Over the course of the Fall 2017 semester, I worked on a multimedia site report which delved into the lives of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) in Woodside, Queens, also known as Filipinotown. Having lived in the Philippines for more than 18 years, I was familiar with the presence of Filipino domestic workers, or “yayas,” as they are called back home. It was only after moving to New York that I became more interested in the lives of the “yayas,” who often walk around the city as nannies and domestic workers. This led me to study what being an OFW in the United States entails.
While I was researching the topic, a friend mentioned a group called Damayan, an organization that focuses on migrant and domestic workers’ rights. It was through Damayan that I heard stories from human trafficking survivors about abuses of power from employers, the threat of deportation, and the fear of maltreatment. These survivors also shared stories of their relationships with their families back in the Philippines, bringing into conversation the often forgotten immigrant narrative of isolation, familial duty, and care.
Damayan graciously allowed me to interview three human trafficking survivors. While the names and faces of these women are not included in this film (to respect their privacy), I attempt to amplify their experiences of being OFWs in the United States. The video has interwoven recorded interview sessions with film footage of Woodside, Queens. While interviewing, these women shared with me (us), their feelings of isolation and distance from their families back home.
The themes of family and the definition of "home," as well as the isolating nature of being an OFW are interspersed with the experiences of each of the survivors. These women’s voices and stories are contrasted with footage I captured of Woodside. They show that the depictions of Filipino culture as brimming with life and energy often conflict with the sadness and isolation felt by many in heavily globalized cities like New York, and perhaps even amplify the need for a sense of community and belonging in an increasingly globalized world.
(Photo and Video Credits/ Robbi Sy)