There are roughly 300,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong who are viewed more or less only within the confines of the nature of their job, and the things they are known to do every Sunday. They are some of the so-called 'voiceless' and rather 'invisible' members of society who are believed to be equally responsible for Hong Kong's economic prosperity. In this page, we endeavor to provide a platform for them to tell their own stories, hopes, and aspirations. 
Every month, we will feature the stories of some of the notable members, and alumnus of DWEP, who, in many ways, defied common conceptions about domestic workers. 

We will likewise publish interviews with employers and/or articles by/about relevant personalities in hope of contributing to, and promoting better understanding of each side, and to stimulate positive dialogues on domestic worker issues and concerns. If you are a domestic worker or an employer in Hong Kong, we would be very glad to offer you a space for your story on our website by either setting an appointment for interview (in which case we will write the article for you), or sending your very own 500-700-word article (hopefully complete with photos you wish to share) to or

Looking beyond adversities: How Elpie made extraordinary strides from an ordinary beginning

posted Mar 9, 2018, 6:55 PM by Domestic Worker Empowerment Project Hong Kong   [ updated Mar 10, 2018, 4:34 PM ]

Elpie’s life as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in the beginning can be considered as an ordinary OFW story of escaping and finding ways out of poverty in her hometown in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines. A cancer survivor herself, what Elpie has become is an extraordinary shift in life and career, she herself couldn’t believe she could do. What she has become, she owes greatly to God, her wealth of experience, her generous and kind employers, her friends, and her family back home. Now an accomplished designer of gowns from scrap materials, fruit and soap carver, teacher of livelihood opportunities to fellow OFWs in Hong Kong, Elpie hopes to pay her blessings forward more by becoming an entrepreneur in her hometown with a heart for her clients’ welfare as soon as she goes back home for good. She wishes to do this with her daughter, Charmane as business partner.

It was Elpidia Abel Malicsi’s (fondly called Elpie by her friends) fervent desire to uplift the condition of her and her family’s life in Mindoro that forced her to run away from home to work as a sales staff in a store in Batangas as a teenager. Admitting to be ambitious herself, she later agreed on an arrangement for her to work as caregiver during the day and student at night. After finishing a secretarial course, she went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Education which she finished in 1987 at Golden Gate Colleges in Batangas City.

As opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia came to her unexpectedly, with a heavy heart, Elpie decided not to take the board examination for teachers anymore, but to grab the chance of a promising work abroad three months after graduation. There, she was hired as a household service worker by a Saudi Arabian employer for four years. Being new to working overseas, it was very difficult for her at first because the customs of her host family are starkly different from the culture she is familiar of. But keeping an eye on her dreams, she did not give up. Little by little, she tried learning the customs and traditions of her employers. She believes that eventually, she earned the trust of her very first overseas employers. 

After four years, she was employed by American employers who left Kuwait during the war to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia. A year after, her employers’ divorce torn her between deciding to stay in Saudi or going to Germany with her female employer and her children. She eventually decided to go to Germany because the children whom she was taking care of pleaded for her to come with them. After six months however, the family decided to move back to the United States for good and she was offered to come with them. But then, this meant she will have to stay in the US for five years straight without coming home. At the time, Elpie knows that her mother and her family needed her. So without question, Elpie decided to go back to the Philippines in 1993.

Driven by her desire to give a better life to her family especially her mother, Elpie once again decided to seek overseas employment, but this time much closer: Hong Kong. She was first employed for two years by an employer of Indian descent. But then she had to go back to the Philippines to get married and have a child. Though unwilling because of the great loss she would be in the household, her employer nevertheless let her go.

This time, married to the man she claims to have similar visions in life with her, she was once again tested when she gave birth to her child; a baby diagnosed with jaundice weighing only 2 kg. at birth. But with hope coupled by prayers, her baby has recovered and has lived a normal life since then. After two years, Elpie once again sought employment in Hong Kong with the strong will of providing a comfortable life to her daughter she herself never had when she was young. At a distance, Elpie, along with his husband, made sure that her daughter grows up the way they envision her to be: respectful, modest, god-fearing, and with a goal in life. She would always instill in her the value of hard work and prudence especially in money matters. Now on her way to finishing her degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Charmaine is Elpie's strength (aside from her husband) and hopefully soon, business partner.

