In Gridlocked Manila, Dancing Santa Brings Yuletide Cheer to Motorists

Marielle Lucenio
In Gridlocked Manila, Dancing Santa Brings Yuletide Cheer to Motorists Traffic enforcer Ramiro Hinojas wears a Santa Claus costume as he directs vehicles with dance moves during the Christmas season in Manila, Dec. 18, 2020.
[Marielle Lucenio/BenarNews]

Every year for nearly a decade during the hectic Christmas season, traffic enforcer Ramiro Hinojas wears a Santa Claus costume – complete with pompommed stocking cap and fake white beard – as he does his regular dance routine while directing vehicles on Manila’s streets.

Far from fazing him, the COVID-19 pandemic has only steeled his resolve to pull off his daily dancing Santa performance this December in the Manila heat, so he can remind people that there is life beyond the coronavirus and not to lose their cool on the traffic-choked streets.

 “My family and I were also affected by the crisis, but we find ways to be happy especially this Christmas – we have to move and go on with life,” Hinojas told BenarNews as he took a break from directing traffic at a major intersection along Manila’s Diosdado Macapagal Blvd.

“This is for people and motorists to lighten up, so they can avoid being hot headed on the road, especially because we know traffic here in the city is terrible.” 

Casinos, hotels, restaurants, office buildings and shops have mushroomed in this section of Manila during the past decade. The biggest draw is a sprawling mall that traditionally attracts thousands every day.

Hinojas says he hopes his dance routine – modeled on late pop singer Michael Jackson’s moves – inspires people to not dawdle on the streets and “get up and move” in the country’s most congested city.

For years now, Christmas or not, Hinojas has been dancing in the tropical climate of Manila as he disentangles gridlock for eight hours a day. But the pandemic put the brakes on his daily performances, as the various lockdowns during the outbreak transformed the sprawling capital into a ghost town.

As the government gradually eased lockdown rules in the second half of the year to encourage spending and revive the battered economy, more and more private vehicles came back on to Manila’s roads.

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Ramiro Hinojas, a 54-year-old traffic enforcer, takes a break from dancing and directing traffic while wearing a Santa Claus costume, in Manila, Dec. 18, 2020. [Marielle Lucenio/BenarNews]

‘Dedicated to his job’

Hinojas is thrilled that some sense of normalcy has been restored.

“I was so glad to be back on the streets. My body is always looking for and craving the action, the noise, and the dancing,” he said.

“I should be resting at my age, I should be more relaxed, but my body can’t, I want to be in the middle and lighten the mood,” said the 54-year-old traffic enforcer. The job title refers to a person who isn’t a full-fledged traffic cop but is hired by the local municipality to stand in for policemen assigned to traffic duty.

Hinojas said he came up with the idea of dancing while directing traffic during his second year on the job.

“I would ask my 17-year-old son to teach me the steps of Michael Jackson and I would try and incorporate them with my traffic directing,” he said.

Hinojas initially thought dancing would serve as exercise, but he soon realized that commuters paid more attention to him when he danced while directing traffic.

Soon, motorists started honking their horns in appreciation.

While he is now known for his dancing, no one should mistake Hinojas for not being serious about his job, said a colleague. Hinojas is one of the hardest workers he’s met, said Joselito Abella.

“You will never find anyone so dedicated to his job even at his age. He works seven days a week sometimes, and during times when he’s not even being paid,” Abella told BenarNews.

Hinojas said that as long as he is able, no one will ever see him sitting or standing still in the middle of a road.

“I think that’s what I want to prove, to leave as a legacy at work— that you will never see me resting when I have the opportunity to get up and dance,” he said.

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Ramiro Hinojas leaves his Santa costume on a chair as he takes a break from directing Manila’s noontime rush-hour traffic dressed as Father Christmas, Dec. 18, 2020. [Marielle Lucenio/BenarNews]


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