Don Rafael Enriquez, a famous painter during his time, was the original owner of Casa Quiapo, also called Casa Hidalgo. Designed by the first Filipino to practice architecture in the country, Felix Roxas y Arroyo, the home was constructed in 1867. Located in Calle San Sebastian, now R. Hidalgo St. in Quiapo, the mansion was considered as one of the most elegant houses in Manila in the late 19th century. It was later used as the first campus of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts (U.P.) from 1908 to 1926 with Enriquez as its director. Young artists used to train in Casa Quiapo’s entrezuelo (mezzanine), notable among them were Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo. Outstanding students from this school were Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino, both became National Artists of the Philippines for painting and sculpture, respectively.
When the U.P. School of Fine Arts was transferred to Padre Faura St. in Manila, the mansion was converted to accommodate various businesses. In particular, it became a bowling center, dormitory, restaurant, even an abortion clinic and a space for live shows before homeless families took over the house. For a time, it also unbelievably housed 300 families.
Casa Quiapo was reconstructed in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in 2006 and became the Escuela de Bellas Artes contemporary art space in 2013 under the foundation of Bellas Artes Projects. Former BAP Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt curated exhibitions within the 192-square foot space between 2016-2018. Starting July 2018, BAP’s newly appointed Artistic Director, Inti Guerrero will invite artists for exhibitions that rotate throughout the year.
The resident artists will be housed in their own original Cagayan Houses, which were the first historical properties to be transferred to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. These buildings originate from the Cagayan Valley, the farthest north region in the Philippines. The four Cagayan houses are considered to be the everyman’s home during the Spanish era. With stones being the expensive material during the Spanish era, the original Cagayan houses utilize narrow bamboo to create a tall and sturdy foundation. Despite the simplistic design of the Cagayan house, wood serve as a function, as the cool breeze pass in between the planks and inside the silong or storage.