In the year 1603, in 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 lustre 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. (Some believe it came from China.)
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 the desire of the Virgin was. 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.
Years later, in 1611, two women gathering firewood saw the image reflected in the spring water, near the place where it was originally found. They looked up, and saw the image on top of a tall sampaguita bush. The women reported what they saw to the parish priest. The people and the priest concluded that it was the Virgin’s wish to stay in Caysasay. So they built a chapel on the very spot where the image was found.
In the early seventeenth Century, a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary were reported at the rocky hillside of Caysasay, a barrio of Taal. According to a church inquiry, a vision first appeared to a native slave girl, Catalina Talayn, who had gone up the hillside with a companion to gather firewood and fetch some water. The unexpected vision of something small in stature but radiating extraordinary brilliance from a hollow in the rocky landscape so bewildered the girl that she ran to tell her companion, and both fled terrified back to the town of Taal, by the shore of the Lake. Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J., in his Historia de Filipinas, and other 18th Century Spanish chroniclers put the year at 1611, when natives began reporting strange visions on the hillside. This was also the year, according to Fr. Pedro G. Galende, currently Director of the San Agustin Museum in Intramuros, that the first makeshift church was reportedly built there. Historian Jose M. Cruz, S.J., currently dean of the School of Social Sciences of the Ateneo de Manila University, reviewed original microfilm documents of the inquiry into the apparitions (his date, 1619). He reports that Church officials interrogated Catalina but she told them she could not clearly identify what she saw.
The sparseness of her report, however, seems to convince Fr. Cruz that she "was not fabricating the story." In 17th Century Philippines, an alipin like Catalina had "much to gain from associating herself to the divinity or to the saints," notes Cruz in his study on the Caysasay apparitions. At any rate, when word got around, many people flocked to the area. Stories later included in the Tagalog novena say that two girls had seen the image of the Lady in the spring, and when they looked up, they saw her perched on a branch of a Sampaga tree, two lighted candles by her side, and guarded by kingfishers or casay-casay birds that abound in the area. The village was by the Pansipit River, which was then a wide salt-water channel that connected Balayan (then Balangon) Bay to Taal (then Bombon ) Lake. Even without official church sanction, native devotion to the reported Lady of Caysasay was quick and spontaneous. Miraculous healing powers were attributed to the waters from the spring. And in a cave near the spring was found the image of the Blessed Virgin—the same image that was fished out of the river almost a decade earlier and mysteriously disappeared! More than 30 people declared they saw visions of the Lady at Caysasay.