Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Stranded in a Snowpocalypse

January 13, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Places, Traveling

Record levels of snow fell over Europe, blanketing the continent, closing the Bosphorus to shipping and causing flight cancellations. In Istanbul, homeless people and stray animals were rounded up and taken to shelters. In Cappadocia, the snow heightened the extraterrestrial feel of the landscape. It makes me think of Arrakis with snow instead of sand, and the fairy chimneys as frozen sandworms.

It was supposed to be our last day in Turkey. In the morning we went up in a hot air balloon for spectacular views of Cappadocia.

To no one’s surprise, the airport was snowed in and our afternoon flight back to Istanbul was cancelled.

These clever cats live at the Nevsehir airport, where there are warm spots to huddle in and people to give them food. I had taken to carrying cheese and cold cuts from the breakfast buffet for the critters I met.

The safest way to get back to Istanbul was by land. So the next day we drove ten hours from Goreme to Istanbul, with pit stops every two or three hours. Turn a setback into an adventure! I must’ve seen every public WC and convenience store in Anatolia.

Throughout this unexpected development, the center of calm and efficiency was our tour guide, Arif Yasa. Not only is Arif super-knowledgeable about Turkish history, culture, and cuisine, he is also extremely kind and patient. You try being in charge of ten Pinoys, each with specific requirements, and maintain your sanity.

If you’re going to Turkey, one of the smartest things you can do is get Arif to be your guide. You can reach him at

By 8pm we were having dinner at a mall in Istanbul, by 10 we were at the airport. Almost the minute I strapped myself into my seat, I was asleep.

Notes on travelling to Turkey and elsewhere

1. The news is scary, so it’s natural to hesitate about going there. In the aftermath of the nightclub shooting, security has been tightened in Istanbul and people have been warned to avoid crowded places. At no time during our eight-day trip did I feel unsafe. Not to belittle the problem, but there is an upside to this: fewer tourists. You can hear yourself think.

Listen, the whole world looks like Children of Men (the Alfonso Cuaron movie) now. Are you going to hide, or are you going to get out there and live?

2. Always have travel insurance, even if it’s not required when getting your visa. Shit happens. Best to be prepared.

3. If you’re going to a cold country, Uniqlo is your friend. When I was packing for the trip it occurred to me that my ten-year-old winter coat could use reinforcements. I stocked up on Uniqlo sweaters and Heattech shirts, and they saved me from hypothermia when the mercury dropped.

4. How can you see the world when you’re perpetually checking your phones and tablets? Disconnect. It’s mostly chaos and idiocy anyway, and you do not need minute-by-minute updates. Enjoy the silence. Get reacquainted with yourself.

While I defrost my extremities, enjoy this camp classic from Turkey, one of the most bizarre movies ever made: The Man Who Saves The World a.k.a. Turkish Star Wars.

For great Turkish films, check out Yol (The Road), Once Upon A Time in Anatolia, or Winter Sleep.

Snow falling in Cappadocia, Turkey

January 09, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Places, Traveling

Writing Shit About New Snow
by Kobayashi Issa

Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
is not art.

Translated by Robert Hass

Despite the name there is nothing sinister about the Byzantine church carved into the soft rock. The church is called that because it’s not exposed to direct light, sparing the frescoes from serious damage.

I was wearing four layers of clothes and an overcoat. This cat was taking a stroll in the snow. He accepted some cheese and cold cuts, and a hug.

Greetings from Istanbul, where stray cats and dogs are loved

January 05, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling

This shop owner at the Spice Market lured us in by shouting, “Philippines! I’m a friend of Edu Manzano!” He sells this amazing winter tea with eucalyptus.

I’m in Istanbul for filming. Yeah, I won’t use the other verb. After the coup attempt and the terror attacks, the city feels melancholy and antsy. But it’s still gorgeous. There are fewer people about, but traffic is still heavy.


Again I’m impressed at the number of big, fluffy, friendly cats and dogs on the streets. Our guide explained that the strays are tagged, neutered and vaccinated, then returned to their neighborhoods where the residents feed and look after them.

Royd misses his beagle.

You can measure the humanity of a society by the way they treat their stray cats and dogs.

If people are hungry and desperate, I would understand if they killed dogs for food. But killing a dog for onscreen entertainment, even if it claims to be art with a message, is wrong.

Killing dogs is wrong. And killing people is wrong. It’s not an either/or. And it’s a reflection on our society that it has come to this.

Off to work. I leave you with this mountain of baklava.


Happy 2017 to all of us! Some reminders from Rogue One

January 01, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies


1. Every fight against tyranny is built on hope.
2. Tyrants practise terror and call it peace.
3. No victory is possible without the commitment of many ordinary people who see themselves as part of a larger ideal and are prepared to make sacrifices to see it through.
4. You do not need magical powers to defeat tyranny. What is essential is the strength of your convictions.
5. It takes only a few determined individuals to sway the majority into action.
6. It is easy to lose your nerve in the face of great odds. The seemingly impossible becomes less daunting if you break the mission down into steps. Exert all your efforts on getting to the next step, then the next, then the next.
7. Never make assumptions about an individual’s capabilities on the basis of their gender, color, or ethnicity.
8. And from The Force Awakens: Winning the war is not the end. Eternal vigilance is required to ensure that tyranny does not sneak back in.

Gotokuji Temple

Send off this horrible year with a George Michael New Year’s Eve Playlist.

December 28, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Childhood, Current Events, Movies, Music


How can a music icon and jillion-selling artist still be underrated? Well George Michael was, because he only released new music when he wanted to, he didn’t think every moment of his life was for public consumption, and he expected no praise for his kindness and generosity. Thank you, George Michael.

Let’s start the playlist with Outside, which responds to a very public shaming with defiance and strength.


And the Year of Obituaries continues with the death of Carrie Fisher, who as Princess Leia taught the women of my generation how to fight, resist tyranny, and be the equal of any man, and as a writer showed us that no one has to be perfect, our flaws are what make us strong. The Force is with you, General Leia.


Our Writing Boot Camp returns in February 2017

December 23, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements


You’ve always wanted to write, but you don’t know how to get started.

You used to write, but you haven’t done it in a while and you feel rusty.

You’re sort of interested in writing, but you’re afraid to even admit it.

You’ve started many stories, but you ran out of steam.

You think you can write, but you need a second opinion.

You have a writing project that you’ve kept putting off, and you just looked at the calendar and it’s almost 2017.

(Or you have a friend who is any/all of the above and you want to give them a little push.)

Join our Writing Boot Camp! The objective is simple: to start and finish a piece of writing (story or essay) in two weekends.

Dates: February 4 and 11, 2017, from 1-5pm.
Venue: WSI Corporate Center, Metropolitan Avenue, Makati (near the Makati fire station at the end of Ayala Avenue)
Cost: Php5,000.

For inquiries and to book a place, email