For 17 years (and counting) Elpie has worked with a Hong Kong Chinese family who has been very kind, generous, and supportive of her pursuit to learn more. It was with them where she felt like family, especially during the time when her mother passed away in 2010, and her husband had stroke in 2011 (which he was able to recover from). But more significantly, she was more than thankful for their all-out support when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. “Ang magkasakit dito ng mag isa ka, napakahirap. Hindi mo alam kung mabubuhay ka pa.” (It is very hard to get sick here [in Hong Kong] if you’re alone. You never know whether you’ll ever survive it.) With the help of her employers who are medical practitioners themselves, she was subjected to tests and eventually had to undergo operation in some of the most renowned medical institutions in Hong Kong, all at the expense of her employers.

Some of Elpie's creations

This experience became instrumental for her to realize more the value of life and of making a greater difference for herself and her community. She decided to pursue her passion in the arts and design, but with a touch of environmental concern. Her first project – gowns made out of scrap materials – has been showcased first in the Venetian Hotel in Macau in 2013. Since then, she tried other crafts such as soap and fruit carving. She also enrolled in baking, balloon twisting, and balloon making - skills she believes she needs for the catering and restaurant business she hopes to open back home when she decides to go home for good.

But Elpie believes that skills should not only be enhanced for personal growth, but something that should also be shared. This is why she gives free workshops on baking, and fruit and soap carving to fellow overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong through the Bayanihan Center and CARD Foundation. Moreover, she said that she is also very observant everytime she goes out with employers to find practices she could adopt for her planned business. ‘Pag sumasama ako sa amo, hindi ako sumasama as katulong lang. Masyadong malikot ang mata ko,’ (Whenever I go out with my employers, I don’t go with them just as their domestic worker. I am a keen observer [of anything I could adopt and learn],) Elpie quips. Her thirst for learning brought her to the Domestic Worker Empowerment Project, eventually becoming one of the mentors after graduation.

Today, Elpie hopes to invest all her experience and skills she learned in her more than 20 years of overseas work, apart from financial resources, for a restaurant/ catering business she wishes to open with her daughter in their hometown. But in the meantime, while still working as domestic worker, she juggles work as an accomplished designer of gowns made from scrap materials. In fact, her creations are currently being exhibited at the Philippine Consulate and at the University of Hong Kong Main Library

Indeed, Elpie's life story is an extraordinary one. It is a story that teaches us to look beyond adversities and to transform even little, sometimes insignificant things and experiences into one that is both personally gratifying and socio-economically uplifting. // nlg

Some of Elpie's gown designs made out of scrap materials

Chinese Translation

DWEP Episodes Youtube Series

posted Feb 17, 2018, 4:10 PM by Domestic Worker Empowerment Project Hong Kong   [ updated Jun 4, 2018, 11:33 AM ]

Nanay Erlinda: Old age is never a hindrance to learning new things

posted Oct 21, 2017, 4:58 AM by Domestic Worker Empowerment Project Hong Kong   [ updated Oct 21, 2017, 5:02 AM ]

The life of Erlinda Dizon, known to DWEP members as Nanay Erlinda, is far from a rags to riches story, just as those of most foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. But hers is a story that proves the notion ‘with old age, comes wisdom’ we could all learn from.

Nanay Erlinda flew to Hong Kong in 1991, armed only with her strong will of coming back with a house and a farmland of her own in their hometown of Baguio City. She shares that with her and her husband’s earnings prior to coming to Hong Kong, their family could already live a decent life. But her ambitious self (to use her words) and forward thinking compelled her younger self to think more about ensuring her family’s future, which for her, could only happen if she earns enough money to invest for a house and farmland she could call their very own.

Twenty six years, and three employers later, Nanay Erlinda earns her sweetest reward which are more than enough to sustain her family’s needs back home. Of course, getting at this stage of her life is not without any bitter point that, to her, strengthened her willpower to keep herself on track to attaining her dream for herself, and her family.

