Bisila (Our Lady of the Island, Virgin Bisila or Invocation of Virgin Mary), is popularly known as a Marian invocation of the Catholic Church and is the heavenly patron of Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea located in Africa.
Several centuries ago, in the town of Botejé on the island of Bioko, a mysterious epidemic struck affecting breastfeeding women and causing the death of several children. With little knowledge about this pandemic, the villagers decided to get in touch with the spiritual world for an immediate solution. During the following months, no remedy could be found and the village experienced one of the darkest moments in its history. One day, the young and beautiful daughter of the Botuku (chief of the tribe), went to the river with other girls from the village and while there she went into a nearby cave. Inside, the girl saw a beautiful black woman with golden skin and a bright face. Suddenly, the girl started screaming thinking she was looking at a spirit.
The woman spoke to the girl, assuring her that she was a spirit, but not a bad one and that she had a message for the community that she wanted the girl to deliver. The message was clear and concise: “I am Bisila and if you do everything I tell you, the children will be born again in Botejé because children are treasures that have to take care of the land, but first I have to talk to the villagers about the cure and I need you for it.” The girl, not believing what she was seeing and hearing from Bisila, fainted from the shock. Bisila, seeing that the girl was incapable of transmitting the message, Bisila possessed the girl's body. The other girls, noticing the chief’s daughter’s absence, entered the cave and found the girl’s unconscious body. Hours later, back in the village, the girl was still unconscious, and the villager had to perform several traditional tests to find out the cause of her illness; they fed her bitter fruit and gave her seawater to drink. This was to see if the girl was possessed by a spirit.
When the traditional tests confirmed that the girl was indeed possessed, the villagers began to interrogate the spirit, asking who it was and what it wanted. Bisila, possessing the body of Botuku’s daughter, responded by saying: "I am Bisila, and if you do everything I say, the children will be born again in Botejé.” The villagers followed Bisila’s two requests; one was the construction of a Rohia (spiritual house of the Bubis tribe) at the top of the mountain, and the second request was for the daughter of Botuku and another a chosen male child to deliver offerings, some fruits of the land. Later that day, Bisila talk to the villagers, telling them what they have to do to find a curative solution. The villagers did as Bisila had asked. They built a Rohia at the top of the mountain and they brought her all kinds of fruit offerings, and in return, Bisila restored fertility on the Island of Bioko. Days later, the panorama of the village started to change: the sky was filled with light, the colours returned, children began to be born, and each woman had a child breastfed and healthy. Botejé was filled with joy and children continued to be born for years, populating the entire Bioko Island up to the present day.
Decades after this event, two priests, Aimemí and Amador Martín, heard the legend of Bissilla. They found similarities with Virgin Mary and began to promote the figure of Bisila among the Bubi people as an invocation of the Mother of God to the Catholic Church. A chapel and statue were built, both named "Our Lady of the Island." The statue was installed at the top of the Basilé Mountain, looking towards the capital city of Malabo.