Profile Features: Juong Nguyen & Jacqueline Donaldson

Burning inner fire of creativity: Juong Nguyen

Strolling around Kowloon neighborhood, Jordan, after work, Juong Nguyen was randomly taking in the sights. Billboards. Buildings. Neon signs. Window displays. Posters. People. Clothes. Cars.

He was silent, but his mind was not.

If he were thinking aloud, he would say something like: “The design on this one’s a bit off. That one is nice. The lines are skewed. The hues are perfectly matched. That man and that woman in the picture are the same person.”

His survey continues like this until he falls asleep, he said over dinner in autumn. “Look, these vegetables embellished the steamed fish,” he added in jest.

Nguyen’s job does not stop as he steps out of his office at Tsim Sha Tsui unlike most professions. A creative designer at Dickie Toys, subsidiary of German-based Simba Dickie Group, he continuously examines every detail of designs as far as his sight can reach every single moment.

“It’s part of my life,” he said candidly.

Juong Nguyen designs toys using an electronic drawing pad for Dickie Toys, a subsidiary of German-based Simba Dickie Group that provides one-stop service from designing toys to their actual production. (PHOTO BY PATRICK MASSMAN)

In the beginning, the 28-year-old man first thought he could not earn money by following his passion for art and design, but later found otherwise.

“The piece of art is the emotional part of the creativity, while the design is the part that you get the salary for,” Nguyen said.

Before realizing this, he had gone through years of boredom, working menial factory jobs in Germany.

Finally, he decided to rekindle the “inner fire” that he always had since childhood.

“I was drawing a lot when I was younger and I wanted to try to make it as a profession,” he said.

Raised in his early years by his mother, Noc Trinh, Nguyen unfolded his artistic flair back in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. His father, Than Nhan, fled the country on a boat with other soldiers after the fall of South Vietnamese government and ended up in Germany. After a few years, Nguyen, his mother and brother, Anhkhoa, now 29, were reunited with their father in Germany.

Nguyen was 3.5 years old when he arrived in Germany with his mother and brother.

As a child, Nguyen recalled that he always had such “small fire in me like a designer.”

Juong Nguyen creates a toy prototype out of paper in his office in Tsim Sha Tsui. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JUONG NGUYEN)

To add fuel to the fire, Nguyen focused on his creative side by taking a yearlong informal course on design after leaving the factory.

The course made him realize that it was time to get serious with his two hobbies, sketching and photo editing. Consequently, he enrolled at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück to earn his bachelor’s degree in industrial design.

Some professors and classmates considered him as one of the best and diligent students, said Patrick Massman, who came to the university during Nguyen’s fifth semester in 2013.

Before the two schoolmates had a chance to become friends, Nguyen left for a six-month internship with the Dickie Toys here.

The German managers at Dickie Toys needed interns from Germany to communicate effectively with their teams, said Florian Blau, a product manager.

“For me, it was a perfect chance,” Nguyen said.

His creative juices found an outlet through designing global toys for Simba Dickie Group and under private labels of their clients, mostly in France, the United States and Germany.

He was the first German design intern of the company since its inception here in 1984.

The company’s services are a package, he explained, from generating ideas to designing the toys up to their actual production.

Among the 30 offices of Simba Dickie Group worldwide, its Hong Kong site has been important for shipping products as 90 percent of its suppliers and manufacturers are in China, Blau said.

As “one of the world’s leading exporters” of consumer goods, including toys, Hong Kong has been built up into a creative hub of the region, according to CreateHK.

Such trends have attracted designers like Nguyen to work here, but the city was not his main reason for accepting the company’s offer after graduating this year. “I could work anywhere in the world,” he said, as long as he wanted the job.

After taking the job, Nguyen once again met Massman, who became the second German design intern.

In the office, Nguyen always looks like he has the situation under control, said Massman.

When it comes to using design software such as Photoshop or Rhino, he said, Nguyen has more experience and diligence. “He’s a very clever person, even outside the office just like in the university,” Massman added.

Being able to do what he loves to do and manage to feel at home in a new city, Nguyen desired more to life than a stable job.

His ultimate goal is to build an art school that not only teaches children about art, but also allows them to be creative by designing things. He envisions it as a venue to lead them to innovate designs and transform tools for new purposes.

“It’s a new generation of creativity,” he said and smiled.

Inspired by Paulo Coelho’s "The Alchemist," Nguyen said people should not give up on their dreams. “It’s about your happiness,” he said.

Most kids do not know what they want to become, Nguyen said, but he will find a way to teach them how to question themselves what they really would like to be.

“When they put more fuel to their inner fire, the fire becomes big, and in the end, they’re burning for this,” he said.

In the midst of his untiring creative survey, Nguyen thought of an old man, sitting on a couch and asking, “Why didn’t I do it?”

Some people are afraid of change because they think it is too late, he said with narrow eyes.

“The saddest thing is to die without trying.”


Like  the waves 

Big Wave Bay in Hong Kong Island turned into a collage of colored umbrellas and tents this past Easter holiday. Hundreds of people sunbathed while their children were digging in the white sandy beach with plastic toys.

Swell rarely happen in the bay after winter, but Typhoon Maysak made the waves favorable for surfing. Waves at 0.6 meters high appeared every 11 to 12 seconds with a speed of 6 to 8 knots on April 6, according to Magicseaweed’s forecast.

Some 20 surfers paddled up as a wave chased behind them. Before the wave broke out into white foams, one of them had already pulled off a surfing stunt. 

It was easy to find her in the crowd when she still had dreadlocks, said Julie Barrass, a European headhunter, renting a house in Big Wave Bay. She has known Jacqueline Donaldson and most regular beachgoers since she moved here eight years ago.

