Category: Travel

Touringkitty Travels: Dating, European-style

We sang, we traveled, we ate. This is how we conquered Europe for the first time as husband and wife.

We got to do it for almost a month. And even if we were traveling with a group, we cannot miss the chance to go out on a just-us date. So, on that one free night in Cologne, Germany, before we head to Spain, we had our first European date.

We strolled along the cold streets, looking for a perfect place for that first European date, and ended up in a cozy bar just across Cologne Cathedral.

Bucket list checked: Date in Europe.

Funkhaus is the restaurant on the building of the WDR Funkhaus, the radio broadcast center, which is important in Cologne’s history.

Next, what to eat?

Eat local, but don’t splurge. That has been our eating out mantra. So, we settled with currywurst and Kölsch (Cologne brewed beer).

Sausage, beer, and hard bread. In true German fashion. Wunderbar!

We learned about the beer from our hosts in Weroth, and they were right, it tastes good! Not a beer fan here, but this one is worth the try.

Spent precious moments here, but not for long. We had to walk back to the hostel to catch our early morning flight. And did I say it was freezing cold that night? And that we were walking by the River Rhine? There you go.

They had these thick blankets ready for those who will be seated outside. It was THAT cold.

This date is definitely one for the books! We are just beyond grateful to have experienced this, and so much more, while celebrating a special milestone in our married life, and traveling with a choral group we consider family.

Crossing the bridge. Photo by the Pastorgrapher. Half smiles courtesy of the cold temp.

Know more about Funkhaus through their website. Click this link

~ Touringkitty

Schatzinfinity: Ten years of marriage

#blessed is never cliche

If I were to sum up the past ten years of being married to the love of my life, only one word comes to mind: GRATEFUL.

That my husband and I are stronger together, and we’ve proven it to each other and to other people many times already.

That we have a home we can call our own.

That we hurdle life’s challenges together, big or small.

That our witnesses stand true to their roles as second parents (sadly, we unexpectedly lost a ninang a couple of months ago).

That our families and friends are with us, in good times and in bad (we still grieve though for the loss of my husband’s father).

That we get to do things we both love–choral singing, making music, travel, writing– and also do things on our own–his passion for martial arts, my various interests and advocacies.

That we have our little treasure, Ariadne.

That we are Schatzis (treasure in German). And this union is #schatzinfinity.

So, how did we celebrate this milestone?

Well, we were in Europe for this.

On tour with the Ateneo Chamber Singers. Concerts, competitions in Germany and Spain. I cannot say anything more but THANK YOU, LORD! Photo from the ACS FB Page

I have posted pockets of words and photos over my Facebook Page and Instagram (LIKE TOURINGKITTY please!) and will slowly (and I mean slow….ly!) gather them in one post, real soon!

Going back to celebrating, we did not have anything planned, really. Since last year, the ACS began their preparation for this trip. My husband was planning to come home in time for our anniversary, but I suggested that he finish the whole trip instead. You don’t get to go to Europe everyday! So, we settled to celebrating belatedly, perhaps with a Mass, Renewal of Vows, and fancy dinner.

But God has his own way of surprising us. Two months before the trip commenced, I was invited. To join as soprano. Bubble thoughts went like: We will sing in a choir. Together. And tour Europe. In time for our wedding anniversary.

I. Am. Stoked! Who am I to say no?!

And so I said I DO (haha I mean, yes, I am honoured to join!), and right on my birthday, I applied for my visa which was granted two days after. It was meant to be.


10th Wedding Anniversary, Barci style

We had a full schedule on the day of our anniversary, but the previous two days of it were absolutely free days. And we were in Barcelona, Spain! We shopped and ate and strolled, and did most everything just the two of us.

Must. Have. This. Pic. Bench pic on the streets of Barcelona. Photo by our dear Pastorgrapher (Our choirmate and Pastor-friend who made us his favourite photo subjects!).

One of our godparents treated us for an unforgettable Tapas dinner, and got ourselves almost drunk with Sangria (lol). Our pastor-friend and choirmate (yes the ACS is super blessed to have a pastor!) gave time to lead us in scripture reading, reflection, and prayer. We read and reflected on the same Gospel passage on our wedding day.

