Tres de Abril: Remembering a Historical Cebuano Victory

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Along Tres de Abril Street is a monument that highlights an important victory during the Spanish colonization.

What do you think is the biggest historical victory for Cebuanos? 

Many might refer to the Battle of Mactan, but there is one other famous victory that has played a significant part in the history of Cebu. 

On April 3rd, 1898, Cebuano people took over the island against the heavily armed Spanish authorities under the leadership of a revolutionary hero. 

This victory is known as the Battle of Tres de Abril.  

For three days, Cebuanos dominated the Spaniards using guerilla tactics and clever planning under the leadership of Pantaleon Villegas, more famously known as Leon Kilat.  

He was a highly religious leader, with many believing he was immune to the bullets of the Spanish forces. Atty. Josephus Jimenez claimed (2023) that Leon Kilat got his moniker for his bravery, aggression, and speed on the battlefield. 

A resident of Negros Occidental, he was sent to the nearby island of Cebu to lead, unite, and train the Katipuneros on the island. It was here that Leon Kilat led one of the most notable uprisings in the history of Cebu. 


The Katipuneros planned to attack the Spaniards on April 8th, Good Friday, since the Spaniards would be busy with religious activities. Unfortunately, a member accidentally revealed their plans when he went to confession. 

At dawn on Palm Sunday, April 3rd, three of Leon Kilat’s friends were captured by police authorities, prompting him to plan an attack immediately. 

At three in the afternoon, Leon Kilat met up with Sergeant Pedro Royo and his troops at the corner of what is now V. Rama Avenue and Tres de Abril Street. Standing only 15 meters apart, Sergeant Royo demanded the Katipuneros go home. 

The Katipuneros (armed only with bolos) refused, saying that they were not afraid of the Spaniards’ more advanced artillery. 

The Spaniards opened fire, but Leon Kilat’s men dodged the shots after laying flat on the ground.  Knowing their rifles could only carry five rounds, the Katipuneros attacked and surrounded them while they were reloading.

Sergeant Royo and his men retreated, but many more skirmishes happened as Cebuanos gained authority over the land. The Spaniards took refuge inside Fort San Pedro for three days, waiting for backup from neighboring forces. 

The Cebuanos planned to take over the fort, but their low artillery could not destroy it. They instead thought about letting the soldiers starve inside while they surrounded the fort for three days. 

Help soon arrived for the Spaniards with the Don Juan Austria cruiser arriving in Cebu on April 7th. Katipuneros fled to the far-flung towns of Cebu province, marking the end of their three-day takeover.

Bobit Avila wrote in The Freeman (2009) that around 30 Spaniards and 15 Katipuneros were killed during the encounter. Despite these losses, those three days are remembered as an important victory for the Cebuano people.


Did Leon Kilat survive the Battle of Tres de Abril?

Leon Kilat fled to Carcar a day after the encounter, where he was warmly welcomed by residents of the southern Cebu town. Unfortunately, things didn’t end well for him.

Unknowingly, the people of Carcar were loyal to the Spaniards. So on April 8th, 1898, Leon Kilat was murdered in his sleep by Apolinario Alcuitas, his own military assistant. However, his death did not end the revolution, as several of his followers led by General Arcadio Maxilom took over and eventually gained control over Toledo and Balamban.

Cebuanos paid tribute to Leon Kilat’s bravery and combat intelligence through the Tres de Abril monument, where he is depicted on top of a galloping horse. 

The monument can be found in present day Barangay Labangon. 

Subsequently, there is a street in downtown Cebu named after him, which is famous for being the only place in the city where you can ride a horse-drawn carriage (considered the first public transportation vehicle on the island).

Many of Leon Kilat’s followers had specific areas in Cebu named after them as well, such as Francisco Llamas, Candido Padilla, and Arcadio Maxilom. 

The Cebu City government pays homage to the monument every 3rd of April, with a speech from the mayor reminding Cebuanos about the historic event. 

Tres de Abril starts from Punta Princesa to Spolarium Street in downtown Cebu, spanning a total of 3.01 kilometers. 

While the Battle of Tres de Abril did not completely take away the power of the Spaniards, it started a revolution that became an important factor in the country’s independence.   

The monument and marker serve as a reminder of the bravery of the early Cebuanos against the clutches of Spain, and should be celebrated as one of the most important victories in the history of Cebu.

Is it the most prominent victory? Some may agree, but it is a historical moment that is commemorated by Cebuanos all the same. 


Atty. Jimenez, Josephus. 2023. “The Historic Saga of Tres De Abril.” The Freeman.

Avila, Bobit S. 2009. “Remembering the Tres de Abril uprising.” The Freeman.

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