MANILA, Jan. 10 – Amidst warning by authorities of terrorists’ attacks, some 1.4 million Catholics, many of them barefooted ignored the threats and participated in the annual “Translacion” procession of the 400-year old Black Nazarene statue here on Monday (Jan. 9).
Due to the huge crowd, the procession moved at a snail's pace for over 22 hours from Rizal Park going to the Quiapo Catholic Church some 3.5 kilometers away.
The life-size statue of Jesus Christ carrying a cross was mounted on a carriage to enable the devotees to see it even from a distance.
Over 5,000 military and police were scattered in various places along the route of the procession after receiving intelligence reports of possible terror attacks by Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the newly-formed Maute Group, which has link with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Police had imposed a gun ban and prohibited drones to fly over a wide area in Manila.
Devotees carrying backpacks were also prohibited even as mobile phones were jammed to prevent possible terrorists who might use the cellular phone as detonating devices.
Police snipers were posted atop buildings where the procession would pass.
During the entire 22-hour duration of the Black Nazarene procession, devotees threw their handkerchiefs towards the statue to have them wiped by people on board the carriage, who threw them back to their respective owners.
Many devotees, particularly those over one decades and beyond testified the miraculous power of the Black Nazarene Statues that have cured their various illnesses, including heart attack survivors.
Having been cured, these devotees have pledged to join the annual procession of the Black Nazarene Statue every Jan. 9.
Because of the large crowd, mobile hospitals were posted in strategic points of the procession route to respond to any emergency.
The Philippine National Red Cross treated over 1,200 people who were injured or suffered high blood pressure during the religious celebration.
Three women devotees fell while attempting to climb the carriage and were nearly trampled to death had the crowd not able to catch them.
The Black Nazarene Statue is believed to be miraculous as it survived several disasters the past four centuries, included fires and during World War II unscathed.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the “Translacion” celebration was reserved compared to previous years when the crowd scrambled to touch the image.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada thanked the millions of devotees for the calm procession.
“I’m glad that the devotees are very orderly,” Estrada said.