Diego Silang and Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang
The first major revolution waged against the
Spaniards was waged by the Silangs during the time of
the British forces’ military incursion in the
Philippines which began in September 1762.
It was the period of the Seven Year’s War between the
British and the French, who were aided by Spain.
October 1762, the British expeditionary forces from
India occupied Manila in retaliation to Spain’s alliance
with France, and sought to take control of the other
provinces of the Philippines.
Diego Silang saw this as the opportune time to lead an
Ilocano revolt against the weakened Spanish forces.
Ilocanos have suffered long the unreasonable taxes, free
labor for the construction of religious and
administrative structures and the suppressive monopolies
that the Spaniards imposed upon the populace.
why they were quick to respond to the call for
Diego Silang’s aim was the creation of an Ilocano
nation. This vision began when he personally witnessed
the many abuses of the Spanish government and the Roman
Catholic Church not only in Ilocos but wherever he
traveled as courier for Vigan’s parish priest,
delivering letters and documents to Manila and back.
Having failed in negotiations with the Spanish
authorities to establish a government in Ilocos with
Ilocano functionaries, Diego Silang worked with the
British forces to defeat the Spanish in the North.
already had control of Vigan in December of 1762. He was
promised military assistance by the British to
strengthen his hold and complete his plan, which
unfortunately never came.
Diego Silang was later killed by Miguel Vicos, a friend
who was a mestizo (mix blood of Spanish and Ilocano).
Vicos carried out his assassination of Diego during his
visit to the latter’s house, accompanied by another of
Diego’s friend Pedro Becbec. The traitorous act was of
course instigated by the Spanish church and government
Diego’s cause did not die with him, however. His wife,
Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang, continued his
Her valiant efforts were overpowered by massive forces
set upon her, forcing her retreat to Abra. She tried to
lead her army back to Vigan but was again repelled. She
was captured and put to death publicly by hanging in
September 1763. Almost a hundred of her followers were
also publicly hanged to serve as a warning to the
She is now remembered in Philippine history as the
country’s Joan of Arc and first female leader for
Filipino liberation. Her furious ride towards Vigan is
immortalized in many statues all over the country
erected in memory of her courage and sacrifice. She
rejoined her husband only four months after his death.