MANY OF US, both local and international, go all out on Saturday nights. But who among us is hardcore enough to party on Sunday, in the daytime? That’s something these folks have been doing, almost as an established tradition, for years.
OK, to be fair, they didn’t go all out the previous night. But many of them were working hard while we were out having a good time, doing the most menial of work so we don’t have to. Come Sunday, we may be hung over and sleeping in, but it’s their turn: with Hong Kong employment law obliging households to give their domestic helpers one day a week off, Sunday is the easiest choice – especially when many come from the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and need to go to Mass.
After that, it’s time to, as they say in family gatherings, ‘attack’. The food, that is. Often it is catered from someone that everybody knows to the point in which they call them ‘auntie’. And it’s all Filipino. The mass production of Filipino culture at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder is almost as clandestine to the traveller, or ordinary local, as the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
I have mixed feelings about the foreign domestic helpers as people. They usually talk about some phenomenally lowbrow topics, including gossip about celebrities – and people they know, and kitschy, shallow theatrics, almost obsequious to mass culture. Hardly anything that a worldly-minded person would consider of substance. But sometimes I have to wonder that, even if they hadn’t given themselves a chance – have we? They did, after all, make the long journey away from their families, and many don’t have the money to return nearly as frequently as they used to.
Having seen the lifestyles of both rich and poor in my travels, it’s an issue I have felt passionately about. How can we so righteously preach our visions of wanting to change the world for the disadvantaged from our lavish lifestyles? It’s worth stopping by and having a conversation with these domestic helpers in your spare time, or even have them as part of the family if you employ one at home.
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