If you’re Cebuano, you’ve most likely heard of Leon Kilat.
“Uu, katong dalan dira sa Colon. Naa dira ang E Mall ug Gaisano South!”
Now… you might ask: Who’s Leon Kilat?
His real name is Pantaleon Villegas, the legendary leader of the Katipuneros in Cebu.
Born on July 27, 1873 in Bacong, Negros Oriental, Leon went to Cebu in 1890s and held various jobs such as in a pharmacy where he used the name “Eulogio.” Now, there are 2 Eulogios working there so the German owner chose to call him “Leon.”
Leon then decided to join a Tagalog circus group who were going to Manila.
Now the circus owner turned out to be a Katipunero. Leon was then recruited into the secret council of KKK.
Leon owned various anting-antings which made him a superhuman. The Katipunan also taught him various arts such as magic. The Freeman editor Emil Justimbaste (via max.limpag.com) said:
“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).”
The Katipunan now recognized Leon’s bravery (and slippery) and was sent to Cebu to lead the local Katipuneros. He was Bisaya but not Cebuano, so the local revolutionaries(Noel, Alcoseba, Barcenilla, Alfafar, Abellana, Gundoy, Cui, etc.) reluctantly accepted him as their leader.
On March 1898, Leon Kilat led the Cebuano revolt against Spain. One month later, the 1st major battle in Cebu, the Battle of Tres de Abril, occurred. Leon Kilat was reportedly to have said:
“Tana, moalsa kita karong adlawa. Kadtong saad ayaw na’g hulata, dili ta kini palabyong adlawa. Kay usa ka gutlo nga paglangan, libo ka dupa ang kadaugan sa atbang.”
(Come, let us start the uprising today. Let’s not wait for the promised help, we will not let this day pass. A moment wasted means victory for the enemy)
The place where the battle occurred is a few blocks away from Leon Kilat St. and is now named Tres de Abril St.
The rebels were initially successful, but the Spaniards regrouped and drove them away to Kabkab (now Carcar). Upon arrival on April 7 (Holy Thursday), the rebels were treated as honored guests and served with dishes fit for a fiesta and ginebra (gin).
Little did they know that one of the Carcar men, Kapitan Florencio Noel, had reported Leon’s arrival to the friar. The friar told Noel that Carcar would escape Spain’s attack if Leon Kilat is killed. During the mini-fiesta, Leon’s alalay (aide-de-camp) he recruited in Carcar,Apolinario Alcuitas, shouted:
“Mga caigsoonan, ipahibalo ko canino nga carung gab’hiuna, may ihaoon acong caballo.”
(Brothers, I would like to announce that tonight I am going to slaughter a horse)
Leon and his men just shrugged it off. Now drunk from ginebra, Leon went to sleep in Kapitan Barcenilla’s house.
Then it happened. On April 8, 1898, the maid found Leon’s limp body being pinned down by 8 men, with some of them taking turns at stabbing it. One of them used Kilat’s own rifle butt to smash his skull.
The assassination was a collective deed, but Apolinario Alcuitas‘ name will go down in history as Leon Kilat’s assassin.
Leon Kilat’s revolt was continued by teacher-turned-katipunero General Arcadio Maxilom from Tuburan, who managed to drive away the Spaniards in Cebu (Now, Mango Avenue was changed to Gen. Maxilom Ave. in honor of him).
Presently, a statue was erected in Leon Kilat’s hometown, Bacong.
Another one in Carcar where he was killed.
And a bust located in Rizal Park.
It’s sad how many history books in school are too Tagalog-centric and don’t introduce local heroes such as Leon Kilat. I don’t blame you if you don’t recognize him.