Both Dawn and Kaye were born at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong, but growing up they did not attend school, never saw a doctor, and never held an identity card or a passport. Officially, these two sisters did not exist.
Their mother, Feli, a former MDW from the Philippines, struggled to register them in the city and eventually gave up. Shortly after she had the girls, Feli’s boyfriend of five years disappeared and never offered any support. By then, Feli had stopped working and felt she had no option but to go underground. The following years were spent in friends’ homes, about seven in total. In return, Feli would help with the housework and look after her friends’ children, while raising her own.
Dawn was fully aware of their circumstances by the age of 10. Her mother had avoided the issue, but she learnt about it from other adults. Kaye did not learn of their unique circumstances until her sister carefully told her when she was about 16.
As they approached adulthood, doubts and fears began to materialise about their future. Dawn’s frustration grew when she started dating because she knew that without documents marriage and leaving the city would be impossible.
In 2015 some tragic news brought a glimpse of hope. The case of a 15-year-old girl who plunged to her death in Repulse Bay, having been born and raised in the city without documents, prompted the sisters to look into what they could do about their own situation. They came across an article where PathFinders’ was quoted and started to browse the PathFinders website, but the family was weary about getting in touch because they had previously sought help and no one knew how. But finally in September 2019, Dawn insisted their mother call PathFinders.
It wasn’t easy to prove the girls existed. PathFinders, with the assistance of two lawyers, supported the sisters to take a DNA test to confirm the mother-daughter relationship before trying to get birth certificates. Many months were also spent searching for witnesses and photographs to prove the girls had spent their entire lives in Hong Kong before helping them to surrender to the Immigration Department, where they underwent 12 hours of interviews.
Finally in October 2020 the girls received their Birth Certificates and could be issued with travel documents by the Philippines Consulate. They were able to travel to the Philippines in time for Christmas, where they met their grandmother and extended family in person for the very first time.