Barrass was smoking cigarette beside the lifeguard tower when Donaldson came out of the water carrying an 8-foot blue fun board.

Donaldson’s former dreadlocks once saved her life during a surfing accident in 2011 by cushioning the blow as she landed on the seabed. She suffered only a spinal compression fracture.

Having worn dreads since 2009, she considered removing them, but felt guilty “like killing a pet or betraying someone who’d saved my life.”

Jacqueline Donaldson surfs with dreadlocks that saved her life from a surfing accident in 2011 in Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong.

Changing her style, she took out her dreadlocks in Thailand early this year.

After washing up, Donaldson tied her shoulder-length hair and sat with some friends, lounging and sipping beer with upbeat songs from a tiny portable speaker.

A Filipino born in Hong Kong, Anton Pelayo, 29, joined her, laying down his surfboard. He met Donaldson when “she was doing cinematography video stuff and teaching drama to kids.”

Donaldson took film and photography at the University of Wales College, Newport in United Kingdom.

The two friends had their late lunch at a restaurant facing the beach. It was packed mostly with foreigners.

“I’m going to get the anchovies pizza… Put lemon in my beer please,” she told Pelayo and headed to the toilet.

“She’s a very friendly outspoken lady,” Pelayo said.

Donaldson first came here in 2001 from trips in Pakistan, India, and Nepal and back to Pakistan, her favorite country next to New Zealand. She saw Pakistan before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Of course, now it’s not that safe there anymore,” she said.

After seven months in Hong Kong as English tutor, she travelled to China and Southeast Asia. She tracked wild Orangutans in North Sumatra with a friend. Then, she came back for a year and travelled around Australia and New Zealand.

Settling down here since 2007, she had taught English through drama and pop-culture programs, and took different film projects for free to build up her cinematography skills.

She works as a fitting model and cinematographer on corporate video and independent films, while managing her company, Media, Theatre and Modeling Consultants.


“Did you see the documentary about the Jonestown massacre? I sent you the link,” she excitedly told Pelayo, who was at the time devouring his burger and fries.

Donaldson was hooked into cult documentaries, exploring similar ideas to document in Hong Kong.

She got permanent residency here in 2014. Foreigners can get a legal status of permanent resident if they have lived here lawfully for seven years.

Itching to travel again, she planned to celebrate her 40th birthday in Hawaii by the end of the year.

After lunch, Pelayo asked if she wanted to surf again.

“I don’t like the waves today. But, I want to get more,” she replied, as her turquoise eyes widened.

Having invested here for 15 years, Donaldson wanted to keep Hong Kong as her base at the moment.

“You never know what will happen in life, love or family. Maybe, one day, I’ll have to move somewhere else."

Travel Stories: Vietnam and Laos

These are the stories I co-wrote with a friend and fellow journalist, Jessie Boga, about our trip from the south to the north of Vietnam. 


Saigon: The city has two faces

The towering buildings, bars, tour agencies, and hostels lined up like sentries can give visitors the impression that Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon), is a place ahead of every other city in Vietnam. Read more


As Vietnam train leaves, life moves in a fleeting space

No one heard the typical train whistle sound as the Reunification Express train at Saigon station prepared to take off. Read more


Hue: A city of “perfume and purple”

Our journey to Hue from nearby city Danang in Central Vietnam had us go through a mandatory discomfort in a small, cramped bus (and being puked on by a seat mate) before finding peace in another old city that lives in the present. Read more

Hoi An: Old but alive

The road to Hoi An, a small city in Central Vietnam, was literally long and winding. Read more


Vietnam and Laos are neighbors, but strangers

The transition from one city to another is ridiculously abrupt, like a smash cut in a horror film. One second you’re screaming, the next you’re yawning. Read more

Find a serious relationship on dating sites that leads to marriage

Is it possible to find a serious relationship on online dating sites and apps? If you met your partner online, are you most likely to get married? Is it even possible to find your future husband or wife on the internet?

These are only a few things that most people who are seeking for true love or a serious relationship are wondering about before considering online dating. Is it worth your time and energy swiping left or right on your phone, or chatting endlessly with someone you haven't met yet in person?

Would you rather wait for the right timing? When is the right timing and how is that supposed to happen?

Do you prefer meeting your future partner at the grocery store while picking up the same favorite vegetables? Do you need a regular schedule to go to a bar, yoga studio or church – depending on where you think your ideal partner typically would spend their time?


Right timing

Quoting from a character in Wong Kar-Wai's movie 2046, "Love is all a matter of timing. It's no good meeting the right person too soon or too late."

Timing simply means when everything falls in the right place. It's when both of you are ready for a serious relationship and you have similar interests and goals.

That's when they say, "You just know." Some relationship experts say, when you're in a relationship with someone, it doesn't matter where and how you met.

With the coronavirus measures in place, this could be the right time to look into finding true love on the internet. During a lockdown, traveling is limited to essential purposes, which means going out to public places in the hope of randomly meeting a potential partner may not be considered "essential".

However, it is essential in our life to be with someone who cares for us, especially in these times of uncertainty. It's our basic human need to belong to a healthy relationship with someone whom we can talk and share moments with.

Once you realize that this is what you're looking for, then you can decide right now that you're ready. Being ready means you are open to any possible ways to meet people.

That includes meeting someone online.


Online dating to find a life partner

If you're searching for a partner that you can spend the rest of your life with, then online dating can be a good place to start.

There are plenty of websites, apps and platforms where you can meet different kinds of people. It doesn't have to be a dating site. You can also simply find people on social media.

Going back to right timing, it's important to realize what kind of person you're looking for. What kind of activities or interests that you would like to share with your future partner?

It doesn't hurt to have a short list of non-negotiable things. Do you prefer someone who is vegan or non-smoker, an artist, has a degree, likes to travel, has no kids but likes kids, doesn't want kids and so on.

