Descending one hundred steps down a three-meter wide stone stairwell called hagdan-hagdanan and into a concrete entryway; we entered the grounds of one of the oldest church in Taal.
Unlike its more famous neighbor, the Taal Basilica, Our Lady of Caysasay Church looks quite plain and humble. Its body is built of coral stones and its roof, made of plain corrugated tin. Most of its exterior wall is unpainted, except for the facade which is done in a light yellow tone.
Its interior is also very homely (and looks about ready to crumble anytime), with the exception of its north and south transept crossings which is towered over by painted domes done by artist Cesar Aberoni.
There are barely any décors outside and you’d hardly take a second look at the structure if you don’t have any idea about its rich history.
Our Lady of Caysasay Church traces its roots to the first officially recorded apparition in the Philippines.
In 1603, an icon of the Our Lady of Caysasay was fished out of the Pansipit River in Taal by a local fisherman named Juan Matingkad. The image was turned over to the house of the town’s Justice of the Peace and kept inside an urn.
It was reported that the image of the Virgin goes out of the urn during the night, venturing back to the place where it was originally found and returning to the urn before daybreak. This went on, until the icon completely disappeared.
The statue was found again in 1611, after several years of being lost, over a water spring. It sat atop a sampaga tree with two lighted candles and was guarded over by a casaycasay, the local name for the Kingfisher bird. The Spaniards, notorious for mistranslations, mispronounced the name into Caysasay.
The townsfolk and the priest concluded that it was there where the Virgin wanted to stay and built a shrine on the same spot.
That same year, apparitions appeared before the women of Caysasay on the same site; described as a great light coming from a fissure on a large rock. Beautiful music was said to be heard as witnesses approached the light where the Virgin appeared, holding a torch.
The spring where the Virgin materialized was said to be miraculous—as documented clearly in the case of Juana Tangui, a local slave with an almost blind sight. It was reported that her eyes were healed after taking a bath at the spring. The Virgin appeared, spoke to her and blessed her belt and rosary, which was said to elevate people’s soul with its fragrance.
The Image of Our Lady of Caysasay, standing barely a foot high and garbed in a simple red tunic dress, was canonically crowned by Cardinal Quiroga, representing His Holiness Pope Pius XII, at the Basilica de san Martin de Tours on the last days of 1954.
The shrine built on the spring where the Virgin was seen was dubbed as the miraculous Sacred Well of Sta. Lucia. Parts of this shrine including the miraculous spring can be visited up to this day. The rest of the chapel however was already destroyed by Taal Volcano’s explosion in 1754.
We were able to visit the Inca-ish ruins of the Sta. Lucia’s Sacred Well through the guidance of some children lounging around the church grounds. They narrated to us the extraordinary story of the place as we went along.
Before heading back to town, we lighted some candles (which for unknown reason has a wax human figure tied with it), said our prayers and wished our wishes.
Our Lady of Caysasay Church & the Sacred Well of Sta.Lucia
Address: Barangay Labac (formerly Caysasay), Taal, Batangas