Filipino worker in Cyprus exhibits artwork

Miles Viernes
After kasambahay duties, Rosita Sumagaysay turns to painting

KASAMBAHAY, ARTIST. 'Rosita's Flowers' by Rosita Sumagaysay. All photos courtesy of Miles Viernes

ATHENS, Greece – “Princess Margaret of Spain,” “Rosita’s Flowers” and “Lonely” — these were some of the paintings by Rosita Sumagaysay, a budding Filipina artist, that were put on exhibit at the European University Cyprus last July 7.

The exhibit was held during the joint celebration of the 115th Philippine Independence Day and Migrant Workers’ Day, organized by the Philippine Honorary Consulate in Nicosia, Philippine Embassy in Athens, Greece and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Cyprus. 

STILL GROWING AS AN ARTIST. Rosita gives a few words about her paintings at the exhibit

Rosita is one of about 16,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Cyprus, most of them working as household service workers or kasambahays. With the support and encouragement of her Cypriot employer, Elena Vassiliou, Rosita developed her innate artistic talent.

Seven of her oil on canvas paintings were showcased in the mini-exhibit, a sidelight of the whole-day affair. They were presented to the officers of the Philippine Embassy in Athens, Greece, and the Philippine Honorary Consulate of Nicosia led by Ambassador Meynardo Lb. Montealegre.

SUPPORT SYSTEM. (From left) Minister and Consul General Charmaine Rowena C. Aviquivil, Philippine Honorary Consul to Nicosia Shemaine A. Bushnell-Kyriakides, Ambassador Meynardo Lb. Montealegre of the Philippine Embassy in Athens, Welfare Officer Sylvia Valdez, artist Rosita Sumagaysay and Rosita’s employer, Elena Vassiliou

Sumagaysay is a live-in helper who works for about 6 hours a day. During her free time, she dabbles in drawing and sketching. One day, her employer noticed her interest in visual arts and her talent, and provided financial support so Rosita could pursue her dream of painting more, of creating bigger images.

Elena enrolled Rosita in afternoon art classes where the latter further enhanced her skills. Every day after work, Elena allowed Rosita to paint in her house’s kitchen area. Elena also introduced Rosita to her family and friends who patronized Rosita’s work.

Part of the painting 'LONELY' by Rosita Sumagaysay

Rosita exemplifies an OFW who strives to improve her status in life. She was born in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental; one of 12 siblings. There, she finished Associate in Computer Data Processing, a two-year college course. Like many of our kababayans looking for better opportunities, Rosita left the country in 2004.

Through an agency, she was able to go to Cyprus and work as a kasambahay.

Rosita was not happy with her first employer. Fortunately, after her contract ended, she was able to work with Elena’s father, Mr Vassilio. Elena eventually took Rosita into her household when her father died in 2008. 


“I am extremely happy because Ms Vassiliou is very kind, open minded, understanding and supportive,” Rosita told this writer. She said that Elena has expanded her horizons by taking her to art exhibits, museums and to screenings of art films.

Elena has also introduced Rosita to her friends who also paint. 

“[They] have inspired me to improve my work. I will continue to paint and hope to be a fine artist someday. Painting gives me peace and joy. It helps me relax after a day’s work,” Rosita added. –