By SARUN SAELEE
HONG KONG – It was around 5 p.m. on a Sunday. A 29-year-old Filipino domestic helper sat with two friends in the city center. The three women were among throngs of Filipinos gathering here to enjoy their weekly day off.
In 2010, Hong Kong had 144,463 Filipinos, making them the largest minority group in this city. Most of them are domestic helpers, who are responsible for taking care of employers’ children, cooking, cleaning and others.
The woman, who asked not to be named for fear of being fired, earns HK$3,720 ($477) each month, lower than the minimum amount of HK$3,740 ($479) set by the authorities.
Despite receiving low salary compared to Hong Kongers, she said it was still higher than the amount they could earn in the Philippines.
She said it was difficult for people there to start businesses or even meet daily expenses because of high interest rates and a weak economy, so they were willing to work hard here.
“I must sleep late at night, wake up at 5.30 a.m., and continue working for the whole day; anyway, I can sacrifice for salary,” she said with a grin.
The domestic helper added that she had been working hard in the past three years here so she can establish her own retail business when she goes home.
Although she is uncertain when to return home, she does not want to live here for long-term, unlike other Filipinos, notably Evangeline Banao Vallejos, who has just been allowed a permanent residency application after living in Hong Kong since 1986, according to the BBC.
John Raymond Gasmen Dela Cruz, a Filipino banker, said Filipinos choose to come to Hong Kong instead of Canada and Saudi Arabia where salaries are higher because air tickets to those countries are expensive.
Chan Chun Yin, a customer service officer for City Paradise Employment Co., said she recruits about 120 Filipinos to work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong per year.
“Most Filipino women are working as maids while men work as drivers,” she said.
Chan, 34, added that Filipinos do well in these jobs thanks to their high education level and good English skills, enabling them to teach the children of their employers.
The sun left the square, but the Filipinos, like this woman and her friends were still sitting, cherishing every moment of their day off in this city they are staying, their land of opportunity.