Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Battle of Tres de Abril 1898

Here's an episode I did for SugboTV's Kabilin with host Jojo Bersales. I hope you enjoy it.The next time you find yourself in the old part of Cebu, take time to read the street names, chances are, most of them played a role during the Battle of Tres de Abril. Enjoy! (it's subtitled in English for those who are not too familiar with the Cebuano Language)

Every year on the Third of April, Cebu City officials go through the motions of commemorating the historic battle of Tres de Abril 1898. They think it's just a marker at the side of the road where some battle happened, they spruce it up a few days before the anniversary of the battle while 360 days (at most) in a year, people piss on that marker; come December, they turn the flagpole into a Christmas tree.

It never fails to pain my heart whenever I pass by that marker on my way to Taboan or San Nicolas, seeing it in such a sorry state. On the anniversary of the battle, just like with each passing year, some city official - specifically - Cebu City Councilors, make promises (what else is new) and speeches, god-awful empty speeches just to make themselves look good. I specifically recall one Battle of Tres de Abril Commemoration that a particular Cebu City Council (who claims to be our relative) made a promise that the city government will buy the lot where marker is situated in order to build a monument to commemorate the battle properly for the supreme sacrifice they offered on the altar of liberty. Well, Mr. Councilor, you're not a councilor now, and I still hear the same old promise from your successors and peers. Two years after that particular speech, during another commemoration of the battle, a choir from a Colon St. university sang the Philippine National Anthem (or what they thought was the Philippine National Anthem). 

After their horrendous bastardized version coupled with a dubious interpretative dance number with the Philippine flag, a World War II Veteran shouted at them and demanded that they sing it properly, and not jazz it up like some two-bit pop song. The Veteran shamed them by saying bluntly that his comrades did not sacrifice their lives for that jazzed up bastardized version of the anthem. Instead of honoring the memory of those who died to give them freedom, what they actually did was trample upon  the very memory of those whom they wish to remember. 

There are but two monuments which commemorate the heroic deeds of the Cebuano Revolutionaries in Cebu City: one is the Tres de Abril marker, and the other one is an afterthought by Ed Castrillo - (Taga'og) designer of the Heritage of Cebu Monument in Parian. I have just recently come across my old clippings from several years back, when Ed Castrillo submitted the plans, the Cebuano Katipuneros were not depicted on the tableau for the Heritage of Cebu monument (more like monstrosity). Bobit Avila pointed this out to him and he (Castrillo) said that the design wasn't final yet, it can always be revised. And what a revision it was! Here we have a monument that is too large for the area (grotesque even), and the contribution of Cebu's Revolutionaries consist only of 1 figure of a man with a bolo, and that's it. Yes, it was an afterthought.

It is now February, and once again, the marker at the junction of Tres de Abril and V. Rama Sts., have gone back to being just another mount of stone where people use it as a blind to cover themselves while pissing and the flagpole is now once again used a place to hang signs for Gay Boxing and a place to tie off that emissions testing facility's advertisement. 

Is this the way we commemorate our heroes? Cebuanos are all too familiar with Rizal, Bonifacio et al., we are aware of those heroes from the North. But when we mention the name Leon Kilat, people will just say, "ahh kanang sa E-Mall".


  1. My grandfather Angel Prieto is one of the Katipuneros who fought in the famed Battle of Tres de Abril. He died early and was not able to tell stories to his children including my father. My grandmother, Gregoria Abella Prieto is the one who tell us the story of what was happening as our place which is between the corner of Carlock St. and Miller Hospital is very near the battle site. I could recall that every April 3, my father and my auntie never miss attending the ceremony. When I was studying in the elementary at San Nicolas Elementary School, classes were suspended and we joined a parade going to the site bringing placards that read "Long Live Leon Kilat".

  2. Hi, I'm a freelance scriptwriter who is living here in Cebu. I'm expressing an interest in writing a script about the battle of Tres de Abril, the events that led to it, as well as the people who were instrumental in the battle.

    I find your information to be rich in information, and I would like to interview you or at least get access to your notes as part of my research for the script.

    It's rare for a publication or show to acknowledge the contribution of the Cebuanos to the Philippine Revolution, and I want to be one of the first to bring that to the light of our countrymen. They deserve a place in the pantheon of heroes after all, together with the heroes of Manila.