San Marino: The World’s Oldest and One Tiny Republic

San Marino may not be as popular as Italy, the country in which it is locked from, but it is the world’s oldest republic. Add to that is the distinction of being the world’s tiniest republic. Nestled in between the northeast and central east side of Italy, it is considered as the retirement place for most Italians.

You may wonder why there is such a republic within Italy. History will reveal a lot of happenings in the region leading the the declaration of San Marino as a republic. But never be deceived by its size because it is one of the world’s wealthiest in terms of GDP. The figures can be compared to most developed regions in Europe.

The country seems to be a quiet place but shopping hounds should make this a stop whenever they are in the region. It is to no wonder why it is a tourist haven because shopping is cheap. Since it is part of the European Union, the currency being used is the Euro.

Since San Marino is part of Europe whose people are ninety percent Roman Catholic, you can find museums, churches and castles that are just usual in the area. The whole country speaks of a rich history that made it exist on its own.

Business establishments thrive from the influx of tourists that arrive in the country. Italians as well as people from other countries visit San Marino mainly for shopping. Since it is tiny, there are not much to see.

San Marino has no airport to boast but you can go there via Venice or Bologna. Even if there is not much to see there, a visit to the republic is an educational one. Definitely, it is a country far different from Italy. San Marino has its own personality.

Many thanks to Ms. Delia Gabatin for bringing our group to San Marino. Never have I thought that I will be able to visit the world’s oldest and one of the tiniest republics.


Verona: Setting of Romeo and Juliet

Verona in Italy is the setting of Shakespearean play “Romeo and Juliet.” Romance is evident in the city.

Entering Verona taking the train, one can feel how romantic the city is. Flowers, plants, parks, statues, etc are scattered everywhere. First time tourists like me can feel it in the air.

Roman architecture is prevalent in the city. Thank goodness for ordinances and laws that protect structures from being renovated for modernization. A good old Roman coliseum is at the center of Verona. It is a popular venue for events that are staged in the city. Other structures of Roman type are still standing and of use.

The street leading to the statue and house of Juliet is lined with typical Italian buildings and stores that cater to the many tourists that visit Verona. The street are made from cobblestones which are typical in Italy.

It is said that you have to touch the breast of Juliet’s statue so that whatever wish you may have regarding love, it will come true. At one side where the statue is located, love padlocks upon love padlocks can be seen hoping that those who locked their padlocks will stay in love forever.

Nearby is a mercato¬†and a great number of restaurants to cater to those who have gone hungry from visiting the place where Romeo and Juliet met. Tourists are abundant and shopping stores are there for shoppers’ delight.

If you are fond of authentic Italian architecture, Verona is a city to visit. I was astounded by the beautiful structures that I saw. Very Italian!

My visit to Verona may have been short but with all the things that I saw in the city, it’s worth another train ride to explore it more. Special thanks goes to Ms. Cecil Silva for taking me and Mama Renee Salud to Verona.

Modena: Italy’s Automobile and Agricultural Capital



Modena is dubbed as the automobile and agricultural capital of Italy. It was a quaint commune which has evolved into a fast-rising city in the Emiglia-Romagna region of the northern part of the country.




Automobile giants Ferrari, Maserati, De Tomaso and Pagani have headquarters in Modena. Both Ferrari and Maserati have museums there. Lamborghini does not have a headquarter in the city but it is where their cars are manufactured.


It is an agricultural area where poppy fields and wheat plantations abound. It is worth mentioning that Modena uses animal poo as organic fertilizer to their plants. With the many fields that abound the area, agriculture is really a way of life.




It should also be noted that Modena also produces the best parmesan cheese in the whole of Italy. Of course, prosciutto can also be bought just like any ordinary fare in grocery stores. Balsamic vinegar is another Modena regular fare.




Just like any other Italian city, Modena also has churches all around. Truly, an evidence of the strong influence of the catholic religion in the country. With their medieval architecture, the churches are visual delights especially to tourists. Luciano Pavarotti, one of the city’s most famous sons, is said to be buried in one of the churches of Modena.


All these years, Modena has maintained their building designs that the country is known for. Despite the many earthquakes that have visited Italy, their buildings have withstood the tests of nature. You know you are in Italy when you see architecture that is solely theirs.


But, course, Modena is not immune to the influences of modernity. In one area of the city, some modern buildings are slowly being built to meet the demands of the times. Despite of the times, it has maintained its appeal as an old city.


Modena may be quaint but it is one memorable stop in my European trip. Special thanks should go to our Balik sa Basik producer Laarni Silva and her counterparts in Modena – the Knights of Rizal Modena Chapter headed by Gerry Adarlo and the Kababaihang Rizalista headed by Winnie Crisostomo. Worthy appreciation also goes to Ian Atienza, Licel Ferrer, Dennis Ilagan and all the other Filipinos in Modena who made our last stop in Italy an unforgettable one.

