Art contests became the main event in special celebrations when artists of Quiapo captured top prizes. Filipino artists were also getting recognition in Europe. Encouraged by this, parents who recognized their children’s artistic inclinations, sent them to the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura (Academy of Drawing and Painting), while some families hired tutors.
Petrona, then 19 years of age, might have studied under one of its private tutors since women were not allowed to enrol at the Academia. For this reason art tutorials were especially popular for young girls. During the last three final exhibitions of that century, the artists of Quiapo dominated the scene, mostly women.
While Carmen Zaragoza took the First Prize and a certificate in the first exhibition on December 1891, Petrona Nakpil y Garcia placed Fourth Honorable Mention for her landscape in oil. She was 30.
In 1892, the second of the three exhibits which fell on the quadricentennial celebration of the discovery of north America in 1492 included a literary musical, and an art contest. Petrona submitted her entries but did not win. The jurors announced Carmen Zaragoza as winner of the First Prize for her painting, “Dos Intelligencias.”
The last of the exhibits took place a year before the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution, on 23 January 1895. This was the Exposicion Regional de Filipinas. Various categories in which the country excelled were represented. In the fine arts category of painting, fifteen women artists participated. Five of them won medals and four won honorable mentions. Three artists came from Quiapo.
One of them was Petrona Nakpil, now 34. Her entries were three paintings in oil. One was a landscape, while the remaining two were described as “executed on a painter’s palette”. She used the pseudonym “Ana Capili” in her entries.
With the fall of the Spanish regime, the Escuela de Bellas Artes y Dibujo closed, and during the American occupation art classes were conducted privately in the homes of prominent painters. But artists resumed their activities.
In 1904, artworks were collected from artists all over the country, and were entered in the St. Louis Exposition, U. S. A. The name of Petrona Nakpil is listed in the art catalogue as “Petrona Nakpil de Bautista”. Petrona submitted two oil paintings Natives [sic] at Work in House and A Native House.
Petrona was now 33 and married to Dr. Ariston Bautista, an avid art collector himself. It is said that she ornamented her own wedding dress with hand-painted flowers.