Manila as the Gates of Hell: Fiction or Non Fiction?


I saw this viral photo yesterday as I was lazily scrolling down my Facebook news feed.  As expected, it caught the ire of a battalion of netizens who criticized Brown’s imageries as too unrealistic while also questioning his credibility in giving such vivid descriptions of our country’s capital when in fact he has never visited the Philippines.

According to a news article in, Inferno, the third novel of controversial author Dan Brown, centers around the protagonist Dr. Sienna Brooks who is described to be working with humanitarian groups. She went to the Philippines on a mission to feed fishermen and farmers. After roaming around the country’s capital, she could only “gape in horror” as “she had never seen poverty on this scale”. Brooks also described the muddled city as having “six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution and horrifying sex trade.”


Just to set the record straight, Dan Brown is a fiction writer. Inferno is a work of fiction just like the far more vilified and controversial “The Da Vinci Code” and its sequel “Angels and Demons” both of which disprove the truths set by the Catholic Church and undermine it as an institution as well as its founder, Jesus Christ.


Just a little bit of history. Back in 1998, a Hollywood film entitled “Brokedown Palace” starring Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale was filmed here in Manila. The film, whose plot revolves around two American friends who were imprisoned in Thailand for drug smuggling, was originally scheduled to be shot in Thailand. Apparently, the Thai government didn’t allow them to shoot the movie in their country since the film tackles a sensitive topic about the Thai legal system so the crew ended up shooting the film in their second choice which was the Philippines.

Not long after the film wrapped up, Danes was quoted in Vogue as saying, “ghastly and weird city” when asked to describe Manila. In Premier Magazine, she described the city as “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over, and that there is no sewerage system, and the people do not have anything- no arms, no legs, no eyes.” As usual, the onion-skinned Filipinos didn’t take the remarks gracefully. Kim Atienza, who was then a councilor of the city of Manila retaliated by saying, “those are irresponsible, sweeping and bigoted statements that we cannot accept.” The overreaction eventually continued when Danes was proclaimed “persona non grata” by no less than Joseph Estrada who was the Philippine president back then and currently the city’s mayor.

Yesterday, when I watched the news about the whole hubbub about Dan Brown’s novel’s allusion to Manila as the “gates of hell”, I could not care any less. I mean even if the book was fiction, the descriptions were on point, in fact almost close to reality. It’s not surprising though that most of the locals who were interviewed also echoed Brown’s sentiments. But unlike most people who acknowledged the “partial truth” that the fiction book represents, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino is singing a different tune.

In a radio interview in DZMM, he revealed that his office sent a letter to Brown via fax as a reply to his descriptions of Manila to which Tolentino took offence at.

Tolentino said in the letter, “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 has failed to acknowledge. Truly, our place is an entry to heaven.”

Ironically, I took more offence at Tolentino’s statements.

“Truly, our place is an entry to heaven.”

Uhmm, sir have you been living under a rock to not at least acknowledge that there are indeed traffic jams, rampant prostitution and  large-scale poverty in Manila? What kind of “heaven” are you referring to sir? Is it the “heaven” that beerhouses and nightclubs in Manila offer to tourists and customers?

Sir, why do you have to be blind to all the ugliness and destitution in Metro Manila?

Does being the MMDA chairman give you the privilege of not suffering the long traffic jams in EDSA every day? I’m sure you are well-aware of undisciplined drivers who love to over speed or disobey traffic rules.  Did the Mall of Asia block the view of the slums of Manila that’s why you failed to acknowledge their existence? Have you tried watching sunset in Manila Bay and not be appalled by the large amounts of garbage floating on the surface? Is Pasig River really that clean and crystal clear today that you have failed to admit the blight and pollution that this once pristine and famous body of water is now suffering? (Are they in fact metaphors of what the people of Metro Manila have become through the years?)

Is Manila “the entry to heaven” just because it is home to some of the country’s grandest and oldest churches? So what will happen to those who live in Cebu, Davao or Laguna? Will they not enter heaven since you’re claiming that Manila is “the entry to heaven?”

