MANILA, Philippines — Our Lady of Caysasay celebrates its 408th year on Dec. 8 but still many Filipinos have yet to be aware of the image’s manifestation in Labac, Taal.

In an effort to make it more known to pilgrims, a foundation has been established to look after the shrine. A musical based on its story dubbed “Mapaghimalang Birhen ng Caysasay”, penned by Ryan Cayabyab and Nestor Torre, was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) with Ogie Alcasid and Cocoy Laurel as lead characters.

Our Lady has her imprint in Taal town’s colorful history. The Caysasay phenomenon is in the historical records of the Augustinians who were assigned there. In 1603, a fisherman by the name of Juan Maningcad fished out of his net in the Pansipit River, in Taal, Batangas, a six-inch tall image of the Our Lady of Caysasay. The image was garbed only in a simple red tunic and appears to be pregnant. She tilts very slightly forward, her fragile hands clasped across her breasts below her right shoulder. One eye is slightly bigger than the other, and in them dwell great mystery. Upon seeing this image, Juan, being a pious man prostrated himself and venerated it. Then, he carried the image home. Soon enough, the whole village came to know about his remarkable catch. The town authorities and the vicar, who represented the King of Spain, went to Juan’s home to verify the story.

The image was later placed under the care of Mrs. Maria del Espiritu Santo, the widow of the town’s judge, who had a special urn made for its safekeeping. Then, strange things began to happen. Mrs. Espiritu found the urn empty one day, but the next morning, the image was back in the urn. The incident was repeated a number of times, so Mrs. Espiritu reported the matter to the parish priest. To investigate the mysterious coming and going of the image, the priest decide to set up parish volunteers to keep vigil beside the urn. With eager hearts they sat waiting and praying, and did they see the urn open by itself, as they saw with their own eyes the glorious image going out and coming back again.

In 1611, two women gathering firewood near the place where the image was originally found saw it reflected in the spring water hat sprung on the spot. They looked up and saw the image atop the branch of a tall sampaguita bush with two lighted candles on each side. They hurried back to town and reported to the parish priest. The people and the priest finally concluded that it was the Virgin’s wish to stay in Caysasay, so they decided to build a chapel on the very spot where the image was found.

That same year, the image’s first apparition was to an almost blind native slave girl, Juana Tangui and around 30 women. From the miraculous cure of her eyes during the apparition, the well water and the adjoining stream have been known to possess miraculous attributes of healing to this day. Miracles occurred through the years while the shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay was being constructed.

On Dec. 8, 1954, the image of Our Lady of Caysasay was canonically crowned at the Taal Basilica by Cardinal Quiroga, representing His Holiness Pope Pius XII.

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