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Law and Order Manila: the Musical

Updated on February 21, 2012

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin.

In the criminal justice system, non-musical offenses are considered especially heinous. In Manila, Philippines, the hard-working officers who maintain order and the hardened criminals who are sent to prison can dedicate themselves to song and dance. These are their stories.

The Police

The first clip shows 55-year-old traffic cop Ramiro Hinojas putting on the moves on Odessa Street in Pasay City. The less-than-orderly drivers of the city enjoy the performances of this lowly paid father of three. They show their approval by honking their horns and following his inventive directions.

As one of 16 children from a poor family in Central Philippines, Hinojas came to Manila as a boy. He became a traffic cop after he was laid off as a security guard. The job can be hazardous. Road rage sometimes forces attacks on officers by exasperated commuters. Fortunately for Hinojas, passersby often buy him food or donate cash to supplement his $3-a-day wage.

The second clip shows the officer donning a Santa Claus outfit in the humid December weather.

The Criminals

At the Cebu Provinical Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Central Philippines, accused murders, rapists and drug dealers performed elaborate routines choreographed to such tunes Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Billie Jean. The idea came from Byron Garcia, the prison governor who wanted to enliven the sparsely attended exercise sessions.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo once condemned a life sentence in a Philippine prison as being worse than death. That was once the case here, with violence breaking out at least once a week. With the musical program, prisoners found purpose as they rehearsed for performances that are given to visitors and broadcast on the Internet through YouTube. Violence became a rarity. The prisoners have appeared in Founding Day celebrations, receiving cash awards in the process. The prison has received numerous donations from the government and private citizens.

Sony Music took notice and filmed a version of Michael Jackson’s This Is It that included Garcia, the prisoners, as well as Michael Jackson’s longtime choreographer, Travis Payne, and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid.

Unfortunately, due to accounting irregularities, public performances were suspended in March 2010. Many of the prisoners have since refused to take part in the performances because they had no audience. However, offshoots of the program have appeared in Quezon City and Manila City Jails.


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    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for the heads-up, formosangirl. I'll take a look at the problem.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Very entertaining, Alocsin. Second video is blocked. Voted up and interesting.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      alocsin... apparently :-)

    • hoteltravel profile image

      hoteltravel 5 years ago from Thailand

      Read about the dancing cop a few days back somewhere. But calming down inmates with jail dance is too good to be true. Voting up!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That's why they end up accepting jobs as nursemaids and houseboys abroad, because even at minimum wage in other countries, they earn far more than they could in the Philippines.

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      That's why I never heard about these dancing prisoners anymore. I hope they continue what they have started. It's a good endeavor for all of them. And thank you for sharing those inspiring stories about our dear and hard working traffic enforcers. I just can't understand why these people are underpaid by Philippine standards... Not only them... even teachers, nurses, and even other professionals...

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for stopping by. We Filipinos got rhythm!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      This was an entertaining hub, and had me smiling from your wonderful intro all the way to the end. Voted up!

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Nice hub Alocsin. That's a creative way of presenting the dancing traffic cop and inmates.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      really interesting and what fantastic videos. Thanks for sharing this and I hope they resume public performances again.