Filipina Catholics in Hong Kong find faith as a refuge

  • Filipina women pray at a Saturday liturgy at the Diocesan Centre for Filipinos and other Asian Migrants and Ethnic Minorities, a drop-in center in the Central district of Hong Kong.

The Filipina experience in Hong Kong makes comfort and refuge very intense, dominant themes for the migrant Catholics. In interviews with Filipina househelp, women often cried when talking about prayer and their faith. While most of the Filipinos interviewed said that Filipino Catholicism was relatively emotional, all ascribed this tendency to cry to the social situation, strain and loss that women feel at such a distance from home. Religion became a particular refuge for them in ways that they had not experienced at home.

But as interviews made clear, that sense of refuge is not simply a situation of finding refuge in community — something they also can do in vast numbers in the Central district on their days off.  It is a refuge in prayer and faith as a way to cope with tremendous sense of loss and dislocation from loved ones. Interviewees consistently speak of homesickness, separation from families and sacrifice. They say that prayer helps them deal with their problems, be strong, and look forward positively and hopefully.

Some interviewees indicated that their faith had become more important to them in Hong Kong, and others suggested this was not the case. But in Hong Kong, their religious practice is a choice for which they take personal responsibility. In interviews, Filipinas often described their religiosity at home as something family-led. Grandparents may gather the whole family once a day for prayer, or the extended family may attend Mass together. While no one regarded that home practice as in any way coerced, in Hong Kong, they suggested, they independently make the choice to attend church. The church community then often becomes a surrogate family.

Listen to audio interviews with Filipinas who attended Mass at a Center for Filipina Catholics.

Interview with Gita, Alma and Irene, Filipina migrants in Hong Kong.
Audio file
Interview with Joanna, a Flilpina migrant
Audio file