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HK Musicians Union gears up for election as chair bows out after 8 years

12 August 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Three big-ticket events held during her 8-year term give HKMU chair Ela Lo (in black gown) immense pride

The oldest Filipino community organization in Hong Kong is preparing for its most hotly contested election in decades as its current chair, Manuela Lo, decides to quit after eight years of being at the helm.

Two groups of prominent musicians are contesting the vote to be held this Sunday, Aug 15, at the Hong Kong Musicians Union headquarters at Mirador Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui.

One team is headed by current vice-chair and session guitarist Mariano “Balu” Casi whose running mate is Jed Daproza, while the other is led by noted keyboard player Lito Castillo who has teamed up with Bong Galagar.


Weeks before the vote, both teams have flooded the HKMU Group Facebook page with photos and videos that show what they stand for, and what they aim to achieve if elected.

It’s a tightly contested vote not seen in the 73-year-old group in years, and Lo said it’s for the best.

“This is the first (contested) election in eight years!,” said Lo, the longest-serving and first female chairperson of the Union. “We are all excited and wishing all the best to the candidates.”

Casi's team is campaigning on a platform of continuity and care

Lo, who is closely identified with Casi's team as he has served as her vice chair for her entire term, told The SUN she looks forward to seeing more progress for HKMU, whoever wins the vote.

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The outgoing chair said she decided it was time to quit so she could focus on retirement, and prioritize her family.

“It’s about time, eight years!” she said.

Asked what she thought were her biggest accomplishments as HKMU chair, Lo said it was being able to present talented members of the group to the local and Filipino communities.


“We did big events, (like) on Oct 13, 2015 when we did Broadway Music at City Hall, on Oct 5, 2016 when we did Song from the Silver Screen at Sheung Wan Civic Centre, and on Apr 28, 2018 when he had HKMU 7 Decades with special guest Arnel Pineda at TST Piazza,” Lo said.

As for her biggest frustrations, Lo replied: “I wish I could have done more.”

Left unsaid were the past two years of the pandemic, when she had to navigate HKMU through one of its most difficult years.


Most musicians were left without jobs, and Lo had to ask around for whatever help could be extended to them, while lobbying government officials to reopen bars so they could work again.

Castillo's ticket calls for change for the betterment of the Union

Among those who stepped in to help were the three feisty women who are now running under Castillo’s ticket. Using their first-name initials MJM, Maricel Bedana, Jennifer Palor and Marlyn Hazelton raised enough money to buy rice and other food supplies for hundreds of their financially strapped colleagues.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Somewhere along the way, frustration over the lack of a unified approach to helping fellow musicians apparently boiled over so Castillo’s team is now campaigning on the slogan of “We need change.”

The group is calling for a list of things which they say should bring about the change that HKMU needs, including equality for all members, bringing together musicians of all nationality, providing membership options without the need to join a pension fund scheme, and “creating a union that we could be proud of.”

On the other hand, Casi’s team is calling for continuity, and building on what the past administration has done to promote camaraderie and care among members.

“We serve with our hearts” is the team’s motto, and as Daproza said in a video uploaded on the HKMU public page, they will strive not to burn bridges, but to continue looking after the welfare of members and their families.

This coming Sunday will show which call resonates more with the group’s nearly 100 active and voting members.

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