I have an interesting relationship with the Philippines because of my family background. My parents are Chinese but they can speak Filipino quite fluently. My mother was born in the Philippines and she grew up in Davao city. My father was born in Fujian, a Chinese coastal province and he first moved to Hong Kong then to Davao city to study elementary school there. After they got married, my mother moved to Hong Kong with my father and I was born in Hong Kong. Since my mother’s family is still living in Davao, I always visit the Philippines. I consider the Philippines as my second home and I enjoy talking with the people and interacting with them. As a result, I develop a special feeling towards the Philippines, its people and things related to them. This is also a major reason I wanted to join APMM.
Our family hired a Filipino domestic worker when I was still studying at kindergarten. At that time, both my parents were working and they hired a worker to take care of me and my younger brother and do all kinds of housework while my parents were working outside. I remembered I had a close relationship with that worker and there is a picture of us with a birthday cake which was taken when I was three or four. After I went to primary school, my mother did not work anymore and our family did not hire that worker because my mother would take care of us and manage housework. However, we still kept contact with that domestic worker and greeted each other during some festivals. To me, that domestic worker was a nice and friendly person and I did not treat her as a worker but part of our family. We ate together, played together and I even slept with her because of the limited space. This may not be the case in all the families which have hired domestic workers. Sometimes, there are cases of abuses of domestic workers or discriminations against them which include verbal and physical assaults. Though I am not a Filipino and I do not know much about the domestic workers and their stories, I just do not feel good when I see from the news about abuses against them or when I hear somebody say something biased about them. I want to learn more about foreign domestic workers and their stories and try to help them if I can.
Migration is a right of everyone. Yet, I do not know about ‘forced migration’ until my first day at APMM. I know some of the domestic workers are university graduates which means they have attained quite high education. However, I have not thought about forced migration and yet it makes sense actually. When I visited Davao before, I could see a why poverty is a big issue there. Yes, there are of course rich people in the Philippines but the majority are still living poorly. I could see children begging on the streets, knocking your car window and some did not even have shoes to wear. Even some can go to school, they still have a big family to taking care of. Although some are graduates from universities, there are not enough suitable jobs back home together with low wages, being a domestic worker in foreign places is actually one of the few ways they can support their families.
Last year, I had a chance to interview a Filipino domestic worker who has worked in Hong Kong for almost 20 years. When I asked her why she wanted to work here, she said she could earn more in Hong Kong than in the Philippines. Also, she had three children and because of her money, they could all get into private schools and universities. According to her, the education in the Philippines is not well developed, private schools often perform better than public schools, for example, they have better and more resources than public schools. Therefore, she tried to earn as much as she can through working as a foreign domestic worker in Hong Kong to support her children and her family. This can be seen as one example of forced migration because people know private education is better and she simply could not find a job with enough wages to support her children’s education in the Philippines. Though she can earn enough to support her family, she needs to be separated from them for 20 years. Life is hard to these domestic workers in some sense but they do not have much choices.
In these coming days at APMM, I wish I can learn more about the situation of the migrant workers in Hong Kong and talk to some of them in the field trips, learn their stories. Also, letting them know their own rights is very important in the long run. In case they encounter some unfair treatments, they will know who to turn to and what their rights are, to protect themselves.