City Weekend

Filipino son of Hong Kong domestic worker touches hearts with tribute to her 20 years of hard labour

Hans Alcanzare speaks of dark days when his mother was working in city but praises her for financing her seven siblings’ education and professional life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 9:27pm

A Filipino son of a Hong Kong foreign domestic worker has touched hearts worldwide with his heartfelt tribute to his mother to thank her for 20 years of hard work, as he whisked her on an all-expenses-paid tour of Asia.

Hans Alcanzare, an urban planner, shared an emotional tribute to his mother Terisita as he went to collect her from Hong Kong International Airport on the day of her retirement on June 10.

The pair plan to stop in seven countries including Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan before returning home to the Philippines.

Once back at home, the Alcanzare family has pledged their mother will never need to work again. Alcanzare and his six siblings said they had set aside money in a bank account to provide their mother with a monthly allowance.

Alcanzare’s emotional Facebook post about his mother’s retirement has attracted more than 125,000 reactions, with internet users praising his tale.

In the post, he describes his motive for giving his mother a surprise holiday as a thank you for enabling him and six siblings to gain professional qualifications.

“After 20 years of working hard and sacrifice, it resulted in a dream for all of us,” he said.

“Look at us now, you produced a certified public accountant; a licensed teacher; a registered nurse; a pharmacist; a midwife, a civil engineer and registered master plumber, and soon to have an information technologist. Looking back, everything was easy for us.”

There are more than 330,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Most come from Indonesia and the Philippines to find better paid work than they would at home. Under Hong Kong law, they are required to live with their employer and are paid a minimum wage of HK$4,310 per month.

Foreign domestic workers have limited opportunity to return to their home country. Only after finishing a two-year contract is an employer required to cover the expenses. Additionally, foreign domestic workers are only given one week’s paid leave annually.

Writing on Facebook, Alcanzare went on to say that he recalled feeling angry on the day his mother left the Philippines for Hong Kong when he was only six years old.

He said at the time he could not understand why his mother had abandoned her family, adding that later he appreciated she did it in order to provide a better quality of life for her children.

“We are so blessed to have a mum like you that didn’t give up on us,” he said. “We are not forsaken by the Lord and he’s only guided us to be strong and fulfil the dreams you have for us and now have a good life and happy family. I want to also say thanks to friends of my mum that tirelessly helped her through hardship. You are the best, thank you so much! So mum, today, your graduation has finally come and you’ll be free from stress and work. On behalf of my siblings I am congratulating you! Job well done, my mum!”

One Facebook user declared the story had “touched my heart!” Meanwhile another congratulated Ms Alcanzare for being lucky enough to have “such loving and responsible children”.

According to reports in the Filipino media, Ms Alcanzare worked for 18 years for the “Lee” family.

But her son has suggested that during that time, there were dark moments. On Facebook, he described having an “allowance of 2 peso [about 30 cents] to being broke at college”.

Alcanzare said he would remind himself his mother frequently advanced her salary to provide tuition for her children, even if it meant keeping nothing for herself.

When Alcanzare reached the first holiday destination of Singapore with his mother this week, he captioned a picture of them with the comment; “Happiness is seeing your mother smile!”, adding she had finally reached one of her “dream countries”.