One aspect of modern Philippine culture that clearly points to the entanglements of identity and capital is the prevalence of “overseas contract work” amongst Filipinos. Overseas contract workers (OCWs), also known as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), are Philippine citizens who work abroad, under contract, for a set amount of time. These jobs offer an opportunity for higher wages from countries with favorable exchange rates when spent in the Philippines. In addition, the Philippine government has encouraged this exportation of labor with favorable incentives for OFWs (discount housing, etc.), thus creating one of the biggest diaspora populations today at around 11 million.
The highest proportion of these workers are in domestic service, largely taken on by women, accounting for roughly a quarter of all OFWs. Though the Philippine government hail OFWs as “mga bagong bayani” (new heroes), largely due to their economic contribution to the Philippine economy, these positions are rife with abuse and exploitation. From the International Labor Organization’s report on domestic workers:
"Domestic work is one of the most important sources of employment for Philippine women both in the country and abroad. About one-quarter of Philippine workers deployed overseas every year enter domestic service. Concern for their safety and protection from abuse is particularly strong in the Philippines in the aftermath of the execution of Flor Contemplacion, a Philippine domestic worker in Singapore in 1995. Indeed, the hidden nature of domestic work within the private sphere of the employers’ household and the informal employment arrangements often practiced, make domestic workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and in some circumstances, to forced labour and trafficking." (Sayres 2)
Because of the “hidden nature” of domestic work, the abuses of power within these spheres on domestic workers is largely unknown outside of the Philippines.
In Value Studies: Multo (Apparitions), I wanted to highlight the invisibility of this labor force and question how we got to this moment of large-scale exportation of Philippine labor. I researched hours of YouTube content produced by OFWs in domestic service. Several OFWs would film themselves working, illuminating the extent of their labor for others wanting to become OFWs. I was able to gather enough clips of OFWs working in regions with the largest concentrations of OFWs in domestic service to create this series. Using a separate digital camera, I created these “ghostly apparitions” by doing a slow exposure of the Youtube videos.