The monument to the revolutionary hero-Leon Kilat (Gen.Pantaleon Villegas) stands at the approach to Carcar,Cebu town’s civic plaza.(Photo: Ted Alcuitas, PCN,Com)
Updated: See Comments, April 6, 2020,3:21 PM
The monument that divided a town
Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas
It was supposed to honour a revolutionary hero and unite the people.
Instead, it fanned the flames of division that has plagued the country till today.
Kilat’s death was shrouded in mystery and controversy. Did he die for the people or was the town of Carcar (now a City) saved from the wrath of the Spanish colonizers if he stayed alive? Who were the plotters and who did the dastardly act of putting a dagger into his breast and broke his skull?
Engraving at the side of Leon Kilat’s monument. (Photo by Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas, PCN.Com)
The controversy that led to his death also followed the decision to build a monument in his honour. Erected in 1959, 61 years after he was killed on April 7, 1898, the monument stirred age-old political controversies – between the Noels and the faction led by Mariano ‘Noy Nanoy’ Mercado.
Town officials were split on the issue: should Leon Kilat be honoured with a statue and thus remind the townspeople of the people behind his assassination?
The town mayor at the time was Galileo ‘Liling’ Varga, political opponent of the incumbent district representative – Congressman Maximino Noel, ‘Noy Minong’ to his loyal supporters. Maximino was the son of Florencio Mercado Noel and Filomena Jaen. Florencio was the mayor who was believed to have ordered the killing of Leon Kilat. Florencio was succeeded as Mayor by sons Vicente and Mariano.
Maximino ‘Noy Minong’ Noel
The town councillors were evenly split with the vice-mayor and mayor casting the vote that passed the resolution. Those who opposed was said not to ruffle the feathers of the influential Congressman Maximo Noel, son of the Mayor who ordered the killing of Kilat.For them, it was better to bury the past with his bones.They belonged to the Noel faction against those of the Mariano Mercado clan. Maximo Noel was barely in his teens when the 1898 betrayal happened.
But Mayor Liling Varga was undaunted. A protege of the Noel’s nemesis, Mariano ‘Noy Nanoy’ Mercado, he pushed for the erection of the monument and commissioned one of Carcar’s well-known sculptor, Roman Sarmiento (11) to execute the project.
I had the privilege of talking to Mayor Liling in one of my rare visits to my ancestral town. One thing that he shared with me is the seemingly unobtrusive slant of the hero’s head towards the direction of the Noel’s ‘Ang Dakong Balay’ along Sta. Catalina St.
Was it pointing to the perpetrators of the crime? Why not directly towards the house where the killing occurred, just across the street?
These are just some of the controversies surrounding the monument. Others like the late blogger Vip Aleonar (Carcar Families)questioned why the sculptor’s name was not even in the monument. Aleonar also pointed to the quote:”Your Nation’s Heart, Your Grave will be, Your Monument, a Nation Free” engraved on the right side of the statute where ‘Nation’ was substitute for ‘People’ in the original by Caroline Atherton Mason, to honor Abraham Lincoln.
“The left side of the monument has another quotation: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” This is no Horatian ode, this was the man’s himself. So why’s Horace’s name not here? Were not crediting quotations this early portents of things to come from our townfolks in facebook? “, Aleonar asks.
The betrayal of Leon Kilat was a common theme in the Revolution against Spain – from the assassination of the Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio to Gen. Antonio Luna and Diego Silang amongothers.