20 September 2016

The Mysterious Our Lady of Caysasay Story as told in Old Tagalog by the 18th Century Agustinian Friar Francisco Buencuchillo

Juan Maningca fishing the image from the river as depicted by a fresco at the Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine.  Image credit:  By Eric Jam - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30978535 

The story of the Our Lady of Caysasay, or the Nuestra Señora de Caysasay as she used to be known during the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines, may not necessarily fall under the category “stock knowledge” even for many Batangueños, and especially those who do not live anywhere close to the Municipality of Taal, where the village of Caysasay is located. I, for one, heard of the academy named after her first; and for the longest time only had the vaguest notion about her story.

A recent walking tour of the municipality changed that, since my companion was not only a native of Taal but also a most willing and able tour guide. The Lady of Caysasay, I learned from him, was an image of the Immaculate Conception fished out from the Pansipit River which turned out to be miraculous.

That the image was so – i.e. miraculous – is apparently something officially recognized by the Vatican. In 1954, the image was canonically crowned with an accompanying Papal bull or charter issued by the Pope. Later, the image would be given the title “Queen of the Archdiocese of Lipa.1

Perhaps the story of the Our Lady of Caysasay is best told straight from the book of an eighteenth century Agustinian friar by the name of Francisco Buencuchillo, who was assigned in Taal2. According to some sources that I have consulted before writing this article, the story was apparently handed down the generations by word of mouth before it was written down by the friar.

While the story is fascinating in itself, it becomes even more so told by a Spaniard who was transcribing into his own script or writing phonetics that were obviously not native to him. Hence, in reading the excerpts from his book which this article shall be citing, it is best to keep in mind that he was writing sounds as he was familiar with – i.e. the Spanish way – and, therefore, may not immediately be recognizable to those schooled in standardized Filipino or Tagalog.

Moreover, Buencuchillo used verb forms that ought to be immediately recognizable to Batangueños even in the present day, e.g. “hulogui” or “hulugi/huluge” in modern day spelling or “ihulog” in standardized Filipino. He also used words broken into distinct syllables such as “gay-on” (or ganoon in standard Filipino) which is unmistakably Batangas dialect used even in the present day. Finally, he used words that are no longer used by modern day Tagalogs but are still used in Hiligaynon and probably other Visayan languages such as “tanan” (not to be confused with the Tagalog word which means to elope) meaning “everyone” and “tauo” or “tawo,” meaning people.

While Buencuchillo’s narrative primarily gives us the story of the Our Lady of Caysasay, it also offers a glimpse into how Tagalog was spoken in Batangas in the eighteenth century. Here are some excerpts from his story:

“Nang taong labi sa libo, anim na daan, at tatlo may isang mahal na tauo banal at tantong guinoo. Ngala’y D. Juan Maningcad ito’y, siyang naguin dapat sa caniya ang sa Jericong bulaclac.”

The phrase “labi sa libo” is curious at best, but from this we discern that Buencuchillo placed the year of the story at 1603. If, indeed, the story was originally handed down by word of mouth, then the accuracy of the date is doubtful. My guide during my recent tour of Taal told me that Maningcad was a Sangleye – the term used in the era for Chinese in the Philippines. I am, however, unable to find material to corroborate this.

“Doon niya inihaguis sa cailogang calapit nang hilahin ay nabatid huli ay caibig ibig. Naquita’t, doon nasoot sa Dala’t, tantong nabalot larauang calogodlogod Virgen Ynang pinagbocod. Lic-hang liniloc na cahoy na camuc-hang Concepcion siyang caanyo’t, caocol nitong larauan ng Poon. Ang haba’t pagca sucat sasandangcal at sandamac subali’t ang pintang lahat nang cun saan dacong lupa nagbuhat ang gay-ong mutya sa Caysasay napadagsa.”

Presumably, Maningcad cast his net into the wide channel that used to connect Balayan Bay to Lake Bombon, as this was more than a century before the 1754 eruption of Taal Volcano which would reduce the channel into the Pansipit River as it is known in the present day. Instead of fish, what he caught in his net was a small (sasandangcal) wooden image of the Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.

“Uala ngang macapanhula nang cun saan dacong lupa nagbuhat ang gay-ong mutya sa Caysasay napadagsa… Agad niyang nilohoran Virgeng camahalmahalan pinagsamba’t, iguinalang palibhasa’y, tauong banal.”

Nobody could tell how the image got there; but because Maningcad was a devout man, he immediately knelt down and gave the image due respect. Of course, knowing as we do in the present day that the channel into the lake was regularly used to get to coastal communities around the lake, the image could have come from any of the Spanish ships that sailed through the channel since the initial exploration of the area by Martin de Goite and Juan de Salcedo.3

“Nang mabalita sa Padre, at sa hocom na mabini na cahalili ng hari budhi nila’y, nagolubhi… Yni oui nga’t, dinala sa Taal ipinagsama sabihin ang toua’t, fiesta sa daan nacaligaya. Si Doña Maria Espiritu na sa hocom ay nabao ay siyang biniguian cono nang alagaang totoo.”

