The number of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong has been steadily climbing, reaching 340,380 in 2015, a 24 percent increase as compared to five years ago. Although they are a part of the lives of many working families in Hong Kong, many remain stereotyped as poor and uneducated.
However, domestic workers aren’t any different from anyone else. They have friends and families, and enjoy a rich social life on their days off.
Michelle Saluta, 37, came to Hong Kong in 2015. She started a dance team and practices with them every Sunday.
She’s been dancing for more than 10 years, starting when she was a university student in the Philippines. She feels dancing provides an important release from work pressures and helps her bond with friends. Saluta likes to make the most of her single day off every week:
“We have to enjoy it rather than sitting down [and being] sad.”
Lee Ann Hidalgo, another domestic worker, takes part in photography workshops. Lee Ann got into photography because it provides her with positive energy. Through photography, she is able to reveal the talents of domestic workers to others:
“Don’t just say that I am just a domestic helper, no. As a domestic helper, we may have the lowest-paid job here, but somehow we help Hong Kong in some ways.”
Beyond their daily household chores, Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong enjoy a rich communal life with their compatriots. Leo Selomenio, who came to Hong Kong in 1996 and later founded Global Alliance, a group dedicated to helping the overseas Filipino community, spends her weekends organizing activities for her fellow domestic workers.
Although she faces many difficulties, such as the lack of time and financial support, her employer supports her endeavor by letting her have two days off on the weekend. Leo says:
“Wherever I go, I may be back to Philippines for good, I will never be able to forget my employer because they have already become a part of my life.”
This story was written by Avery Tsui, Li Sunpin, Minnie Wong, Vivienne Tsang, and Achlys Xi. It was originally published on Varsity, a magazine run by students from the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.