If you can't get everything – which is more likely to happen as nobody's perfect – then what is the most crucial thing on your list?

Just decide and then you'll know where to find them. There are dating websites that cater to specific traits or interests, including veganism or vegetarianism, spirituality, sports and hobbies. There are also different communities on social media platforms that gather people based on interests or advocacies.

Through online dating, you will be able to find people whom you share similar traits with but otherwise you might not encounter in person, let alone in the grocery store or on a bus.

In fact, he or she might be living in a country you have never been before.

In the United States, three in 10 adults used an online dating site or app, according to a 2019 survey of Pew Research Center. Among those who met their partner on the internet, 12% have married or in a committed relationship.

The same survey also revealed that the majority of the respondents who have been online dating have an overall positive experience. They said with online dating, it was easy for them to find someone they can be physically attracted to and have common interests.


It starts with hello

Even before the invention of smartphones or the internet, people have made use of the technology available at the time to reach out to others, hoping to meet the right one.

With airmail, people send postcards or letters to people they haven't met but found their name and address on newspaper or magazine ads "looking for penpals".

Then there's walkie talkie, by which some people would enter random radio frequencies to find someone to chat with. "What's your 20?” (This means asking for location.) "Roger that. Over"

When telephones arrived, some would dial random numbers or pick one on the directory in the hope to hear a sweet voice. "Hello?"

Before emails and social media, there were chatrooms or mIRC where you could type: hello, asl (age, sex, location).

Some couples first met on a plane or in a bus while traveling. This makes backpacking exciting for those who are soul searching, as they could end up finding their soulmate.

For those who can't travel like most of us during a lockdown, the internet is the best place for soulmate searching.


Couples who met online get married faster

There's no ticking clock involved here. And it's not about those who are in a hurry to settle down.

Again, it's about timing.

Imagine spending time and money going out on dates, hanging out in bars or joining events with slim chances of finding the person who could tick off a few items on your checklist. With online dating, you cut those hours and expenses, getting right to the point.

Of course, it's also nice to meet somebody in a gallery and you just started chatting while looking at the same painting. Who knows that such a random meeting was the beginning of your life together. It still does happen. It can happen anywhere and anytime when the timing is right.   

The big question really is how do you make it happen? Now that you met your potential partner, based on your non-negotiables list and commonalities, how do you develop and nurture a serious relationship with that person?

Getting to know each other is a crucial stage before you both decide whether it's worth starting a relationship and meeting in person.


A few important things to make it work

  1. Keep a regular channel of communication. Always be honest and respectful. Make sure you're on the same page in terms of intentions. It's important that you're both looking for a serious relationship that could potentially lead to marriage. 

  2. Have a regular schedule for video calls. While chatting can be very convenient and fast, it still makes a difference to be able to see each other's faces real time. It creates a strong bond and builds up your idea of each other's personality.

  3. Discover your compatibility or chemistry through humor, flirting or a friendly debate. It's good to know your opinions on things by actually engaging in a discussion. If you'll  be engaged in an argument, it's helpful to be on a video call rather than on text messaging, so you can be mindful of each other's facial expressions and body languages. 

If you can talk in hours and you're still not bored of each other, then it's a good sign of compatibility. You may have some differences in terms of likes and dislikes, but what matters most is that you can talk about anything.

After all, communication is the key to success in any kind of relationship. Remember that there's no perfect person and perfect relationship. It's all hard work and it's up to you to decide if it's worth it. ❤

How a vegan restaurant in Singapore tries to fight cancer

Along the tourist-flocked Chinatown Food Street in Singapore, a long-established restaurant hails potential customers to get inside with its free spiritual books in English and Chinese, old tapes and CDs with Chinese labels.

Nothing in its facade is delicious. A menu of three dishes handwritten in Chinese and English on a chalk board: BROWN RICE WITH FOUR VEGETABLES, SOUP AND PASTA.

If not with the stickers of positive ratings from popular travel companies or the book that you take for free, you wouldn’t get in.

Unless, you’re vegan.

What is veganism? According to The Vegan Society, it is “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

What is common among vegans is the plant-based diet, avoiding animal meat and by-products such as dairy, eggs and honey. Vegetarians also avoid animal meat but still eat some animal by-products.

Inside the restaurant, there are more shelves of tapes, CDs, books and pamphlets about Buddhism, spirituality, meditation, the story of underworld, and the Dhamma, and symbolic instruments. And another chalk board of the menu.

At the edge of the counter, a bunch of chopsticks, spoons and some bottles of condiments. About 10 small wooden square tables each with four stools are arranged neatly. Posters of meaningful sayings, an altar of a Buddha figure the one with multiple arms adorn the walls.

Is this really a restaurant? Despite the absence of burning incense, nothing smells like food in this place. But, before a customer could imagine the menu or choose a table, a tall skinny man asks from his chair, “What’s your order?”

Adrian Seow relays the order in Chinese to his father, who will then go to the kitchen and comes out with a plate or bowl of a dish. The rest is self-service, such as getting a glass of water from a dispenser or cold drinks in the fridge, utensils, and even putting them all to a basin for washing after eating.

The chef, his mother Wong, is leisurely watching television, sitting on an elevated platform at the corner also surrounded with packed bookshelves.

“She is the owner, not me,” Adrian says and takes a spoonful of his soup while surfing the internet on his tablet.

Wong, a petite woman with shoulder length hair and humble smile in lieu of her limited English, conquered leukemia 22 years ago and at the same time opened up the Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food.

Upon learning that she had Stage 3 cancer, Wong swore to survive and dedicate the rest of her life serving other people. Nobody convinced her to be vegan, neither her friends nor religion, as she adheres with the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. It was after her bone marrow transplant that Wong could only eat certain foods and she realized that vegetables are actually much better for her health.

