Even if you're fond of visiting old churches in the Philippines and you wander in Taal town, there's a chance that you might overlook this smaller church which was a mere walking distance from the bigger Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours or the Basilica of Taal. However, since I went there with people who have prior knowledge of the place and its history, I was able to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay.
The church is the home of a 17th century image of the Immaculate Concepcion which dates back as far as 1603. Story has it that a local fisherman by the name of Juan Maningcad found the little statue of the Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Concepcion while fishing in a river in the town of Taal. Juan reportedly threw his fishing net into the flowing water expecting to catch a bountiful of fishes but upon closer inspection when he pulled back his fishing net, what he saw was the statue of the Virgin Mary instead.
Juan took it home and soon after it caught the fascination of the towns folk who came up with different theories ranging from plausible reasons to miraculous explanations on how the Virgin Mary ended up on the river. Some historians, though thinks that the statue came from a Spanish ship and was thrown into the sea to "pacify the ravages of the ocean" in one of their many expeditions and somehow ended up in the river near the town of Taal.
As soon as the story reached the Spanish, they sent in a judge who represented the King of Spain to check on the small statue of the Virgin Mary. The Judge knelt and worshiped the image and declared a town fiesta to be held every year in commemoration of the statue.
Since then, a rapid succession of miraculous events was experienced by the town folks in connection with the image of Our Lady of Caysasay. People started to flock to get a glimpse of the image and the church become a favorite destination of the faithfuls. Among it, was a well near the church, of which where the river once flowed and is now known as the Sta Lucia Well. Many people believed that the well possessed waters with healing powers that cures people who drank and bathed on it. Today, a tall arch made of stones standing about 20 feet with an engraved image of the Lady of Caysasay signifies the site of the well, which is also referred to as "Banal na Pook". In here, devotees hoping for a miracle can light a candle and take some water with them by filling in their containers or just by applying some of the water from the well to their bodies.
The church's "Pulpito" or "Pulpit" (pictured above) also stands out the moment you stepped inside the church. It has a simple feature highlighted by the golden crowns on its roof and white and gold colored theme that compliments well against the light colored brick walls.
The ceiling of the Our Lady of Caysasay was also impressive, which a fellow travel blogger, Joel - who is an aspiring Roman Catholic historian, describes as a style called "Trompe l'oeil" ("tromploy"), a French term for "trick of the eye" because the painting was done in such a way that it creates illusions of shadows and projects 3D like images but in reality was painted on a flat surface.
Indeed, the paintings depicting Christ's crucifixion reminds me as if its taken out of a page from a Frank Miller graphic novel.
In contrast with the more imposing Basilica of Taal, the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay - small as it is, it has its own charm and unique traits - though the original facade was already replaced by a new one, It's history and the role it has played in the lives of the town folks of Taal through the years cannot be denied and in fact, brings more interesting footnotes to this rustic and melancholy town which has survived the most violent eruptions of its volcano throughout time. And I wonder, maybe the miracles attributed to the Image of Our Lady of Caysasay are really true.