Ayo Ayo Backpacker's Inn and Art Cafe : A Japanese Home in Cebu City

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Being married is a great blessing because first, I have a partner whom I can talk with about everything under the sun and second, there’s someone who can be there whenever I would like to go out and eat somewhere. It is even a bonus that the partner can pay for the bill.

As Friday was a holiday, James and I stayed at home but has a late lunch at a place I found out when I was commuting my way to the city and my hired motorcycle driver took a different route. The name outside the restaurant was interesting so I shared it to James and immediately planned on having lunch, that day was perfect because we were on our way to do some certain errands as well.

Ayo-Ayo Backpackers’ Inn and Art Cafe

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Two pure Japanese bachelors had turned an old ancestral home which was built on 1949 into a backpackers inn and even set up an art cafe where guests can dine in while staying within the house as well as welcomes outsiders.

The signboard at the front gate showed an Alibata or Baybayin writing which translates to Ayo-Ayo which literally means blessing or hello in the Cebuano dialect. That caught my attention and the next few days, James and I were already parking our motorcycle in an empty space of Ayo-Ayo Backpacker's Inn and Art Cafe.


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The yellow painted house looked very familiar with its glass doors, the walls looked wooden of which I checked and found it to be true. The glass doors, in fact, have another sliding wooden door. A white circular lit up signboard contains the inn’s name plus the Alibata or Baybayin characters too, we can’t help but take photos of each other in that part as it also has a yellow painted chair.

Being a Japanese owned restaurant, it was quite obvious that there will be Japanese items inside which was positive. But more importantly, there was more art than expected. Let me tour you around this homey cafe.

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As we went in, a living room set up welcomed us as well as the staff who was attending. A red-brown leather couch on the left, a wooden center table and two comfortable chairs facing the couch. What I love about here were their tall and wide transparent glass windows. There’s even a dream catcher too in the middle of it.

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Behind the couch is a long table, wooden but with designs and this was another favorite spot because of the design pattern, then bamboo designed chairs and the DIY shelf at the back. After much investigation, I realized it had pipes as its foundation. Then the Japanese items are placed on the shelf. I noticed Ayo-Ayo Backpackers Inn and Art Cafe shirts, some framed notes from its previous customers and a lot of art posters as well.

A Japanese manga book collection lies at the center of the shelf. It was obviously cute and interesting but we both can’t read Japanese so we just looked at the graphics inside.

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In the further area lies another set of table and chairs and three more which were good for two diners. Then the kitchen and bar area to the back where another huge glass window is located and some Japanese Calligraphy is posted on the dark wall facing the bar. It was interesting to find only a few Japanese items but it was just enough to beautify the place. In fact, I found the color combination interesting and not to mention that this is fully air-conditioned so there was proper ventilation and it was totally comfortable!

This place is actually a really good spot for a mini photoshoot, like an indoor engagement session or for a lifestyle photography.

Food and Pricing

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Ayo-Ayo Backpacker's Inn and Art Cafe has a bar with high chairs in them, I believe there were about five. Then there was a handmade menu on blackboards hanged on the top. Looking at the pricing, I could already tell that their pricing is not so pocket-friendly but it is okay as they are indeed Japanese foods, some options on the menu are Filipino food but were given Japanese kicks into it by their Chef Atsushi Okamura.

Seriously, I really want to get the salad but since I was very hungry, note it was a late lunch, I instead opted for the rice meal.

James ordered one of their pork options while I went for the Chicken Teriyaki, a glass of iced brewed coffee for me and James requested the Calamansi juice.

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When served, I liked the wooden plates, the arrangements of the food and the rest of the plating but I noticed that the serving is small. There's a side salad which was good and the chicken and pork were cooked just right. The drinks were also served in small glasses.

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However, James and I were okay with it because of the experience and the beautiful artsy gallery inside the restaurant. The pricing, by the way, ranges between 100-300 PHP.

Staff and Service

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I don't know why but I don't feel really comfortable with their kitchen and front bar staff. There were two ladies when we arrived but only one entertained us. I didn't see them smile as well when we arrived, I am not sure if it was just me or if that's really how they treat their customers. I was expecting them to be all accommodating and friendly because we were the only customers inside like literally, there were only us.

However, it was a total opposite. Each time that I would ask for something, they will do the needful but with a heavy face. I know they are trying not to show it but I could definitely feel it. But I just let it slip away, perhaps they are going through some tough stuff.

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Our orders were served right away, the waiting time only took a few minutes so I guess they have precooked them and heated them upon request.

Overall, both James and I enjoyed the place, the art, the handmade furniture which I learned were made by the owner himself, the details and the Japanese feel but felt like the food was not what we expected for its price. I wish they had bigger serving which perhaps can compensate its high price and I also hoped that the staff could have been friendlier and more accommodating to us while we were dining inside. Perhaps that was just because the owner was not in the restaurant, he was out for some errands I guess as he had a Shopee delivery that afternoon and the staff said he was away.

But, I recommend this place to those who are Japanese food enthusiasts. They got Japanese cuisine options and they are totally authentic because they're made and cooked by the Japanese chef himself.

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Again, this is a backpacker's Inn so if you are interested in staying here, you can rent a room for Php 550 and Php 1100 respectively.

Thank you for reading!

What kind of food do you like?


About the author:
Jean Beltran-Figues is a photography enthusiast.
A traveler who wants to promote her beloved country, the Philippines.

About the author


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