World News

Barefoot thousands hail religious statue in Manila

A statue of the Black Nazarene makes its way as devotees joined the procession in Manila January 9, 2008. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - Tens of thousands of devotees, many of them barefoot, thronged Manila on Wednesday to snatch a glimpse of a centuries old black statue of Jesus Christ during its annual parade.

The wooden Black Nazarene, carved in Mexico and brought to the Philippine capital in the early 17th century, is cherished by Catholics, who believe it performs miracles.

“Before I wash the shirt I wore in the procession, I wipe my children’s faces with it first so they will not get sick,” Arnel Gadia, who has been coming to the festival for 11 years, told Reuters Television.

The police estimated up to 100,000 people gathered in the oldest part of Manila to see the icon, dressed in maroon robes and paraded in a carriage.

The religious spectacle has been carried out for more than 200 hundred years.

Police were checking reports two people collapsed and later died in the procession.

Many onlookers twirled handkerchiefs and threw them at devotees on the carriage to wipe the statue in the hope of carrying away some of its power.

“Because of the Black Nazarene, my son recovered from a car accident. He almost died,” said Marcelina Eusebio, 59, who came from the central island of Cebu to join the choked procession.