Hope for heritage: Quiapo resident renovates Hidalgo house into art gallery


PADILLA’S early work influenced by the spontaneous, highly charged, gestural style of his teacher, Rene Robles.

PADILLA’S enigmatic painting of two women has a contemplative quality.

Once majestic, the ancestral houses in Quiapo have fallen to urban decay. The affluent families have moved to Makati, leaving the old residences in disrepair and often rented out to lower-income families.

Amid the squalor,  the whitewashed façade of the Padilla residence stands out. Decked with vintage wrought-iron lamps, it glistens with romance at night, giving  hope to a decaying district.

Real-estate scion/artist Manuel Padilla renovated the ancestral home on Hidalgo Street into a gallery and retail space. His dream is to revive Quiapo and  turn it into a tourist destination similar to the white stone-house districts in Singapore or Seville.

When Padilla inherited the ancestral home from his father, he invested heavily in changing the roofs, salvaging the narra flooring, and transferring them to the façade, and changing capiz windows to antique stained-glass mosaic.

“The house was built in 1880 and was restored twice,” he said. “I inherited it from my father, Augusto. It was like Humpty Dumpty who fell from the wall.”

Fond memories

PADILLA’S work in progress—Chinatown in the 19th century

The second floor is being transformed into Padilla’s studio and  art gallery for students and artists who have no access to galleries. To keep the house alive, the first floor is rented out to shops such as La Pacita Biscuit, which was founded in 1904.

He maintained the black-and-white tiled floors on the ground floor; the narra doors, ventanillas; the  narrow staircase with its turned balusters and Art Deco  window grills. Everything else has been streamlined for easy maintenance.

Padilla has fond memories of  Quiapo. He would watch the throng of devotees in  the Black Nazarene procession from the capiz windows of his ancestral home and play at the neighboring pagoda house built by a cousin, Cañisa  Lanuza.

He plans invite his friends to experience the Quiapo he once knew.

ANTIQUE stained window panes brighten up the volada.

ORNATE vintage lamps adorn the façade.

After studying in Xavier, Padilla took up Physical Therapy at the University of Santo Tomas.

The older Padilla had wanted him to go to a medical school in Navarra. Instead, Padilla followed his heart and took up Industrial Design at Polytecnico de Valencia. There he learned to pick up the brush and sketch.

Upon returning to Manila in the ’80s, he ventured into creating computers. The competition with the mass-produced foreign brands was too stiff for  him to thrive. Padilla went into the family real-estate business.

Painting lessons

Meanwhile, he continued to pursue his artistic interest by taking painting lessons with Rene Robles and portraiture under Maridel Coching.

His style is characterized by complete freedom from rules and hasty, unplanned personal expression. His early abstractions were large-scale, free-wheeling, sweeping brushstrokes, some of which looked like happy accidents. Over time, Padilla showed more control of his technique with defined abstract images.

UNADORNED posts, clean lines and organic shapes on the grills depict geometric style of the Padilla ancestral home.

Padilla has been working on Filipiniana themes such as the Black Nazarene procession, a fiesta,  Masskara festival, and the Chinese New Year, all of which set in the 19th century and imbued with scenes of daily life.

One of the strongest pieces is the  orange-themed Binondo scene with dragon dances, vendors selling tikoy on the foreground, while boats on Manila Bay and the throng of  people in white heading toward  the church form the background.

THE HOUSE was restored in the early 20th century with Art Deco grills while retaining the ventanillas.

Then there’s another mural of the Nazarene being transported from the church.  In some works, the faces are still blank, waiting to be portraits of Padilla’s friends.

Padilla says he likes to work in series, as much as 20 pieces, just to get the canvas perfect.

Like his paintings, the gallery is a work in progress.  Padilla hopes the restoration of the ancestral home would remind people of the graciousness and urbanity of the past.

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  • akimaxx

    How did you transformed the walls for your painting spaces. And also the lightings. That would be some interesting images to see. 

  • Ivan Henares

    Bravo! Now we all know that there is hope. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar should stop claiming it is saving heritage. They are a plague to heritage streets like this, especially after constructing that horrible building along Hidalgo Street in the site where they ripped out the Enriquez Mansion.

    • MnlaBoy

      With all due respect to Sir Acuzar, credit should go to him for at least saving those houses, and showing Filipinos how beautiful those houses could be. 

      Unless a body can come up with a full restoration and preservation plan, what he did is good for now. 

      I’d rather see them there in Bataan with their dignity, than see them decay and neglected.

      • Maykatmon

        And you just stole the soul of Manila. It’s like favoring Balangiga’s Bells to remain in the United States.

      • adfads

         Ivan can buy them and keep them where they are. Go chubby Ivan, save them with your blog and european tours!

      • Maykatmon

        You learn a lot when you travel. I have been to Europe myself, and it was only after seeing these places how people marvel at the heritage of the cities I’ve visited did I learn a lot — that we’re missing a lot and how we’ve lost our soul. Progress doesn’t have to come at the expense of our history and heritage. But I guess it’s a cultural thing that Pinoys don’t know how to value their past and history, that’s why we’re always one step forward and two steps back.

    • Mac Mac

      are you talking about the Isabelle de hidalgo condo?aw..i knew that building is horrible but to know that they ripped out one ancestral house is even worst.. :(

    • Lito Tabuldan

      as an i architect, i strongly disagree with what happened to many heritage houses which were transported to acuzar….it was clearly evident that there were violations to Architectural Heritage Conservation R.A. 10066, Venice Charter, Burra Charter, Nara Charter and other laws…. accessories to the crime is also an architect…. you can’t call that preservation but prostitution. you can’t called that “concern” but opportunist, you can’t call that passion but self-interest. they ripped off the pieces of our cultural memoirs for the sake of money, fame and whatever they can call that. I wish that the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) should stepped into this matter and held liable those culprit. 

  • Jeffrey Yap

    Great! I will visit this gallery soon!

  • BacolodBoy

    wow we are proud of this effort and more to come please!!! congratulations….

  • sanjuan683

    Wow I will there and take snap shot. I like vintage house.

  • basilionisisa

    well done! will surely visit this… thanks!

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