by HERNAN LOUIS CORTES
|Julio was born in Quiapo, Manila on 22 May 1867 to Juan and Juana Nakpil. He was the fourth of twelve children. Julio was enrolled in Escuela de Instruccion Primaria, where he studied for two years until his parents decided to withdraw him because he found the school’s strict style of teaching too cumbersome. To curb idleness, Julio was put in charge of the family stable where he oversaw the coachmen and stable boys. These events did not hinder Julio’s desire to learn. He read books in Spanish, history, treatises on music, as well as Rizal’s novels and other writings.
Like his father, Julio became highly skilled in music. For a few months, he took violin and piano lessons but later preferred to learn how to play the instruments by himself. Because of this, he was able to interpret the works of Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel, Philipp Fahrbach, and Josef Kaulich.
Many of his neighbors knew of his musical talent, and he became a regular pianist during the social functions at Malacañan Palace. However, these performances eventually took its toll on Julio’s health and he was forced to become a piano teacher, teaching advanced lessons to scions of affluent families. Among his compositions are the songs Cefiro, Ilang-Ilang, Recuerdos de Capiz, Pahimakas, Pasig Pantayanin and Biyak-na-Bato.
When the Philippine Revolution began in August 1896, Julio heeded the call of duty to serve and free the Philippines from its Spanish oppressors. Under the alias J. Giliw, Julio served as the Secretary of Command under Andres Bonifacio in 1896. Later on Julio, together with Isidro Francisco, commanded the revolutionaries north of Manila when Bonifacio left for Cavite in December 1896. After noticing that the Katipunan lacked munitions, he was put in charge of overseeing the funds and the purchase of weapons. Among the highlight of Julio’s military exploits was the smuggling of powder from the Spanish powder magazines in Morong that was sent to revolutionaries in Cavite during the months of December 1896 through March 1897.
Knowing Julio’s musical talent, Andres Bonifacio requested him to compose the anthem of the Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Tagalog Republic) which Bonifacio established. Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan, which Julio completed in November 1896, was later adapted into a longer piece entitled Salve Patria (“Hail, Fatherland”) in March 1903.
As Emilio Aguinaldo gained leadership of the revolution, Julio feared for his life since he received reports of Aguinaldo’s wariness towards him and General Antonio Luna. Aguinaldo suspected both Julio and Luna in plotting a counter-revolution, and threatened their lives. For the rest of 1897, Julio acted as the president of the Haring Bayang Katagalugan but did not involve himself for the remainder of the revolution and the succeeding war against the United States.
After hostilities ceased, Julio fell in love and married Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio’s widow, and fathered eight children. He focused his remaining years on his music and writing his memoirs that was published after his death. He died on 2 November 1960 due to a heart attack and was buried the following day at Manila North Cemetery.
Julio Nakpil revealed what his memories of the Revolution and its succeeding events in his comments to Teodoro M. Kalaw’s La Revolucion Filipina. It is revealed in these comments that Julio was severely critical and dubious of the intentions behind Aguinaldo’s actions, namely, the execution of the Bonifacio brothers and Aguinaldo’s surrender to the Americans.
Julio Nakpil was a musician, a vocation far from the vocations of the people who were significant in revolutions. He was neither a soldier who had experience in literal fighting, nor a writer who inflamed the people’s passion, nor was he very rich as to sponsor the revolution. He was a man treading his own path in life when the motherland called for her sons and daughters to rise up in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity. He remains an example of what a patriotic citizen should be, even in this contemporary period of ours.
Julio Nakpil demonstrated that we as sons and daughters of the Philippines, no matter what our profession and vocation may be, should volunteer to help our motherland and fellow Filipino brothers and sisters in times of emergency and calamity. In addition, it is also our responsibility to be the memory keeper’s of our time and period, taking note of its failing and triumphs that would give insights to future generations. Lastly, we must not be afraid of criticizing the actions and intentions of our leaders, we keep them on their toes and remind them that they carry immense responsibilities to the nation and to the Filipino people, and place these above all else, most importantly themselves.
Nakpil, Julio. Julio Nakpil and the Philippine revolution: with the Autobiography of Gregoria de Jesús. Edited by Encarnación Alzona. Quezon City: Academic Pub. Corp., 1997.
National Historical Institute. Filipinos in History Volume II. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1996.
by HERNAN LOUIS CORTES