Bahay Nakpil, Home of Filipinos

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 in history, people, places, resources


Bahay Nakpil, Home of Filipinosby Perla Paredes Daly

It was baybayin that led me to visit Bahay Nakpil on a trip to Manila.

Bahay Nakpil flyer forBaybayin.

In the summer of 2002, Ann Ubaldo, artisan of Urduja jewelry, introduced me to the meanings and shapes of baybayin, and at the same time, the writings of the Filipino Spirituality Movement. She also tried to connect me with her mentor, Tess Obusan, author of “Roots of Filipino Spirituality“, via email and phone. But we weren’t meant to meet yet. And so for some time, I was so much looking forward to meeting this interesting, pioneering woman. 

2nd floor of Bahay Nakpil.
Third floor of Bahay Nakpil is where the Nakpil family resided.

While I was staying with my friend Val Tapalla in Manila, I decided to make a point of looking up Tess. Actually, Ann, or Urduja as I call her, urged me to call Tess Obusan and make sure I visited with her. And so, because Tess is the curator of the museum of Bahay Nakpil, I found my way to Bautista Street and facing the heavy carved doors of an old beautiful home. 

Coming through the doors, I encountered craftsmen working on a religous processional float. I could not spend more time admiring the details of the large santo images and the silver work of the carito because I was being lead up 3 flights of carved dark wood hagdanan (staircases).

Tess Obusan and Raymond Cosare at Bahay Nakpil. W/ baybayin calligraphy by Cosare. Tess Obusan, Raymond Cosare and student. Bahay Nakpil.
Teresita “Tessie” Obusan, museum curator and author of “Roots of Filipino Spirituality Tessie with Raymund Cosare, Professor and Baybayin Calligraphy Artist . They are flanked by baybayin calligraphy scrolls done by Raymund.
Dining Room/Conference area. At back corner is table with the baybayin display of books and pendants.

At the top of the stairs on the third floor, I was met by Tessie. She has a gentle face and lovely demeanor. I liked her immediately! She showed me around the library and pulled out a few books for me to read and showed me the new sound system whose music soothed the young people visiting, when a group of students came up the stairs. So she left me at the conference table while she showed the young people around.

I eagerly began to look over the books before me (such as Shaman Woman’s Dream by Agnes Micla-Cacayan and “From the Womb of Mebuyan” by Miclat-Cacayan and Geejay Arriola). and then Raymund Cosare arrived and Tessie introduced us. Together all three of us looked over the baybayin books and pendants on the far table in the conference room and talked about how the Doctrina Christiana contained transcriptions and translations of christian prayers in spanish into tagalog and baybayin! What a find! (See pictures of book below).

We talked about Raymund’s working with students and his baybayin teachings and calligraphy. And then all three of us went over Tess’ anthology “Roots of Filipino Spirituality” and talked about her work and the various authors’. Later we looked at charts and Filipino modalities of studying Philppine history and writing about it for ourselves. Tess is a brilliant woman in a petite little package. It was such a stimulating and happy time to talk with her and Raymund together.

Gregoria de Jesus room. Bahay Nakpil.
Gregoria de Jesus Room. Not only do her pictures and letters reside here, but also her spirit AND her love of the country of the Philippines.

Then we walked around the museum. First we went to the Gregoria de Jesus room. There they shared with me stories of the opening exhibit and how some people, including Ann Ubaldo, are drawn to visit this room again and again and even bring items such as betel nut, a favorite of Gregoria’s, the muse of the Katipunan! On the left wall are framed letters written by Gregoria. One must take their time to absorb all the exhibit has to offer. It is more than paintings and letters. It is a legacy of love, pride and of being Filipino.

As we walked around I was shown more national treasures that reside here such as the framed reproduction of Juan Luna’s Buhay Paris. I recognized influences of Renoir in that painting, but more than that, this painting was a reminder to me that Filipinos, even at the turn of the 20th century, were in fact educated, talented and achieved in the arts and literature, contrary to the colonizers’ stereotypes that I had of Filipinos as uncivilized (see political cartoon). Most of my school life in the Philippines, I could only picture our historical Filipinos in one way, subjugated to the colonizer and inferior to the Europeans. That finally changed when going to University of Diliman, I and my fellow Fine Arts students took many trips to the finest museums of Manila. That is when I had my first glimpse of Juan Luna’s masterpiece Spoliarium. And through that one painting, I discovered that Filipinos, even years ago, in their stirrings of nationalism were already out to prove that they were the equals of their colonizers. And that they most certainly did through painters such as Juan Luna and his friend Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo.

