Before I Forget

Our Christmas with ‘lolo’ Julio Nakpil and ‘lola’ Gregoria de Jesus

The heroes of the revolution lived with their siblings, their families
in the Quiapo house. Imagine what their holiday season was like!

A Christmas costume party in the old house, with the big Christmas tree on top of the staircase. (First row, from left) Julia Napil Casas, Nakpil and Tapales nephews (Second row, from left) Anita Noble Nakpil (wife of Juan), Mickey Mouse, Josefina Nakpil Tapales, Juan Nakpil, man with sunglasses unknown (Third row, from left) Antonia Nakpil Escaler (cousin of Julio's children), Anita de Lange (sister-in-law of Francisca), Mercedes Nakpil Zialcita, Santa Claus, author’s mother Caridad Nakpil Santos-Viola, and other male personalities.
A Christmas costume party in the old house, with the big Christmas tree on top of the staircase. (First row, from left) Julia Nakpil Casas, Nakpil and Tapales nephews (second row, from left) Anita Noble Nakpil (wife of Juan), Josefina Nakpil Tapales, Juan Nakpil, man with sunglasses unidentified (Third row, from left) Antonia Nakpil Escaler (cousin of Julio's children), Anita de Lange (sister-in-law of Francisca), Mercedes Nakpil Zialcita, Santa Claus, author’s mother Caridad Nakpil Santos-Viola
Quiet revolutionary: Julio Nakpil

Quiet revolutionary: Julio Nakpil

 

The Katipunan’s Lakambini: Gregoria de Jesus

The Katipunan’s Lakambini: Gregoria de Jesus

As told to Joy Rojas

My grandfather was Julio Nakpil, one of the trusted men of Andres Bonifacio during the revolution. He married Bonifacio’s wife, Gregoria de Jesus, the “mother of the Katipunan,” when she became the widow of Bonifacio. Of their eight children, six survived, and my mother, Caridad, was their youngest daughter. She and my father, the architect Carlos Santos-Viola, have five kids. I am their youngest girl, the “fourth Maria.”

Julio and Gregoria lived with his brothers and sisters in the house on Barbosa (now Bautista) Street, Quiapo, Manila, known as Bahay Nakpil-Bautista.

Designed in 1914 by architect Arcadio Arellano, the two-story house was built by Dr. Ariston Bautista, inventor of cholera medicine, and his wife, the painter Petrona Nakpil, eldest sister of my lolo Julio. Dr. Bautista and Petrona didn’t have children of their own, and philanthropist that he was, he let his brothers and sisters and their families live in the big house with them. I’d say there were about five families living in Bahay Nakpil-Bautista at one point. My grandfather and his youngest brother lived in the entre suelo, coming up from the zaguan or lower part of the house.

So you can just imagine what Christmases were like! I always looked forward to Christmas, and the sight of the four “lanterns” hanging right in front of the house—white tulip lanterns specially made with Japanese paper—got me all excited because it announced that we had finally arrived in the big house.

Get-togethers were always held on Christmas Day lunch, and the spread included pancit molo, which was very special because the cook always placed ham bones (pig’s knuckles) to make it tasty. Complete with shrimp, pork, and chicken, it’s very, very tasty. I love it! It’s one of my favorites. There was also ham, galantina (deboned and stuffed chicken), and cabeza de jabali (deboned pig’s head with chorizo de bilbao, pickles, egg, pig’s tongue, and pig’s ears rolled in katsa), and roast turkey. For dessert, we had homemade mantecado ice cream and fruit salad.

The recipes have since been passed on to the younger generations. My mom taught me how to make cabeza de jabali, and I taught my nephew, Dominic Faustino, how to cook it. He was featured on TV the other day with his cabeza de jabali.

Our Christmases were very bubbly and spirited celebrations of three generations. A big, long table would be for the older generation. Beside it, two tables near the windows were for the teenagers, and we, the magulo ones, were at the long table in the azotea.  These lunches lasted four to five hours, and we grew up bonding with each other, one big, happy family.

Each family was assigned to bring gifts for someone, and we would put the presents under a fresh and very tall Christmas tree next to the grand piano. (Lolo was a composer, and his hymn, Marangal na Dalit ng Katagaluhan, was meant to become the National Anthem.)

