A Taste of Japan in the Philippines

Yu-Fu-In Yaikiniku and Japanese Restaurant
Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines

When I want to learn about someone I always ask them about their food choice. It’s music to my ears when I have an idea about the kind of food that they consume and understand their eating behaviours because it creates a ton of opportunities for me to ask them more questions and never let the momentum die down. Really, it will be an understatement if you say that I love food because I really do.

Leo from Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on Instagram @leosamilo!

Last August 2019, I met Leo, a Filipino-Canadian based in Vancouver, who was in the Philippines for a quick vacation with his family. Through him, I had a delightful time learning about Vancouver, how the city is known for fresh seafood and how he’s a huge fan of Japanese food.

After my work schedule, I drove from Meycauayan City, Bulacan to Quezon City to fetch him. On my way to meet him, I thought of bringing him to Manila (around Malate) but I didn’t know any good and authentic Japanese restaurants around. So I thought, why not Yu-Fu-In in Angeles City, Pampanga since that’s been my go-to Japanese restaurant ever since 2016? Boy, it did not disappoint!

Osushiya San Bento

My craving for yakiniku was left unaddressed when we got to Yu-Fu-In. Their yakiniku was only available until 10pm and we got there about 15 minutes past 10pm. They have this yakiniku set + hot pot (good for 2-3 persons) which does not cost more than 1300 Pesos ($25). We were left without a choice but to order something from their regular menu.

Since he mentioned that he like sushi and fresh seafood, I made sure to get my staple fix of Oshushiya San Bento for only 490 Pesos ($9.42). What’s nice about this bento is you get to try nine (9) of their best sushi and it gives you an idea what to order next as a starter. My personal favourite would be the Ika Nigiri Sushi (Squid Hand-formed Sushi) because of how it just melts in your mouth.

Salmon Sashimi

It would not be a complete Japanese dining experience without ordering some nice sashimi (thin-sliced raw fish or meat). Salmon Toro (Salmon Belly) was our choice but it was not available at that time. Our attendant suggested Salmon Sashimi for only 295 Pesos ($5.67) and I know that it’s good.

I was quite hesitant ordering this because I’ve had an experience in the past when the sashimi from a different restaurant was awful. Sashimi has a recognisable smell – a stingy, fishy one – and you would only get it if you smell it directly. However, if you sit upright and notice this smell, then that might be an indication that the sashimi isn’t good for consumption anymore. Luckily, that wasn’t the experience we’ve had at Yu-Fu-In!

More than its freshness, the sashimi was flavourful. I like having it with fresh wasabi but without the sauce. As much as possible, I would always avoid having sauce in any food. Japanese food has a distinct flavour which I love – not savoury but extremely mouthful.

I could eat Omurice (Fried rice wrapped in omelette) everyday for my entire life and not feel bad about it. I know other Japanese restaurants have a cheesy version of this which, by the way, is good but I like mine simple, plus this is cheap! I only got mine for 170 Pesos ($3.27) and it’s actually good for 2 persons already.

We didn’t know what kind of tempura (battered and deep-fried) to get so ordered this mixed tempura for only 380 Pesos ($7.31) which could already serve 2-3 persons. Aside from Ebi Tempura (battered shrimp), my favourite would be Ika Tempura (battered squid), and yes, you can already tell by now how much I love squid!

Kushiyaki Set

Kushiyaki is Japan’s version of BBQ. However, theirs aren’t limited to specific meat, like pork, but it could be any poultry and non-poultry items. This set has six (6) different kushiyaki and is already good for 2 persons. Each set costs 295 Pesos ($5.67) only and you have the choice whether to smother it in their homemade sauce or just have a dash of salt and pepper (our choice, by the way).

What I love about Japanese food and the Japanese dining experience is how they put premium about sharing food. You are sharing a portion of who you are to the person you’re with and you experience this satisfying connection that only a good food can create. It’s as if sharing your food with someone is a journey of mutual understanding and discovery. Maybe this is what we miss when we get too preoccupied about ‘adulting’ and we miss the chance of experiencing this connection, who knows? When was the last time you created a meaningful relationship with someone over and through food?

Yu-Fu-In is located at 1st Street corner 2nd Avenue, Balibago, Angeles City, Pampanga, 2009 (view map here). You may contact them at (045) 635 5537 / 0908 874 2847 / 0917 842 6627.

