Sunday, July 31, 2005


Up until the early 1980's, traffic lights were a rarity in Manila. Traffic in the city flowed thanks to a series of graceful rotundas (pre WWII leftovers from Daniel Burnham's original plan) or managed by the famous "dancing cops" of Manila. Like an orchestra conductor's baton, these highly entertaining policemen-slash-performers would control vehicular flow by using motions which were inspired from the latest dance craze (I even remember seeing one use John Travolta's iconic Saturday Night Fever up and down finger pointing disco move to direct traffic). They became so ubiquitous to the city's landscape that visiting foreigners would photograph them. They were actually considered to be somewhat of a tourist attraction. But sadly, sometime after the departure of the Marcoses in 1986, the police forces of the Philippines were reconfigured, traffic lights were erected everywhere, and the dancing policeman unfortunately disappeared into oblivion.

Well, at least that's what I thought.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce Traffic Enforcer Noel Quilatan, perhaps Manila's last dancing cop. If you ever find yourself in Fort Bonifacio near Pacific Place, make sure to look out for him. He isn't hard to miss. His five foot seven inch frame is tall for Philippine standards and his beaming smile can be seen at least one block away. But it's his hand signals - influenced by such moves as the monkey, the funky chicken, and breakdancing - which are sure to catch your attention - as well as put a smile on your face. Manila's traffic has never been this much fun.

Noel Quilatan can be seen strutting his stuff most weekdays at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and McKinley Road in Bonifacio Global City.