The best part:

Sagrada Familia, everyone. Such magnificence only God can create. Gaudi, you the man.

We got to tour the church (few photos on my Facebook Page!) and I can’t help but cry while praying.


A Spiritual Pilgrimage to celebrate a decade of marriage

We had a long day on our anniversary day, which began with this.

A Mass in Catalan language at the Barcelona Cathedral. Luckily, there was a Filipino couple based in the USA who were vacationing and volunteered to take our photos in exchange for taking theirs. They were belatedly celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary with that trip.

We were scheduled to visit two more Ignatian sites (because Ateneo) — Montserrat and Manresa. Few days before that, we were privileged to visit Loiola, the birthplace of St. Ignatius.

We sang a couple of Marian songs as offering to Our Lady of Montserrat. Video courtesy of Enric Genesca, one of our host-organizers from Polifonica Puig-reig:

We were told that choirs who visit here would have to get permission to sing inside the Abbey. So this is a rare and special and blessed opportunity for us.

After which, a sumptuous Chinese buffet lunch (yum!) and dinner at the hotel, where we also performed for an awarding ceremony for the Polifonica Puig-reig, our host choir, which celebrates its 50th year as a choir.

Still up and about! Great way to end the day.

Who gets to spend their wedding anniversary this way? We are truly thankful that this has all happened. All in God’s plan and perfect time.

We are grateful that we got to spend this special occasion with the people who are dear to us, our ACS family.

A pair of witnesses! Ninong Jojo, our conductor, and Ninang Bitchik, who treated us with that unforgettable dinner. This is in Tossa de mar the day after for more sightseeing and unwinding after the busy days of concerts and competitions.

Bonus photo! Check out our ACS Fam ten years ago during the wedding reception!

Love our ACS Fam! 3/4 of the people in this photo are part of the tour as singers. Two of them we got to see in Tolosa.

Just like any other marriage, ours is a work in progress, every single day. But we keep in mind what our father-rector and spiritual tatay said during the Homily on our wedding day, the three things our marriage should have: Communication, Care, Be fair.

We missed our daughter for almost a month, but we are more blessed that my mother and sister willingly took care of her while we were in this trip. We cannot be any more grateful for that.

I don’t know how to end this post, and I must try to sleep (hello jetlag, it’s been a week and you are back!) so let me end with this Bible verse that we have reflected upon ten years ago, last week for the 10th anniversary, and forever until death parts us.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Ich hab ein schatz gefunden. Photo again by Pastor Binky in Calella, Spain. Instant photoshoot while waiting for the opening program of the competitions.


Ich liebe dich, mein Schatzi Ton!


Dein Schatzi Em =)


~ Touringkitty

Touringkitty Travels: Hong Kong Serendipitrip

And before we head on another trip, here’s a short summary of my Hong Kong trip last July (I know, late as usual!).

I have been wanting to go on a solo trip for years. Moms need to recharge, you know.

And for this particular trip, I intentionally identified Hong Kong because of three reasons:

1. I kind of spoiled our own family trip two years ago, because of work that had to be done while on the trip.

2. My goal was to walk, eat, sleep. Nothing more.

3. Because Disneyland. Yes.

But God had even better plans, adding up to the list above.

1. My college friend hosted me (praise God for their family!) so I had no problems with accommodation. Plus, their place is in an MTR line, and with a mall–with an outlet store!

2. Her husband treated me to Disneyland (yay for perks!).

3. I chanced upon the Closing Ceremony of the Belt and Road Choral Competition, wherein my Ninong Mark Carpio (of the Philippine Madrigal Singers) was part of the jury. And this: The Vesna Children’s Choir performing a short program. Uh-ma-zing!

4. IKEA!!! Bought pasalubong for my home–bed sheet, toilet stuff, among others. And before I know it, an IKEA store is opening soon in the Philippines, just in front of our church! (calm down, heart and wallet!)

