MANILA (UPDATE) - The Black Nazarene procession ended just before 9 p.m. Thursday as the image was returned more than 16 hours since the annual Traslacion started amid tighter security and stricter regulations.
By police estimates, some 3.3 million people joined the procession, with more than 530,000 gathered at Plaza Miranda and Quiapo Church, the culmination of one of the country's biggest religious events.
The Black Nazarene was returned to the church at 8:46 p.m., the Manila Public Information Office said - nearly five hours earlier than the end of the procession last year.
A thick wall of blue-clad police officers lined Plaza Miranda, the entrance to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, as the revered image of Jesus Christ inched its way to the parish- the first time such level of security was seen at the annual procession.
But before it could, the andas or carriage seemed carried away by the wave of people jostling to reach and touch the image- a feat considered by devotees as a bearer of miracles.
In a statement, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno called the event "record-breaking" as the Traslacion took a shorter time than usual. Black Nazarene processions in previous years had taken more than 20 hours.
"Taos-puso po akong nagpapasalamat sa milyon-milyong deboto, sa Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, sa mga vendor, sa mga kapulisan, at sa lahat ng city at national government agencies na nakiisa para maging matagumpay ang prusisyong ito!" the mayor said.
(Heartfelt thanks to the millions of devotees, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, vendors, police, and all city and national government agencies that came together for the success of the procession.)
New security measures police and the city government introduced had disappointed some devotees, but Moreno promised even more changes next year to speed up the procession.
Among measures enforced this year were the deployment of a police phalanx surrounding the andas and a shorter route.
The Traslacion- annual return of the image of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand to the Quiapo Church- usually takes more than 20 hours.
As of this posting, there has been no report of serious incidents as authorities have recorded only minor injuries.