When she decided to be vegan, it was hard to look for organic vegetables and fruits during that time, so opened up a vegan restaurant to provide healthy meals for other people.

“What you eat is important”, says Wong, advocating that being vegan or vegetarian does not mean healthy. “At the end of the day, a healthy mind is more important.”

“It’s not just about changing your diet, but having a reason to live,” Andrew says, who was vegan for three years long before his mother’s diagnosis. “I’m not a vegan anymore, but I always make sure to have a balanced diet.” In the last 11 years, Andrew has helped Wong manage the restaurant, where he had most of his meals. “The question is not about why you got cancer but how are you gonna fight it. Perfect balance is having good nutritional food with a healthy mind,” he says.

Outside Wong’s place, the Chinatown Food Street is teeming with food stalls and restaurants, cooking Singapore’s best traditional dishes. The air is redolent with barbecue smoke.

Hong Kong domestic workers want to junk excessive fees


This article is first published by The Diplomat.

Feliza Guy Benitez, 58, first came to Hong Kong in 1993 as a domestic worker. She was to be paid a monthly salary at 3,200 Hong Kong dollars ($413). She thought a contract of two years would be enough to help her family back home. But the family faced a series of financial problems, coaxing her to sign a new contract after another. READ MORE

Dreaming for others


A Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong once dreamed to improve her family's house. After over two decades of working and getting involved in political activities, she dreamed something greater than for herself. Watch it HERE.

Poems, some used in songs


Poetry usually arrives before a perfect wave to surf.

I wrote poems before discovering that I could use them as lyrics to my songs.

This is a collection of the poems I've written from the time I tried to describe my first crush poetically until I attempted to capture special moments with words, Pablo Neruda style.

Worn-out Levi's jeans

Your dusty tattered Mojo
Beneath your worn-out Levi's jeans
Topped with your white, unpressed Hanes
Perfect for your untangled silky
Pony-tailed hair
Enticing me

To listen to your stories
Not found on cable TV
Might be found on tabloid
And local news
But not as convincing as a fact
As how you reveal

Had it been on your rugged
But explicitly neat appearance
On your strict articulation
That impressed me much

Or on how your eyes revel your sight
As you speak of your punto de vista
That amused me and gave interest
In this naive, but confident mind

Perhaps my last poetry

Sometimes, a river is not


to water the seed we planted;
Sometimes, the sun is not


to burn the fire we started;
Sometimes, the mountains are not


to add weight to the "thing" we chose to carry,
which oftentimes we call relationship;
Sometimes, poetry is not


to make a good love story;
Sometimes, I can never be


for the one I chose to


and always end up


But, I want you to know my


that you were always


for me to live each day


The ocean and the shore

The ocean ceases to be
what it had been for
the waiting shore---
A light years gap between
her and the hazy terrain
from afar, where
an unlaunched boat lingered,
like her, waiting;
Indifferent to her longing
that one day, its waves
will not just come and go...

The ocean ceases to be
what it had been for the cynical shore;
Now, it cradles the boat
that unleashed itself from
its deep anchor.
And, the waves still
come to the shore,
but, only to bring her
when they go with the boat...

In a journey to the abyss
where everything is unknown
except love.

Maggots in my minds

Leave as much as you want to stay
Eat up all my preoccupation until nothing's left
As you take my brain, include my heart.
Race through my lungs until I stop breathing.
Seep through my veins until every strand is blue.
Clog my heart until it stops beating.

Leave as much as I want you to stay
Take away all of you that's left
in my heart, in my mind.

As you decide to leave, leave me a scar
like the tattoo on my calf.
Leave it black, black as my lungs.
As you leave, leave at once.
Never leave a couple of squirming worms
in my veins...

Because it doesn't matter now
If nothing's left as you leave.
A single memory that you've been here
is enough souvenir
like the tattoo on my calf
forever embedded in my skin.

Alon at dalampasigan

Alon kang dumampi
sa pisngi ng dalampasigan ko.
Ang dagat na naghatid sa'yo
Ay s'ya ring susundo
sa paglisan mo.

Kasing saglit nang isang nakaw na halik
ang iyong pagdating at pag-alis...

Hinding-hindi kita sisisihin
sa pagguho ng kastilyong buhangin,
sa pagbulahaw sa tahimik na sa kaibuturan
ko'y humihimbing...
nang ika'y dumating.

Huwag mo rin sana akong sisisihin
kung sa paglisan mo'y iyong tatangayin
mumunting bato, sabay sa kumpas ng hangin.
Tila mga kamay na ayaw nang bumitaw
habang ikaw nama'y sa malayo nakatanaw.

ikaw pa rin ay lilisan.
Subalit, hindi kita sisisihin dahil ika'y alon
at ako'y dalampasigan...

Sisisihin ko ang buwan
Tanging ang buwan lamang.


If your shadow is not cast
on my doorstep tonight,
If your eyes do not meet
mine tonight,
if your palms do not touch
mine tonight,
if your breathing is not
near my ear tonight...

then, tonight is not ours.

As the light slowly envelops the night,
and so our mystery ends...

From this side of the window

I can see the gloomy afternoon sky.
My toenails are gray because of the coldness
Coming from somewhere
seeping through my veins telling me

The air envelops me,
touching my skin like nobody
I'm nobody...
Nothing but a piece of cold shit.

If this cold wind could dissolve
this melancholy
I'd like to be holy...

From this side of the window
Bring me somewhere
Not here.

A Warning

The beach is not so calm and not so noisy...
The sand dances with the waves in
the rhythm of the leaves of coconut trees.
The feet slowly join the swaying of the
monsoon... Birds are not singing but
chanting, alarming the heaven to save
the soul once the body drowns...


