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
Joan of Arc of Ilocandia
Spouse(s) Tomás Millan (1751-1754)
Diego Silang (1757-63)

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


Born in what is now Barangay Caniogan, Santa, Ilocos Sur, María Josefa Gabriela Cariño was of Ilocano descent. The people of neighbouring Abra claim she was born in what is now Pidigan; Santa and Pidigan are in proximity to each other, and Abra was not incorporated as a province until the early 20th century. Gabriela is reported to have been born to an Anselmo Cariño and a Tinguian maid in the Cariño household. Her grandfather, Ignacio, was a Galician who arrived in Candon sometime in the late 17th century.

Cariño was adopted by the rich businessman Tomás Millan, whom she later wed at the age of 20, and she was widowed three years later. In 1757, she re-married, this time to 27-year-old insurgent leader, Diego Silang, whose group aimed to secure the independence of Ilocos from the Spanish Empire through armed struggle. She became one of his 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 Kingdom of Great Britain and the brief expulsion of Spanish officials from Vigan, Ilocos Sur during the British occupation of the Philippines.

When Diego was assassinated by Spanish collaborators, she fled to Tayum and sought refuge in the house of her father's brother, Nicolas Cariño. The widowed Gabriela later assumed her husband's role as commander of rebel troops, and her popular image as the bolo knife-wielding "la Generala" on horseback stems from this period. Silang attempted to besiege Vigan on 10 September 1763, but Spanish colonial forces repulsed her and forced her into hiding. She was later captured and executed by hanging in Vigan's central plaza on 20 September, reputedly after watching all her men die ahead of her.[1]

As a Leader[edit]

The assassination demoralized Diego's followers. By her own initiative, Gabriela fearlessly took over the leadership. With the remaining 200 followers of her husband, she raided the Spanish troops along the Ilocos coast. Their victories inspired them to undertake a bigger attack to liberate Vigan, the capital of Ilocos Sur. The revolutionaries numbered 2,000 by then. [2]


A list of the closest living descendants of Gabriela Cariño Silang through her 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 Gabriela'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 currently maintained by Rosario. Among the rooms on display is the one used by Gabriela 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. ^ "Gabriela Silang 1731- 1763" (Web log). 7 November 2013. p. Women in History. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Diaz ICM, Josefina C.(1997). Kababaiyan Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan Filipino Women in Struggle for Freedom. Socio-Pastoral Institute. ISBN 971-8721-01-0
  • 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.