Gabriela Silang

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María Josefa Gabriela Cariño Silang
GabrielaSilangbyCarlito Rovira.gif
2007 Portrait of Gabriela Silang by Carlito Rovira
Born 19 March 1731
Santa, Ilocos Sur
Died 20 September 1763 (aged 32)
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Other names Gabriela Silang
la Generala
Joan of Arc of Ilocandia
Juana Azurduy of the Far East
Spouse(s) Tomás Millan (1751-1754)
Diego Silang (1757-63)

María Josefa Gabriela Cariño Silang (19 March 1731 – 20 September 1763) was a Filipino revolutionary leader and the wife of the Ilocano insurgent leader, Diego Silang. Following Diego's assassination in 1763, she led the insurgency for four months before she was captured and executed by the colonial government of the Spanish East Indies.


Early Life[edit]

Gabriela Silang (March 19, 1731 – September 20, 1763), born Maria Josefa Gabriela Cariño, was born in Barangay Caniogan, Santa, Ilocos Sur to an Ilocano father and an Itneg mother. She had a Christian upbringing through the priest of the town’s parish, and attained elementary level education at her town’s convent school. After being separated from her mother early in her childhood, she was raised by her father who eventually arranged a marriage between her and the wealthy businessman Tomás Millan. They married in 1751, and he died three years later. [1]

Relationship with Diego Silang[edit]

After being widowed by her first husband, Gabriela met insurgent leader Diego Silang and married him in 1757. In 1762, as part of what would later be known as the Seven Years' War, Britain declared war on Spain, which caused the British occupation of the Philippines. After British naval forces captured Manila in October 1762, an emboldened Diego sought to initiate an armed struggle to overthrow the Spanish functionaries in Ilocos and replace them with native-born officials. He collaborated with the British occupiers, who appointed him governor of the Ilocos region on their behalf and promised military reinforcement to help in the fight against the Spanish. This reinforcement was, however, never delivered. During this revolt, Gabriela became one of Diego's closest advisors and his unofficial aide-de-camp during skirmishes with Spanish troops. She was also a major figure in her husband's collaboration with the British occupiers. Spanish authorities retaliated by offering a reward for Diego’s assassination. Consequently, his two former allies Miguel Vicos and Pedro Becbec killed him in Vigan on May 28, 1763. [2]

Revolutionary Leadership[edit]

After Diego’s assassination, Gabriela fled to Tayum, Abra to seek refuge in the house of her paternal uncle, Nicolas Cariño. She later assumed her husband's role as commander of the rebel troops and achieved a “priestess” status amongst her community and followers. Her popular image as the bolo-wielding "la Generala" on horseback stems from this period. On September 10, 1763, Silang tried to besiege Vigan but the Spanish fought against her, forcing her into hiding. She retreated to Abra where the Spanish later captured her. On September 20, 1763, Silang and her troops were executed by hanging in Vigan's central plaza. [3]


A list of the closest-living relatives of Gabriela Cariño Silang through her paternal uncle, Nicolas Cariño:

  • Former ambassador Rosario Cariño
  • Ambassador José María Cariño
  • Dion Cariño
  • Nehemiah Cariño
  • Jan Philippe Cariño
  • Felipe Cariño
  • Gloman Merritt
  • Glozy Merritt
  • Carlo Antonio Cariño Diy

Some of Silang's living relations still reside in the ancestral house at the Cariño family seat of Tayum. The house, now a museum and art gallery called the Casa Museo Cariño, is maintained by Rosario Cariño. Among the rooms on display is the one used by Silang as her headquarters when she fled there after Diego's murder in 1763.

Memorials and legacy[edit]

  • The Order of Gabriela Silang is the sole third class national decoration awarded by the Philippines, and whose membership is restricted to women.
  • In memory of Silang, the provincial hospital of Ilocos Sur was named the Gabriela Silang General Hospital.
  • The organisation and party list GABRIELA ("General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action"), which advocate's women's rights and issues, was founded in April 1984 in her honour.
  • A statue of Silang on horseback was installed by the Zóbel de Ayala Family at the corner of Ayala and Makati avenues in Makati City, the nation's financial centre. The metal monument was cast by José M. Mendoza in 1971, and was inaugurated by Silang's descendants Gloria Cariño and Mario Cariño Merritt.
  • Another monument stands in the town plaza of Pidigan, Abra, as a reminder of the heroine, whom the town claims as a native.
  • The Tangadan Welcome Tunnel in Abra now has the Gabriela Silang Memorial Park with a monument to the heroine.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Bonnie G. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.
  2. ^ Commire, Anne, and Deborah Klezmer. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 2002. Print.
  3. ^ Commire, Anne, and Deborah Klezmer. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 2002. Print.
  • Zaide, Gregorio F. (1984). Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press. 
  • Rosario Cariño 6th generation great-grandson
  • Gloman Merritt 8th generation great-grandson
  • Carlo Antonio Diy 8th generation. Grandson of Ambassador Rosario Carino and nephew of Ambassador Jose Maria Carino.