The night when I talked

Only the gasoline lamp in a used liquor bottle
Showed to the stars that we existed on that
Night, in the middle of the darkness at
the border of the hills and ocean...

Accompanied by the chanting of the waves
A few steps from our shabby kiosk
And the snoring of the damn tired fellow,
My voice of inebriation was the only evidence of life
amidst those "dead to the world"
in that small village of fisherfolk.

You listened intently
To my awkward story
of the quarrels and the beatings,
the circle around my eye turning
black from purple,
guilty and remorseful.

My jaws and your eardrums working
fighting against the cold breeze piercing
while you were meta-cognitively thinking
just to wet my lips of yearning
longing to salvage
from my cynical reasoning ...

When we emptied the long bottle of rum and my smoking was done,
our bodies curled oppositely on both ends of the bench.
The warmth of your feet on mine was not enough
so inside my head I whined for you to just spare me your arms.

... and then I heard your breathing
that was the lullaby for my intermittent sleeping.

Hong Kong Muslims: Killing, terrorism not in Quran

A Muslim group here wanted to clear up negative notions about Islam, responding to earlier reports on potential Islamic State terrorism threats in Hong Kong.

Joseph Yusuf Bautista, president of the Helpers of Islam Group, on Monday said killing humans and doing acts of terrorism are all against the teachings of Quran.

“We also don’t know the truth about IS,” he said, noting that whether or not the IS is being used to discriminate Islam is yet to be known.

Some news agencies reported last week that Islamic State militants allegedly targeted Muslim workers here.

A local newspaper, South China Morning Post reported an alleged missing pregnant Indonesian worker believed to join the terrorist group.

Nearly 150,000 Indonesians worked in Hong Kong, according to its Census and Statistics Department in 2012.

The group released an open letter to Hong Kong people in response to the news SCMP and other news agencies. The letter aimed “to enlighten and portray the true teachings of Islam in relation to extremism, terrorism and corruption of any kind in any form of society.”

With some 60 active members, the Muslim group is composed of “rebirths” or those who converted their religion to Islam, he said. The group’s letter requested for everyone to judge the religion by its original scriptures, adding, “There are bad apples in every basket.”

Regarding the alleged missing Indonesian, Bautista said it is impossible for a pregnant woman to go to a battle.

The Hong Kong Police Force said Monday it has “no specific intelligence to suggest that the city is likely to be a target of terrorism,” adding that the terrorist threat level remains at moderate. The police will monitor terrorist trends to prevent terrorist activities in the city, its public relationS office said. It added that the police will conduct regular trainings and multi-agency exercises to ensure “high level of preparedness.”

Terrorism-related acts are criminalized in Hong Kong under existing laws, the police said. Asked to respond to the alleged IS recruitment, Leung Kwok-hung, member of the Panel on Security of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council stressed on Monday the need for reliable sources.

“How can journalists know about that,” he said, adding that he did not hear any official information from the police nor security bureau.

Some 270,000 Muslims live in Hong Kong, including 140,000 Indonesians and 30,000 Chinese, according to a government factsheet on November 2014. The rest are non-Chinese born in Hong Kong, and others from South Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries, it stated. The city has five principal masjids with the biggest, Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre in Nathan Road, that can accommodate up to 3,500 worshippers, as stated in the factsheet.

Art Basel shows Filipino artworks at par globally


A red flag looks like that of a communist party at a distance. It has a sickle and, instead of a hammer, a wine glass. It was the work of London-based Filipino artist Pio Abad.

Modern and contemporary art of Art Basel Hong Kong came in different forms and concepts that without looking at the artists’ names, one would not know which country they represent.

“What makes an artwork Filipino is because the artist is Filipino,” said exhibitor Rachel Rillo at Silverlens galleries of the Philippines and Singapore that featured Abad’s works.

Art is becoming global, she said, adding that the flag was a satire and a contemporary art dialogue, along with a Hermes scarf painting of the same artist.

Pio Abad's flag is a satire of a communist party flag, says Rachel Rillo of Silverlens.

Silverlens also displayed the works of Filipino artists Maria Taniguchi, Leslie De Chavez, Renato Orara, Bernardo Pacquing, Gregory Halili, Patricia Perez Eustaqiuo and Frank Callaghan, and Yee I-Lann from Malaysia.

Displaying at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on March 15-17 were over 230 galleries from 37 countries, half of which are found in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Their artworks varied in sizes, from huge canvases hanging from the ceiling to small used paint tube caps scattered like dots on white walls.

Highly conceptual

Artinformal, another gallery from the Philippines featured Nilo Ilarde’s “faulty landscape,” a collection of salvaged objects such as small paint tubes, tube caps, and brushes. On its fourth year at the international fair, the gallery  chose Ilarde because his work was “highly conceptual with a very strong statement,” said its creative director, Tina Fernandez.

 Nilo Ilarde's Faulty Landscape

The Drawing Room Gallery of the Philippines displayed Gaston Damag’s “Shadows of civilization,” using wooden sculptures that symbolize an Ifugao rice god called “bulol” as a proposal of art. “There’s no message at all. I don’t pretend. It’s all about art,” he explained.

The gallery tends to work with specific pool of artists, who are critical in the sense that their works are also a part of their daily life and cultural conditions, said its curator Siddharta Perez.

Gaston Damag (left) says his "Shadows of Civilization" is a proposal for art.

The three galleries have joined the art fair for several years and placed their artists in the map.

But, unlike Rillo, Fernandez cannot say that Filipino artists have reached global standards in terms of quality of works as they need to improve more. “Local artists should read up what’s happening around the world and attend fairs to see what’s out there,” she added.

