Our Lady of Caysasay
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (April 2009)|
|Our Lady of Caysasay
Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia
|Location||Taal, Batangas, Philippines|
|Holy See approval||December 8, 1954|
|Shrine||Archdiocesan Shrine of the Our Lady of Caysasay|
Our Lady of Caysasay (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Caysasay) is a Marian statue originally venerated at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay in Taal, Batangas province in the Philippines. The image depicting the Immaculate Conception is believed to be one of the oldest in the country. It was found in 1603 by a man named Juan Maningcad while casting his net in the nearby Pansipit River. The Marian apparitions in the early 17th century and documented by the church leaders is believed to be the first in the country. The miracles and healings attributed by the followers and devotees through the intercession of the to the Virgin of Caysasay since then, still continues to this day.
The image was canonically crowned in 1954 and was later given the title the "Queen of the Archdiocese of Lipa". The feast day of Our Lady of Caysasay is celebrated every December 8 and 9. The image spend half of her week in the Shrine of Caysasay and half, at the Basilica de San Martin de Tours to satisfy the needs of the locals and followers.
The Lady, measuring about 272 mm (10.7 in), came garbed only in a simple red tunic dress gathered above her waist, then billowing into huge folds around her ankles. A green shawl is her only shield from the changing cycles of hot days and cold nights. She tilts very slightly forward, her hands clasped across her breasts below her right shoulder. One eye is slightly bigger than the other.
The Lady of Caysasay is one of oldest Marian image in the Philippines. Our Lady of Guidance (Nuestra Señora de Guia de Manila) enshrined in Ermita, Manila, is the oldest believed to have been brought to the country by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. The report and documentation of the apparitions of 1611-1619, and later in 1639, are unique in Philippine church annals as they are believed to be the first Marian apparitions in the Philippines. In those days, the country was under the autonomous Mexican vicariate. Fr. Casimiro Diaz, who reported the confirmation of the apparitions and miracles, was a deputy of the order's Mexican center.
Accounts of the discovered image
In the year 1603 in Caysasay, a small barangay in the town of Taal, Batangas province, a fisherman by the name of Juan Maningcad went out fishing instead of casting his net to the sea, he threw it into the nearby Pansipit River. When he pulled out his net he caught a little image of the Blessed Virgin Mary less than a foot high. Although it was soaked in water, it had a heavenly luster. Upon seeing this marvel, Juan being a pious and virtuous man prostrated himself before the image and began to pray. He picked it up and brought it home.
No one knew how the image got to the river, and according to the old folks, perhaps the image was thrown by one of the Spaniards to pacify the ravages of the ocean during one of those expeditions and somehow the waves pushed it to the river. Another opinion was that perhaps someone exploring the river must have inadvertently dropped it, others believe it came from China. The news began to spread until it reached the parish priest of the town, and the vicar that represented the King of Spain at that time. They went to Juan Maningcad's house to verify the story. Upon seeing the image, they knelt down and venerated it.
The disappearing image
The widow of the town's judge named Doña María Espiritu was given the task of caring for the image. She ordered a precious urna (a canopied shrine sometimes having glass panes) to be made for the image and kept it in her home. Every evening she noticed that the image went missing from the urna, but then in the morning it would be back in its usual place. Worried about these disappearances, the widow told the story to the priest. He accompanied her back to her house and indeed saw that the urna was empty, but soon the urna opened and there appeared Mary's image before them. The priest decided to set up parish volunteers to keep vigil beside the image, and during the night, they did see the urna open by itself, as they saw with their own eyes the glorious image going out and coming back again.
Finally, the priest decided that the villagers should now come with lighted candles and follow the image the next time it left. When this happened, the image led them to Caysasay, to the place where it was originally found. The priest decided to take the image to the town church for safekeeping, but the image continued to leave the church until one day it completely disappeared and was nowhere to be found.
Years later, two girls named María Bagohin and María Talain gathering firewood, saw the image of the lady reflected in the spring water, near the place where it was originally found by the river. They looked up, and saw the image of the Lady of Caysasay on top of a tall sampaguita bush, two lighted candles by her side, and guarded by kingfishers or casay-casay birds that abound in the area (called Caysasay by the Spaniards). The women reported what they saw to the parish priest. The people and the priest concluded that it was the Virgin’s wish to stay in Caysasay. So they built a makeshift chapel on the very spot where the image was found. Even without official church sanction, native devotion to the reported Lady of Caysasay had started. Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J., in his Historia de Filipinas, and other 18th Century Spanish chroniclers put the year at 1611, when natives began reporting strange visions on the hillside. This was also the year, according to Fr. Pedro G. Galende, Director of the San Agustin Museum in Intramuros, that the first makeshift church was reportedly built there.
Another version of the reappearance
A series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary were first reported at the rocky hillside of Caysasay. According to a church inquiry, a vision appeared to a native servant girl, Catalina Talain, who had gone up the hillside with a companion to gather firewood and fetch some water. The unexpected vision of something small in stature but radiating extraordinary brilliance from a hollow in the rocky landscape so bewildered the girl that she ran to tell her companion, and both fled terrified back to the town of Taal, by the shore of the lake. From the cave near the spring was found the image of the Blessed Virgin—the same image that was fished out of the river almost a decade earlier and mysteriously disappeared.
