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An Open Letter to MMDA Chair Tolentino Re: the Dan Brown Letter


Chairman, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority

MMDA Bldg., EDSA cor. Orense St.

Guadalupe, Makati City


Dear Mr. Tolentino,


I write to you with much concern regarding your recently circulated letter to Inferno author Dan Brown. Apart from the fact that you spent actual time on taxpayer’s money writing a butthurt missive to a man who can barely string a sentence together, and for a statement that, let’s face it, seems fairly accurate to any human being with their senses intact, there’s another serious problem I would like to address.

You said that “our faith in God binds us as a nation,” among other faith-centric statements meant to convince Mr. Brown that Manila is a celestial gateway despite being a cesspool of literal and figurative filth. As a person who does not believe in any god, and at the same time considers herself very much a part of this nation—I’ve lived here all my life; I pay my taxes; I willingly risk my life traversing EDSA on a daily basis—I find this statement of yours grossly ignorant and very much insulting.

mmdaTo explain this to you further in terms you would understand, imagine that your “faith nation” statement was a pedestrian on Commonwealth Avenue. Before him is a massive expanse of asphalt with a nonstop swarm of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses zipping down it. It is obvious that crossing it is a downright dangerous, illogical act. In fact, there are even signs on the road islands explicitly telling pedestrians that crossing this avenue is the last thing you should be doing. Huwag tumawid—nakamamatay.

Your statement is that one, hard-headed pedestrian who decides to cross Commonwealth anyway despite all the evidence urging otherwise. You say that our faith in God binds us as a nation when the truth is that it does not. In fact, not even all of us have faith to begin with. What actually binds us as a nation is a mixture of necessity and common human decency; any other reason—faith included—now depends from one individual to another, and thus cannot be generalized. In fact, I daresay that what binds us as a nation is outright circumstance; we did not choose to be born in the Philippines, but we were, and now we have to do what we can to make the best of what is dealt us—and that includes participating in the workings of this metropolis, however faulty they may be.

I do not subscribe to any faith, but I have not gone on any manic crime spree as far as I know, and basically follow the rule of law in the spirit of common human decency. I know full well that I am not the only one like this, and that countless others who claim to have faith do not actually invoke their bond to their god whenever they do anything good and decent and humane.  The big, busy road that is Commonwealth is the reality of the matter, and at this point, your statement has been flattened like a pancake because of its own ignorance.

Is the metaphor a tad too harsh? I’m afraid I can’t help it, because I feel the need to stress how inherently dangerous such sweeping generalizations of Filipino citizens are. It is these inaccurate statements—that most Filipinos are Catholics or, at the very least, religious—that lead to things like the excruciatingly long (and ongoing!) suppression of proper reproductive health services in the nation; the fact that divorce remains such a contentious issue amidst overwhelming evidence that unhappy marriages birth abuse and misery; the election of idiots into public office; and, uh, the religious blessing of accident-prone parts of EDSA instead of working on proper urban infrastructure, among others. In case you didn’t notice, Mr. Tolentino, nakamamatay itong lahat. 

We hope you consider the content of this letter before you attempt to speak again on behalf of the populace.



Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon



Really?! You really had to write to Dan Brown? REALLY?


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