MANILA, Philippines - Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Atty. Francis Tolentino sent a letter of protest to best-selling author Dan Brown for calling Manila "the gates of hell" in his new novel Inferno.
Manila, said Francisco, “is an entry to heaven.”
The letter, dated May 23, expressed “concern” and “disappointment” at the novel’s “inaccurate” portrayal of Manila highlighting the capital’s destitution that include “suffocating pollution and horrifying sex trade."
According to GMA News, Brown’s latest novel saw character Dr. Sienna Brooks embarking on a humanitarian mission in Manila, only to be welcomed by poverty, pollution, and “6-hour traffic jams.” There was also a graphic rape scene in set in the slums.
“When the group settled in among the throngs in the city of Manila—the most densely populated city on earth—Sienna could only gape in horror. She had never seen poverty on this scale.”
MMDA reacted to the graphic representation.
“While we are aware that yours is a work of fiction, we are greatly disappointed by your inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis. We are displeased of how you have used Manila as a venue and source of a character’s breakdown and trauma, much more her disillusionment in humanity,” read the letter.
Tolentino ended with describing Manila as “the center of Filipino spirit, faith and hope,” with faith in God serving as the nation’s foundation.
“More than your portrayal of it, Metro Manila is the center of Filipino spirit, faith and hope. Our faith in God binds us as a nation and we believe that Manila citizens are more than capable of exemplifying good character and compassion towards each other, something that your novel failed to acknowledge. Truly, our place is an entry to heaven.”
“We hope that this letter enlightens you and may it guide you the next time you cite Manila in any of your works,” concluded Tolentino.
In an interview with dzMM on May 23, Tolentino revealed he browsed through records from the Bureau of Immigration and found that the novelist has yet to step foot on the Philippines.
He urged Brown to visit the country to experience the hospitality of the Filipino people.
In 2006, Tolentino also reportedly wrote an article in the Manila Bulletin, criticizing Brown’s breakout novel “Da Vinci Code.” He also lobbied to ban the novel’s film version in local cinemas.
Photo from the Inferno - Dan Brown Facebook page
Filipino netizens react
The issue has stirred various reactions from Filipino netizens, some sharing Tolentino’s sentiments, others dismissing it as a non-issue. Still others agree with Brown. Latest posts from Dan Brown’s Facebook page show these reactions.
“I'm a Filipino and I'm actually embarrassed on how my fellow countrymen react on your book (one is even an atty)… Those who whine about what you wrote about our Country are only driven by mainstream media, people who just react without even knowing the real content of the story,” a post by Smart Ape read.
“Because of the shenanigans with the chairman of Metro Manila Development Authority. I'm buying your book! He actually gave you a free Philippine government sponsored publicity,” said Michael Bartolo.
Gerald Galo called out to the author in his post, “Hey Mr. Brown...I’m your fan and [a] Robert Langdon wannabe in the Philippines... but that Manila- Gates of Hell depiction of yours sadly didn't taste good to our ears.”
“In Manila many people are poor and [have] many problems, but they are good people, Christian, loving and hospitable,” said Tara Cacho Hansen.
Jace Gumato calls for an end to the debate, “Filipinos are fighting because of a work of FICTION. Stop it already, this is embarrassing for everybody… Sure, Dan may have exaggerated but that doesn't deny that it isn't there. The first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge it.
"The negative comments only prove that there is really something happening in our country," says Kat Legaspi. "Everyone should take a chill pill and take this matter lightly."
“This is an eye opener to all Filipinos," reads Alvin Encarguez Lauran's post directed at the government, "to once and for all look to our overpopulation issue which is the root cause of all these evils which caught Dan Brown's impression to call Manila as one of the "gates of hell." - Rappler.com