MANILA, Philippines – Fr. Francis Lucas of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines did not mince words when asked to give a message to Dan Brown, the author of a new book that referred to Manila as the “gates of hell.”
Lucas, who heads the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media, told radio DZMM on Saturday that Brown has been earning money by “mixing fiction and reality,” citing “Inferno” and a previous book titled “The Da Vinci Code.”
Addressing Brown, he said: “You’re so rich by fooling people around. And that is very real.”
While most Filipinos know that there is more to Manila than traffic and poverty, Lucas said he is worried that others who are not familiar with the city may believe what is written in Brown’s novel.
In “Inferno,” Manila was called the “gates of hell” with its “six-hour traffic jams,” “suffocating pollution” and “horrifying sex trade.”
“Ang masamang epekto nga eh ‘yung maraming magogoyo diyan, especially the people who do not have the time to really research and check. Halimbawa, hindi ako nakapunta sa Maynila, iisipin mo at the back of my mind… gates of hell,” Lucas explained.
“To call Manila a place the gates of hell is quite unfair,” he added. “Kung ganun pala, ang daming gates of hell na siyudad sa buong daigdig.”
Lucas said Brown should have just made up a city name instead of using Manila in his novel. “For those who actually know better, it’s just a book. Fiction nga eh. Ang fiction sa akin is fictitious… But Manila, it exists. Dapat ‘yan ang tinawag niya sana the city of (makes up name) instead of the city of Manila.”
“’Wag na nating i-mix ‘yung fiction. ‘Pag fiction, sana fiction na lang. ‘Wag ka nang magbigay ng true names or true places.”
Despite crying foul over the portrayal of Manila in “Inferno,” Lucas said the CBCP will not take any action over the issue.
“Well, technically, wala [kaming gagawin]. Kasi noong nilabas naman ni Dan Brown ‘yung ‘Da Vinci Code,’ which is, again, a lot of sloppy research and lies [wala naman kaming ginawa],” he said.
Malacañang has said that it is confident that those who have visited the Philippines will not be carried away by the negative statements about Manila in “Inferno.”
“We trust that ordinary readers will give more weight to the testimonials of real people who have enjoyed their stay here in our beautiful country over the experiences of a fictional character whose narrative is written for maximum effect,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a text message on Friday.
Earlier, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino wrote a letter to Brown over the issue.