APRIL 3, 1898 was a Palm Sunday. On that day, Cebuano Katipunan leader Pantaleon Villegas, more popularly known as Leon Kilat, sparked a revolution in Cebu against the Spanish occupiers.
“Tana, moalsa kita karong adlawa. Kadtong saad ayaw na’g hulata, dili ta kini palabyong adlawa. Kay usa ka gutlo nga paglangan, libo ka dupa ang kadaugan sa atbang (Come, let us start the uprising today. Let’s not wait for the promised help, we will not let this day pass. A moment wasted means victory for the enemy.),” Leon Kilat was reported to have exhorted Cebuano Katipuneros, according to journalist Emil Justimbaste in his website, which has long been taken offline.
Leon Kilat and his band would gain control of key Cebu installations like Fort San Pedro, the seat of local government. The Spaniards, however, fought back and forced Kilat and his forces to retreat to the southern town of Kabkab, the present-day Carcar City.
UNGO RUNNERS in front of Leon Kilat’s monument in Carcar City. The statue was the finish point of the 1st Leon Kilat’s Retreat, a run held to honor Katipunan leader Pantaleon Villegas, more popularly known as Leon Kilat. (Photo by Victor Chan)
Upon arriving at the town, Kilat was treated like a dignitary. Carcar officials prepared him a feast of goat’s meat, chicken and pork. After supper, he was offered “coffee and ginebra.” When the tired revolutionary was asleep, however, traitors in Carcar made their move and killed him, with the designated killer, Apolinario Alcuitas, announcing for all to hear, “Mga kaigsoonan, ipahibalo ko kaninyo nga karong gabhiona, may ihawon akong kabayo.” (Brothers, I would like to announce that tonight I am going to slaughter a horse.)
The traitors ganged up on Kilat in the early morning of Good Friday, stabbing him repeatedly to make sure he was dead—Kilat was reported to be invulnerable because of his amulets. Eight men pinned him to the floor, taking turns stabbing him.
I have long been fascinated by the life of Leon Kilat and found it unfortunate that heroes like him are barely written about in our history books.
Before I researched on the local revolution for a special Independence Day issue of the now-defunct The Independent Post in 1998, the only Leon Kilat I knew was a street in downtown Cebu City. But Leon Kilat and the Cebu revolution make for fascinating reading and pretty soon I was hooked.
I’ve long planned to run in Leon Kilat’s footsteps. Last year, my wife, Marlen, and I ran from Dumaguete to Bacong town, where Leon Kilat was born, to Valencia then back to Dumaguete—one of the most memorable road and off-road runs I’ve tried.
But my goal was always to run from Cebu City to Carcar to follow Leon Kilat’s retreat and honor his martyrdom.
Last Sunday, I did just that with my running group—the Ungo Runners. Last April 3, 113 years after Leon Kilat launched the revolution in Cebu, 59 runners set off from the kilometer 0 marker in front of Capitol in Cebu City to run to Leon Kilat’s monument in Carcar City, close to 40 kms. away.
The run, which we called “Leon Kilat’s Retreat,” was exclusive to regular Ungo Runners, although we stressed that “bandits were very much welcome.” A bandit is runnerspeak for an unregistered runner.
KILOMETER ZERO. Ungo Runners gather at the Kilometer 0 marker in Capitol for the start of Leon Kilat’s Retreat (PHOTO BY/RICHELIEU MARIANO HO)
Instead of running shirts, we had exclusive bandanas with an Ungo Smiley rendered as a KKK icon. Among the many legends of Leon Kilat was that he was able to fly around using his magical red handkerchief.
The heat was searing last Sunday, but it was matched by the warmth of the members of our support groups. Ungo Runners are very lucky to have such supportive members who made sure we were safe, well-fed and well-hydrated throughout the route. Hardcore ultra-runner Brod Carlo Bacalla did the equivalent of an ultra-marathon by serving as a roving marshal—doing a headcount on the run to make sure everyone was accounted for.
Our finish line was Leon Kilat’s statue on the road leading to the Carcar City Hall. Although the entire route was just about 40 kilometers, most of us completed a full marathon because we had to walk more than a kilometer away to the sumptuous feast that awaited us, in the ancestral home of marathoner and heart surgeon Peter Mancao, our host.
The Carcar City Government, which was represented by Public Information Officer Ra Solomon and City Administrator Edgar Oca, welcomed the runners and said they want to be more closely involved next year. Solomon said they were thankful for Leon Kilat’s Retreat because it raised the profile of a local revolutionary hero. He said many in Carcar do not even know who Leon Kilat is.
Fifty-nine runners ran from Capitol for Carcar last Sunday. Of the number, 57 made it to Leon Kilat’s statue. There were no major incidents in the run. Serial marathoner Joel Garganera, however, suffered injuries when he tripped. Garganera, who never stops poking fun at anything, said he was jinxed by Leon Kilat because he played the role of the assassin in a play on the Cebuano revolutionary’s life.
Next year, the run will be bigger, albeit still exclusive to regular Ungo Runners (you still have time to rack up attendance records by attending our weekly Friday Night Run in Ayala Center Cebu).
And by some stroke of luck, next year’s run will be on April 8, the day Leon Kilat was martyred.
DR. MANCAO’S ANCESTRAL HOME. Some members of the excellent Ungo support crew at the ancestral home of Dr. Peter Mancao, who hosted a sumptuous feast for the runners.