On the day that my countrymen took to the streets (again) in protest about the pork barrel scam, I was in Hong Kong for a brief meeting with our regional counterparts. I would have wanted to be in Luneta at that very moment. As it turns out, I would have my own awakening on that night.
The evening vista of Hong Kong’s skyline from Victoria Peak was spectacular. I don’t know how many times I thanked Cherry for bringing me there. I took photographs, lots of photographs, experimenting with aperture settings and compositions to get the perfect shot. I’ve seen the buildings up close and at ground level during the day, but the stark contrast between the building lights and the black sky make for a fantastic photograph, mentally and digitally. I savored the overwhelming sight for several minutes, until a thought broke my moment: is this what we are aiming for?
Suddenly, my mind flew back to Manila and the modernization issues it is currently facing. Reclamation of the bay, condominium buildings spreading like wildfire, entertainment and finance establishments on the rise. Sure, we have a long way to go before we could even reach half of where Hong Kong is today. But the thought now hounds me. Do I really want to have this kind of opulence?
“Are there poor people in Hong Kong?”
Frankly, I felt a little embarrassed for the ignorant question, but my friend graciously answered with a firm “yes”. They are called “cage people”, she said, precisely because they live in cages. I couldn’t imagine exactly the kind of cages she was talking about, although she described it with stark accuracy. I know she did, because I searched the internet and found this.
They are mostly found in Mong Kok, a district in West Kowloon that has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the busiest in the world. I had planned to go there for the Ladies’ Market and the popular Temple Street just to experience its night market, but time constraints didn’t allow it.
I can never claim that I can understand how they must feel, much less claim that I can imagine living their lives. I’ve immersed myself into the lives of some of Manila’s urban poor one way or another, but I can never understand how human beings like the cage people can live like dogs or rabbits.
Would I go back to Hong Kong after what I learned? Sure. Would I still spend on luxury from my hard-earned money? Of course. But I shall always keep the cage people in my prayers, and share their story to everyone who care to listen or read my blog. There are lessons to be learned here.