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Rare respite in Hong Kong protests

/ 05:10 AM November 22, 2019

HONG KONG—“IWAS na lang po sa mga rally,” (Please avoid the rallies) urged Leonila, a Filipino overseas worker (OFW) we met while she walked her dog on Wo Yi Hop Road here early Wednesday.

Antigovernment protests covered by the ubiquitous television news cameras were not in the district where our hotel is located. And save for a standoff that remains unresolved by police and hard-core radicals still holed up on the campus of Polytechnic University in West Kowloon, there were fewer mass actions around town.

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The rallies had spread chaos and damaged Hong Kong’s economy since they began in early June, sparked by opposition to an extradition bill, which snowballed into a wider antigovernment movement.

The City Center, the heart of Hong Kong’s urban area and scene of previous violent clashes between protesters and police, enjoyed relative calm on Tuesday night, encouraging OFWs to haggle for shirts, bags and caps on sale outside the Mass Transit Railway Central station.

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What seemed to be the only other place jumping with activity was the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) on Lower Albert Road where we were treated to dinner by longtime friend Leo Deocadiz and his wife, Daisy Catherine Mandap.

The couple publish and run the Sun HK, the biweekly periodical of record for the 200 thousand or so Filipinos in the former British colony.

Founded 24 years ago by Leo, a former Inquirer business editor, the Sun champions the rights and concerns of OFWs that comprise the majority of Pinoys here, while reporting about news, features and sports that matter in their daily grind in a foreign land. At one point, the Sun’s circulation peaked at 50,000.

Daisy, the current editor, joined her husband in the newspaper business in 1996 after working 10 years as news editor for a local TV station.

Leo, now the Sun publisher, said the inroads of social media “have changed readership habits.” In tune with the times, the Sun has also started an online edition that’s now hitting its stride.

“At 20 thousand readers a day, sunwebhk.com gets more eyes than the print version … Next year we will try to shift advertisers’ support online, making the print edition unnecessary,” Leo said.

The current edition headlined the local Philippine Consulate’s successful effort to extricate five Filipino students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong during a siege by police to flush out protesters, and the saga of a Filipino domestic helper named by the Hong Kong Rugby Union as one of its eight ambassadors to promote women’s rugby in the city.

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Mary Flor Brizuela’s “first encounter with the sport inspired her and seven other Filipina helpers to form a team, aptly called ‘Exiles,’ and trained on Sundays at Happy Valley sports ground. From that core group, Exiles has grown into a 36-woman strong team,” wrote Sun reporter Vir Lumicao.

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