Historian Jose M. Cruz, S.J., dean of the School of Social Sciences of the Ateneo de Manila University, reviewed original microfilm documents of the inquiry into the apparitions (his date, 1619). He reports that Church officials interrogated Catalina but she told them she could not clearly identify what she saw. The sparseness of her report, however, seems to convince Fr. Cruz that Catalina was not fabricating the story. In 17th century Philippines, a servant girl like Catalina had much to gain from associating herself to the divinity or to the saints, notes Cruz in his study on the Caysasay apparitions.
The apparition to Juana Tangui
The apparition of the Lady of Caysasay to Juana Tangui was a more documented report. Fr. Casimiro Díaz, a representative of the Mexican vicar, in his 18th Century Conquista de las Islas Filipinas (Part II), gave a detailed account: In a sitio called Bingsacan, near the village of Caysasay, around 1611, the natives saw several times, mainly at night, near a river where they go to fetch water, a very great light coming from a small opening in a large rock. From a distance it shone more brightly than four giant wax candles. As they got nearer, they could hear sweet and harmonious music made by very pleasant instruments, which entranced them, not so much because they did not expect to hear music but because of the divine melody that they heard. As they approached closer, some saw a beautiful hand and arm jutting out of the opening in the rock. It held a lighted torch, which moved up and down, though it remained in its place in the opening. They watched this light for a long time, listening to music. Others saw only the great ray of light, while still others saw that above the rock, there was a very great light, and another group saw a great flame, which seemed to devour that sitio.
After this unusual phenomenon had been witnessed, which had never before been seen or heard of in that sitio, some natives, both men and women, decided to see what it really was. They saw an vision of the Virgin Mary, just a little taller than the size of one open hand from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger, dressed in white, with a crown on her head, and in her arms was the Infant Jesus, who also wore a crown. Miraculous healing powers were attributed to the waters from the spring. More than 30 people declared they saw visions of the Lady at Caysasay. Word got around and many people flocked to the area.
The news reached a native named Juana Tangui, from the town of Bauan who was the servant of Don Juan Mangabot, one of the town's prominent natives. She was a simple woman who led a devout life who had been suffering for a long time from a burning sensation in the eyes leaving her almost blind. Her eyes could not be healed by the many remedies that had been applied to it. She was resolved to go to the rock where people said that the Blessed Virgin appeared. She went accompanied by one of her master's daughters to that place where the ray of light was first seen. She had also heard that everyone who took a bath in the small stream was cured of any sickness of which they may have been suffering. For this reason she took a bath in the stream, in the company of nine or ten other people who were also bathing. During the entire time of her bath, she noticed an unusual shadow by her side, though there was neither sun nor moon that could cause it, since it was already evening, and it was very dark.
After some time she felt that someone was holding her and turning her body. When she turned to the place toward which she was being turned, she saw a great light, like that coming from an enormous lighted candle, which caused her great wonder. But she did not dare to move forward in order to examine what she had seen. She went to a nearby field where she recounted what had happened to some native women. But they told her to return and to examine closely what it was. Since she said that she could not see very well, on account of her eye disease, they offered a young servant to accompany her to that place. (The recent account of Fr. Cruz is similar but says it was a young servant boy that was sent back with Juana.) Upon their arrival at the spot, she made the girl kneel down. Juana walked further and saw a very bright light and the image of our Lady, almost two palm measurements in height, dressed in white, with a crown on her head and a cross on her forehead. The image seemed to be alive, as it was moving and blinking. When the native woman moved closer to her, the image spoke to her, thanking her for remembering her and coming back to see her.
The native declared that the apparition told her, "You have been kindhearted to me, but unless you wear the belt of the Cofradía de San Agustin (Confraternity of Saint Augustine), do not come back to see me, until you are a member of the Confraternity, and you wear it." The native woman returned to the town, and did not tell anyone about what had happened until she had spoken with Fr. Juan Bautista Montoya, the prior of the Taal Convent. She asked him reverentially for the belt of the Confraternity. After spending eight days in confession the prior gave the customary belt to her.
She returned to the place where the Blessed Virgin had spoken to her. In addition to herself, she brought with her eight or nine people, among them the wife of her master, Doña Juliana Dimoyaguín and other prominent residents, whose declarations appear in the accounts published about the event. They returned to the same place where the girl who had accompanied her the first time had knelt down. She moved forward to the same spot where she had been a few days before, and she saw once more, clearly and distinctly, the Blessed Virgin. After making a deep bow, Juana knelt in her presence.
The Virgin told her that she was much more pleased with her than before, because she was wearing the belt of the Confraternity. The devout native asked the Virgin directly what sign she should carry so that people would believe that she had spoken to and been in the company of the Virgin. The Virgin responded by asking for Juana's rosary and belt, telling her that it was a sufficient sign for her to touch them. Juana gave the Queen of Heaven her belt and her rosary, together with the rosaries that her companions had taken care to bring with them.
