His photos of Manila were generally well-received but two particular photos earned the ire of some who were reacting to his captions, calling them insensitive.
The first one was captioned with, “These casper ads are getting more niche.”
Casper is a start-up company in the U.S. that sells mattresses. It is famous for its quirky illustrated ads.
While Filipinos praised him for the shot of a man atop stacks of sacks, there were others who felt for the photo’s subject who looked tired and without a better place to rest.
Another one featured a row of houses with a young girl on the background. It was captioned with, “Well, I’m not your parent, don’t gotta follow me around.”
The image has since been deleted from Sprouse’s account but a fan account took a screenshot. The actor apologized issued through an Instagram Story.
While Sprouse noted that he didn’t have any malicious intentions in posting the images, it was not the first time that Manila—or its inhabitants—has been perceived in a negative light.
What went before: International stars who said even worse things
In 1992, American radio personality Howard Stern described the Philippines as the country “where fathers sell their own daughters for sex.”
He added that he doesn’t recommend it to anyone “unless you (they) want to get laid.”
It earned him a $65 million lawsuit filed by the Filipino-Americans Citizens group at a New York court.
In 1998, multi-awarded American actress Claire Danes, then aged 19, called Manila a “ghastly and weird city” when she came to the country to shoot for “Brokedown Palace.”
She also told Preview magazine that the city “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over, and that there is no sewerage system, and the people do not have anything—no arms, no legs, no eyes.”
It has caused her to be declared a persona non grata by former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. The label prevented her from entering the country again.
In 2009, Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin expressed that he wanted to have his own “Filipina mail-order bride.”
He noted that it was a joke but the Bureau of Immigration banned him from visiting the Philippines, citing him an “undesirable alien.”
‘Worst place’ in the region
In 2017, South East Asia Backpacker described Manila as the “worst place in South East Asia.” It was a poll in which the city got the most number of votes.
The website noted that most people complained about Manila’s pollution, the “deficient infrastructure” all around, the overcrowding and an atmosphere that makes non-locals feel “unsafe during their visit.”
Tamara Elliot, an award-winning Canadian travel writer, shared that she got “unwelcoming looks” from people in “ramshackle buildings” when she visited the country. She also shared that she got followed around by children who demanded money.
Brenden, an Australian traveler, also despised Manila because of its smog, pollution, people’s “lack of common sense and (the city’s) inefficiency,” the lack of “common infrastructure maintenance,” traffic and the taxi drivers.
Southeast Asia backpacker noted that while some foreigners are appalled by the city, their perspective depends on their experiences in the country. They also factored in the types of people one would meet and the overall choices of the foreigner in his travel.