潘虹伃 Pan, Hung-yu@APMM
1. Hello Macau!! My experience in Customs
Nowadays, although we live in a modern city, which is so-called ‘democracy society’, it seems not all of people 100% be treated as equal as we thought. I have been with several Pinoy sisters to join the first anniversary of ATIS-Macau (ATIS, Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society, one of biggest migrant group in HK, ATIS-Macau is one of their partnership organization). We, around 30 ladies, met up in ‘Central Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal’ first and were ready to get into the check-point (Customs restricted area). It was a busy Sunday, around us were full of tourists-like passengers who showed their exciting and chatted with their partners loudly in the hall.
As usual, everyone have to line up for travel document checking in this restricted area. An officer guided us lean to colour green channel (for Hong Kong residents) instead the colour red channel for tourists. Maybe I was sensitive, I came in behind my friends and noticed that all of customs took a bit longer time to check each Flippina’s documents (HK-ID card, passport, and believe or not, the signed standard contact which has published by HK government). They cannot even use E-channel (electrical channel for HK-ID holders, unfortunately, domestic helpers are excluded that is why they need go to regular channel).
Later on, according to one of migrant, questions from HK customs are: ‘why you need to go to Macau?’, ‘who is your employer? Could you tell me his / her name?’,And ‘why you look different than passport and ID card?’
The same thing happened when we visited Macau, these officers have similar questions and attitudes to treat migrants.
I also was the last one in the long queue at Macau Customs restricted area. I handed in my passport and HK-ID in to the desk, the officer asked me: ‘you came from Taipei? How’s the weather? My friends are travelling there, hope they are ok.’ ‘No, I came from Hong Kong, but I guess the weather of Taipei is fine now, no worries.’ She nodded and gave me a smile, no restrict questions, even no poker face, she stamped very quickly, and let me go.
I felt a bit strange, the attitude from both side customs made me confused. Since I was ready to answer several strict questions as they did to my friends, but they just let me pass the check point. I felt a bit quilt, we all are foreigners here, I do not want to make my friends think I am different than them.
Who can give me the answer? The one thing came into my mind is, in fact, the class system is right there. It happened when we arrived the customs.
2. Let’s dance in Chater Road—–the powerful ‘One Billion Rising’ Sunday
I was curious what is one billion rising, the first thing came into my mind when I heard about One Billion Rising, it is ‘well, one billion fundraising, what a brave project it is’. Until I google it and join the dance practice, realized that definitely not about fundraising, it is about girl power and have fun.
Dated back 1998, ‘the vagina monologues’, an episodic play written by Eve Ensle has launched on 14, February (so called V-day). The vagina monologues talks about several empowerment women stories, and let women to rethink ‘who am I ‘; this year is the 15th anniversary of V-day, for the international level campaign to stop violence against women, the V-day organization start ‘one billion rising’ to invite women all around the world to strike at least 15 minutes on V-day, just dance for themselves.
Over 90% migrant workers in Hong Kong are female so that One Billion Rising is quite meaningful for us. This time all of dancers wear color green T-shirt and follow the tagalong OBR version music and dance steps which is created by GABRIELA, a Philippine Women issue organization. It was a totally new and very cool experience for me, V-day in 2013, I really enjoy the happy moment and dance with my Filipina sisters from morning till the afternoon. So many pedestrians, most of them looks like tourists, stop next by the big dance group on Chater road to take pictures and ask questions to dancers.
I cannot help but wonder, what is the meaning of OBR dance? The culture where I come from does not really encourage people to enjoy dance. For me, I am shy away to dance in public place, because I do not believe I am not suitable to do it. I have never dreamed about that I can dance together with 600 women in Chater Road. I develop more confident from the each practice, dance, and hug from my sisters, because my sisters often encourage me to try it on, and be relaxed to enjoy music.
One Billion Rising made it happened in my life. I should say it is magic, believe or not, I feel more confident and sexy after the One Billion Rising, I learnt how ‘girl power’ influence the whole Chater Road , I feel so moved that moment and ‘go dancing’ is not a terrible thing anymore.
