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Pabona’s photo exhibit kicks off Women’s Month

16 March 2019

Acting Head of Post Germinia V. Aguilar Usudan (5th from left) and Joan Pabona (6th from left) with (from left) Consul Roderico C. Atienza, Tynna Mendoza of Enrich; Consul Kyaw Zay Yar Lin of Myanmar; Consul Grace Teh of Malaysia; Catherine Gurtin of Pathfinders; Dr Ju-chen Chan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Olivia Cheng of HK 01 Company Limited; Alma Quinto; Dr Julie Ham of the University of Hong Kong; and Carmen Lam, Gellin Byatt and Medina Speers of Pathfinders, at the exhibit opening. (Consulate photo). 


By Vir B. Lumicao

Joan Pabona, a domestic worker who has shot to fame as a finalist in last year’s National Geographic Youth Photo Competition in Hong Kong, will be hanging up her cleaning gloves soon to focus on her passion, photography.

Joan Pabona
Pabona’s solo show, “Babae, Ipagbunyi: Empathy in a Click,” which opened on Mar 10, kicked off the Consulate’s celebration of the International Women’s Month as part of its Gender and Development program for Filipina domestic workers.

The talented 36-year-old woman from Sudipen, La Union, says she aims to transition into “a new and better person” when her work contract ends in June this year.

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What has made this happen was her success in the National Geographic-Wheelock photo competition last year, and her winning the international photographer award from Gawad America in the same year.

Leading the accolades for Pabona at the opening of her show was Deputy Consul General Germinia Usudan, who traced the artist’s work history, from being a factory worker, cashier, and debt collector, to becoming a domestic worker in Singapore and Hong Kong.

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The change Pabona had undergone moved her friend and sponsor, Dr Ju-chen Chen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, to urge other Filipina helpers to also follow their dreams.

“This is not a representation of what Joan does only”, Chen said of the exhibit, which her team from the CUHK Department of Anthropology put up in collaboration with the PCG and Wimler Foundation.

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Chen said the photographs that Pabona exhibited are not about domestic workers in Hong Kong, but her view of the city where she lives and works.

She told the Filipina workers who were guests at the launch that with every picture they took of their new idol, “Joan becomes a new and better person” who they can emulate.

“You can also do that to become a better person,” Chen said.



 In September last year, Pabona told Chen she wanted to mount her first photo exhibit and the professor agreed readily. They approached Consul Fatima Quintin of the PCG and Wimler to enlist support and from there the project became a reality.

“I am interested in photography because I want to tell stories that I can only effect and convey in pictures,” Pabona said in her brief speech.

Photography “forces me to pay attention to things most people take for granted. When I take pictures, I look to capturing a moment in an artistic and creative way,” she said.

“When I take a picture, I feel like I am in communion with my subject. For in one split second I can put myself in their shoes.  When I get a good picture, I feel extremely content,” she said.

She told The SUN she started dabbling in photography using a Nikon digital SLR camera in college while enrolled in a computer course. It has since developed into a passion.

In June, when she winds up her six-year stay in Hong Kong as a domestic worker, she plans to go back to Sudipen to rest before going full time into photography.

“May plano na ako pero gusto kong magpahinga muna dahil pagod ako,” she said.
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