Throngs of believers flung themselves at a historic statue of Jesus Christ as it was paraded through the Philippine capital on Wednesday in an annual festival that is one of the world’s biggest shows of Catholic zeal.
Many in the heaving crowd of men and women, which police said numbered more than a million, believe touching the Black Nazarene or being in its presence can heal the sick or grant good fortune.
Devotees massed before dawn to catch a glimpse of the life-sized statue as it was wheeled on a metal float along a seven-kilometer route through Manila’s narrow streets by a crew tugging thick ropes.
“I survived a stroke because of Him. I will do this every year until I am 100 years old,” said 70-year-old Joaquin Bordado, who has attended the procession for decades.
“God ordered me to do this and I feel no exhaustion,” he added, wearing an ankle-length robe and crown of barbed wire.
Around him people chanted “Viva Nazareno” (Long live Nazarene), cheered and jostled for a glimpse of, or selfie with, the cross-bearing statue, cloaked in a maroon robe and topped with a crown of thorns.
Believers, barefoot as a sign of penitence, scramble over one another to touch towels to the icon, which is named for its charred appearance.
It is believed to have survived a fire in the 17th century while en route to the Philippines, which became Asia’s bastion of Catholicism under 400 years as a Spanish colony.