Huge Catholic Crowd Flocks to Annual Black Nazarene Procession in Manila

Luis Liwanag and Jojo Rinoza

A woman prepares a replica of the Black Nazarene on the eve of a grand procession of the religious icon across downtown Manila, Jan. 8, 2019. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]


Catholic devotees jostle to get close to and touch the statue of the Black Nazarene as a carriage transporting the religious icon makes its way through Manila, Jan. 9, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


One of many barefoot Catholic devotees sits to rest during the annual procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila, one of the Christian world’s extreme shows of devotion and faith. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


Mark Dan and his small son prepare to take part in Manila’s Black Nazarene procession, which Dan said he was joining in memory of three friends who were killed in the Philippine government’s war on illegal drugs, Jan. 9, 2020. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]


A person is carried way on a stretcher, one of many Catholic devotees who fainted or suffered from exhaustion during the annual Black Nazarene procession in Manila, Jan. 9, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


A Catholic devotee carries his toddler as he joins the Black Nazarene procession in Manila, Jan. 9, 2020. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]


Philippine troops take part in keeping the streets safe as devotees join the Black Nazarene procession in Manila, Jan. 9, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


Catholic devotees crowd around and climb aboard a carriage transporting the Black Nazarene through the streets of downtown Manila, Jan. 9, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]

At least 2 million Catholic devotees, many of them barefoot, gathered in Manila on Thursday for the annual procession of the Black Nazarene, a statue of an ebony Jesus Christ with the Cross thought to bring miracles.

Troops armed with assault rifles joined police in a security lockdown to protect the devotees from possible threats by Islamic militants. There were no immediate reports of any disruptions during the religious procession in the capital of the mainly Roman Catholic country.

Many in the crowd jostled to get close to and touch the statue as a carriage transporting it passed by. The wooden Black Nazarene was believed to have been carved in the 17th century and was saved from a fire aboard a ship that brought the statue here in 1606, when the country was a Spanish colony.

The capital was virtually closed the whole day as the procession took about 20 hours to wind its way through the streets of downtown Manila, National police spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said.

“It was generally peaceful apart from minor injuries,” Banac told a local radio station. He estimated the crowd to have reached more than 2 million people at its peak, but it could have been larger, he conceded.

This year’s procession saw some families of people killed in the government’s war on illegal drugs join the massive display of religious devotion. They carried pictures of their loved ones who were slain in the bloody campaign, hoping that the killers would be brought to justice.

Mark Dan, who lost three of his friends in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, was among those at Thursday’s procession. The throats of Dan’s friends were slit and their bodies dumped in different parts of Manila, he said.

“I was shocked. I cried because of the brutality of their deaths,” Dan told BenarNews.

“We ask the Nazarene to grant justice … even though it is more than a year now.”


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.