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Filipina helpers mourn death of British hiker they called ‘Big Brother’

08 October 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Bowerman with Depio (flashing V sign) and another Filipina in one of their hikes

A handful of Filipina domestic helpers who are close hiking buddies of British product designer Julian Bowerman are in mourning, two days after his body was found in a ravine in Lantau.

Bowerman, 51, apparently fell off a cliff while hiking alone on the Crouching Dragon Trail in the island on Oct. 2. As he lived alone in Kennedy Town, the alarm on him being lost was sent out only four days later by his wife, who is based in Taiwan.

At about 3:15pm on the day he disappeared, Bowerman sent out a WhatsApp message to a friend from near the Lantau Cable Car, saying, “I am going on a hike called Crouching Dragon. It has a steep climb at the end. I may not do this part…we will see.”

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That was the last time anyone heard from him.

But just a day before, or on Oct 1, which was a statutory holiday, the friendly Englishman went hiking with his Filipina friends to Green Egg Island where they had fun in the sea and on the rocks.

The next day, Bowerman asked the group if they planned to go hiking again, but none of the five women who went out with him to the hills regularly could go because they were at work.

Bowerman said that in that case he would go to Crouching Dragon solo. As he used to do before he met them, said one member of the group, Merly B. Depio.


“We’ve been crying for the past two days. We are his companions whenever he went hiking, so, we would like to see his remains for the last time,” Depio said in a message.

Depio said her bereaved group wants to pay their last respects to “Sir Julian,” who they met in early this year and fondly called their Big Brother. But they don’t know who to ask for permission to visit his remains.

Bowerman is known for sharing his food and showing concern for his Filipina friends 

Bowerman’s wife lives in Taiwan while his parents and sister are in Britain. Reports said he worked as a product designer at SUGA Electronics and was studying for his Master’s Degree at the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He had been in Hong Kong for five years.

Pindutin para sa detalye

After he lost contact with his family, his wife asked his friends in Hong Kong to help look for him, then finally reported the case at 1:42am on Oct. 6. A search and rescue operation was launched early that day from Wong Lung Hang in Lantau.

With help from the government flying service, his badly decomposed body was found at about 5pm that day. It was airlifted and rushed to Pamela Youde Nethersole Hospital in Chai Wan, where Bowerman was declared dead.

Months before his death, Bowerman met his closest Filipina hiker-friend,  Maria Chona A. Dondiog, who in turn introduced him to other Filipina hikers.

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Dondiog said in a message that she met Bowerman while hiking with another friend, Maria Rose L. Santos, on Jan 31 this year. The Briton mentioned that he lived near Hong Kong University, and as Dondiog lived in Pok Fu Lam, they began hiking together every Sunday.

“He was a very good man and kind man. I considered him a Big Brother who was very supportive and very respectful. He was very friendly to all of us, that’s why we loved being with him. Everybody wanted to befriend him,” Dondiog said.

“That’s why we are in grief after hearing that our dear hiking buddy is gone. Our only wish now is to see him one last time,” she said.  

The Filipinas have hundreds of photos with their newfound friend, who would always go out hiking with them and share with his wife pictures of his fun time with them.

One time, the Filipinas asked Bowerman if his wife wasn’t jealous seeing him going out with other women and he answered: “My wife is a well educated person. She trusts me, that’s why I will never break her trust.”

Bowerman shared pictures of his hiking exploits with the Filipinas with his wife 

The Filipinas describe Julian as a respectable man and a true gentleman. 

“Every time we were on the hiking trails, he would never leave us alone. He always waited for us and made sure that we were safe. He would often offer his help. He always smiled and told us about his adventures, his sister’s adventures in different countries. He told us a story about his sister’s adventure climbing Mt Everest,” Depio said.

She also said Bowerman often shared his food with the group and showed concern about their work.

“He would keep on asking if we were enjoying our adventures. He was always worried if we went home because our employers might nag us. He was a very talkative man who made us laugh all the time,” Depio said.

This past summer, the group had gone stream hiking with him. They had been to Pingnam Stream, Wangchung Stream, Qingdai Stream, Infinity Waterfalls, Rock Pool, Brides Pool, Mirror Waterfalls, to name a few of the spots they had hiked.

“That’s why we were all shocked when we heard the news that Sir Julian fell off a high cliff on Crouching Dragon. We are in mourning over his sudden death. We’d like to see him for the last time, if only the British Consulate would allow us to pay tribute to him,” Depio said.

Depio said before he met their group, Bowerman used to go hiking alone.

“We feel his loss because Sir Julian was very good to us despite his being a British. Never did he disrespect us or take us for granted,” Depio said with fondness and grief.

She said that hiking will never be the same again now that their Big Brother is gone.

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