Tito Lorete Alcala is not one to wait for the annual Grandparents’ Day celebration to honor the elderly.
For months now, the former advertising man has been offering two rocking chairs to those who would care to accept them, for the use of the elderly as they wait to be seated in restaurants or to take a breather when they go malling.
Alcala thought of providing this convenience after he realized how an otherwise enjoyable outing was often marred for his octogenarian parents by the lack of a comfortable spot where they could catch their breath and get their second wind to continue enjoying their day out.
Restaurants do not really want you occupying their chairs unless you are a paying customer, and malls provide one-size-fits-all seats. Alcala decided to donate chairs adapted to the frail frames and fragile bones of senior citizens.
The retired managing director of The Artistshop Company, Inc. calls his initiative Silya, or Sa Iyo Lolo at Lola, Yantok Aming Alay.
Although yantok means cane, some of the chairs are made completely of wood.
Alcala gave priority to airports, waiting areas of restaurants and coffee shops andmalls. Alcala is a Bicolano, so the first two airports to get his donated chairs were, not surprisingly, those in the cities of Naga and Legazpi.
But Alcala says the campaign is meant to be national in scope. He adds: “If opportunity allows, I would love this to go international. For a change, we would be exporting [an idea]—not copying a foreign concept. [It is] something Filipino, something like handog ng Filipino sa mundo (the Filipinos’ gift to the world). For a change, instead of sending OFWs, we send Silya.”
Alcala also points out: “As a race and culture, we are one of the few who really take care of our elderly.”
As to why the chairs usually come in twos, he says that, among other things, an elderly is often accompanied by a caregiver—a child, grandchild or nurse. But he says an establishment can ask for more, although supply is constrained by the shortage of skilled artisans and craftsmen to make the chairs. In some places, space allows for only one.
No strings attached
The chairs are absolutely free and there are no strings attached to this generosity, Alcala says. Any place the elderly frequent can ask for the chairs, and this could be a church and other places where they are likely to converge.
“Of course, the owner has to embrace the concept and advocacy openly. Perhaps this is the only thing I require,” he says.
He will even replace or repair a damaged chair at no cost to the recipient.
But he does expect them to give the chairs proper care, the same attention they give their own furniture. He also requests staff to offer the seats to those who may hesitate, explaining the advocacy as they do.
Alcala estimates he has distributed, so far, close to a hundred chairs. Recipients include Chelsea Serendra and Podium; Momo Eastwood Mall; The Manor Hotel Camp John Hay; Brothers Burger Camp John Hay and Lucky Chinatown Mall; Shopwise Libis, Sucat and Festival Mall, Alabang; and Mr. Jones, Greenbelt 5 (although he is not having much success getting establishments in his native Bicol to support his advocacy).
He says Tagaytay Highlands has shown interest. Ayala Malls Makati and Cebu may include a Silya handover as part of their Grandparents’ Day celebrations.
Recipients of Alcala’s chairs seem to have caught the spirit behind the donation. At one of the establishments of the Raintree Hospitality Group, as an elderly woman sat on the rocking chair waiting for her daughter to finish a job interview, a member of the staff offered her a free glass of iced tea.
Raintree says, “We like it that Silya has enabled us to extend such kindness. It is a venue where genuine Pinoy hospitality can easily take place.”
It adds that having the chairs “helps Raintree (the group behind Mr. Jones, Chelsea Serendra and Podium, and MoMo Eastwood) position itself as a company that truly cares” and reminds everyone “that we all should respect and care for our elders.”
Marivic Diaz Lim, owner of Apartment 1B, says the restaurant has a number of elderly patrons, some escorted by children, grandchildren and/or nurses.
“We would like our elderly patrons to feel that the comfort they feel inside our establishment extends outside while waiting for their drivers and loved ones to pick them up.”
One young patron told Lim she liked sitting on the rocking chair because it reminded her of her grandmother.
Lim says they hope having the chairs outside will indicate to the elderly that they are very welcome in the establishment.
The restaurant Fish says Silya is a good fit because the place is near residential and church areas. People go to the restaurant after Mass or to celebrate special occasions at the restaurant. Elderly patrons can be seated comfortably as they wait for a table.
The resto admits, though, that it often has difficulty getting little kids, who appear to enjoy the chairs so much, to yield the seats to their elders. The chairs have also become popular with pregnant women and those with little children. Fish hopes to have chairs for its provincial outlets—Azaya Garden Resort and Café Maja Rica in Tarlac.
Power Plant Mall is also enjoying the sight of old couples enjoying the chairs. Sons, daughters or apo bring their parents or grandparents to the spot so they can rest or have conversations.
The mall says patrons appreciate having the chairs around. Having the chairs is one way “to show our elderly customers that we care for them.”
Café Publico also wants guests “to feel that no matter what demography they belong to, they are welcome to be with us,” and “to let the elderly [know] they are still very much a part of our community.”
Seeing an elderly man feel comfortable enough to snooze after drinking his coffee on a rainy afternoon, says the café, was affirmation that it made the right decision.
More than fun pieces
For some patrons, the chairs are “fun” pieces, but Café Publico says it suggests more than anything else that the establishment is as much a place for the elderly as it is for everyone else. Using “gelato” colors also made the chairs almost works of art.
Bob Marlin in Naga City is enthused about the advocacy of a Bicolano. The very positive reception the chairs were getting in the airport reinforced the establishment’s decision to sign up for the campaign. The chairs have given people a corner where they can relax after a meal, and not have to rush off to give way to other patrons.
Bob Marlin, which wants to have the chairs for its Cebu branch, says young patrons particularly enjoy having photos taken with their lolo or lola, or both, for their Facebook pages.
With the growing number of establishments signing up to get Silya’s chairs, grandparents can literally rock on their special day.
Those interested in Silya rocking chairs, or want to refer a venue can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tbpi-artistshop.com.