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Touringkittyps: Five for the Passport Applicant

Have passport, will travel.

It can be such a daunting task whether you are applying passport for the first time or renewing it. Just as with any athletic sport, you need all sorts of preparation–mental, physical, financial, and emotional. It can also be a whirlwind of emotions on the appointment day.

A few days ago, I was such a lucky girl being able to renew my passport in less than 60 minutes, from time time I entered the building (7:50 AM) until I came out (8:45 AM). By far, it was the quickest process I have been in a local government facility.

How did I do it? Here’s how I did, and probably you could use these tips as well.

1. If you are not in a hurry traveling and your passport is expiring the following year, schedule your application during summer. I did mine this May, when most people are already on vacation.

Tip: On most months, especially the busier ones, you could probably schedule on a midweek. Tuesdays or Thursdays would prove to be unpopular days, so squeeze your application during workdays.

2. Get the earliest time possible. 7:30AM is the earliest, so plan ahead and arrive at least 30 minutes before your timeslot. The staff are still alert and awake, though one guard was already “masungit” to me at 8:00AM.

Tip: When you have your kids with you, make sure not to bring them during their naptime, or they will be cranky. If they will not apply for passport, better not bring them with you.

3. Needless to say, take care of your personal belongings! One man left his documents folder on one of the chairs in front of me. As we were moving on the queue as if playing “musical chairs,” no one wanted to pick up the folder. So when I approached that seat with the folder, I picked it up and shouted the surname written on the application form. The man turned toward me, smiled (or should I say, smirked), got his folder, without even saying thank you. Such kind gesture you got, man.

4. Make sure you have complete photocopies and original copies of all your documents. Just to be sure. You don’t want to go through the hassle of going out of the line again to photocopy. There’s one, at Gate 1, which charges P3.00 per page photocopied.

TIP: The first and last page spreads of your passports must be photocopied. A lot of people in front of me forgot the last page (well, I almost did), so make sure you have photocopied both spreads.

5. Eat a good meal before your appointment. You don’t want to wait hungry. I actually was not able to eat a decent breakfast, so as soon as I exited, I looked for a place to eat. There are lots of restaurants across the street.


Anything else to add on my list? Share yours on the comments section!


~ Touringkitty

Ex Libris Philippines: a Book Club with a helping hand

If books can talk, they will have a lot to say.

Since books cannot do the talking, book clubs came to be. Book clubs whose members share the same love for reading by sharing stories about their favorite reads.

One book club that I discovered does more than reading books. They help send students to college.

Ex Libris Philippines, is a nonstock, nonprofit organization for book enthusiasts. The group believes that the nobility of ideals and great vision should not just exist in the pages of books or in the minds of authors long-dead and gone, but in reality. Their Scholarship Project helps send deserving but financially challenged U.P. students to school. Their past four fundraisers have helped fund the education of 22 scholars, some of whom have graduated with honors already.



Gabriela Francisco, the valedictorian of our music graduating batch in 2008 and fellow voice degree graduate, talks more about her book club and NGO, Ex Libris Philippines. 

Touringkitty (TK): When did you start Ex Libris Philippines, and what is the club’s purpose and goal?

Gabriela Francisco (Gabi): Ex Libris Philippines began in 2007 as a book club, but one with a mission: to live out the ideals we read about in books, in daily life.

TK: Who started it? Your backgrounds? How did you come up with this organization?

Gabi: The founders are from UP Diliman. Natasha Francisco, the Founding President, also founded the college org, Ex Libris U.P. Most of Ex Libris Philippines’ members are also from UP. (Natasha is Gabi’s twin sister–TK)

TK: What projects do you have? What are your plans for this year and for the next years?

Gabi: Currently we have annual fundraisers for our Scholarship project, but in time we hope to have several more. We were also in the last event of National Book Development Board (NBDB) held at High Street, Bonifacio Global City. We had a book swap booth.

TK: Who are your scholars? How do you choose them? Are they all from UP? Will you open to other universities as well?

Gabi: Right now we can’t afford to help those in other universities like Ateneo because their tuition fees are too expensive. So we aim to help those who REALLY need help. Ours is more of a need-based scholarship, than a merit-based one. But of course, grades DO matter. And so we have several scholarship grant recipients who graduated with honors already.

TK: What does your organization champion? Who are you in service of?

