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The Story Of Migrant Workers, Told Through Xyza Bacani's We Are Like Air

In a nutshell, award-winning international street and documentary photographer Xyza Bacani’s newly-launched book called We Are Like Air is a look on migration—the longing and separation. Xyza’s story begins when her mother went to Hong Kong to work and provide for their family; later on, she also found herself joining the migrants force. They were poor, they needed money, thus leaving the country for a chance of better life is at stake. She persisted.


Her journey is closely retold in the pages of We Are Like Air, and it somehow represents the voice of migrant workers, faraway from their loved ones. The idea of creating a book, planted by Jim Estrin of the New York Times during a conversation in 2015, was a leap of faith she didn’t see herself diving into until then. Eventually, she found WMA Commission who supported her book proposal—and everything just fell into place.


"I was  inspired  to develop  the book because  even if our stories  as migrant workers have been told countless times, they often only scratch the surface. This time, with this book, we are telling our own stories,” the lenswoman shares. The collection of photographs were all taken using Fujifilm’s GFX 50S, X100T, and X-Pro2 cameras, and the texts are written by Xyza herself. One will also find letters and correspondence with her family during her migrant worker days.

The title signifies how they, the overseas Filipino workers, are important—a necessity to survive, even, but unseen. She intends to be the voice.

"The thing that I always say is we have a voice, and they need to start listening to us. That’s what I’m always fighting for,” the 32-year-old says. Her flair in photography is her arsenal in reaching out the message, and she hopes that whoever picks up the book, especially the children and families of migrant workers, will highly impact their perception of this vocation.

She also urges people to, “to stop seeing them as victims all the time. They’re champions—of their own families, and the families they serve.” As this woman extraordinaire promotes We Are Like Air, Xyza continues to raise awareness for under-reported issues and stories relating to labor, migration and human rights. As inspired by moments—whether it’s a heartbreaking scene of being alone in a foreign land or a short but heartwarming instant of seeing a fellow Filipino when one needs it the most, the photographer is ready to take her shot.

We Are Like Air is sold online at