And now here in front of me at Bahay Nakpil was another artistic sample of educated, cultured and talented Filipinos. Within the painting itself too was a story… that of Filipinos (like Jose Rizal, Juan Luna and Ariston Bautista) who were in Europe… speaking European languages, visiting restaurants, going to schools… I remembered how my colonized, amnesiatic mind wondered how could that be… The watercolor image was a reminder that our rising painters of the time rivalled even the best of Italy at the time and that Filipinos were already reaching full potential, standing as equals with Westerners. We should all remember those Filipinos and those too who gave birth to La Solidaridad… Read more on Juan Luna .

Buhay Paris. Painting by Juan Luna with La Soladaridad founders in background. see next picture for details.Buhay Paris (Parisian Life)
Framed Reproduction

Caption: Handog ni Juan Luna kay Dr. Ariston Bautista ang “Buhay Paris”. Ditor ito nakasabit noon. Ngayo’y pag-aari na ng GSIS ang orihinal.
1892: Nakaupo ang tatlong magkaibigan na sina A. Bautista, J. Luna at J. Rizal. Hinahangaan nila ang isang magandang taga-paris. Noong taong ding iyon, bumalik si Rizal sa Pilipinas, kasuno si Bautista. Samantal si Luna na ng dahil sa selos, ay binaril ang kanyang asawa sa Paris.
(click on picture of caption text on left to view translation into English)
caption goes with previous picture.Buhay Paris (Parisian Life)
caption text of artwork


I got to learn more about the history of the house such as the 1st floor of Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was the stables for the horses. That is where they craftsmen are now working on the Santas for the religious processions. The cobble stone flooring is still down there.

The 2nd floor. was the residence of the Petrona Nakpil and A. Bautista. And above on the 3rd floor the Nakpils lived. And that many Katipunero and nationalism gatherings took place here.

Bahay Nakpil. view to Pasig River.
Other side of dining room. Windows face a balcony, a lower patio with garden, and the Pasay River.

The Museum of Bahay NakpilBahay Nakpil is now a museum open to the public. Bahay Nakpil is a former plateria and the ancestral house of Gregoria de Jesus Nakpil, the widow of Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio.

Bahay Nakpil was also once the home of historical figure Dr. Ariston Bautista who married Petrona Nakpil. Bautista was a philanthropist and a man prominent in the Philippine Revolution. Because of his interests he was a colleague and friend of José Rizal and Juan Luna.

In the house also lived musical composer and Katipunero Julio Nakpil, who married the widow of his friend and national hero Andres Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesus.

Bahay Nakpil is an outstanding example of Philippine architecture and was designed by Juan Arellano in the classic “bahay na bato” style. The detailing within the house is turn-of-the-century Viennese Secession style and renders Bahay Nakpil unique in the Philippines and maybe even in the world. Carvings, woodwork and grillwork are executed in abstracts and geometric lines of floral patterns.

The Nakpil house was located in Quiapo on Calle Barbosa but this street is now Bautista Street or more completely, Dr. Ariston Bautista Street. For information, call +63 2 7349341.

Below are more pictures of my visit to Bahay Nakpil. You can click on all pictures for larger versions and details. Please let these photos tell you more of Bahay Nakpil without words…

