The Budget-Friendly Pitstop Bookstore from Underground
by Anna Rica Rodriguez, August 09, 2019 2:55pm
Art by Ahl Mirambel
Name it, they probably have it.
The Lagusnilad underpass may be a muggy looking underpass, but it is also home to an array of rare books and notes, the Books from Underground. Lagusnilad underpass is located near Manila City Hall and a convenient way to Intramuros. It was the center of the city accessible to all, North or South of Metro Manila.
Books from Underground is a cramped secondhand bookstore filled with books piled up to the ceiling. It lies beyond a tiled tunnel, offering rare publications and first-edition titles.
The 10-year-old bookstore was a beloved spot for bibliophiles. The store includes book titles from great artists like National Artist for Literature Cirili Bautista, Granta books, rare books of the Marcos regime, and other books on history, law, sciences, and engineering. They also have limited edition comic series and magazines.
The idea to sell books started among a group of friends in the late '90s. AJ Laberinto, owner of the bookstore and a student from Philippine Normal University, enjoyed reading and collecting books and sold his collection inside the campus to support his education. Ask AJ for a book and he probably knows it, has read it, and could talk to you about it. If he doesn’t have a copy on hand, you could always ask him for recommendations.
Years later, after earning about 10,000php at an event at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Laberinto decided to sell books as a full-time job. After all, he knows where to find cheap books all over Metro Manila—from America's junk or secondhand books to Recto's offerings. Students who have tight budgets can score great finds even with just 50php.
Last July 15, 2019, the thrift bookstore was one of the casualties when Manila Mayor Isko Moreno led a clean-up drive at the busy underpass. But it looks like the game is not over yet. On August 2, the government in Manila called for re-operation for Books from Underground.
Mayor Isko Moreno said in a live The Capital Report video that some netizens report that a bookshop who has been helping students to buy cheap books has also been removed. He added that he will give time for the bookshop's owners to legitimize their business.
It is a good thing the bookstore got another chance. It's what it deserves! Aside from being a unique cultural space, Books from Underground offers easy access to literature no other commercial establishment can offer. Just imagine if you're struggling student battling a tight budget and you're only offered regular bookstore of regular-priced books? We've always wished to have more public spaces in Manila which conveniently contributes to our needs, and the Books from Underground is one of the spots that keep the book-loving culture alive.