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COCKTALES | Christie's NY to auction Virata's collection of Chinese furniture

Juan Luis Virata in file photo: A sale of this nature is often bittersweet, the end of an adventure--but it's also for renewal. means BUSINESS

Christie's New York will auction this Thursday the classical Chinese furniture collection bequeathed by the late mother of billionaire investment banker Juan Luis Virata, expecting to raise at least $9 million (about P460 million) for the 86 lots.

According to the auction catalogue, an 18th century rosewood bed with railings on three sides is the most valuable of the Marie Theresa Lammoglia-Virata collection, with the British auction house expecting a minimum bid of $2 million for the couch bed.

A "very rare" 17th century recessed-leg painting table made of aromatic rosewood comes second with an estimated sale of $1 million to $1.5 million.

Mrs. Virata, who passed away in 2015, also left collectibles with more modest prices, like a "Republic period" copper box and cover for $200-400 and a pair of 18th-19th century silver-inlaid bronze boxes for $600-800.

Born in Malate of Italian parents who were into the jewelry trade, she later became the wife of Marcos-era trade and commerce secretary and subsequently chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines, the late Leonides Virata.

Virata said his mother's core collection started with a couple of lucky finds -- a yellow rosewood chair and an altar coffer --in the Philadelphia antiques fair in 1977.

The Virata collection grew through the years, both in their Manila and New York homes, amid the family's friendship with Chinese art experts within the Asia Society circle of collectors and curators.

"While my entire family held a deep respect for the age and beauty of these works, a chair was nevertheless meant to be sat on, a table to place things on, and a cupboard to store everything from antiques to Christmas decorations," Virata said.

"A sale of this nature is often bittersweet, the end of an adventure," he added.  "Yet its purpose is also one of renewal, so that others may experience the thrill and joy that these beautiful objects have brought to our lives."

"All the proceeds of the sale will go to charitable causes she (Mrs. Virata) particularly supported -- children in need in the Philippines, cancer research and a museum which will display her extraordinary collection of Filipino art and export Chinese art found in the Philippines," said Charles Cator, Christie's International deputy chairman.

Manila House casts a wider net

It looks like the Manila House has underestimated the costs of building and maintaining a high-society club even in a Third World country.

From an original estimate of P202 million, Manila House has raised its authorized capitalization to P510 million.

The club organizers have also decided to increase the number of members from 600 founding members to include 1,000 regulars members (at P150,000 each) plus another 600 associate (P100,000 each) and another 600 junior members, the latter shelling out P50,000 a head for the privilege.

According to the grapevine, Manila House incorporator and prime mover Doris Magsaysay Ho has also decided to opt out of management, leaving the day-to-day operations of the club to the triumvirate of chairman Edwin Coseteng, president Ricco Ocampo, and treasurer Gilbert Zoilo Pangilinan Jr.

A chapel within a law firm

In what could be a first in Philippines, the law firm headed by UST Law Dean Nilo Divina is building, holy smokes!, a chapel right within its enlarged offices in Makati.

According to the grapevine, the house of worship, a 90-square-meter-oasis, is apparently designed to boost the litigious fervor of the growing band of litigators for Divina Law.

The chapel is being made possible because Divina Law has obtained the go-signal from the landlord, no less than SM heiress Teresita Sy, to lease the other half of the eight floor of Pacific Star building.

It is most likely that the planned chapel would be dedicated in honor of the British lawyer and philosopher, St. Thomas More, rather than in the name of another patron saint for lawyers, the lesser known Ives Helori, whose chosen crusade might not cut it out in today's rough-and-tumble corporate world.

Known in France as Saint Ives of Brittany, the second patron saint for lawyers was an advocate for the poor and a crusader for lost causes during the 13th century whose adage was supposed to be "a lawyer yet not a crook."

Money talks

• After nearly four decades, the 16-hectare Batasang Pambansa complex has run out of parking spaces for the country's growing number of congressmen, their staff, and their daily visitors. 

The solution? The House leaders have approved the construction of two, three-level steel parking structures, similar to that adjoining the Rustan's department store in Ayala Center.

The cost? P333 million.

• Former Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. is scrambling to catch the construction boom in the favored city of Davao with his Camella Homes venturing into a low-cost subdivision in the city's Buhangin district with a target of 1,051 houses.

Heard through the grapevine 

The takeover by the Max's Group of the Teriyaki Boy chain from entrepreneur Martin Lorenzo has unfortunately failed to resolve the financial issues left pending with Teriyaki Boy founder Bryan Tiu during the 2013 sale.

Tiu, who has been locked into a 30-percent minority stake in the Japanese dining chain, has initiated an even bigger P700-million claim against Max's, amid the Teriyaki Boy chain shrinking from 37 stores during the 2013 takeover to the present 16 branches while Max's Group was aggressively expanding in the last three years.