Thursday, January 02, 2014

Patti Austin Shares Dreams of Helping Filipinos Through Habitat for Humanity

Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin successfully held two concerts in the Philippines last December 29 and 31 at Solaire Resort and Fairmont Hotel respectively. The fundraising performances featured local celebrities Lea Salonga, Martin Nievera, and Richard Merk. Part of the proceeds aims to help Habitat for Humanity's efforts in rebuilding homes in Tacloban for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda.

I had the chance to ask Patti, the day after her concert in Solaire, why she particularly wanted to help Habitat for Humanity and she replied, "I chose Habitat because, after these kinds of events occur, you have to psychologically mourn the situation, lick your wounds, [then] get up and move forward. And when you move forward, it's not good if you don't have a roof over your head. So, to me, that's the next step."

She further explained, "Once you've got food and you're feeling a little bit better, [although] you're still grieving of the very recent event, but, you know, the process is you still have to find shelter. To me, that is the next phase. That's why I support Habitat."

Patti was quick to add though that, in the meantime, she also realizes that, "having a roof over your head is a wonderful thing but not having anywhere to sit under that roof is not a great thing."

The singer then went on to mention an old friend of hers named Pearl, who used to be a resident designer for Bloomingdales and whom she haven't seen in 20 years. "[She] is from the Philippines and she designed my first big girl single bachelorette apartment. To have a Bloomingdales-designed apartment, at that time, I guess even still, is very chic," described Patti. "Pearl did not just design my apartment, she gave me a tremendous amount of education and really elevated my design aesthetic. she taught me a lot about design."

During the Solaire concert, Patti mentioned her friend and found out later that Pearl's aunt was in the audience. The lady put Pearl on the phone and connected her again with Patti. "As soon as I leave you, I'm going to see Pearl. I mentioned that because it ties in to this whole next bit which is, I realize that Habitat for Humanity does magnificent work in building homes but they don't do any interior work. So people are moving into an empty house."

Patti reasoned that survivors of calamities don't have a lot of furniture like beds, tables, and chairs to bring to their new home. Since she happened to be friends with Marguerite Lhullier, who has a factory in Cebu that builds beautiful furniture, Patti enlisted her help, too. "I got on the phone and said 'Why aren't we designing some very simple, cost-efficient, modular, light furniture that can go into these homes?'"

After her second concert at the Fairmont Hotel on New Year's Eve, Patti planned on going to Cebu to meet with Marguerite. "Fortunately, I came up with this without talking to anybody from Habitat for Humanity. This is usually how I do everything -- I have a big dream for somebody that I don't know," she smiles and chuckles, "and then say I'm gonna do this. And I kinda put it out into the atmosphere and then I finally meet them and [ask] 'Would it be okay if I do this?' Well, that's what I did and the people from Habitat said, 'Please do it.'"

"So the plan is, and the hope is, and the dream is that, we are going to design this furniture and we are going to put it in the very first Habitat for Humanity home that is built. It's going to be a prototype and Marguerite and her company are going to donate those first pieces of furniture that we designed," shared Patti. 

She added that they would want a family to live with that furniture and tell them what they like or don't like about the pieces. "[Then], we're gonna tweak it and refine it and that prototype would become the furniture that we will use in the homes for Habitat for Humanity."

"Then the dream part comes in. That, being sufficiently successful, that Habitat for Humanity will use that furniture all over the world, not just in the Philippines. The other part of the dream is that the furniture will always be built in Cebu so that it will always reflect what the origins of the furniture were," revealed Patti. 

The ultimate, ultimate part of the dream, according to her, is to refine the furniture yet again and sell it commercially with a certain amount from the proceeds of sales to the public always going to Habitat for Humanity. "So that's the game plan and that's what we're gonna do. All that comes from Pearl. It started with my friend from the Philippines," she concluded.  

In behalf of my fellow Filipinos, I sincerely thank you, Ms. Patti Austin, for caring enough for my country and for sharing your talents and your music to do good things that will benefit a lot of people. God bless the works of your hands!

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