Gabriela Silang face in age of computers
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—A lighter skinned and comely woman may be the features of heroine Gabriela Silang, who is associated with feminist activism.
A team of fine arts students and volunteer researchers of the General Emilio Aguinaldo Foundation Inc. has unveiled its first attempt at reconstructing the features of Silang, widow of Ilocos revolutionary Diego Silang, who took up the fight against Spanish colonizers after her husband’s assassination in the 18th century.
Silang’s name is identified with gender rights advocates and now party-list group Gabriela, which was organized in 1984 by women who opposed the Marcos dictatorship.
Because she lived in an era that preceded the invention of photography, Silang is often portrayed by illustrators or sculptors as a bolo-wielding warrior woman astride a horse, said Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay III, great grandson of Aguinaldo.
Pantheon of heroes
Suntay oversees the Aguinaldo Museum here which hosts what the family believes to be the original Philippine flag that Aguinaldo unfurled during the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898.
Suntay said the museum was preparing to install a statue of Silang, making her part of a pantheon of heroes on display there. “But we realized we didn’t have an accurate image of Gabriela,” he said.
The Aguinaldo foundation had commissioned a statue from a sculptor in 2014 but had not been satisfied by the results. “Where was the grieving young woman who lost a husband? Where was the Tingguian heroine?” Suntay said.
Silang was born on March 19, 1731, in Santa town, Ilocos Sur province. Her father was an Ilocos Sur trader while her mother was a Tingguian laundrywoman from Abra province.
“So we reached out to the descendants of Gabriela Silang here and in Ilocos Sur,” Suntay said.
By comparing the features of her descendants, using sample photographs provided by relatives, and those of a Tingguian community, University of the Philippines fine arts students Leon Eros Halabaso and Veii Rehanne Martinez used computer imaging to make a three-dimensional image of what could be Silang’s true features.
“This project may appear to be nothing more than a scholarly undertaking, something to satisfy our inquisitiveness, but this generation of Filipinos has become interested in revolutionary heroes again,” Suntay said.
Movies like last year’s blockbuster “Heneral Luna,” a biographical depiction of General Antonio Luna’s revolutionary life, have awakened a curiosity about Filipino heroes, he said, “so we wanted to draw their interest to a Northern Luzon heroine.”
In 1762, Silang led 2,000 bolo-wielding revolutionaries who stormed a Spanish garrison in what is now Vigan City. She was captured in 1763 and hanged in Abra at the age of 32.
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