Diego A. Silang
|16 December 1730 – 28 May 1763|
|Place of birth:||Caba, La Union|
|Place of death:||Vigan, Ilocos Sur|
|Mother:||Nicolasa de los Santos|
|Spouse:||Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang|
Early life and education
Silang was born on 16 December 1730 in what is now Caba, La Union. His parents were Miguel Silang and Nicolasa de los Santos, who belonged to the principalia, a privileged upper class during the Spanish times. Silang was baptized on 7 January 1731 with the name Diego Baltazar.
As a boy, Silang served under the parish priest of Vigan by doing errands. On one of his trips to Manila, the boat he took was raided and he was taken prisoner and made into a slave. He served his captors and accompanied them in their succeeding raids. Not soon after, an Agustinian Recollect priest learned about his fate, paid his ransom, and took him in. He served the priest for a while before he returned to his birthplace, where he then continued his service to the parish priest of Vigan carrying mail to and from Manila.
None is known of Silang’s formal education. Nevertheless, he knew how to speak Spanish and learned how to read a little.
The British invasion
On 22 September 1762, Silang witnessed the invasion of Manila by the British fleet, when Great Britain launched an assault against Spain following the latter’s alliance with France in the Seven Years’ War. Silang left Manila for Ilocos but stayed for a while with his relatives in Pangasinan. It was during this time that he learned about the socio-political conditions that caused discontent among the people of the province and the revolt they were planning.
Upon his return to Vigan, Silang slowly spread news about what was happening in Manila and Pangasinan. He held meetings day and night where he accused the British of being heretics who would rob the Ilocanos of their Catholic faith. He persuaded the masses to take up arms against the British forces. Aside from that, he convinced them that there was no need to pay tributes to the Spanish authorities after the invasion of Manila.
Silang’s propaganda continued to spread like wildfire and was widely received in Vigan. The town’s mayor, Antonio Zabala, sent Silang to prison and ordered him whipped; however, the whipping did not take place due to the intervention of Provisor Tomas Millan, who was the foster father of Silang's wife. Silang was set free and he continued with his propaganda movement discreetly. He was able to gain the allegiance of revolutionary leaders from Abra, Laoag, Paoay, and Batac.
On 14 December 1762, Silang’s followers gathered before the house of Mayor Antonio Zabala, who fled after seeing the number of people demanding that he relinquish the staff of authority to Provisor Millan. Next, the crowd went to the bishop’s place and demanded the cessation of tributes and abolition of personal services from Bishop Bernardo Ustariz, as well as the delivery to them of arms to use against the British. All Spanish people and mestizos, except for four persons, were banished from Vigan and Silang was made chief, thus becoming the leader of Vigan.
Meanwhile, Governor General Simon de Anda Salazar received news of what was happening in Vigan and declared Silang an outlaw. The edict, issued on 1 February 1763, ordered Silang to surrender to the authorities. Instead of doing so, he sought the help of the British forces in protection against the governor general’s wrath. While the British accepted his allegiance, no reinforcement came except for a small cannon which served as a token of friendship.
Silang never wanted to hurt the Spanish clergymen. In fact, no clergyman was killed or harmed during his revolt. He was only against the unjust practices of the Spanish administration. He sent a letter to the clergy asking for a conference with them to discuss matters. The clergy did not trust his intentions, and instead hired Miguel Vicos to assassinate him.
On 28 May 1763, between two and four o’clock in the afternoon, Silang was shot in the back by Vicos. He died in his wife’s arms.
Family and personal life
In 1857, Silang married the young widow Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang, foster daughter of Provisor Millan. His wife continued to lead the revolt even after his death, but was eventually caught by the Spanish authorities and was hanged in Vigan.
- Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1955.
- Zaide, Gregorio F.. Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press, 1984.
- “Diego Silang.” Philippine Revolution. (Accessed 31 May 2010).