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Jullie Y. Daza

Manila, second home of prosperous Hong Kongers?

For people like the mega-billionaire Andrew Tan, who was born in China but raised in Hong Kong, something about Manila must’ve exuded the sweet smell of success. For, at age 16, or so the story goes, and having decided that his destiny was waiting elsewhere, he left Hong Kong permanently to join his father in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

When the HK Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines Inc. rolled out its silver anniversary recently, I was secretly hoping to spot “Emperador” Andrew in the crowd of 200 members and guests at one of many ballrooms of East Ocean Palace, where the local Chinoy community hold their grandest events.

Twenty-five years ago, ex-Hong Konger Andrew Tan was already a big success story in the Philippines. Did his global reach inspire their Chamber to set up shop here? President Tiu Tsun Lin’s welcome speech on July 17 at the anniversary lunch did not include the chamber’s history, but he did announce news of a hefty sum to be donated to local Chinese schools. A toast to the good life and good deeds said it all, with a bottle of wine at every table and a menu straight out of a foodie’s dream: lechon, lobster tail, crab, lapu-lapu, scallop, fried pigeon, the works! As if that wasn’t enough, red money envelopes were raffled off to non-member guests.

Like most expat groups, the HK Chamber is also a social club where members meet regularly for camaraderie as well as to discuss plans and projects, especially those involving their Manila-based contacts, such as, seated at our table, two ladies representing the HK Trade Development Council in HK and its branch in Singapore; the country manager and the head of sales of Cathay Pacific in Manila; and Chinatown TV producer Lolita Ching.

Hong Kong was a popular travel destination for Filipinos before Covid altered the airline industry. Before the virus, what carefree fun it was to fly out, shop and dine on abalone and other seafood, duck, goose, noodles, HK style. Today, it’s reassuring to know that it’s a give-and-take with Hong Kong-born investors enjoying life and work in the Philippines while the lucky ones manage to find their romantic partners, too.

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