MANILA - More than 1.5 million people converged on the Philippine capital Monday for a powerful Christian sect's evangelical event, causing traffic chaos that shut down large parts of the megacity.
The gathering of the secretive and politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in the historic district of Manila forced all schools and some government offices to close.
The Supreme Court, as well as some basketball games in the highly popular college league, were also suspended, while Manila's governing authority urged private employers to give their staff a paid day off to avoid the traffic.
"We really apologise for those who were inconvenienced. Maybe they can just pass this off as a minor sacrifice to help their countrymen," Iglesia ni Cristo spokesman Edwin Zaballa told AFP.
Iglesia ni Cristo, which is believed to have about three million members, held the event ostensibly as a medical and charity mission, with its followers giving aid to residents of huge slums.
Zaballa said it was also part of year-long celebrations across the country to mark the lead-up to its centenary in 2014, and "to spread the word".
Between two and three million people attended the event either as a church follower or aid recipient, according to Manila's police chief, Isagani Genade.
The organisers estimated the crowd at between 1.5 million and two million people.
The event is one of many ostentatious displays of faith in the mainly Catholic Philippines, where religious leaders also wield heavy political influence.
However, not everyone attending was celebrating.