La Union: The Taoist Macho Temple and the Caysasay Connection

Macho Temple
Macho Temple, the world's largest Taoist temple outside China

Its east meets west in La Union as we visit two places of worship from two different faiths. It’s not surprising to see the confluence of culture here as the Filipinos are known to be capable of dual faiths. Say for example, some Chinese homes have both the images of Buddha and Christ side by side. While not near each other we look at to sacred images  representing each faith in the Taoist, Macho Temple (or Ma Cho Temple).

The Macho Temple Courtyard
The Macho Temple Courtyard overlooking the sea

Aside from being the largest, modern Taoist Temple outside of China, the Ma Cho Temple shares a connection with the catholic Our Lady of Caysasay in Taal Town. Ma Cho is a Chinese deity born in 960 AD in the village of Meizhou at the Fu Jian province. Known to be gifted with healing powers and able to predict the weather and sea conditions even days ahead, locals named her as “Goddess of the Sea”. She died at the young age of 27 but the local sailors and fishermen believe they are being watched over and protected by Ma Cho.

A Chinese Saint Pose
One of the 18 Chinese Saints by the wall

Ma Cho’s 8-inch wooden image is housed inside the Macho Temple. Devotees believe that the image if Ma Cho and Our Lady of Caysasay is one and the same (the wooden image of Our Lady of Caysasay was also found by a fisherman in a fishing village in Taal). Every September 21-26, devotees would gather for an annual pilgrimage with the image to the Basilica of Saint Martin in Taal, Batangas and would travel back to San Fernando for a feast of its return.

Spider-web dome at Macho Temple
The impressive spider-web type dome at Macho Temple

The majestic Macho Temple was built on a large 1 hectare land 70 feet above sea level, overlooking the sea on September 11, 1975. I was amused looking at the 18 Chinese Saints in different poses by the wall of the entry way leading to the large courtyard with nice fish ponds. I went up the two story temple and the caretaker inside bid me to come in. When I looked up I was amazed by the intricate details carved on the spider-type dome. The caretaker even opened the lights for me to take a picture of this rare type of dome not even found in Taipei.