Julio Nakpil was born as one of twelve children from a well-off family in the Quiapo district of Manila. His parents withdrew him from Escuela de Instruccion Primaria after two years and had him take over the family stable, making sure that their coachmen and stable boys were doing their work smoothly. Julio educated himself at home and eventually learned how to play the piano, as was proper for traditional families during that time. His passion for music was largely self-taught. Although he took violin lessons from Ramon Valdes and piano lessons from Manuel Mata, he spent more time practicing alone with these instruments, giving him the ability to interpret the music of classic legends like Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel, Philipp Fahrbach, and Josef Kaulich, among others.
In his desire to continue learning, he read Spanish books, novels, history books, the writings of Jose Rizal, and music discourse. His skill in playing the piano earned him an audience among the affluent, becoming a regular pianist Malacañang social functions. On April 27, 1888 he composed his first short polka piece for the piano called "Cefiro," which was followed with other pieces such as "Ilang-Ilang," "Recuerdos de Capiz," "Pahimakas," "Pasig Pantayanin," and "Biyak-na-Bato," to name a few. Nakpil later became a piano teacher and composed regularly.
During the Philippine Revolution, Nakpil served the country using the covert name "J. Giliw," as Secretary of Command for the revolutionary troops under Andres Bonifacio. Together with Supremo Isidro Francisco, he commanded the troops in the north of Manila. Nakpil's experience on the battlefield earned him the task of securing, purchasing and watching over the funds and weapons of the Katipunan.
Many of his compositions during this time were directly inspired by the Revolution. His composition "Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan" was a candidate to become the Philippine National Anthem, and was personally preferred by Bonifacio, but was ultimately rejected by General Emilio Aguinaldo in favor of Julian Felipe's "Lupang Hinirang". He later revised his piece and entitled it "Salve Patria". After Aguinaldo allegedly ordered Bonifacio's execution, Nakpil claimed to have received threats on his own life, as did General Antonio Luna, who ended up being betrayed and executed by Aguinaldo's men.
After the Revolution, Nakpil fell in love with and married Bonifacio's widow, Gregoria de Jesus. They had eight children but two died in infancy. They moved to Manila and raised their six children, one of whom married architect Carlos Santos-Viola.
Nakpil spent his remaining years in creating compositions and writing his memoirs of the Philippine Revolution, until his death in 1960.
Awards and recognitions
Among his expository works were "Luz Poetica de la Aurora," "Recuerdos de Capiz" and "Exposicion Regional Filipina," all of which were given a diploma of honor from the Exposicion Regional Filipina in 1895. He was also awarded a diploma and bronze medal from the Exposition of Hanoi in 1902, a diploma and silver medal from the St. Louis International Exposition in the U.S. in 1904, and a medal and citation from the Civic Assembly of Women in 1954.
In 1963 he was given a posthumous award by the Bonifacio Centennial Commission in recognition of his patriotism. In 1964, a memoir entitled Julio Nakpil and the Philippine Revolution was published by his heirs.
Alzona, Encarnacion (1964). Julio Nakpil and the Philippine Revolution. Carmelo and Bauermann, Inc.