Gabi: We are a book club with a mission, a conscience. Sure, we meet and discuss books like all other book clubs. But it’s not enough, for us. We need to LIVE OUT what we read about. We exist to help others. In the end, that’s what literature is all about: loving words, and living out that love with concrete acts.

And this is one of their projects we could all support.


Ex Libris Philippines will have a blocked screening of X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST on May 24, 2014, Saturday, 7:45 pm, at Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati.

Watch the movie (I know you’ve been waiting for it!), and give a helping hand to deserving UP students.

~ Touringkitty

For more information about the blocked screening and the NGO:
Gabi Francisco 0920-9470835

Touringkitty’s Top Ten Mr. C songs

On May 3, Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab, or Mr. C to many, celebrated his birthday eve with a tribute concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The concert, led by conductor Gerard Salonga and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, featured true OPM gems like Hajji Alejandro, Kuh Ledesma, Martin Nievera, Ogie Alcasid, Celeste Legaspi, Mitch Valdes, and the newer ones like Noel Cabangon, Bugoy and Morisette, Piolo Pascual.


I was a proud wife and aunt, happily watching with my mom and daughter. My husband was invited to sing with the Ateneo Chamber Singers, while my niece (daughter of my cousin), Leana Tabunar, sang a song from the musical Katy, where she acted as the young Katy last year. It was first time for her to sing with a full orchestra, that’s why the whole Macanaya clan is proud of her. Check out a video of her performance here:

As part of the orchestra’s Spotlight Series, they featured an all-Mr. C repertoire, which brought so much nostalgia to many OPM babies, like me. But not all Mr. C songs that I like are OPM, or Original Pilipino Music. I also liked his choral works, some we have sung with the Madz, and some with my children’s choir.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite Mr. C songs in random order. Full credit goes to the owners of these videos. Thanks for sharing and posting on Youtube, especially the older video clips:

1. A questa me guiaba/O noche que guiaste. The text of this piece is from the poems of St. John of the Cross. We sang this in the Florilege Vocal de Tours in France in 2006, the competition where we earned the spot for the European Grand Prix the following year. Listen to the sudden unisons and key changes, they are quite challenging to approach.

2. Aba Po, Santa Mariang Reyna. Another favorite of competing choral groups, I first heard this song when my husband (then suitor) sang this with the Ateneo College Glee Club back in 2000. I immediately fell in love with the dissonances of the female in the beginning. I remember the story of this song. Madz founder Prof. Andrea Veneracion, or Ma’am OA, asked Mr. C to write a new work for the Madz, and this was it.

UPDATE: This is a most recent version of the Ateneo Chamber Singers. Have always loved their rendition of this.

3. Kailan (Smokey Mountain). I was a young seven years old then, and we were in a trade fair at then PhilCite at the CCP Complex (don’t compute my age!). I was a super fan of Smokey Mountain (yes, Geneva Cruz, James Coronel, Tony Lambino, Jeffery Hidalgo, I was a fan!!!) and of their songs. My dad entered me in a mini-talent showcase in one of the trade fair’s events, with the late great Pepe Pimentel as host. I told him I will sing the song Kailan (When, in English), but he teases me as to when I will sing! I got to take home gift packs after I finally sang…after all the teasing!

4. Paraiso (Smokey Mountain). Another Smokey Mountain song I like is Paraiso. I loved it more when I sang it with the Madz. Here’s our New York performance in 2007:

5. Gloria (from Misa).  My husband was the soloist for this song during their 2000 Ateneo College Glee Club tour for one of their competitions. I was able to watch it during their farewell concert, and he definitely gave a great performance! (Now, if only there was a video of it!). But here’s an audio recording from their 2000 tour.

6. Hibang sa Awit.  Umiikot, sumisirko. (Twirling, tumbling.) This is definitely a “Tatak Korus” song. Korus is the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus, who adds challenging choreography in their singing. Here is their performance during the group’s 50th Anniversary and reunion concert in 2012. Check out the inset, same choreo and energy through the years!

7. Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika. An award-winning song synonymous to a singer named Hajji Alejandro. This won the 1st Metro Manila Popular Music Festival (Metropop) in 1978, and as this song opened last Saturday’s concert, it still proves timeless, beautiful, and classic.

8. Can this be love (Smokey Mountain). This was sung again by Sarah Geronimo as theme song for the Sandara Park-Hero Angeles movie of the same title.

