MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – More than 1,600 devotees of the Black Nazarene either fell ill or were injured during its annual procession on Thursday.
Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag said the department had attended to 1,686 patients as of 6 p.m. Thursday.
Most of the injuries were related to abrasions or wounds, dizziness, and fainting.
Twelve people were brought to hospitals for either stroke, fracture, chest pain, seizure, high-blood pressure, dislocation, sprain, or dehydration," Tayag said on Twitter.
A separate report from Philippine Red Cross, meanwhile, said its first aid stations attended to 615 other patients as of 2 p.m. Thursday.
Of the 615 patients, PRC said 359 suffered from minor injuries, 252 from high blood pressure. Four patients had to be transported to a medical facility.
One devotee's toe had to be amputated after it was crushed by the carriage transporting the Black Nazarene, a TV Patrol report said.
In an interview on [email protected] on Thursday morning, PRC Safety Services Manager Rommel Lozada said the organization attended to some 1,500 patients during last year's procession.
'Viva, Viva Senor Nazareno!'
Millions of barefoot devotees packed Manila's streets Thursday for one of the world's biggest Catholic parades, honoring an ancient statue of Jesus Christ they believe has miraculous powers.
Chanting "Viva, Viva Senor Nazareno! (Long Live Mister Nazarene)", frenzied pilgrims climbed over one another in the suffocating heat to touch the Black Nazarene during the ebony-hued wooden statue's slow procession.
"This has been a family tradition for years, and the Nazarene has given us many blessings over the years," housewife Josephine Manalastas told AFP after she and her 80-year-old mother were pulled out by medics from beneath the surging crowd.
They were taken to an ambulance for treatment after a section of the crowd stampeded over a steel barrier protecting the statue's carriage, shortly before the parade began at Manila's largest park in the morning.
Large numbers of police were mustered to help maintain order along the six-kilometer route, but the procession was crawling so slowly that just over a third of the distance had been covered as dusk fell.
As of midday, organizers said this year's crowd outnumbered the estimated nine million who attended last year, although the number could not be independently verified.
Devotees climbed on each other's shoulders to kiss the statue or wipe it with white towels and handkerchiefs.
Others fought over a pair of thick lengths of rope that the pilgrims used to pull the carriage.
In scenes reminiscent of a rock concert mosh pit, one determined woman surfed the crowd to reach the icon, only to fall back and sink into the sea of humanity afterwards.
More than 80 percent of the Philippines' 100 million people are Catholic, a legacy of four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, making it Asia's main bastion of the faith.
The country is deeply religious, but Thursday's march through Manila's old quarter -- the biggest religious event in the country -- represents one of its more extreme forms of veneration.
Cloaked in a maroon robe and crowned with thorns while bearing a cross, the Nazarene statue was first brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, decades after the start of Spain's rule.
It was believed to have acquired its color after it was partially burnt when the galleon carrying it caught fire.
Many Filipinos believe the icon is miraculous and that by joining the procession, barefoot as a mark of humility, their prayers will be answered. - with a report from Agence France-Presse