A page from the past – the entry in the Carcar church’s’ book of deaths showing Leon Kilat (Pantaleon Villegas), identified as an ‘insurecto’ and an ‘indio’ died on April 7, 1898. It is signed by Fr. Manuel Fernandez. (photo: Ted Alcuitas)
This month in history
The man who killed Leon Kilat – Villain or Hero ?
By Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas
No other name other than the legendary hero’s is more known than that of Apolinario Alcuitas, the man who killed Kilat on Good Friday, April 8, 1898, 118 years ago this month.
Did Apolinario Alcuitas ‘Nario’, to his colleagues, betray the revolution or did he save the town of Carcar from the dreaded ‘juez de cuchillo’ or ‘judgement by the sword’?
Was Alcuitas driven by his desire to save his town from the Spanish sword or did he turn his back on the revolution?
Or was he a willing tool of the Spanish elite led by then Capitan Florencio Noel?
In contemporary times, Apolinario could be called a hired assassin.
If so, was he paid to do so? What was the deal he made with Noel to perform the dastardly act that took the life of Leon Kilat and thus saved the town of Carcar from sure devastation and loss of lives?
Was he given tracts of land as was the practice of Spanish friars and gentries to reward their loyal subjects?
Or was he promised immunity from arrest and sure execution as befell his other Katipuneros?
This and many other questions remain unanswered to this day and buried with him in his grave.
But as the great-great nephew of Apolinario, I have been haunted by the thought that my great grandfather betrayed the country of my birth.
The 24-year old revolutionary whose real name is Pantaleon Soldi Villegas was not from Cebu but from the neighbouring town of Bacong, Negros Oriental. He found work in Cebu City in a drugstore as a baker but was recruited by the Katipunan in Manila and appointed to head the Cebu chapter.
The battle of Tres de Abril and retreat to Carcar
Leon Kilat had mounted a successful battle at Tres de Abril St. in the City of Cebu on April 3 driving the Spanish forces to retreat to Fort San Pedro where they were holed up surrounded by the Katipunan.
From there the Spaniards called for reinforcements that arrived from Manila with a battleship anchored at the port. During the ensuing battle with a reinforced Spanish army, the Katipuneros were defeated and Leon Kilat decided to retreat to Carcar some 40 kms. to the south to regroup his forces and mount an offensive.
According to the story written by Vicente Alcoseba, Padre Francisco Blanco asked the town’s Capitan – Don Florencio Noel to come to the confessional instead of to the convento in order to avoid suspicion.
There, within the sanctuary of the confessional and breaking his sacred vows not to reveal anything, the priest told Noel that Spanish authorities had threatened to impose the extreme judgment of the sword if Kilat will not retreat from the town or otherwise abandon his plan to assault the City of Cebu after re-grouping in Carcar.
Thus the plot to assassinate Leon Kilat was hatched in the confessional.
The mastermind was Don Florencio Noel, the town’s capitan with prominent leaders in the town acting as accomplices including Kilat’s aide-de-camp – Apolinario Alcuitas.
Leon KIlat arrived in Carcar on Holy Thursday (April 7) and first visited the house of Capitan Simeon Paras but later that day, transferred to the house of Capitan Timoteo (Tiyoy) Barcenilla where he was invited for supper.
After supper, he asked Capitan Tiyoy if he could call a tailor who could make for him a traje de rayadillo. The tailor Segundo Alcordo then measured Kilat for a new rayadillo while the plotters were all ill at ease.
Suddenly, Apolinario Alcuitas, a member of the Katipunan and one of Kilat’s men who was recruited in Carcar, shouted for everyone to hear, “mga caigsoonan, ipahibalo ko canino nga carung gab’hiuna, may ihaoon akong caballo.” (Brothers, I want to inform you that tonight I will slaughter a horse) At that time, they didn’t understand what he meant.
In some accounts, Alcuitas is mentioned as an aide-de-camp to Leon Kilt which probably explains why he was allowed to be near him when he retired for the night.
It seems that after the killing and burial of Leon Kilat, Apolinario disappeared from the scene and was forgotten.
Except for my own family.
Apolinario Alcuitas was one of four children of Julio Roca Alcuitas.
He had two sisters, Petra (who remained single) and a successful businesswoman, Valeriana (Alegrado) and one brother, Agripino who married Tranquilina Alcordo.
Apolinario married Elena Alcordo and they had three daughters – Teodora ( Eufemio Pugoy), Lorenzana (Daniel Aldave) and Josefa (Jose Caballero), and a son Fructuoso.
Valeriana had two daughters – Salud and Agustina who married Teofilo Quijano.
The Pugoys, Aldaves, Quijanos and Alcuitas of Carcar are direct descendants of Apolinario Alcuitas.
I come from the Agripino and Tranquilina union which bore four children – Ruperto , my father, who married Isabel Llacuna from Camiguin Island Misamis Oriental, Patricio, Mamerta (Alcoseba) and Adela ( Moreno).
The 12-inch blade that Apolinario drove into Kilat’s heart remained a forbidden curiosity in our house. How it ended up in our house also remained a mystery although cousins of mine would tell me that Apolinario wanted to leave it to my father instead of to his daughters.
I recall growing up and getting curious about the presence of a rusted blade knife ( baraw) about 12 to 14 inches long stuck into one of our bedroom walls made of sawali. My brothers and father warned me that the knife should not be touched or played with.
During gatherings in our house especially at funeral wakes or ‘bilar’, the topic of the baraw invariably comes up. We know that it was the weapon used to kill Leon Kilat.
Sadly, the relic has been lost. My elder brother Alfonso brought it with him to Malangas, Zamboanga del Sur where he was residing. Some years later when I was back in the Philippines, I inquired about it and he could no longer locate it.
Thus another link to the past disappeared.
(Ted Alcuitas is Publisher and Editor of the online publication, philippine canadian news.com. He lives in Vancouver, B.C., Canada)