Philippines Braces for Feast of `Miraculous' Black Nazarene

  • Police say 1 man died of a suspected seizure during procession
  • Idol of black Jesus carrying cross said to have healing powers

More than a million people took to the streets of Manila on Saturday to celebrate the festival of the Black Nazarene, a statue of Jesus believed to have healing powers.

The celebrations took place without incident, though one man died of natural causes.
Doctors tried but failed to revive the victim who suffered from a seizure, the Philippine National Red Cross said on its Twitter page. Red Cross volunteers had treated 1,273 patients as of 5:30 p.m. for various injuries, more than half of which involved hypertension, it said.

Earlier on Saturday, another man died of heart attack after attending morning mass at the Quiapo Church before the parade, ABS-CBN News reported.

Former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada shut schools and regulated liquor sales within 200 meters (656 feet) of the procession. Some streets in downtown Manila would be closed to clear the way for the throngs, according to a police advisory posted on the city’s website. About 1.2 million people joined the procession by 7 a.m., police Superintendent Marissa Bruno said. The procession started about 6 a.m., according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The feast of the Black Nazarene is one of the country’s biggest annual security challenges as the faithful of Asia’s most Catholic country flock to the capital. Last year, at least two people died and about 1,700 were treated for injuries during a 19-hour procession during which the statue of a black Jesus carrying a cross was paraded, according to the government and Red Cross.

Nazarene Prayer

“When I was a young woman, I walked on my knees and begged the Black Nazarene to give me a good husband,” said 72-year-old Nilda Saavedra, who attended mass at the Quiapo Church with her husband. “I also prayed that all my three children could finish college. All my prayers were heard.”

During the procession, a sea of devotees, mostly men dressed in maroon and yellow shirts, jostles to get close to the carriage bearing the idol. Some toss towels to men designated to wipe down the 400-year-old icon, believed to have healing powers.

About 5,000 police were deployed to maintain order and another 900 soldiers were on hand, including explosives experts, to help with crowd control.

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