The Manila city government launched on Monday the newly-renovated Lagusnilad underpass which connects Intramuros to the Manila City Hall.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, along with other city government officials, led the soft opening of the now clean and green underpass.
Its walls are decorated with colorful murals depicting significant events in Philippine history and vibrant photos of Manila’s landmarks, such as Jones Bridge and the New Binondo Chinatown Arch. This was done in a bid to boost awareness on Filipino art, history, and culture and to bring art to public spaces.
A portion of one of the murals showcased the frontline workers in the battle against the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), such as medical and delivery workers.
“As a matter of gratitude to our frontliners, there is a space there (in the mural) that recognizes the effort of our medical frontliners and all other type of frontliners,” Domagoso told reporters.
Vertical gardens are also installed on the walls of the Lagusnilad underpass in line with the Manila mayor’s vision to create more green spaces in the capital city.
Signages, that are also written in Baybayin, were placed at the underpass’ entry and exit points to help commuters easily navigate the area. A Manila Interactive Info Desk, that can give the public information about the city, was also installed.
Its floors were fitted with non-skid tiles so people, particularly the elderly, will not slip while walking, especially during the rainy season. The underpass was also given ample lighting and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to ensure the safety of pedestrians.
Earlier, the Manila Department of Engineering and Public Works said the modern look of the underpass is inspired by the city’s history.
The Manila city government partnered with the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture alumni and faculty Arch. Juanito Malaga, John Benedict Fallorina, Sean Patrick Ortiz, Leon Centeno Tuazon; and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for the underpass’ overall design.
The mural artists were identified as Marianne Rios, Jano Gonzales, and Ianna Engano; while those who made the signages are Raven Angel Rivota, Edrian Garcia, and John Leyson.
The city government did not spend anything for the rehabilitation of the underpass as donations from private companies and national government agencies, amounting to P5 million, were enough for the project, Domagoso bared.
“It’s a collaboration by private sector, city government, and national government agency. There was synchrony,” he said.
The local chief executive warned the public to be responsible and keep the underpass clean.
“Hopefully, people will also be vigilant to protect what is theirs. Sainyo ito, eh, sa ating lahat ito (This is yours, this is ours),” he said.
“Ngayon, kung sakali mang artistic sila, sana wag na nila dito gawin ‘yung pagiging artistic nila. ‘Yun lang ang pakiusap ko. (Now, if they are artistic, I hope they don’t practice their artistic skills here. That is my only appeal.) This is for the people. This is for you guys. This is for your children. They deserve it. Everybody deserves better things from their government,” he added.
Domagoso spearheaded the clean-up and renovation of the Lagusnilad underpass in November, 2019.
A few days after the rehabilitation started, vandalism carrying leftist calls appeared on the underpass’ freshly-painted walls.
Construction works for the said underpass were stalled after Metro Manila was placed under the enhanced community quarantine in March, 2020.
The city government said it will next renovate the Lawton underpass that connects Intramuros to Lawton Avenue.
The renovation of the Lagusnilad underpass led to the displacement of several vendors over permit and tax violations. However, the iconic Books from Underground was allowed to keep its place.
It used to be a small stall with wooden shelves brimming with books and random book stacks. The city government drew flak after it was reported that the decade-old Books from Underground was among the affected businesses in the underpass renovation.
Now, the thrift bookstore was moved near the Manila City Hall entry/exit point of the underpass. It was also given new bookshelves to display its books.
“‘Yung isang pwesto doon, ilalaan natin sa underground bookstore, kasi namimiss siya ng mga estudyante, eh (A place will be allotted for the underground bookstore, because the students miss it),” Domagoso said.
AJ Laberinto, Books from Underground owner, said that although the new space has its limitations, they will “make the most with what was provided.”
“With bookselling mostly done online nowadays, the spot will serve more as a pick-up point and a few interesting books on display for passersby,” he told the Manila Bulletin.
He also said that it’s business as usual even as he shifted to purely online bookselling with the temporary closure of his physical store and the pandemic.
“It shows that a certain segment of the population still has money to spare on books and the page having a nationwide reach certainly helped,” he said.