After Maningcad brought the image home, word of its finding quickly spread and reached the local priest and magistrate. The image was brought back to Taal, which presumably was the center of town in what is present-day San Nicolas. Contemporary versions of the story seem to have taken it for granted that there was a fiesta or feast going on, but from this excerpt it can also be alternatively interpreted that the arrival of the image became a reason for merriment and feast.

The care of the image was assigned to a Doña Maria Espiritu, whom modern versions seem to have assumed was the widow of a magistrate. This might well have been if Buencuchillo made a mistake and wrote “nabao” instead of “nabalo,” or if the former was an archaic term with the same meaning as the latter. Otherwise, the phrase “na sa hocom ay nabao” is very much open to interpretation.

“Caniyang ipinasilid Virgeng ualang caholilip sa tabernaculong lingid pag-aalila’y, masaquit. Namasid niya’t, naquita ang Virgeng caayaaya pagcagab-i papanao na di moui cundi umaga. Ytong caniyang pag-gala tantong iquinasisira loob nang nag-aalaga agad sa Padre nabala.”

Doña Maria had the image kept in a hidden tabernacle, but quickly observed that it would mysteriously disappear at night and not return to the tabernacle until the next morning. Concerned, Doña Maria reported the incident to the priest.

“Ytong marangal na Padre nanhic na nagmamarali sa bahay nang binibini naquitang uala’t, nabaui. Sa tabernaculong ang Virgeng Ynang maamo ay ualang macapagtoro con sa bayan ay lungmayo. Mana, at caalam-alam tabernaculo’y, nabucsan siyang oling naquitaan nang cay Mariang larauan. At hindi miminsan lamang ang Padre’y, nagbantay ay siyaring naguiguisnan pag yao’t, ito sa bahay.”

On more than one occasion, the priest watched over the tabernacle but the image kept disappearing at will and nobody could tell where it went. Notice the use of the word “nagmamarali” in place of nagmamadali. In the present day, there are just a handful of communities along Laguna de Bay which use the letter r in place of the d at the start of the syllable, such as in the word “isra” for “isda.” Was this more widely practiced in the eighteenth century?

“Maringig itong himala nang Padreng maalositha pinacsa na’t, sinadhiya sa Simbaha’y, quinalinga. Dinala man sa Simbahan manga pintoma’y, pinindan di isaman itinahan pag-alis, at pagtatanan… Mana, at ang nasapit nang pagdapit na mapilit ang Poon ay nagtalingid di mabacasa’t, masilip.”

The priest took the image back to the church, where despite the doors being closed, it came and went as it pleased. One day, the image disappeared altogether.

“Cundi nang malibang arao nangahoy sa cagubatan dalauang babaying mahal sa cauinooha’y, sacdal. Ang bansag nila, at turin si Doña Maria Bagohin at si Doña Maria Talain capoua nagcapalad din. Sa canilang pangangahoy dungmolog sa isang bal-on naaninao nila doon Poong Virgeng mapag-ampon.”

Was the word “malibang” actually “mabilang” and that the phrase “Cundi nang malibang arao” actually meant “after countless days?” Modern translations seem to have assumed so, as they say that the image was found many years later close to where it was originally fished out by Maningcad by two women by the name of Maria Bagohin and Maria Talain. Batangueños will quickly recognize “babaying” as local dialect for “babaeng” which continues to be used by the elderly and those who live in remote villages even in the present day.

This was essentially the gist of Buencuchillo’s story, that the image kept disappearing because it wanted to return to Caysasay. Subsequently, a chapel was built close to where Maningcad originally fished the image from the river, to be replaced later with a stone church. Batangueños will be amused by Buencuchillo’s use of the word “toclong” or wooden chapel, which is decidedly local dialect.

“Nag iisip nagsang-usapan Padre’t, boong sambayanan tay-an nang Toclong Simbahan lugar na naquiquitaan. Nguni’t, caya pinanganlan Caysay ay sa dahila’y, ang Virgen ay may casabay na ibon na Casaycasay… Sa calauonang panahon ipinaguiba ang Toclong… Guinauang Simbahang bato…”

Notes and references:
1 Our Lady of Caysasay, Wikipedia.
2 Volcanoes and Seismic Centers of the Philippine Archipelago, by Miguel Saderra Maso, Census of the Philippine Islands Volume 3, published 1904.
3 As ordered by Miguel López de Legazpi, first Spanish Governor of the Philippines, in 1570.
4 The story of the Our Lady of Caysasay from “Epitome de la Historia de la Aparicion de Nuestra Señora de Caysasay,” by F. Buencuchillo, published in Sampaloc 1834.
5 Modern references of the same story referred to: “Our Lady of Caysasay, Taal, Batangas” online at aboutphilippines.ph; and “The Story of Our Lady of Caysasay” online at www.caysasay.com.

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