By Walter Ang
April 6, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Several factors immediately came into play. First, the operative term being "free", who could turn down the opportunity? Second, I was bored out of my mind and was looking for something to do. Third, I'd never really paid any particular attention to the peculiarities of Quiapo before. I'd venture there occasionally on an errand of some sort, but never really relishing the character of the place. So here was a chance to go and maybe take a closer look.
Since the weather wasn't too bad, we decided to make the afternoon more interesting by walking to our destination. A walking trip in dirty, dusty downtown Manila? We must've been really bored, or really crazy.
We got off our jeepney on Recto and took a turn into Evangelista street, taking our time ogling the wares and merchandise. From second hand typewriters to mystic pendants, my favorite merchandise of the day turned out to be pamparegla. Herbal concoctions sold in old recycled gin bottles labeled with photocopies of an original printout from some arcane WordStar version.
A literal translation of pamparegla is "to induce menstruation." Apparently women are supposed to use this clear colorless liquid to get them back on schedule if they happen to be late. However, popular culture connotes this solution with darker undertones. You know what I mean.
I started to wonder if it was more embarrassing for me or my friend every time the ladies who sold the stuff would ever-so-innocently (actually, suspiciously was more likely) look up at us and ask, "Pamparegla?". We'd pretended not to hear and resolved to move on to our final destination.
We arrived at the "old house" which was Bahay Nakpil Bautista, a house left over from the Spanish era tucked into one of the cul-de-sacs of Quiapo. Formerly owned by Julio Nakpil, who married Gregoria de Jesus after she was widowed from Andres Bonifacio, it's now owned and run by his heirs.
Bahay Nakpil sticks out as the only Spanish era styled house along this tiny little street. A well kept secret in a loud, crowded, bustling area that really shouldn't be a secret at all.
It feels good to know there are people concerned enough to preserve some of our cultural and architectural heritage in this quickly decaying urban jungle. Even without any subsidies, the house has been reborn as a museum. Bahay Nakpil has artifacts on display, reading materials, and offers walking tours of Quiapo and other special events.
House of spirits
The stately house also has rooms that doubles as performance areas with a more intimate setting. The performance we went to see was held in the old sala of the house, just like in the tradition of olden days where, instead of surfing cable television and mindlessly texting the person sitting next to you, guests and family were entertained with singing, poetry reading and other substantial activities.
Since the actual performance didn't begin until early evening, we were even able to catch a glimpse of Quiapo basking in the orange glow of the setting sun. It was great to see the people settling down while the area took on a new atmosphere under the electric lights of streetlights and billboards.
Aside from the unique view, external factors made the evening's performance even more interesting. With large windows opening to the sidewalk, passers-by could see into the sala and would let out comments like "What's going on up there?" Also, every once in a while, a group of men two houses down the street would let out a collective cheer as there was a off-track betting kiosk doing brisk business.
A live, interactive escapade in an otherworldly setting! With this kind of multimedia, multisensory experience, playing the latest dance revolution game definitely pales in comparison. Bahay Nakpil is a great place to go if you feel like having a piece of history, a little adventure, or both. With summer around the corner and school out of the way, there'll be no reason to get bored because there's no better time and to go and visit!
For details on Bahay Nakpil, call Tessie at 734-9341.