*$1 = 52 Pesos

Can You Survive Metro Manila for 1 Week in 1,000 Pesos ($19) or Less?

Where are you headed to?

Where are you headed to? Photo taken in Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City, Philippines using Nikon D3200.

What if everyone could take the public transportation because you know it’s efficient? We’re confident that our trains wouldn’t break down because it’s been maintained well. We’re happy to take the major roads and never worry about getting late for school or work – but that’s in a parallel universe where we don’t live in.

I had this ‘Eureka!’ moment last weekend when my mum and brother got stuck at UP Town Center because of heavy raining. While having some sumptuous late lunch at KOS Greek Ouzeri, I wondered, what if my job don’t pay as much as I get now? Will I survive an entire week of not being able to buy what I want and just stick to only those what I need? For this week, I’ve challenged myself to limit my work week budget to 1,000 Pesos ($19).

In a hot Friday afternoon, I’ve decided to ride an ordinary bus from Bulacan to Makati – I didn’t regret that moment. Photo taken in Valenzuela City, Philippines using Nikon D3200.

Cost breakdown

What’s a good way to prove an idea and to tell a story? Experience it, and so did I! It wasn’t easy to start the week in a morning schedule whilst half of Metro Manila is ‘submerged’ because of the heavy raining for the past 48 hours. I do not know what’s with mornings but it wasn’t easy to course through the traffic. Gladly, I was able to manage this – I rode ordinary buses in broad daylight whilst exposed in dirt and pollution; to get to my destination, I walked for more than a mile or two to save money; I even have to ask for mum to drive and take me to the train station to cut my expenses down. I am very lucky to have supportive parents, but what about those who don’t have such luxury?

Total transportation cost sums up to 741 Pesos ($13.72).

I was lucky for my 2 days training at the Ateneo Center for Continuing Education, they served free food – morning and afternoon snacks, and full-course lunch meal, all in a managed buffet style – (Shout out to Villa Salud!) During the remaining days of the week, I’ve brought packed dinner with me and some biscuits, crackers to save money. Moreover, I used the Starbucks stars I’ve accumulated in exchange for free drinks. The only two instances I bought food this challenge week were last Monday when I met my best friend and ate lunch other and last Friday when I bought turon and pancit on my way to the office.

I think this was the most difficult part of my challenge. I cannot simply win over a battle against hunger, and I realized – what if I didn’t have those stars, where could I’ve ended up to? What if I didn’t have time to prepare for my packed meals each day, would I be able to survive? What if I didn’t have those 2 days training, would I be able to eat decent meals?

Total food cost sums up to 184 Pesos ($3).

I usually have my hair cut every 2nd or 3rd week of each month. Coincidentally, my hair cut is scheduled during the course of this challenge week. I felt torn between sacrificing 200 Pesos ($3.70) with my preferred shop and going for this newly opened hair salon for only 40 Pesos ($0.74). I ended up choosing the latter despite the bad service. My hair cut was fine, but I wouldn’t date to go back there.

Total miscellaneous cost sums up to 40 Pesos ($0.74).

There’s a missing 30 Pesos ($0.56) which I couldn’t remember where I placed/spent on but I as of writing, I’ve managed to save 5 Pesos (less than 1 centavos in US $) the entire week.

The first time I felt helpless was when it suddenly started to rain heavily and I wanted to take a cab going home but couldn’t because I simply can’t afford one. Photo taken in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig using Nikon D3200.

About budgeting

I thought I was just too confident to ask people favour. I always believe that desperate times call of desperate measures. I also have instilled to value of walking instead of taking public transportation. With how the Metro Manila traffic is going, especially when it’s raining and the roads are impassable due to flooding, the only best option left sometimes is to walk. I have also skipped meals when possible and I could. This wasn’t something I’ve done before because I usually eat when I want to and when I have to.

