MANILA • Hundreds of thousands of devotees in the Philippines, many of them barefooted, joined a chaotic procession that featured a black statue of Jesus Christ, one of the biggest annual festivals in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
The faithful gathered in downtown Manila yesterday to follow a carriage bearing the statue called the Black Nazarene, believed to have healing powers, in a festival that began at dawn and was continuing last night.
Some of them jostled and climbed onto the carriage as it was pushed and pulled by dozens of men holding ropes, while the crowd waved towels and handkerchiefs in a sign of praise to the kneeling life-sized image that carried a cross on one shoulder.
Processions and other religious rites were also held elsewhere in the country of 105 million people to celebrate the feast.
Citing police estimates, media said this year's festivities may draw 17 million devotees nationwide, some seeking healing for illnesses and forgiveness for sins, and others offering thanks for blessings.
Mr Rogelio Lim said all his wishes had come true since he became a Black Nazarene devotee in 1977. "My child is now a medicine graduate," he said. "I have been spared diseases. I have been blessed with a house. Everything we wished for. A good job. Everything. This is why I am here, to thank him."
The Philippine Red Cross said it had assisted more than 700 devotees who were feeling unwell, or suffered injuries amid the parade's growing crowds.
More than 4,000 police and soldiers were deployed to ensure the Manila procession would be peaceful, said the capital's police chief Oscar Albayalde.