Millions of Catholics take part in Feast of the Black Nazarene in the Philppines

Hundreds of thousands of Filipino Catholic devotees joined the Feast of the Black Nazarene procession on January 9.

During the 20-hour parade, barefoot worshippers climb on each other to try to touch, kiss and rub a piece of cloth on the statue – older devotees who are not as strong toss their towels to the men guarding the statue so they will be the one to rub it and throw it back to them.

Together, the sea of people pulls a large rope that is connected to the Black Nazarene's carriage to transport it back to Quiapo Church in Manila City where it is available for viewing on a regular day.

The annual procession carries the centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ with crowned thorns and bearing a cross. The icon was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests in 1607, blackened when the ship carrying it caught fire.

That it survived the fire was believed to be miraculous by Filipino Catholics, so it attracted a massive number of followers from different parts of the country. Some even fly from the far-South islands of the country with their families to join the procession.

Attendees get injured with the massive number of people, so the local government unit prepares medical team around the procession route. Last year, more than 800 people were reportedly hurt, including one dead because of suspected a neck and spine injury in a fall.

During the procession, the Manila police shut down mobile phone signals in many areas of the city for added security against possible terror attacks.