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NAZARENO 2013: Nine million devotees take part

The calm Poon in a sea of humanity. JOJO VITUG/
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - The Feast of the Black Nazarene ended at 1:30 Thursday morning after an 18-hour long procession attended by some nine million devotees.

A sea of humanity, many of them barefooted, braved the backbreaking procession of the four-century-old Black Nazarene sacred image of Jesus Christ said to be miraculous having cured countless of devotees over the years.

The Manila Police Department (MPD) estimated the crowd at nine million.

Before the procession started, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle officiated a Holy Mass.

The religious procession took 18 hours to negotiate the circuitous three-kilometer route from the historic Quirino Grandstand, where the life-size Black Nazarene stayed overnight before it was brought to the nearby Minor Basilica of St. John Catholic Church in suburban Quiapo area, where an hourly Mass was also held from 6 a.m. to past midnight.

It was a spectacle to watch as frenzied Filipino devotees – young and old – demonstrated their unprecedented faith in God braving the heat throughout the day and the huge crowd that swayed back and forth like a wave in the sea as each one tried to outdo each other to touch the Black Nazarene on board a specially-built “Andas” vehicle during the long procession.

Despite the crowd, however, a six-year old girl said to be suffering from a serious disease managed to climb the “Andas” with the help of devotees.

Those who could not go near the “Andas” waved their handkerchiefs and throw them to people aboard the vehicle who would wipe the same to the Black Nazarene image and throw them back to the owner of the handkerchiefs.

Over 1,600 devotees who fainted or suffered high blood pressure were given medical help by government doctors and nurses who were deployed during the special religious event participated in by millions of Filipino Catholics who come from various parts of the country.

Many pilgrims who were interviewed said that they were healed of their sickness, including cancer, after attending novenas in honor of the Black Nazarene.

A radio reporter Jun Allegre, a devotee who has been covering the annual feast of the Black Nazarene for over ten years, testified that he too was healed of his lung cancer after praying to the miraculous image.

Another devotee is former Philippine Vice President Noli de Castro who has not failed to join the procession annually. Castro is also a popular radio-TV anchor of Channel 2 and its sister company radio station DZMM based in Manila.

Many foreign tourists with mobile phone cameras ready also squeezed their way mixing themselves among the Black Nazarene devotees.

The procession moved at snail's pace due to the influx of a huge crowd started at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and wound up at 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

In many instances the procession got stuck in the streets because of the slow-moving huge crowd ahead, not to mention those on the side watching the procession to pass by.

Over 3,000 policemen were deployed along the route of the procession.

Many of the streets in Manila were closed to traffic during the procession.

The Black Nazarene, which is made of wood, was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607.

According to historical accounts, fire broke out aboard the Spanish galleon during the voyage from Mexico to Manila and the statue on board was only burned slightly causing it to have its present dark color, hence it is named the Black Nazarene.

There was another big fire that broke out in Quiapo Church in 1929 but it was not burned.

During the heavy bombardment by Japanese planes in World War II that devastated Manila, the Black Nazarene image was left unscathed which many believed was a miracle.