Have you ever wondered what to do with the favourite clothes of your loved ones who have passed on?
Soaked with memories, the garments may be too precious to give away, but too frail to keep in closets where mildew and moths are bound to ruin them.
How about turning them into pillows you can hug at night, or lean on while watching television on the couch? Wouldn’t it be like having the beloved still sharing good moments with you?
“We call them Silya Love Pillows,” said Tito Lorete Alcala, retired managing director and founder of The Artistshop Company, the advertising design company behind the rocking chairs for the elderly ubiquitous in malls and other public spaces.
The pillows are an extension of Alcala’s original advocacy—making sure that the elderly have a place to catch their breath amid the milling crowd in commercial establishments.
Silya, which stands for “Sa Iyo Lolo, Lola, Yantok Aming Alay,” (To You Grandpa, Grandma, Our Offerings) was an initiative born seven years ago when Alcala noticed how the lack of chairs for the elderly in public places often spoiled what should have been bonding moments with his elderly parents every time they go to the shopping mall.
“The old get tired easily and, unable to find enough chairs to rest, they’d ask to be taken back home posthaste,” he recalled.
His solution was to donate rocking chairs to establishments who would have them—two each, whose cost he underwrites. So far, he has donated almost 600 rocking chairs all over the country since the program started in 2011.
But the wooden rocking chairs may not be that comfortable for creaky old bones, Alcala said, so pillows were added to the chairs—with unexpected results.
“The pillows were promptly stolen, even when we took to tying them to the chairs,” Alcala said, shaking his head. He added that CCTV footage revealed that some elderly themselves cut the pillows tied to the chairs using scissors they have in their bags.
“Not wanting to embarrass them, we’d ask them tactfully about the scissors. And they’d say, "We need this to cut open the packets of our medication."
Well, suggested some bright boys from Artistshop, how about merging the seemingly irresistible appeal of pillows with the design company’s program of promoting love and respect for the elderly?
And so, the idea for Love Pillows was born.
Said Alcala: “Artistshop wants to establish that loving the elderly should continue even after they’re gone. We have to cherish the memories we’ve shared with them, this time through the Love Pillows made from clothing they’ve left behind.”
The pillows can be personalized with a dab of their favorite scent or a smell that reminds people of them - the perfume they loved, tobacco or coffee.
“The pillows can also carry personalized messages,” Alcala said. “Something like, ‘This is a shirt I used to wear. Know that when you hug it, I am there.’”
While the pillows are a fitting token of comfort on the 40th day of the departed’s demise, it would also be appreciated as a Christmas gift, especially for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who can then take physical memories of their loved ones, he added.
That’s why Artistshop has pegged at two weeks the time it takes to process an order—the usual length of an OFW’s or balikbayan’s Christmas vacation.
“You only have to give Artistshop the favourite shirt or clothing of your beloved and, if you want, their favorite scent, and you’ll get back a pillow that reminds you of them,” Alcala said.
Artistshop will also invest in Silya Love Pillows to be placed on rocking chairs in “pre-qualified places,” Alcala said.
These are hotel lobbies, the Manila Polo Club, the Aquino Museum and other “managed and controlled environments” where the pillows can showcase Silya’s advocacy without filching.
In the meantime, the rocking chair project continues. So far, and because even youngsters insist on occupying the donated rocking chairs, Silya now donates a set of two rocking chairs and one mini-me chair.
In some malls, the initiative has evolved into a corporate social responsibility project, with employees painting the mini-me chairs for the kids.
This gives Alcala an idea to hold a “Paint a Silya” event where his fellow artists from the University of Santo Tomas College of Fine Arts, among them Pancho Piano, Lydia Velasco and Tessa Alindogan, can turn the chairs into their personal canvases and put them up for sale. A share of the proceeds goes to the artist, and the rest to worthwhile projects.
Silya is an advocacy and nonprofit venture. With the Love Pillows, it has also become a way of remembering.