Pantaleon Villegas, the man behind the mythical Leon Kilat


I have been using Leon Kilat as online identity for years now. I started using the pseudonym in 1999 but I have been fascinated by the story of Leon Kilat since 1998, when I was still with The Independent Post.

The Post put out a special edition for Independence Day 1998 – the centennial of Philippine Independence. The special edition, which took weeks in planning and research, was a contemporary account of the revolution in Cebu – as if The Independent Post was there to cover the events. The issue even carried ads and photos of scenes and people of that time.

It was during my research on events that I found accounts on the life of Pantaleon “Leon Kilat” Villegas, the leader of the revolution here in Cebu.

The most comprehensive account on the activities of Leon Kilat is the website Leon Kilat and the Cebu Revolt by former The Freeman editor Emil Justimbaste. The site, however, is now offline.

Most of the information in this post came from Justimbaste’s site and from an old article in Sun.Star Weekend.

Leon Kilat was born in Bacon, Negros Oriental on July 27, 1873. He went to Cebu and worked for a drug store and later a bakery. He later joined a circus owned by Tagalogs, and among them was a katipunero.

Justimbaste said “It was there that he was recruited into the secret council of the KKK which also taught the occult sciences, magic, and other esoteric practices.”

Villegas, according to Justimbaste, was known for his bravery. He was sent to Cebu to lead the local Katipunan, carrying with him a letter of appointment signed by General Emilio Aguinaldo.

Leon Kilat, according to the myth that surrounded him years after his death, was said to possess amulets that made him almost invincible.

Justimbaste 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).

“Ako, nakakita gayud. Moasdang siya sa mga kaaway bisan naghadyong ang mga bala. Makuli nga maigo ug kon maigo man gani, maorag dili siya dutlan kay mamapha lang ug dili maunsa,” recalled Andres Abellana 30 years after the revolution. (I really saw it myself. He would advance towards his enemies even with bullets buzzing around him. It would be difficult to hit him. Or, even if he is hit, he simply dusts himself and he is not even hurt.)

When their comrades started getting arrested days before he would be killed, Villegas was reported 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 revolutionaries suffered setbacks and retreated to the southern town of Carcar, where Leon Kilat would be killed by Cebuano traitors on Good Friday of 1898.

Justimbaste reported Vicent Alcoseba as saying that it was Fr. Francisco Blanco, who was teaching Latin at the Colegio-Seminario de San Carlos, who suggested to kapitan Florencio Noel that the only way Carcar could avoid retaliation by the Spaniards was to kill Kilat.

When Kilat arrived in Carcar, Justimbaste said, he was treated like a dignitary. Kilat and his men were treated to a feast of goat’s meat, chicken and pork. Justimbaste said that after supper, Kilat was offered “coffee and ginebra.”

When Kilat went to sleep, however, the traitors made their move. Here’s Justimbaste’s account of the killing:

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�

Vicente Alfafara would wake up a few hours later when he heard loud noises coming from Kilat’s room. He awakened his uncle 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 España! Viva España!” 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 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 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 til 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 really is invulnerable.)

Each one took turns at stabbing the 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.”

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  1. Your’s was the only site where I was able to get detailed info about Leon Kilat….I saw his statue in Carcar while visiting Philippines recently…Thank you….Michael Davey, Bramston Beach, Queensland Australia

  2. Max:

    I am interested to know more about Leon Kilat. If you have detailed documents about his life and heroism I would be very glad to read them.

  3. Hi! I am Marceliana Morados Sanson, a native of Bacong, Negros Oriental. I am very much proud to have a “kababayan” hero in the person of Pantaleon “Leon Kilat” Villegas. I am so thankfull that I have found this page because I can use this as my reference for our e-learning club project of Negros Oriental High School, Dumaguete City

  4. my greatgrandfather is the first cousin of the hero,my family is very proud of him and my relatives in vallehermoso or.neg.

  5. I always wondered why there is a statue of him in the plaza of Bacong instead of Dr. Rizal or Pres. Magsaysay. Daghan Salamat for a wonderful learning experience ! I wish I could learn more about such a brave hero.

