Gabriela Silang

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Gabriela Silang
María Josefa Gabriela Cariño

March 19, 1731
Died20 September 1763 (aged 32)
Other namesGabriela Silang
La Generala
Joan of Arc of Ilocandia
Spouse(s)Diego Silang (1757–63)
  • Anselmo Cariño (father)

María Josefa Gabriela Cariño de Silang (19 March 1731 – 20 September 1763) was a Filipina revolutionary leader best known as the first female leader of an Ilocano movement for independence from Spain.[1] She took over the reins of her husband Diego Silang's revolutionary movement after his assassination in 1763, leading the Ilocano rebel movement 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 a Spanish Ilocano father named Anselmo Cariño, a trader who ferried his wares from Vigan to Abra along the Abra River and a descendant of Ignacio Cariño, the first Galician from Spain to arrive in Candon, Ilocos Sur the in late 17th century. Her mother was a Tinguian who was from a Tinguian barrio in San Quintin, Abra (now Pidigan).[2]

She received a Christian upbringing from the town's parish priest, and attained elementary level education at the town's convent school. After being separated from her parents early in her childhood, she was raised by a priest, who eventually arranged a marriage between her and the wealthy businessman. They married in 1751, and he died three years later.[3]

Revolutionary involvement[edit]

Relationship with Diego Silang[edit]

Statue of Gabriela Silang

After being widowed by her first husband, Gabriela met future 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.[4]

Revolutionary leadership in Abra[edit]

After Diego’s assassination, Gabriela fled to Tayum, Abra to seek refuge in the house of her paternal uncle, Nicolas Cariño. There, she appointed her first two generals, Miguel Flores and Tagabuen Infiel.[2] 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.

Assault on Vigan and Execution[edit]

On September 10, 1763, Silang tried to besiege Vigan but the Spanish retaliated, forcing her into hiding. She retreated once more 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.[4]


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

  • H. E. Ambassador Rosario Cariño (Retired)
  • Ambassador José Maria Ancheta Cariño
  • Dion Cariño
  • Rosarito A. Cariño
  • Nehemiah Cariño
  • Jan Philippe Cariño
  • Felipe Cariño
  • Sergio Cariño
  • John Leonard Cariño
  • Jose Angelo Cariño
  • Gloman Merritt[5]
  • Glozy Merritt
  • Princess Mynn Hosea Merritt
  • Materno Marcos ma. Guzman Carino
  • Carlo Antonio Cariño Diy
  • Rolando A. Cariño
  • Donya Soccoro Cariño De Leon
  • Elizabeth Cariño De Leon
  • Hermoso Cariño De Leon Jr.
  • Dr. Noel Cariño De Leon
  • Jocelyn Cariño De Leon
  • Jasper De Leon De Jesus
  • Jizyt De Leon De Jesus
  • Jinkyl De Leon De Jesus
  • Jixtryl De Leon De Jesus
  • Eva Cariño
  • Robin Cariño Padilla
  • Adelaida Cariño

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 H. E. Ambassador Rosario Cariño. Among the rooms on display is the bedroom of Gabriela Cariño Silang while she used the house of her uncle, Nicolas Cariño, as her headquarters when she fled after Diego's murder in 1763.[6]

Memorials and legacy[edit]

Gabriela Silang on a 1974 stamp of the Philippines
  • 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.[7]
  • Another monument stands in the town plaza of Pidigan, Abra, as a reminder of the heroine, whom the town claims as a native.[8]
  • The Tangadan Welcome Tunnel in Abra now has the Gabriela Silang Memorial Park with a monument to the heroine.[8]
  • The BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) is named after her.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Diego Silang and Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang -".
  2. ^ a b Rosarito A. Cariño 7th generation great-grandson and Museum Curator of Gabriela Cariño- Silang Gallery of Fine Arts and Museo Nicolas Cariño
  3. ^ Smith, Bonnie G. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.
  4. ^ a b Commire, Anne, and Deborah Klezmer. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 2002. Print.
  5. ^ "Gloman Merritt – Official Site".
  6. ^ Rosarito A. Cariño 7th generation great-grandson and Museum Curator of Gabriela Cariño- Silang Gallery of Fine Arts and Museo Nicolas Cariño and Gloman Merritt 8th generation great-grandson.
  7. ^ "Gabriela Silang Monument - Ayala Triangle".
  8. ^ a b Gloman Merritt 8th generation great-grandson

External links and further reading[edit]