Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Current Events’

“Badil” is everything we need to know about Philippine elections. Why isn’t it showing?

October 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Movies 2 Comments →


Badil, the political thriller directed by Chito Rono from a screenplay by Rody Vera, was screened at the Film Development Council of the Philippines’s (FDCP) Sineng Pambansa festival in 2013. One of the finest Filipino movies of the decade, it tells us why elections in this country are so screwed up.

After the sparsely-attended festival, Badil seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Election season has begun, and the audience needs to see Badil in order to understand what we’re up against. But there are no plans to show the movie.

The director is amenable to screening it. The writer is amenable to screening it. The independent producer is amenable. Sine Pop-Up, which screens rarely-seen indie films, is eager to organize screenings. Even the movie theatres would be amenable to showing the film. What is holding it up?

The FDCP needs to get on board. Apparently showing a movie that already exists, that was partly funded by the FDCP and is just gathering dust (virtually), involves lots and lots of red tape. Even if a screening wouldn’t cost the FDCP anything. Why was the movie even made if we cannot get to watch it now, when it could not be more relevant?

Let’s get Badil shown. Spread the word on social media. Ask the FDCP to let the people see Badil.

Here’s our review of Badil from 2013.
Badil: Democracy for Sale

Elections are the pinnacle of Philippine political life – so emotional and all-encompassing, everything that follows is practically negligible. Every effort is exerted and no resource spared in order to win the vote; by the time the winner is proclaimed, there is nothing left.

Mar on Mar: The candidate answers our questions, then we SWOT them

October 06, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 3 Comments →


Before I proceed, I should mention that I worked with Roxas briefly, when he was guest co-host on this TV talk show I used to host. One day, while waiting for the show to begin, I heard him singing to himself. “And so you’re back,” he sang tonelessly, “from outer space…”

“That’s a gay anthem,” I pointed out.

“No, it isn’t,” he said.

“Yes, it is,” I said.

The following week, he said, “You’re right!”

I repeat this story not just because I’ve seen The Martian twice (it’s terrific), but because it highlights two things about Roxas: he did his due diligence (found out if “I Will Survive” is indeed a gay anthem) and admitted error. Come to think of it, Roxas is a terrible singer and maybe his handlers should let him sing at campaign sorties. This would show that he is able to laugh at his own expense, and demonstrate folksiness more effectively than having him lift sacks of produce.

Read our column at

Inside the library of presidential candidate Mar Roxas

October 03, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Current Events 1 Comment →


On Monday we published our Basic Questions for Presidential Candidates, and on Wednesday we got invited to merienda with Mar Roxas at Bahay na Puti, the Araneta compound in Cubao. The occasion was a meet-and-greet with bloggers which naturally turned into a Q&A. We got to ask many of our questions and Carlos Celdran, Cecile Van Straten, Ramon Bautista and other prominent personalities in the social media asked a lot more.

The candidate fielded questions and gave well thought-out replies which recognized the complexities of the issues. No easy answers and glib sound bites—as a nerd we appreciate the thoroughness, but this could be a disadvantage in campaigning. How to boil down the issues into digestible tweetables in our short attention span age: there’s a job.


Our column on the meeting with Mar is out on Monday. If the other candidates would like to invite us to coffee and answer our questions, we would be happy to accept. Before the merienda, we got to stake out Mar Roxas’s library and judge his taste in reading matter.

This is a serious library, all books bound or covered and organized according to the Dewey decimal system, a rebuke to those of us who use the psychic library system (“I know where the book is. I feel it is somewhere in this direction…”).

There were all the requisite history, biography, sociology, philosophy and economics titles. It is comforting to know that someone aspiring to the presidency has access to the “classics” of contemporary intellectual thought.


However, we were more interested in the candidate’s fiction choices. We believe that the novels and stories one has read speak of his humanity. (That’s why it’s called “humanities”, duh.)

It’s like going through someone’s iTunes playlist to find out if you want to be associated with them. (“You have Air Supply. Goodbye.”) Except that given how easy it is to download songs, movies, and books today, digital files are a less reliable gauge. Books, the tree products kind, you have to seek out. Dostoevsky in hardcover: we can talk.


Someone in this house has read the Arthurian myths, as evidenced by the well-thumbed copies of T.H. White, Malory, Mary Stewart. Did we say T.H. White?

When we commended Mar Roxas on the contents of his library, he explained that it used to be his father’s office and many of the books had been acquired by his father. There are fewer books after 2007, he added, because that’s when he started reading on an iPad.


We approve of Mar Roxas’s library. If the other candidates would like to invite us to check out their personal libraries, email us or leave a comment.

