It’s interesting to note that Metro Manila has more pedestrian overpasses (or footbridges as they are popularly called these days) than pedestrian underpasses. Maybe it’s partly because of concerns of flooding as parts of the metropolis are flood-prone areas, which also is a factor as to why there is yet to be a true subway system in the metropolis. (no, the partly underground Lines 2 and 3 do not count)
This entry today talks about one of these few pedestrian underground networks in the country, the Quiapo underpass network known today as the Lacson Underpass, the first such network to be built in the City of Manila and in the metropolis and the country as a whole.
The underpass was named in honor of the mayor of Manila who conceived of such pedestrian network, Arsenio H. Lacson, the iconic and beloved mayor who helped transformed the city in the postwar years. I’m trying to confirm the details of its construction as I’m getting conflicting data; one source says it was built in 1961 while others say it was built in 1962 and inaugurated two years later.
What is certain is that when Mayor Lacson died on April 15, 1962, his successor Antonio Villegas chose to honor his legacy by naming it Lacson Underpass in honor of his predecessor. Since then it has become an iconic landmark ever since, though over the years it has experienced decay and neglect, not to mention an influx of vendors and mendicants which made the underpass all cramped and not conducive for passers-by to walk through.
In 1999, Mayor Lito Atienza kicked off his program in reviving the city called “Buhayin ang Maynila” (Revive Manila) by rehabilitating the Lacson Underpass and Plaza Miranda. As a result, the underpass got a paint job, well-lighted interiors, tiled-flooring, and a design that complemented the new look of Plaza Miranda. Unfortunately, the years after, especially after Atienza’s term ended in 2007, saw the underpass slowly being neglected again as vendors and mendicants are narrowing the walkways once more.
Then came the administration of Mayor and former President Joseph Estrada who worked on the Lacson Underpass rehabilitation no. 2 this 2014. This time though, Estrada sought the help of the private sector for this project, specifically Victory Malls who has been operating small retail shopping malls in the country. And yes, it is the sibling company of the Victory Liner Bus company. And more than the help, Victory Malls have been given the task as well of managing the underpass. In a way, the city is the owner but the manager is the private sector, in this case Victory Malls.
As a result, for starters, the underpass has been rechristened as Victory Lacson Underpass. But beyond the name, the change can be seen in the layout and the way things are now run. Firstly, the underpass now has doors, has guards, and is no longer open 24 hours.Restrooms are now better maintained and has new equipment, though with pay. But it’s the price that has to be paid, I suppose.
Being a mall operator as a manager, the new Lacson, er…Victory Lacson Underpass now has a lot of retailers, some of them established names themselves, while there is space allocated to vendors as well.
This is both good and bad in the sense that while there is revenue for both the operator and the businesses there, the people using the underpass more to get to their destinations rather than to shop are at a losing end, no thanks with the too much space given to these stalls and vendors and not enough for the passers-by. The way the stalls are laid out there further adds to the problem. Thus, you still get a feeling of congestion passing through the underpass.
Thus, the Urban Roamer cannot say that the new Victory Lacson Underpass is an overall better experience now than it was before. Sure, I appreciate the new comfort rooms and the security. But the management’s prioritization of revenue over its original intent as more of for the people is somewhat unsettling. But being the Victory Lacson Underpass has been open for barely a week at this time of writing, I will give them the chance to make the necessary improvements so the people will benefit more than what it is right now. Generating revenue is not bad, but it should not be achieved to the detriment of public welfare which was the reason Arsenio Lacson thought of it in the first place.
For the sake of the Arsenic’s memory.