"The result is a handsome coffee table book that combines family narrative with historical tidbits."
It was a gathering of the crème of Spanish-Filipino society, as the prominent Ortigas family celebrated with relatives and friends the launch of the biography of businessman and philanthropist Francisco ‘Paquito’ Ortigas Jr.
The event, held Nov. 10 at the Edsa Shangri-La hotel, was hosted by Ortigas’ son Fernando ‘Nando’ Ortigas. Some years back he had commissioned multi-awarded writer, my good friend Alfred ‘Krip’ Yuson, to write the book, entitled “Lineage, Vision, and Empire: Don Francisco ‘Paquito’ Ortigas Jr.”
Yuson delved into the Ortigas family archives for his material. Though he was not able to interview the subject, who passed away in 2003, at 96 years of age, Yuson reconstructed the latter’s thoughts through the many writings he left behind—diary entries, correspondence, poetry—and through interviews he conducted with Nando Ortigas and other family members.
The result is a handsome coffee table book that combines family narrative with historical tidbits. Copious photographs from various points in Don Paquito’s life amply enliven the text and help the reader place the subject in historical context. The book design, admirably executed by Orland S. Punzalan, provides a visual feast.
Among those present at the event were Yuson, the Singapore-based Punzalan, his son Sir Lancelot Punzalan, actor Jaime Fabregas, Nena (a warm and vibrant personality and friend of the Ortigases), Philippines Graphic literary editor Alma Anonas-Carpio, Business World columnist Albert Gamboa, and many others from the business and film realms. Former DILG secretary Raffy Alunan was also there and gave a short speech.
Nando Ortigas, it will be recalled, financed the production of historical films ‘Heneral Luna’ and ‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.’ He referred to this in his short but heartfelt opening remarks at the launch adding, “We are not making this [the bio] into a movie. So please read the book.”
‘Lineage, Vision, and Empire’ is getting a wider reach soon. The Ortigas Foundation will be giving copies of the book to public libraries across the country, upon request of the librarian on official letterhead.
Don Paquito’s parents were Don Francisco ‘Paco’ Ortigas Sr. and Doña Julia Vargas de Ortigas. Like his father, Don Paquito was a lawyer and businessman—articulate and savvy. He kept up a lively correspondence with a wide range of contacts all over the country and the world. Some of the most interesting letters he wrote are reprinted and explained in Yuson’s biography.
Of all Don Paquito’s writing, I was most touched by his ‘My Last Prayer’, among the last entries in his journal. It goes: “And when my time comes to change my residence from this earth to heaven (I hope and pray for), this is the prayer I’d like to recite… My Last Prayer. / O God, when in my hour of death, I am unconscious or my thoughts are confused, this will be my dying prayer:/ I thank Thee for a life of usefulness, For love of wife and children; Forgive me / I forgive those who have wounded me / Forgive them, Lord. / Take care of my family; Take care of my country, I pray for humanity, especially the poor, Take me into Thy kingdom. Amen.”
Almost everyone, I told my children, will think of their family and loved ones on their deathbeds, and wish for their protection and well-being. But how many people will use their last moments to pray for their country, for humanity, for the poor? How many will even care?
Don Paquito was such an individual. May his life of work, charity, and love of country serve as an example for the rest of us.
Dr. Ortuoste, a writer and researcher, has a PhD in Communication. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO