Pantaleon Villegas better known as Leon Kilat was the military leader who started the revolution Tres de Abril Revolt (April 3, 1898)in Cebu. He also led revolutionary groups in Panay and Negros Islands against the Spaniards. Leon Kilat was very popular for his valor and lightning speed thus the name Kilat amongst his fellow Cebuanos. He was also known for his amulets which gave his fellow Katipuneros courage in fighting the Spaniards.
The Origin of the Lion of Visayas
Villegas was born in Bacong, Negros Oriental on July 27, 1873. His parents were Policarpio Villegas, a farmer and Ursula Solde, a sinamay weaver. His grandfather was Pedro Villegas, a native of Spain.
Due to poverty, Villegas did not received formal education. He was taught how to read, write and recite prayers by the Spanish priest in Tolong whom he worked for as a servant. He had the opportunity to go to Manila when the Spanish priest took him along the trip to the city. However, he ran away due to the mistreatments he received from the priest. How he survived in Manila remains unknown. He tried to return home but found himself in Cebu engaged in different jobs.
The Introduction of Villegas to The Revolution
In 1895, he worked for the port town of Cebu and later became an abaca press laborer for MacLeod & Co.. Villegas also worked for a well known drug store owned by a German named Kraffen Bauer. The drugstore, Botica Antigua, was located in the corner of Calle del Palacio and Calle Legaspi (now Burgos and Legaspi). There he worked with Ciriaco Murillo and Eulogio Duque. It was Duque who told the writer Manuel de la Calzada that Villegas used the name Eulugio instead of his real first name. Why he used the name Eulogio was not known. Since there were two Eulogios working in the drugstore, the German owner had to call him Leon instead.
After working at the drugstore, Villegas transferred to Pascuala Cala's bakery in Pahina. He was also a a jockey-horse trainer for Federico Laing and later in the branch office of the Singer Sewing Machine Co. He later joined a circus in 1896 owned by Tagalogs, and among them was a Katipunero. It was there that he was recruited into the secret council of the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangan Katipunan Ng Mga Wagas Na Anak Ng Bayan (KKK).
It was possible that he was also brought to centers of the revolutionary movement in Luzon such as Cavite, Malabon, Calamba, Pasig and Malolos. Villegas was known for his audacity, his loyalty to his comrades and his firm stand on issues.
Villegas was commissioned as a general to Cebu to propagate the ideals of the revolution. He lived in Eulogio Duque's house in General Serrano street (now M.J. Cuenco Ave.) when he arrived from Manila to carry out his mission for the Katipunan. No exact date is given when Villegas arrived for his final mission in Cebu. Some sources say he arrived in Mid-February or late March of 1898. But according to Andres Abellana, a Cebuano leader, [[Villegas visited him sometime in December 1897. Afterwards, he was introduced to other cabecillas and leaders of the local chapter.
Villegas had doubts about Abellana being a former Kapitan who might report him to the authorities. Abellana also had his own hesitations about Villegas whom he suspected of being a spy. Thus, Abellana told him he did not want the Spanish regime to fall. Still Abellana would introduce him to other ring leaders like Candido Padilla and Florencio Gonzales who, like Abellana, refused to trust him. Finally, they brought him to Mariano Hernandez who showed them Aguinaldo's letter introducing Villegas and all doubts were erased.
Villegas assumed command of the Katipunan in Cebu. He ordered every Katipuneros to armed themselves with any balded weapons they can produce and addressed him as Leon Kilat. The Katipunan was growing fast. While Leon Kilat was in Cebu, many young men were drawn to the organization.