Oh yes, I forgot that some scenes of the Bourne Legacy were shot in Manila last year and you were so ecstatic with Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz doing stunts in jam-packed slums and dirty streets. Didn’t those scenes justify the “fictitious” descriptions that Dan Brown make?

Or are you just trying to conceal your failures of beautifying and organizing Metro Manila as the chairman of MMDA?

At the end of the day, Dan Brown’s novel is just a work of fiction although it bears a resemblance to the naked truth. It’s fiction just like the sex stories in tabloids that are being sold in front of Quiapo church together with hundreds of abortifacients in different forms.

Thank God for JV Ejercito. Now this is a man who clearly sees the issue in a different perspective.

“Napag-iwanan na talaga ang Maynila…Massive rehabilitation is needed, tanggalin ang red tape,” said Ejercito, who is now a senator-elect.

I’m still surprised at how we deal with criticisms that come from foreigners. As if their opinions are the only ones that matter. Like my blog post the other day about “Nancy Binay and the Idiosyncratic Filipino Culture,” I really find it ironic how we easily get affected when people from other countries comment something negative about our country or criticize something that they don’t like when in fact we also do the same in everyday conversations.

Instead of being onion-skinned, why not take it as a challenge to improve ourselves and to work harder to make our country a more beautiful and desirable place to live. In my opinion, the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is only affirmed by the rich people in our country who can afford to travel around different tourist spots in the archipelago and check-in at five-star hotels in the metropolis. I mean how can poverty be fun? To the government officials out there who are taking offense at the misrepresentation (or so they say) of our country in the Western world, why not use the kaban ng bayan for building infrastructures, helping the poor (this is becoming a cliché!) and beautifying our nation instead of using it for your own sake?

“Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ‘wag magalit.”

“A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.”Benjamin Disraeli


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About erwinagapay

A music and movie lover, aspiring author and filmmaker, and a junior student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

25 responses to “Manila as the Gates of Hell: Fiction or Non Fiction?”

  1. bayang says :

    ang civil service po ba kaya wala magagawa din kasi may kamag anak ang mga ito sa ibat ibang sangay din ng gobyerno sa DBM…

    WE have mouth PHILIPPINES we have eyes and not handicapped who then will help us from poverty even we tried to survive and fight to finish our studies still it WHOM YOU KNOW AND NOT WHAT YOU KNOW….

    hOW THEN WILL THE GOVERNMENT SAY THAT IT WILL HELP THE POOR,, if they are the once pulling us down and tearing us apart… from our dreams to survive and to work with equality as to qualification from those who HAVE WHOM YOU KNOW….

    • bayang says :


  2. bayang says :

    Why it is that NEPOTISM IS PRACTISED

    BY professional regulation commission Mr. viloria hires his wife as a permanent employee then lut viloria … Ong to ong bakit ganun lahat mag asawa andun pati sa iisang agency

    si Mr valera niloklok ang bayaw niya kamag anak nya e.. ilang years lang pati sa Professional Regulation Commission

  3. bayang says :

    DAN BROWN THANK YOU SO MUCH, EYE OPENER FOR THE PHILIPPINES NOT ONLY MANILA …. DISCIPLINE is being oust by many because of the dictate of a rebellious mind before…. never the PHILIPPINES was at peace when REBELS increase in numbers… this was due to massive recruitement of the lefties on the remote areas even today… WAKE UP BAYANG PILIPINAS NINOY IS A REBEL before but he is rich so he can travel abroad what GOOD did he do for the Philippines… they just make stories if true or not,,, Projects during his time none at all … they just caught attention emotionally for us to vote… NOW the SON PINOY worst he cannot see the lowest among the lowest of the government employing service contractors paid a minimum wage still NET OF TAX… how can you SIR PRESIDENT FEEL this people hardships eligible SERVICE CONTRACTORS as helper of the none eligibles or lower qualification PERMANENT EMPLOYEES because this SERVICE CONTRACTOR knows no ONE in your governement… IT IS WHOM YOU KNOW AND NOT WHAT YOU KNOW…. WAKE UP POOR FILIPINOS…. WAKE UP BE THANKFUL TO DAN BROWN….

