Photography as art. Photo: iStock
Photography as art. Photo: iStock

Domestic workers in Hong Kong are playing vital roles in local families, but at the same time, many of them feel as if they are a group of invisible persons in society. A feature story in Sunday’s Oriental Daily showed how photography has helped one Filipino maid stay strong and regain her confidence.

Leeh Ann Hidalgo, a woman from the Philippines who has been working as a domestic helper in the city for four years, once felt deeply hurt when her first employer showed her no respect at all.

Hidalgo became a teacher in the Philippines after graduating from university. Though she earned only the equivalent of HK$2,000 (US$256) a month, people respected her.

As the oldest sister in the family, she came to Hong Kong as a domestic worker to support her siblings after her father died.

She then realized that in this city, how people judge a person depends on that person’s job.

“Being a domestic worker in Hong Kong is very hard, as the job is one of the lowest-paid in the city,” Hidalgo said.

Her first employer also looked down on her, telling her, “You’re a university graduate, but look at you now, you are only a domestic maid.”

Four years later, those hard words still make Hidalgo’s heart ache, but she knew she had to be strong and could not let her family worry.

“It’s hard to give up some of my dreams but I’m doing it for my family, so no regrets.”

Hidalgo then discovered that photography could heal her wounds.

“Photography helps me to adjust myself and at the same time to help me know Hong Kong more.”

By going to different places to take good photos, Hidalgo seized the chance to explore the city and make new friends.

She shared her photos on social media. A local photographer appreciated her work and voluntarily taught her how to improve her skills, even sending her a camera as a gift.

With her passion for her art, Hidalgo took many photos that touched people’s hearts. In June, she held a photo exhibition back in the Philippines.

“I’m thinking, should I be a domestic worker for the next 40 years? If I could do something to change my destiny, why don’t I just do it?”

Photography is changing Hidalgo’s destiny gradually, but what she wants is to help more domestic workers.

She joined a non-profit social enterprise called Lensational last year to learn better photography skills for free. She says she’s now working on a personal project, hoping to show Hong Kong society that “we are more than just a domestic worker to clean your toilet”.

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