Luscious cuisine, festive ambiance, quality food service, this is the usual praise you’ll hear when people indulge in ‘Ka Inato’, restaurant owned by Eric John G. Yayen located in Puerto Princesa Palawan.
But fineness of the restaurant is not limited to satisfying cravings, excellence is upscale to zenith degree when you realized that their advocacy is not just to give you a 5-star restaurant experience, but also to empower Persons with Disabilities — majority of their restaurant staff.
Motivation in hiring PWDs
Being exposed in the wretched reality that their province is the largest in the country, with approximately 800,000 population, but still suffering from limited access to medical services and opportunities for the PWDs, Sir Eric decided to make tracks for the vulnerable sector.
“Truth is, hearing impairment is ranked as 2nd most prevalent disability in the Philippines, and 28% of the population (29,019 people) is suffering from this disability, however, medical assistance for them is really not ample. Imagine, there is only 1 EENT doctor for 2017,000 people and only 1 audiologist for 3,000,000 people. With this reality, I promised myself that I have to do something for them. “explained Sir Eric.
With innate passion to help and boundless motivation to aid the well-being of the PWDs, Eric decided to serve the deaf sector in 2009-2010 when he became the President of the Rotary Club of Puerto Princesa under Rotary International District 3830.
“I adopted one signature project during my term to serve the Deaf community in collaboration jointly with (D.E.A.F Inc.) Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation Inc. in their mission of carrying out hearing test for all day care centers in Northern Palawan.”
Screening will aid in the early identification, early intervention and early rehabilitation of the children with hearing impairment.
“Sometimes, we just blame children for being a slow learner, not knowing that main cause of their learning difficulty is hearing impairment. If we were able to identify this immediately, we can provide proper intervention and early rehabilitation for them,” said Eric.
After Eric’s term as President of Rotary Club, his desire to help PWDs didn’t cease.
“ I told myself that even I’m no longer the President of Rotary Club, in my own initiative, I’ll create opportunity for the PWDs. Thus, Ka Inato came,” exclaimed Eric.
Ka Inato started its operation on January 18, 2018 with only 15 tables and capacity of 60 persons.
Aiming to provide opportunity for PWDs to have equal opportunities for employment and empowering them to help their family as well, Sir Eric started employing 11 PWDs in Ka Inato.
“At first, it was really challenging. I don’t have any idea about their culture. And my former staff have hesitations accepting them. I need to explain to them why I’m employing PWDs. Eventually, they accepted my reason and my advocacy,” said Eric.
Small steps towards inclusivity
Success isn’t as simple as wandering in the magnificent islands of Palawan where you have tour guides to escort you in your journey.
In Eric’s expedition towards empowering PWDs, everything was unknown. Usually he trusts his gut instincts and relies on his past experiences.
As he was building the team, challenges inevitably arise.
“There are lots of challenges that we faced as we start employing PWDs. Sometimes, they are very sensitive so we need to be conscious of their feelings and way of thinking. We also need to eliminate discrimination of their co-workers and customers towards them,” told Eric.
Hiring of PWDs also cost additional financial toll, Eric invested in contracting interpreters and studying sign language to fully adapt to the needs of his staff.
“It’s pricey but it’s worth it. Investing in this stuff is okay because I know that we will all benefit from it. I’ll understand them more and they can relate to me more. This will also increase productivity of each of us.”
Through perseverance and unwavering thirst to help PWDs, he managed his new team in his own systematic and resourceful way.
At first, he helped his PWD staff understand the importance of ‘Ka Inato’ as a tourism services facility, its vision and mission, as well as train them with basic knowledge about customer service.
Then, he invested in strengthening their camaraderie, skills and confidence through team building activities.
Third, he created his own communication tool for his deaf staff to help them adjust and deal with customers and co-employees.
For instance, a gentle tap on the shoulder, stomp in the wooden floor, or a simple wave will catch the attention of the person they would like to communicate with.
Then, Eric studied the unique culture of his staff and their life aspirations. He attended their family gatherings and brought them to business establishments and interesting places to widen their perspectives.
Lastly, Eric tried to empower them by allowing them to decide for themselves and letting them participate in their business decision-making.
With his pintsize yet innovative steps he was able to train his staff and establish a commendable team.
Cultivating ‘Malasakit’ culture
Another secret ingredient to the tasty success of ‘Ka Inato’ is their ‘Malasakit’ culture.
“Our restaurant will not prosper without the unwavering support of people around us. Thus, I ensure that ‘Malasakit’ is instilled in each of our staff,” highlighted Eric.
According to Eric, there should be ‘Pagmamalasakit’ in workplace, co-workers, customers, suppliers, community, environment and PWDs to taste the sweet success.
“This values (Malasakit) taught them to think not only of themselves but also of other people. For example, they always ensure that they have empathy for their co-workers and extend a helping hand when in need. Also, quality service is provided to customers because they know that they should add love and care to what we offer in Ka Inato.”
Giving back to the community and taking care of the environment is also part of their system which make them a more admirable and model team.
“We are so blessed that’s why we also need to share what we have to the community and our environment. We conduct outreach programs and tree planting activities.”
Advocating PWD empowerment
Advocating PWD empowerment didn’t end in the four corners of ‘Ka Inato’.
Sir Eric widened his advocacy by sharing his humble experience and journey of giving opportunities for the PWDs during fora and symposiums.
“If we will not give them opportunities, who else will do? It’s fulfilling to help them. It’s more than money,” said sir Eric.
During the 40th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week Regional Celebration in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, sir Eric inspired the participants to create more chances for the PWDs so they can showcase their knowledge, talents and skills which will eventually free them from discrimination and poverty.
“I choose to serve the DEAF Community although they are small numbers but they deserve to feel the love of our community, to be productive and sharing their talents, abilities, and to show how wonderful they are if we give them a chance and a chance to change their perspective in life.
I wish to continue my passion on my vocation by cultivating their skills, empower them through training’s and skills development and to inspire others with disability to free themselves from the chain of poverty and hopelessness.
God have blessed me not just to enrich myself, but to be a channel of blessings to others,” ended sir Eric. ###
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