Catholic devotees carrying replicas of Santo Nino, or Child Jesus are hosed with holy water during the Feast of Santo Nino in Tondo, Manila on Sunday. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA -- (UPDATED) Thousands of worshipers joined a Catholic procession in Tondo, Manila on Sunday and paraded statues of the Child Jesus believed to grant miracles through the city.
Wooden replicas of the Child Jesus, locally known as "Santo Nino," are revered by the devotees and paraded every third Sunday of January in remembrance of Jesus Christ's childhood.
The original icon was brought by a Portuguese explorer who went to the Central Philippines in 1521 as a gift to the pagan-worshipping natives, which marked the country's conversion to Christianity.
Replicas of the original statue are enshrined in various churches across the Philippines, each one having its own distinct celebration.
Devotees from the congested district of Tondo began the festivities with a morning mass headed by Cardinal Luis Tagle.
A procession followed, with the crowd singing hymns and praying while carrying their own replicas of the Child Jesus statue along the procession route.
Part of the celebration was a dance ritual originating from a pagan practice where devotees danced in front of the statue in veneration.
Believers attribute successes and miracles to the Santo Nino, believing that worshipping it will give them good luck or grant them protection.
"Ever since I joined the group serving the Santo Nino, I have learned a great deal. It is not only because I have wishes, but because I know it had helped my life and my family," said devotee Jun Pimentel.
Ema Magaslo, a devotee for 10 years, had her Santo Nino icon blessed and thanked the statue for her family's safety.
"We love him (Child Jesus) because he always protects us from tragedies, calamities and anything else that can harm us," she said.
The feast of the Child Jesus is celebrated in the predominantly Catholic Philippines in remembrance to the virtues of Jesus Christ as a child. Images of the Child Jesus are said to be the oldest icon in Philippine Christianity and are often prominently displayed in homes and business establishments.
More than 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholics, and religious festivals honouring saints are held year round.