Asking people to name words associated with Quiapo would give answers ranging from chaotic Friday devotion to the Black Nazarene, over-crowded street and bumper to bumper traffic, seedy movie houses, stinky sidewalks, and dilapidated structures to vendors aggressively peddling folk remedies, amulets, and pirated merchandises.
Quiapo may be suffering from irreversible decline these days and may be an intimidating place to visit but her glorious past continues to fascinate us. We realized this when we visited Bahay Nakpil-Bautista.
Being in Quiapo on a Friday afternoon, we immediately realized that we are at the right place at the right time to rub elbows with the devotees of the Señor Nazareno. We finally made through the sea of humanity as we emerged from the Quezon Boulevard underpass then turning left to Barbosa Street where we caught sight of the Katipunan and Philippine flags in front of a landmark two-storey bahay-na-bato.
The house’s construction was inspired by a gift that was given to Dr. Ariston Bautista from a family friend. The gift was a set of furniture in the Viennese Secession style, an Austrian variation of Art Nouveau made known by Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner.
The furniture’s obvious difference made it a clear mismatch with the old Nakpil-Bautista home that the owners decided to commission architect Arcadio Arellano to build them a new house to match the Viennese Secession style furniture. In 1914, a new Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was completed.
As we entered the house through a small pedestrian gate or postigo of its wooden doors, we immediately felt a distinguished stillness in cavernous zaguan, a noticeable contrast with the bustling city outside.
The zaguan is paved in piedra china. There are rooms located in the raised areas or entresuelo. A delicate grand staircase led us to the caida where museum curator Tess Obusan greeted us.
Bahay Nakpil-Bautista has been transformed by its heir into a museum. It is dedicated to the Revolution of 1896 and to its famous resident, Gregoria Oriang de Jesus, the Lakambini of the Katipunan and widow of Andres Bonifacio.
After Bonifacio’s death, Oriang was married to the commander of all the northern troops, Julio Nakpil. The couple was taken in by house owners Dr. Ariston Bautista and his wife Petrona Nakpil, sister of Julio.
From the airy caida, Tess led us to the living room where contemporary artworks by Ral Arogante, Egai Roxas, Fidel Sarmiento, and Manny Garibay compliment the few turn of the century furniture and replica of the original Viennese Secession furniture. In place of the famed Parisian Life of Juan Luna, a replica is hang at a nook in the sala.
The grillwork below the wide windows has design consisting of tapered frames and three vertical lines encased in a square, and the calado on the upper part of the walls that are pierced with stylized lotus design are repeated through out the house allowing air to circulate freely around the second floor living quarters. All are both functional and consistent with the Viennese Secession style.
We were led to the azotea overlooking the Quiapo neighborhood and estero below. Tess revealed that in the olden days, residents of Quiapo would row their way to different places on this estero. Those were the days when children can bath in the pristine estero.
Our visit at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was inspiring because it made us see Quiapo away from the loud noise and over-crowded streets. Quiapo is just one of the many places in our country that should be seen in a different perspective.