Who was Julio Nakpil?

There is a street named after him in Malate, perpendicular to San Marcelino, passing by PWU, it crosses Taft Avenue. We are celebrating Julio Nakpil’s sesquicentennial, dredging from the depths of memory what we would like the millenials to know about him. Memory is not just a simple record of events, it can become a dynamic, transformative process.

In school, my generation learned that Julio Nakpil was “the musician of the Revolution.” Later I found out he was inextricably linked with Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and was appointed president of the Supreme Council of the Northern District, the administrative center of the Katipunan in Pasig. His nom de guerre was “Giliw.”

Recently, a London-based historian, Jim Richardson, deeply interested in the Katipunan, found a trove of primary source documents in the military archives of Spain, which have shed new light on the nature of the Katipunan and its members. Among the documents were official circulars, battle orders, and letters from Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and Julio Nakpil, to each other, written during the most crucial period of the Katipunan.

For instance, a letter from Andres Bonifacio dated 13 February 1897, addressed to Nakpil as the Pangulo ng Mataas Na Sangguniang ng bayan ng Pasig, said: “Guiliw kong kapatid, tinanggap ko po rito ang inyong kalatas gawa ng ika-30 ng Enerong nagdaan, at sa pagkatanto nang doo’y inyong saad, ay ang tugon ko’y ang sumusunod.”

Boniface was replying to Julio Nakpil’s letter. He said he had received two from him and had answered one that very month. One of Nakpil’s letters came with the “Himno Nacional” that Bonifacio had commissioned: “I shall have it played in accordance with all your indications.” (translation mine) Then he touched a rather sensitive matter about friar prisoners, referring specifically to Fray Antonio Piernavieja of Bulacan who had been accused of quite a number of abuses, among them the killing of a young boy who worked in his parish. (Jose Rizal patterned Crispin, that unfortunate child in the Noli, after this case).  Piernavieja was a prisoner and had written to his son (The friar had a son!) which Bonifacio had enclosed in his reply to Nakpil, bidding him not to punish the friar with hard labor. The friar’s son was willing to donate 1,000 pesos to the cause, but Nakpil should ask for 5,000, which the friar’s family could well afford.

In the same letter, Bonifacio said he was preparing to go to Bakood with some of his men, and from there return to Manila to regroup with the rest of the Katipuneros. Portentous signs, I think, of the impending disaster.

Julio Nakpil received a letter from Emilio Jacinto dated 11 April 1897.confirming that he had received the former’s correspondence. There was no clue as to where Jacinto was, nor the slightest hint of what had occurred during the fateful Tejeros Convention in Cavite. Had he known, Jacinto would surely have warned Julio Nakpil that things were coming to a head in Cavite. At that time, Julio Nakpil was operating from Pasig as head of the Northern command and had received news about a shipment of arms, which he wanted Jacinto to verify, but the latter knew nothing. However, he told Nakpil not to ask anyone connected to the Aguinaldo camp, adding that according to those who had been to Cavite, Aguinaldo “has been quiet.” Jacinto then postponed their next meeting to Wednesday because he had to attend a pulong (meeting) on Tuesday.

Significantly, the Katipunan was known for its constant pagpupulong; Bonifacio was a great believer in public consultations and he would call one at almost at every turn. As a result, the Magdalo faction misconstrued those fraternal methods and began to suspect that Bonifacio and the Magdiwang were plotting against Emilio Aguinaldo.

As president of the Mataas Na Sanggunian based in Pasig, Julio Nakpil was in charge of fund-raising, collecting contributions from wealthy Filipinos in order to finance revolutionary activities, source guns and ammunition and many other vital supplies. In fact, he left no stone unturned even the clergy was in his list of donors. He wrote a certain Cipriano Ortiz, a parish priest of Paete, Laguna soliciting funds; maybe they were friends. The letter was signed, Julio N. Giiw with a postdate saying that the bearer of the letter could be trusted with money.

It was his administrative skills that placed Julio Nakpil in that central role of fund-raiser and procurer of essential supplies for the Katipunan and the Revolution. However, he also led troops to battle and saw action in Balara, yet, never was a military rank affixed to his name.

Julio Nakpil, like Jose Rizal, came from a big happy family of twelve. His father was a musician who played the flute with a local orchestra during fiestas; he was also a jeweler with a platería in Quiapo that had many high society patrons. Julio was enrolled at the Escuela de Instruccion Primaria, a public elementary school; however, after two years, his parents lost faith in the colonial system of education, pulled him out, and placed the family stables in his charge. He supervised coachmen and stable boys and helped them care for the horses, bathing the animals himself in the streams around Arlegui.

Like his father, he had a passion for music, took violin lessons from Ramon Valdes and piano lessons from Manuel Mata. Later. he gave piano lessons and became such an accomplished and sought-after pianist he was often hired to play in Malacanan during social functions. Tall and handsome, distinctively illustrado, Julio Nakpil must have made a lot of hearts flutter during those soirees of the alta sociedad. On 27 April 1888, he composed “Cefiro,” his first short polka piece for the piano which was followed by other compositions like “Ilang-Ilang,” “Recuerdos de Capiz,” “Pahimakas,” “Pasig Pantayanin,”

Love for music and revolutionary fervor mixed like sand and water in young Julio Nakpil. At 29, he joined the La Liga Filipina and when its founder, Jose Rizal, was exiled to Dapitan, Julio Nakpil went on to join the Katipunan and chose Giliw as his alias. Julio Nakpil, like Paciano Rizal, did not join Emilio Aguinaldo and the Magdalo forces when they signed the Pact of Biyak Na Bato; neither did he go to Hong Kong in exile. (more)