Gold-plated farewell

Posted on October 31, 2011

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Robert Gregorio, chief operations officer of Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes Inc., shows their solid-bronze, 24-karat gold-plated Promethean casket next to cremation urns on display at the Crystal Palace Chapel in Nivel Hills. The Sanchez family used one like this for the late vice governor Greg Sanchez Jr. (CDN PHOTO/ JUNJIE MENDOZA)

For a privileged few, only the finest in funeral arrangements will do.

Pop icon Michael Jackson had one. And so did the late Cebu vice governor Greg Sanchez Jr.

They were each laid to rest in solid bronze, 24-karat gold-plated Promethean caskets manufactured by the Batesvill Casket Co. of the United States.

When Sanchez passed away April 29 after losing his battle with lung cancer, he was given the best casket available in the upscale Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes in Cebu City.

The nine-day vigil wake was held in the Crystal Palace, where visitors and other mourners gathered to condole with the family in a spacious hall that ensured privacy and luxury for P100,000 a day .

The casket, priced at $35,000 or P1.7 million, had been in the showroom for two years.

“We thought it would stay there for 10 years,” said Cathleen Dychangco-Anzani, whose family owns Cosmopolitan.

“When we bought that for inventory, the supplier was asking if we were sure about the purchase because they didn’t think there was a market for it here.”

Sanchez, a civil engineer, had a successful construction business before he joined the government in 1986 as an OIC Provincial Board member after the Edsa People Power revolt.

But it was his investment in probiotics that made him a multimillionaire . A LactoPafi line of health tonics exported in several countries is part of a thriving business continued today by his eldest daughter Gigi Sanchez-Zaballero.

When Sanchez passed away, the family first looked at getting a Cherry casket, another top-of-the-line product in the Batesville wooden casket line. This was made of cherrywood, a solid hardwood preferred by most Westerners for funerals.

“Here in the Philippines, we don’t appreciate wooden caskets much because we see many of that here,” said Anzani.

“So the family chose the Promethean casket because they wanted their dad to be remembered as someone well loved and worthy of such honor,” she said.

Anzani said funerals today can be prepared in different ways and themes in accordance with the family’s preferences.

“Some like it themed after the favorite sports of the deceased. Others want to follow customs, like the Chinese who have their own rituals,” she said.

Personalized

A package could cost P8,000 or run to as much as P3 million to P5 million.

“Our services are personalized. We always talk to the family about details from the flowers to the embroidery panels, the color of the casket lining and more,” she said.

The Cosmopolitan’s Crystal Palace in Nivel Hills is the most expensive venue in Cebu for a vigil wake.

It has a 450-seating capacity for those with large families and is fully air-conditioned. It also has a presidential suite where the family can sleep and rest, said Anzani. Flower arrangements can cost as much as P60,000.

The cost of a cemetery lot in Cebu depends on the location, services, the security and solemnity it offers.

The Cebu Memorial Park in Banilad, Cebu City, is already fully occupied although some lot owners sell their rights to a burial plot at P30,000 per square meter, said Anzani.

While most Filipinos still prefer the traditional funeral with a vigil wake and internment, cremation is becoming more popular, said Anzani.

“There are urns that cost more than the Promethean gold-plated casket. I saw one solid-gold diamond-studded urn in one of my travels abroad, which I’m sure cost more than the Promethean casket,” she said.

Cosmopolitan also offers a service where part of the human remains are sent to Switzerland to be “cultured” into real diamonds, which can be set into jewelry pieces worn by the loved ones of the deceased.

Despite these novel alternatives, Anzani said most Filipinos still prefer to have their loved ones laid to rest in a casket.

“Others may spend millions while others keep it simple. What’s important is how we celebrate that passing by honoring our loved ones who have left to join our Creator,” Anzani said. /By Aileen Garcia-Yap, Reporter

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