|Success story 1:
|Author: Augusto Villalon
Today this column starts a series on 'Conservation Success
Stories,' to prove that not all is being lost in Manila and that
there is some heritage that is being conserved well.
The first success story is the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista.
Recent construction, development, traffic, and the crush of
Quiapo population have dwarfed the Nakpil-Bautista house, just
a block from Quezon Boulevard and practically in the shadow of
Quiapo Church. Urban decay has squeezed the house between
narrow Calle Barbosa (now A. Bautista Street) and the murky
estero behind it.
That the house manages to still stand, that it has been
maintained by the Nakpil family as when they lived in it, and
that it is open to the public as a "house with memories of the
Katipunan" makes it one of Manila's conservation success
Indeed the house does have strong links to the Katipunan, as
Dr Fernando N Zi lcita explains. It was built in 1914 by the
successful physician, Dr Ariston Bautista and his wife Petrona
Nakpil, a childless couple who invited her two brothers and their
families to share the house.
One of the brothers was Julio Nakpil, the Vice-President
Supremo of the Katipunan and a pianist who composed patriotic
pieces such as Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan. He married
Gregoria de Jesus, the young widow of Andres Bonifacio, who
organized the women of the Katipunan to join the struggle. As
parents of six children (National Artist for Architecture Juan
Nakpil is one of them), they settled into a domestic existence at
the Nakpil-Bautista house.
Descendants remember their privileged days of growing up
around one of the best tables in Manila, living in a house where
the family took such fierce pride in its culinary skills that
traditional family recipes are still cooked in the different Nakpil
kitchens that have spread all over Manila from the ancestral
kitchen in Quiapo.
Viennese Secession style
The well-heeled of Manila came to the house regularly, clients
of Petrona's Plater!a Nakpil, where the outstanding
gold-and-diamond pieces of jewelry so highly prized by Manila
society were designed by the Nakpil family and handcrafted
under close supervision by artisans in the atelier within the
house. The Art Deco flower-inspired pieces of jewelry of
diamonds set in white gold, executed just before World War II
are now highly valued heirloom pieces, rare examples of old
Filipino excellent craftsmanship that now command a prohibitive
price among jewelry collectors the Manila.
Historic and artistic as its accomplished occupants may have
been, the house is itself a landmark in Philippine architecture. It
is one of the primary examples of the fusion of the bahay na
bato with a western style, in this case, the Viennese Secession
style of the early 20th century.
The Secession in Vienna developed a new architectural style
that reflected the new European lifestyle of the day by
reinterpreting natural forms, particularly vines and flora, in a
very linear manner, in a more abstract fashion than the
representational, curvilinear forms of the Art Noveau preferred
by the Filipinos.
Gifted with set of Secession furniture, Dr Bautista asked his
architect, Arcadio Arellano, to design the house around the set
of furniture. Arellano responded to the challenge creatively.
Arellano designed a traditional Filipino bahay na bato (stone
house) with an upper floor constructed in wood. Following the
Filipino penchant for wide open interior spaces, he planned a
house where the rooms flow into each other so effortlessly.
Within this traditional architectural framework, he incorporated
Viennese Secession motifs.
The motifs, according to Dr Zi lcita who spent his childhood in
the house, are "...flattened, elongated curves [that] echo the
frames of the ceilings, in the abstract tulips of the tracery
(calados) of the room dividers, and in the highly stylized lyres of
the ventanilla grilles. Another motif, small squares on long
vertical bars, appears in the simple row of recessed squares that
decorate the wooden walls, in the wooden stair railings and in
the window grilles."
Directly contrasting with the typical houses of the day that were
decorated in the Filipino baroque penchant that revolved
around floral patterns curvaceously rendered in super
three-dimensional relief, the Nakpil-Bautista stands out in its
simplicity, setting the tone for the new architectural style that
eliminated surface direction. In the clean, crisp direction its
architecture takes, it joins the futuristic European architectural
movements that eliminate the unnecessary in decoration.
The house is among the best examples that show successful
adaptation of traditional architecture to modern trends. It is one
of the works that pushes Filipino architecture forward,
responding to ideas developed in Europe, fusing east and west.
Because of that the Nakpil-Bautista House is among the few
houses in the country that are culturally and artistically
significant, a definite icon in Filipino heritage.
Open to the public, the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista is one of the
'must' places in Manila to visit, located at 432 A. Bautista
(formerly Barbosa) Street, perpendicular to Hidalgo Street
opposite Quiapo Church. A. Bautista Street is parallel to Quezon
Boulevard in Quiapo. Talk to Tessie Obusan, the ebullient
curator, whose stories bring the house back to life. Her
enthusiasm on Quiapo will set you off on a discovery walk of
the district. Do the walk because there is much to re-discover in