After typhoon Glenda lashed out power supply, there was total silence and calamitous calm everywhere. There were no rustling of leaves since all leaves were plucked away by the 150 kph gusty wind. There were no connections to the outside world since all communication lines were broken. No electronic gadgets could operate. It was back to basic. There was nothing to do after cleaning the yard except to read.
There in the corner of my bed was a book I barely touched since I bought it several months ago. It lay there merely as reminder if at all I would find time after a rigorous day in the office. The calamity gave bent and I found myself immersed on reading. It was the book, the third bestseller of novelist Dan Brown “Inferno.” For three days without power, I consumed the whole book cover to cover and it was adventure. Dan Brown’s adventurous character Robert Langdon took information sharing to a higher level. Reading the book is like getting education on history, philosophy and science in one sitting.
Sometime ago, the book became a controversial piece of fiction writing when it featured the Philippines specifically Manila as “the gateway to hell.” Let me lift that contentious portion from the novel (on page 351 on the book bound edition) , to wit:
“Through her acts of public service, Sienna came in contact with several members of a local humanitarian group. When they invited her to join them on a monthlong trip to the Philippines, she jumped at the chance.
“Sienna imagined they were going to feed poor fishermen or farmers in the countryside, which she had read was a wonderland of geological beauty, with vibrant seabeds and dazzling plains. And so when the group settled in among the throngs in the city of Manila—the most densely populated city on earth—Sienna could only gape in horror. She had never seen poverty on this scale.
“…For every one person Sienna fed, there were hundreds more who gazed at her with desolate eyes. Manila had six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution and a horrifying sex trade, whose workers consisted primarily 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.
“Amid this chaos of child prostitution, panhandlers, pickpockets and worse, Sienna found herself suddenly paralyzed. All around her, she could see humanity overrun by its primal instinct for survival. When they face desperation…human beings become animals.
“…as she ran, she could feel the eyes upon her again. She no longer blended in. She was tall and fair skinned with a blond ponytail waving behind her. Men stared at her as if she were naked.
“…she cleared the tears and grime from her eyes and saw that she was standing in a kind of shantytown—a city made of pieces of corrugated metal and cardboard propped up and held together. All around her the wails of crying babies and stench of human excrement hung in the air.
“I ‘ve run through the gates of hell.”
In the novel, the character Sienna was mobbed, dragged into a small dingy and filthy tavern and almost raped. No wonder, her impression of hell was that real. Dan Brown’s depiction of the scene was that surreal too.
And true enough, there are areas, pocket areas in Metro Manila where there is concentration of slum. These are zones where the great unwashed converged, trying to survive, a congregation of luckless persons, bound by a similarity of unkind fate, expecting nothing from government except morsels squeezed from garbage and excesses.
Sometime ago, a vehicular accident occurred near this place. The driver, a young professional was thrown out of his car, in his business suit, signature jewels and branded shoes, alive but unconscious. Slum folks immediately converged around the poor fellow. Just a few minutes after the authorities arrived in the ambulance, the victim was rescued as he lay stripped of everything, already naked!
If this is the gates of hell, then it is no wonder almost everyone wanted to leave for abroad!
Fiction at times speaks of reality as if it is the truth.