5. And slept for eight hours STRAIGHT each night I was there. Such grace.

And so there you go. I was able to tick off my goals, plus got some bonuses.

I am just so grateful that this trip happened, at the right time, at the right situation, and right context. I literally needed a break, and it was a perfect one.

So, here’s a clip I made to remember my first ever Serendipitrip (love the play of words there!). CLICK HERE to watch on Youtube. And don’t forget to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE for more travel vlogs! You sure would not want to miss the next ones.

~ Touringkitty

Touringkittyps: When in Europe…

…do as the Europeans do! But of course, be mindful of yourself and your belongings.

So, for this edition of Touringkittyps, here are five important things you should be doing when in Europe.

Always bring your passports. Especially that you are not within the jurisdiction of your own country, it’s best to have your passports with you wherever you go.

Know your train or bus number and stop. They come in almost the same names, like in Italy, Venezia is not the same as Venezia S. Marco and Venezia Mestre. So read, listen, and be alert! Likewise, trains or undergrounds have a PA system, so make sure you know your stop and listen to the announcement in order not to miss it.

Wien Hauptbahnhof = Vienna Central Train Station.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Almost every tourist spot can be visited by foot, so expect a lot of walking. Watch out for cobblestones, so best to wear flats or sandals than heels or stilletos. Keep your clothes light, but always bring a hooded jacket, you’ll never know when it will be cold or raining.

Flats and sandals are the way to go.

Learn a few helpful phrases in each country. There may be instances that the locals will not converse in English, so better know how to greet Good morning/afternoon/evening, Please, Thank you, How much is this (especially when shopping for souvenirs).

Speaking of souvenirs, buy one thing that would remind you of the city/country you visited. In my case, magnets or a shirt or whatever local produce they have, like food. I also make it a point to eat local food as much as I can. So even when I would want to save and opt for McDonald’s (which is also expensive, by the way), I try to look for local food. Gelato in Venezia, Steltze in Vienna, and more.

Gelato. The real deal.

Sent a postcard to your home. This I forgot to do during last year’s trip, but sending postcards back home is a good souvenir as well.

Take lots of photos and videos. I also take notes at the end of the day, so as not to forget what I visited. I use Google Photos to save photos online and free up phone memory space to take even more photos.

I take photos everywhere, even in the toilet. This in Vienna, Austria, called the Opera Toilet complete with Arias playing.

Ready for the Euro trip? Buon Viaggio! Gute Flug! Happy trip.

~ Touringkitty

Touringkitty Sings and Travels: Balesin Island Club

Up until now, I still marvel at the thought that I get to do two things I love the most, even beyond marriage and motherhood–singing and traveling.

For my first working trip this year, I was off to a beautiful island called Balesin.


Balesin is managed by Alphaland Corporation. It is a members-only resort so it was just so lucky for me and my choir team for those two days to be invited to sing for a wedding.

We sang for a Wedding Anniversary, and what was intended to be a wedding by the beach…

Uh, oh, dark clouds and eventually heavy rain poured over the island.

Was taken inside the chapel.

The wedding still went well, nonetheless. It was lovely, and well, white! It was the theme for the day.

After which, we spent the rest of the evening by the beach, sans rain. Beach reception!

Moi, in a blurry selfie of the beach set up.

We rested early and took the entire morning and afternoon the next day for swimming and going around the different themed villages of the island.

The infinity pool and the Pacific Ocean. No, it doesn't go straight down there, but yes, I was able to touch the waters of both.

This villa was where we stayed. Blue and white, Santorini look.

Toscana, an Italian inspired villa, where we had most of the beautiful shots taken. This one by my tenor-friend, Ervin Lumauag.

While inside a jeep that takes us all around the island, I took this shot of St. Tropez, the French inspired villa.

This was the Indonesian inspired villa.

We wish we could have Tapas, but we have to head back so as not to be late for the flight. This was in Costa del Sol, the Spanish inspired villa.

We had fun going around the world in a day!


And here’s a photo compilation of the trip. Click this link.

Looking forward to more singing trips in the near future.