9. Kumukutikutitap. Famous director Joey Reyes wrote the lyrics of this Christmas favorite. Check out a video of my choir’s performance during the Christkindlmarket in 2012 (the beginning of the song was not taken, though, and this video included other repertoire). To whoever uploaded this on Youtube, many thanks! (PS: Spot my little princess!)

10. Prayer of St. Francis (from Mass for Peace). I first encountered this when I was a freshman at the UP College of Music. The librarian was selling only a few copies of Mass for Peace and I immediately got one. My choir still sings this during our masses. Here was our performance in our concert at the GSIS Museum last October.


What’s your favorite? Any other Mr. C. songs in mind? Would love to hear from you!


~ Touringkitty

Be empowered with John Robert Powers’ new workshops

For many years, John Robert Powers (JRP) is synonymous to high quality training in modeling, acting, and personality development.

In an event a couple of weeks ago, JRP introduced to some mom bloggers their newest offerings: The Dynamic Parenting Workshop and the Future Leaders Program.

This reception area greets you at their Makati Office.

What I clearly remember about JRP, as a kid, was it was a training ground for future models.

And I was right! They have this bulletin board with their pageant training activities.
And I was right! They have this bulletin board with their pageant training activities.

And their latest pride is…

MJ Lastimosa, Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2014.
MJ Lastimosa, Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2014. She finished the JRP Celebrity Track in 2011.

Now, if you think you’re either too old or too young to enrol in JRP, think again. We learned that the oldest student they had is 62 years old!

JRP is glad to offer new workshops for two important groups of people: the parents and the young children.

The Dynamic Parenting Workshop is much like the parenting workshops, only given in a more comprehensive manner, covering ten specific topics, two hours per topic session. This is more studies-intensive, with the goal to educate, guide, and build a core support group among parents.

As a new parent like I am, I had so many questions. With the help of my mom, my aunts, and friends, I was able to pull through the first (almost) four years, and I can’t wait to hurdle more challenges in the future. There’s a saying that it takes two to create and a village to raise a child, and I believe so. The Dynamic Parenting Workshop aims to do that, to create a community of empowered parents who are responsive to the fast-paced life we have now.

Start them young, they say. The Future Leaders Program for 4-6 year olds will not groom your child to be a politician, no. But the program introduces the children the concept of being a leader through fun activities. Activities would also incorporate the signature programs of JRP, like oral communication and personality development.

Being a good leader is being a good follower. As parents, we model what is right or wrong to our children. When the child sees his or her peers doing something good, the more he is empowered to do good. This program might just address that, knowing that kids at this age are still in the stage of imitation.

This is a long-term course, with 30 two-hour sessions.

Their signature programs were also introduced to us, such as the English Language Program and the Multi-Level Curriculum System, especially designed for each student.

We got to take a sneak peak in their classrooms.

I love their make-up area!
I love their make-up training area!
Table etiquette training happens here.
Table etiquette training happens here.
Spot Touringkitty! This is their lecture area.
Spot Touringkitty! This is their lecture/orientation area.

These mom bloggers had a wonderful time meeting up (some for the first time), exchanging insights and experiences. Thanks for having us, JRP!

~ Touringkitty

To know more about their offerings:

John Robert Powers

4/F Casmer Building 
195 Salcedo Street, Makati City
(02)8929511 * (63)09175960939

Ground Floor, Cinderella Building, 
825 EDSA, Quezon City
(02)9270465 * (63)09175018295

2nd Flr JJACCIS Bldg. 
1208 Acacia Ave. Madrigal Business Park, 
Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City
(02)6590052 * (63)09178195351


Paraguayan Female Guitarist in Manila and Cebu concerts

The guitar is one of the most versatile instruments there is. It can stand alone as concert instrument as well as assisting accompaniment for a singer or another instrument.

I have always loved the guitar. Though I’m not that proficient, I can carry playing simple chords good enough to complete a song. To compensate, I married a guitarist. He might not be playing professionally, but he can definitely pull off a classical piece, or accompany me in singing kundiman.

I was blessed to have handled a guitar program, one of my previous projects in my previous cultural work. You can read about that here.

So I fell in love with the guitar more, and it’s definitely a treat to hear classical guitarists in concert, like this foreign act who is considered the best in her country.

normal_Berta_Rojas_in_Manila-Cebu_--LETTERSIZE_--POSTERParaguayan guitarist Berta Rojas is coming to Manila for a series of concerts on May 15 in Manila and May 17 in Cebu, and a masterclass on May 14.