Prague, One of the Most Beautiful Cities in the World

welcome to Prague red vintage isolated seal


Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic, is dubbed as one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It is located in the central part of the country in the heart of Europe. It is one city which I can consider a visual treat.




My visit to Prague is doubly special because it is where the patron saint of San Beda College, my alma mater, can be found. I really made it a point to visit the Church of Sto. Nino de Praga, of the many churches that abound Prague.



Despite having been under communist rule, Prague, and the whole Czech Republic as well, has never ceased to follow the Catholic faith as evidenced by the way people show their religiosity. The beautiful churches that can be found in the city very well shows how Czechs value catholicism.



The Old Town Square is a convergence area of tourists. Stores and restaurants are all over. Old and new establishments share with tourist markets of various items to shop. One good thing in Prague as well as in other European cities, is that the facade of their buildings are well-preserved. Businesses strictly follow rules in maintaining the sanctity of architecture which date back to the medieval times.



The Astronomical Clock is one spot that is always awaited by tourists. Every hour, the clock bells ring and icons of the 12 apostles come out of the tiny windows near the clock. Our host told us to pray and make a wish while the bells are ringing.




A must-see when in Prague is the Charles Bridge. It crosses the Vitava River which is its main waterway. The said bridge is lined with different statues of saints on both sides. You can also see different activities on it…from selling of souvenir items and artistic gimmicks that attract tourists all the more.




Baroque architecture is what tourists can see in Prague. Of course, there are also areas where modern buildings have been built. It was even surprising to see a Filipino store in the city. I suppose that the population of our kababayans is slowly increasing that part of Europe.




Prague, which is also know as the City of a Hundred Spires, had me in awe. It jaw-dropping sceneries and beautiful architecture will leave an imprint in ones mind. For everything that it offers, it is a place worth traveling to.



Many thanks goes to our host, Mrs. Angelita Santos, for making this trip to Prague possible. It was one trip that made my bucket list shorter.



With the many beautiful things the I saw in Prague, it truly is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

Venice: From Dream to Reality

Venice is one city in the world that has been in my bucket list to visit during my lifetime. Little did I know that 2016 would be the year that this dream of visiting the city would become a reality. Thanks to the Balik sa Basik fashion shows of Renee Salud. Venice is the first stop of our shows in Europe.

The Hotel Russott Ballroom was the venue of our show in Venice. It is one hotel near the airport that has a spacious venue for different types of events. Although service is by the hour and per hour, its personnel are very gracious and helpful. Everything we asked for were given to us almost instantly.

Of course, a trip to Venice would not be complete without traversing through its narrow pathways and seeing the canals that make the city a special one. Complete with Italian and European architecture, it is like being inside an architectural book brought into reality. Tourists, local and foreigners, enjoy the sights of the city.

The islands of Murano and Burano are must-see places when in Venice. Murano is famous for its crystals which command good prices. Tourists must just be careful in buying Murano crystals because fake ones abound. Burano, on the other hand, is famous for the colorful houses of its residents. It is like being in a craft store but made of true houses.

The Canale delle Fondamente Nuove is the major gateway to Venice and to other beautiful towns that surround the city. It was through the trip to the other places in Venice that I saw how Italians were able to preserve structures as well as have the discipline to make the city a clean one despite the droves of tourists.

The Piazza San Marco is the focal point of one’s trip to Venice. It is where all tourists converge to play with the doves or ride the gondola in traversing the city’s canals. It is where one can find the best architectural designs that can be seen from its domes, churches, museums and other establishments. It is where one can appreciate the true Italian ambience.

With the many areas of art in Venice, you cannot just have enough. Every corner presents surprises that can only be seen there. The ones you see in books and magazines are right before your eyes. I just marvel at how they were able to preserve its heritage.

Religiosity is one trait that Italians adhere to. Just like in any other city in Italy, churches abound. Coupled with rich designs that depict the richness of the country’s culture and its strong adherence to the catholic faith.

From its canals and monuments, Venice is a city that has kept its image as a bastion of art, culture and religion. From where Marco Polo started his journey, Venice is place worth visiting.

With the world getting smaller, the dream of going to Venice is not just a dream anymore. 2016 made it a reality for me.

Special thank you to our Balik sa Basik producer Laarni Silva, our Venice leg producers Ness Araja, Runna Pervado & the B52s, one of our gracious hosts Belinda Rodrigo and all the others who made our stay in Venice a very special one. We hope to see you again in the future.