P.S. During the Q&A we remembered that during a recent viewing of our favorite Ishmael Bernal movie Salawahan (1979), we suddenly realized that the main characters are called Gerardo and Manuel Roxas. Mar’s full name is Manuel and his brother Dinggoy’s was Gerardo.

Basic Questions for the Presidential Candidates

September 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Election News Junkies Support Group No Comments →

1. Traffic is the most visceral issue in Metro Manila. Number coding and changing the agency in charge of managing the traffic have not worked and are not going to work. The MRT and LRT should’ve made a big difference, but they are so badly, ineptly run that they aggravate the problem. Even if the bus operators are somehow made to cooperate, the Bus Rapid Transport system that has been proposed since the 1980s is not going to make a dent because hundreds of new cars further clog the streets every month. What are you going to do about the traffic? What are you going to do about the road infrastructure? (And if the head of the Department of Transportation and Communications, who has not only failed dismally at addressing traffic congestion but has callously dismissed the daily distress of motorists and commuters as “non-fatal”, also happens to be the head of your political party, are you going to keep him in that position?)

Read our column at InterAksyon.

Abe Florendo.

August 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 1 Comment →

Abe Florendo, journalist, editor, and soul of kindness, died last Sunday. He was cremated yesterday morning. A wake will be held at his house in BF Resort, Las Pinas until Wednesday, after which his ashes will be taken to Ilocos.

Abe was our lifestyle editor at TODAY. He encouraged young writers, listened to everyone’s ideas no matter how bizarre, and always kept his sense of humor. We will deal with his death the way we always deal with the deaths of people we love—we just don’t believe it. Sometimes we think we spot our friends in public places, and we have to remind ourselves that they’re dead.

Many years ago, Abe’s mother died and was cremated in the US. Her ashes were flown back to the Philippines. One day at the office, Abe told us to hurry up with our articles because he had to leave early. “Mother’s in the car,” he told us.

For a moment we thought Abe was bananas with grief. “Abe,” we said, “your mother is dead.”

“I know that,” he said. “Her ashes are in the car. I picked her up at the airport.”

It really is the end of an era.

SWOT Analysis: PNoy’s Last SONA

July 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events No Comments →


The play of words in lines like “May pumapasok nang madilim pa, at may umuuwing madilim na—pero lahat sila, naiiwan sa dilim dahil hindi sapat ang oras ng pag-aaral” (Some went to school when it was still dark, others went home when it was already dark, but everyone was in the dark…) gave it rhythm.

His claims are supported by figures and percentages: dividends from GOCCs, revenues generated by BIR, budget reform, global competitiveness and economic growth, investment-grade credit rating, net foreign investments, domestic investments, growth of the manufacturing sector, lowest unemployment in a decade, better opportunities so OFWs can return to the Philippines, improved labor relations, support for education, wider heath coverage, etc. Admittedly numbers are not thrilling and many listeners may have tuned out, but how else do you illustrate improvement? Besides, we will know that we have matured as a nation when our politics becomes boring. Perhaps aware that reciting numbers makes listeners sleepy, he closed out the math section by quoting Aiza Seguerra: “I thank you, bow.” Later he provided a helpful summary for listeners who had just woken up.


Aquino absolves Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya for the atrocious state of the MRT, heaping the blame on the private corporation maintaining it. “Di po ba miski sinong kumpanya, dapat sinisigurong masusulit ang kanilang investment? Pero hinayaan lang nilang lumala nang lumala ang situwasyon hanggang umabot sa puntong ipinasa na sa atin nang ora-orada ang pagsasaayos ng MRT.” (Whatever the company, shouldn’t they be ensuring a return on their investment? But they let the situation get worse and worse…) Why are you complaining to us about how your private partner runs the MRT? You’re the government! The MRT is a public utility!


Aquino points out that politicians exploit the forgiving nature of Filipinos (which we ascribe to very poor memory and a refusal to do anything that might cause other people to dislike them), chanting “Kawawa naman kami” (Poor pitiful us) all the way back to power. This is the closest he got to criticizing his “bosses”. “May naalala ba kayong nagsabing, ‘Sorry sa pagnanakaw at pang-aabuso, handa na akong magbago?’” (Do you recall anyone saying, ‘Sorry for the theft and abuse of power, I am ready to change?’”)


In detailing efforts to upgrade the Armed Forces (the Air Force now has actual planes) and the National Police, he cited these statistics: In Metro Manila, from January to June 2014, there were 37 murders and homicides every week. The number is now down to 23 murders and homicides. There were 919 cases of robbery, theft and carjacking every week, but they’re down to 444 cases a week. What! That many?! The stats may be down, but it still sounds like a crime wave.

Read our column at InterAksyon.