Thursday, March 25, 2010
Collab in Hong Kong 2
Huh. Been awhile since part 1. Oh well. Anyway, this is a still from the time lapse footage I took on the walkway of the IFC mall in November 2009. The video's here on youtube. This is a fair sample of what happens in many of the public spaces in Hong Kong. The domestics, who live cheek-by-jowl with their employers, get the hell out of the house and picnic. Hang with their friends, often bringing rolling suitcases filled with food. Some have prayer meetings, dance, practice martial arts. They eat together, chat, play cards, give each other pedicures. Some even just sleep.
Gotta say that the Hong Kong-ese have a very enlightened view about the spectacle. (And it's not just the Filipinos who do this. The area around Victoria park is Indonesian territory, for instance. I don't know if the Thais have adopted an area.) Apparently there were major debates in the 80's about the propriety and desirability of having major swaths of Hong Kong space being essentially colonized by foreigners camping on scrap cardboard amidst their shiny architecture, but more intelligent elements in the country seem to realize that not to permit this would be to do away with a social and psychological safety valve that sustains the viability of hiring alien domestics. I doubt Filipino administrators would be as tolerant.
As I said, Ming-chong and I took the students to a field trip as part of the workshop that we were running during the collaboration. While we had the cameras shooting time lapse, we took the students to Lantau -- an island about a half-hour from Hong Kong by catamaran ferry -- where there is a designer community called Discovery Bay, (sometimes just referred to as "DB") populated primarily by the rich and expatriated. Like Alabang, only with yachts. And more white people. And no cars. (Only DB officials can use internal combustion. Everyone else has to use golf carts, or the island buses.) Yacht-dwelling foreigners moor their boats in the place called The Marina, and (as is the case in much of the world) their domestics and helpers are Filipino. Mostly Filipinas.
At any rate, the Filipinos do not live on said boats with their employers, but have effectively colonized an old fishing village in the area called Nim Shue Wan.
This is the entrance to the village:
Basically, we took the students there to see the Filipinos in a setting closer to their natural habitat, as it were: living in their own houses, among their countrymen. Of course, it's still a highly unnatural environment. Most rent rooms in houses that are communally occupied, and the female to male ratio must run to the tens, if not the hundreds. The village lies on a known hiking trail, so the residents are used to whites and Hong Kong locals passing through.
This is what it looks like from the beach. You get the idea. 1-2 floor concrete structures inherited from the fishermen, most of which have air conditioning. Some living spaces extended by adding posts and beams and stretching tarps over the resulting space. A little crumbling about the edges, and the odd pile abandoned furniture/appliances lying about, but the toilets are in order, there's power, running water, even cable and internet access. Nothing like a Manila slum.
Naturally, we wound up getting directed to a birthday party being held on the beach, where everyone immediately decided we were guests. Good thing there was a lot of food. I wondered if I was amplifying some kind of stereotype of the happy-go-lucky Filipinos: I got the sense that Filipinos served as a symbol for "soul" to some of the more thoughtful students, somewhat in the way blacks served as that symbol for Kerouac. They see the girls as singing innocents, ambassadors of values they feel are under siege by technology and commercialism.
After we dismissed the class, I stayed and hung out a bit. After night fell, we moved to someone's yard where somebody (naturally) hauled out the karaoke. Party kept on till night, when a shower forced us all inside.