Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for February, 2014

On Tagalog to English translations: Subtitling Ekstra

February 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 5 Comments →

A scene from Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra

Ingrid from Quezon sent us some questions for her research on translation. The questions focus on Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra, which we subtitled in English.

1. During the translation process for the subtitling, was there a specific principle that you followed?

We use the same principles for all the movies we have worked on (Otso, Badil, Instant Mommy, Here Comes the Bride, Foster Child, Maximo Oliveros, etc): Keep the subtitles as short and concise as possible, render the ideas accurately but do not do a literal word-for-word translation. The English-speaking audience is there to watch the movie, not read it. Also, do not assume that the foreign viewer, the primary audience for subtitles, knows anything about Filipino culture. They would not know “Kuya” or “Ate”, for example.

2. How do you view translation? Is it an academic or a vocational skill?

That would depend on the material that is being translated. For movies, our main concern is to convey the meaning of the lines in as few words as possible. Academic translations would require greater detail.

3. “Belinda, mas mahal ko” when translated turned to “Belinda, my love multiplied”. Pwede mo po bang ipaliwanag kung bakit kayo nagcome up sa ganitong translation?

You have to consider the context in which the words were spoken. Belinda had just said, “Brando, mahal ko”, to which Brando replied, “Belinda, mas mahal ko.”

Our translation:

– Brando, my love.
– Belinda, whom I love more.

Jeffrey changed it to “Belinda, my love multiplied”—Brando is telling Belinda that he loves her more, like “love times ten”. This is less accurate, but funnier. The movie makes fun of telenovelas, the unreality of the dramatic situations they portray, and the ludicrously overstated dialogue, so “my love multiplied” works.

4. Ano ang common factors na inico-consider mo kapag nagtatranslate? Particularly during the time na ginawa mo ang subtitles ng Ekstra.

Although the characters are Filipino, the English subtitles should sound like lines uttered by Americans or Brits. They should be brief and not overly literal, and they should account for cultural differences. For instance, in Ekstra, which is set in the world of TV production, “service” means “the vehicle that takes you to work”. Elsewhere, “service” is “assistance given to customers”. So “Andiyan na ang service” cannot be rendered as “Here comes the service”—that would be confusing to an English person. In the context of Ekstra it becomes “Here comes the van.”

For Badil, Chito Roño’s election thriller, we thought it necessary to provide a brief background for foreign viewers unfamiliar with Philippine electoral practices. So we suggested a prologue, sort of like the voice-over at the start of Law and Order: SVU episodes. “In the Philippines, to prevent electoral fraud, voters get indelible ink marks on their right index fingers after they cast their votes. This keeps them from voting more than once. To prevent the known supporters of a candidate from casting their votes, the opponent pays them to get their fingers inked before election day. This practice is known as dynamite or badil.”

We had a discussion with Jeffrey about the scene in Ekstra in which the oppressed assistant director is tired of being chastised by the director so he says, “Papatulan ko na yan.” Jeffrey suggested “I’ll give him a dose of his own medicine”, which is too long, and does not convey the power structure in the director-AD relationship. We suggested “I’ll forget he’s my boss”—the AD declaring that he’s about to start a mutiny. We don’t remember which translation made it to the final cut. It’s always good to be able to discuss the material with the filmmakers—it’s their project, after all, and we’re just making it accessible to the foreigners.

Thank you for your questions, hope this helps.

The week in spectacles: Daria or Dexter’s Laboratory?

February 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Television 5 Comments →


We’ve never worn contact lenses because we love our spectacles too much. When we started wearing them in grade school they were a hassle. In high school we hated them because they kept sliding off our oil-slick face, which was not the fault of the glasses but of our face. In college we were indifferent to them, although they provided a great excuse for not seeing the people we didn’t want to see. Then we met Nella Sarabia, and she made us love our spectacles. She got us hooked on vintage frames, and eyeglasses became not just a necessity to us, but a personal signature.


We find our eyeglass frames everywhere—the sidewalks of Seoul, the night markets of Taipei, and Brooklyn thrift shops are excellent sources, designer boutiques when they’re having big sales, and friends who spot strange eyewear on their trips get them for us. Then we take the frames to Nella’s shop at UP Diliman, where she replaces the lenses with our prescription lenses. Designs for sunglasses are usually more adventurous than regular spectacles, but some are too flimsy for our prescription lenses. Nella says to check the plastic frames for metal supports—those are more durable.

Last Saturday we brought our recent acquisitions to Nella, and by Wednesday morning they were ready to wear.

This large cat’s eye frame in tortoise shell (plastic, actually) was a present from our friend Anna.

daria glasses
Ten dollar round metal frames from a sidewalk vendor in Seoul, in the style of
Daria fan art

Nella Sarabia’s Optical Shop is at Unit 39 of the UP Shopping Center in Diliman, QC (near Kalayaan Dorm). Call (02)4355685 to make an appointment.

Sushi-eating guide: Could we have better chopsticks, please?