The concert in Manila will be at 8 pm in the Meralco Theater. The concert in Cebu will be at 8 pm in the Marcelo Fernan Hall in Lahug. Jointly organized by the Independent Philippine Art Ventures, Inc., and the Arts Council of Cebu Foundation, the concerts will be the classical guitar events of the year in the country.

Ms. Rojas, described by the Washington Post as “Guitarist extraordinaire,” will play a mainly classical repertoire with a taste of jazz and salsa.

Also performing are Monching Carpio and Triple Fret. Monching is a former college mate and one of the young and bemedalled guitarists of today. Triple Fret is the first all girl guitar band in the country. Three lovely girls who can rock a riff.

Berta Rojas will also give a masterclass to selected guitarists who have qualified in a screening process on May 14 at Richmonde Hotel,her official Manila residence during her tour. For those who are wondering what a master class is, it’s much like an actual lesson, only there will be an audience. The master teacher (Ms. rojas) coaches the guitarist participant for 30 minutes and will do some critiquing on the piece he played. Guitarists and enthusiasts will surely learn a lot even by just observing.

As a soprano, I was fortunate to have sung for master classes of internationally known opera stars–Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu and Australian soprano Claire Primrose.

For ticket purchases, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or For further inquiries, please write Monch Carpio at or

I do hope to see you there, and please, support at least one art activity per month. It will nourish your cultural soul and develop good taste.


~ Touringkitty

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Web Hosting Giveaway

I’m co-hosting The Vanilla Housewife’s giveaway, and check out the prize: Web Hosting for your website or blog from HostingVisa!

Web Hosting Giveaway

The Vanilla Housewife is celebrating her 5th 30th birthday, plus/minus the years she’s not telling us, with a web hosting giveaway!

3 Lucky bloggers will win *1 year of Web Hosting Service from Hosting Visa.

Meet the lovely Co-Hosts!

REALITY Bites – A lifestyle blog of a mom who strives to achieve work-life balance.

Touringkitty – A blog by Em Alcantara, Soprano, Music Educator, Writer and Mom.

Lucky Finds – A foodie at heart and a mom blogger who loves to write about everything under the sun.

My Mushings
– A blog showcasing the lifestyle scene in Manila.


Hosting Visa is offering 50% EXCLUSIVE HOSTING DISCOUNT to all bloggy friends of The Vanilla Housewife for any web hosting service availed from April 28 until 31/05/2014. Enter the promo code VANILLAHOUSEWIFE upon checkout.

Ready for the giveaway?


Open Worldwide

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Welcome to the Touringkitty Blog!

Happy Easter Monday!

Due to the busyness brought about by the Holy Week, I forgot to post yesterday!

Welcome to my new online home,!

Hooray! After four years I am self-hosting! It was a looooong journey but I am glad to do it. And so, thank yous to the following are in tall order:

Martine, for the blog coaching session. I am still working on my posts but I am happy to have started somewhere. Thank you for guiding me through.

Marge and Jenn of VA Support Pro, for your assistance in setting up my blog and for accommodating my dummy questions! Finally here it is.

To the WAHMderful community and Mommy Bloggers Philippines, for being a source of inspiration and love. These two online communities truly rock!

To my husband and daughter, for funding my blog (teehee) and for loving it as much as you love me. I love you both, too.

To the many groups I belong to–the performing world, choral world, teaching world, mommy world, breastfeeding world, homeschooling world, church world, WAHMing world, mommy blogging world, for being sources of my blog stories.

And to my ultimate source of all this, Touringkitty, my beloved magic wand, for being the beginning of my journey. If not for our travels in the past I would not have had a Touringkitty.

So, enjoy reading! Like my Facebook Page to be updated with more things happy!


~ Touringkitty

Easter Blessings

A Happiest Easter to everyone! Like what our dear Rector always says, the glory of Easter Sunday must pass through the sufferings of Good Friday.

How did your Holy Week and Paschal Triduum go? Mine was busy as usual at church, the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. For the longest time, I have never been on Holy Week vacation. But I’d rather have it that way. It’s such a fulfilling feeling for my husband and I to serve. Always, Christmas and Easter seasons are the busiest for church musicians, don’t you agree?

