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Dan Brown and the gates of hell

By Alejandro Del Rosario | May. 25, 2013 at 12:01am
While the Philippines is not exactly the kingdom of heaven, The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown has raised the hackles of some Filipinos for portraying Metro Manila as “the gates of hell” in his latest book, “Inferno.”

The things Dan Brown said about Francis Tolentino’s Metro Manila—pollution, choking vehicular traffic, child trafficking and sexual attack against women are mostly true. Unfortunately, he had picked on the most congested metropolis on the planet.

The American novelist had no intention either of shielding himself with literary license as with most writers of fiction. In an excerpt in his website address, Brown said that while “Inferno” is a work of fiction, the references to places are real.

All of the problems cited by Brown in “Inferno” are not akin to a sprawling metropolis like Manila alone. If one were to write about pollution, nothing can beat Beijing where residents need to buy air canisters to breathe. Air pollution in Metro Manila has not reached the critical level it has in Beijing. Otherwise, enterprising Pinoys would already be peddling air canisters together with bottles of water, soft drinks and other items they hawk while motorists and commuters are stuck in traffic.

Can anything be more hellish than when 10,000 cadavers of diseased pigs and chickens are found floating in the river that runs through the city of Shanghai? The irresponsible disposal of the diseased animals has given rise to the virulent H9N7 bird flu virus.

In India, the Delhi government has its hands full in preventing rape of women on board public transport. As in Manila, there are also brothels in Beijing, Bombay and Bangkok.

If Dan Brown wanted to write about the gates of hell, he need not look farther than in the heartland of his America in Cleveland, Ohio.  Three women were rescued  from a monster who kept them locked up as sex slaves for a decade. The women, missing more than 10 years  and almost given up for dead,  were discovered imprisoned in a two storey house along a tree-lined street in Cleveland.

The story of the three women ran on a common thread. They were separately abducted on the street, beaten and raped with two of them giving birth. One of the babies was killed while the other was allowed to live for reasons known only to the predator.

Dan Brown’s depiction of Manila’s metropolis has not elicited as much umbrage as James Fallows’ 1987 article “A Damaged Culture” which appeared in The Atlantic, a monthly US magazine. Filipinos could not accept Fallows’ unflattering description of the Filipino’s flawed character which he claims as the root cause of the rot we find ourselves in.

We can also recall the comment of Hollywood actress Claire Danes several years back. After making a film here, she said Manila was “fetid, crawling with cockroaches, and stinks of urine.”

Danes’ description of Manila drew a censure from the city council who declared her persona non grata as if by doing so, it would cleanse the stench of the comment made by the actress. Her scathing remark must have some truth to it because the city council later on passed an ordinance strictly prohibiting urinating in public.

Filipinos, it seems, have a twisted sense of outrage. We sometimes say the worst about this country and its leaders but won’t accept it if foreigners say the same things.

Manila Mayor-elect Erap Estrada ran on a campaign theme of reviving “a decaying city”. It resonated and found traction with Manila voters because he was speaking the truth.

But the unwritten code, if it must be told to the Da Vinci author, is: The locals can say all the nasty, ugly things about this country but foreigners must take a vow of silence.

Global shortage of nurses

There is an interesting CNN Report about the looming worldwide shortage of nurses. Aside from the United States where hospitals are already experiencing the dwindling number of professionals, Europe is also suffering a shortage of nurses.

A European Union study traced the shortage to the low enrollment in nursing schools. The reason, according to the study commissioned by the EU, is that many find the pay low for the long hours nurses devote to patients.

There is a serious concern both in the US and Europe the nursing shortage could reach 500,000 and even as much as a million in the near future.

To help meet this need, the Department of Education must upgrade nursing schools in the country. Some students barely make the grade then get hired merely as caregivers. What hospitals need are skilled professionals.
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