~ Touringkitty

A European Church Pilgrimage

Europe is known to have very beautiful churches. Those old (think Renaissance and Baroque), elaborately decorated, pipe-organ adorned, huge-domed churches. For the past Europe trip, one thing I made sure was to pray in a church in each city we’ll visit. I was happy to accomplish this, and more.

Here are the churches I visited:

1. Church of Our Lady Victorious/Infant Jesus of Prague (Karmelitská 9, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic)

This was it, not an elaborately decorated facade in the middle of Karmelitska.
Hidden in tall greens, we found this n the middle of Karmelitska.

We got lost on our way, but was guided by some signages of shops bearing souvenirs of the Infant Jesus of Prague, and that Infant Jesus image on top. Sto. Nino, or the Infant Jesus, is very close to Filipinos. I can’t really remember if I was able to pass by this church the first time I was here in 2006, but I made sure to visit it this time.

Infant Jesus of Prague
Its name in Czech.

The Solemnity of the Sto. Nino is one of the most important feasts in our church community. Since it also coincides with the Children’s Mass, a special concelebrated Mass is always prepared, complete with drummers and dancers, reenactment of how the Sto. Nino came to our country, and some pakulo for the churchgoers after the Mass. And that our church is dedicated to the youth, I prayed even more for His blessing to our priests, volunteers, especially to our young volunteers (my own child included).


Prayed for all the children of the world to the Infant Jesus of Prague!
Lifted up all the children of the world to the Infant Jesus of Prague.


2. Katholische Kirche Salvator am Wienerfeld (Wienerfeldgasse 11, 1100 Wien, Austria)

Wasn't able to take photos, but this is where we performed.
Wasn’t able to take photos, but this is where we had our second performance for the trip.

It was a Sunday and our performance came after an English Mass for the Filipino community. The church was made of wood, you wouldn’t even notice it being a church at first.

As soon as I started my first note after we positioned, I knew it will be a great performance. Indeed, it was, that I immediately found a place to kneel and pray and thank the Lord for that wonderful performance of the Pasyon. The acoustics are so beautiful, it’s like the sound is instantly mixed.


3. Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Wien, Austria)

Touringkitty poses in front of the Stephansdom.
Touringkitty poses in front of the Stephansdom.

Vienna is definitely one of the cities I’d like to visit again and again. A trip to Vienna isn’t complete without visiting one of its busiest tourist centers, Stephansplatz, where St. Stephen’s Cathedral can be found. It has an active calendar of performances and concert masses, and my co-performers were able to catch one on the Sunday night we were there.

Here I am praying by the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Taken by my friend and co-performer, Ate Cherry.
Here I am praying by the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Taken by my friend and co-performer, Ate Cherry.


4. The Monastery of the Church of the Merciful Brothers (KOSTOL NAVŠTÍVENIA PANNY MÁRIE–Kostol MILOSTRDNÝCH BRATOV Nám. SNP 11 811 06 Bratislava, Slovakia)

The instant day trip to Bratislava from Vienna (which was less than an hour away) took us to its tourist center. I saw this by the plaza, and found out it’s a Roman Catholic Church.


There was a Mass going on, and as I entered, it was the Consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ. Just stayed for a few moments, knelt where I was standing, and prayed.
Church of the Merciful Brothers.

There was a Mass going on, and as I entered, it was the Consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ. Just stayed for a few moments, knelt where I was standing, and prayed.

Kostol, Bratislava, Slovakia
After 30 minutes or so of searching the internet, I finally found what the name of the church was!


5. Basilica di San Marco (San Marco, 328, Venezia, Italy)

The Basilica at night. And those are 24K Gold, we found out.
The Basilica at night. Her gold shines bright. Chiesa d’Oro.

I was lucky enough to visit this church in both day and night times during this trip. During the daytime visit, we went inside the church, and there was a queue going in, which moved quickly. Made sure to offer prayers and candles, and buy some souvenirs for family and friends. No photos are allowed inside the church, so we took as much outside.

This was one! So happy to have made a jumpshot in Italy this time.
This was one! Jumpshot in Italy this time. With co-performers Leo and Jhom.


