About a million and a half barefoot Philippine devotees praying for miracles joined a procession on Monday for a black statue of Jesus Christ being paraded through the old commercial centre of the capital, Manila.
The devotees crowded around the carriage – pulled by ropes and pushed from behind – bearing the statue, known as the Black Nazarene, which is believed to have healing powers, as it crawled through the narrow streets.
The faithful reached out towards the icon in the hope that even the slightest touch would bless them, heal their illnesses and those of their relatives.
“My purpose here is to give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings he has given me and my family every day,” Jimray Bacomage, 37, told Reuters, saying the Black Nazarene had healed his broken arm.
About 80 per cent of the more than 100 million people of the Philippines are Roman Catholic and the former Spanish colony is famous for its colourful religious festivals.
The Black Nazarene, a life-sized wooden statue of Christ kneeling with a cross on his shoulder, is also paraded through the city on Good Friday to commemorate his crucifixion.
“The Lord solved all the problems that came our way ever since I started attending the Feast of the Black Nazarene 16 years ago,” said Roilo Damiucon, 72.
About 4,000 soldiers, police and emergency workers were on duty for he procession but police said there were no serious incidents.
Some Western governments had warned of “possible terrorist threats to the procession”. Mobile telephone services in the area were cut and authorities banned the use of drones and firecrackers.
More than 100 devotees suffered minor injuries in the throng, the Philippine Red Cross said. In 2016, two people were killed and more than 1,200 people suffered minor injuries.
The procession is expected to last more than 20 hours and up to 15 million are expected to pay their respects, church officials said.