MANILA, Philippines – This year's procession of the image of the Black Nazarene has begun, with authorities expecting millions of devotees joining the annual Catholic tradition.
The procession began at its usual starting point at the Quirino Grandstand. The image was transferred to the grandstand on Monday evening for the "pahalik" tradition.
The procession started after the solemn high mass celebrated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
The image was placed on the carriage, also called "andas", past 7 a.m.
As expected, the devotees, shouting "Viva!", scrambled to get near the image of the dark-skinned Christ which is believed to be miraculous.
Now on its 406th year, the procession commemorates the feast of the "traslacion" or the transfer of the sacred image from the Recollect Church in Intramuros, Manila to the Quiapo Church in 1787.
Organizers are hoping that this year's procession will end by around 7:30 p.m.
A Eucharistic celebration will also be held upon the arrival of the image at the Minor Basilica.
Last year's procession, considered to be one of the longest in history, lasted for roughly 22 hours after one of the tires of the Black Nazarene's carriage broke down.
With the stability of the carriage being one of the top concerns, organizers opted to use forklift tires this year.
Police estimated some 500,000 devotees joined the activities at the Quirino Grandstand.
Last year's procession drew some 8.6 million devotees.
Meanwhile, hourly masses at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene began at 3 a.m. and will last until 12 noon.
Some devotees who opted not to join the procession attended the hourly masses.