Award-winning Filipina photographer and former domestic worker Xyza Cruz Bacani has graduated from New York University with a Master’s degree in Arts and Politics.
Bacani’s inspiring journey from being a Filipina DH who used her photographs to call attention to the plight of abused migrant workers in Hong Kong, to gaining world fame, and now earning a graduate degree from a prestigious university, is a story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
The famed street and documentary photographer first gained international recognition after being featured in the New York Times and went on to earn more acclaim as she showcased her street life photography in exhibitions in consulates and galleries.
Bacani has had her work exhibited worldwide, won numerous awards, is the recipient of a Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellowship in New York – a Pulitzer Center, an Open Society Moving Walls grantee, and is one of the Asia 21 Young Leaders.
The Filipina lensman recently added to her string of achievements by graduating from New York University (NYU) on a scholarship.
Bacani penned an inspiring message on her Facebook account, thanking the “people who paved the way” for her and saw her potential.
“I am a graduate of Masters in Arts and Politics at New York University. Even without a college degree, NYU took a chance on me. I am a scholar and grateful to people who paved the way for me to dream, who saw my potential and extended their generosity,” Xyza Cruz Bacani announced in a Facebook post on May 18, 2022.
“I am in awe of your beauty and grace. I am grateful to my mama and papa, who taught me kindness and grit,” Bacani added.
Bacani is among the Class of 2022 graduates of New York University in the United States that includes Philippine Vice Presidential daughter Jillian Robredo who, like Bacani, studied on a scholarship.
Michael Purugganan, professor of Biology and former Dean of Science at NYU, said that Bacani was accepted into the M.A. in Arts Politics program at the Tisch school even without a college degree.
“In less than 10 years Xyza Cruz Bacani has gone from being a migrant OFW domestic worker to world-renowned photographer, with her photos gracing the NY Times and CNN, as well as galleries and museums around the world,” Michael Purugganan wrote in a recent Facebook post.
“Two years ago NYU was so impressed with her that even without a college degree they accepted her (with scholarship) into the rigorous M.A. in Arts Politics program at the Tisch school,” Purugganan adds.
In her Facebook post, Bacani also honored her ancestors and acknowledged her roots as a “product of trauma caused by a cycle of poverty.”
“I am a descendant. My ancestors are people you don’t read about in history books. They are unseen and unheard,” Bacani said.
“We don’t have family inheritance except for the traumas passed on from one generation to another. I do not have photographs of them or any objects that will remind me of them. All I know is I am a product of trauma caused by a cycle of poverty,” Bacani continued.
Nueva Viscaya native Xyza Bacani is a former migrant worker in Hong Kong who quit domestic service to pursue her passion for photography. She is an acclaimed street and documentary photographer, and author of the book, We Are Like Air.
In the book, Bacani tells the tale of her mother, a Filipino domestic helper who has spent half of her life in Hong Kong. The book also tells the stories of other female migrant workers and offers a look into the lesser-known side of Hong Kong beyond the city’s skyscrapers and mega malls.
READ MORE about Xyza Cruz Bacani’s own journey from being a domestic helper to a celebrated documentary photographer here.
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