A Haven for Filipinos

Remember my email to historian Ambeth Ocampo (see post “Read Ambeth Ocampo”)? He included it in his Inquirer column, “Looking Back (Inquirer Vol 23/No.67 ) issued last 13 February 2008. Here is the full article:
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A haven for Filipinos

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
To be in Hong Kong before the Chinese New Year is quite a treat. There is a festive air about town, and all the stores are on sale.

This year it was quite cold with temperatures dipping to 8 degrees Celsius. Weather forecasters said this was the coldest winter Hong Kong has experienced in the past half century. As always, I went to all my favorite places to eat: Yung Kee for roast goose, Liu Yue Mun market for fresh seafood, Peking Garden for lunchtime dimsum, Spring Deer for Peking duck, Macau Restaurant for roast pigeon and Macanese fried rice, and one place that serves chicken three different ways.

Some friends texted last week to tell me about the suckling pig they devoured during the Year of the Pig and the wonderful stuffed chicken they feasted on in the Year of the Rooster. But since this is the Year of the Rat, they decided to go vegetarian during the Chinese noche buena.

I went around tasting all the egg tarts I could find, comparing them with the famous Lord Stow’s because it is rumored that Lord and Lady Stow had a parting of ways and Lady Stow sold her recipe to the Hong Kong franchise holder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, so that now the best egg tart is to be found in KFC. In my opinion this is the sweetest among the egg tarts available, and much to my liking, next to those served at Macau Restaurant in Tsim Tsa Tsui where you can actually order a pork chop sandwich (imagine a real pork chop between toast).

Filipinos travel to Hong Kong for different reasons. For many it is a place to work, for others it is a place to shop or transact business, and for me it is a place to eat, a place to roam around tracing the footsteps of our heroes in Hong Kong side. I have written in the past about the two sites where Jose Rizal stayed that were marked by the Hong Kong Antiquities Board during the time of Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho, an admirer of Rizal, and an ophthalmologist who maintained a clinic on the street where Rizal also treated eye patients. A marker has also been installed in a playground that was the site where Marcela Agoncillo and some friends made the first Philippine flag. These markers show Filipinos today that Hong Kong was a place of refuge for Filipinos during the Philippine Revolution. More importantly, they educate Hong Kong residents on our shared history.

Joe Narvaez sent this email and made me realize that our consulate in Hong Kong has to lobby for more historical markers with the Antiquities Office:

“I am a history buff. Even as a kid, I have always been fascinated by museums, old books and antique pieces. In fact, I keep a 1944 bronze Philippine-USA 1-centavo coin in my wallet. I prefer movies and novels of the historical genre. My girlfriend routinely teases me by asking why I have a strong affinity to things that are ‘nabubulok-bulok’ [decaying] or ‘naaagnas’ [decomposing] Nonetheless, she agreed to marry me in February next year on one such site, Paco Park. [My unsolicited advice: It may be a very romantic place, but I do not think it is good ‘feng shui’ to get married and start a new life in a mortuary chapel.]

“I would also like to think of myself as a patriot. Well, if you can consider an OFW [overseas Filipino worker] who frequently buys the delicious Del Monte brand bananas that are ubiquitous in Hong Kong for the sake of contributing humbly to gross Philippine export, then maybe I am a patriot. Currently, I am working for a pharmaceutical company in the New Territories of Hong Kong.

poo-bin.jpg“I have observed that the presence of a horde of Filipinos here is a truth well tolerated by Chinese locals. Last week, as I was going out of my flat for work, I noticed a medium-sized plastic bin for dog excrement near the bicycle lane. Instruction on the container read, ‘Clean up after your dog’ and under that was ‘Lagayan ng dumi ng aso’ [‘Depository for dog poo’]. Initially, I felt proud to see Tagalog written by non-Filipinos on a poo can owned by non-Filipinos. Wow! Tagalog is going places nowadays.

“On second thought, I realized that maybe they included Tagalog because they suspect Filipino domestic helpers tasked to regularly walk their employers’ dogs are responsible for the unsightly sidewalk mounds.

“This and a recent brush with your articles on inquirer.net made me ponder about the role of Hong Kong in Philippine history. I bet that years back, our relationship with HK was more than just supplying them with our industrious Filipinas, both young and mature, to be their domestic helpers, right? HK must be one of the ports of choice for ancient Chinese merchants sailing to Las Islas Filipinas for trade, right?

“I know only a few significant historical facts. HK served as haven for some Filipino heroes during Spanish rule. Among them were Jose Ma. Basa, Felipe Agoncillo and Galicano Apacible. Rizal used to have a clinic on D’Aguilar Street. Aguinaldo’s junta. Marcela Agoncillo and the Philippine flag. Juan Luna’s death. Dewey’s fleet docked in Hong Kong harbor before taking Manila. What else should an interested Filipino living in HK know?

“I hope more of our countrymen will read your articles and get armed with the past for our continuing fight for a future more fair. I wish to see the day when Filipinos would only need to clean after their own dogs instead of any foreign master’s.”

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