Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Design’

Transformer table from the 18th century

March 03, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Design 2 Comments →

And if you connect all the leaves by their edges, you get Optimus Prime.

THIS is a rolltop desk.

It would take you hours to find a specific document, and that would be the point.

You know any furniture-makers?

Thanks to Noel for the alert.

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.

We love writing paper

January 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Design, Notebooks 1 Comment →

Set of bookplates by Gallison, Php320 at National Bookstores.

We may be in bibliophilia rehab, but we can still pop into the bookstore to look at stationery. We love stationery. This probably stems from the penmanship training at our old school—we learned to enjoy scribbling on blank sheets of paper. This may also account for our choice of occupations.

The set contains 80 bookplates in 10 designs.

“Why do you have bookplates? Why don’t you just write your name on the flyleaf?”

“No reason. We just like bookplates.”

Pocket spiral notebook, cat design by Romero Britto, Php200+ (pricetag fell off).

We used to haunt the little stationery shop at St. Theresa’s, the one on the second floor near the cafeteria, for paper and rubber erasers. Did you sniff those scented rubber erasers, too? We know people who used to chew on them. They also gnawed on their Mongol pencils.

liberty box
Box of Liberty art fabrics notecards by Chronicle Books, Php957. 16 cards, with envelopes, 4 designs: Clementina (1896), Pelagia (2007), Nesfield (1900s) inspired by William Morris, and Amarylis (1880s).

We would’ve gotten these notecards for the fabric-covered box.

big eyes

Saffy invaded the frame, which meant she wanted a close-up.

In Game of Thrones, the characters wear their family histories.

January 23, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, Design, Television No Comments →


The Smatterist notes the intricate embroidered details in the costumes on Game of Thrones.


Sansa’s wedding dress tells the story of her family. Her mother was from House Tully, whose sigil is a fish; her father’s House Stark is symbolized by the direwolf.


And she marries into House Lannister of the red and gold lion.

Read about it at The Smatterist. Thanks to Ricky for the alert.

Desirable old residences: The MacArthur Suite at Manila Hotel

December 19, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, History, Places No Comments →

4. dining room

Our Desirable Residences tour the other week took us to the MacArthur Suite at the Manila Hotel, former residence of the American military adviser to the Philippine Commonwealth, General Douglas MacArthur.

2. portrait

We were shown to the suite by two charming members of the hotel staff. They were wearing these extraordinary floor-length gowns in old rose, with high collars, fitted jackets, leg o’mutton sleeves, lace trimmings, tassels, and pillbox hats. There was something 19th century Russian about the outfit: we could visualize Anna Karenina at the fateful train station in Moscow. We love 19th century Russian novels, but imagine the layered winter outfits would be a little oppressive for our tropical climate.

1. chair

“What an interesting outfit,” we told the staff. “Is that your uniform?” Yes, she said, it was their new hotel uniform and it came in four versions. “Who designed it?”

“Go-tier,” the staff replied.

“Gaultier!” we screamed in unison, but silently. We were impressed that the Manila Hotel would commission Jean-Paul Gaultier to do the staff uniforms.

“Surely Gaultier knows this is a tropical country,” we said. “He came here to work with Pierre Cardin at Rustan’s in the 70s before he became famous.”

5. view

“Maybe he had a Russian hotel client, and their uniforms were sent to the Manila Hotel,” said Rene.

“Or maybe the uniforms were switched, so somewhere in Russia, the staff are freezing to death in tropical outfits.”

“More likely,” said Noel, “we are over-interpreting, so when we hear Go-tier we assume it is Jean-Paul Gaultier.”

“Ha ha ha!” we all laughed. (The next day it occurred to us to ask the hotel PR person who the designer is. “Yes, it’s Gautier,” she said. “Bon Gavino Gautier.”)

3. sala

The MacArthur Suite used to occupy the entire fifth floor of the Manila Hotel. The hotel was razed in World War II and rebuilt: the current three-bedroom MacArthur Suite is a replica of the general’s apartments. Next door is the Aguinaldo Suite, which is convenient if their ghosts decide to reenact the Philippine-American War.

