Catholic devotees carry the life-size statue of the Black Nazarene to a carriage during an annual procession in honour of the centuries-old icon of Jesus Christ in Manila. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE

Manila  - More than a million barefoot devotees on Wednesday joined an annual religious procession in the predominantly Catholic Philippines to honour a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ.

More than 7,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed to secure the feast of the Black Nazarene.

The devotees, mostly wearing maroon and yellow shirts, jostled their way through a frenzied crowd to reach the carriage carrying the statue, which is considered by many Filipinos to be miraculous.

They waved towels or handkerchiefs and chanted "Viva, Viva, Viva!"

Nearly 300,000 devotees stayed overnight in a Manila park where the statue had been on display since Tuesday to allow devotees to kiss it or wipe their towels or handkerchiefs on it.

The nearly 7-kilometre procession from Luneta Park to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo district was expected to take at least 20 hours, organizers said.

The Philippine Red Cross said its volunteers treated 478 patients suffering from fainting, bruises, lacerations and difficulty breathing, four hours into the procession which started at 5 am (2100 GMT).

Authorities imposed bans on liquor sales and carrying of firearms among civilians in Manila City, while telecommunication companies temporarily cut off service in the area as a security precaution.

The Black Nazarene - a wooden statue, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross - is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries.

The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene.