MANILA -- The country's 8-millionth foreign tourist, who arrived on Friday, is a Japanese couple who frequents the Philippines for its lush mangoes and hospitable people.
Husband and wife, Tamio and Yachiyo Imamoto, were welcomed by the Department of Tourism Assistant Secretary Roberto Alabado III and a group of media practitioners at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport upon their arrival from Tokyo.
The Imamoto couple, both 71 years old, is in Manila for an 11-day trip in the country, including Baler town in Aurora province.
Yachiyo, speaking in Nihongo, expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome, saying she was momentarily "surprised" with the kind of reception she got upon arrival.
When asked what made them choose the Philippines, Tamio said he loves coming back to the Philippines for the warm weather as well as its famous mangoes.
"It's only four hours from Japan, and it's also winter in Japan. In the Philippines, it's summer. Besides, the people here in the Philippines are very warm," he said through a translator.
The Imamotos said this would be their eighth time in the country since their first visit 11 years ago. The couple is off to Quezon City to stay with their host family, a Filipino couple they met in Japan.
In an interview, Albado said he was surprised that the 8-millionth visitor turned out to be a couple and at the same time senior citizens enjoying local hospitality.
"This portrays the Philippines as a very safe country wherein even senior citizens can go around. And the fact that this is their eighth time here, it says a lot," he said.
"It will communicate to the Japanese people that we are worth coming back for and they are enjoying genuine Filipino hospitality," he added.
Alabado said the Japanese nationals' title as the 8-millionth visitor comes with a privilege-- a roundtrip ticket from Japan to Manila and an all-expense-paid domestic tour package to Siargao in 2020.
The official said the Imamotos' visit marks the country's highest foreign arrival to date at eight million. (PNA)