Her world fell apart when her better half passed away in 2005. Having only three children and with her only daughter inheriting a genetic disorder causing epileptic seizures, Nanay Erlinda could only wish nothing but a comfortable life for them. However, she had to face yet another agonizing blow when she learned that her son-in-law whom she helped to secure a better job in Korea has left her daughter and their children to her care for another woman who already had children of her own. For her, it was one of the most painful memories she had to endure because she hoped that the moment her son-in-law married her daughter, he accepted her wholeheartedly including her condition.

Now that all her children have a family of their own, and her grandchildren having the same, she believes that it is high time that she prioritize herself, and her daughter whom she said, wanted to take her place as provider if only she is not suffering from epileptic seizures. She strongly believes that having a strict hand on finances, and keeping an eye on investment goals are important for domestic workers so that they will come home comfortably without having to think about where to find money and resources to sustain a decent life when they decide to come back. This is why her final goal before finally going back home is to invest on another apartment, which could be another source of income for her and her daughter.

Being one of the oldest member of the DWEP, at 63, Nanay Erlinda devoted herself to learning new things through lectures and workshops offered by DWEP to foreign domestic workers every Sunday. Reaching only second year high school, she admits that she felt that her fruitful life in Hong Kong only started when she joined Batch 3 of DWEP, saying that in the past 26 years, her Sundays were mostly spent elsewhere without the feeling of physical, social, and mental satisfaction she feels every after lecture or activity Sundays in DWEP.

To her classmates, Nanay Erlinda is the epitomy of the fact that old age is never a hindrance to learning new things, and participating in activities thought to have been enjoyed only by the younger ones. For her, the things she learns from DWEP is important in that she could use it especially when she decides to retire in two year’s time.

Doc Mike: The champion of domestic workers empowerment

posted Sep 20, 2017, 11:43 AM by Domestic Worker Empowerment Project Hong Kong   [ updated Oct 10, 2017, 9:07 PM ]

by Dr. Michael Manio

Video Courtesy of RTVMalacañang

In August 2010, I flew to Hong Kong after being accepted as a Postgraduate scholar at the University of Hong Kong. I devoted much of my time in research from drug discovery to drug formulation. But beyond helping humanity through research there’s something more I miss: teaching and helping out.

Eye-Opener: What can I do and how can I help? 

During my first Sunday in Hong Kong in 2010, I became amazed with the scene in downtown Central and Admiralty. Hundreds to thousands of domestic helpers are seating on the pavement of the streets, prone to sickness and accidents. I asked myself: why do they need to stay in the streets of Hong Kong?

There are about 350,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong and nearly 200,000 are Filipinos. I once again asked my self: how can I help them and how I can use my profession and voice to empower them?

HKU Awards: The beginning

As I am very passionate in research, I won an award in December 2011, competing against 400 researchers and scientists from around the world. I was recognized by the Community to be the FIRST FILIPINO to ever win an award at the University of Hong Kong and later on, to win the Young Scientist Award in 2012. Because of this award, I was invited by various organizations to give Health Talks where my journey began. 

To win an award is a validation of my hard work and dedication to my craft. Standing with fellow awardees and scientists makes me proud that I am the only Filipino in the group, showcasing my love to my country by wearing our traditional Barong. It was there that I realized what would turn out to be DWEP. I believe that Education is for all: a fact that transcends race, color, boundaries, and age.

From then, I used my influence to educate the public and since most people recognized me in Hong Kong. I decided to convince the university to open its doors for domestic workers to serve as a platform for educational activities and skills development.

I believe in knowledge transfer and whatever their status in life, everyone has the right to be educated and learn new things. I felt compelled to create a positive image for domestic workers as they are part of the Hong Kong culture and society.

My first step

I started having an audience of 30-40 domestic workers during my First Health Talk held at the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong in December 2011. I also spent time and became a public health advocate during the Filipino Migrant Cancer Society (FILMCASS) Anniversary with almost 1000 members.

Most of the time, I am invited as a resource speaker in Health Promotion and Awareness not only to domestic workers in Hong Kong but also to Filipino Professionals and Foreign Nationals in Hong Kong. 

Taken during the Health talk at Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong in 2012. 

Through series of Health Talks, DWEP became a household name in the community providing educational platform for Domestic Workers t
hrough series of lectures, workshops and fun-filled activities free of charge. Growing to nearly 5000 domestic workers as member and 150 HKU Students from 27 different countries, DWEP was featured in various newspapers and magazines.


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