Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Writing Boot Camp report, part 2: The advantages of going away to write something

March 26, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling, Workshops

From hereon I think Writing Boot Camp should always be held out of Metro Manila. Clean air and a change of scenery is always conducive to thinking (or sleeping, which is a vital part of writing that nobody talks about. Eight to nine hours a day, people. Accept no substitutes. Hmmm, I should do Sleeping Boot Camp). Traveling to another place, with all the hassle and expense it entails, tells you that this is not a regular weekend: you are carving out time and space in your busy life for something that is important to you.

Also, being strangers in a city not your own (although two of our participants live in Baguio) brings the group closer together and gives us an excuse to go out drinking afterwards. (We’re having dinner in Makati next week.) With apologies to previous boot camps, I think this was my favorite workshop of all. The group was small enough so we could get to know each other and root out the personal experiences that could be turned into stories. Yes, it’s a rather intrusive process, but then writing requires that you expose your emotions. There’s no use hiding yourself, anyway, because whatever you end up writing, the readers will always assume that the characters are you.

Writing Boot Camp was held at the Larawan Hall of the BenCab Museum. The museum is buzzing with visitors on weekends, but the Larawan Hall is tucked into a quiet corner with private access to Cafe Sabel. If you look away from your paper or your screen, this is what you look at.

Our boot camp participants were working people from their late 20s to their early 40s.

Vicky worked in branding and is now planning a family saga set all over the world.

Lord is a corporate executive and mindfulness coach whose stories dissect the conflicts and tensions within every individual.

Reina has a shelf full of degrees in Astronomy from Trieste, Princeton, etc (She’s been the subject of TV features as “the girl who proved Einstein right”) and is writing an astronomy book for the general market.

Annalyn is based in California, where she works with people with psychiatric issues—she feels that writing could help them. I totally agree, being from the Therapy school of writing.

Von, a lawyer (and a very influential blogger) is working on his collection of personal essays (We’ll call them Sedarian).

Allan, who was in the first writing boot camp (where he finished a novel!), is a manager at a BPO and does way too many things, such as run my feline overlords’ Instagram.

Marisol, a Fil-American who moved to the motherland a few years ago, works at Mt Cloud Bookshop and is processing many levels of culture shock.

On Saturday we had lunch at Cafe Sabel, which serves an assortment of salads, pastas, sandwiches, and coffee that will keep you awake for days. (This is the view from Cafe Sabel. If you feel like taking a walk, you can do the eco-trail.)

As we headed out on the first day, I saw the sunset through the branches of a tree and wondered if we should start looking for stone tablets.

The next Writing Boot Camp is in Normandy, France. I’m kidding, that’s my friend’s house where I stayed in November. The next Writing Boot Camp will be held somewhere in the south, I’m looking for a place. Any ideas?

Writing Boot Camp report: Disasters averted by sheer luck

March 21, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling, Workshops

I took the 11:15 bus from the Victory Liner terminal in Pasay. The ride is comfortable and safe, but the bus line doesn’t sell round-trip tickets and makes a very limited number of seats available online. Next time I will follow my friends’ recommendation and try the Genesis or Joy buses.

Once you leave Metro Manila the world opens up and you see sky and green. It’s amazing, our ability to live in cramped concrete boxes and subsist on gray air with trace amounts of oxygen.

Four and a half hours later, Baguio. The most tedious part of the ride was getting to the bus terminal. On weekends there is a tourist stampede to the mountains for cool air and strawberries (and ukay-ukay). I have some nerve complaining when I am one of those tourists.

I had booked a room at the Bed & View adjacent to the BenCab Museum 20 minutes by taxi from “downtown”. Here are the beds, and

Here is the view. I could write a whole novel on this balcony. In fact I think I will.

Raya was also in town for a break, so I have hung out with him every weekend since our Japan gig. (Gian was at film festivals in Amsterdam and Osaka.) On Friday I hopped into a jeep from the museum and met Raya and Abbie Lara at Hill Station. After our excellent dinner (the lechon kawali and laing is killer, and ask for the chocolate lemon tart even if it’s not in the vitrine), we went out looking for night life.

Oddly enough for a Friday, we couldn’t find any. We ended up at the old reliable Rumours. We were walking along Session Road when someone tapped Abbie on the shoulder and said she’d dropped her wallet. It was my wallet, containing my debit cards and stuff. I did not understand how it could’ve fallen out of my backpack (I had used a corporate giveaway backpack because who would steal it?).

When we were sitting in Rumours, I found out how it had happened: the backpack had fallen apart. The seam got ripped, probably because I had crammed it full earlier with laptop, notebooks, etc, and as we sat there all my things clattered to the floor. Luckily Abbie had a tote bag in her backpack so I could carry my stuff. (Lesson: Always carry a tote bag.)

Before midnight, Raya and Abbie put me in a taxi and gave the driver directions to the BenCab Museum. For many years I’ve told people that I have no sense of direction. I could cross the street where I live and somehow take the wrong way home…and I host a travel show. Anyway I settled sleepily into the back of the taxi as it barreled along Asin Road towards the museum.