Typical commercial art fair

On the other hand, an artist does not need to join international events to excel and be known globally, said Gaston Damag, who was on his second time to join the fair. In fact, it can be a disadvantage to be in “a typical commercial art fair,” he said.

“If you’re not careful, you can be eaten like a small piece of meat,” he said, adding that an artist has to hold a strong position to be less eaten by the commercial aspect of the fair.

Galleries from the Western countries aimed to expand their reach in the Asian region, such as the Richard Gray Gallery located in Chicago and New York.

“We made new clients each year,” said Paul Gray, one of the partners of the gallery.

Hong Kong is a sophisticated city, he said, but it does not have some of the things that make up a great art scene in Western cities. “But, it’s obvious that it’s moving in that direction,” he added.

Over 60,000 people from all over the world visited the fair.


Inkling of aesthetics

Citing that most of the visitors were widely exposed to art and galleries, Rillo said Filipino art enthusiasts do not take much to be at par as they have an inkling of aesthetics.

However, Fernandez said Filipinos need more education to have deep understanding on art, especially the people in the government to give more focus on it.

She hopes that the government will make things easy for the private sector in facilitating and building more venues for art promotion. “Just make things easy for us,” she said, adding that they are being taxed on Philippine artworks brought back from international exhibitions.

First time to see Art Basel Hong Kong, Filipino private art collector Andrew Benedicion expressed his bias with the Art Fair Philippines, a major exhibition of modern and contemporary Philippine visual art.

Although the artworks in Art Basel were nice, he said, it is “very generic looking.” The lighting in the halls were bright and the white walls of every booth drenched the entire space, creating a sense of monotony.

Benedicion likes the gritty effect of the Philippines’ fair that was held inside a carpark with darker lighting.

This also explains why he still wants to collect Filipino artworks besides being a Filipino. It is the raw and gritty feel of Philippines contemporary art that appeals to him.

High quality photos make a selfie studio prevail


Amid teeming monopods being sold cheap in the city’s street markets, locals still go to selfie studios for good quality photos.  Banking on such demand, three entrepreneurs had savored success after the first year of its start-up company that stands for their youthfulness.

“Our name says it all,” Snaparty co-founder Vien Wong, 25, said Friday. It is a combination of “snap” that means taking photo and “party” as the place is also rented out for parties and meetings.

The company got its return on investment with a capital of 700,000 Hong Kong dollars a year after its inception in November 2013, said 26-year-old co-founder Alan Li.

Located in one of the old buildings in bustling Mong Kok district, Snaparty can hold up to 30 people.

It has two rooms as selfie or do-it-yourself studios, a living room with a sofa facing an LCD display screen connected to the Internet and Apple iMac desktop computer, a dining table and toilet.

The walls have shelves of stuffed toys, hats, party sunglasses and other colorful props for different occasions. Wi-Fi is available for everyone inside the room.

Each studio has customized tripod, DSLR camera, a stationary flash umbrella, LCD screen and a small sound system that can play mp3 files from both Android and Apple smartphones. Customers can choose their backdrop from painted canvas of various themes mounted on the wall.   

Specifically designed for the studio, the tripod has wheels and holds a DSLR camera with levers to move it up and down, left and right. Instead of looking at the camera’s viewfinder, customers can see through the screen that can be adjusted up to 360 degrees to synchronize with the camera’s position.

After achieving the best angle, one can press the remote control button to shoot. Instantly, the picture shows up in the screen.


Adjusting the camera’s angle using the levers of a customized tripod, Snaparty co-founder Vien Wong says the market for selfie studios in Hong Kong has been saturated on March 6 in Mong Kok.

Having a pool of equipment that work well together is the key to have quality pictures and services, Wong said. Seeking professional advice was a good move, she added.

Kayu Chan, 24, also co-founder, is the photography master in the group, while Li, who works as bank consultant, takes care of the company’s financial matters.

Their cameras, Canon EOS 70D, are “not the latest, not the most expensive,” Wong said, but suitable for the environment with the flash umbrella and lights in the room.

“No need for Photoshop,” she said and laughed. Customers can automatically upload their photos online using the computer and/or print them through a compact printer, Canon Selphy cp800.

The printer was Wong’s choice as she has been using it at home and satisfied with its output quality. More expensive than the Canon, Fujifilm portable printer prints customers’ photos in the size of business cards, Wong said.

Printing costs HK$6 per 4R photo and HK$12 per business card size photo.

To rent a studio for an hour costs HK$100 with as many as 3,005 photos taken based on its customers’ record.

One of the first two selfie studios in Hong Kong, Snaparty remains afloat, thanks to word-of-mouth and free promotions online, Wong said, noting Phocus as the other company.

Since the recent holidays, the market has been saturated with at least 20 selfie studios that emerged in the city, Wong noted.

Photography is among the creative industries that are important in promoting Hong Kong’s creative economy, according to Hong Kong Ideas Centre’s study.

“But, we are not so optimistic on the Hong Kong market,” Wong said. Snaparty considered branching out in other countries, especially South Korea and Malaysia, she added.

[caption id="attachment_180" align="aligncenter" width="415"]SNAPARTY CO-FOUNDERS PHOTO BY LORIE ANN CASCARO Snaparty co-founders (left to right) Vien Wong and Alan Li say their company’s motto is to make sure that their “customers carry a smile upon leaving the door” on March 6 in their space in Mong Kok.[/caption]

Hong Kong food waste reduction counts on children, creativity


The city is counting on the younger generations in solving the problem on food waste, while being creative in promoting sustainable habits.

The Environment Bureau launched in December 2014 the pre-primary environmental education kit to raise children’s awareness of protecting resources and reducing food waste. It points out that childhood is “an important part of environmental education.”

The bureau also prompted the education sector to cultivate among children the culture of “use less, waste less,” which is the theme of the government’s food waste plan launched in February 2014.

