WE know that “Tres de Abril” is more than just the name of a Cebu City street; we just couldn’t fathom the depth of the date’s significance to our continuing battle against colonialism and neocolonialism—which in turn shows how deep the effect of centuries of foreign domination is to our national psyche.
April 3, 1898 was when the Cebuanos, led by Negros Oriental-born Pantaleon Villegas (a.k.a. “Leon Kilat”), finally proved they had embraced the nationwide revolt against Spanish colonial rule waged initially by the Tagalogs. The uprising’s main battle site was the area spanning what is now the Taboan Public Market to a portion of Barangay Labangon.
While the battle broke out five days earlier than planned, the timing was still good overall because the Spanish forces in Cebu were largely weak considering the battles the colonial troops engaged in other fronts of the country. The Cebuano revolutionaries were initially victorious, forcing Spanish Gen. Adolfo Montero to retreat to Fort San Pedro. But the uprising was suppressed days later with the arrival of Spanish reinforcements and the apparent disunity among Cebuanos.
That uprising produced local heroes and heels, and a story none more tragic than that of Villegas, whose betrayal led to his slaying by some of the very same people he sought to lead to freedom. But this has always been our lot as Filipinos, whether in war or in peace--or in the practice of our politics.
In sum, the “Tres de Abril” uprising is an interesting story that, sadly, like so many others in our past, has not been given its needed importance. That can partly be blamed on a history written for us or whose writing was largely influenced by the forces who colonized us. Blame that, too, on our failure as Cebuanos to dig deeper into our past, embrace it, and celebrate it.
Cebuano history is more than just Ferdinand Magellan gifting the wife of a Cebuano chieftain with the image of the Holy Child or Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s soldier finding that image in a burnt hut decades later. It’s also about many other things, like the chieftain Lapulapu and the Cebuano revolutionaries in “Tres de Abril” showing we are capable of standing up to foreign domination.