Julio Nakpil was born as one of twelve children to a well-off family in Quiapo district of Manila. His parents withdrew him from formal schooling after two years and had him look over the family stable. Julio educated himself at home and eventually learned how to play the piano as was proper for traditional families during the time. His skill at the piano earned him an audience with the affluent, and later inspired him to compose his first piece – a polka – in 1888. Julio later became a piano teacher and composed regularly.
Further information: Philippine Revolution
During the Philippine Revolution, Julio served as a commander for revolutionary troops in the northern Philippines under Andrés Bonifacio. Many of Julio’s compositions during this time were inspired directly by the Revolution. Julio also composed a candidate for the Philippine national anthem preferred by Bonifacio but was ultimately rejected for Lupang Hinirang. After Emilio Aguinaldo allegedly ordered Bonifacio executed, Nakpil claimed to have received threats on his own life as well as that of General Antonio Luna, the latter ending up betrayed and executed by Aguinaldo’s men.
After the Revolution, Nakpil fell in love with and eventually married Bonifacio’s widow Gregoria de Jesús. They moved to Manila and raised six children, one of whom married the architect Carlos Santos-Viola. Julio continued to compose until his death in 1960. Before his death he also contributed to a book on his life that was published by his heirs in 1964. In his memoirs titled ‘Apuntes Sobre la Revolución Filipina (Notes on the Philippine Revolution), Nakpil wrote “I swear before God and before History that everything related in these notes is the truth and I entreat the historian not to publish this until after my death.” On page 30 of his memoirs can be found Nakpil’s notes on the death of Bonifacio, and on page 130 is his account of the assassination of Antonio Luna where Nakpil wrote “When General A. Luna was dastardly assassinated on the stairs of the Convent of Kabanatuan and already fallen on the ground, the mother of Emilio Aguinaldo looked out the window and asked: ‘Ano, humihinga pa ba?'(So, is he still breathing?)”
On pages 157-158, Nakpil wrote of Aguinaldo, “Emilio Aguinaldo’s surrender to the Americans was a cowardly act. There was no doubt that he coveted the presidency. He surrendered for fear that others more competent than he would occupy the post of president of the Republic. Had he fought with his captors, regardless of whether he succumbed so that he might be considered a hero, at least to vindicate his crimes, by this time we would be admiring a monument to the second hero of the Philippines, unlike what he did delivering himself as prisoner and afterward taking an oath of allegiance to the American flag.
The crimes he committed against Andrés Bonifacio and Antonio Luna, and his attempt to assassinate the undersigned [Julio Nakpil] should be condemned by history, and Universal Freemasonry ought to expel him and declare him a spurious son. The coward finds many dangers where none exist!” The house where Nakpil and de Jesús lived, known as “Bahay Nakpil”, still stands in Quiapo and is maintained by his heirs as a museum that also offers walking tours of Quiapo and other special events and doubles as a performance area. “Bahay Nakpil” is the only Spanish-style building left standing in Quiapo.
Julián Felipe (January 28, 1861 – October 2, 1944), was the composer of the music of the Filipino national anthem, formerly known as “Marcha Nacional Magdalo”, now known as Lupang Hinirang.
He was born in Cavite City, Cavite. A dedicated music teacher and composer, he was appointed by then-President Emilio Aguinaldo as Director of the National Band of the First Philippine Republic. He died in Manila. He studied at a public school in Cavite and Binondo, Manila for his primary education. At an early age, he showed his talent in music. He also learned how to play the piano and the organ. Later, He became an organist in St. Peter’s Parish Church. As an organist, Felipe was given the chance to hone his gift. Soon after he was composing songs. Among his early popular compositions were Moteti el Santesisimo, Sintos y Floras Rogodones, Amorita Danza and Reina de Cavite (In honor of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga). He impressed many music enthusiasts with the said pieces. Though still young, his works were already at par with the seasoned musicians. In recognition of his remarkable contributions in the field of music, he was given awards and accolades.
Involvement in the Philippine Revolution
When the revolution broke out, Julian joined his fellow Cavitenos who fought against the Spaniards. He was arrested and jailed at Fort San Felipe in Cavite. When freed, he again joined Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s troop. He composed nationalistic songs that inspired his compatriots to continue fighting against the Spaniards. A bust of Felipe can be found in Cavite City, located near San Sebastian College – Recoletos de Cavite. National Anthem
Gen. Aguinaldo asked him to provide a stirring composition to be played in the historic proclamation of Philippine independence. His composition ‘Marcha Nacional Filipina’, played on June 12, 1898 in Aguinaldo’s home in Kawit, was adopted as the Philippine national anthem on September 5, 1938.
Julian and his wife Irene Tapia had four daughters and a son. Julian died on October 2, 1944, at age of 83.
Nicanor Sta. Ana Abelardo (February 7, 1893 – March 21, 1934) was a Filipino composer known for his Kundiman songs, especially before the Second World War. Life Abelardo was born in San Miguel de Mayumo, Bulacan. His mother belonged to a family of artists in Guagua, the Hensons. He was introduced to music when he was five years old, when his father taught him the solfeggio and the banduria. At the age of 8, he was able to compose his estoryahe first work, a waltz entitled “Ang Unang Buko,” which was dedicated to his grandmother. At the age of 13, he was already playing at saloons and cabarets in Manila. At age 15, he was already teaching in barrio schools in San Ildefonso and San Miguel Bulacan. All of these happened even before young Abelardo finally took up courses under Guy F. Harrison and Robert Schofield at the UP Conservatory of Music in 1916. By 1924, following a teacher’s certificate in science and composition received in 1921, he was appointed head of the composition department at the Conservatory.
Years later, he ran a boarding school for young musicians, and among his students were National Artist Antonino Buenaventura, Alfredo Lozano and Lucino Sacramento. In the field of composition he is known for his redefinition of the kundiman, bringing the genre to art-song status. Among his works were “Nasaan Ka Irog,” “Magbalik Ka Hirang,” and “Himutok.” He died in 1934 at the age of 41, leaving a collection of more than 140 works. As a composition major at the University of the Philippines, he also composed the melody for the university’s official anthem, U.P. Naming Mahal. The building housing the College of Music in UP Diliman (Abelardo Hall) is named in his honor. The Main theatre of the Cultural Center of the Philippines is named in his honor ( Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo)..
Ernani Joson Cuenco (May 10, 1936) was a Filipino composer, film scorer, musical director and music teacher. He wrote an outstanding and memorable body of works that resonate with the Filipino sense of musicality and which embody an ingenious voice that raises the aesthetic dimensions of contemporary Filipino music. Cuenco played with the Filipino Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Manila Symphony Orchestra from 1960 to 1968, and the Manila Chamber Soloists from 1966 to 1970. He completed a music degree in piano and cello from the University of Santo Tomas where he also taught for decades until his death in 1988. His songwriting credits include “Nahan, Kahit na Magtiis,” and “Diligin Mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa,” “Pilipinas,” “Inang Bayan,” “Isang Dalangin,” “Kalesa,” “Bato sa Buhangin” and “Gaano Kita Kamahal.” The latter song shows how Cuenco enriched the Filipino love ballad by adding the elements of kundiman to it.