His life was shrouded in mystery, this native of Bacong, Negros Oriental for whom this shrine was built.
People who knew him or of him talked about how his handkerchief could transform into a magic carpet, allowing him to suddenly appear from out of nowhere and disappear just as fast.
Pantaleon Villegas, in fact, got his nom de guerre “Leon Kilat” (for being lightning fast) from this alleged ability to breach the constraints of regular transport during his time.
He was rumored to carry amulets that made him invincible to bullets, a power useful in his role as the leader of the revolutionary forces of the Katipunan fighting the Spaniards in Cebu.
Shelves of artifacts dedicated to his life and death displayed at the Museo Sugbo include his mythical possessions, things that gave him abilities beyond those possessed by the ordinary man.
MONUMENT. A photo of the Leon Kilat Monument dated 1980. (Used with permission from the USC Cebuano Studies Center)
Beyond the myth, one thing was fact: his bravery was unquestionable.
Journalist Emil Justimbaste wrote in his book “Leon Kilat: The Story of Cebu’s 1898 Revolution” that Villegas, born on July 27, 1873, was sent to Cebu to lead the local Katipunan and carried a letter of appointment signed by General Emilio Aguinaldo.
Thirty years after the revolution, one of the first few recruits of the Katipunan in Cebu – Andres Abellana – recalled seeing with his own eyes how Villegas would advance towards his opponents even as bullets whizzed by.
He was rarely hit or unhurt if the bullet does get to him, according to Abellana, a former capitan of the San Nicolas District of old Cebu.
Tres de Abril battle
Villegas, depicted in this monument as astride a horse, staged what is said to be the most successful revolt against the Spaniards in Cebu on April 3, 1898.
Tres de Abril has been immortalized in the Cebu City street named after that triumphant battle.
Villegas initiated more attacks when Spanish forces started arresting local rebels but suffered setbacks a few days after the Tres de Abril incident.
Villegas and other revolutionaries arrived in Carcar on the 7th to make their last stand in the town.
Leon Kilat death
He was feted by the most powerful set of the town principalia but for the purpose of persuading him to move his resistance elsewhere.
Kilat refused, setting in motion plans that would lead to his death just a few hours from that night of the celebration.
He was assassinated in Carcar by the same people who wined and dined him, people who either feared Spanish reprisal if they did not themselves stop Kilat or simply sided with Spain or both.
Justimbaste’s book cited it was Fr. Francisco Blanco who suggested to kapitan Florencio Noel that Carcar could avoid retaliation from the Spaniards by killing Villegas. Blanco was then teaching Latin at the Colegio-Seminario de San Carlos.
Carcar was mostly a peaceful town free from the spirit of the revolution that plagued many provinces in Luzon as well as some places in the Visayas including Cebu.
Leon Kilat’s assassination on April 8, 1898 changed all this. Within a year after his ignominious death, Carcar joined the uprising and a Municipal Government under the revolutionary leadership of Don Florencio M. Noel was established.
He assumed the leadership of the new revolutionary government on January 15, 1899 through an election held among local leaders. It was short-lived though as American occupation forces had taken control of Carcar by July 2, 1899.