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Going beyond buzzwords

The Fine Life Market promotes the sustainable and the local

A STORE in Kapitolyo ticks off all the buzzwords for a better planet, and makes sustainable living more accessible.

Martie Datu is entering another chapter in life, starting out first as a banker (in a family of creatives), then transitioning to art about 10 years ago. This year, the visual artist has transitioned into opening a home goods store —  The Fine Life Market —  an effort spurred by the pandemic.

“I just like making things,” she said, saying that she made about 200 bottles of Castile soap during one of the lockdowns in 2020.

“I was feeling sad and depressed for the less-fortunate. I was there in my own home, with my kids, lying on a bed… and then there are kids not as fortunate.”

She sold the 200 bottles of soap and donated all of the proceeds to Caritas Manila.

People actually did like the products, and demand started for more. Soon, via an online store, she released balms, bar soaps, then went on to selling things that she would use around the house.

“All these, it’s in our home,” said Ms. Datu of the items in her store. These include woven mats and rugs from Bicol, cotton inabel towels from Ilocos, capiz charger plates, and many more goods sourced from artisans around the Philippines.

“All the things you see here were made by hardworking people from different communities in the Philippines,” she said. “Filipino people are very, very talented. The work of their hands —  how intricate!”

She says that one of the people who make her woven food covers had written her a letter thanking her for the work given during the pandemic. She also professes that they price fairly: “They ask for it (the price), we give it.”

Lastly, a portion of their proceeds goes to the International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization which aims to help local authorities protect 400 million people from everyday violence for 20 years. In the Philippines, they are focused on working with the Philippine justice system on the online sexual exploitation of children.

As for the soaps and other things, she has since consulted with chemists and aromatherapists for them. They’re also quite affordable: the soaps go for as little as P1 for each milliliter.

This writer actually tried the liquid castile soap (plant-based by principle, as it differs from normal soap by not using animal fat in its production), and it feels great on the skin, and the smell and the fresh feeling lasts for a whole work day.

The products and the way the store is set up reminds us of David Rose’s store, the Rose Apothecary, on the Canadian TV comedy Schitt’s Creek. David, a disgraced son of a formerly wealthy family, opened a store that sources artisanal products from local vendors and unites them all under one brand name —  much like what Ms. Datu is doing. Asked if she was familiar with the show (and that similar business model), she said, “Everybody’s telling me that!”

“We always use sustainable stuff in the house,” she said, gesturing to a display of compostable brushes and dish sponges. On the same rack, there are reusable paper towels and waxed cloth food wrappers.

“I’m not a guru on the environment. Little steps, a small act… it’s better than not doing anything.”

The items are locally produced and are made from sustainable materials, thus giving a high for those who might be more inclined to live greener lives than most. Opening the physical store, with bouquets of lavender and eucalyptus greeting one at the door, was an effort to make the lifestyle more appealing. “It’s hard to go all out… I just want to show people that it’s not that hard. If you care for your home, you have to care for your environment.

“We want them to experience and see and imagine that these are being used in their houses.”

Getting all the buzzwords to save the planet might seem like a new fashion, but for Ms. Datu, the mission is personal. “I want my children to have a future —  a good future.” This isn’t about handing them over an intact inheritance, but about handing them a better planet.

“We’re experiencing typhoons and climate change. It’s so real. We feel it already. What more after 10 years? My son is only four.

“I just want to be more mindful of the things that I buy, and the actions that I take now.”

The Fine Life Market is located at 3 Brixton St. Kapitolyo, Pasig 1603, Follow on IG: @thefinelifemarket, FB: The Fine Life Market, or order via website www.thefinelifemarket.com. — Joseph L. Garcia