Friday, January 6, 2012

The Assasination of Leon Kilat (Pantaleon Villegas)

Abril 1898, Kabkab (Carcar), Cebu.

News reached the residents of Carcar about the Spanish retaking Cebu and the erstwhile municipality of San Nicolas (Cebu el Viejo) and had mixed feelings of accepting Leon Kilat in fear of reprisals by Spanish authorities. 

Capitan Florencio Noel ('tan Insyong), Timoteo Barcenilla (Tiyoy), Capitan Kadyo Jaen, Capitan Jacinto Velez and Capitan Simeon Paras, residents and town leaders of Carcar, told Andres Abellana (one of Kilat's trusted men) not to take their fight to Carcar but to take it to Naga instead. Andres Abellana retorted "Sa wala pa mosibug si Don Leon ngahi, ang mga tawo guipahibalo nga anhi padang'pon sa Kabkab kay anhi tapusa ang away ug caron nga anhi na ang mga tawo, malisod na ang pagsulti kanila sa tagsa-tagsa nga ang away adto usab tapusa sa laing dapit."

Little did Leon Kilat and his men know that something was afoot in Carcar. According to Vicente Alcoseba, the plan to assasinate Leon Kilat was hatched in the confessional of the Yglesia de Sta. Catalina de Alexandria with members of the church and prominent families. The church's coadjutor Padre Francisco Blanco would not meet with Capitan Florencio Noel at the convento as it would look suspicious.

Leon Kilat then arrived on Holy Thurday (April 7) and first visited the house of Capitan Simeon Paras but later that day, transferred to the house of Capitan Timoteo (Tiyoy) Barcenilla where he was invited for supper. After supper, he asked Capitan Tiyoy if he could call a tailor who could make for him a traje de rayadillo. The tailor Segundo Alcordo then measured Kilat for a new rayadillo while the plotters were all ill at ease. Suddenly, Apolinario Alcuitas, a member of the revolution and one of Kilat's men who was recruited in Carcar, shouted for everyone to hear, "mga caigsoonan, ipahibalo ko canino nga carung gab'hiuna, may ihaoon acong caballo." At that time, they didn't understand what he meant.

After being measured for his new suit, Vicente Barcenilla, the son of Tiyoy Barcenilla listened intently to Kilat's stories about the battles in Cebu, little did he know, he would be the last person to talk to Kilat alive. Kilat was led to the room near the stairs where he would be billeted for the night. 

Vicente Barcenilla and his uncle Mariano Alfafara talked for while outside Kilat's room in the corridor and persuaded him to stay for the night. They then went to their rooms to retire for the evening. 

A few hours later, Vicente woke up to an alarming sound in the next room where Kilat slept and woke his uncle Mariano up. They rushed outside only to be met by Florencio Noel coming up the stairs carrying a huge crucifix, shouting frantically, "naunsa na? naunsa na?"

Vicente found the maid and rushed with her into the room where Kilat was sleeping and saw eight (8) men pinning down the body of Kilat, taking turns at stabbing it over and over again. At the sight of Kilat's limp body, Florencio Noel shouted, "Viva Espana! Viva Espana!" and others joined in chorus. By this time, Kilat's skull had already been smashed in by the butt of his own rifle, he had been hacked and stabbed so many times that one can only imagine the bloody horror that happened in that room near the stairs.

One of the men who were staying at the Barcenilla house by the name of Vinsyon Cui asked Florencio Noel, "buhi pa pa?" and he replied, "patay na intawon." The men who pinned Kilat's body brought him out of the room and down the stairs, Vinsyon Cui talked to the group and said, "ihunong! Ibutang una ninyo. Atong sulayan. Ambi tuod dili ba dutlan." The group then took turns once again in stabbing and the lifeless body of Kilat with their knives and pinuti. Kilat was known to possess a kalaki (anting-anting) which made him impervious to all sorts of weapons but none could survive the brutal way in which he was hacked to death in his sleep by several men and bludgeoned to death and his skull smashed in by his own rifle. 

His body was then taken to the center of town at 5:00 o'clock AM for all to see that this shall be the fate of those who shall betray Spain. 

 Leon Kilat's burial certificate. April 8, 1898 stating that he was buried at the Parochial cemetery. Cause of death, "death due to insurrection ...  ".

Most historians, including the late great Vicente Rama, are in agreement that indeed the main plotters who carried out Kilat's assasination were Apolinario Alcuitas -one of Kilat's men- and Florencio Noel -a prominent member of Carcar society, however, one writer, the venerable Jovito Abellana who was the son of Gregorio Abellana (who fought by the side of Leon Kilat along with Rufo Abella)  said that it was Gregorio Canaya who carried out the plot to its completion. This Gregorio Canaya is also the very same person who buried Kilat on April 8, 1898 at the parochial cemetery of Carcar. It is believed that he was not given the last rites. 

