Leon Kilat and Tres de Abril

Everyone in Cebu knows what Tres de Abril is. Tres de Abril is a street in Cebu City. The first time I heard Tres de Abril was when I arrived in Cebu in 2000. I asked why the street is called a such. A Cebuano officemate told me about the battle that took place on April 3, 1898. He also narrated to me about Leon Kilat.

pantaleon-villegas-leon-kilat.jpgI was mesmerized as if I had the anting-anting (amulet) of Leon Kilat. It was also the first time I heard about him. Leon Kilat is also a name of a street in Cebu City in honor of Pantaleon Villegas “Leon Kilat” for his great contribution to Cebu history.

It was then that I learn to value not only Colon Street but also other notable streets in Cebu such as C. Padilla, T. Padilla, Gen. Maxilom, A. Abellana, among others.

Tres de Abril

Tres de Abril or April 3 is an important date in Cebu. Every year, Cebuanos celebrate it as the date when major resistance movement was staged against Spanish rule.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon of April 3, 1898 (Palm Sunday) marked an exciting moment in the history of Cebu. Cebuano Katipuneros led by Leon Kilat fought their battle of a lifetime. It was as if their anger, repressed in three centuries of docility and subservience, was now bursting from its shell.

At 5 o’clock in the afternoon on the same day, Cebuano Katipuneros gained control when Spanish forces had no choice but to retreat to Fort San Pedro. “Viva katipunan! Viva Filipinas!” was heard over as shouted by the Katipuneros. In the next three days, the Katipuneros headed by Leon Kilat, were in complete control of Cebu City.

Although the success of the Katipuneros was short-lived, it inspired other Katipuneros to fight. The the success of Tres de Abril revolution motivated other residents in other towns to take up arms also.

[Source: Chapter 5 – April 3, Palm Sunday “Leon Kilat and Cebu’s Revolution” by Emil Justimbaste]

Leon Kilat

Leon Kilat was among the notable person in Tres de Abril revolution. Leon Kilat’s life and works inspired many. In Carcar, where Leon Kilat died, stands his monument.

Leon KilatThe monument shows Leon Kilat with a sword in hand, riding his legendary horse “Puti”.

The most notable account on the activities of Leon Kilat is the The untold story of Leon Kilat and Cebu’s Revolution in 1898 by Emil Justimbaste.

Leon Kilat was the nom de guerre (war alias name) of Pantaleon Villegas, the leader in the onset of hostilities in April 1898. Pantaleon Villegas was a native of Bacong, Negros Oriental.

Max Limpag’s Pantaleon Villegas, the man behind the mythical Leon Kilat gives us good view of Leon Kilat’s great contribution to Cebu’s revolution. Limpag wrote, Leon Kilat, according to the myth that surrounded him years after his death, was said to possess amulets that made him almost invincible.

This inspire another Cebuano writer, Lorenzo Niñal to do a research about Leon Kilat. He is more interested to know the juiciest, oddest, most outrageous, most intriguing trivia […] about Leon Kilat and his soldiers.


Tres de Abril and Leon Kilat continue to inspire Cebuanos and the Filipino nation.

May the spirit of nationalism, courage and leadership of Leon Kilat lives in every Cebuano’s heart and in every Filipino’s life. On April 3 let us commemorate the courage of Pantaleon Villegas and his men.

Blog I author (Bisaya): Ambot Lang!

22 thoughts on “Leon Kilat and Tres de Abril

  1. I considered myself a true-blue Cebuano, but I didn’t know about this. Thanks for the educational read. Now, who is M.J. Cuenco? I grew up on that street (avenue) but had not heard or read about him in history class.

    batang buotan says:
    Presently, Congressman Antonio Cuenco serves as representative of 2nd district of Cebu City. Certainty, the Cuenco family is famous here. Clarence, a Cebuano, told me that MJ Cuenco stands for Mariano Jesus Cuenco; thus Gov. MJ Cuenco Avenue.

    Mariano Jesus Cuenco served as Cebu governor in 1931, became Philippine Senator in 1941. He was also a prolific writer – publisher.

    I’m currently working in A.S. Fortuna, in Mandaue. I also wonder who is A.S. Fortuna. It always pays to know bits of Cebu history.

  2. Good to know about M.J. Cuenco. Something new I learned today. Thanks.

    Now, about Fortuna, maybe that’s the founder of La Fortuna Bakery 🙂 I’m not even sure that bakery still exists. As a child, we used to buy bread there.

    batang buotan
    You’re welcome. La Fortuna Bakery still operates and continues to grow. The family (who owned the bakery) has recently ventured into hotel business.

  3. wow ang galing naman!
    ang ganda ng lugar nyo! sana makarating din mi jan someday!

    batang buotan says:
    You are always welcome here! Suroy-suroy n’ya ‘ta.

  4. A. S. Fortuna was a former mayor of Mandaue City. He is the grandfather of the now vice mayor Carlo. For more details… hmmm let me ask Carlo about it..

    batang buotan says:
    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hear more details about A.S. Fortuna soon.

  5. wow. salamat for this . i read the entire thing. very awesome. honestly, hapit ko kahilak sa assassination ni leon kilat sa Kabkab. so sad.

    batang buotan says:
    You’re welcome. Salamat pod sa pagdu-aw. Tinuod, sakit kaayo ang kamatayon ni Leon Kilat. Sa nahitabo, daghan ta angay nga makat-onan.

