How This Filipina Finished Her Masters in NYU "Even Without a College Degree"

"I am not my circumstances."
by Cheska Santiago   |  May 19, 2022
Image: Instagram/xyzacruzbacani
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Xyza Cruz Bacani, a former domestic helper who has since become an internationally acclaimed photographer, is one of the graduates of New York University's recent commencement exercises held last May 18, 2022.

Posting photos of herself wearing NYU's toga and cap, Xyza took to social media to announce that she earned her master's degree in arts and politics, while also sharing the fact that the university took her on even though she didn't possess a college degree.

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"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. I am in awe of your beauty and grace," she wrote.

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She added: "I am grateful to my mama and papa, who taught me kindness and grit."

She also described herself as a descendant of the "people you don't read about in history books."

"They are unseen and unheard. 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."

Ending her post, Xyza called herself an "artist in service" whose lens told the stories of Filipino migrant workers. 

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"I am an ancestor. As a storyteller in today's world of uncertainty, I need to see myself as an ancestor rather than a descendant. It helps me make better decisions. I honor my ancestors by becoming one."

"I am an artist. I always have been and always will be an artist in service because I am not my circumstances," she concluded.

Xyza was an OFW in Hong Kong who worked as a domestic helper before becoming a photographer. She has since been recognized by esteemed publications like New York Times and CNN. She was one of "BBC’s 100 Women of the World 2015" and "Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016."

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Cheska Santiago
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