By: Radel Paredes | April 2, 2016 @cebudailynews
Today in 1898, a group of Cebuanos, armed only with machetes, knives, and spears, rose up against the Spaniards and their loyalists at an intersection in Labangon, in what is now known as the Tres de Abril revolt. Led by Pantaleon Villegas, a skilled tactician more famous for his nom de guerre as Leon Kilat, the natives valiantly defeated the Spanish soldiers and drove them to retreat in Fort San Pedro.
In the three days following the uprising, Cebu’s Katipuneros roamed the streets of the city, hunting down their enemies, those who failed to flee to the Fort. They set up an ad hoc system with Leon Kilat as head as the revolt in Cebu city inspired residents in nearby towns to also take up arms.
Leon Kilat led attempts to attack Fort San Pedro but failed. They planned to starve the enemy into surrender. Unfortunately, Spanish gunboats and troops on board ships arrived to reinforce those holed up in the fort. They started shelling the Katipuneros who began to retreat to the mountains and to nearby towns where the Katipunan had made victories.
The group of Leon Kilat retreated to the town of Kabkab (Carcar) expecting that his comrades there would protect them. But, the local leaders, sensing impending defeat of the Katipunan following the advance of newly-replenished Spanish troops, conspired to murder Leon Kilat to prove their loyalty to the Spaniards.
That was the tragic death of the gallant leader of Cebu’s fight for Philippine independence in 1898. As in most revolutions, it had its share of treachery and betrayal.
But the struggle continued. The revolutionaries who first went to the hills were emboldened by the defeat of the Spaniards in Luzon by the Katipunan.
After a series of victories of the Cebuano revolutionaries, the Spaniards began fleeing the city and those left eventually surrendered to the revolutionary government headed by General Arcadio Maxilom and Luis Flores. On December 29, 1898, the revolutionaries celebrated independence with a mass at the Cebu Cathedral. They raised the flag and shouted “Mabuhi ang Katipunan! Mabuhi ang Pilipinas!” (Long live the Katipunan! Long live the Philippines!). The flag of the Philippine
Republic, similar to the one raised by Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898, was also raised by Cebuanos.
And while Manila eventually capitulated to the Americans in the brief Philippine-American War shortly after the Katipuneros declared Independence, the Cebuanos enjoyed self-rule for two more months. Finally, in February in 1899, the Philippine Republic in Cebu surrendered to the Americans.
Not much has been written about the Revolution in Cebu. The Americans, of course, suppressed local attempts to recall the 1898 Revolution afraid that it might inspire anti-colonial sentiments during the early years of their rule. It was not until around the 1930s, in the wake of the clamor for independence, that local veterans and eyewitnesses began publishing their own account. Among this was the book Ang Sugbu sa Karaang Panahon by Felix Sales, which came out in 1935.
This dearth of local historical accounts resulted in the impression that the Katipunan revolt was limited only to Manila and the rest of Luzon, particularly the eight provinces represented in the Philippine flag. Fortunately, contemporary historians are starting to fill the gap. Writers like Resil Mojares, Michael Cullinane, and Emil Justimbaste recounted these turbulent years in Cebu’s struggle against colonial rule with new research.
And to mark the importance of this historic day, Emil Justimbaste’s Leon Kilat: The Untold Story of the 1898 Cebu Revolution is going to be launched today at exactly 3:00 in the afternoon, the time the Tres de Abril attack began, at the newly-opened Palm Grass Hotel near the corner of Junquera and Sanciangko streets.
The Cebuano heritage-themed hotel, owned by the descendants of Isidro Guibelondo, the Spanish mestizo lawyer at whose house the Tres de Abril revolt was planned in 1898, is the publisher of this new book on Leon Kilat by Justimbaste. Descendants of other revolutionaries are also invited as Palm Grass honors these heroes with a large glass wall etched with their names at the hotel’s Cebu-history themed Galleria Independencia.
This book launching makes today’s commemoration of Tres de Abril more special.