Filipino women are paddling for gold in this year’s dragon boat races in Hong Kong, with one thing separating them from the competition – they are all domestic helpers, often taken for granted in the rich Chinese-ruled city, who no longer want to feel left out.
To the beat of a drum, the 29 members of the Filipino Dynamos train or compete every Sunday – their only day off each week – in the paddling ritual that has roots dating back more than 2,000 years.
“I want to integrate the Filipino helper community and represent the domestic helper as part of Hong Kong, part of the community, and we don’t want to feel excluded,” said Liza Avelino, who founded the team last year.
Hong Kong’s more than 300,000 domestic workers come mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia and many are the main breadwinners for their families back home.
Dynamos teammate Geraldine Inabiohan, who moved to Hong Kong in 2012 to pay for her siblings’ education in the Philippines, said the group wanted to encourage women to push the boundaries.
She credits her employer for encouraging her to try different sports two years ago and now her room is adorned with photos of the team.
Hong Kong will hold annual dragon boat races during the Tuen Ng Festival on June 7.