Almost ten million Filipinos have left their homeland in search of work and a brighter future elsewhere. In A Nation Outside a Nation, Nadine Stijns (Geleen, NL, 1977) examines the relationship between these economic migrants and their families in the Philippines.
The project began as a personal quest to understand the identity of her partner’s Filipino family. It centers on the “balikbayan boxes” – packages of clothing, biscuits, tools, furniture, etc. – that Filipino migrants send to their families at home as a token of continuing affection. Stijns photographed the boxes, their contents and the migrants sending them. She also collected hundreds of photos of the recipients with their boxes, used by the transport company as proof of receipt.
For Stijns, balikbayan boxes symbolize tangible and intangible experiences of labor migration. Her vibrant compositions and tiered collages represent the process of sending the packages, and hence also the painful separation from relatives backhome.