Go takes a short weekend trip to the Philippines and enjoys delicious food and more.

You never know quite where you’ll find our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori. When he’s not being pranked in the SoraNews24 office or working on all manner of things at the SoraHouse, you can often find Go, well, on the go in various places throughout Japan and abroad. Despite his younger backpacking days and more recent quick budget trips within 50,000 yen (US$333) throughout Asia, there was one country that he had yet to visit, the Philippines, so he decided that it was high time to change, setting up his latest extreme budget travel trip in late January.

To book his trip, he once again turned to Expedia, which he likes because it’s easy to see how the price of tickets changes day by day. He discovered the best round-trip airfare via AirAsia from Tokyo to Manila for 24,940 yen way back on October 12, 2023, which is why it definitely pays to book in advance. His flight would depart Narita International Airport at 11:25 a.m. and arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 3:05 p.m. on January 23. His return flight, however, would be in the early morning–4:45 a.m., to be exact–so he’d spend that night at the airport.

There wasn’t as much of a rush to find lodging. Actually, he was pretty busy at the start of the new year and didn’t end up booking a hotel over Expedia until two days before his departure. He found a single room with a private toilet and shower for one night for 1,757 yen and booked it quickly.

In addition, while he sometimes has to secure a visa before his travels, Japanese citizens are allowed to stay in the Philippines for up to 30 days with no visa–so it was nice to save a bit of money on that front this time.

Day 1: Tokyo, Japan → Manila, Philippines

On January 23, Go was finally off from Narita’s Terminal 3!

The flight time took only about 4 hours and 40 minutes and went by quickly for Go.

Before long, he found himself inside Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

First he needed to exchange some money. Everything he’d researched in advance told him to only exchange enough for initial transportation costs at the airport because the rates were bad, and then to find somewhere else in the city for a better rate.

There were several currency exchange centers within the airport, and Go chose the one with the longest line thinking that there must be some meaning behind it (as it turned out, however, he ultimately didn’t find a place anywhere in the city with a better rate–so he might as well have exchanged all of his money then and there).

With that settled, he headed outside to grab a taxi into the city. He got into a huge line of what looked like locals as well as a few tourists. Hopefully that meant he was doing things the way the locals d0.

He spent about 30 minutes reading while waiting for his turn. Finally, he emerged at the very front and his taxi pulled up. At this point it was after 5 p.m., so he instructed the driver to take him to his hotel.

At first the driver said it would be 300 Philippine pesos upfront, but Go strongly insisted on using the meter instead. As a result, his final fare to Pasay, which is a part of Metropolitan Manila and where his hotel was, turned out to be only 183 pesos (481 yen).

Getting off right around Gil Puyat Station, he walked down the street of shops…

…until he arrived right outside of his small hotel.

The lobby resembled a business hotel and was very clean.

Once checked in, he made his way to his room.

Taking stock of his surroundings, he noted that there was an electric fan but no AC. He flipped the mattress over to check for bedbugs, as is his usual backpacking practice, and didn’t find any. It was in the clear!

There was also a small station with a sink outside of the bathroom.

Inside, he found a toilet with no seat cover and a cold shower.

Staring directly out into the room, there was no outdoor window on the opposite wall…

…but right above the bed was a window that looked out onto the hallway. The room certainly didn’t have any frills, but for only 1,757 yen for one night, it had everything he needed.

Go tidied up his luggage a bit, then decided to explore the neighborhood by foot.

He almost couldn’t believe that he was finally in the Philippines, after somehow never stepping foot there before during his previous travels.

So far he was really digging the feel of the area.

Actually, as he walked around…

…he could feel himself starting to fall in love with it.

Before long he spotted a Jeepney, a common method of public transportation in the Philippines. He had no idea how to ride it, but he certainly wouldn’t let that deter him from trying it out later.

Around that time he also spotted Jollibee, a popular Filipino fast food chain that he had first learned about from his coworker’s travels.

Shortly after he walked in, two workers and the Jollibee mascot actually started dancing. What amazing timing he had to witness that!

He ordered spicy chicken and spaghetti and sat down to eat.

It cost only 164 pesos (431 yen) and tasted comfortingly familiar–like good old junk food from a fast food joint.

Once Go finished eating, he decided to explore the rest of the shopping center that he was in. He spied a food court, which was perfect because he had just started craving something sweet to round off his meal.

Oh! There was a stall selling something made with ube, the purple yam which is immensely popular in the Philippines. He couldn’t quite figure out exactly what it was, though. It looked like there was either butter or cheese inside, and the whole thing was fried on the outside like a spring roll.

▼ The name of this food is “ube turon,” which refers to an ube-filled spring roll.

Well, there was only one way to find out, so he ordered one for only 49 pesos (129 yen). After a ten-minute wait, he was presented with a freshly fried specimen.

It was really good! He loved the glutinous texture.

After finishing, he wandered over to the large supermarket near the food court.

He decided to purchase a pack of sliced pomelo fruit for 79 pesos (209 yen) which he could eat in his room later as a snack.

Also, as a souvenir for himself, he picked out some high-quality soap for 114 pesos (302 yen).

For everyone in the SoraNews24 office, he got two packs of sweets for 113 pesos (297 yen). They’d all better be nice to him for at least a week in thanks.

Lastly, he spotted a reusable bag with the supermarket’s logo on it. That would be a fun, practical souvenir as well, so he purchased one for 54 pesos (144 yen).

Go was having a blast with this trip already.

As his last stop for the night, he swung by 7-Eleven to pick up his beloved travel companion Coke for 45 pesos (118 yen), bottled water for 17 pesos (45 yen), and a bottle of San Miguel beer for 75 pesos (197 yen).

However, right around his hotel, he spotted a stylish-looking cafe stand. This was too much to resist.

As his final FINAL purchase, he ordered an incredibly sweet frappe for 90 pesos (237 yen). He felt that he was really living this trip up, unlike some of his other budget travels where he stayed very frugal.

Back in his room, he sipped the frappe and beer and snacked on the pomelo slices (for some reason, the pomelos he had tasted in Thailand and Vietnam were yummier to him), all while mulling over his plans for the following day.

And that was all enough to put a grown man to sleep.

Go had realistically only been in the Philippines for a few hours at this point, but he already felt captive to its charms. Plus, he still had a considerable chunk of his money left–20,713 yen, to be exact. This was shaping up to be the budget travel trip that left his wallet the happiest–but let’s see what the morning would bring.

Stay tuned for Part II coming soon!

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