Julio Garcia Nakpil was born in Quiapo, Manila on 22 May 1867. His parents were Juan Nakpil y Luna and Juana Garcia y Putco. Julio was the fourth of their twelve children. His father earned a liviing as a musician who played flute with a local orchestra during fiestas and family occasions. He later became a jeweller and his workshop in Quiapo became popular among the rich.
Nakpil took violin and piano lessons when he was younger, although he spent more time learning these instruments by himself which eventually led him to interpreting the works of composers such as Johann Strauss (waltz), Emile Waldeufel (walts and polka dance music), Philipp Fahrbach (Viennese dance and army band music), and Josef Kaulich (polka mazurka stage music). He became very popular among the rich that he was able to earn some money. He was also a regular pianist in the Malacanang Palace's social functions. Julio went on to teach piano himself and most of his students came from affluent families.
In 27 April 1888, he composed his first piece, a short polka piece for the piano called Cefiro after which, he composed several others such as Ilang-Ilang, Recuerdos de Capiz, Pahimakas, Pasig Pantayanin and Biyak-na-Bato.
At the age of 29, Nakpil served as the Secretary of Command under Andres Bonifacio using a covert name, J. Giliw. Upon the request of Bonifacio, Nakpil composed and wrote the lyrics of a national anthem called Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan. Unfortunately, General Emilio Aguinaldo preferred the work of a Caviteno name Julian Felipe. Felipe's piece later became Lupang Hinirang, the national anthem of the Philippines.
Several of Nakpil's compositions were inspired by the revolutionaries' struggle to regain freedom for the country. He admired Jose Rizal and he based his composition Amor Patrio on Rizal's famous novel Noli Me Tangere.
Julio Nakpil died on 2 November 1960.