TOWN OF TAAL, December 20, 2003 (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - This year, the town of Taal is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the feast day of the Blessed Virgin of Caysasay, the beloved image netted by a fisherman in the Pansipit River in 1603. What makes this event important is that historically, it is the first documented record of the first alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary in the Orient. This is how it was recorded in the old novenas:

"In the year 1603, a small barrio of Caysasay, in the town of Taal, a fisherman by the name of Juan Maningcad went out fishing and instead of casting his net on the sea, threw it into the nearby river, and instead of catching fish, caught a little statue of the Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Conception about six inches high. Although it was soaked in water, it had a heavenly luster and her face twinkled like a star. Upon seeing this marvel, the startled 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.

"The news began to spread like lightning until it reached the priest in town, and the judge that represented the King of Spain at that time. Without notice, they immediately went to Juan Maningcad’s house and there they saw the beautiful image of the Mother of God. They knelt down to venerate it, and took the image to Taal where a town fiesta was celebrated.

"The widow of the Justice of the Peace by the name of Madam Maria Espiritu, was given the task of caring for the image. She ordered a precious urn to be made for the image and kept it in her home. Every evening she noticed that the urn turned empty and the image gone, 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 urn was empty, but soon the urn opened and there appeared Mary’s image before them. For several times, in spite of the watch made by the priest, the same events would happen that made the priest and others perplexed, not knowing what was the desire of the Virgin. After sometime, the priest decided to take the image to the Church for safekeeping but it was in vain. The image continued to leave the church until one day it completely disappeared and was nowhere to be found."

In 1611, she was found by the hollow of a rock on the hillside beside a spring in Caysasay. The image is only 272 millimeters high. Although she was found on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, she is venerated as Our Lady of Caysasay. The Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States. This was because the Blessed Virgin had proclaimed herself the Protectress of the Americas at her appearance to Juan Diego of Mexico as commemorated in the apparition of Guadalupe. So Caysasay just following the tradition of great nations when she was made the image salvaged by a fisherman, the saint patroness of its town. Many are under the impression that Our Lady of Caysasay is the patroness of Taal. The Saint Patron of Taal is St. Martin of Tours and its church in Taal was once the biggest in all of Asia and is made from a single mass of stone.

We always feel good when we see people maintaining their old traditions. It is a great way of sharing an experience with one’s ancestors. The success of any fiesta depends on the hermano mayor, the person charged with the planning and preparation of the festivities. Caysasay was fortunate having a great couple – Raul and Marietta Primicias-Goco – to be the hermano mayor of the 400th anniversary of the Caysasay. They went as far as publishing a commemorative magazine to work the historical occasion.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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