Philippine authorities Thursday reacted angrily over “Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown’s portrayal of Manila as “the gates of hell” in his latest novel.
The book “Inferno” includes a character who describes the capital as a city of horrible traffic jams, suffocating pollution, massive poverty and a thriving child sex trade.
The chairman of the government agency managing Manila, Francis Tolentino, sent a letter to Brown and his publishers criticising the “inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis”.
While the book is fictional, an excerpt on the American author’s website stresses that “all artwork, literature, science, and historical references in this novel are real”.
“I’ve run through the gates of hell,” the character says after her experiences in Manila.
In his letter, copies of which were made public, Tolentino said he was “displeased” by the depiction of the capital, home to more than 1.65 million people.
He did not deny its huge slums and grinding poverty but said Brown had disregarded the strong Catholic faith of many residents as well as their “good character and compassion towards each other”.
“Truly our place is an entry to heaven,” the letter added.
Tolentino conceded this was not the first conflict between Brown and Manila. In 2006, the Manila city council banned screenings of the film adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code”, saying it was offensive to the Catholic church.
Brown’s works have also previously come under fire in the largely Roman Catholic Philippines, with bishops calling them “sacrilegious” for undermining church teachings.
However on cyberspace, some Filipinos were in agreement with the author’s portrayal.
“It looks like (Tolentino) is the one who hasn’t been to Manila,” one person tweeted.
Last month, the government announced that despite years of economic growth, 27.9 percent of the Philippine population lived in poverty, a figure practically unchanged since 2006.