Holy Cross of Batalay

Facade of Holy Cross of Batalay Shrine

When the passengers of the galleon Espiritu Santo set sail on November 18, 1575 from Acapulco to Manila, amidst wild cheers and cannon booms, little did they think that they would never reach their destination. But in the midnight of April 23, 1576, the galleon struck reefs of Nagngangang Buaya (Catanduanes) and was wrecked.

Among the survivors was Fr. Diego Herrera with the Augustinian missionaries Lesmes de Santiago, Francisco Villa, Francisco Martinez; a native Visayan, Geronimo Galves and several members of the crew including some military personnel.

The survivors were stranded in Batalay, a native balangay located on the southern tip of the town of Bato, Catanduanes, where they were given shelter and provisions by the ruling datu. The friars started to preach the Gospel and to introduce new methods of agriculture and better ways of community living. The indios however accepted everything conducive to their well-being except the new religion, which they considered as an abrupt renunciation of their ancestral faith. The indios took to the neighboring forest. In no time, the Spaniards found themselves on the verge of starvation due to lack of food. This prompted them to set out in search of the natives to bring them back to Batalay. Sporadic encounters then ensued between the Spaniards and the natives with advantage to the latter for their familiarity with the terrain.

No sooner, in one night, the indios swooped down to Batalay, killing the Spaniards except Galves. Galves buried the dead and placed a wooden cross on the grave of Fr. Herrera. Tradition has it that a crystalline spring spouted at the foot of his cross which the natives regarded as a miracle and rumors that the spring waters had curative properties for all kinds of sickness spread throughout. Bishop Grijalvo of Nueva Caceres ordered the construction of a stone monument over the grave of Fr. Herrera on top of which the original cross was placed.

Then and there, they planted the cross, which is presently encased with a hard wood cross, now on the altar of the Batalay Chapel.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from blogspot.com, flickr.com.

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