I made it, I am proud of being a woman, after this meaningful dance party in Chater Road, I should shout out loudly to the world;‘ hi girls, your are beautiful, tough and sexy’
*what can we do after our dance party on February this year? As the announcement on the OBR website, ‘This is NOT an annual holiday, we are not waiting until 14 February 2014. NOW is the time to harness the power of your activism to change the world!’
Welcome to drop by ‘One Billion Rising’ website: http://onebillionrising.org/
3. “Central" Lifestyle
Central, the heart of Hong Kong, is easily seen as the headquarters of many international banks and multinational corporations’ offices here. During workdays, Central is filled to the rim with white-collar workers who grab a coffee in the morning and hurry to depart. You might also bump into a banker or a lawyer when you go shopping.
During Sundays, Central becomes totally different from weekdays, it becomes more causal, more fun and more exotic. If you ask me who are the experts to use public space? I would give it an answer that migrants are the experts for it, they really know which place is suitable for hosting a membership training program, for example, outside of the fourth floor in the IFC mall, there is a small outdoor park, I was with 15 grassroots members to attend a ‘know your right’ course, everyone got a English version of ‘Hong Kong Standard Contract for migrant domestic workers’*, its published by Hong Kong government. In addition, this standard contract is translated to Tagalog version by Mission for Migrant Workers.
The organization leader ask everyone read each clause carefully she explain more details and give case studies to members, she made jokes, ‘don’t eat your employers’ Apple in the refrigerator, because they can fire you ,sadly, your employer can eat yours without asking’. What she said is a real situation for some cases here. It is a joke, everyone knows people cannot take others’ foods without any permissions, even that person is your boss. Because those cases happened often, this grassroots leaders start to train members should know their own rights to protect themselves, for maximum members’ only one day-off every week, Central is the first choice to host the training and education courses.
Aside from CSOs programs, leisure activities are the key elements for Sunday Central. After six days working hard for bread and butter, many Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong come over to Central and enjoy their day-off on Sunday. They would make up, dress sexy, wear high heels, and bring simple home cooking, sit on the ground to chat with their friends and play Candy Crush on their smart phones.
Most Philippines are ‘photo addicts’ (no offense, they often call themselves like that, too) they try the best to face the camera or take photos for their mates. People love to take photos every time, such as eating, singing, drinking, chatting, and dancing, it was a problem for me to pose naturally with them for group photos. I am not really into taking group photos when I am busy, sometime I feel uncomfortable, be photographed person quite distract me when I talk to people or enjoy my food. I am confused is it a cultural shock or just my personality? It still on the way to look for answers, on the other hand, I realized that in Central on Sundays, inevitably, migrants are always photographed by curious tourists so that some of ladies open their umbrella and hind behind it to avoid the graze from unexpected tourists. For me, leisure time is liked with my privacy, unless I would like to invite friends to join it, I definitely won’t be taken photos by strangers. Migrant workers cannot has the chance to say no when they gather together in Central where is the public space and migrants how to find the line between public space and leisure activities is another question for me so far.
Meanwhile, throw a party for ANY reasons is piony’s culture, birthday, wedding anniversary, children graduate from college, MFMW won big funding from ‘Love Idea Hong Kong’ project, and Migrante party list on election. I am the lucky non-Piony to participant these parties all the time and get good opportunities to know them in parties. They host birthday parties for newcomers, even sing Karaoke on the street right beside the shop of Cartier (Yes, they did. I was one of the singers in the first week of 2013!). In general, grassroots organizations prepare simple cooking to serve people during party time. The ‘simple cooking’ which means are easy to cook, budget food ingredients, convenient to carry for transport, and not easy spoiled. It is a interesting questions to dig more answer in the future.
It could say that Central is multi-functional for Filipino migrants. Aside from leisure activities, this place is also utilized by migrant groups and civil society organizations in giving education and training, hosting leadership workshops for new leaders, conducting monthly meetings for members, etc. Each grassroots migrant organization schedule activities, for example, campaigning for the Philippine election, and making plans for membership recruitment.
