MANILA, Philippines -- While travel magazines have recently been citing the Philippines as a tropical paradise, American author Dan Brown seems to think otherwise based on his much-anticipated new novel.
In "Inferno," 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.
Brooks, who has been working with humanitarian groups, went 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."
She said her “dark depression” flooded back, with pictures of poverty and crime flashing through her eyes.
“For every one person Sienna fed, there were hundreds more who gazed at her with desolate eyes,” the book read.
One after the other, the book described chaotic Manila: "six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution, horrifying sex trade."
The book described the sex industry as consisting mostly of young children “many of whom had been sold to pimps by parents who took solace in knowing that at least their children would be fed.”
“All around her, she could see humanity overrun by its primal instinct for survival…When they face desperation…human beings become animals,” the book read.
The book went on to detail a turning point in Brooks’ life. “I’ve run through the gates of hell,” she said.
Traumatized, Brooks “left the Philippines at once, without even saying goodbye to the other members of the group.”
This is not the first time that the Philippines’ so-called ugly side was described in novels and movies.
Hollywood actress Claire Danes got a lot of bad press when she shot her 1999 movie "Brokedown Palace" in the Philippines. She described Manila as smelling "of cockroaches. There’s no sewage system in Manila, and people have nothing there. People with, like, no arms, no legs, no eyes, no teeth.”
She was later declared persona non grata.
Last year, actor Taylor Kitsch created a controversy when he described his “airport nightmare” supposedly in the Philippines to TV talk show host David Letterman, claiming an immigration officer even tried to take his iPhone. It turned out that Kitsch was actually talking about Indonesia but did not bother to correct his statement despite the social media backlash.
Tourism officials have been trying to bring to boost the image of the Philippines with its catchy phrase, “More Fun in the Philippines.” The Department of Tourism reported an increase in tourist arrivals last year.
The Philippines also had its fair share of praise from Hollywood when stars Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz spoke about their experiences shooting "The Bourne Legacy" in the country last year.
Just last week, Vin Diesel was seen roaming around town in a jeepney.
The impact of Dan Brown’s "Inferno" remains to be seen. While a work of fiction, Brown again provides an introduction that confuses the ordinary reader about what's true and what's not -- just like in his popular novel "The Da Vinci Code."
“Inferno” is his take on Dante Alighieri’s "The Divine Comedy."