The Philippines is a wondrous place full of vivid, diverse cultures and fascinating people. Traveling around the country doesn't need to be expensive. Here's how I enjoy a local adventure while spending a reasonable amount of money.
Always check the local airlines’ websites for promotional airfare (I was able to buy P56.00 round-trip ticket to Cebu last December 2008). Never mind if you are booking 3 to 6 months ahead of your planned trip. Not only you saved on the airfare, it maximizes your time to spend for vacation.
Book for a hotel room at least a month before your planned trip. Choose a standard or economy hotel like a pension house (P400-P600/night) because it is very affordable, convenient and a great place to meet other travelers. However, because of its popularity among backpackers, the rooms fill up quickly.
Food and Drinks:
Bring your own food (easy-to-cook noodles, 3-in-1 coffee in sachets, crackers, etc.) or eat at food stalls, most popularly known as ihaw-ihaw or turo-turo (one complete meal costs as low as P50). They are basically everywhere and safe when you visit Bohol, Davao, Cebu or Cagayan de Oro. But be careful when choosing a place to eat -- the hygiene and the way they prepare the food is not always good for your stomach. Check the food before buying.
Consider asking the hotel staff or visiting the local Tourism Office where you can find cheap transport and how much it should cost. This way you will avoid locals from tricking you. Instead of using arranged transport with taxis or private cars, I recommend that you take the local transport, like the jeepney or minicab (smaller version of the jeepney). If you plan on moving around in a city you should also consider using a habal-habal (motorbike), or a healthier alternative – walking!
Shopping at the local markets is often cheaper than the huge malls. Bargaining is the key to cheap shopping. But before you do that, I recommend that you stroll around to compare prices. It's sometimes hard to know what things should cost if it's your first time. You can't bargain for something when you even don't know if it's cheap/expensive.
Visiting some attractions? If I were you, I would skip the package tours and rent a habal-habal (P300–P500) or minicab (P1,000-P1,500) for a day. It's cheaper and you get to see the things you want to see in your own pace. For free information on history and sights, ask the hotel staff, visit the local Tourism Office, or a fellow traveler. Otherwise, you can print the information, even the map, out from the internet. A couple of print-outs are cheaper and lightweight than a book. Practical when you're on-the-go!