Diaspora on the Frontlines
Story and photographs featured on
supported by The National Geographic Society
Nearly 32 percent of the registered nurses who have died of COVID and related complications are of Filipino descent.
Filipino nurses have been on the frontlines of many health crises over the years and it is not by accident. Healthcare in the Philippines was largely modeled after the American system during the U.S. occupation, which lasted 48 years. This prepared Filipinos to become nurses abroad instead of their home country.
The first large wave of Filipino immigrants began after World War II when the U.S. created the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP), which facilitated the entry of foreign nationals to help ease labor shortages. In 1948, the Philippines and the U.S. entered into an agreement for the financing of bi-national centers to coordinate educational exchange programs in various fields, including healthcare. By the 1960s, the demand for nurses increased dramatically following the passage of Medicare and Medicaid and a spike in illnesses such as the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
My project, Diaspora on the Frontlines, documents five Filipino nursing families, making up 9 nurses, all of whom represent the large population that have been historically shaped to fill the US shortage of nurses. This project is comprised of documentary images of their lives, along with historical and present day diptychs to illustrate the missing and present day stories of these migrants.
Special thanks to Ren Capucao and Catherine Ceniza Choy for your research and work on this issue.
Thank you to the Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry for the archival images.