Text and Photos by Euden Valdez
IT’S a shame that Abra, the birthplace of my father, is perceived in such a bad light. Even after its tumultuous years caused by political unrest, the stigma has stuck. This has prevented Filipinos from discovering the northern Luzon province.
I must admit, Abra still gets in the news due to bad reasons. But believe me, there is now peace in the land bounded by the Cordillera Administrative and Ilocos Regions. This is true particularly if you start at the municipality of Tayum, which TJPh has found so charming in a recent visit.
Located northeast of capital city of Bangued, the municipality only has a population of 13,940 thriving in a 6,114-hectare land area. A day here must be spent at the poblacion, or what is considered in the Philippines as the old town center.
At the heart of the poblacion is the Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church, or more commonly known as the Tayum Church. Built by secular clergy among the Christianized Tinguians, the 19th century baroque has been declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in 1991.
According to the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Tayum Church in all its glory has been declared such because of its “outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value” and its “representation of the original church-building orders of Augustinians, Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, and Augustinian Recollects, and all the major regions of the country.”
In 2004, it has become part of a restoration project spearheaded by NCCA.
On its vicinity, there used to be a convent that later on became a house for nuns. Today, the structure just across the church serves as a high school. On its right at the rear is the bishop’s home that houses early Tinguian art like the original, carved wooden baptismal font. From its churchyard to the main streets are 14 small shrines of the Stations of the Cross, many of which are being preserved.
And because of the church’s patroness is Santa Catalina de Alejandiar (Saint Catherine of Alexandria), Tayum celebrates its town fiesta on her day, November 25.
The old municipal hall of Tayum still stands outside the church as the area is fashioned in the poblaciontown layout. In front is the plaza where a sculpture of Heneral Antonio Luna towers proudly.
Walking around the vicinity where vendors sell street food and locals kill time is highly recommended.
A five to 10-minute drive from Tayum Church is a not-so-hidden gem anymore. This is the Garbiela Cariño Silang Gallery of Fine Arts, now considered a tourist destination in Abra.
A little brush up on Philippine history, Gabriela Silang is one of the few Filipina revolutionaries in the country who has led a movement against the Spanish conquistadors in northern Philippines together with her husband Diego Silang.
Dubbed as the “Joan of Arc of the Ilocandia,” Gabriela was recorded to be born in a town in Ilocos Sur, which later on became part of Abra when it separated as an independent province. This is contested up to this day but Abreño’s claim Gabriela as their own people thus a grand bronze sculpture of her was erected just before you enter the iconic Abra tunnel.
The museum and gallery in Tayum also pays homage to Gabriela. It is actually the ancestral home of her uncle Nicolas Cariño, which served as her refuge and headquarters during the revolt.
Well-preserved up to this day, the 300-year-old house has been passed from one generation to the next until in 1993, former ambassador Rosario V. Cariño, the current owner, decided to open it to public as a museum. It contains relics from the Philippine revolution as well as antiques and antiquities.
Besides the humble abode is a lavish art gallery housing thousands more of artworks—all the former ambassador’s personal collection.
Pressed for time, TJPh was not able to tour inside the gallery but was able to briefly chat with its current curator, Chato Cariño, the son the elder Cariño.
According to him, the gallery contains thousands of artworks including paintings of legends Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo and Pablo Picasso, among others.
He also revealed that the massive structure used to be the house’s stable, which was transformed into what it is today.
Lastly, Sir Chato reminded everyone, not only Abreños, to never forget their history and heritage.
With that, do not hesitate in visiting Tayum when in Abra.
The Gabriela Cariño Silang Gallery of Fine Arts is located at Teodoro Balmaceda St. in downtown Tayum. Entrance fee is P120. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read more about Tayum here.
is a former dyarista,