Beauty in the “Chicken Hands” of Hardworking Filipino Women

Beauty in the “Chicken Hands” of Hardworking Filipino Women

La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Sept. 7 - Oct. 30, 2016

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Ryan Arbilo "Chicken Hands" exhibition © Ryan Arbilo/Maison Europeenne de la Photographie

Many come to Paris to visit the glorious traditions of its past. For those of us living in Paris, this classical beauty has become the norm, so when ideals are presented in an unexpected fashion, I for one, take notice. What excites me now is how this fair city promotes unknown talent and gives voice to their mission. Currently, at La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, the glamorous and unglamorous are featured together, rendering the disparity all the more sobering and bittersweet.

For those of you who are in Paris, or will be before the end of the month, Ryan Arbilo’s “Chicken Hands” is a must see at Le MEP. This poignant photo exhibition is being shown alongside none other than “Herb Ritts: En Pleine Lumière” until October 30, 2016.

Photographer Ryan Arbilo. © Maison Europeenne de la Photographie
Photographer Ryan Arbilo. © Maison Européenne de la Photographie

The beauty told in “Chicken Hands”, however, is quite different to that of the fashion photographer’s. It is a Filipino son’s tribute to his mother and the too many women like her who have sacrificed their lives for the care of their families.

“I am a child of a ‘Chicken Hands’ mother. I grew up without her and although I am grateful for the opportunities I received, it came at too high a price. The pain of growing up without her has stayed with me. Through this project, I seek to understand why.”
~ Ryan Arbilo

Aida, mother of Ryan Arbilo. © Ryan Arbilo/Maison Europeenne de la Photographie
Aida, mother of Ryan Arbilo. © Ryan Arbilo/Maison Européenne de la Photographie

With his series, Ryan documents low-paid Filipino workers and underlines their dignity and pride. He portrays their bare hands as a symbol of their sacrifice and the demeaning treatment they often endure.

“They leave behind their family, never knowing when they will see them again… As you look through these photos, you will see the loneliness marked on their faces, their hands scarred by their perseverance and dedication to those they left behind.”
~ Ryan Arbilo

Zeny Foliente © Ryan Arbilo/ Maison Europeenne de la Photographie
Zeny Foliente © Ryan Arbilo/ Maison Européenne de la Photographie

2016 has been a great year of unveiling for the Philippines on an international scale. It has won well-deserved awards for its paradisiacal islands, for its innovative cuisine and, most recently, on the Paris catwalks, a prestigious acclaim for its couture fashion and style.

Many who know the Philippines would say, “It’s about time.” And I fully agree. As for the all too familiar face of the overseas Filipina domestic worker, how befitting it is that her tribute shines in the City of Light.

The Filipino Woman We All Know

I am of Filipino heritage. My life has been such, however, that I was born in San Francisco, raised in three different countries and called six different cities home. The trips to the land of my parents’ birth were not a ritual, nor were their customs. Nonetheless, I was blessed to know and be cared for by Filipina women, who looked after me when they would rather have been looking after their own.

Michelle Pozon
Author with her son. © Michelle Pozon

As a mother now myself, the contrast is not lost on me. I have the privilege, which many Filipinas do not, to hug my own child every day and to be with him as he grows into a young man. I am humbled by their devotion and continued kindness to others and to myself as caretakers. I am moved by their situation as they work abroad and live so far away from their homes, often unsure of when they can return, and if their children will accept them when they do.

It is my hope that the Philippines will become a stronger country, in which families would not have to be separated in order to survive. I applaud Ryan for his tribute to his mother and the countless other Filipina domestic workers living away from their home. Hopefully, this photo exhibition is but the first of many to bring to light the beauty of the Filipina strength.

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