Thursday we had the Washing of the Feet and reenactment of the Last Supper. Chosen Apostle Actors took part in the Washing of the Feet. It has always been a challenge for our rector to find apostle actors, and he tells us that he really prays for whoever is chosen. My husband had his turn as apostle actor seven years ago, when we were on our second year serving the Shrine.

Friday, we participated in the Via Crucis for Good Weather organized by Radio Veritas, and participated by the Vicariate of Sta. Clara de Montefalco. The walk took us from San Juan de Dios Hospital to Manila Cathedral, all seven kilometers of it, from dawn to midday. It was tiring and hot but we did not feel it because we were walking with so many people and to trace the way of Jesus to his death and resurrection was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

We got to Manila Cathedral around 9:00AM. We started the walk at 5AM, and the Shrine of Jesus contingent were stationed at the Second Station, just after Midas Hotel.
We got to Manila Cathedral around 9:00AM. We started the walk at 5AM, and the Shrine of Jesus contingent were stationed at the Second Station, just after Midas Hotel.

In the same afternoon, we had the Veneration of the Cross, followed by the Daang Krus sa Kalye, where the Apostle Actors and our priests led by our Rector, Monsignor Bobby Canlas, carried a cross from one station to another. My husband was the assigned guitarist during the Way of the Cross. It was a challenge for all of us in the music ministry cos we had to walk and sing through a throng of people.

Saturday was the Easter Vigil Mass in the evening. The Shrine of Jesus’ Easter Vigil Mass is known for its Resurrection effect productions every year. We even has laser shows in the past couple of years. Mons Bobby makes sure that each Easter Vigil Mass is solemn, unique and special.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we had a children’s Mass followed by Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. Then a concelebrated Mass was held, usually celebrated by a bishop. This time it’s Bishop Ted Bacani. Masses with Bishop Bacani are truly memorable. Mons Bobby asked for a special blessing from the bishop for the massgoers on wheelchairs. Some of them we regularly see in our masses. They were also given an image of the Our Lady of Lourdes, the patron of the sick.

I thank the Lord for sustaining all of us with good health during the Holy Week. The Shrine of Jesus Rectors Council and volunteers are some amazing people I have met. They come from different places and backgrounds, yet we come together as one in serving at the church the Lord entrusted to us. In this Year of the Laity, I am ever reminded of our role in the church, to be an active part of it. Not only through service but by through example.

Celebrating the Holy Week always brings forth a lesson and a blessing to me. For this year, it was another opportunity to assess what God calls me to do, and to always listen to Him. It does not pay off well when I don’t pray for something and just go with the flow. I am reminded to discern well the choices I am making. And to always keep things real.


~ Touringkitty

Stuck on Stories: Read these books over and over again

Stuck on telling stories to your little ones? Not anymore with these cool books!

We discovered the Stuck on Stories by accident at the Relay shop at Changi Airport  on our way home. I was gathering all my loose change in order to dispose them (read: last minute “syeping!”).

It was literally last minute, as we were about to board when we got to the gate. I saw these board books and settled on the Dora the Explorer book.

Stuck on Stories have 10 suction cup characters and a story board book inside. What you do is stick the suction cup characters along the story. It’s as if you are telling the story yourself!

From the Phidal website.
From the Phidal website.

I am not quite familiar with the other characters. All I know is Dora, Boots, and Swiper. So, I interchanged Tico and Isa, hahaha! Good thing Aria was quick to correct me.

Back in Manila, Aria got interested in Disney Princesses. So, we scoured book stores to find one, and had it reserved even!

Disney Princesses getting stuck! Photo from the Phidal Website.
Disney Princesses getting stuck! Photo from the Phidal Website.

We got to meet the Princesses’ furry friends as we read along the story. Aria got to familiarise herself with the characters and their own stories.

And of course, the resident Kitty did not miss researching on this.

Bucket list: wish list! Photo from Phidal Website.
Wish list! Photo from Phidal Website.

This is not yet available in the Philippines, but Toys R Us abroad has this already. Can’t wait for it to come here.

The suction cups we have used in other ways, like counting, as seen in my Instagram (follow me @touringkitty).

Phidal carries a wide variety of children’s books which aid them in learning and having fun at the same time. Since 1979, the company has been developing safe, innovative, and creative products that spark the imagination of children and children at heart.

For more information visit their website


~ Touringkitty


Disclaimer: all products are purchased by me. I am, in no way, connected to the company, and did my own research about the products cos they’re just so cute and collectible!