6. Santa Maria della Fava (Campo della Fava, Venezia, Italy)

I wasn't able to take a good photo of the church's facade, so here's the altar instead.
I wasn’t able to take a good photo of the church’s facade, so here’s the altar instead.

And yes, a Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help (on a Thursday night). Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Hour was also held, just before a (very short) Italian Mass and then our concert followed.

Since this was the last official tour stop, I offered again candles and lots of prayers.

Again, in an image of our Mother and Her Child.
Again, in an image of our Mother and Her Child.

Take note that candles would cost about at least 0.50 Euros, or about 25 Philippine Pesos.


7. Propsteikirche St. Johann (Hohe Str. 2, 28195 Bremen, Germany)

St. Johann. And we weren't able to chance upon a Mass because the English Mass happens only every two Sundays.
St. Johann’s facade.

We weren’t able to chance upon a Mass because the English Mass happens only every two Sundays. Took a quick visit inside and look what’s the last thing I’d see:

Either I missed my husband, or my husband just assures me they're doing great back home.
A Saint Anthony! And those two candles on the left top portion were offered for my family and friends and their intentions.

Either I missed my husband, or my husband just assures me they’re doing great back home.

Seven churches in five cities. Hooray for this #TKEurope2015 achievement!

It was a humbling experience to see all of these beautiful churches, one pilgrimage I will never forget. And to have shared the music of the Pasyon to our audience, fellow Filipinos especially, it was a blessing to bless them with our music.
~ Touringkitty

#TKEurope2015: Pasyon

What brought us to Europe is the invitation to the Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation, Inc. to perform for the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. Held every four years, PQ as it is popularly called, gathers together artists from all ofer the world for an exhibition. Prague turns into a huge arts hub, literally, including its streets.

I, and some more choristers from various groups were invited to join the trip. It is an honour for us to be part of this trip, as well as to represent the country in such a performance.

For this trip, we prepared two sets of repertoire: First is the “Kamanyang,” all-Filipino choral, ensemble, and popular music selections, and “Pasyon,” which is a cappella choral music in Filipino. One of the songs in the popular music section is Pinoy Ako (more popularly heard from Pinoy Big Brother), written by Kenyo’s Mcoy Fundales. But that’s another story for another day, so stay tuned.

The main event of the tour was the Prague Quadrennial, where we are to perform scenes from the Passion of Christ in the streets of Prague, which is widely performed as a theater production all over the Philippines during Holy Week. Our production has a different take– even if the text was purely Filipino, choral music was the main vehicle to transcend the message to the foreign audience, in Europe especially, where choral music is rich and accessible.

And the man behind the wonderful music we’ve sung is musical director and composer Ato del Rosario. I’ve known Kuya Ato since my Madz days, when we used to record songs in his Quezon City home. I got to know him and his music more during this tour. And what wonderful music he created!

Since we first rehearsed songs for the Kamanyang part, some songs for the Pasyon Kuya Ato would write the day (or perhaps hours) before we’d meet for rehearsals. And they were gems! Easy-to-the-ears melodic lines. They may talk about Christ’s passion which was supposed to be sad and melancholic, but the melodies in his works are heartwarming. I have never liked the Pasyon (because I know it’s sad) until this work came along!

The scenes chosen complemented each other, and were sequenced well. We had three-line interludes in between musical numbers, which tied up the next scene from the previous one. Script was written by Joseph Sonny Cristobal, and stage direction was by Arman Sta. Ana. The staging in Prague was in the streets, so we had liberty to use a 40 ft x40 ft space and move around with props and costume changes. As with the church as venue (in Venice and Vienna), we were limited, so we did it concert style. Not your typical choral set up–some are sitting and some standing. Add the fact that we are limited in number–only ten singers (3 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 tenors, and 3 basses). So this was for us a challenge yet a blessing, because we got to work harder therefore work closely with one another. And hearing positive feedback from our audience, as well as our hosts and friends who watched was definitely the cherry on top of the icing!


