Hong Kong: a frenetic, neon-clad harbour metropolis abundant of contrast and charm. Beneath the city’s pulse, and unbeknownst to the naked eye, lies a 190,000-strong diaspora of domestic helpers from the Philippines. They’re mostly women searching for better opportunities abroad in order to provide to their families — working as nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers.

Being a helper typically entails a twenty-four hour, six day a week live-in commitment to an employer. It’s a demanding line of work that takes an emotional toll on one’s self, with luck playing an important role in determining one’s experience of being a helper. In worst cases, this leaves them vulnerable to unfair living conditions, compromised human rights, and at times, abusive employers.

One Way Ticket is an unhindered retelling of this story. Collected in late 2015, these written accounts, conversations, and visual essays follow journeys of mixed emotions — mostly of sadness and longing for the company of loved ones, but also of how they find simple joys through camaraderie with other helpers.

Sundays are the helpers’ sole day off for the week — the day that many of them gather and turn the streets of central Hong Kong into a mini fiesta. They bring with them packed meals to share with friends, as well as play card games, do each other’s nails, take selfies, and dance in unison to old school hits. It’s the one opportunity each week they get to fully express themselves, free from the veil they wear at work and away from its pressures.

The bilingual publication brings upon insight to their plight — telling of their strife, tenacity, and sacrificial love for the loved ones they needed to leave behind. In hindsight, it aims to encapsulate the indomitable spirit of the modern-day Filipino overseas worker, which has long become vital to the social fabric of Hong Kong and many other cities around the world, with gratitude at heart for those in society who undertake such thankless acts of service.

If you’re interested, also check out Filipino films Anak (2000) and Sunday Beauty Queen (2016).

This project was published in early 2019 by MAEKAN, a publication based in Hong Kong. Visit the feature here.
An ode to the unsung heroes of Hong Kong.