Supported by different sectors, the Environmental Campaign Committee set up last June an internet platform called “Waste Less School” for kindergarten, primary and secondary students. It aims to promote “zero food waste” among children, extend awareness through school events and encourage the public “to change their behavior.”

In its plan, the government aims to cut the disposal rate to landfill of municipal solid waste on a per capita basis by two-fifth in 2022. It says the critical part is to reduce food waste production.

Food waste here reached 3,600 tons every day in 2011. Households produced two-thirds of it. The rest came from food-related commercial and industrial establishments.

The amount of food waste from households had increased from 786,200 tons in 2008 to 925,200 tons in 2012, according to the Environmental Protection Department.

“Apparently, it is still more effective to start the environmental education at home,” said Wise Wong, who used to teach at the York International Kindergarten. Children learn the value of conserving food from their parents first, she added.

Sandy Zeng from Hung Hom district said she occasionally takes her 4-year-old daughter to a farm to show where their food came from. The child can see the tedious processes of planting and harvesting vegetables in the farm, and learn to give importance to the food and its sources, Zeng said.

Since the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign began in May 2013, schools have done various activities and platforms for their students to participate in reducing food waste.

Meanwhile, Wong said it is effective to use animation characters to instill the values among children, especially if the ones being used are their favorite cartoons. “It’s like having a role model in a creative and fun way,” she added.

Cartoon character “Big Waster” that symbolizes food wastage in the FWHK Campaign “is gradually gaining popularity,” according to its press release. It also went online to interact with the public, especially the young generation, through its Facebook page.

 "Big Waster" of Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign poses in a poster retrieved from its Facebook page.

However, it is yet to be surveyed how Hong Kong people respond to animation characters and mascots of environmental and other campaigns, said Ms. Wong of the industry support section of Create Hong Kong that has the mandate to boost creative industries.

CreateHK held in 2013 the first mascot design competition here for “Hong Kong: Our Home” Campaign. Its four themes each with a mascot were “Hip Hong Kong,” “Vibrant Hong Kong,” “Caring Hong Kong,” and “Fresh Hong Kong.”

HK labor unions say new minimum wage unreasonable

Labor leaders were dissatisfied with the city’s new statutory minimum wage rate at 32.50 Hong Kong dollars an hour, effective on May 1. They vowed to continue their fight for workers’ welfare.

The minimum wage is “unreasonable, especially if the worker is a breadwinner,” Wong Pit-man, head secretary of the Eating Establishment Employees General Union, said last Saturday.

It is short by HK$7.2 from the proposal (HK$39.7/hour) of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Ip Wai Ming, its deputy director, said Thursday.

Both labor leaders said the minimum wage is barely for survival, “while the government thinks it is enough for one person.”

The federation has its formula in computing the minimum wage to catch up with the inflation rate for a worker and a dependent to afford a standard living.

Since the government began implementing the statutory minimum wage policy in 2011, the HKFTU proposed an increase of minimum hourly rate to HK$33 from HK$28. In 2013, it was raised to HK$30 per hour.

For establishment owners such as M. Aslam, director of the Family Provision and Fast Food Co., HK$32.5 an hour is “still not enough,” considering the high prices of commodities and housing rent.

“No one will want the job. It’s good if it’s HK$40 (an hour),” said Lam, a regular employee of grocery chain, Wellcome, in Kowloon.


Ip Wai Ming, deputy director of Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, says workers are unhappy with the new minimum wage on Feb. 5 in Kowloon. 

On the contrary, the minimum wage increase “will benefit tens of thousands of low-income employees and encourage more people to join the labor market,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his policy address in January.

Hong Kong’s total working population rose to 3.92 million as of 2014 from 3.86 million in 2013, according to government statistical data.

“Just surviving,” minimum wage earners comprise 10 percent of the total number of workers in 2013 after the minimum wage rise, Ip said.

Most of them are cleaners, security guards and health care givers. One-third of them work part time, especially in catering industries, he cited.

Despite the enforcement of statutory minimum wage rate, Wong said workers in the Chinese catering sector only had 2 percent increase of average salary over the past decade.

A large number of workers out of some 8,500 members of EEEGU are underpaid, he said, having long working hours and poor working conditions.

He cited that pantry delivery and cleaning workers have an average salary of HK$8,000 to HK$9,000, dishwashers HK$10,000, waiters/waitress HK$11,000, and Chinese chef HK$18,000.

Meanwhile, not many employers would dare to pay below minimum wage as most citizens are familiar with the labor laws, Ip said. Majority of underpaid workers are immigrants, who are hired for constructions, banquets, and other informal jobs by unregistered agents, he added.

Seeking for higher wages and improvement of working conditions of underpaid workers, the EEEGU had lobbied their concerns to the labor and welfare department. They had also organized meetings with local news reporters to inform the public of their gathered data and cases, Wong said.

For instance, he said, some employers attempted to cut headcounts as an excuse from the minimum wage increase, or cutting paid meal breaks in order to conform with the new wage requirements.

While convincing its members in the government to yield to their demands, the federation will also take it to the streets, Ip said.

Some 5,000 workers will join a mass demonstration on May 1 to push for their proposed minimum wage increase, among other demands, Ip said.

At home with the homeless in Sham Shui Po

Chan Kwok-cheong has two beds: one for chilly nights and the other for warm weather.

His big roof is the wide bridge that stretches along Tung Chau Street at Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong.

On a Wednesday morning, the 58-year-old man woke up inside a box of plywood strips fully covered with printed tarpaulin.

His head could almost touch the ceiling, as he sat on an old single-sized mattress.

He went outside head first, almost kneeling, and took a couple of steps to reach his second bed at the Temporary Market’s wall.

