Hero or villain?
By Ted Alcuitas
(Updated: April 6, 2017, Alegrado and Quijano added)
APOLINARIO Alcuitas killed Leon Kilat on Good Friday, April 8, 1898, exactly 119 years ago this month.
Did Alcuitas—’Nario’ to his colleagues—betray the revolution or did he save the town of Carcar from the dreaded “juez de cuchillo” or “judgment 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?
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 Don Florencio 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 the gentry to reward their loyal subjects?
This and many other questions remain unanswered to this day and buried with him in his grave.
As the great-great grandson of Apolinario, I have been haunted by the thought that my great-great grandfather betrayed the country of my birth.
The 24-year-old revolutionary whose real name was Pantaleon Soldi “Leon Kilat” Villegas was not from Cebu but from Bacong town in Negros Oriental. He found work in Cebu City in a drugstore and a bakery but was recruited by the Katipunan in Manila and appointed to head the Cebu chapter.
Leon Kilat had mounted a successful battle on Tres de Abril St. in the City of Cebu on April 3, 1898, driving the Spanish forces to retreat to Fort San Pedro, where they were holed up surrounded by the Katipuneros.
From there, the Spaniards called for reinforcements, which 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 kilometers 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 confession in order to avoid suspicion. There, within the sanctuary of the confessional and breaking his sacred duty not to reveal anything, the priest told Noel that Spanish authorities had threatened to impose the extreme judgment of the sword (juez de cuchillo) if Kilat would not leave the town.
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 (a military uniform). 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 revolution and one of Kilat’s men who was recruited in Carcar, shouted for everyone to hear, “Mga caigsoonan, ipahibalo ko caniño nga carung gab’hiuna, may ihaoon acong caballo.” (My brothers, I want to let you know that tonight, I will slaughter a horse).
At that time, they didn’t understand what he meant. It seems that after the killing and burial of Leon Kilat, Apolinario disappeared from the scene and was forgotten.
Except for my own family.
Blade on the wall
Apolinario Alcuitas was one of four children of Julio Roca Alcuitas, whose wife we have no record of. Apolinario had two sisters—Petra (who remained single), Valeriana (Alegrado)—and one brother, Agripino, who married Tranquilina Alcordo.
Apolinario married Elena Alcordo and had three daughters—Teodora (Eufemio Pugoy), Lorenzana (Daniel Aldave), and Felipa (Jose Caballero)—and a son, Fructuoso (Marcela Galicano).
Valeriana married Escolastico Alegrado who had a daughter Agustina. Agustina married Teofilo Quijano.
I come from the union of Agripino and Tranquilina, 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. 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 wakes or “bilar”, the topic of the blade invariably came up.
We knew that it was the weapon used to kill Leon Kilat. I remember asking my father one time why it was in our possession and not with my cousins, the Aldaves who were the grandchildren of Apolinario. The answer was that he had no sons and the safekeeping fell on my father. But later in my research, I found out he had a son, Fructuoso.
Why was a knife used?
Records say the plotters believed that Kilat could only be killed by a knife because of his “anting-anting” (amulets). But to make sure he was really dead, the assassins mashed his head with the butt of a Mauser rifle. This was confirmed when his remains were exhumed years later to be buried in his hometown of Bacong, Negros Oriental.
Although Apolinario was the man credited with the killing, he had several accomplices. Another fact that came out several years later when Kilat’s body was exhumed, was the presence of a number of skeletons, indicating that there were other men killed and buried in a mass grave that day.
My search at the Carcar church records only revealed the entry on Leon Kilat’s burial. I could not do a search for Apolinario Alcuitas, as I had no information as to his date of birth or his death. None of my relations could give any information on him.
And so the mystery of Apolinario Alcuitas remains to this day.
(This article first appeared in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on April 06, 2017.)