I will soon be headed to the Gates of Hell. At least that is what Dan Brown has called Manila in his new book Inferno.
Having been to a few hellish places I don’t count Manila as one of them. Recently politicians and citizens in general responded angrily to Dan Browns portrayal of the Philippine Capitol. Although the book is over 400 pages long, 2 pages describe Manila as filled with traffic jams, polluted and having a horrifying sex trade. While it is true that those things exist in Manila the same can be said of a lot of large cities in the world.
If you have read this blog for long you know I love the Philippines and while there are problems there is also beauty. The Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. The people are some of the best educated and friendliest and the country has some fabulous scenery. While the book is fiction no one wants to see their city referred to in a bad light, especially the politicians.
Manila is dirty compared to other Asian cities. That is a sad fact. The Pasig river is polluted, a lot of the streets have trash lying around, homeless sleep on the sidewalks, parking lots and along the bay walk and beggars and street vendors hound people in the hotel areas where most foreigners stay. More than a few people arriving at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport thought they were arriving at the Gates of Hell.
It is also a modern city with modern conveniences, hard working people and lots of history.
I don’t really fault the citizens of Manila for the way the city is. Manila and the Philippines as a whole have a lot to offer but some in charge don’t really do anything to make things any better for the people. Unemployment is very high even though there are many educated people. That has a lot to do with restrictions on foreign companies doing business in the country. Tourism is one of the biggest money makers in the country but until some infrastructure is improved and an effort to clean up the city occur, a lot of people may have the same impression as the character in Dan Browns book.
Having said that, I truly enjoy the Philippines and all it has to offer. The people, culture, food and beautiful beaches have me returning over and over again. People in the Philippines are some of the friendliest I have encountered. I am always warned by locals in Manila to be careful because of the crime but I have always felt safe. The only people I have ever found to be rude or obnoxious were some of the foreigners.
While Dan Browns book might have riled some politicians and others I would advise those people to remember that the book is fiction but also to take a look around and see if maybe some of what he said might be true. Take advantage of this and do something to correct his and others impressions of the city so the thousands of tourists that the government is trying to attract won’t leave thinking they have been to the Gates of Hell. Instead they might agree with the tourism slogan that It’s more fun in the Philippines.