In 1926, Leon Kilat's remains were found along several others. The top-most part of his skull is missing. 



It is now 2013 and descendants of the Carcar plotters still cry foul whenever the story of how Leon Kilat met his death in the hands of their forebears is told. I for one can understand that those men who plotted to kill Leon Kilat certainly have had their hands full thinking about the fate of their families, their landholdings, their positions in society should they join Kilat or betray him.

It must be emphasized that those in Carcar feared as to what will become of them should they side with Kilat, afterall, San Nicolas was razed to the ground by the Spanish as they retook the township and the ciudad and implemented the dreaded juez de cuchillo. Certainly, the affluent capitans in Carcar dreaded the possibility of that happening to them.

The plotters have their own reasons in the same way that those who joined the revolution had theirs. In the end it cannot be denied that San Nicolas was razed to the ground and Carcar wasn't. It was all about choices. The capitans of Carcar made a choice and decided to act on it in the same way that the revolutionaries did too.

More than a hundred years have passed and the issue on this Leon Kilat assassination is still a sore point for the descendants of those men and most likely those old wounds will never heal. It must be remembered that a revolution does not mean simply taking up arms, it also means change, the turning of a wheel. People take sides in revolutions, that much is a fact. What is a fact also is that the Carcar capitans plotted and successfully had Kilat assassinated. If they were unwilling to sacrifice their lives for a cause greater than them, then that was their choice. The men who fought in the Battle of Tres de Abril made the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of their position in society, their families, their landholdings, for a cause greater than their own personal interests.

A hundred years after the battle, descendants and chroniclers from both camps still argue.


  1. Interesting, Harve. This is another version. I've read an older version in Ang Freeman, (1922) by Detektib PUG (Paulino U. Gullas). Gullas interviewed the participants of Leon Kilat's murder. It mentioned that Leon Kilat was still alive when his body was dragged to the Carcar Plaza. Anyway, I didn't know nga involved si Fr. Blanco ani. Years later, during the time of the Yankee's, he'd also figure again. This time as a rebel.

  2. Hi Triz! If I remember correctly, I think I read parts of Gullas' interviews... I can't imagine how one could survive the type injuries Leon sustained. Yup, Fr. Blanco was also tagged by Alcoseba and Gregorio Abellana. What I find interesting is the Gregorio Canaya angle... his name only came up through Jovito Abellana's writings... I still have to check dela Calzada's book if Canaya's name is there...

  3. I've heard a scanty story about how Leon Kilat died by treachery in the hands, not of his enemies, but from those he earlier trusted to be his co-rebel fighters. While in deep sleep due to "hard drinks" like "tuba," etc., a group of men tiptoed into his room and with the use of superior force, inserted something hard into his bowels through his butt. Even when already mortally wounded, the story goes, he still in automatic reaction like one with "supernatural power" sprung up but could get nowhere because of the ceiling and ultimately died.

  4. Hello sir.

    I'm doing a research on Leon Kilat for a documentary that will be produced. Who was Gregorio Canaya? Where can we secure a copy of Jovito Abellana's writings and also what's the title of the dela Calzada book?

    Thank you.

    1. A copy of Ang Kagubot sa Sugbo 1898 by Manuel Enriquez dela Calzada may be found at the Cebuano Studies Center, USC;

      Jovito (Joven) Abellana's works are at CNU as well as at Museo Sugbo;

      Look for Paulino U. Gullas' articles on Leon Kilat either at Museo Sugbo or at Freeman near Colon;

      If you plan to visit Museo Sugbo, please seek assistance from Miss Masi Cabanes or Mr. Rey Estrada, tell them I referred you to them. They will be of great assistance with your search for materials.

    2. A copy of Ang Kagubot sa Sugbo 1898 by Manuel Enriquez dela Calzada may be found at the Cebuano Studies Center, USC;

      Jovito (Joven) Abellana's works are at CNU as well as at Museo Sugbo;

      Look for Paulino U. Gullas' articles on Leon Kilat either at Museo Sugbo or at Freeman near Colon;

      If you plan to visit Museo Sugbo, please seek assistance from Miss Masi Cabanes or Mr. Rey Estrada, tell them I referred you to them. They will be of great assistance with your search for materials.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Manuel Enriquez dela Calzada's father was a member of the San Nicolas Voluntarios Leales, his book is one of the definitive works on the Battle of Tres de Abril from a combatant's point of view...

      Jovito Abellana was the son of Gregorio Abellana, one of Leon Kilat's commanders during the battle;