The Revival of the "Haybing" Religious Drama in Taal in 1929
According to one Claudia M. Cruz in an ethnographic paper1 submitted to the University of the Philippines in 1930, a religious drama called the “Haybing,” which used to be held in the Municipality of Taal in Batangas during the Spanish colonial period, was temporarily shelved early during the American era probably for “the great expenses and trouble incurred before a successful “haybing” could be given.”
The religious drama, which Cruz referred to as a “celebration,” was revived and staged again on the 8th of December in the year 1929, the day coincidentally the feast of the Immaculate Conception, an event celebrated annually as “one of the most important Marian feasts in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church2.”
The “Haybing” or “Hay Bing” festival was essentially a celebration of the miracle of the Our Lady of Caysasay, although the religious drama took its name from one of the characters involved – a Sangley (Chinaman) named Hay Bing. He was one of some twenty Chinese stonemasons who were helping to construct the shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay but were caught in the heat of the so-called “Sangley Rebellion” of 1603 and massacred in Taal3.
[More details of the Sangley Rebellion are provided by this article: “Why Once There were no Chinese in Taal, Lemery and Bauan in Batangas.”]
|Juan Maningca fishing the image from the river as depicted by a fresco at the Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine. Image credit: By Eric Jam - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30978535.|
Hay Bing, who was known to locals as “Juan Imbing,” was supposedly decapitated in an apparently public execution witnessed by many people. His body was subsequently thrown “into the lake,” presumably Taal Lake4.
Hay Bing was said to have been a devotee of the Our Lady of Caysasay and was supposedly reciting a prayer to her at the time of his execution. It was she who was supposed to have been instrumental in bringing him back to life, leading him to the unfinished shrine and telling him, “Continue to build my church5.”
He was, of course, seen in the town the next day “to the amazement of the people who had witnessed his decapitation6.”
For more of the story of the Our Lady of Caysasay, please READ: “The Mysterious Our Lady of Caysasay Story as told in Old Tagalog by the 18th Century Agustinian Friar Francisco Buencuchillo.”
The focus of the dramatic portrayal of Hay Bing’s story, however, was less on his devotion and more on his having abandoned it. Cruz summed up the Hay Bing’s “forgetfulness” of his devotion:
“Haybing, however, forgot his patroness after a while and even intentionally refrained from hearing Mass on Saturday. One such day, he plowed his field instead of going to Mass saying that now he was married, he must serve his wife first before the Mother of God.”
As previously mentioned, holding the “Haybing” was no easy task; and it was likely for this reason that it was discontinued. Cruz wrote that Our Lady of Caysay was still honored annually with a Mass and a procession even as the Philippine Islands transitioned from Spanish to American rule; but the “Haybing” was dropped until revived in 1929.
To revive it, organizers solicited assistance from the town’s leading families as well as Taaleños living in Manila, Tayabas and the other towns of the Province of Batangas. A special committee was set up to help those who would take part in the drama.
The cast was made up mostly of young men and women belonging to well-off families of Taal and Lemery, a practical consequence of the inevitable expenses involved such as costumes and other requirements. Most of these were studying in Manila but came home every week to practice for the drama “in the government building.”
We conclude with Cruz’s summation of the play:
“In the play was depicted the history of the finding of the Blessed Virgin. All the characters in the real event were represented in the drama: Don Juan Maningcad, who found the sacred image; “Haybing,” the Chinese devotee who forgot and turned away from the Blessed Virgin, and who gave the title to the play for his life showed the works and ways of the Blessed Virgin on those who ever and those who willingly forget and disrespect her; Doña Maria Espiritu, the widow to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared several times and who took care of the shrine later on; the parish priest of Taal; the young wood-girls Mariang Talain and Masiang Bagohin, who saw the Blessed Virgin’s image in a well; and a lot of others like the Chinese devotees, the Guardia civil and the Spaniards.”
Notes and references:1 "Folktales and Religious Festivals in Batangas," by Claudia N. Cruz, published 1930, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.