An important meeting took place on March 11, 1898 at the sugar cane field of Jacinto Pacaïna in San Nicolas. Present in that meeting were the leaders of the katipunan in Cebu: Leon Kilat, Candido Padilla, Luis Flores, Eugenio Gines, Florencio Cavan, Jacinto Pacaïna, Atilano Lopez, Francisco Llamas, Alejandro Climaco, Justo Cabajar, Alejo Minoza, Hipolito Labra, Catalino Fernandez, Placido Datan, Alipio Barrera, Alejandro Villona, Nicanor Avila and others. It was decided during the meeting that the revolt should start on April 8 (Good Friday). Catalino Fernandez suggested this and argued that the all the Spaniards would be joining the procession on Good Friday and they could take all the leaders in one blow with the least resistance. All the members resolved to keep their agreements in secrets. They also conspired with the members of the voluntarios leales (royal volunteers) that in case of a shooting match with Katipuneros, they would fire over their heads. Or they would aim their guns at the Spaniards should the latter refuse to surrender. Everybody in the meeting agreed.
The plans was unsuccessful when some participants were arrested. They changed their plan. They seized Talisay instead on April 1. After two days, they won a sturdy battle against Spanish forces of Adolfo Montero and Captains Monfort, Gutierrez and Iboloen.
After their success they entered Cebu City the following day. Gen. Pantaleon Villegas lead the revolt against Spanish forces in Cebu City with some 6,000 rebels, armed with bolos and few fire-arms. He personally ordered the abrupt occupancy of the city as the 40 Spanish soldiers stationed at the garrison choose not to resists the sudden attack. The rebels took the convent, plundered the churches, sacked the home of Spanish inhabitants, looted and later burned the stores. They even killed three Spanish civilians, took eight Spanish friars from the Cota (little fort) on the beach as hostages and shot three escapees. The communication lines were swiftly cut-off as the uprising began to reach to the other coastal towns of the island of Cebu under the control of Francisco Llamas.
Anting Anting of Leon Kilat
The local revolutionaries came up with a psuchological tactic to strengthen their resolve to fight the Spaniards. Relatives in Bacong, Negros Oriental would testify that Leon Kilat had the uncanny ability to appear in places from seemingly out of nowhere and disappear, using his handkerchief like a magic carpet. Thus the name "Kilat" (lightning). Kilat willingly told his fellow Katipuneros his secret anting-anting.
First was the vistidora, a chasuble-like cloth worn over one's clothes. Printed on it were symbolic words and religious pictures and corrupted Latin and Spanish words and phrases. The frontal part of the vistidora had the image of God the Father at the upper portion. It also had images of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, heads of the Three Persons, the heads of the 12 Apostles, angels, archangels and seraphims carrying swords and chalices. Corrupted Latin and Spanish words that appeared on the cloth were Cruz passion y muerte cruz de Cristo salva mi tress Ave Maria, Adit Dium Empacturom en visto virgo Jesus Jesus.
The back part of the clothing also bore the image of God the Father at the uppermost portion. The images of [St. James the Apostle] and St. Michael, both riding horses and carrying swords, occupied the lower part. The center lowermost portion was the palm of the right hand which had the usual Latin and Spanish inscriptions.
Another amulet was a triangle-shaped clothing inscribed with several words and numbers. It was divided into nine smaller triangles. Gibison Gaodio magnobaldi contra bala epica egosom pactom Dominom Diom Pactom Jesom Pleom Tom Jesus were some of the words found in that piece of clothing. This was wound around the katipunero's head to shield him from head injuries. A substitute was a small triangular piece of cloth or paper on which the magical words have been written. This was attached to the brim of the hat. A third clothing, about two finger breadths in width, had the image of an angel carrying a kris, with the following Spanish words: Salvate Deus, Los que defienden de la patria como nuestro defensa en la patria celestial contra los demonios.
The local katipuneros were also made to place inside their mouths a round piece of paper about the size of one peso, with the following words inscribed in the center: Hiesus lamuroc milano. Around the paper were written: Panes teurom nam butrates luz itirre quetram bobis viva buturiam. At the other side of that paper was written the letters K.K.K. It was called hostia redentora and believed to be powerful in preventing feelings of hunger or thirst during a long fight or long journey.
