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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.”

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.