Sitting on the bed, he placed his cellphone on a wooden table with old newspapers.

An agency, whose name he chose not to disclose, calls him if he gets a job, but it does not happen everyday, he said.

He earns HK$450 by cleaning malls or parks for eight to nine hours a day. Depending on his body condition and mood, he can earn an average of HK$3,500 a month.

Unlike his neighbors, Chinese immigrants and Vietnamese refugees, Chan is entitled of government medical services.

He will also have his own housing unit in the next three years, he said, as he applied for public rental housing in 2012.

The Housing Authority says the average waiting time for general applicants is over three years, while for elderly one-person is nearly two years.

Chan may get a house by 2017, but the waiting list might tell another thing.

There were about 130,200 general applicants for public rental housing as of September, HA says.

To build a 40-storey housing public block takes five years on “spade ready” sites and seven years for a typical public housing development, the authority says. In its report, there were 14,057 housing units produced for 2013-2014.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier pledged to reach the targetted 470,000 units, 60 percent of which for public housing, in the next 10 years.

Chan took a slice of bread with his nicotine-stained fingers and spoke in between biting and chewing without teeth.

“I don’t have problems here, except mosquitoes,” he said, adding that the things he needed most are mosquito coils.

He picked up rubbishes around his area and threw them to nearby trash bins.

His laundryroom, toilet and bathroom are all-in-one at Tung Chau Street Park, right beside the market.

Unthreatened by the government’s order to evacuate, Chan said, “When I’d get the house, I might be dead already.”

Chinese immigrants, Vietnamese refugees and homeless Hong Kong citizens find shelter under the bridge along Tung Chau Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s food donors seek funding for sustainability

Helping to reduce food waste in Hong Kong, food donors are seeking a funding to sustain their operations, Astor Wong, project manager of Food Angel by Bo Charity Foundation, said.

“Like all non-subvented charities, money is always one of the biggest challenges,” she said in an email. Food Angel had saved 752,600 kilograms of surplus food from going to wasteland, and served 1,030,000 meals since March 2011, its website states.

Some 30 small and medium food donation organizations have collected and distributed recycled meat and vegetables to Hong Kong people, said Celia Fung, former environmental affairs officer of Friends of Earth (FOE), a charitable organization here, in a phone interview on Monday.

Having worked with FOE in the last 4 years, Fung said they began advocating food waste reduction in 2010 by pushing markets to donate their surplus foods to organizations that distribute recycled foods, she said.

“The campaign was successful,” she said, however, food donors “cannot put all their efforts in saving food.” She said, as non-profitable groups, they collect and distribute for free, thus, seeking subsidies to be sustainable.

Another challenge that food donors face is the difficulty in persuading commercial sectors to donate food because of safety issues, Fung said.

As for Wong, it takes more time to popularize food donation among industries because the concept of food recycling is “still relatively new in Hong Kong.”

Furthermore, commercial sectors hesitate to donate their surplus foods because there is no law to regulate food donations, including food recycling measures, Fung said. She said non-government organizations have been lobbying policies related to food waste management for three years now, but, the legislative body has other priorities. She added that while accident related to food recycling has not occurred yet, there is no urgency for the government to tackle the issue.

Hong Kong produces an average of 9,000 tons per day (tpd) of municipal solid waste, one-third of which were food waste, Fung said.

Solid waste monitoring reports show that food waste was reduced by 247 tpd, from 3,584 tpd in 2011 to 3,337 tpd in 2012. This was due to reduction of food waste in industrial and commercial waste from 1,056 tpd in 2011 to 809 tpd in 2012.

Fung said the campaign has helped to achieve such decrease in food waste, adding that food donors had served meals to over a thousand families.

On the contrary, the same data show 282 tpd increase in total municipal solid waste from 8,996 tpd in 2011 to 9,278 tpd in 2012. The government is yet to update data on solid waste monitoring in 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, environmental experts and officers from 22 Asian countries will exchange views about solid waste management, including food waste, during the Eco Expo Asia-International Trade Fair on Environmental Protection, being held from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 in Hong Kong, Sum Luk of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council said Monday in a phone interview.

“Food waste remains a big problem in Hong Kong, but it could be solved if people would only get what they can eat,” Jerry Lo, 28, sales executive of Harbour Grand Hong Kong and resident in Tsing Yi, said in an interview.

A man passes by a food shop at Mong Kok, Hong Kong.

Silent protest in a university

Silent protest in a university

By Lorie Ann Cascaro

The corridor outside Jockey Club School of Chinese Medicine Building at Hong Kong Baptist University was empty on a Saturday afternoon. White bond papers with pictures and slogans covered portions of its brick wall. A big poster said in English, “Umbrella Revolution” with a stick drawing of an umbrella beside ’N’.

A gust of autumn wind dragged a few posters to the floor, blowing them back and forth and lifting them a few inches from the tiled floor.

Later, a student, carrying a laundry bag, passed through the corridor. Some papers and dried leaves made crisps beneath her shoes. She glanced at the posters and took a photo of the caricature. It was composed of a man in a face mask, pointing a gun to another, whose hands are above his head.

Adjacent to the corridor was a small lawn planted to a handful of trees. With a baby in her arms, a woman was standing at a corner, and watching a little girl pick up something from the gutter.

Their backdrop was a hanging black cloth with painted Chinese characters, saying that fake suffrage is drinking poison to quench thirst.

[caption id="attachment_114" align="alignnone" width="680"]HKBU protest posters by Lorie Ann Cascaro Posters on brick wall at HKBU[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_115" align="alignnone" width="680"]CY Leung with horns by Lorie Ann Cascaro Caricature of HK chief executive CY Leung with horns[/caption]
© Lorie Halliday • Theme by Maira G.