Remember Books from Underground? The hippie bookstore at the Lagusnilad Underpass that was demolished during Mayor Isko Moreno’s clearing operations? It will be back in its long-time home but this time surrounded by pristine-looking walls, wooden trimmings, and LED lights.
This is the new Lagusnilad Underpass and it has undergone more than a much-needed scrubbing. The pedestrian tunnel’s overhaul was done under the artistic direction of Architect Antonio Toledo and Manila City engineer Armand Andres.
Replacing the yellow, dilapidated subway tiles are immaculate white walls, vertical gardens, and patches of stone walls. A mural, which will depict part of Manila’s history, will occupy around 130 square meters of wall space—done in partnership with the neighboring National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Charlie Dungo, officer-in-charge of the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts of Manila, says that this renovation will change the way millions of pedestrians traverse the city. “Dati halos wala nang dumadaan sa baba because maraming vendors,
Books from Underground, co-founded by AJ Laberinto, will have a bigger space than its former stall. But before he could go back in business in this Manila landmark, Laberinto was requested by the mayor himself to register his business, acquire a mayor’s permit, etc.
Another feature that has yet to be completed, says Dungo, is an interactive, touch-screen wall. Imagine a high-tech, more informative, educational version of the touch-screen maps one sees at mall entrances. The wall will contain, among others, a map of Manila, information on jeepney lines (like train lines), transportation stations, and tourist spots. Dungo says the process of putting together content for the interactive wall is so “mabusisi,” so development is taking some time.
For the safety of pedestrians, a security guard will be roaming the underpass 24/7, and CCTVs have been installed.
The renovation of the Lagusnilad Underpass began in November 2019. Due to the pandemic, work had been stalled. But according to Dungo, during the General Community Quarantine (GCQ), they were able to make up for lost time.
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The project is set to launch on Monday, August 24. Until then, the white cloth over the new installations will keep everyone guessing what’s in store for the new structure.
Now, the Lagusnilad Underpass will not only serve as a “bridge” that will safely take one from the historic Intramuros to the Manila City Hall and back. It will also tell the story of what life is like in the City of Man. “Hindi na matatakot dumaan doon ang tao,” says Dungo. “Binalik lang natin sa kanila ulit ang underpass, kasi para sa tao naman talaga ’to.”