There’s More to Sausages and the Boys Choir in Vienna

Vienna in Austria is listed as the most livable city in the world. That’s according to a survey made early this year. I would not wonder why. This peaceful city really feels warm despite the cold weather. It is a place worth visiting and deserving of the accolade.

Vienna is typical of any other European city. It is a mixture of the old and the new. Old architectural buildings have been maintained despite the proliferation of modern structures.

Part of the maintenance done by the government is having stores use the facade of building in their original state. Even the big-named houses of fashion and other business establishments make do with the buildings where they stores/businesses are located. I call it respect for legacy.

Vienna has a United Nations headquarters which decentralizes the activities of the world organization which has a Swiss office. Several offices are housed to cater to the needs of certain advocacies. Of course, there are castles upon castles since Austria was once ruled by the monarchy.

As in any other city in Europe, Vienna has many churches. Almost every corner we go to, we saw churches. One particular church that caught my attention was the St. Stephan Cathedral. The interiors of the said church can be considered baroque and modern. Austrians have a way of incorporating religion and art.

Despite the modern times, one can see artistry at its best. There is a certain aura of elegance which is very evident most especially in a modern city like Vienna.

Nearby Parndorf is a place where people who love shopping can go around to their hearts delight. Different brands, both known and start-ups, sell their wares at discounted prices. It is an outlet area which is visited by almost all tourists who go to Vienna. Never miss Parndorf!

Looking at Vienna from the mountain top, you will see a city that is serene yet it exudes a certain appeal of a place which is moving forward with the times. It is indeed deserving of its title as the World’s Most Livable City.

Special thanks go to our host, Mrs. Angelita Santos, for taking care of us during our stay in Vienna. Her kindness and hospitality and that of her family and relatives truly made our trip to Austria a very memorable one. Thank you also to Elmer and Ellen Blanco for the valuable time they shared.

I would not mind going back to Vienna, if given another chance. After this trip, I realized that there is really more to Vienna than sausages and the boys’ choir. It surely has a lot to offer.

Padova, Italy is the City Where St. Anthony Belongs

Padova is one city in Italy that we visited. Actually, it was our main hub when we went to Europe last May to June 2016. They say that it is a city of tradition. It is also called a city of education. It is the home of St. Anthony of Padua.

Natives of Padova at particular about education. They have centers of educational excellence that have enrollees not only coming from the city but from some areas in the Northeastern part of Italy called Veneto. The city boasts of schools and universities which are being partonized by the best students in the country.

One thing that I have noticed, Padova has a lot of churches. Almost every block has one. It just goes to show the religiosity of the people with Italy being the seat of catholicism. Proudly, it is the Filipinos in the city who frequently visit the churches.

Padova is where you will find the Basilica di San’t Antonio di Padova. St. Anthony is the patron saint of Padova which, by the way, is also the patron saint of my hometown Zumarraga, Samar. It was an enriching experience visiting the basilica seeing the relics of St. Anthony like his tongue and jaw. I felt at home.

It is one city that can be proud of having structures that have been preserved. But it has its own modernity as well to cater to the daily needs of the people. In the past, Padova had a citadel which made it a walled city. Now, one side is the old city while the other side is the new enclave where business establishments abound.

A place to go to is the Prato della Valle where families and friends converge for a leisurely get-together. It is surrounded by statues of famous Italians who have made a mark in their society. Another must-visit is the Piazza della Fruta outside the Palazzo della Ragione. This is one place where you can buy different kinds of fruits and street food.

Like any other European city, Padova has an effective transportation system. The tram is used as one of the main means of going around the city. Buses also ply routes that take people from one point to another. Cute smalls-sized cars are being utilized due to the small streets of Padova. Wonder of wonders, these cars can accommodate what medium-sized and large automobiles can have. With the good street system and discipline that they have, it is safe to drive around the city.

All in all, my Padova experience is one of nostalgia. Nostalgia because their patron saint is our patron saint in the province. We say the same prayers. It is one visit to Italy that cannot be forgotten. It is a city where one can learn a lot of things. It is one city where I made a lot of friends. Special thanks to our host Ms. Cecilia Silva, our Balik sa Basik producer Ms. Laarni Silva & her daughters Feida & Bea and the Associazione Donne Filippine whose members have untiringly shared to us their hospitality. Special mention also goes to half-Filipino and half-French photographer Nadine Silva for making our stay in Padova more enjoyable with her expert talent and by sharing her children Amanda & Raoul with us to our hearts’ delight.

I wish I could go back to Padova in the future to explore it more. It is one Italian city which gave me good memories. It made me appreciate art and architecture more. It really is the city of culture.