  6. I admire Kilat for what he stood for and his bravery during the revolution, there is much that we can learn from this important event, not only the insurrection. The short end of it is that the revolution failed because we had a disunited front, Kilat’s is no different as he was killed by his own men said to have shifted back to the Spanish side. Anyway, these splits are all to common, often overlooked in our history books, Bonifacio and Luna’s death are the only popular ones we know but there were many killings, Filipino killing their own, that are still up to now left unresolved. This is why we lost the war against the US, by the way we never won against the Spaniards in the first place, the American had to buy us out after their moro-moro war. If we would only review history cautiously, we might learn something, instead of singing praises and erecting monuments – we could finally understand the flaws of our country, nothing wrong here but history ought to be studied in its entirety, examining and researching all sides.

    Mabuhay ka kaibigan.

  7. i am a descendant of General Hilario Alino. one of the noted generals of the cebu revolution. General Hilario is one ot the TRES ALINOS who never surrendered to any of the colonizers. they died as rebels and enemy to their former comrades who surrendered to the americans during their takeover in the early 1900’s. Sadly, only a small street in Talisay is named after them to honor their contribution when in fact, even Leon KilaT salutes to these Generals.

  8. tres de abril is one of the greatest date in the history of the cebuano, and i am proud to be the great grandson of the late col. arsenio cabreros who fought side by side leon kilat,thats why we have this cabreros st. in basak, cebu city the place where my great grandfather was born..i hope that the future cebuanos may remember that april 3 is the day we fought hard to gain our independence from this invading foriegners..in other words” dili madaugdaug ang mga biisdak sa mga katsilang bunguton”.

  9. Is it true that inscriptions on Leon Kilat’s monument in Carcar, Cebu say that he was born on 1769 and died on 1893? The magical hero was 124 years old when he was assassinated! He was not a member of the Katipunan which was formed only sometime in 1896 (Pugad Lawin) nor was he a general. He wasn’t even a part of the Tres de Abril attack in 1898…Ask the old folks in Carcar.

    He waged his own insurrections vs. the Spanish in Negros, Panay, and Cebu from 1799 to 1893 or for almost 100 years. From his original name of Pantaleon Cortes (born in San Fernando, Cebu to Francisco Santander Cortes and Margarita Belcina) he reappeared in Bacong, Negros and changed his name to Pantaleon Villegas). Conventional historical records say he was born on 1873 in Bacong, Negros (to Policarpio Villegas and Ursula Solde)and died at a young age of 25 on 1898.

    Much like Zorro, the legend, Leon Kilat’s existence spanned 2 generations and confused many historians. His real amulet was responsible for his (almost immortal) incredible long-life. Could he be 2 persons, reincarnation of a hero to continue his fight against the Spanish oppressors?

  10. @thelegendandthemyth:

    Can you share to us your proof on your claim? Especially on your claim that Pantaleon Villegas “wasn’t even a part of the Tres de Abril attack in 1898”. Do you have documented sources on this?

    Thank you for sharing all these information because these would help historians clarify some doubts.

  11. Leon Kilat is good example of a local hero’s…….because he led the first Cebuano revolt againt’s the Spaniards…..

  12. leon kilat is a adeamant leader in his time….. he gave his life just for our freedom ,,, so as a filipino , we should serve him as our model in this era ,,

  13. Would you know if he has brothers or sisters? My great grand father Leoncio Villegas Sr. was a Captain who was believed to have originated from Negros Oriental. He and his men moved to Negros Occidental and was one of the founders of a barrio called Ma-ao in Bago City, Negros Occidental. He had two sons Roman Villegas Sr. and Jaime Benito (died in Death March). I am one of the decendants of Roman Villegas Sr. A street Villegas Ave in our place was named after him. We had been tracing our roots and we were told that we are the decendants of Don Pedro in Negros Oriental. Our data stopped at Leoncio who married Engracia Salas Yulo. if you have data pls email me at gmvillegas@wlgi-ph.com or greg_mv@yahoo.com

  14. Hello Mr. Villegas. I would love to share if I know even a bit of information. I pray that one of our readers know and generously share that precious information.

  15. I love to read this post…. I learned a lot… It really seems that I am not a true blooded Cebuano… All these learnings are useful to my up coming event… Thanks a lot for sharing.

  16. as a teacher rest assured this will continue and be always a source of inspiration to many…..

  17. Batang Buotan- Sorry I just visited your blog again. Our great grand father who founded Sitio Pucatod in Barrio Ma-ao, Bago City was named Claudio Villegas and is believed to be the brother of Pantalleon Villegas or Leon Kilat, hero of Cebu and Bacongan, Negros Oriental . He fled Negros Oriental in 1890’s and resettled in Pucatod, Ma-ao (now called Roman Villegas Ave.), because he was a wanted man by the Spanish Friars for spreading Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere and El Filibusterismo in Negros Island.

    Our ancestors said he burned all documents that could link him to Leon Kilat. He died of old age leaving two sons. The name Leon keeps on appearing in every generation. My father’s name is Leoncio.
    My grandfather who was a Capt. survived the WWII but his brother died in Death March and has a marker in Libingan ng mga bayani.

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