PQ15 performance and the PQ15 Philippine contingent.
Enough of the descriptions, here’s a sampling of one of the works. The last two scenes, “La Pieta” and “Pagkabuhay.” Soloist for La Pieta is Verona Fortaleza McDonnell, who did the part with so much emotion and passion. This was the last performance of the tour in Fava, Venice, Italy.

Be blessed! Be a blessing!

~ Touringkitty

#TKEurope2015: How it came to be

Visiting Europe four times without worrying too much on airfare and accommodations was more like winning the lottery or a raffle. But this would not be possible, in my case, if it were not for the musical talent God gave me. And for that I am humbled, honored, privileged, and happy to share His music to more people.


Touringkitty is back as well!
Yes, dear TK readers, as I have posted in my IG and Facebook pages, I got a chance to travel Europe again, this time not with the Philippine Madrigal Singers, but through an invitation from a theater group from Bulacan. I get to sing AND do some acting and costumes this time, as we presented Pasyon scenes.

Reenactment of Pasyon is very popular in the Philippines every Holy Week. Some text from the Pasyong Mahal (another great Filipino tradition of recitation of this very long text in Holy Week) was set to beautiful music by Ato del Rosario. This comprised the main part of the trip, as we first presented this musical theater piece in the Prague Quadrennial of Design and Space on June 19. Succeeding performances saw us doing a concert style performance (sans movement and pure blocking only) in Vienna, Austria and Venice, Italy.

The first half of this year covered preparation for this trip. My weekends were always on field, literally, as we travel Bulacan for rehearsals only. Such a sacrifice for the invited performers, but was all good given the output performances which made some people cry, smile, sympathize, and reflect on the Passion of Christ.

Preparing for the trip also prepared me for the people I will be with away from our motherland for two weeks in June. I gained friends, old and new, and good musicians too. Friends who made the tour a lot lighter and happier.

Am excited to write about the rest of the trip, of course including the pasyal and pasalubong–two things loved by our families. Also did not forget to pass by one church at each stop and offer candles and prayers for my concerns and those of my family and friends. Will also give some tips for the first time Euro biyahero.

Meanwhile I must rest and recover immediately to do these. Hope to get on the articles asap.

Before I end, here’s one of my favourite photos of the tour and a quote I like to share:

Traveling: it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battuta
Travel pa more!
~ Touringkitty

Touringkittyps: Five for the mom traveller

Travelling with your tot? Here are five things that never leave my bag.

First, what bag should you use? I have a big and lightweight bag where I can put both my kid’s and my stuff for the day.

Generic bag from the store that's got it all for you. Less than P500. Waterproof because it's plastic.
Generic bag from the store that’s got it all for you. Less than P500. Waterproof because it’s plastic.

I also have a nylon bag, a wee bit smaller but spacious. Waterproof as well.

Wonder what’s inside?

One of my current favourite things, the carabiner.
One of my current favourite things, the carabiner.

Carabin-what? A carabiner is a quick snapping metal hook. This is often used as keychain as you can easily hook it on your belt…slots? It’s called “sinturera” in Filipino but I don’t know its English equivalent!  I hook these on my bag’s metal loop. Much useful when I do the grocery alone with my child. Saves my hands from carrying all those bags in each of your fingers; you can just clip all at once and go.

Quench your thirst easily, anytime, anywhere.

This water bottle I always hook on my carabiner on my bag. Much, much easy to carry water for the little one. Choose one which is easy to clean as well.

Tissue and hand sanitizers do the trick always for me. The all-natural hand sanitizer I got from Mommy Patch called Little Contessa. Spritz onto your child’s hands and to toys, furniture, high chairs, before use. I often save tissue I get from restaurants or fast food chains for unexpected use.

Ring sling saves my back from further injury when carrying my big day bag and my preschooler, sometimes a couple of grocery bags. I got two ring slings from Next9 which I bought in a department store.

Eco-bags are such a great hit nowadays, especially that some cities are going eco-friendly by eliminating plastic. Often, when we buy stuff, they will be packed in huge brown bags without handles. So, ecobags definitely saves my day!

What are your mini-lifesavers? Sharing is caring!


~ Touringkitty