If you’re wondering what’s the secret, really, there’s none. I don’t think that’s budgeting that I did because it felt like I didn’t have much to budget in the first place. Now I suddenly felt envious with those people who would just walk going to work from their residence. I wish it was fast, easy to commute from Bulacan to BGC, Taguig. But here’s what I have realized:

  • One battle you cannot easily win over is hunger. This is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, problem to deal with. If only my level of discipline was heavens high, I could easily do this, but I have a body of a mortal that needs feeding.
  • 1,000 Pesos per week is not applicable to everyone. As a disclaimer from the video teaser I made, I implicitly mentioned there that there is no ideal budget each week. Some people would spend more than 1,000 Pesos (like me), whilst others could spend less, but that doesn’t mean that we, who spend more than 1,000 Pesos each week, have inferior budgeting skills than those who spend for 1,000 Pesos or less every week.
  • The thing that will differentiate us from each other would be our expenses. If you’d have a look at your expenses, you’d easily notice that your weekly expenses would differ from each other – and that is okay.
  • Always think twice, thrice before purchasing anything. The first question you should always ask yourself is if you really need this thing you want to buy. Definitely, if you can afford and have extra money, go ahead. Otherwise, don’t. Don’t even dare to think about using your credit card, if you have one, to meet your ends. It’s not healthy for you and your financial credit, most especially if you can’t pay off the credit right away and/or not familiar with the ins and outs of credit cards.
  • Find alternative options… only if you can afford it. I hate to break this, but most people these days wouldn’t trade comfort and convenience for anything that’s practical. I felt that a lot of people do not patronize carinderia anymore and we all have our reasons – sanitary issues, proximity, availability in the area, laziness to walk around… I am guilty of this and should never use my time as an excuse since my work has a very flexible schedule.

In Metro Manila, you can’t afford to walk slowly, most especially when it’s rush hour. You’ll get bumped, people will push you… you simply can’t. Photo taken along EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard using Nikon D3200.

What I’m trying to say is…

Open your eyes.
Notice what’s happening around you.
Remain vigilant.

I have a renewed and now a never-ending respect for those people who are able to stick with their budget, especially to those who have a family to support, those who need to pay for their rent/housing, those who can afford to save even if there are tons of expenses each month. I am definitely not alienating anyone or any group here, but to those people who have the sheer determination and the ability to provide for their needs – the inspiration to do better and to keep a good financial standing moving forward is simply overflowing.

Some of my observations include:

  • Our traffic has gone from bad to worse. When I was in college, sometime in 2013, to get to my university, I used to take the same McArthur route from Malanday bus stop in Valenzuela City to Muñoz, Quezon City for only 1 hour. Now, it would take me 2 hours to do the same, and 3 hours at most if the traffic is really awful. How come, despite tons of road widening, improvements, that this has been the case?
  • If living within your means is fine, how about those who couldn’t even afford basic needs? I’ve always been told by my parents to never live beyond what I could pay for, and that’s true. I’m very lucky to land a good paying job to support my needs and wants and to, basically, live independently. I just feel for those who couldn’t even support their basic necessities in life. I wish the world isn’t that unfair but who am I to complain? I’m just a tiny voice out of the vast jungle full of predators ready to swallow me whole.
  • The basic burger with fries and drinks now cost at least 80 Pesos ($1.48). It used to 50 Pesos ($0.92) but now, your 50 Pesos can only buy an à la carte – without fries and drinks.
  • The commute to work or school kills us. This is a reflection of how bad really our traffic and transportation system is. We haven’t even reached our destination and yet we’re already tired. It’s exhausting – imagine allotting 5-6 hours each day on road, this could have been spent on other more productive things.
  • Our transportation system couldn’t support the volume of commuters each day. I wish to find options was as easy as changing socks. Could you imagine what kind of life we would’ve had only if our mode of transportation is more convenient?

This challenge also brought me to another level of understanding of how our supposedly basic needs are easily affected because of the changes in the tax scheme, the worsening inflation of the country, and the surging prices of goods and services. Why am I saying this?

My point is simple – my 1,000 Pesos ($19) last year could already last for a week and a half. Now, it barely lasted for a week. Had I not taken desperate measures, I would’ve gone overboard. Last year, my daily budget for commuting was just amounting to 165 Pesos ($3). This year, it has gone up to 180 Pesos ($3.33). Whilst some of you would think that it’s only 15 Pesos ($0.28) difference, it’s still a big amount of money – multiply 15 by 22 days (average no. of work days in a month), that’s still 330 Pesos ($6.11). I could’ve spent my 330 Pesos to paying for our water bill which don’t normally go above 400 Pesos ($7.41) per month.

Is this what we deserve after working hard, trying to provide for our families, in the hopes of being a law-abiding citizen by duly paying their taxes and contributing to the country’s supposedly booming economy?

I don’t know, but what I know is that I survived 1 week with 1,000 Pesos – if have to grade this, then my grade would’ve been “Barely Passed.”

*$1 = 54 Pesos