    • bayang says :

      IN THE US their government is really good when it comes to job applications you will be hired according to your qualifications and not according to your boss evaluation who will rate you as poor if you poor and excellent if recommended by a government official or employee friend, BOss abroad questioning this trait of Filipinos once hired with the position as HR its unfair most of his relatives or friends will be the one hired for the job….

  4. bayang says :

    Thinking back during MARCOS Regime Marcos started to discipline the people it was a good start because a leader thinks for the future benefits for the Philippines ,, notwithstanding Marshall law,, it was supposedly be praised that it was over no one choosed to be in that situation.. BUT… LOOO DISCIPLINE is the the way for a rebellious Filipinos, even today Rebels do no Good for the country they do not work for a living and worst they kill and beg for alms…

    • bayang says :

      Sa Germany very good na bansa pa rin.. pagkatapos ng marshall law nila doon DISIPLINA continue nila .. dito parang nagpapagalingan ngayon kobra na lang ng kobra … wala paki alam sa mahirap sila hindi naaalikabokan hindi pinapawisan, hindi nila alam ang hirap NALOKLOK NA LANG BASTA SILA KASI POPULAR PANGALAN MAY PERA PINASOKSOK NG HALALAN KARAMIHAN NG PULITIKA HINDI MAN LAHAT GANYAN KA DUMI ANG POLITIKA

      • bayang says :


  5. bayang says :

    Many are more competitive enough for a vacancy in a government positions… BUT.. WORLD listen … PHILIPPINE government post vacancy in a public circular.. newspaper just for formality sake … the truest sense of this is… there are persons already placed in that positions.,.. recommended by… this person known.,,, NEVER APPLY IN A GOVERNMENT POSTINGS FOR VACANCY..

    • bayang says :

      I wonder why there is a UNION in a government agency, employees will revolt against the government sooner or later… it can be… because this permanent employees cannot just be dismissed even no eligibilities protected by their union,,, the appointing authority with connection at the Department of Budget and Mgt. can appoint his wife too for a position in the same government agency.. ON YOUR FACE TOOO THICKKKK HOYYYYYYYYY GISING…

      • bayang says :


        IF NOT LET FILIPINOS FIND THE GATE OF HEAVEN…. WORST will come to this polluted, surrounded by criminals at any time prostitutes loittering around… not safe to live you will be killed at any time if you try to open your mouth

  6. bayang says :

    Pasalamat ang Bayang Pilipinas kay Brown dahil totoo ang nakikita nila NEVER A FICTION… Its true MANILA IS A GATE OF HELL … Filipinos we really know the hardship we have in this kind of city … brought about by blindfolded, handicapped Filipinos dictated by the government in position many fall into worst poverty of all time in the world,,, inconsiderate to the poor , no job for the poor, if you are poor they will laugh at you. LOOO to those government officials who says we shall still implement contractualization / or service contractors no benefits at all… in order for the government to save.. You only not hurt others feelings, you are the reason why this contractors are in poverty,, you give them 456 pesos a day you still deduct the tax how can a father support his children fare, food clothing shelter and education ,,

  7. bayang says :

    GISING BAYANG ANIMOY PAG AARI NA NG iilan sa Gobyerno… wala considerasyon sa iba kung hindi kakilala ni ganito ang tao animoy isang animal BAYANG PILIPINAS Animoy Bagong BABILONYA…. ng modernong panahon

  8. bayang says :

    If you will try to have transaction in any government office try to know the supervisor or the permanent employee who heads the unit and give her a cake or any present you are good.. to her. REMEMBER DO NOT GIVE TO A service contractor she will be damned by the PERMANENT EMPLOYEE FOR SURE

  9. bayang says :

    GISING NA BAYANG BINULAG NG KATOTOHANAN… Wala magawa ang maralita,, here in the Philippines if you are poor more people do not care and even not respect you,being INCONSIDERATE , but if you are well off, holding a high position specially in the government, … much money almost ,all Filipinos will BOW down infront of you.. Filipinos put high regards to FAME superiority… so that if you are a boss you shall be praised that your subordinates will follow all what you say… irrespective of what is proper and good for the public or others.

