Note: This may contain spoilers on Dan Brown’s latest novel, “Inferno.” Originally posted on CNN iReport.
Manila is the gates of hell. That’s how American author Dan Brown described the capital of the Philippines in his latest novel, “Inferno.”
A scene in the novel depicts Sienna Brook’s humanitarian mission to the country, wherein she saw extreme poverty, horrifying sex trade and experienced six-hour traffic jams and suffocating pollution.
Brown, who also wrote the controversial novel “Da Vinci Code,” called Manila the “most densely populated city on earth.”
And on top of that, Brown even wrote a scene where the character was raped by the locals.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino expressed dismay over Brown’s version of Manila and even sent a letter to the author himself.
“While we are aware that yours is a work of fiction, we are greatly disappointed by your inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis,” Tolentino said in the letter.
I think that Filipinos should remember that this book is not part of the tourism campaign for the Philippines. It doesn’t need to portray Manila as a fun place just like what the “it’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan states.
While this piece of text is fiction, I believe that it still represents a slice of life.
Dan Brown’s Manila is similar to the Manila I know in more ways than one. Take a look at the streets of Quiapo, Recto and even Divisoria. I’m sure that Brown’s description would be very apt—the pollution, traffic jams, sex trade, poverty and of course, the overcrowded streets. Six-hour traffic jams maybe a bit exaggerated though, but you get the idea of how horrible traffic is like in this part of the world.
Tolentino went on and even told Brown in the letter that Manila is the center of the Filipino spirit, faith and hope and is therefore “an entrance to heaven.”
I am sure that a lot of people who don’t approve of Brown’s version of Manila haven’t read the book. It is easy to take Brown’s “gates of hell” description out of context. I think we should all take a break, read the book and see why Brown’s version of Manila warranted that kind of description.
I think that Brown’s only fault is that he chanced upon a perfect setting—that portion of Manila—for a very horrifying event in the life of Sienna Brooks.
It is not Brown’s job to sing praises for Manila. He is not paid to do that. He is paid and famous for crafting stories—stories that stir controversies. And I guess he succeeded once again, at least in this part of the world.
I love Manila. I keep coming back to Manila. My mom works in Manila. My sister studies in Manila. There are just too many things to love about Manila and its people. But the truth is, Brown’s “Manila” exists in real life. It is there. You can see and experience it. So, please, let us not be blind about its existence.
Of course, social media went abuzz when this news broke. Some say that instead of being sensitive about this portrayal of Manila, Filipinos should just take this a wake up call. Others, meanwhile, ask if fiction is more important than reality. A few even went to the extreme and proposed that Dan Brown be declared “persona non grata.”
Calm down. Or as the younger generation puts it, “Calm yo titz.”
Brown needed a stage for a tragic event and he chose Manila’s ugly side. I cannot blame him for that.
Yes, Manila can be both the doors of heaven and the gates of hell. It just depends on which portion of Manila you’re talking about.
What should Filipinos do now? My advice is to grab “Inferno” and enjoy it. If you’ve liked “Angels & Demons,” I’m sure you’ll like this one. Or you could just ignore all of these.