Hong Kong’s Portuguese and Filipino communities first settled here in the 1840s and by the late 19th century, they had melded closely. These creolised peoples were cultural cousins to an extraordinary degree, with similar syncretic food cultures, popular Catholicism, hybridised home languages, and common Iberian ancestral roots. Educated Filipinos explicitly considered themselves – and were generally regarded by others – as culturally Spanish. Dr José Rizal , the multifaceted Filipino revolutionary, whose execution in Manila, in 1896, sparked the uprising against Spanish rule, had earlier practised as an ophthalmologist in Hong Kong, where he was known locally as “the Spanish Doctor”. Significant mobility existed between the two places, especially by the end of the century. Hong Kong Portuguese families invested and settled in the Philippines, and wealthy Filipino mestizo families educated their children in Hong Kong; this process accelerated after the American takeover of the islands in 1899-1902. In particular, English-medium convent schools popular with local Portuguese families, such as the Italian Convent, were highly sought after for chaperoned Filipino mestizo girls. With devolved political independence from the United States in 1946 (following a political settlement in 1935 for a 10-year transition period that was interrupted by the Pacific war), an educated population, import substitution industries, and preferential access to US markets for agricultural products (in particular sugar), the immediate post-war Philippines economy was a prosperous harbinger for the future of post-colonial Southeast Asia. During those decades, Hong Kong provided a convenient, discreet place to park flight capital, especially for perennially vulnerable overseas Chinese. Those from the Philippines were no exception. Throughout the 1950s, money flowed in for reinvestment – Chungking Mansions, in Tsim Sha Tsui, built by Manila tycoon Jaime Chua Tiampo in 1962, is one prominent example. In a telling reminder of dramatically different times, a sought-after status marker in the post-war Philippines, especially in Manila’s class-conscious, aspirational mestizo circles, was to have a black-and-white garbed, Pidgin-English-speaking Chinese maid from Hong Kong. Today, the thought that members of their own ethnic group would have become menial migrant labourers in the Philippines, and grateful for a job that allowed them to remit their earnings to support impoverished relatives back home, astonishes most Hong Kong Chinese. But thus it was – and not so long ago. ‘Maria’, the bumbling, dark-skinned Filipina maid in a popular television series, was a daily butt of explicitly racist Hong Kong Chinese humour. So when did this well-integrated community descend in the popular imagination into marginalised, low-paid migrant workers? By the 70s, workers from the Philippines were arriving in Hong Kong in annually increasing numbers. The first generation were mostly well-educated women with quantifiable skills, such as nurses and schoolteachers, who earned more here as a cleaner than they could in their professional capacity at home and also had the financial ability to make the initial jump. Often speaking better English than their employers and coming from a country with strong labour union traditions, they knew their rights and tended to insist upon them, especially in terms of statutory days off and other regulations. It was hard to exploit these workers for long. Popular culture routinely stereotyped the Filipino in various unkind ways. “Maria”, the bumbling, dark-skinned Filipina maid in a popular television series, was a daily butt of explicitly racist Hong Kong Chinese humour. With the steady collapse of the Philippine economy by the early 80s, Hong Kong perceptions of the country’s inhabitants altered – and hardened into amused, exasperated derision. President Ferdinand Marcos and his colourful, former beauty queen wife, Imelda, whose desperate attempts to be taken seriously on the world stage, allied with actions and behaviour which made that ambition virtually impossible, epitomised negative international perceptions of their country in those tragic years.