AJ Laberinto in front of his new shelf at the Lagusnilad bookstore (left); before the cleanup drive. Photos from Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso’s Facebook page and by Krishna Ariola
Culture Spotlight

LOOK! The beloved bookseller of Lagusnilad underpass is back

Here’s happy news for the fans of Books from Underground 
ANCX Staff | Oct 20 2020

“Good Morning Manila! AJ is back,” so says Tuesday morning’s Facebook post of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso. Mayor Isko is, of course, referring to the owner of Underground Bookstore in Lagusnilad, AJ Laberinto, who made headlines last year when the City Hall’s cleanup drive removed the bookstore owner from his then ten-year business location in the Lagusnilad underpass. 

It turns out the guy has a huge following among students in the area and online, and they made sure the plight of AJ was not going to be ignored. 

AJ Laberinto in his bookstore in Lagusnilad pre-cleanup drive. Photo by Krishna Ariola

Well, his supporters will be happy to know AJ is back—although Books From Underground has been actively selling its titles online. In Mayor Isko’s post, the guy is looking good, wearing a smile this time along with a pulled-down face mask and a pulled-up face shield. 

In the picture, he is also holding a copy of the popular business and self-help book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. (Wonder what habit AJ tried to internalize the past year. Was it Habit number 7: “Think Win/Win”?) He is also noticeably standing in front of what looks like his new stall—which looks a little too neat and organized compared to the poetic jungle it looked like pre-cleanup drive. 

Laberinto’s new space in the Lagusnilad underpass.

It will be remembered Mayor Isko and AJ had a meeting in late July 2019, weeks after the cleanup drive, to sort things out. Mayor Isko was with his chief of staff Cesar Chavez, and AJ with his mother and supporter Karl Castro, the book designer. The meeting turned out to be a pleasant one: the Mayor explained his plans for Manila, and they discussed what could be done with AJ’s bookstore.

The new and improved Lagusnilad opened in August this year after 10 months of renovation work. There’s no word yet when the bookstore officially opens but when it does, we hope his many fans visit AJ again, and again.