In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, the annual Black Nazarene procession in the Philippines was held under heightened security on 9 January. Although there were no specific threats to one of Asia's largest religious festivals, security was stepped up as millions of Roman Catholic devotees thronged the streets of Manila to take part in the procession.
Around 5,000 security personnel were deployed across the capital, where a centuries-old life-sized statue of Jesus Christ is displayed for public veneration. As crime and terrorist activities are rampant in the south-east Asian country, security checks were a nightmare for the police. Manila Police chief superintendent, Roland Nano, told the Associated Press that the crowd swelled to more than a million by 12pm.
Police sharpshooters, bomb-sniffing dogs and SWAT teams were on high alert as surveillance drones flew over the procession. A major river that was to be crossed by the procession was patrolled by coast guard and navy personnel.
Even as the procession was held peacefully, one person died from an unspecified ailment, while many sustained injuries while trying to wade through crowds. Arvin Tamayo, a devotee who came along with his family, said: "We're praying for good health. It's so financially and emotionally draining to see somebody in the family die slowly in pain." Tamayo came to the procession to pray for a sick member in the family.
It is believed that a wooden statue of Christ bearing a cross and crown of thorns was brought from Mexico to Manila on a galleon by Spanish missionaries in 1606. Although the galleon caught fire, the statue was not destroyed. Its survival from fires and earthquakes through centuries and intense bombings during the Second World War are considered a testament to its mystical powers.