Exhibit captures dedication of Filipina care workers during COVID-19

Matatag art show poster

A collection of photos by Filipina nurses, personal support workers and in-home caregivers that capture everyday moments of struggle, while caring for the most vulnerable during the pandemic, will be on display at A Space Gallery in downtown Toronto starting Oct. 20

The photo series, titled Matatag, will be on display in the windows of A Space Gallery until Jan. 29, 2022. It uses photovoice, a participatory arts-based research method in partnership with Gabriela-Ontario and Migrant Resource Centre Canada.

Matatag art show poster

Through photovoice, care workers have captured everyday moments of struggle and strength during the COVID-19 pandemic. The images in the exhibit demonstrate the lived realities of what it is like to be a Filipina frontline care worker grappling with family separation and loneliness; facing a lack of personal protective equipment and sick days; tackling intensified working requirements; maintaining physical and mental well-being; and navigating the complicated layers of immigration and citizenship, all the while caring for the most vulnerable amid the pandemic.

On display are more than 30 photographic prints, a digital slideshow of hundreds of images gathered over seven months by 78 care workers and a website where the public can learn more about what can be done to improve working conditions for these women. 

“While they have been lauded as resilient heroes, the romanticization of resilience cannot obscure systemic failures,” says York University Professor Ethel Tungohan in the Department of Politics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “By visualizing the lived realities of Filipina care workers, we aim to make a meaningful impact on Canadian labour and immigration policies that affect them the most.” 

Matatag: Filipina Care Workers During COVID-19 is a part of the Filipina Care Workers and COVID-19 research project that began in July 2020. The research used participatory action and photovoice to illustrate how Filipina care workers conducted their duties despite pandemic-related challenges, including a lack of personal protective equipment and sick days, intensified work requirements and precarious immigration status. This project is led by Tungohan (associate professor and Canada Research Chair) and other scholars, researchers and community organizers from Gabriela-Ontario and Migrants Resource Centre Canada: Dr. Jessica Ticar, Mithi Esguerra, Dr. Marissa Largo, Dr. Conely de Leon, Mauriene Tolentino, Bea Serdon, Silvia Gonzalez, Myka Jaymalin, Angela Natial, Leny Simbre and Mycah Panjaitan.

“Through kwentuhan (storytelling) sessions, these care workers highlight what it is like to navigate work, immigration processes, and family separation and reunification. Above all, their narratives of hope, faith,and strength shine through,” says Tungohan.

The project was funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, York University’s COVID-19 research fund and York Centre for Asian Research.

For more on the project, visit Matatag: Filipina Care Workers During COVID-19.