Domestic workers in Central, Hong Kong Island. Photo: Asia Times
Domestic workers in Central, Hong Kong Island. Photo: Asia Times

Candace Chong Mui-ngam, a playwright who has won five Hong Kong Drama Awards, challenged herself by completing a chamber opera that will be performed in three different languages.

The opera tells the story of a domestic worker from the Philippines and a young boy who she calls her “little master”.

Chong was invited by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center to write the opera to celebrate its fifth anniversary, according to a feature report in Apple Daily on Saturday. She wrote five stories in total for selection but one about a domestic worker in Hong Kong got unanimous support.

The story is about a Filipino domestic worker called Mila and a family of three in Hong Kong and how Mila protected and rescued her “little master”, a boy who showed suicidal inclination but whose parents did not appear greatly concerned.

Chong said a big thank you should go to her domestic worker for the completion of the scripts.

With Chong writing the libretto – text of the opera – in English for the first time, her domestic worker helped to translate parts done in Tagalog.

Chong said her domestic worker, the second helper she has employed, was an experienced, positive and outgoing woman who had lived in the US, Singapore, Russia and Panama with her former employer.

Chong said other translators might understand the text she wrote but not the true meaning behind her words. She worked closely with her maid to a proper understanding of what she wanted to express in her scripts.

The Tagalog libretto was modified by a former director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Asia Society invited actors and musicians from the Philippines, the US and Hong Kong to perform the opera.

Chong said it was a challenge to express a domestic worker’s story in a chamber opera, but she hoped that the show would spur people could be more considerate to these great workers.

The opera will be conducted in English, Chinese and Tagalog at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island from January 18 to 21.

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