The highlight was us cousins forming a line to our lolo’s bedroom, where he gave us one- to two-peso coins

Was there music during these occasions? Maybe my cousins played the piano, but everybody was busy chatting with one another and we were too busy playing for me to notice. My sister, though, recalled that we always had a Christmas program, and I am trying hard to recall if I wore a costume.

The highlight of the occasion was us cousins forming a line to go down to our lolo’s bedroom, where he sat on a big chair and gave each of us one- to two-peso coins. The older ones got two pesos, and I must have been five or six at the time, so I got only one peso, which was already a big amount then! That was my historical moment with my lolo.

The family was in the jewelry business, and one of the other things I looked forward to was when the sister of my grandfather, my ninang Encarnacion, would pull me to a room where the pieces of jewelry were sold and give me a piece of jewelry as Christmas gift. Simple lang, mga pearl earrings, and a pearl ring whose pearl got lost. She loved me even if she was very strict, and I always looked forward to going near the cabinet where all the jewelry was kept.

I think I must have received my one-peso coin two or three times before lolo died in 1960 at the age of 93. But we were close to him. We would all be in the car when my father would drive him to Luneta, or to Baguio, where my uncle (National Artist for Architecture) Juan Nakpil built a house for him, and we would spend our summers there. So I got to know my lolo. He was a quiet and reserved man, but he would blurt out coño when he was annoyed. But he was very nice and I would ask myself, “Ito ba ang rebolusyonaryo?” Very peaceful. Always in a pensive mood.

After the last members of the family died (I believe it was Encarnacion and a sister-in-law, the wife of Ramon), my uncle Juan continued the tradition of celebrating Christmas in his house. When he died, our family reunions gradually diminished. My mother, her sisters, and some cousins tried to preserve the tradition and organized small reunions in Parañaque. But with the older generations gone, we hardly saw each other, except maybe on special occasions.

The Quiapo house, declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2011, is now a museum that displays keepsakes of the Katipunan and other reminders of the family’s history and legacy. My sister, Ma. Paz, manages the museum, and she’s doing her best to maintain it.

My Lola Oryang, who was a very good cook, and my mother, Iday, must be smiling every Christmas because we continue our family tradition

Five years ago, we had a reunion in the house to introduce it to the new generation. The clan is bigger now even as the older generation is gone, and we would need a gym to accommodate everyone. Another problem is parking. The neighborhood has become so congested, so it’s hard to plan a reunion there.

Still, many people want to visit and everyone who drops by is amazed to find a historical landmark in a busy and crowded neighborhood. And the students, naku! When they have school projects, they want to shoot their videos there. We’re happy that the younger generation is showing interest in history.

My Lola Oryang (Gregoria), who was a very good cook, and my mother, Iday, must be smiling every Christmas because we continue our Barbosa Street family tradition within our nuclear family in a simple way. I have been cooking galantina old style, as taught by my mother, passed on to her by my grandmother—deboned chicken, chopped ingredients, stuffed and wrapped in cheesecloth. My nephew, Dominic, cooks the cabeza de jabali and ham the way I taught him, as handed down by my mother and grandmother.

This is how we keep the Christmas spirit of our ancestors alive, by passing on family traditions, especially food that fortifies family bonding! Our family is always ready to celebrate the birthday of the One who brings us together in love, peace, and joy despite life’s difficulties—a lesson learned in Barbosa Street.

Generations old and new at the Ayala Foundation-sponsored celebration of Julio Nakpil’s 150th birthday in July 2017. The event showcased his musical composition.A 1930s Christmas with the matriarch, family members gather in the living room of the house. (First row, from left) Sons of Juan Nakpil: Francisco, Ariston, and Eulogio (Second row, from left) Josefina Nakpil Tapales, matriarch Petrona Nakpil Bautista, Encarnacion Nakpil Orense, Julia Nakpil Casas (Third row, from left) First cousins of the author: Marcedes Nakpil Zialcita, Antonia Nakpil Escaler, and Jose Nakpil; author’s mother Caridad Nakpil Santos-ViolaFollowing tradition, our ham, galantina, and cabeza de jabali are cooked using recipes from generations past.The author at her first Holy CommunionThe author as a little girl, showing off her dress

 

About author

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A graduate of St. Theresa’s College, she continues to serve the Queen of Peace ICM nuns of the school, she said, “completing the fullness of life’s circle after serving the youth in the school and the alumnae in our association.”

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