Black Nazarene: Philippines holds major religious procession amid tight anti-terror security

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The icon, which wove through Manila City's roads, returned to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, or the Quiapo Church, at exactly 3 a.m.

But Arrojado reiterated that there were no terror threats to the Black Nazarene feast.

Police spokeswoman, Superintendent Lucille Faycho, said the number of people attending this year's celebration is expected to be more than last year's estimated 18 million.

In a frenzied display of religious fervor, men, women and children climbed over heads and shoulders and flung themselves at the centuries-old Black Nazarene that they say performs miracles.

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Exemplifying the fervor and devotion to the image were shouts of "Viva Nazareno " (Hail the Black Nazarene) and the waving of white handkerchiefs or towels as the "andas" (carriage) wended its way to the Quiapo church.

More than 4,000 police and soldiers were deployed to ensure the procession was be peaceful, said Manila's police chief, Oscar Albayalde.

Coronel was joined by Monsignor Hernando Coronel, rector of the Quiapo Church, and officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Up to 20 million people are expected to flock to the Philippine capital's Quiapo district starting this weekend for the annual religious observance.

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"Filipinos who come to Quiapo... get a sense of being near the Lord, of the Lord touching them and of the Lord accompanying them... through hard challenges", Quiapo church parochial vicar Father Marvin Cruz told AFP.

Others said they joined the procession or paid homage while waiting for the arrival of the image at the Quiapo church to thank the Black Nazarene for all the blessings granted them.

A devotee for 30 years, 61-year-old Julio Castillo watched from the sidelines of the procession Tuesday after both his feet were fractured in a motorcycle accident last month, leaving him in a wheelchair. "Previous year was the longest traslacion", he said.

This year's procession will have a new feature - 12 prayer stations that will be set up along the way.

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