The Virgin accepted them and then returned them to the said Juana Tangui. The women who received the rosaries declared that the fragrance that emanated from them elevated their souls. Moreover, Juana's eyes were healed, her eyesight restored.
The Church Shrine of our Lady of Caysasay
On February 24, 1620, Augustinians issued an order to construct a church in the in Caysasay, as a visita (sub-parish) of Taal. It has been verified through serious investigation that the Most Holy Virgin has appeared there. It is resolved, likewise, that it be given the title of Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia (Virgin of Mercy). (This was reported by Fr. Pedro Galende, O.S.A, in his book Angels in Stone: Augustinian Churches in the Philippines, citing the Augustinian Libro del Gobierno).
Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J., in his Historia de Filipinas written in 1749, claims that the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay is one of the most famous and frequently visited Shrines in the country where the locals, Spaniards and Chinese go to ask favors from the Blessed Virgin. The church complex is located along Calle Vicente Noble in Taal town.
San Lorenzo Luis Steps
Hagdan-hagdan is a series of 125 granite steps from the Caysasay Church that leads up to the center of town. Originally, built of adobe stone, these were later replaced with granite or batong song-song in the year 1850 by Fr. Celestino Mayordomo. It was rededicated as San Lorenzo Luis Steps, in honor of Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint.  The top of the steps is located at the northern end of Calle de Castello.
Deliverance of the town
By 1732, the town of Taal became the prosperous capital of the Batangas province. The town center of Taal was then located along the shore of Taal Lake (then known as Lake Bombon). Its prosperity came from provisioning the Manila galleons plying between Acapulco and Manila. These galleons also found protection from typhoons at Taal Lake, which was then saline and open to the sea through the navigable Pansipit River. They honored the Lady of Caysasay with cannon fires as they passed in front of her shrine located close to the river.
The most violent eruption of the Taal Volcano occurred in 1754 lasting more than eight months. The ejecta from the volcano devastated the towns around the lake covering them with layers of deposits. The townspeople of Taal, together with their parish priest, fled from their capital town and sought refuge at the Church of Our Lady of Caysasay. Layers of deposits closed the entrance of Pansipit River, which eventually raised the water of the lake permanently flooding parts of the towns of Tanauan, Lipa, Sala, Bauan and Taal. All five towns relocated to higher grounds, away from the volcano and lake. The present town center of Taal was established on a hillside near the Caysasay Shrine, overlooking Balayan Bay. The townspeople believed that the image saved the town of Taal during eruptions of Taal Volcano. (The old town center is now the present San Nicolas, Batangas. Eventually, a considerably narrower and shallower Pansipit River was formed from the volcanic deposits rendering it impassable for large ships. Bombon Lake, later renamed as Taal Lake, slowly transformed from saline to a freshwater lake.)
On 8th of December, 1954, two hundred years after the great Taal eruption, the image of Our Lady of Caysasay was canonically crowned at the Basilica of San Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas by Spanish Cardinal Fernando Quiroga, representing Pope Pius XII.
Well of the Santa Lucia
This old spring-fed well where the two women saw the reflection of the Virgin of Caysasay, Ang Balon ng Sta. Lucia (the Well of Santa Lucia) is a place of interest in the town of Taal, Batangas. Initially, the public devotion to the Virgin Mary was centered on the Caysasay spring. A beautifully carved coral stone arch with a bas relief of the Virgin on the facade was constructed over the spring on the slope of a hill near the church. Why the well was named after Santa Lucia is unknown just like its construction date but most probably it was built from the Spanish Colonial period. The site of the wells is known as `Banal na Pook' (sacred site) and vestiges of the spring running close to the wells is known as `Banal na Tubig' (sacred water).
To the townsfolk, the vision had empowered the spring water with healing powers. Many stories say the Virgin had appeared as a reflection in the spring. Continues Fr. Diaz: "The Holy Image has performed numerous miracles, not only for those who have gone to the rock to ask for help from the Queen of Angels, but also for those who drank from the water and bathed in the nearby stream. These miracles are confirmed in the accounts that Fr. Pedro de Arce, Bishop of Cebu, and Governor of the Archbishopric of Manila ordered to be drawn up and prepared by Fr. Juan Bautista de Montoya, Prior of Taal, together with Fr. Gerónimo de Medrano and Fr. Juan de Rojas. The well is accessed from the San Lorenzo Luis Steps. An inconspicuous narrow walkway from the steps takes visitors to the well.
In popular media
In 2005, a musical play titled Mapaghimalang Birhen ng Caysasay (Miraculous Virgin of Caysasay) was staged in July 2005 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila. The religious play was written and directed by Nestor U. Torre with music by noted Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab. It focuses on the 1639 miracle on Chinese artisan named Hay Bing who was brought to life after he was decapitated. After its initial run, a touring production took the musical to the outskirts of the capital city including Batangas province.
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