The takeover

During the week, the financial district Central belongs to the suits, the salarymen, and the sophistocrats. But come Sunday, the city is completely taken over by the Philippinas.

There is absolutely no escape from these little ladies. Hong Kong is overflowing with thousands of Philippino domestic workers who only get one day off a week and just have nowhere else to go. So they congregate in Central, setting up picnic blankets on any flat surface, breaking out the homemade mothercountry food, playing cards, and even dancing traditional dances.

They sometimes choose strange places, like stairwells, under walkways, or even under bridges, any spot where there is a little shade. And they stay there, ALL day. You see them relaxing with their shoes off, flexing their toes, sometimes PAINTING their toenails, as though it were their own living room! I suppose this is because they don’t have a room of their own to go to. They simply don’t have a choice. They can’t go to a friend’s house to lime and relax. They literally have nowhere else to go.

Right outside my office -- Statue Square is a popular spot for housekeepers on a Sunday


Many people scorn the domestic workers cluttering up every open space in Central on the Sundays, and I’m sure they scorn the stuck-up people who employ them. I’m not saying I want to be sitting on the footbridge of IFC on a Sunday, because it must be sad to have nowhere to go.

But in a small way I feel sort of a small envy towards them too. They have quite a strong community, and they seem to support each other emotionally, as I’m sure it’s quite hard leaving their homes to come to Hong Kong to do menial labour. No doubt they earn good money here, and send cash home to support their families, but in exchange they work like dogs for people who have little respect for them. As a result, they only have each other, and their day off on Sunday. I know from experience how hard it is to move to a new place where you have no support. I expect they become each other’s new family here in Hong Kong.

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