MRT History – Ortigas Station: The Life of Don Paco Ortigas

Last Updated: August 30th, 2017


A janitor cleaning the floor in front of the MRT Ortigas sign

A janitor cleaning the floor in front of the MRT Ortigas sign


Very few people know the man behind the name of this MRT station that you most likely pass by on your way to work every day. By the time the train driver announces that you’re approaching MRT Ortigas station,  the first thing that (arguably) comes to mind is the station’s proximity to SM Megamall and Robinson’s Galleria. So let’s take a look at the story of Don Paco Ortigas, and what he contributed to the rise of one of the most prominent business districts in the country today.


Early Life


MRT Ortigas Station, Ortigas Center, and Ortigas Avenue all got its name from Don Paco Ortigas (Francisco Ortigas y Barcinas, Sr.), a prominent lawyer during the American colonial period.

Don Paco’s father, Ignacio Ortigas, served as a captain of the Spanish infantry. Left impoverished after his father’s death, his mother, Asuncion Barcenas, decided for them to relocate to Manila and sought refuge in the home of a close relative.

He was later admitted as a scholar at Colegio de San Juan de Letran where he got acquainted with future stalwarts in Philippine history, namely,  President Sergio Osmeña, Vicente Madrigal, Francisco Imperial, and President Manuel L. Quezon.


Passengers squeezing into every inch of space to get to their destination

Passengers squeezing into every inch of space to get to their destination


Law Practice


He eventually completed his degree in Bachelor of Arts at San Juan de Letran, and went off to finish law at the University of Santo Tomas. All this while working as an intern at the law office of Jose Juan Ycazas, a prominent lawyer at that time.

And in March 1896, he obtained his law licentiate and decided to start a law office together with Rafael del Pan, the son of prominent journalist Jose Felipe del Pan. However, their law firm was doomed to be short-lived after the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution (Tagalog War) in August 1896, between the Spanish colonial authorities and the Katipunan, led by Andrés Bonifacio.

In 1899-1901, Don Paco was appointed by the American military governor to serve as the registrar of the south district of Manila. And later on, as the registrar of deeds for the City of Manila.

Together with his former business partner, Rafael del Pan, and American lawyer Frederick Fisher, they started another law firm called “Ortigas, del Pan, and Fisher Law Office”. They were designated by the American government as chief investigator of anomalous titles and land purchases of Spanish friars. Ortigas left the firm in 1910 to join Judge W.J. Goldsborough for the Code Commission to revise the Civil Code of the Philippines.

He went on to teach at the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines, where he became a member of the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents is the highest governing body in the UP system.


Portrait of Francisco Ortigas y Barcinas, Sr. by Fernando Amorsolo

Portrait of Francisco Ortigas y Barcinas, Sr. by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo (image credit:


Establishing Ortigas Center


The Hacienda de Mandaloyon, which consisted of 4,033 hectares, was originally formed as part of the estate holdings of the Augustinian Order. The Order of Augustinian Recollects was founded in 16th century Spain, and with their arrival in the Philippines quickly became one of the most important groups in the history of the evangelization of the country.

On January 20, 1920, the Augustinians friars sold the property to Dr. Frank W. Dudley and Don Francisco Ortigas. Dr. Dudley later surrendered his interest to Phil C. Whitaker, and the company became known as Whitaker and Ortigas.

In the following years, there were several changes of partners. Then, on July 10, 1931, the company was incorporated  Ortigas, Madrigal y Cia, S. en C. The parties to the partnership were Francisco Ortigas (Don Paco), Vicente Madrigal, B.C.M. Johnston, Fulgencio Borromeo, Clyde A. Dewitt and Manuel L. Quezon, who was the Senate President at that time.

The objective of the partnership was to acquire Hacienda de Mandaloyon, which spanned the municipalities that are now known as Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pasig & Quezon City. In 1956, Vicente Madrigal withdrew from the partnership and the partnerships name was changed to Ortigas & Company, Limited Partnership.

When Ortigas & Company took over management of the estate, it was a virtual wasteland. It was the vision of the management team, headed by Atty. Francisco Ortigas, Jr., who was President and Chairman at that time that transformed this wasteland into a progressive industrial, commercial, and residential urban complex that it is today.


Later years


Ortigas married the socially prominent Julia Vargas de Ortigas y Camus, the daughter of the Governor Vargas of Basilan. Their son Francisco Ortigas Jr. would, later on, become a lawyer and expand his father’s holdings.

Don Paco passed away November 1935 of lung cancer on his return flight from the United States where he sought medical treatment.



Passengers getting on the train from Ortigas station

Passengers getting on the train from Ortigas station



– The Manila Project

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