Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Sign up for our Writing Boot Camp at the BenCab Museum in Baguio, March 17-18

January 21, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Books, Workshops

Email for details.

Our recent books are now available online.

Each book costs Php350. Free shipping nationwide if you buy both books. Offer good till 28 February 2018. Order now through

And now you can buy them on Lazada!
Buy Geeks vs Jocks here, and The Stories So Far here.

World domination is going to be a cinch.

February 22, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Projects, World Domination Update

The first time I visited Yokohama six months ago to prepare for TPAM (The Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama), the team had dinner at a traditional okonomiyaki place. We concluded the meal with monja, a pancake eaten directly from the grill with spatulas, and washed down with umeshu (plum wine). So it became a tradition. The day of our technical rehearsal, we had an okonomiyaki lunch: I passed on the “fertilizer made of oily vegetable dregs”.

I wasn’t worried about delivering the lecture because I’ve written several versions of the plan for world domination and can recite it in my sleep. Turns out I should have worried, because I sucked at the run-through and got angrier and angrier at myself. Our dramaturg Max found this amusing. “You should do the show while you are hungry, it has a different energy.”

The beautiful Jason Moss lent us the He-Manash sculpture from the Manananggurlash series. Tina Cuyugan got the “Laboy” Santo Niño from a store beside Quiapo Church. The Santo Niño is supposed to be a wanderer, but he’s dressed exactly like a tita on the way to the parlor to have her hair colored. Pepe Diokno told me all about Bayani’s Kitchen, the Filipino restaurant where we staged the second part of the performance. The venue was so perfect we didn’t have to think about production design.

Here is the team demonstrating the Pinoy technique of pointing at stuff without hands, a.k.a. nguso. Front row, from left: stage manager Kuro, who looks like Atom Araullo; me; and Gian, who hosted the party and is a party. Second row: Raya, our director, who deftly navigated the complex negotiations with the technical crew; and Barbara, who is doing research on contemporary Japanese theatre and was roped in as interpreter. At the back, not cooperating, is our producer Yoshiro, who grew thinner and thinner as opening night approached.

Yoshiro also has a group that was part of TPAM Fringe, so on February 14, Raya, Gian and I went to see their show, “The Great Painting Detective”. Yes, me and baklas—that’s how I always spend Valentine’s Day. Anyway the venue was full and we were standing at the back, where I couldn’t read the subtitles or figure out what was happening. I have no patience, I get antsy in crowds. At one point I leaned over and whispered to Raya, “What the fuck is going on?” and then my phone alarm went off in the deathly silent room, and I didn’t even set the blasted alarm. Shame! Shame!

To be continued

What should we do with the alleged cat killers of BGC? (Since it’s too late to neuter their ancestors)

February 20, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Current Events

I knew there was a reason I bought this kerchief.

Dammit I leave for ten days in Japan for the World Domination Project, and the minute I return to Manila my phone is seismic with reports of an alleged cat massacre in BGC. Before I can celebrate the mass recruitment to our cause, I have to find out what the hell happened to the cats. When I get the details, when we figure out who is responsible, they’re going to wish their parents had been neutered.

Post your suggestions on how to deal with the cat killers.

Greetings from Yokohama

February 13, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling

Our World Domination Project premieres at the Kanagawa Arts Theatre on Friday.

Between meetings, rehearsals, and watching the performances, I’ve been wandering around Yokohama.

Illustrated tiles suddenly appear on the sidewalks.

This friendly dog welcomes diners to a ramen restaurant.

Chinatown is lit up in preparation for the Chinese New Year. I went walking with Nicole and Krishna, whom I have enlisted as “translation assistants” for the show. Impossible not to buy something while roaming Chinatown. Sukiyaki-flavored Pringles. Moisturizing face masks that look like cats.

I miss my cats, so they will get the best presents.

We are all Lady Bird.

February 08, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

(While we’re on the subject of parents.)

My mother never tore down my dreams because I wasn’t good enough to fulfill them. She tore down my dreams because they weren’t her dreams. She wanted me to aspire to wealth, security, prestige, and I rolled my eyes at her because I wanted books, art, music. But that’s the job of a parent: to be the voice in our heads that we must learn to shut up so we can hear our own voices.

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird reminds us that you can detest your mother with every fiber of your being, you can loathe the place where you grew up and the life you led, and you will still love them and that is not a contradiction. It is funny, sad, angry, and happy, and every frame of it is true.

John Mahoney as Diane’s dad in Say Anything

February 08, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music

Say Anything is one of my favorite movies not just because I wish I had a Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack’s character), but because I envied Diane Court (Ione Skye) her very supportive, understanding dad (John Mahoney) and was wrenched when Mr Court turned out to be a criminal.

Always loved this singing-in-the-car bit. (Context: Mr Court had just learned that Diane got a scholarship to Oxford.) John Mahoney also starred in Frasier as the down-to-earth dad of those pretentious twits Frasier and Niles. Goodbye and thanks, Mr. Mahoney.

Call Me By Your Name: We want to live there.

February 04, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

Things we love about Luca Guadagnino’s film Call Me By Your Name, in no particular order.

1. First love should be this beautiful. Even the pain is beautiful.

2. The villa in northern Italy, and all of northern Italy, matches that beauty.

3. Timothee Chalamet’s Elio. He feels everything, and we know exactly what he’s feeling. (The final scene is just his face, and it’s enough.)

4. Armie Hammer’s Oliver. We don’t know exactly what he’s feeling, but he’s as beautiful as the sculptures by Praxiteles.

5. Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar as Elio’s parents, the Perlmans. So civilized, so erudite, intelligent and above all, kind. We may love Elio’s parents more than we love Elio and Oliver.

6. The soundtrack which includes Sufjan Stevens, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Psychedelic Furs, and introduced us to the work of John Adams.

7. A movie where people discuss the etymology of apricot. Where a teenager plays Bach as Liszt would’ve played him. Where people speak four languages at home and translate old German tales.

8. Esther Garrel’s Marzia, who understands why Elio disappeared on her, in part because he gave her a book of poetry by Antonia Pozzi. This movie also introduced us to Antonia Pozzi.


To have two long wings
of shadow
and fold them up against your pain;
to be shadow, the peace
of evening
around your faded

9. That speech by Elio’s father Prof. Perlman, which all parents should be required to learn. Here is the text from the novel by Andre Aciman.

In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!

10. We wish Mafalda was our housekeeper.