  6. hahai.kani akong kauban diri cge gadali,iya gisubmit bisan ala pa ko nahuman…sa laing bahin,gusto sad ko na makabalo kon asa dapit sa bacong ang iya balay..ngano pd na iya man monument ang gipakita sa bacong instead kay Rizal..Dili ba pwede na ilang duha ka nawong ang ibutang?Si Rizal ato na national hero. libog ayo.i have a question.Is Leon kilat a hero?if he is then what makes him a hero?explain..

  7. is don florencio noel also part of killing leon kilat?..i just wonder..and is he a spaniard?..hope to get some answer…

  8. Nice..I like the whole heroism act of Leon Kilat. He is a perfect example of real bravery and leadership.Hope we would have a lot more young ones today with the same heat and passion as leon Kilat has for his Country.

  9. First let me say I’m really glad to hear from the young ones that they like our history. There young mind is just brilliantly creative. I always love our history specially the KATIPUNEROS. Daghang salamat Don Leon. We will never forget! What a shame fellow Filipino kill his own kababayan just for his own personal interest. Anyway, Mabuhi ang Pinas. My favorite of the katipunero is Gen. Maxilom. =)

  10. i really thought cebuanos did not take part in the revolution for independence. that is why i often insist to my classmates here in manila that cebuanos are peace-loving people, which is in fact true, so as to elude the conclusion of my philosopher colleagues that cebuanos are cowards or washed their hands during the revolution. but i always let them remember that the first filipino hero who fought against banyagas was from cebu. thanks i accidentally come across this article a day after the 111th year of commemmoration of tres de abril. like any other cebuano, i’m proud to be cebuano. mabuhi ang mga cebuano. padayonon ta ang atong pakigbisog ug pagtambayayong para sa kauswagan ug kalinaw inubanan sa pangaliya ni Sr. Sto. Niño.

  11. this local hero is amazing., I actually go to bacong very often but i just knew this story now., i was stunned when i read the first article about this topic and im hoping ill find out more., im just 14 yet this legend catches my attention and i would want to learn more about this legendary hero

  12. Leon Kilat’s assassination was supposedly ordered by an elite group of the capitan (Noel) and ex-capitanes of Carcar (Jaen, Barcenilla, Paraz) and other important town members. Noel was mestizo-looking but records say the Noels were mestizo Sangley and Florencio had an unrecognized father–probably the Spaniard. They were led to the decision by the presumption that the revolution was by then already a lost cause and with the Spanish general’s gunboat arriving in Carcar, the town would not be spared from the imminent bombardment. It was local concern over national interest. But we know even the Katipunan national movement itself was not as united.

  13. For almost 5 yrs in my college days i always passed the leon kilat street but never dare to dig his history. The only thing that i know that he is one of the heroes during the revolution. I would like to thank the author for the effort and i learned that Leon Kilat is from bakong negros where am planning to visit and to dig my family history. Cebuanos are really kind but not a coward. Cebuanos are silent observant and a good critic specially music and arts.

  14. The so often-told-story of Leon Kilat’s demise has caught avid followers. ‘Tis a legendary CSI worth foretelling from its generation to ours, dont they?

    Albiet, what interests me though are his legenday powers: the magical “hankie” that he displayed; his agile horse named “Ronquello”; his expertise on equestrie or horses, then, being a circus performer himself, and that love of country. Sure enough, this tale can make a good movie, for any enterprising film maker. Haha.

    All these conjures the legend that was Leon Kilat as we’ve heard.

    And whether his end was sullen or not, it doesnt really matter. It will remain a mystery unresolved leaving a rich history of victory and struggle for a true independent Philippines, and he sacrificed. Just imagine, all the man needed was rest.

  15. Our grandfather told us the story of leon kilat about his magical abilities, especially his ability to cross cebu and negros island by horse(?) according to our grandfather his mother maria villegas was the niece of pantalleon villegas. Maria Villegas married our great grandfather Bernabie Gonzales who happened to be the nephew of one of the filipino commanders of panay who were executed during filipino spanish revolution. Some of our relatives fleed to cebu and negros island at that time. Thank you for some of the information.!!!

