Little Manila: Filipino domestic workers who gather in Central on Sundays to enjoy their day off; an image so powerful, it makes you feel powerless in the city. Their presence disrupt the orderly visual space of Central in which they engaged in ‘undesirable’ activities such as sitting on straw mats in public spaces, getting haircuts and manicures, playing card games, and hawking goods from home. Central Hong Kong has become a weekend enclave of migrant workers. This provided a new expression of the collective realms in the contemporary city, one that comprises of self-made urban spaces, temporary events as well as informal gathering places and also a site where migrant organisations launch political rallies.
The domestic workers have temporarily taken over existing urban sites and injected them with new functions and meaning, in other words, creating an alternative public sphere/space for self-expression. Their presence in the public space has created an anxiety of sorts to the Hong Kong people, especially after a Philippine immigrant maid wins landmark Hong Kong case which allowed them to apply for permanent residency in the city.
Lisa Law argued in her article titled Defying Disappearance: Cosmopolitan Public Spaces in Hong Kong, that “Central is a ‘multicoded’ landscape where shoppers, tourists, office workers and migrant groups are ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ different languages in the built environment”. This opens up the issue of conceiving the public space in Central Hong Kong as a cultural landscape and as contested space in response to the various actors present in the public domain. If Filipinas have breathed new life into Central on Sundays, How do they challenge the conventional understanding and making of public space? How are these spaces and activities redefining and expanding the roles, function, and meanings of the public and the production of space?