A year-end thanksgiving procession of an image of a black Jesus of Nazareth carrying his cross drew close to 20,000 people in the central district of Manila on Dec. 31. The annual event also marked the start of a nine-day religious observance ahead of the feast of the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9. Monsignor Hernando Coronel, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene
in Manila's Quiapo district, said that instead of being festive the procession this year was "more prayerful and orderly." He said he also noticed that there were more young people attending the procession. "We noticed more millennials.... This is a positive sign especially that 2019 is the Year of the Youth
," said the priest. "I came here to thank the Lord for all the blessings I received this year," said 32-year-old Jessica Asuncion who traveled all the way from Antipolo in neighboring Rizal province. She said it was only right to give thanks for prayers that are granted. "Sometimes we pray for things and when these are granted we forget to give thanks," she said. Those who were not able to attend the early morning procession posted their messages on the social media page of the basilica
. Monsignor Coronel said the religious procession, which is held before the traditional feast of the Black Nazarene, is held at the end of every year "to give thanks to God." The annual traslacion
, or transfer of the Black Nazarene to the basilica from Manila's old walled city every ninth day of January, usually draws millions of devotees from across the country who walk with the image in a procession that lasts up to 20 hours. The Black Nazarene is a life-sized, dark-colored, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ that was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests in 1607. Tradition holds that it got its color after it was burned in a fire on the Spanish galleon transporting it.