SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Over the years, thousands of Chinese devotees from all over of the country have been coming here to celebrate the annual feast of the miraculous Virgin of Caysaysay or Ma-zu ( Ma-Cho), a Chinese deity of the Sung Dynasty.
Last Monday afternoon, the pilgrims arrived with the image of the deity, an 8-inch wooden statue, paraded it around the city in a procession that ended at the Ma-Cho Temple, located along Quezon Avenue, where it was enshrined.
Actually, the celebration began early in the morning of the same day from Taal, Batangas with a procession and then the devotees traveled to La Union carrying the image of the Virgin that most overseas Chinese believe is the reincarnation of their sea goddess named Ma-zu.
It was in the village of Caysasay, Taal town that the original image was discovered. The celebration in honor of the image is the same activity over the years where the Chinese community worship and pay obeyance to Ma-zu, according to a Chinese devotee.
Anita Cy, a member of the Virgin of Caysasay Foundation, said that the pilgrims brought the image of Ma-zu to Taal for a mass at the Basilica of St. Martin or Taal Basilica, Asia’s largest church. where the Virgin was enshrined. They returned to the Temple here on the same day for the various activities– the “dragon parade”, lion dance and procession around the city proper.
After the procession, devotees Xi lin Chan and son John, on their request, carried the image back to its original place at the Taoist Temple here.
The celebration culminated with cultural shows and offerings at the Temple, a structure of mixed Christian and Taoism features nestled atop a hill overlooking the West Philippine Sea and San Fernando Bay.
It was learned that the temple was constructed in 1977 on the initiative of a group of Chinese-Filipino devotees.It is an 11-tiered, multi-hued structure filled with Chinese ancient decorations or art. The temple is open to worshippers and non-worshipers, particularly Catholics.
Historical notes that on March 23 of the Chinese lunar calendar, Ma-zu’s birthday is celebrated in special events in all Ma-zu temples.
The image of the Virgin was discovered by a fisherman in 1603 when he cast his net the Pansipit River in the village Caysasay in Taal.The village is a sanctuary of birds known as “casay-casay” (silvery kingfisher.)
Known as the Lady of Caysasay, the image was canonically crowned in 1954, After its discovery, apparitions–the first in the country- were attributed to it and were documented by Spanish colonial church leaders. Devotees continue to attribute miracles to the statue which is also known as that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. ERWIN BELEO/NPN – northboundasia.com