Latest Stories

The little shop where artisanship lives

Like the traditional crafstmen whose works she carries, Mentxaka owner Doody de Tuason has survived beautifully, despite ‘Ondoy’ and a change of location


SOUP tureen with gold monkeys, black matte urn and metal stand with red corals by Ceramiche dal Pra. Rossi Arcandi silver bowl.

She survived the challenges of running a business and the onslaught of “Ondoy.” Now, style iconoclast and entrepreneur Lourdes “Doody” Menchaca de Tuason is starting her European home accessories business again in high style.

When Mentxaka (named after the Basque spelling of her ancestors’ name) reopened in its new venue at DPC Place in Makati, people were already buying Italian vases and bowls even as the staffers unpacked the merchandise.

Hand-carved sconces with gold angels in ivory and gold leaf, hand-blown crystalline glassware, Victorian silverware, Italian ceramic tea sets and a wing chair upholstered with windowpane checks and bulldog prints pop out against a background of black graphicote walls and tiles.

“I want to show something that others don’t have. This is my niche,” she declares. The style maverick is in rock-chick mode—streaks of blue in the hair; a blue blouse encrusted with stars, keys and animals; skinny reptile pants; and gold stilettos by shoemaker du jour Giuseppe Zanotti.

‘It was time for a change,” she says. Her face is framed by chain earrings and her fingers are covered with rings of her designs.

Tuason wistfully looks at the crystal ashtray by IVV, as DPC Place is a no-smoking zone. “It’s hard to find nice ashtrays. Since there’s none available here, I look for them and get a few for those who suffer the same dilemma.”

MENTXACA offers a mix of Old World artisan home decor and a few modern pieces such as bent glass tables from Australian Glassworks.

Not looking back

Thirteen years in the business, she recalls meeting a Cebuano who collected antique wooden furniture. Planning to set up a shop in Bel-Air, he offered her space to share. He would sell the antique furniture while Tuason would offer her jewelry and other items.

Meanwhile, in jewelry trade fairs in Europe, Tuason befriended owners of prestigious Italian brands such as Belfiore, known for its precious silver done in the Florentine Renaissance tradition; Casetti for its sterling silver objects; and IVV (Industria Vetraria Valdarnese), famous for its brilliant and inimitable glassware. They became staple brands in Mentxaka store.

One day, the partner fled the country, leaving the store to Tuason. “I haven’t looked back. I got more merchandise and suppliers,” she says.

ON SELECTING her merchandise, Tuason says, “It’s something that I would use at home.” Tableware by Virginia Casa and Ceramiche dal Pra. PHOTOS BY NELSON MATAWARAN

Mentxaka then moved to Karrivin Plaza, where it did business for over a decade until “Ondoy” wreaked havoc. Still, she managed to save a sizable amount of merchandise. In the past two years, Tuason took stock of the things that weren’t working for the store, such as the location and people with integrity issues.

A different venue not only marks a new beginning, but a time to consolidate Mentxaka’s position. The store isn’t only about her unerring taste. On a modest but well-edited scale, it showcases the traditional artigiano, that vanishing breed of Italian artisans using centuries-old tools and techniques. The world’s best framers, gilders, precious metalsmiths, sculptors are still alive in Florence and other parts of Italy.

To Tuason, finding suppliers is like a search for the Holy Grail. “My husband accompanies me on these uncalled for searches. It attacks me when there’s no trade show going on. We end up in god-forsaken areas,” says Tuason.

CASA Virginia dinner set, Nason Moretti Vino Reno Rubino, Aqua Gambo Oro stemware

She has traveled to remote places such as Montespertoli, a municipality established in the Estrucan times, and threaded her way through tiny streets in an old neighborhood 90 minutes from Milan to find these artisans.



LOURDES de Tuason in her rock-chic look.

Select furniture pieces such as bombé and marble-top tables are executed with fine detail and grain. The feel has to be right, not unnatural perfection and smoothness produced by machines. The maker’s mark is inscribed on these objects. These little details make these products of the art.

As most of the businesses are run by families, Tuason becomes acquainted with the members and their life stories and woes.

“These artisans are small companies, some of which have power struggles,” she says.

On her last trip to Europe, the artisans expressed their concerns that the business was being affected by the financial crisis. “Although they are enduring the economic meltdown, the artisans don’t give up,” says Tuason.

CASA Virginia ceramics and Cermaiche dal Pra turquoise triple candleholder

“The price of silver has become untenable. But it is not appreciated by Asians, because you need to take care of it. Since Europe is suffering, manufacturers of silver are cutting down production since there is less demand.”

On the other hand, local business is optimistic. Architects and interior designers, who are visiting another furniture store in the same building, end up shopping at Mentxaka for objets. Embodying the Tuscan ceramic style, Virginia Casa makes food taste better with its tableware and crockery. Ceramiche dal Pra still uses molds and sketches that date back to the 19th century, but the ceramics lend history to a contemporary setting. For glassware, Murano-based Nason Moretti combines Venetian techniques with modern colors.

PARALUME handcarved candelabara with crystal drops and Industria Vetraria Valdarnese vases

Ultimately Tuason underscores the human aspect of craft, and the age-old value of care in transforming everyday objects into art.

Mentxaka is at G/F, Unit 2 DPA Place, 2322 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati. Call 8289748.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Doody de Tuason , Home Accessories , Mentxaka , Typhoon “Ondoy”

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  5. Almost mugged on Chino Roces Avenue
  6. How healing waters accompanied my journey of faith
  7. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  8. ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  9. Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  10. Philippine novelist wins US book award amid cancer and ‘Yolanda’
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • 22 houses destroyed, 3 hurt as violent wind storm hits village
  • 242 out of 438 pass board tests for chemical engineers
  • Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  • 5 OFWs from Negros quarantined for MERS-CoV tests
  • Release of village chief’s truck caught carrying illegal logs slammed
  • Sports

  • Jackson finds second wind to push Meralco past Rain or Shine
  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Oil prices to go up on supply concerns, optimism on US rebound
  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • QC woman who flew in from Middle East tests negative for MERS-CoV
  • DFA, DOH urge OFWs not to panic over MERS-Cov
  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes