On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, one of the country’s foremost heroes, the founder of the Kataastaasang, Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or Katipunan, the secret organization that lit the fire that was the Philippine Revolution in 1896, the Urban Roamer visits a heritage house that has a connection to this renowned figure.
For many people, Quiapo is the epitome of Manila’s urban madness: the “chaos” of people and vehicles on its streets and the commerce that goes by that place each day. That particular madness has brought both good and ill to this bustling district that has long had a rich, colorful heritage. Sadly, rapid urbanization has negatively affected Quiapo’s heritage that many heritage structures in this district have either disappeared completely or fallen into utter neglect.
In the midst of all this, one particular house has managed to weather the storms brought by urbanization and become one of the few bright spots in this congested district as a symbol of hope for the city’s renewal. But this is not just some old house but it has a rich history embedded in its roots thanks to the people who have lived here in this house we now know as the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista.
The house itself was finished in 1914, designed by Arcadio Arellano, himself a renowned architect who designed a number of structures, including the Gota de Leche Building in Sampaloc. It was built on the same spot where a previous house, actually two houses side by side on the same lot once stood. This was not just an ordinary Filipino family, but a prominent one that has figured in Philippine history.
To be technical about it, there are actually two families that occupied this storied house. One is the family of Ariston Bautista-Lin, a medical doctor, businessman, philanthropist, and member of the 1899 Malolos Congress who drafted the country’s first constitution. Being a member of the reform movement and a friend of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, he helped distribute copies of his writings and was arrested during the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution. And yes, he is the A. Bautista after whom the street formerly known as Barbosa where the house is located is named after.
After the revolution, Bautista married a woman named Petrona Nakpil, who herself came from a prominent family as well. The most well-known of them would be her brother Julio, a composer who fought in the Philippine Revolution and a Secretary of Command in the Katipunan movement under Andres Bonifacio. After Bonifacio’s execution in 1897, Julio retired in Pasig while at the same time, he found himself falling in love with Bonifacio’s widow, Gregoria de Jesus. The two eventually got married and bore 8 children, one of them becoming a famed architect as well, Juan Nakpil.
Ariston and Petrona on the other hand remained childless. So when their new and bigger house was completed, they invited Julio and Gregoria’s family to live with them as well. Thus the house on Barbosa became known as the “home of heroes” who were part of the Reform and Katipunan movements who participated in the Philippine Revolution as well.
It is this rich heritage of the house and the people who lived here that the house was transformed in recent years to become a museum dedicated to the family’s history as well as that of the Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution, thanks in part to Gregoria de Jesus’s significant role being not only as Andres Bonifacio’s wife but as an active member of the movement’s women’s chapter who helped safeguard important documents and other items related to the Katipunan, some of them can be seen here in the museum.
The house in recent years has also become a favorite venue for intimate events and talks especially about history and heritage matters. That should not come as a surprise as stepping inside the house is like going back in time or to a place far removed from the urban landscape. The architecture and interior design helped this house retain its old atmosphere to be a welcome refuge from the urban madness just outside its doors.
There’s also another function, a somewhat curious one, that the house has served over the years. On the house’s ground floor, one can find a sculpture shop where mostly religious icons of the Catholic faith are being made from time to time.
As the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista approaches its centennary, there is little doubt that this home of heroes would continue to stand proud in the midst of the urban madness around. One can only hope that this house and its rich history would serve as an inspiration in Quiapo’s, and Manila’s as a whole, long struggle in urban renewal and bring back that forgotten charm.
© The Urban Roamer