Francisco Ma. Labrador was the young katipunero from San Nicolas whom Leon Kilat entrusted the task of writing the magical formulae. Labrador used wooden stamp marker to hasten his task. Others who helped him with this task were Elpidio Rama, Anastacio Rama and Simplicio Alaura. It was Rama who was assigned by Kilat the task of giving out the correct measure and appearance of the vistidora.
There were precautions in wearing the anting-anting. All those who were given these objects were repeatedly warned not to carry money or other metal objects, aside from their weapons, and not to allow themselves to be touched by women. If they do not follow these they would lose the effectiveness of the anting-anting .
The Famous Tres de Abril
Leon Kilat led the uprising on April 2, 1898 against the Spaniards in Cebu, which was suppressed after a week with the arrival of reinforcements from Iloilo and Manila. Leon Kilat continued his cause through guerrilla campaigns. In late 1897 or early 1898, he was sent to Cebu to help lead the rebel movement. It was here where Leon and his men planned a revolt against the Spaniards on the Easter Sunday of 1898. The Spaniards however, learned about the scheduled uprising. As Leon was informed about the Spanish discovery of the intended insurrection, he became determined to fight the Spaniards on that day of the discovery. Thus, he said: "In that case, we rise in arms today."
On April 3, 1898, the afternoon of Palm Sunday, General Leon Kilat staged a bloody "hand-to-hand" combat. As the Spaniards obtained reinforcements, Leon Kilat and his men went to Carcar to seek help from the people. Leon Kilat tried to regroup his men to confront the progressing Spaniards. However, in the early hours of Good Friday, April 8, Leon Kilat was murdered - allegedly upon o[rders of prominent mestizos of Carcar. The assassination of Leon Kilat was said to have happened, through the intercession of [Don Florencio Noel]] in the Sato residence. The Spaniards regained control of Carcar on the day of Kilat's death.
The Betrayal and His Death
The plan to kill Kilat was hatched at the confessional in the church. The coadjutor at the time, a Fr. Francisco Blanco who was teaching Latin at the Colegio-Seminario de San Carlos, would not meet kapitan Florencio Noel at the convent because it would be suspicious. It was Fr. Blanco who suggested to Noel that the only way Kabkab could avoid the retaliation of the Spaniards was to kill Kilat.
Kilat did not suspect anything because he was even accorded a courtesy due for a visiting dignitary when arrived in the evening of Holy Thursday. He first went to the house of Kapitan Paras and then later transferred to the house of Kapitan Tiyoy Barcenilla. After eating dinner, Leon Kilat went to his assigned room to sleep. The son of the owner, Vicente Barcenilla woke up after a few hours when he heard loud voices coming form Kilat's room. He awakened Mariano and both went outside at once, only to be met by Florencio Noel coming up the stairs, carrying a huge crucifix and asking excitedly: "Naunsa na? Naunsa na?" (Has anything happened yet?)
Then Noel shouted: "Viva Espana! Viva Espana!" Several others outside the house responded. Vicente found the maid Kitay and both went inside Kilat's room from where loud noises came. There he saw the limp body of Kilat being pinned down by eight men, with some of them taking turns at stabbing it. The skull had been earlier smashed with with the butt of Kilat's own gun. Then they took his body down the stairs till Cui told the other conspirators: "Ihunong. Ibutang una ninyo. Atong sulayan, ambi tuod dili ba dutlan." (Stop. Put it down. Let's see if he is invulnerable.) Each one took turns at stabbing the dead body and breaking some of his limbs. Then they carried Leon Kilat's body to the center of the town where it was displayed for all residents to see. It was 5:00 early Friday morning.
- Justimbaste, Emil. The Untold Story of Leon Kilat and Cebu's Revolution in 1898. http://www.geocities.com/lkilat/page1.html (accessed May 2, 2008).
- Quizon, Mona Lisa. 2008. The Fierce Lion of the Visayas: The Struggle For Independence of Leon Kilat. http://www.nhi.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2&Itemid= (accessed May 2, 2008)
- Zozobrado, Jeanelyn. The Monument of Leon Kilat. http://www.pbase.com/jeanz/image/39053965 (accessed May 2, 2008)