"I can finally sleep at night," breathes Martie Datu, half in jest. Sitting demurely on one of the couches in her new brick and mortar store, The Fine Life Market founder regales us with the story of how she found herself on Brixton Street. "During the lockdown, I was just making soaps and candles for the kids [but] I felt depressed that a lot of people were affected by the pandemic. I couldn't get myself to sleep knowing that I'm here in a comfortable house while others have nothing to eat," she shares.
A former banker, Datu describes her previous profession as "all about the money". But in 2013, she strayed away from the corporate world to focus on her art—painting heartwarming portraits of children in various settings—before lending herself to the purposeful though challenging niche of social entrepreneurship. At the beginning of the pandemic, everything she sold—from her soaps to her candles—was for the altruistic pursuit of lending a helping hand. All her profits went to the Caritas Foundation. Though commendable, it is neither surprising nor new; Datu has been a regular donor to children's charities since she began selling her artwork in 2013. Heeding the call of the times, she merely pivoted to what seemed to work during the pandemic: home items.
"I started the online store last October 2020 and it got good reception," Datu says, almost disbelievingly. Now, with the opening of their brick and mortar store, more people are set to discover the interesting products she's bringing to Pasig and beyond.
The Fine Life Market is a lifestyle space that provides customers and curious shoppers with plenty of alternatives. Everything is locally sourced and sustainability is a key ingredient in all the products. Without hesitation, Datu shares that her artisans and beneficiaries are key in making this former online store a physical reality. "All these products are from local families from all over the Philippines," Datu shares. She gets emotional, her eyes watering ever so slightly when she adds: "I'm just so happy that we get to appreciate their work and show it and make it accessible and at the same time, help them."
At the moment, Datu sources from families in Laguna, La Union, Iloilo, and Romblon. "It's like a domino effect where we get to help people with their livelihoods, while also bringing these items to others who would appreciate having them in their homes," she says. A portion of all the store's proceeds will go towards the International Justice Mission, a global initiative that fights the online sexual exploitation of children.