Matatag, a photo series by Filipina nurses, personal support workers, and in-home caregivers

A photo series by Filipina nurses, personal support workers, and in-home caregivers, Matatag is an exhibit in the windows of A Space Gallery that runs from 20 October 2021 to January 2022.

Using photovoice—a participatory arts-based research method in partnership with Gabriela-Ontario and Migrant Resource Centre Canada—care workers captured everyday moments of struggle and strength during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their images, we witness the lived realities of what it is like to be a Filipina frontline care worker, who must grapple with family separation and loneliness, face a lack of PPEs and sick days, tackle intensified working requirements, maintain physical and mental wellbeing, and navigate the complicated layers of  immigration and citizenship, all the while caring for the most vulnerable amid the pandemic. On display are over 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. 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. 

Since July 2020, the “Filipina Care Workers and COVID-19” research team has been working with frontline Filipina care workers to identify their needs, concerns, and aspirations amid the pandemic. This project is led by Dr. Ethel Tungohan (Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, York University) and other scholars, researchers, and community organizers from Gabriela-Ontario and Migrants Resource Center 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, Mycah Panjaitan.

Maraming salamat (many thanks) to the 78 titas (aunties) and ates (older sisters)who shared their stories.

Visit our website to learn more and take action to support Filipina care workers in Canada: https://filipinacareworkers.com/

To learn more about this event and our project, contact Dr. Ethel Tungohan (tungohan@yorku.ca) or Mauriene Tolentino (mauriene.tolentino@gmail.com).

Read more about this exhibition in this story in YFile: https://yfile.news.yorku.ca/2021/10/19/exhibit-captures-dedication-of-filipina-care-workers-during-covid-19/

This project is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the York Centre for Asian Research, and York University’s VPRI COVID-19 research fund.

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