toys to canned goods. It hopes to unmask the struggles of an OFW, who often has to endure separation anxiety, domestic abuse, and injustice just to save enough money for her children’s tuition, mortgage, and other expenses back home.

The exhibit encourages viewers to write a letter to their loved ones.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

In this letter based in an interview with an OFW, a mom hopes that her family would take care of her when she gets old.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Babaeng Biya(hero) champions Filipina migrant workers and celebrates their courage. The society may see them as big-time providers, especially with all the huge boxes and thick envelopes they bring home; but in reality, their sacrifices make them much more than that.

Babaeng Biya(hero): Travels, Travails, and Triumphs of Filipina OFWs runs until December 18 at Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard corner Aseana Avenue, Parañaque City. For more information, visit Babaeng Biya(hero)'s Facebook page.

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