In the book, Brown through its fictional character Dr. Sienna Brooks describe Manila as “the gate of hell” because of poverty, crime, chaotic traffic, sex trade and pollution.
Because of that statement, many Filipino in social media (Twitter and Facebook) showed disgust over Brown’s description of Manila. That figure of speech from the novel even moved MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino to write Brown a letter citing his disappointment over the book’s portrayal of Manila.
When I first saw that gates of hell thing on my twitter timeline, I was also about to burst in anger with Brown. How dare him call Manila (The Philippines) as gates of hell when many travel websites and magazines recently praised our country and our people and ride to our tourism slogan that It’s More Fun In The Philippines. In my mind, doesn’t he knew that many of the Hollywood stars who sat foot in this “gate of hell” has been praising our country and people for what they’ve experienced. But before I got to unleashed my disgust, I went to different news site to verify if indeed it was really written on his book, and yeah that is what he really wrote. Upon reading news items about the topic, and some discussions with a blogger friend Russell of The Blog Life I have realized and concluded why Dan Brown chose the Philippines in his latest offering.
So Why did Dan Brown chose the Philippines?
My answer, it’s a publicity / marketing stunt. Thank God I have realized it first before I got onion skinned and join the bandwagon of Brown’s critics. For me, knowing the Philippines contributes to a large portion of social media savvy people and being tagged as the most emotional people in the world, there is no better way to sell it online but to poke on us.
Known for being die-hard fans of everything which has Filipino nature or anything that has correlation to the Philippines, touching our sensitivity is a sure hit it will spread fast on internet and social media. Remember how Americal Idol 2012 season became so exciting and much talked about? Because there is Jessica Sanchez, who even though have yet to set foot in her ancestral land at that time was supported widely by Filipinos in social media and the internet. The boxing bouts of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire who always landed on top twitter trends worldwide is also an example of the power Pinoy have in social media. In beauty pageants, Pinoy’s will always have the loudest cheers for the Philippines in Miss Universe thus generating big buzz for the likes of Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup and Janine Tugonon and giving them great shot for the crown.
I think Brown have noticed it all, that Filipinos are so much into our pride that whenever we are in victory, in anger or in pain we will conquer the world of internet and social media. And by using the Philippines in his novel, especially with its controversial use of the gates of hell figure of speech, he will be given free marketing and free publicity of the book to make it another best seller. Just like what my friend King Del Rosario said “Dan Brown is very smart. What better way to freeload a social media hype for his latest novel than to poke fun about the Philippines?”
Indeed more that anything it was really a marketing strategy. Dan Brown has never been to the country and I think he is not blind to the many reports about the beauty of the country. Manila in reality is not a Shang-rila (although we have 2 in the metro), there are really signs of poverty, crime, traffic and all, so let’s not be onion skinned. Anyways, the book is only a fiction and I don’t think readers of it are not smart enough to know.
Instead of focusing on Brown’s distasteful choice of words, why not use it in our advantage, like what one local restaurant did. They are to come up with a dish called Adobo Diablo, which can make you say WHAT THE HELL!!! it’s really more fun in the Philippines.
Lastly, thank you Dan Brown, because of this controversy we have proven that the Philippines has really made a mark in global attention and that with so many countries in the world, The Philippines is the one that captured your interest and imagination.