In 2008 I was visiting friends in Roxas City, Capiz. Upon learning about my interest in the creatures of Philippine Mythology, an acquaintance suggested I visit the mummy of Maria Basañes in Pilar, a few districts over. So off we went.
After stopping at city hall and hiring a guide, we arrived at a humble cement block home. After being charged a small fee, we entered the property and then the front door of the house. One of my companions immediately grasped the door frame and nearly fell.
To our left was the mummified body, dressed as a nun, with eyes seeming to follow us as we moved. nsettling does not quite describe the feeling.
The Story of Maria Basañes
According to the family, Maria Basañes was a very religious woman. The official literature states that she died of a heart attack at 47 years old on March 12, 1929 (a family member told me that she had been murdered, but this is not confirmed and has been denied by all other reliable sources).
Later, the family was required to move the grave and found that her body was preserved. They now keep her in the living room of their home. Rumours say she wanders the region at night and, according to the family, they often find grass on her feet in the mornings. Some believe this to be a divine will, others believe she should be deemed a saint.
We were told by the family and guide that the process for canonization was started with a local bishop, but the case has not passed the second stage of examination by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. There are 4 stages to canonization – Servant of God | Venerable/Heroic in Virtue | Beatification | and finally Canonization.
Upon further investigation, her name is not found on the list of Filipino Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Her name is also not found on the Vatican’s list of candidates awaiting approval. Even though Sainthood may not be in the future for Maria Basañes, the love from her community in the barrio of Casanayan is clear.