I am one of the Sunday visitors in Central, unlike tourists who take photos to my migrant friends, it is my honor to join them during their parties. I have practiced dance in wintertime and sipped hot coffee with runny nose during the break. I have shared with friends a set of Jollibee meal (Philippines’ fast food chain store) and listened to many awesome migrants’ life stories .One time I was too tired, sit in front of the Chanel store and took a five minutes nap after a long day of dance practice and taking video documentary. I have never thought that I can connect with Hong Kong in this cool way.
Central is meaningful to me. This valuable space is not a symbolic of capitalism but a place for CSO development. I learned the value of ‘empowerment’ from migrants’ stories, I learned how to go with the flow no matter how difficult life is. I totally discovered the other side of this financial center of Hong Kong as more relaxed yet more vivid and with so much girl power!
Thank Central, you always make Sunday really special.
*Hong Kong http://www.immd.gov.hk/en/forms/forms/id407_detail.html
In early March, we has visited NAWL (New Arrival Women Legal) again, NAWL advisor, Ms.Yeung Mei , shared her experiences last time her exposure in the Philippines, and told us how impressive that CSOs are very active in this country, she also mention that NAWL is willing to host a leadership training program this year. Today, APMM and NAWL can strengthen relationship and help to expand the network together. We visited Ms. Yeung to confirm the leadership training program and also invite NAWL to attend AMMORE conference in Taiwan.
NAWL office is located at Mongkok, which is the highest population density in Hong Kong, this office is multifunction. There is a meeting room, kitchen and a cozy place for members to drop by and take a rest. Unlike domestic workers take one day-off on Sunday, most NAWL members should stay at home for family time, they often available in the morning on weekdays. According to Ms. Yeung, NAWL offers free courses for members 1-3 times per week, such as ‘know your rights’, briefing of social welfare service and hobby classes…etc.
Since 2012, this Mainland China marriage migrants group has been part of AMMORE and attended the marriage migrants workshop which hosted by MFMW (Mission For Migrant Workers) and APMM. It was around 20 participants from Mainland China, Nepal and Philippines at our office. I was so moved from those testimonies, it is uneasy for most of participants to speak out the feelings of sorrow, happiness, worries and joyful, because of this workshop, I noticed that storytelling is a useful tool to open audiences’ heart, one of marriage migrants has been domestic abused from her ex-husband several years, now she is single mother and the only hope of her is to grow her child. The participants’ interaction at the Q&A section was really success, one of mainland participant asked Nepalese why the brides should prepare money for her husband instead of paying by husband side, because in general the bride price in China is paid by husband. –
Aside from this cultural exchange workshop, APMM now work together with NAWL to produce their leadership training program soon.
5. Open kitchen project-HKU
Eating is always a good thing for human beings, meanwhile, how to cook well is a big challenge. Open Kitchen is a join program of Hong Kong University, together with Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW), Bethune House. It is one month program. Bethune House is a
shelter for female migrants, located at Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. I will do this report more detail in my next paper.
My dream is one day I can invite the English chef Jimmy Oliver to attend this lovely kitchen.
6. Her hands
Hong Kong, this cosmopolitan city, where is easily to bump into domestic workers on the street, in general, most of them are women. Obviously, those hard-working people have daily tasks every time I saw them; in the market, they are shopper experts for food ingredients and carrying a shopping bag or dragging a trolley to head in the market, they know how to select fresh vegetables and meats to meet requirements from their employers; they are caregivers, taking care employers’ family members no matter what age, pushing wheelchair for elderly on the road or standing outside of elementary school to bring kids home.
I always look at domestic workers’ hands and the way they hold shopping bags, grasp children’s hand, or push wheelchair. Many of them have fine lines and no nail polish on those hands. They are always on the way to market, to school, and international airport.
I cannot forget each pair of migrants’ hands I saw, I do really hope they understand, they are worth to be encouragement and own dignity, without their support and hard working, Hong Kong cannot be the blessed city as well. Finally, just a little question comes into my mind, ‘ Have they looked their hands before? Have they really love their hands?’