MINE isn’t an original observation, but like I said in a previous entry, Manila, like caviar and durian, is an acquired taste. The first-time visitor would need some time to warm up a bit to it before he or she could fully enjoy the city’s subtle charms, hidden attractions and best-kept secrets.
If Francis Tolentino, chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority, got it all wrong with his claim that American author Dan Brown has yet to step foot in the Philippines when, in fact, he already did, then the American author either probably didn’t stay long enough or stayed too long for him to describe the megacity (read: the entire Metro Manila), through one of his characters, as the “gates of hell” in his newest novel “Inferno.”
Garden of earthly delights
Brown either missed the foreplay by going straight for the plunge, or he probably got stuck in it without consummating the act for him to fully enjoy the garden of earthly delights—from sightseeing to girl- (or boy-) watching, shopping to gaming, dining to pampering, partying to socializing, day-tripping to food-tripping— Metro Manila has to offer.
In true Pinoy fashion, I decided to simply laugh off Brown’s description of the “City of our Affections” by asking friends, should they play tourism secretary for a day, where they’d take Brown while in Metro Manila to give credence to his “gates of hell” label.
Their answers are varied and as imaginative (perhaps, even more so) as Brown’s. For the first time in this blog’s history, I won’t bother translating and contextualizing their suggestions to English. Some things defy translation and contextualization, and this survey is one of them.
To all my non-Filipino speaking readers, please take your cue from Brown who reportedly asked a Filipino friend to jazz up his open letter to Filipino officials by including a line or two in Filipino.
Spot the Pinoy
Do I hear anyone complaining? Why, “mahirap ba’ng intindihin ’yun?” I’m sure there’s a Filipino out there in your neighborhood, child’s school, or in a cubicle across the corridor from yours to help you appreciate these gems.
So, let’s hear them:
“I once took the port route from Manila Hotel to Malabon to judge a beauty pageant. I’ve never seen that side of Manila before. Patong-patong na mga bahay, the real Tondo.
“My balikbayan friend was in awe. ‘Parang Water World,’ he said. While my other friend jested: ‘kaya mo ba bumaba diyan at pagkatapos ay sumigaw—SINO SIGAAA DITO?!!!!’
“Yes, it could be a setting for hell.”—JC Buendia
“A walking tour along the esteros of Binondo and the
dingy LRT stations. Padyak ride around Manila City Hall and Divisoria, and two overnight homestays with shanty families in Baseco and those living under Manila’s bridges.
“Instead of Brown paying for the tour, we pay him! And what’s wrong with facing the truth? Audrey Hepburn did it in her old age when she went to Somalia to expose the abomination there.”—Sandy Diez
It’s more fun in Divisoria
“DIVISORIA! From the sulok-sulok sa dulo going to pier, then Lucky Chinatown mall para taste of heaven and hell in less than 10 minutes! He can’t have a better sightseeing tour anywhere in the world!”—Armando Fabia
“I’d say shopping in Divisoria with a P50K budget, which he has to spend half day and then brave the traffic pa Quezon City in a jeepney bringing all his shopped items. Ha!” –Shimi Cena-Clapano
“Let him go to Baclaran on a Wednesday, then make him ride a jeepney home to his hotel ng mga 4 p.m. Let’s say from Baclaran to Quezon City.”—Jaye Bautista
“Bring him to Misericordia, in the heart of Chinatown! Idaan mo doon sa cheapest and sleaziest brothels in the bowels of Sta. Cruz district. These places can still be accessed by foot from the fringes of Chinatown.
“Gutumin mo at uhawin sa kalalakad. Then, bring him to a roadside barbecue stand—‘yung maraming siga na kumakain ng isaw, IUD, Walkman, Betamax. Let him down these with the brownest, meanest looking sago’t gulaman.
“As night deepens, patikimin mo ng San Mig pero ang pulutan ay balut. Your foot-cum-food trip should be done from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Next day, kung buhay at maangas pa, take him to an audience with ze Mayor Erap Estrada. Tignan lang natin kung ano sasabihin niya.”—Winnie Velasquez
Black Nazarene’s little helper
If you ask me, I’d take Brown to join the annual Black
Nazarene procession from start to finish. To make sure that he’d stay during the image’s five- to eight-hour trip from the Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church, I’d assign him as one of those men responsible for guarding the image through the entire route.
Yes, he’d have to share space with a few hardy souls as they do a balancing act on the fringes of the Señor Nazareno’s carosa. In between, he’d have his hands full, as he catches towels meant for the Nazarene that the faithful throws at him.
Of course, Brown, after rubbing those towels on the image, is expected to throw them back to their rightful owners. I hate to imagine what would become of him if he fails to do so. I’ve never heard of any member of the image’s “inner circle” being lynched by an angry mob, but, like they say, there’s always a first time.
Grabbed and exposed
As the day progresses, he’d get his ass exposed and his balls grabbed, as people constantly scamper and make a mad dash to touch the supposedly miraculous image. As a form of penance and in oneness with people he might have insulted, Brown won’t be given anything, not even a miserable bottle of mineral water, to quench his thirst.
By the time the procession makes its way to Quiapo Church in the late evening, Brown would have been so tired and sore, hungry and thirsty, and simply flat-out delirious from all that tropical heat, hampaslupa sweat and third world pollution, that he’d mistake the basilica’s grand double doors for, yes, the gates of hell! 😀