History question: What is the link between General MacArthur and Philippine cinema? Answer: Dimples Cooper.

Elizabeth (nee Isabel) “Dimples” Cooper was a Fil-Scottish vaudeville performer who became a movie actress and had the first kissing scene in Filipino movies. In the 1930s she became Douglas MacArthur’s mistress—a fact that the general concealed from his mother, who would surely disapprove. Dimples Cooper moved to Washington, D.C. with MacArthur when he became U.S. Army Chief of Staff. There, as the story goes, he established her in an apartment that she couldn’t leave because she had no clothes, only lingerie. According to William Manchester in his MacArthur biography American Caesar, MacArthur “showered (Dimples) with presents and bought her many lacy tea gowns, but no raincoat. She didn’t need one, he told her; her duty lay in bed.”

6. bedroom

History is so much more exciting than the lectures we slept through in school.

Desirable old residences: The compound on F.B. Harrison, Pasay

December 09, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Places, Shopping 5 Comments →

1. pasay
Yesterday we did our Desirable Old Residences Tour of Metro Manila, conducted by Rene, who has lived in or wanted to live in these buildings. Rene has a bit of a Nora Aunor complex (constantly moving house), and Noel is into interior design. We are generally indifferent to interiors—for years we slept on our couch and had sheets taped to the windows in lieu of curtains—but we enjoy hanging out with our friends.

2. artelano11
Our first stop was the large tree-lined compound on F.B. Harrison near Edsa in Pasay, the one with the red gate. We don’t know what it’s called—according to Eric Paras, whose furniture gallery Artelano 11 occupies two houses, it’s referred to as the Chinese compound. The houses are two-storey structures built in the middle of the last century, which is the romantic way of saying “50s, 60s”. When you’re in the compound you forget that you are smack in the middle of urban chaos.

These residences are so desirable that a hotel is reportedly leasing five houses to turn into tourist accommodations.

3. floor

Look at those machuca tiles. Our Sunday snooping quickly turned into an Xmas shopping expedition. No more wading into the mall for last-minute presents at the peak of the holiday rush hahaha!

4. birdcage

This birdcage should be eight feet tall. Then you could hire a naked male model to sit in it, and occasionally pelt him with birdseed.

6. handles
5. spider china

A-11 has plenty of inexpensive china pieces (A set of 6 saucers for Php300), such as this plate with a spider design. This plate is perfect for that someone you hate but still have to give a present to (co-worker, in-law, etc), who happens to be arachnophobic. Imagine serving them a nice pudding on this plate, watching them enjoy it, and then seeing them freak out as the spider emerges from under the sauce…

“If you hate them, then don’t give them anything,” Juan pointed out later.

“You’re not cooperating!”

7. bookends
8. bookshelf

Bookends for book lovers and an off-kilter bookshelf for off-kilter book lovers.

9. black mirror

These are black mirrors. On May Day Eve, says the story by Nick Joaquin, take a candle and go into a dark room that has a mirror in it. You will see either the man you will marry, or the devil.

Approach the mirror with your candle and say, “Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be.” And our hand will shoot out of the mirror and slap you. “You really want to be someone’s property? Gaga!”

The black mirrors are gorgeous but cost more than the crazy bookshelf.

10. insiang

And here’s a great gift for Lino Brocka fans: an old-fashioned flatiron (plantsa). Not only an excellent conversation piece (We don’t know how to iron clothes), but a wonderful prop for reenactments of the climax of Insiang starring Hilda Koronel and Mona Lisa.

Artelano 11 is at 2680 F.B. Harrison St, Pasay City, telephone (02)832.9972, email

Next: North Syquia and the MacArthur Suite at Manila Hotel. By the way, if there is anyone living at Rosaria reading this, could you let us into the building? We hear it’s fabulous and we just want to have a look. One does not simply walk into Rosaria, one must be invited, but unlike vampires we promise to exsanguinate no one.