Bing Veloso's work. Bahay Nakpil.
Maria Rhodora “Bing-Bing” Veloso,
artist, author and publisher of ” Saysayin ng Babayin”.
An economy grad of U.P. Diliman, she is also a singer and has sung epic songs and oral history with the tribes of the Cordilleras. She is also the Tagalog translator atwww.babaylan.com.
Grace Nono's work. Bahay Nakpil.
Grace Nono, singer. Click here for more info.
Tess Obusan and Raymond Cosare with exhibit. Includes Urduja at center. And atom and baybayin. Bahay Nakpil.
Tessie and Raymund standing next to display of artists and academe who have shared ideas and works contributing to a rising interest in the Filipino indigenous spirituality movement.(wish i took more detailed pictures of this…)
Raymond Cosare, Me and Tess Obusan. Bahay Nakpil.
Raymund, myself and Tessie standing on balcony facing Pasig River.
2nd floor of Bahay Nakpil.
Room on opposite side through doors is the museum library. Visiting students walk the halls.
2nd floor of Bahay Nakpil.
Above: Sala hosts visiting students for the day. It faces Bautista Street. On the back walls: theParisian Life painting by Juan Luna, and photos of the Nakpil daughters and another Juan Luna watercolor…
quaipo view from Bahay Nakpil.
Above: Windows facing Bautista Street in Quiapo. Architectural window and wall detailings included capiz shell window detailings and art noveau geometrical grill work.
At right:
Vista de la Calzada de San Sebastian
V.H. Locano
circa 1867 and 1858
postcards of changing quaipo. Bahay Nakpil.
circa 1867
postcard of old quiapo. Bahay Nakpil.
circa 1858
At right:
Framed photo of daughters of the Nakpil family.
daughters of Nakpil family.
Photo of Nakpil daughters shows them seated below a framed watercolor by Juan Luna.
Nakpil daughters portrait with Juan Luna painting detail. Original painting hangs above the daughters in portrait.
Here is a shot of corner table with the photo of the Nakpil women with another colored photo of the art of Juan Luna.
2nd floor. Bahay Nakpil.
Stairs leading to 3rd Floor of Nakpil Home.
Gregoria de Jesus portrait. Bahay Nakpil.
Photo of Gregoria de Jesus. This photo used to reproduce more likenessnesses of her including those in the GDJ gallery red room.
Tess Obusan, Raymond Cosare and student. Bahay Nakpil.
Once the dining area of Nakpil family, now a conference style room. Tessie Obusan, curator and Raymund Cosare answer questions of a visiting student.

I wish I took more pictures!

Beloved Ghosts and Love of Country

Like all other old homes you might wonder about the ghosts that might be there atBahay Nakpil. Well I did! And so I asked. Tessie tells of stories of a woman in traditional dress who walks around wondering who are all the strangers visiting… and who wants the house to be well taken care of and always tidy and clean. There are also stories of people who are inexplicable drawn to come day after day to the Gregoria de Jesus room, even bringing tokens to Gregoria’s memory. These people become inspired and come up with new works of nationalism.
This was a home where the remainder of Katipuneros and other nationalists did gather and meet regularly…. Today, some special people are still drawn to this place to visit and gather still. Several artists and talents have come to Bahay Nakpil to be a place to sing, share ideas, work on progressive concepts, launch their works… be creative in intellect, art and expressing their love of the Philippines and being Filipino yet.

A Gift from Bahay Nakpil
During my visit, I must have shown Tess and Raymund so much enthusiasm for the baybayin that I was generously bestowed a complimentary copy of the Doctrina Christiana as a gift. As I turned the pages, they were so crisp and fresh that they still stuck together. I feel that I must share this gift from Bahay Nakpil by showing you the cover and some spreads of this special book here below…

Doctrina ChristianaImages
Doctrina Christiana was the first book to be published in Manila in 1593. This is a cover of the reprint of 1991 published by The National Historical Institute of the Philippines in Manila. This was done to commemorate the Decade of the Centennials of Filipino Nationalism, Nationhood and the Philippine Revolutionary Movement and the Philippine Decade of Cutlure. On this inside spread of the Doctrina Christiana we have the translation of La Salve Regina. On the left page is the tagalog version written in baybayin. On the right side is the Spanish version in the European alphabet. First page of theForeword of the Doctrina Christiana

A Homecoming
Because of Tess Obusan’s studies, her publications and her many efforts I have been deeply affected by the Filipino Spirituality movement. Her works and many others who she worked with or mentored have inspired my own delvings into my roots and connections with my ancestors. So much so that was inspired to create the prose poetry and artworks at Babaylan.com and make a collection of images and words and resource for others. I also wrote the Bahala Meditations in 2003 because of Tess and other women such as Grace Odal, Mary Ann Ubaldo and Bing-bing Veloso.
Tess and Ramund were so enjoyable to be with and talk with. We touched topics such as nationalism, Katipuneros, art, books, baybayin, ghosts, angels, calligraphy, historical Quiapo, architecture and more! I came to feel a great affection for these two.
And so, although the Nakpils are not my direct family, but because of who IS there, WAS there, and because of all who have put love and effort into this home and what still goes into this museum, this place means to me a continuing love of country and of being Filipino. Coming to Bahay Nakpil was like coming home to an ancestral home that is my own.

For more information:
Bio of Gregoria de Jesus at Ayala Foundations’s online Filipiniana Archives of Heroes.
Bio of Andres Bonifacio at Bakbakan.comBio of Juan Nakpil at NCCA

Perla Paredes Daly © All rights reserved.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *