During the Lenten season and especially during the Holy Week a lot of us Filipinos observe the tradition of "visita iglesia" or "church visits". The Philippines, being predominantly Christian, has countless beautiful churches with rich histories (as a result of more than 300 years of Spanish colonial rule). This post kicks off a series of features on churches you may want to consider visiting.
The church of Our Lady of Caysasay can be found in the quaint town of Taal (famous for its old colonial houses like the Villavicencio house) in the province of Batangas.This small church is one of the most photogenic churches I've come across.
The image of Our Lady of Caysasay has a very interesting story. It was told that in the year 1603, fisherman named Juan Maningcad fished the little statue of the Blessed Virgin of Immaculate Conception out of water in a small village called Caysasay.
The statue was placed under the care of Doña Maria Espiritu, the widow of the town’s judge, who had a special urn made for its safekeeping. The statue somehow has a penchant for disappearing from the urn. The villagers did a vigil one night and saw with their own eyes how the statue would leave the urn and return after some time. When they followed the statue, it led them to the place where it was originally found. The statue was given to the parish priest for safekeeping but the statue would still leave the urn until it completely disappeared one day.
The statue was found again after 8 years by two women gathering firewood. They saw the statue atop a tall sampaga bush with two lighted candles on each side, amongst kingfisher birds or “casaycasay” (the Spaniards who had trouble pronouncing the word called them “caysasay”).
A small chapel was built on the exact spot where the image was found. Miracles were reported over the years. The most notable one was when the workers building the chapel prayed for drinking water and fresh water gushed forth from a rock. Twin wells were made and an arch was constructed over them. The water from the nearby stream and the wells (called Miraculous Wells of Sta Lucia) is believed to have healing properties.
Today only the arch remains, the original chapel was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. However miraculous spring water continues to flow in the current shrine’s front entrance.
Information about Our Lady of Caysasay Church was culled from www.caysasay.com and wikipedia. If you happen to be in Taal, the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours is also a must visit. The facades of Our Lady of Caysasay and Basilica of St. Martin de Tours are best seen at sunset.