Hi! My name is Hessed and I started painting in the summer of 2015. I am a migrant worker in Canada and I use the paintbrush as a way to cope with and express my emotions about family separation. Being far away from my daughter has been my greatest source of pain, as well as inspiration - not just to get her to Canada but more so to contribute to social changes that will make a significant impact on migrant women in Canada and all over the world.
A few months after being wrongfully terminated for asserting my rights as a worker, I took free painting workshops facilitated by internationally-awarded muralist Bert Monterona together with Pancit Art Collective, a group of Filipino artists in British Columbia. Emotions were high at the time, as I was pressed with financial responsibility for my daughter back home. At the same time, I was fully embraced by the Filipino community of Migrante BC, a grassroots organization who opened their doors to me and offered me a place to stay. Finally, I found a place I can call home and a people I can call family.
Today, I struggle to pay rent for my tiny apartment and to keep up with the high cost of living in Vancouver but I know that I am not alone. Every day, migrants like myself along with other working-class folks struggle to get by. This is why I volunteer much of my time advocating for social changes together with Migrante BC. Our work is to promote and protect the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and immigrants specifically in BC while also linking our issues with other communities. We recognize the interconnectedness of our struggles and that genuine and lasting changes will only come about through collective action.
I would have never learned to paint if those art classes were offered to me at a price. This leads me into believing that art should be inclusive and accessible to the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our society. It is a form of therapy for me and a vessel for healing our communities. Art is an effective way to convey our position that the migration of Filipinos abroad is a product of extreme poverty and joblessness in the Philippines, and at the root of it is our struggle for national democratic liberation.