Labour migration is part of the lifeblood of Filipinos around the world. Nearly 10% of the population has left the Philippines in search for work abroad. My partner is Filipino-American and for years I watched the small-scale migrations among his family in California and the Philippines. These patterns are both visible and invisible: gifts are sent in gigantic boxes, money is returned and invested, new formations of friends and family are established in a foreign land, while Skype buzzes in the background with the sounds of home.
‘A Nation Outside a Nation’ captures these moments and movement in the Netherlands. The subjects I photograph often live in limbo—undocumented domestic workers or au pairs, who are also the targets of Dutch crackdowns on illegal immigration.
How can I capture the memories, the dreams and the flow of capital and possessions throughout the Filipino Diaspora? The Balikbayan Box, goods sent by Filipino migrants free of tax back to the Philippines, is an ideal symbol of my interest in the tangible and intangible experiences of labour migration. The box is more than foreign gifts and supplies; it’s an act of giving, an offering and a sign of new possibilities.