A Letter from the “Gates of Hell”

Oh, hi. It’s your resident crazy Kamikazee Girl reporting from the reception desk of Hades. Hell is quite toasty today, hope you have a sunblock with you – no need to bring refreshments, we’re supplying buko juice.

I thought I don’t have to write this post but seems to me that I just can’t escape the hoopla and all that unnecessary noises brought by my onion-skinned kababayans bleating about Manila (our lovely, lovely Manila) being referred to as “the gates of hell,.

For those who are mercifully spared by this new brouhaha – I envy you. I am quite sure that you don’t live in the Philippines.


This latest “issue” was brought about by Dan Brown’s latest novel. “Inferno” where one of the characters, Dr. Sienna Brooks, shaken to her core upon seeing Manila up-close: the poverty, the flesh trade, the traffic and the suffocating pollution, quipped “I’ve run through the gates of hell.”

And yes, with that seven very simple words, Dan Brown sealed weeks-worth of free publicity courtesy of Manila’s onion-skinned netizens, buoyed by “public servants” (*cringe*) frothing at their mouths for the chance to display unblemished patriotism and the local media always very eager to report about anything and everything about the country.

First, before my own countrymen hurl pitchforks at me for being an “un-patriotic, ungrateful bitch” and not loving my country enough – let me tell you one thing: I LOVE MY COUNTRY but I ALSO LOVE GOOD FICTION.

FICTION , as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary: noun \ˈfik-shən\
a : something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically : an invented story
b : an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth
c : a useful illusion or pretense
d : the action of feigning or of creating with the imagination

Last time, I checked Dan Brown writes fiction, not travelogues nor autobiographies nor dissertations on urban planning. Thus, the “not-so-heavenly” description of the city is that – pure fiction, the same way that 4 possible papabiles were killed by a crazed carmelengo on his second book, Angels & Demons.

Note that the ghastly description of Manila appeared in only two pages (out of 460 pages *source*) yet raised so much stink it’s been heard across all TV channels and featured on blogs and newspaper articles. And quite honestly, I am starting to get sick already hearing a cabinet member going on and on about how Manila is “heavenly.” I mean, can we all just shut up? I am tempted to message the cabinet official just to tell him, “Sir, first of all – I really do respect you. A lot. You probably accomplished twice the work of your predecessors in just three years, but might I dare suggest that you choose your battles?”
We all know that everything—meaning, the pollution, poverty, flesh trade and traffic—is true. To deny its existence is not only being pretentious but being delusional as well.

But take note, all these things mentioned above were also experienced by many other cities anywhere in the world: from big, modern cities to emerging ones. Poverty, pollution, flesh traffic and traffic/massive urbanization are just some of the world’s biggest problems. These problems are not exclusive to Manila.

Again, we go back to the fact that “Inferno” is fiction. Why Dan Brown chose to set this scene in Manila, only one can guess.

If we all want to be patriotic, my lovely countrymen, might I suggest a different tack? How about doing any of these: respect traffic rules, like simple traffic lights and signals on when to cross the street; respect other people and their personal spaces; fall in line at all times – this is very simple but you’ll be surprise how people skip lines at the MRT; let’s dispose our trash accordingly – that means not shoving it under your seat while on public transpo; do not smoke in public; display common courtesy; for kids—you should study well and study good and serve your country after; for those who are working—pay your taxes accordingly; if you can, buy Philippine-made products and support small and emerging entrepreneurs; do away with the “one-upping” mentality by always being fair to your kapwa Pinoy; respect the environment; do not spit on the street or take a piss on the street; respect our culture and heritage by being proud of who we are… I could go on and on.

For “public servants,” be patriotic by serving your country well, especially if you are an elected official. Please do not use our taxes for your personal consumption; be honest and respect the constitution…again, I could go on, but I am sure you already know this.

True nationalism is not about bleating endlessly on the internet on why Dan Brown should be declared “persona non grata.” Please, let’s not be pathetic about this.

Maybe, some people are noisy because the truth hurts. No one likes it when the neighbor talks about our own dirty laundry. But if we are so touchy about the subject, why don’t we do something to dispel this notion?

At the end of the day, Manila is not the Philippines. Our country has so much to offer—places both discovered and praised for its beauties as well as hidden gems that have yet to be uncovered by an intrepid traveler. People know how to separate reality from fiction—the amazing sands of Coron and Amanpulo in Palawan; the perfect cone of Mt. Mayon; the energy of Boracay; the beauty of Davao—these constitute reality.

So – can we all just take a chill pill and exhaust our pent-up energies elsewhere? Why don’t we quit the internet for a day, and maybe read a good book?

I heard, Dan Brown’s “Inferno” is good.

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