Julia Vargas de Ortigas

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Julia Vargas Vda. de Ortigas y Camus (b. April 27, 1881 - d. 1960) was one of the most prominent philanthropists and civic women in the Philippines during the pre- and postwar years. Her name stood out in the campaign against tuberculosis in the Philippines. A true Christian and a firm believer of the social concept: "I am my brother's keeper," she generously shared her wealth.

Formative Years

Doña Julia was born in Sta. Cruz, Manila. She was educated in Manila and Spain. After studying in Colegio Inmaculada for two years, she continued her studies at the private school of Leon Quintos.

Civic Career

In the 1920s the Philippines was beset with the growing disease of tuberculosis. She was called by Manuel L. Quezon to help needy patients in Quezon Institute, which was recently established.

Starting as a member of the Board of Directors of the institution on February 20, 1929, she was later elected as its first vice president. She was elected president of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society on February 25, 1932 until her death in 1960.

Ortigas greatly expanded the bed capacity in the Quezon Institute from 150 beds to 1,350. Under her leadership, she initiated community involvement in the campaign for prevention and control of tuberculosis. A clear proof of her dedication and voluntary services was the society's vigorous fund campaigns which resulted to the significant decrease in tuberculosis mortality rate (from 35,355 deaths in 1939 to 24,194 in 1960).

Doña Julia's term was characterized by many acts of kindnesses. Upon seeing the lack of linens for the patients, she organized a group of matrons and young ladies of the community to form a group called Ropero de Santol (Clothes Hamper of Santol). "Santol" is where the tuberculosis hospital was located. From 1929 to 1960, she continuously offered voluntary services to the Philippine Tuberculosis Society.

During the war, Doña Julia, together with her son Francisco Ortigas Jr., gave money, food, and medicine to the needy.

Doña Julia was named outstanding mother in 1952, and was awarded as one of seven exemplary Filipino citizens of the Philippines by the National Federation of Women's Clubs. With her was Francisco Ortigas, Jr., who was well known for his leadership in business and civic organizations; was the first president of the Lions Club; and one of those who worked for the passage of the bill that aimed to grant more benefits to the Filipino veterans under the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Socio-civic Affiliations

  • Treasurer, National Federation of Women's Clubs, 1941.
  • Adviser, National Federation of Women's Clubs, 1925.
  • Honorary President, Club de Damas Filipinas.
  • Life member, Catholic Women's League.
  • President, Ropero de Santol, 1936-1940.
  • Vice President, Manila Women's Club.
  • Member, Civic Assembly of Women.
  • President, Liga Catolica(predecessor of the Quezon Institute).
  • President, Confradia del Carmen.
  • Member, Women's International League.
  • Member, League of Women Voters.

Awards and Citations

  • Recipient of the Golden Heart Presidential Award, 1960.
  • Outstanding Citizen Award, from the National Federation of Women's Clubs Award, 1948.
  • Outstanding Mother Awardee, 1952.
  • Outstanding institutional leadership, from the Association of Red Feather Agencies Executive Recognition Certificate, 1950.
  • Merit Award from National Federation of Women's Clubs, 1950.


  • Ancheta, Hermina M. and Michaela Beltran-Gonzales. Filipino Women in Nation Building. A compilation of Brief Biographies. Quezon City: Phoenix Publishing House, 1984.



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