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Feverish Faith: Philippine Religious Feast Pulls Millions to the Streets

The feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila, Philippines, is one of the globe's biggest human gatherings as devotees in Asia's most Catholic country flock to see — and attempt to touch — the statue of an ebony Jesus. Held on Jan. 9, it also presents one of the nation's biggest annual security challenges: this year saw more than 1 million people attend and some 1,600 injured. During the day-long procession, hordes of devotees, mostly men and some barefoot, jostle to get close to the carriage bearing the 400-year-old statue, believed to have healing powers.

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    A miracle of logistics: devotees crowd Jones Bridge during the procession in downtown Manila, while the Philippine Coast Guard and other rescue teams stand by. The faithful try to touch the Black Nazarene statue in the hope their illnesses will be healed or their prayers will be heard.

    Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

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    Nazarene followers in front of Quiapo Church in Manila carry one of 2,000 replicas on Jan. 7. The replicas are brought to a church to be blessed in a penultimate parade.

    Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

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    Children stand beside a replica of the Black Nazarene in Manila during the penultimate parade, where crowds are smaller and easier to manage.

    Photographer: Ted Aljibe/AFP via Getty Images

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    People scramble to get a glimpse of the centuries-old icon near China Town in Binondo, Manila, on the feast day itself. Some toss towels to men who are tasked to wipe down the life-size statue.

    Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

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    Filipino Roman Catholic devotees grab the rope tied to the carriage bearing the Black Nazarene during a procession to celebrate the festival on Jan. 9. The wooden image of a black Jesus carrying a cross was brought to the Philippines by Catholic missionaries from Mexico in the 17th century.

    Photographer: Bullit Marquez/AP

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    Members of a SWAT team monitor the crowd during a procession of Black Nazarene replicas. About 5,000 police officers were deployed to maintain order and another 900 soldiers were on hand to help during the festival.

    Photographer: Bullit Marquez/AP

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    Catholics bearing banderoles of the Black Nazarene cheer during the parade on Jan. 9. At least one man died after suffering from a seizure during the procession. Medical volunteers treated about 1,600 people for injuries, mostly hypertension, as crowds jammed the streets of Manila.

    Photographer: Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images

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    Devotees keep vigil around a replica of the Black Nazarene at dawn on Jan. 9 in Manila.

    Photographer: Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images