February 27, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Food 1 Comment →

I love coffee has this excellent infographic on how to maximize your sushi pleasure. A couple of tips:


Guilty. We rub the chopsticks together because most of the time they are of poor quality, and if we’re not careful we get splinters in our fingers. Crummy chopsticks are a fact of life in Metro Manila, even in many of the “better” Japanese restaurants. You would think that at those prices, the restaurant could at least provide sticks that don’t break in your hands. We don’t want to be rude, but that is exactly the message we are sending when we rub chopsticks together: “Your utensils are cheap and shameful.”


Yes. This is much more effective than shrieking “Omigod my mouth is on fire!” then waving your hands in front of your face while tears stream down your cheeks and you grope for a glass of water like blind Bette Davis packing her husband’s suitcase in Dark Victory. That’s not how to deal with wasabi burn, that’s how to draw attention to yourself (It only works if you’re cute).

Our favorite Japanese restaurants: Kuretake, Mangetsu, Hatsu Hana Tei, various shops in Little Tokyo across from Makati Cinema Square.

Thanks to Jackie for the alert!

Thank you, Harold Ramis

February 27, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 2 Comments →

For Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, and your masterpiece, Groundhog Day. Dammit, no more Ghostbusters 3.

Comedy First: How Harold Ramis’s movies have stayed funny for 25 (now 35) years.

Rak of Aegis: Can Tom Cruise sing Basang-Basa Sa Ulan?

February 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Music 2 Comments →


They had us at the title. How could we resist something called Rak of Aegis? Apart from the cheeky Tagalized reference to the American musical celebrating cheeseball Eighties music, hair and fashion, it mentions the awesomeness that is Aegis. Aegis, the band whose tonsil-shredding songs of lost love and dashed hopes were the soundtrack of the Oughties. Aegis, whose inimitable power ballads plumbed the abyss of romantic sentimentality. To call their music “a guilty pleasure” is condescending and clueless. To understand the concept “Pinoy”, one must engage with the phenomenon of Aegis.


Part of the thrill of watching Rak of Aegis is wondering whether the actors will fall into the “floodwaters”.

We had expected a local homage to Rock of Ages, with “Halik” and “Basang-Basa Sa Ulan” instead of the hits of Def Leppard and Journey—a nostalgia trip affectionately mocking recent pop artifacts. After all, Rock of Ages is just a compendium of songs arranged around a flimsy tale of aspiring musicians. How could we set the bar so low? We should be made to sing “Halik” three octaves higher than the original, as the in-theatre announcements threatened spectators who made phone calls or sang along while the show was in progress.

Reviewed in our column at Thanks to Earnest for making us watch Rak of Aegis, and to Leloi for letting us in. (We still owe you a T-shirt photo.)

Rak of Aegis, onstage at the PETA Theatre Centre on Eymard Drive, New Manila. Tickets at Visit the PETA Facebook page.

Reading year 2014: HABI, hooked on handwoven

February 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, Design, History 5 Comments →

Saffy loves abel and will spend hours rubbing her face on it. She is swathed in a mosquitero scarf. For a moment we thought the cover design was the eagle of the Nazi Reichsadler, but Rene says it is the two-headed eagle symbol of the Augustinian Order, woven into an abel blanket from the 1920s.

Five years ago, during a trip to Ilocos Norte, Rene Guatlo brought us to a shop that sold local textiles handwoven in the traditional manner. That was our introduction to abel, the hardy homespun Iloko fabric with the austere designs. Since then Rene has schooled us (ininggit niya kami) in the varieties of abel: binakul with the op-art patterns, binandera, burbur, bitbituka, mosquitero, etc.

Through our interest in abel, we’ve gotten to know other indigenous textiles such as the hablon of Iloilo and the sinamay of the Bicol region. We’ve lurked in bazaars organized by HABI: The Philippine Textile Council, whose mission is to promote the understanding, appreciation and use of indigenous Philippine textiles.

Inside back cover: Kandit, a Tausug waist cloth

Now the textile council has published Habi: A Journey Through Philippine Handwoven Textiles, an introduction to our rich weaving traditions. Essays by Adelaida Lim, Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, Robert Lane, Lourdes Veloso Mastura, Floy Quintos, Rene and other experts take us through the histories, symbols and processes of these living, wearable artifacts.


“Weaving is not only traditional but spiritual, symbolic, sacred,” HABI chair Maribel Ongpin writes. “What it produces expresses identity, culture, history, including dreams, the belief system, the environment.”

Today indigenous weaving traditions struggle to survive in the face of cheap, factory-produced textiles. As Rene pointed out, the weavers are getting older, younger generations are not as interested in picking up the old ways and learning the intricate patterns, and raw materials are getting scarce.

Bontoc tapis

By popularizing handmade indigenous textiles, HABI hopes to promote the market for the fabrics and keep weaving alive in the 21st century. This attractive book edited by Rene Guatlo, designed by Katherine Bercasio, and packed with vivid photos by Patrick Uy, should get more than a few readers hooked on handwoven. We especially like its portable, un-fussy design and strong visuals. Coffee table books may be impressive, but we can’t carry them around with us.

HABI: A Journey Through Philippine Handwoven Textiles retails at about Php400. Copies are available at the HABI office, Unit 4D Carmen Court, 6080 Palma Street (Backwell), Bgy. Poblacion, Makati City. Telephone (02)4782765. Open Monday to Friday, 7am to 2pm. For inquiries, visit their Facebook page.