My night vision is terrible—I really should eat more greens—and I could barely see where we were going. We had been driving for 40 minutes and I still hadn’t spotted the museum, but—remind me to tell you my Yokohama stories sometime. And then the driver said, “Nasa La Union na yata tayo.”

“Stop!” Good thing I had the number of the B&V guard. I dialed him and he gave the driver instructions. (Apparently the landmark is “the widening.” As in the section of road on top of the mountain that is being widened.) We turned around, and I was in my room in 15 minutes.

As I was emptying the borrowed tote bag I realized that my iPod was missing. Yes, I still use the big iPods, I am a museum of iPods. Dammit, did I drop it on the street? It occurred to me to look up the number of Rumours online. They had found my iPod and had been looking for Abbie’s number to let her know.

So. I lost my wallet and got it back. I got lost and made it home safely. I lost my iPod and got it back. My amazing luck! Of course it’s easier to be lucky if you’re among nice people. I like Baguio.

Next: The Boot Camp.

A very bright and massive star rejoins the cosmos: Stephen Hawking, 76.

March 14, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Science

We mourn the loss of a man whose physical body was bound to a wheelchair, but whose mind encompassed universes. And while his death is deeply felt, we must also celebrate his sheer grit and tenacity. Stephen Hawking was not expected to live more than two years after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He lived another half-century.

The cosmos is bigger and more wonderful because he told us so. He taught us that the mind need not be bound by time and space. We should name stars after him. Galaxies. Universes.

His obituary.

Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis from 1966

Update: Our friend Nella Sarabia’s shop survived the fire at the UP Shopping Center.

March 08, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events

This morning I woke up to ten texts reporting a fire at Dilimall, the UP Shopping Center where my optometrist of 22 years, Nella Sarabia, has had her shop forever. As has been pointed out in the news media, this is the fourth fire on campus in the last four years.

The Shopping Center was renovated recently (and had a decent washroom for once). I was just at Dilimall last Tuesday to see Nella, and I tried to eat at Rodic’s but it was packed as usual.

Nella just replied to my texts to let me know that her optical was among the few shops spared in the blaze. Most of the stalls simply went up in smoke. Chancellor Michael Tan has announced that the stalls will be relocated around campus soon.

(Personally I feel like my history is being erased—no more CASAA where I used to have breakfast and lunch every day, no more Faculty Center where our Comp Lit classes were held because there were less than ten of us, and now no more Shopping Center where everyone had materials photocopied, printed and bound. If your thesis was among the casualties, I hope you have copies.)

Message to all women: There is no stain on your reputation that the truth can’t wash away.

March 08, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events

So proud of one of my best friends, Noel Orosa, who wrote the Rise, Kris, Rise ad. It’s a tribute to the strength of women and how they refuse to bow to the social strictures that tell them how they’re supposed to behave. This reminder has never been more timely or necessary.??

I remember how nervous Noel was the night before he was to present the concept to Kris Aquino. They were going to throw mud at her! It was unheard of! I told him, “Matalino siya, she will get it immediately.” True enough, she saw how vital its message is, and how she was its ideal messenger. She’s heard it all, and she rises above it over and over again.

There is no stain on your reputation that the truth cannot wash away. Never forget.

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Ang Dalagita Ay ‘Sang Bagay Na Di-Buo at UP’s Guerrero Theatre is astonishing. Watch it.

March 06, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Theatre

Dulaang UP’s Ang Dalagita Ay ‘Sang Bagay Na Di-Buo, an adaptation of Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, is intense and electric: theatre as a form of exorcism. You go in expecting a thoughtful entertainment for the age of #MeToo, and you leave with your soul purified in a cleansing flame. It upends all notions of what it is to be female in a world where casual brutality is normal and sexual violence a given, where everything that happens to you is supposed to be your own fault.

Dalagita is directed by Jose Estrella from Rody Vera’s Filipino translation of the adaptation by Annie Ryan. The adaptation is a marvel, following the novel’s stream of consciousness to put us inside the protagonist’s mind. We feel everything she’s feeling, and it is beautiful, ugly, hilarious, and harrowing. For one hour and fifty minutes, Skyzx Labastilla charges across the stage like a raw nerve as Dalagita from fetus to young womanhood, and as everyone Dalagita meets throughout her life. She contains multitudes, and all she needs is a stage and one chair. I don’t know how she does it, but I have to see it again.

I am in awe of everyone involved in this production. More. Alternating in the role of Dalagita are Missy Maramara, Opaline Santos and Hariette Damole (understudy).

Remaining playdates: March 7, 8, 9 at 7pm and March 10 and 11 at 10am and 3pm, at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre, 2/F Palma Hall, UP Diliman. For inquiries call Camille Guevara at 0917 823 9531 or the Dulaang UP office, 926 1348 0r 981 8500 local 2449. Help us spread the word in your social media accounts.