Metro Manila is neither Heaven nor Hell. It is what it is.

Earlier this week, Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino wrote an open letter to best-selling book author Dan Brown, expressing his disappointment over the negative portrayal of Metro Manila in his latest work of fiction, “Inferno”.

I don’t really understand why he and some of my fellow Filipinos got disappointed by that, knowing that our beaches, festivals, talents, food and culture have earned our country a good reputation, and that we’ve had three positive economic ratings just this year.

I also don’t understand people’s disappointment, after they have also complained about the recent hours-long traffic and the last round of elections and politics here in general.

Everyone who has lived here know the dynamics of Filipino culture – from its beautiful sights, modern music, cuisine and fashion brands, to its slums and ugly political arena. People don’t react when locals criticize. But when foreigners – whom we sometimes seek to please more than our own fellowmen and women – point out the same things that we criticize (e.g. seedy local universities and colleges which produce poor quality professional workers, the sex trade, poverty, traffic and dirty surroundings) either jokingly, through fiction or through open criticism, some of us become irate.

Yes, country pride is great, but we must look at such issues from a realistic standpoint. Like everything in this world, there’s a good and bad side to Metro Manila. It’s not all good. It’s also not all bad either. Metro Manila is neither heaven nor hell. It is what it is. And we either deal with it, or make it better.

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