For most of us, eating in fast food restaurants like Jollibee is a force of habit. We dine there so often that we immediately switch to autopilot mode once we line up to order our favorite Chickenjoy.
But in some branches of this Filipino-owned restaurant, it’s impossible not to snap out of our unconscious thinking once we notice some of their customer relations staff.
In Jollibee’s Padre Rada branch, you’ll be greeted not by the usual “Good morning ma’am, welcome to Jollibee!” but through sign language.
Mark Anthony Co is a deaf person who has been working with Jollibee since last year. With the help of his friend, Lilibeth Calderon, a church volunteer in Quiapo, I was able to ask him how he feels about Jollibee’s mission to provide equal employment opportunities to senior citizens and Persons with Disability (PWD).
As a single parent and breadwinner of their family, Mark said he’s thankful to be able to financially support not just his 8-year-old daughter but also his father who had just undergone a surgical operation.
Mark may be differently-abled, but he was able to adjust to his work quickly. He’s happy being surrounded by people. “Nakikita niya kasi dito, maraming masaya. Deaf people are very observant. So, when they see people smile, it makes them happy (He sees that a lot of people here are happy),” Lilibeth said.
When asked to describe his usual routine at work, Mark said that he comes in earlier than his scheduled morning shift. He’ll stay by the door to welcome the guests and provide assistance to his colleagues during peak hours. He helps by giving guests water, finding them seats, and sometimes, cleaning their table.
Mark’s presence helps raise awareness and understanding of the deaf community. He said that most students would ask him to teach them how to say ‘Thank you’. They say that learning sign language would be a good life skill.
Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), as a homegrown global company, embraces diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. They also believe in providing equal employment opportunities to different sectors. So, they partnered with the City Government of Manila and Pasay to provide jobs to qualified elderly and differently-abled individuals.
JFC also teamed up with the Foundation of These-Abled Persons, Incorporated (FTI) and the Saint Brother Jaime Hilario Institute of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde to develop and implement training programs to educate their employees on how to effectively communicate and interact with differently-abled workers, particularly the deaf.
Not far from the Padre Rada branch is where 76 years old, Danilo Marcos works. Just like Mark, Danilo is hard to miss. If you’ll visit the Legarda branch during the afternoon you’d immediately notice a tall and lanky man, with gray hair, tucked neatly under a Jollibee cap, assisting guests.
“Mang Danny” as his supervisor and colleagues would call him, feels that working at Jollibee makes him feel young. “Biruin mo kausap ko dito puro estudyante, puro crew. Mga manager namin puro bata rin kaya wala ako masabi (Most of the people I talk to here are students, crews, and managers who are all young),” he said.
Restaurant manager and Mang Danny’s supervisor, Marilyn Villegas, said that Mang Danny is hard working and enthusiastic. “Kahit pinipigilan na namin siya para magpahinga, sasabihin niya ‘Sige lang mage-greet lang ako’. Kasi ‘pag pagod na sila na nakatayo may task sila na pwede mag-assist sa pre-packing ng utensils kaso bihira siya pumwesto dun. Naiinip siya. Gusto nasa labas siya talaga (Even though we try to stop him so he can rest, he’ll just say ‘It’s okay. I’ll just greet the guests. Because when they’re tired from standing, they can assist in pre-packing utensils. However, he gets restless. He really wants to stay outside)” she said.
Before working for Jollibee, Mang Danny spent half his life working as a watchman in the Manila city hall.
“After ko mag-retire nakatanggap ako ng almost half a million [pesos] (After I retired, I received almost half a million pesos),” he said. Unfortunately, a few months after his retirement, he was diagnosed with colon and prostate cancer. He used his money to pay for his chemo cycles and operation.
Now that he’s cancer-free and healthy, he’s thankful for the second chance that life has given him. What he earns from Jollibee helps him make ends meet and pay for his maintenance medicine.
Jollibee Foods Corporation strives to promote an inclusive work environment where people feel respected and valued. One of their core values, the spirit of family and fun, allows them to embrace and celebrate the differences that exist within the organization.
This year, Jollibee is expanding the implementation to other areas aside from Pasay and Manila, as they look forward to welcoming more qualified senior citizens and differently-abled individuals who can join them in spreading the joy of eating to everyone. – Rappler.com