MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATED) Amid the brouhaha caused by American author Dan Brown’s depiction of Manila the “gates of hell” in his new novel, an acclaimed author came to the defense of Filipinos.
In his Twitter account, bestselling author Paulo Coelho said: “Dear Filipinos, your souls lead to the gates of heaven.” He followed this up with the hashtag “#fact”.
In another tweet, Coelho said: “My tweet to Filipinos: another author, I am sure unintentionally, described [Manila] as "the gates of hell" in his new & successful book.”
Coelho, the author of the books "The Alchemist" and Veronika "Decides to Die" among others, was referring to Brown, who gave scathing remarks about Manila in his latest bestseller, “Inferno.”
In the book, the fourth part in Harvard art professor Robert Langdon’s adventures, one of the characters goes through "the gates of hell" in Manila.
The description of the city is from the first-hand account of one of the fictional characters, the messianic Dr. Sienna Brooks, who goes to the Philippines for a mission to supposedly feed poor fishermen and farmers on the countryside.
She expected the Philippines to be a “wonderland of geological beauty, with vibrant seabeds and dazzling plains.” Upon setting foot in Manila, however, Brooks could only "gape in horror" as "she had never seen poverty on this scale."
Brown’s works have always been subjects of controversies in the past, beginning with "The Da Vinci Code."
His latest work, however, created more buzz for the author – specifically from Filipinos. The description divided the Filipino community, with some have pointing out that it is just a work of fiction.
The “gates of hell” tag did not bode well with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and officials of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, however.
MMDA chief Francis Tolentino wrote to the author last Thursday. In his letter, Tolentino said: “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.”
CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media chief Fr. Francis Lucas, on the other hand, told Brown: “You’re so rich by fooling people around. And that is very real.”
Another vocal Church official, former Archbishop Oscar Cruz, also gave a piece of advise for Filipinos, saying the public should just boycott the book.
Cruz told Radio Veritas: ““Totoo na mayroong masasamang tao sa Metro Manila, may mga patayan, nakawan, lokohan at mga abduction pero huwag sasabihin sa akin na ipagpapalit ko ang Pilipinas sa ibang bansa tulad ng Middle East countries. Baka gusto ni Brown na pumunta doon ng makita niya na ang buhay ng tao ay walang halaga, na ang kapwa tao ay hindi binibigyang respeto.”
Newly elected Manila Mayor and former President Joseph Estrada, for his part, said Brown told the truth about Manila.