One hundred and twenty five steps. Yes, we counted.
Coming from the Taal Basilica, we passed by several ancestral houses to reach the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps, which led us to the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay. This giant staircase conncects the Caysasay Shrine to the center of the town. Originally made of adobe stone, these steps were replaced with granite in 1850.
If you’re at Taal Basilica and you wish to visit the Caysasay Church, this is the way to go instead of hiring a tricycle. You wouldn’t mind the walk, I’m sure, because you will also get to see several historical sites and landmarks including the Goco and Villavicencio ancestral houses along the way. You can also climb these steps if you’re going to the Park from the Caysasay Shrine although it may be a little bit exhausting.
From one of these steps, one may reach the Sacred Well of Sta. Lucia, which is believed to be miraculous. There are no obvious signs going to the well so you might need to ask a local. Not to worry because on both sides of the Steps are residential areas and somewhere here lies a passageway to the sacred site.
The Apparitions of Our Lady of Caysasay
In 1611, a native girl by the name of Catalina Talayn was by the spring at a hillside not far from where the image of the Lady was originally found to gather firewood and fetch water when she saw the image of the Lady brilliantly reflected in the springwater. Some say that the water of te She told her companion about her vision, who fled the scene with her. Local stories narrate that the two women saw the Lady with two candles on her side on a Sampaga tree branch, surrounded by kasay-kasay birds (casay-casay, kingfisher). It was just the beginning of the series of sightings of a brilliant light near the spring.
The people of Taal quickly regarded the apparition to be of the Lady of Caysasay. The water coming from the spring was believed to have miraculous properties especially after Juana Tangui, a native who had lived all her life with a terrible eye disease, was healed in front of many eyewitnesses. In a cave at the site, they found an image of the Virgin Mary — the exact same image that Juan Maningcad fished out of the river, the exact image that magically disappeared and reappeared for several evenings and mornings and then disappeared and never returned again several years earlier.
Banal na Pook: The Sta. Lucia Well Today
Today, the site is marked by a huge arch made of coral stone, crowned with a bas relief of the Lady. The arch stands on top of the 11-ft deep wells. At its mouth, devotees and tourists light candles. While the site remains blanketed with thick vegetation and the spring continues to produce water, one has to pass through a residential area to get here from the Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine. An inconspicuously narrow walkway on the side of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps leads to the site. If you don’t know your way around, it is very unlikely that you will find it unless you ask a local.
Although the site itself remains captivating, I couldn’t help but be saddened by the garbage scattered around the site. Knowing that some people use the water here for bathing or drinking for its miraculous healing power, I couldn’t help but feel slightly worried about the safety of it. I hope the local government will do something to maintain and protect the site and that the people living in the area would mind their disposal of solid waste.
In Batangas we call this place “Banal na Pook”. (We pronounce it “Banal na Pu-ok,” by the way.) I have lots of memories of this place as it has been an annual event for our family to visit this place every Good Friday for our Visita Iglesia. I may not be a religious person but I look forward to seeing the local government of Taal and its people working together in improving the overall condition of both the Caysasay Shrine and the Sta. Lucia Well and respecting their sanctity if not their cultural, historical, and religious importance.
How to get there: From Manila, take a Lemery-bound bus (P150++). Ask the driver whether it will pass through Taal Town Proper. If the driver says yes, get off at the Taal Basilica. From there, walk down the left alley of 7-Eleven, turn left towards the end of the road until you see the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps on your right.
If the driver says it will skip the Taal Town Proper, alight at the Taal Lemery Bypass Junction and take a jeepney to the Basilica (minimum fare). If you happen to miss the junction, get off at the last stop, the Lemery Terminal (P150++) and take a tricycle to the “Lumang Palengke” (P10-P15). Tell the driver to drop you off at the boat going to Caysasay. Once there, cross the river on a boat (P3), walk down the left alley and then turn right and you’ll come out the street facing the Caysasay Shrine. The San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps is at the back of the Chapel. You can also take the trike directly to the Steps but this will cost you more.