An Abra tourist spot, Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts will leave you in awe due to its extensive collection of art treasures from around the world. Owned by the descendants of Gabriela Silang, the gallery is also one of the historical ancestral houses in the Philippines. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect from visiting the gallery.
Getting to know Abra
First off, where is Abra? Abra in northern Philippines is a province located in the mountainous Cordillera Administrative Region. The province had been off the tourist map until photos of the enchantingly beautiful Kaparkan Falls trickling through terraced limestone basin, spread on the internet. Today, the mention of Abra will most likely conjure an image of Kaparkan Falls.
Kaparkan Falls in Tineg, Abra
Travertines in Pamukkale, Turkey
Abra is a lesser known destination even for Filipino tourists. This could be due to the long land trip from Manila, the absence of domestic airport and the remoteness of most of its municipalities. However, the province’s rawness is what gives it an alluring appeal.
Verdant mountains, turquoise rivers and numerous waterfalls are what makes up the Abra tourist spots. Aside from natural wonders, Abra is also rich in cultural heritage. Here, you will find Spanish-era churches, ancestral houses and museums.
Kaparkan Falls was definitely the highlight of our quick weekend in Abra. Conversely, the immense art collection at Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts in Tayum, Abra left me in a different kind of awe. The last time I recall feeling such awe for an art museum is at Rizal province’s Pinto Art Museum.
Abra Tourist Spot: Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts
Who is Gabriela Cariño-Silang?
Gabriela Silang is a Philippine national hero who became the embodiment of women bravery. She has been the representation of women empowerment in Filipino society. Gabriela Silang is a native of Abra’s neighboring province, Ilocos Sur, who was married to Diego Silang. Diego Silang led a revolt against Spanish rule in northern Philippines.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Diego Silang’s battle for independence was thwarted when he was betrayed and assassinated. Diego Silang’s death pushed Gabriela to courageously assume leadership of the resistance (now this is starting to sound like a Star Wars episode). She moved to Abra to reassemble the rebellion force.
Gabriela led the rebel troops until she was captured in the mountains of Abra. There, she was publicly executed by hanging by the Spaniards. Though she led the resistance for a short period only, her remarkable valor had given her the title as the “Joan of Arc of Ilocos”. Her iconic figure as a heroine wielding a bolo while riding a horse can be seen today at Abra's Tangadan Welcome Tunnel.
Gabriela Silang Monument in Tangadan Welcome Tunnel
One of the historically-significant ancestral houses in the Philippines
Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts is not just a private museum. It is also one of the historically-significant ancestral houses in the Philippines. After Diego Silang’s death, Gabriela fled to his uncle, Nicolas Cariño’s house in Tayum, Abra. Under her leadership and with the assistance of his uncle, the house was made as the headquarters of the regrouped rebel troops.
A recreation of Gabriela Silang's room
The Cariño ancestral home now houses an extensive collection of artworks from all over the world by the former Philippine Ambassador Rosario Cariño. The Cariño family decided to open this collection to the public in 1993. Its historical significance plus the art treasures in the museum makes Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts a must-see Abra tourist spot.
Also read about stories of these ancestral houses in the Philippines by clicking on the images below:
Tayum, Abra tourist spot and haven for art lovers
The gallery features paintings by the ambassador himself, memorabilia paintings from the national artists, Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo, reproduction of artworks by European artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
A reproduction of Picasso's mosaic near the museum's gate
But wait, there’s more. Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts also displays various artifacts, artworks and religious items from various major religions in Asia. From the outside, the Cariño ancestral home is an unassumingly simple 2-storey house. I never imagined that inside is an enormous collection of valuable artifacts. I surmise these could easily fill a five-floor museum.
The house was so densely packed with interesting articles, which my brain found hard to process. Each side of the house gives me a sensory overload. Add to that the information fed by our museum curator, who is also a descendant of Gabriela Silang.
Our museum curator for the day who is also a descendant of Gabriela Silang
A Peek of What’s Inside Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts
Here are some snapshots of what’s inside this Abra tourist spot.
Dutch tin-glazed earthenware. Rosario Cariño had been the Philippine Ambassador in the Netherlands from 1984 to 1991.
Beautiful hand-painted bowls
Buddhist relics of Asian origin. The retired Ambassador Cariño had also served as diplomat in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
The living room
Cariño family memorabilia
I don’t know the story of these creepy-looking dolls but I’m looks like they are from European origin.
This section of the house at the far end of the second floor almost looked like an abandoned living room.
Religious paintings at the ground floor
Would they notice if I take that green jewelry box? Kidding, of course.
A collection of masks from Asian countries
There seem to be no end to this massive collection.
These look like head pieces of a religious statue. I am not sure because at this point, I'm not paying attention to the curator.
This looks weird but I think they just needed more space to organize everything.
Did I mention they have seemingly unlimited art pieces?
The Last Supper - Ilocos Version
Of the numerous paintings in the 2-storey gallery, the one that most made a mark on me is The Last Supper painting by a local painter. His was a “Filipinized” version of Da Vinci’s original painting (photo below).
For instance, the man at the center wears barong tagalog, a traditional Filipino clothing for men. On the other hand, the 12 apostles are wearing camisa de chino, a colarless shirt usually worn under the barong Tagalog. Other Filipino elements in the painting are the bamboo table, bamboo glass for the wine, tropical fruits and the bamboo leaf as plate.
Our museum curator told us an interesting story. According to her, the painter is a drunkard and depicted himself as the man in the middle. Similarly, the 12 apostles are real people, all of whom are drunkards, too. Six of the 12 offered the painter Cuatro Cantos gin for their character to be included in the painting. The tragic side to this story is that most of the characters painted here died of liver disease.
This is just a sneak peak of what’s inside the entire gallery. I was in a group tour when I visited. Hence, we have limited time to explore the gallery. If I could do it my way, I would first go around while listening to the curator. Then, I'll do a second round to admire and leisurely photograph the art pieces. Seriously, I could stay here the entire day and never run out of things to appreciate and photograph.
The Need for Restoration of this Abra Attraction
Of all the ancestral houses in the Philippines that I’ve been to, the Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts is by far the most densely packed with antiquities and artifacts that I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine how many millions or possibly billions the entire collection would cost.
The gallery absolutely needs restoration and conservation. Some of the artifacts are leading to deterioration and most are building up dirt. In addition, the uncontrolled environmental conditions inside the house can eventually destroy the paintings.
Given that the collection is enormous, it follows that maintenance, restoration and conservation costs would also be huge. I understand that the Cariño family is solely funding for the maintenance of the gallery and that restoration and conservation expenses is no joke.
So, if ever you will be visiting Abra, please support the Gabriela Cariño-Silang Gallery of Fine Arts and include it in your list of Abra tourist spots to visit.
How to get to Tayum, Abra?
From Metro Manila, take the bus (Partas Bus Company, Viron Transit and Dominion Bus Lines) to Bangued, Abra. Bus terminals in Metro Manila are located in Manila, Cubao and Pasay. Travel time takes about 9-10 hours.
From Bangued, the capital of Abra, take a jeep bound to Tayum or Dolores and get off at Tayum, Abra town proper. The museum, located along Teodoro Balmaceda Street, can be accessed by foot from here. Alternatively, you can hire a tricycle to take you to Tayum, which is about 5 kilometers away.
If driving a private vehicle, take the Abra-Kalinga road to Tayum town proper.
Where to Stay in Abra
You can book online and check for hotels and latest rates for your travel dates here: