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OFW photographer scoops another award

08 February 2018

Joan Pabona's award-winning photo, "Sacrifice"

A Filipina domestic helper has bagged the first-runner up slot in a photo contest sponsored by National Geographic in Hong Kong, the latest in a string of accolades she has won since taking up photography seriously about four years ago.

Joan Pabona, 35, from La Union, received the second highest award in the National Geographic  Wheelock Youth Photo Competition Hong Kong, held at the Wheelock Gallery in Queensway on Jan. 31. Her winning piece was titled “Sacrifice”, and showed a construction worker seemingly buried amid a pile of nets while at work.

Pabona, who won in the category, “People and Happenings in Hong Kong, received a cash prize of $6,500 and a 12-month subscription to the National Geographic Magazine Traditional Chinese Edition. Her winning photo was also included in an exhibit launched to coincide with the awarding ceremony at Wheelock Gallery.

It was the second major win for Pabona, who has been dabbling in photography since she was in
Joan and her beloved Nikon D3100
college in the Philippines, but began taking the hobby seriously since acquiring her dream camera, a Nikon D3100, months after arriving in Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper in 2013.

In March last year, she was adjudged as Grand Winner in the “Women at Work” photo contest organized by Christian Action. For 2016 and 2017, she won silver and bronze awards in various categories in the International Photography Awards - Philippines.

As a veteran of the photo contest circuit, Pabona says she did not exactly “jump for joy” on learning about her NatGeo win, but admits it is the most prestigious she has received so far.

She took her winning shot from inside her employer’s high-rise flat in Happy Valley. She says that to get the best shot, one should have a good camera, an eye for detail and the passion for taking pictures.

In her case, that passion was reignited after she joined Lensational, a local group that aims to empower women through photography. Pabona joined the Basic Photography Workshop jointly organized by Lensational and Parasite in 2016, then the Pinhole Camera Workshop in 2016 and 2017 by Hulu Culture, and most recently, the Video Editing Workshop by the Voices of Women group at the University of Hong Kong.

She continues to hone her talent by contributing photos to the Manila Bulletin newspaper in the Philippines, and by reading and watching youtube videos on photography. She has become quite good in her hobby that she has been commissioned to do works for charity, for which she does not get paid.

Pabona is part of an eight-member group, Fun and Bold (FaB) photographers, who organize photo shoots in various parts of Hong Kong on their days off. They have also done charity work for the Bahay Aruga center for cancer patients in Manila

Also with this group is Roselle Azucena, who because of her recent win in the Gawad Amerika contest, will soon be headed to the United States to take up a photography scholarship.

That could come soon, too, for Pabona, who doesn’t let a day pass without her tinkering with her camera. For her, joining contests – and winning – are all just tools toward improving a talent she was lucky to have been blessed with. – with a report from George Manalansan

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