  16. I wanted to write a non-fiction feature screenplay for Leon Kilat. If possible can you please give me contacts of people that I can interview with? Thanks.

  17. ohhh….amazing…. history..! so then cebuanos earlier is a traitors…as a relative of leon kilat….i love his history and his heroism…cebuanos killed him because of jealousy….and so my problem about his history is solved…proud to be a filipino and proud to be a relative of him….!wooooohoooo…..thanks you very much about this information..!

  18. It’s so sad to think, that most of our National Heroes who fought for our freedom, were betrayed by fellow Filipinos…and worst because until now it’s still happening.

  19. i take exception to brod mark saying most of our national heroes who fought for our freedom were betrayed…most of our heroes who did fight were not betrayed at all. lapulapu was not, dagojoy was not, aguinaldo and the other katipuneros probably were not, rizal was not, cory aquino was not, ninoy aquino was shot but he was not betrayed. anyway, if we take opposite sides there’s no betrayal. on the other hand, state witnesses are betrayals.

  20. As a Cebuano who grew up in Cebu, I never once heard a story of how the Spaniards were super oppressive.

    The only time I ever heard those words was from Filipino Cultural classes, which was in Tagalog, with textbooks in Tagalog, that was most likely assigned by the Department of Education in Manila.

    I asked my grandparents about the Spaniards before and they told me they mostly just built churches and forts, there wasn’t really any oppressions… the Spaniards also taught Spanish to the elite, particularly in private schools…

    All I’m going to say is that the vast majority of Philippine history taught in schools in Philippines reflect mainly the sentiments of Manila.

    The sentiments of those Mindanao and Visayas, where 2/3 of Filipinos live, are hardly put into consideration. Most often, the sentiment is very different from the one in Manila.

  21. wow grabe si leon kilat hanip yung anting2x niya. Ako meron ding anting2x pero para lang sa bala at kulam. Kay Leon Kilat completo daw yan sabi ng tyohin ko.Gusto ko yong panyo niya. Sana magkaroon din ako ng anting2x ng tulad sa kanya hehehehe.

  22. leon kilat..sure is a hero..he fought for independence…but also it reflects the other side of the story….he died a treacherous death….then the two separate monuments must be presenting different celebrations””””””

  23. I am a Cebuano. Viva Cebu… the people here you can see humility, courage, tackle, one-word decided people, industry, much of talent, conqueror, champion, invader, faithful, honest, you can also see and experience the word “free” services or goods even a life towards others, and very especially very kind hearted…

  24. I am a Cebuano. Viva Cebu… the people here you can see humility, courage, tackle, one-word decided people, industry, much of talent, conqueror, champion, invader, faithful, honest, you can also see and experience the word “free” services or goods even a life towards others, and very especially very kind hearted…

  25. i have read a text sometime ago in the internet. it was in cebuano and i can’t find it. it was about how leon kilat was scouted and recruited by the kkk and how he planned and spearheaded the revolution in cebu. many local folks were there: the sottos, flores, abellas, cabreros, tabada; many streets were mentioned too: calamba, tres, colon, pardo, mabolo, etc.

  26. c leon kilat ig agaw sa akng great grand mother sa cebu ky manghud lng na xa ni lola estefania guisando 6 katuig kabalu kaayu akng lola sa storya ni pantaleon villegas AKA leon kilat nga naa xa anting2x ky naa jud na sa ilng pamilya nga anting2x ngan usa sa lana ni pantaleon nga anting2x gtago pa sa akng lola ghatag sa akng papa nga naa pay mga usa sa panapton ni leon kilat sa iyang panyo gputs sa lana nga d maablihan walay tread ang botelya..saludo ko ky leon kilat sa iyang kaisug katakus nga moaway sa mga kastila xa ray isa patyon nya ang guardia civil tag walo iyang patyon

  27. believe ko sa isog ni pantaleon villegas AKA leon kilat sa Pagrevolution nla sa intero kabisay an..pasalamat sab ko dunay dugo ni leon kilat galatay sa akng mga ugat

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