MANILA - (UPDATE) Hundreds of thousands of barefooted Filipino Catholics early Wednesday joined the annual parade of a blackened image of Jesus Christ that is expected to continue until midnight.
The 6.9-kilometer procession of the Black Nazarene, popularly known as Traslacion, is expected to draw millions of devotees seeking healing for its supposed miraculous powers.
Mobs of believers hustled their way to the carriage while others waved towels and handkerchiefs as the cross-bearing statue is wheeled through from the Quirino Grandstand back to its home in the Church of the Black Nazarene.
At least 275,000 people were at the Quirino Grandstand as of 5 a.m. when the Traslacion started early Wednesday, police said.
It took an hour for the carriage bearing the centuries-old image to leave the Quirino Grandstand due to the thick crowd.
To secure the mammoth procession, thousands of cops and soldiers were deployed while a gun ban and liquor ban were enforced.
Meanwhile, mobile phone services along the parade route were shut down. No-fly and no-sail zones were also in effect.
Authorities warned the public against bringing deadly weapons, firecrackers, backpacks, and colored canisters or water jugs.
On the eve of Traslacion, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle delivered a homily at the Quirino Grandstand, where he shared what it means to be a devotee.
"Ang deboto nagmamahal, ang panatiko hindi nagmamahal," he said.
(A devotee loves, a fanatic doesnt.)
"'Yung ibang tao kapag nasa langit na di na mapapababa pero si Hesus nasa langit pero bababa para samahan tayo," he added.
(Some people don't want to go down once in heaven but Jesus descends from the heaven to join us.)
Amelia Padernal, 81, from Tondo, Manila took part in "pahalik," a ritual to venerate the Nazarene.
"Wala na akong hiling at dasal. Pasalamat na lang at sana gumanda buhay ng anak ko," she said.
(I have no other dream and prayer. I just want to give thanks and hope my child will have a better life.)
Other devotees meanwhile opted to wait at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
As a devotion to the Nazarene, a family in Novaliches, Quezon City gave free porridge to other devotees outside the Quiapo Church.
Angelo Cerdon told ABS-CBN News they are doing this to give thanks for all the blessings they received last year.
As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, the Plaza Miranda Police Community Precinct recorded some 15,000 people outside the Quiapo Church.
The Philippine Red Cross said they have recorded 3 major cases, such as laceration, as of 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Some 47 minor cases, such as fainting, were reported while almost 250 people had their blood pressure taken.
Last year's Traslacion took 22 hours to complete and was attended by some 6 million people.
The life-size image was brought to Manila by friars from the Order of Augustinian Recollects on May 31, 1606.
First enshrined at the first Recollect Church in Bagumbayan, the image was transferred to Quiapo Church in 1787.
The image survived several disasters, such as the great fires that destroyed the Quiapo Church in 1791 and 1929 and earthquakes in 1645 and 1863.
It was in 1998 when a replica of the Black Nazarene was used in the parade due to the damage sustained by the original image.
Since then, the replica has been used in the annual feast while the original remains housed inside the church. - with report from Jervis Manahan, Fred Cipres, and Ernie Manio, ABS-CBN News