|Elija Paul Villanueva with model Anastisija and musician Sam Reck/Patrick Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
LONDON - A photo exhibit by a Filipino care worker was unveiled at the Philippine Cultural Centre in the British capital to raise awareness of child cancer.
“Kulay”, a collection of images by Elija Paul Villanueva, is a snapshot of life in the UK through the eyes of an overseas Filipino. The photos feature nature, landscapes, portraiture and fashion.
Philippine Ambassador to the UK, Enrique Manalo, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, joined by a handful of Villanueva’s friends, supporters and collaborators, including several members of various Filipino groups in the UK.
Fashion model Anastasija, from Britain’s Next Top Model, also attended the opening, having worked with Villanueva in the past.
“A lot of my images have a very minimalist style. At the same time, because everything is digital these days, I use a lot of software and computer techniques to combine art and technology,” he told ABS-CBN Europe at the launch.
He added: “Life is full of color, especially for people who move to another country. I experience so much and I am still young. Photography allows me to document everything that I see along the way.”
The show is dedicated to his younger sister Myla, a teenager in the Philippines who is battling lymphoma, a cancer affecting cells from the immune system.
According to World Child Cancer, an estimated 3,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the Philippines, with a typical survival rate of less than 20%.
“It’s a big help to be able to share what I am going through. I want to raise awareness of childhood cancer, linking different organizations in the UK and beyond by telling the story of my sister’s battle,” he said.
Originally from San Juan City in the Philippines, Villanueva moved to the UK in 2009, at the age of 21, in search of a better life for his family, taking on the role of main breadwinner following his father’s illness.
He now works as a senior care worker in England while being active in the Filipino community, from hosting a radio show about OFWs, to winning Mr. Philippines UK in 2011. He is also studying business at university.
Yet despite a busy schedule, photography and art remain his passion. Before moving abroad, he worked for a photography studio as marketing manager, which built a solid foundation for his practice. He now works freelance shooting events around the UK, as well as pursuing personal projects in fashion, music, and fine art.
“This is how I express whatever I feel inside. I have always wanted to paint, and I found a way to convey my ideas through photography. I felt connected to it and it was easy for me, the imagination just flows,” he revealed.
“As a Filipino abroad, this is also the only way for me to record my experiences and be able to share it with family and friends. And this is a way for me to pass on something to the youths, to inspire them, especially my very own children in the future.”
“Kulay” is at the Philippine Cultural Centre in Suffolk Street, London until November 23.