April 8, 1898 – The Death of Pantaleon Villegas (Leon Kilat)

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Pantaleon Villegas known as  “Leon Kilat” led the successful April 3, 1898 uprising against the Spanish government in Cebu, City.

By early morning Thursday, April 7, unknown to Katipuneros, the cruiser Don Juan Austria chartered merchant steamer Churruca arrived from Manila. Aboard were loyalist troops commanded by Gen. Celestino Fernandez Tejeiro. These were seasoned veterans.

Sensing that they were up against a better-armed enemy, the Katipuneros started a retreat, with a lot of them finally looking for refuge in the mountains of Cebu. They abandoned their positions in the city. Those from Lutao joined the large group from Recolletos and took positions beyond the Forbes bridge. The cruiser would later drive them off by massive bombardment, leaving behind a good number of casualties.

The massive attacks forced the Katipunan forces to disperse outside the city. A group led by Leon Kilat proceeded to Kabkab (Carcar), thinking that because there was a group there, they would not starve. Kabkab was also far from the sea, thus making it difficult for the ships to bombard them. Little did Kilat suspect that his retreat would end tragically.

The retreat of the katipuneros from San Nicolas and the city paved the way for the widespread arrests and executions of other civilians, whether or not they were involved in katipunan.

But of all the katipuneros who met their end, it was their leader Leon Kilat who died most tragically not only for the manner of his death but for the betrayal by one of his men in Carcar on April 8, 1898.

House where the murder plan was hatched

Even before the katipuneros’ arrival in that southern town, Kabkab (Carcar) residents already learned of their defeat at the hands of the Spaniards, following the arrival of reinforcements from Manila. They had mixed feelings about accepting Leon Kilat, afraid of retaliation from their Spanish masters.

Kabkab leaders, like kapitan Florencio Noel (Tan Insyong), Timoteo Barcenilla, kapitan Kadyo Jaen, kapitan Jacinto Velez, kapitan Simeon Paras, told Andres Abellana: “Tell Kilat to finish fighting in Naga, not in Kabkab.”

To which Abellana retorted: “Sa wa pa mosibog si Don Leon nganhi, ang mga tawo gipahibawo una nga anhi padangpon sa Kabkab kay anhi tapusa ang away. Ug karon nga anhi na ang mga tawo, malisud na ang pagsulti kanila sa tagsa-tagsa nga ang away adto usab tapusa sa laing dapit.”

(Before Leon retreated here, people were informed that they should proceed to Carcar because the fight will end here. Now that people are here, it is difficult to tell them that the fight will be somewhere else.)

In the story of Vicente Alcoseba who was with the group of Kilat at that time, the plan to kill the latter was actually 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.

Alcoseba said it was Blanco who suggested to Noel that the only way Kabkab could avoid the retaliation of the Spaniards was to kill Kilat.

Little did Kilat suspect what would befall him that fateful Good Friday in 1898 in Carcar because when he arrived in the evening of Holy Thursday, he was accorded a courtesy due a visiting dignitary. First, he went to the house of kapitan Paras, then later transferred to the house of kapitan Tiyoy Barcenilla where he and his men were tendered goat’s meat, chicken and pork. After supper, he was offered coffee and ginebra at the sala.

While his men were telling stories of the uprising in Cebu, he asked kapitan Tiyoy if he could call a tailor who could make a “traje de rayadillo” which had become the katipunan’s uniform. He wanted to change his clothes the next morning after he took a bath. Minutes later, a tailor named Segundo Alcordo came with his metrosan (a tailor’s tape measure) to take his measurements.

Meantime, the plotters appeared ill at ease, said Alcoseba. Tiyoy Barcenilla could not stay put in his seat. Sometimes, he would confer with kapitan Kadyo at the back of the house and talk in whispers. Minutes later, he would shift to Kapitan Gundoy, as if something else was going on.

Then Apolinario Alcuitas, a recruit of the katipunan in Kabkab, shouted for everyone to hear: “Mga kaigsoonan, ipahibalo ko kaninyo nga karong gabhiona, may ihawon akong kabayo.”

(Brothers, I would like to announce that tonight I am going to slaughter a horse.) At that time, Alcoseba could not understand the meaning of all these.

House in Carcar where Kilat was murdered

Since Leon Kilat was tired, it did not take long before sleep was in order. The room assigned to him was the one near the stairs of the five-bedroom house of Barcenilla. A son of the owner, Vicente, curious about Kilat’s exploits, had a brief talk with the latter. He was the last person to talk to him alive.

For a while, Vicente and his uncle Mariano Alfafara talked for some minutes in the corridor outside the room occupied by Kilat. Very soon, they too, went to sleep in another room. Mariano was persuaded by Vicente to stay that night.

Vicente would wake up a few hours later when he heard loud noises coming from 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 Espa¤a! Viva España!” Several others outside the house responded.

Death Certificate of Leon Kilat

Vicente found the maid Kitay and both went inside Kilat’s room from where loud noises came. There he saw to his shock 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.

“Buhi pa ba?” Vicente heard Vinsyong Cui ask.

“Patay na intawon,” answered Kitay. Vicente who was speechless leaned against the wall, in shock.

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.

In 1926, Leon Kilat’s remains were found along several others. The top-most part of his skull is missing. By virtue of a resolution by the municipal government of Bacong on August 2, 1926 the bones of Leon Kilat were transferred and finally laid to rest in his hometown of Bacong.

The legend and memory of Pantaleon Villegas, known as Leon Kilat still stands tall and a monument in his honor has been erected right in the heart of his hometown in Bacong, Negros Oriental.

Monument in Bacong, Negros Oriental



Katipuneros of Cebu (Book) – by Emil Bustamante

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