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The Battle of Tres de Abril

Leon KilatLeon Kilat and his Katipuneros finally decided that it was time to make their move and planned for an armed revolt against the Spanish Guardia Civil in Cebu.

However while they were still making their plans, the Guardia Civil arrested many of his men in the movement and one confessed that indeed Leon Kilat was preparing for battle on Good Friday. However since it was already at Palm Sunday, the Spaniards did not believe that the Katipuneros would make their attack. But Leon Kilat had to move up his planned uprising from Good Friday because he already lost the element of surprise.

He and his men met a troop of armed Guardia Civil along the corner of what is now V. Rama Ave. and Tres de Abril street. While they were across each other on the street, they exchanged harsh and insulting words that ended in a brawl and the Guardia Civil began shooting Leon Kilat and his men. But with only bolos as weapons, Leon Kilat attacked the Guardia Civil and overwhelmed them…fleeing towards Magallanes street into the safety of Ft. San Pedro. Soon, the other Guardia Civil units joined them inside the fort fearing that the revolt already included the Cebuano populace.

The Battle of Tres de Abril
The Battle of Tres de Abril Painting

For four days, Leon Kilat held the City of Cebu under his command. Unfortunately, the rest of the Cebuano populace did not really jump with joy because of fear that the Spanish troops were still very much around the country. In one incident, a Spaniard inside the walls of Fort San Pedro fired a shot at Leon Kilat on top of his horse and he fell down. Perhaps the bullet grazed him, but he wasn’t hurt and it only added to his legend that he was invincible even against bullets because of his “Anting-anting” or amulet.

On the 4th day, just when the Spaniards inside the walls of Fort San Pedro were running out of food supplies, water and were about to give up, the Spanish Cruiser Don Juan Austria arrived with fresh Spanish troops and soon, the poorly armed Leon Kilat who only took the rifles of the Spaniards that they killed three days earlier fled to different parts of Cebu.

Leon Kilat fled to the town of Carcar (the original hometown of the Avila family) and on April 8, 1898, his own men had him so drunk they carried him to his room and put him on his bed…then his aide-de-camp Apolinario Alcuitas and his seconds repeatedly stabbed him to death. They had hope that if they surrendered the dead body of Leon Kilat, the Spaniards who were coming after them would grant them leniency.

Reenactment of The Battle of Tres de Abril

Unfortunately, the Juez de Cochillo had them all executed. But it was not the end of the Cebuano rebellions as another leader emerged in the person of Gen. Arcadio Maxilom who captured Balamban, Asturias and Tuburan but thanks to the efforts of Leon Kilat, the revolt against the Spaniards was no longer stoppable. Later the Don Juan Austria bombarded Tuburan with cannon fire to rid Gen. Maxilom control of the town.

Meanwhile, little did Filipinos know that on the other side of the world, dramatic, albeit historic events were taking place after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana on Feb. 15, 1898. Then on April 21 the US Navy blockaded Cuba due to the sinking of the Maine. On April 23, 1898, Spain declared war against the United States and on April 25, the US Congress declared war against Spain.

By the end of the month of April 1898, the Asiatic Squadron of Admiral George Dewey steamed into Manila Bay at night passing Corregidor unnoticed. Next day on May 1, 1898 began the historic Battle of Manila Bay and the rest is what we call… history.


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