Wednesday, August 10, 2016

[“Multicultural Hong Kong in Celebration” Series] Matinee on Sundays: Cultural Festivals and Beauty pageants of Overseas Filipino Workers in Hong Kong



"The domestic helpers who actively participated in these events are certainly not just passively waiting to refresh their energy for another week’s domestic work. They are migrants aspiring to, first, find changes to build more promising careers and change their lives; and, secondly, foster a respectable identity and trustable community for themselves in Hong Kong."
—Ju-chen Chen 

Extract of the article:

"In these years of studying pageants of OFWs in Hong Kong, I constantly encountered doubts from non-foreign-domestic-helper friends: “Who? Helpers as beauty queens?” It is safe to argue that, by large, these vibrant fiestas and pageants are not known to the majority of Hong Kong society, even though they are held frequently and in public. The invisibility is resulted from the “segregation” of the foreign helper community from the mainstream society. Each of the 300,000 foreign domestic helpers is an intimate co-resident of a Hong Kong family. She nourishes kid(s), takes care of elders, cooks, washes and irons clothes, cleans up flats and runs errands. While some families are close to their gongren Jiejie (worker-big sister, a term widely used to refer to helpers in Hong Kong) and others don’t, outside each individual household, these women became strangers to the society. The most stereotypical image of Hong Kong maids on Sundays - sea of women sitting on “cardboard cubic” on footbridges or public areas - marginalized, anonymized and homogenized these migrant women. The spirited Filipino community and their vibrant activities are hidden from the public awareness by nothing other than the naive, if not biased, assumption that every single foreign domestic helper simply idles all day long on Sundays; chatting, lying and playing cards on road sides." (Chen 2015:64)

Want to know more about the lives of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong? Click here and read the full text article (published in Hong Kong Discovery Vol. 88 on 19 May 2015).

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