MANILA - Some 120,000 worshipers on Sunday joined a colorful Catholic procession in Tondo, Manila and paraded statues of the Santo Niño believed to grant miracles.
The colorful procession started when the rose-covered floats bearing images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus left the Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish Church around 4:15 a.m.
Accompanying the centuries-old image of the Child Jesus were some 100 policemen and hundreds of devotees who chanted "Viva!" as they danced and held replicas of the icon.
After the procession ended at 8 a.m., priests blessed the replicas which were dressed in various apparel, including uniforms of policemen, fire fighters and "taho vendors."
Believers attribute successes and miracles to the Santo Niño, believing that worshiping it will give them good luck or grant them protection.
Reynaldo Corpuz, a devotee for 40 years now, said he prays to the Child Jesus to keep his family safe and allow him to help others.
"Sana iyung mga anak, laging ligtas at sana makatulong sa mga humihingi ng tulong," said Corpuz, who brought 15 replicas to the parade.
The National Capital Region Police Office deployed 1,500 personnel to secure the procession.
Authorities have not monitored any untoward incident during the fiesta, said Superintendent Arnold Ibay, commander of the Morioned police station.
The Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish Church will hold hourly fiesta Masses until 12 midnight.
Ibay reminded devotees that bringing firecrackers, drinking materials and firearms to the event is strictly prohibited.
The feast of the Child Jesus is celebrated in the predominantly Catholic Philippines on the third Sunday of January in remembrance of the virtues of Jesus Christ as a child.
The original icon was brought as a gift to the pagan-worshipping natives by a Portuguese explorer who went to the central Philippines in 1521, marking the country's conversion to Christianity.
Replicas of the original statue are enshrined in various churches across the Philippines, each with its own distinct celebration. -- With reports from April Rafales and Kevin Manalo, ABS-CBN News; Fred Cipres, DZMM; Reuters