    • bayang says :

      If you will try to have transaction in any government office try to know the supervisor or the permanent employee who heads the unit and give her a cake or any she present you are good.. to her. REMEMBER DO NOT GIVE TO A service contractor she will be damned by the PERMANENT EMPLOYEE FOR SURE

  10. bayang says :

    Madami na ako nakikita clubhouse everywhere, mga prostitutes garapalan sa tabi tabi nag aalok, trafik grabe, PATAYAN padami na ho…. kita ng dalawa nating mata pero ano nagbubulag bulagan tayo…

    DO Filipinos really know the gate of Heaven,,, we have to improve the system of the government not just to win and sit waiting for your large amount of money entrusted to you by the people..

    • bayang says :

      Obserbahan nyo kahit punta kayo sa isang Government agency sa pinaka baba mang pwesto kung sino ang nagtataray doon mga permanent utusan mga SERVICE Contractors who are paid a MINIMUM wage MAY TAX PA… GRABE ang BIR ganyan ba kalupit akala ko ba wala na dapat mga TAX yan hindi professionals sumasahod ng mas malaki pa MINIMUM PO MAY TAX na 3% kada pay DAY. Pamasahe, pagkain, kulang na paano buhayin ng isang ama ang mga anak How will his family survive…. WORLD LOOK THIS IS PHILIPPINES .. THE TRUTH REVEALED,,,

  11. bayang says :

    different agencies of the government do hire service contractors as they termed it to be. Ang ipapasok ng mga permanent hindi illegibles kamag anak nila , kukuha sa labas professional gawing alila sa opisina. Lalabas kapag nagreklamo kahit inaapi ayaw ng boss bagsak sa evaluation… grabe HOY GISING.. kaya kung may nakita na kabalbalan tumahimik lang ..

    • bayang says :

      isang union nila yan, all permanent employees of the government sit together joining hands hire their relatives husband and wife in one agency .. hiring authority is the husband if their is a vacancy even if there are more competent than the wife he the husband will place the wife in thar permanent position. NEPOTISM di ba.. SELF BENEFIT lang nila ,,,, Pity is the COUNTRY for if POVERTY reigns everything turns into hell… because those who are in the position do not deserve , they curtail the growth for others… they happy for the tears of others.. being inconsiderate not deserving government employees be kind to SERVICE CONTRACTORS they too work hard for the public. Do not push them to treat the public as ANIMALS… be professional in serving others…

      • bayang says :

        it will start to the advocacy of the one in the position in the government… weed out those PERMANENT employees in the government WHO ARE NOT DESERVING… sasabihin ipasok kawawa daw kasi kamag anak pala ng isang nasa gobyerno na rin,, nirekomend ni ganito ganyan,, palibhasa kung sa wala nagrekomend kawawa

      • bayang says :


  12. bayang says :

    sa gobyerno natin ngayon ang naupo mag kakamag anak na lang.. IT is whom you know ang not What you know…. you are not thinking what you can do to the people to our country but rather what benefits you most… bato bato sa langit … program ng gobyerno mawala ang contractualization bakit sa gobyerno mismo natin hires contractuals for years even if you are eligible and professional sahod ng minimum may tax pa.

  13. bayang says :

    For as a Filipino at times the truth really hurts specially if you are directly affected by a comment because you are a politician or a government official who is responsible in heading the city or the agency you are obligated to lead the people, it hurts you because you know the truth but you are not doing your best to improve or irradicate those unreasonable circumstances.

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