Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Projects’

World domination is going to be a cinch.

February 22, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Projects, World Domination Update No Comments →

The first time I visited Yokohama six months ago to prepare for TPAM (The Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama), the team had dinner at a traditional okonomiyaki place. We concluded the meal with monja, a pancake eaten directly from the grill with spatulas, and washed down with umeshu (plum wine). So it became a tradition. The day of our technical rehearsal, we had an okonomiyaki lunch: I passed on the “fertilizer made of oily vegetable dregs”.

I wasn’t worried about delivering the lecture because I’ve written several versions of the plan for world domination and can recite it in my sleep. Turns out I should have worried, because I sucked at the run-through and got angrier and angrier at myself. Our dramaturg Max found this amusing. “You should do the show while you are hungry, it has a different energy.”

The beautiful Jason Moss lent us the He-Manash sculpture from the Manananggurlash series. Tina Cuyugan got the “Laboy” Santo Niño from a store beside Quiapo Church. The Santo Niño is supposed to be a wanderer, but he’s dressed exactly like a tita on the way to the parlor to have her hair colored. Pepe Diokno told me all about Bayani’s Kitchen, the Filipino restaurant where we staged the second part of the performance. The venue was so perfect we didn’t have to think about production design.

Here is the team demonstrating the Pinoy technique of pointing at stuff without hands, a.k.a. nguso. Front row, from left: stage manager Kuro, who looks like Atom Araullo; me; and Gian, who hosted the party and is a party. Second row: Raya, our director, who gracefully navigated negotiations with the technical crew; and Barbara, who is doing research on contemporary Japanese theatre and was roped in as interpreter. At the back, not cooperating, is our producer Yoshiro, who grew thinner and thinner as opening night approached.

Yoshiro also directed a show at TPAM Fringe, so on February 14, Raya, Gian and I went to see “Presage-The Great Painting Detective, part III”. Yes, me and baklas—that’s how I always spend Valentine’s Day. Anyway the venue was full and we were standing at the back, where I couldn’t read the subtitles or figure out what was happening. I get antsy in crowds and performance art boggles me. At one point I leaned over and whispered to Raya, “What the fuck is going on?” and then my phone alarm went off in the deathly silent room, and I didn’t even set the blasted alarm. Shame! Shame!

To be continued

Japan is so exquisite it makes me feel like a barbarian

January 13, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Projects 4 Comments →

For schedules and details, visit the TPAM 2018 site.

I was in Japan for three days to meet with our team for the World Domination Project, and to inspect the venues for our shows on February 16 and 17. For weeks I had been wracking my brains, unable to complete the script to my satisfaction, but when I landed in Japan everything clicked into place.

The official title for the presentation, courtesy of our director Raya Martin, is Exporting Positive Disposition Since 1417: A Theory of World Domination. Max-Philip Aschenbrenner is our dramaturg, Yoshiro Hatori our producer, and Giancarlo Abrahan and I are writing and performing. (Along with Pepe Diokno that’s three 30-something filmmakers I am working with, and they’re fantastic. So now when people disparage millennials, I feel compelled to defend them.)

What are your personal projects for 2018?

December 31, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Projects, twisted by jessica zafra 19 Comments →

I’m so eager for the new year to begin that I’ve been going around asking friends about their plans for 2018. You have to have projects, especially if you feel that the world is going to hell in a hand basket; otherwise you may as well bury yourself. (This would be a really good time for aliens, as in extraterrestrials, to make themselves known).

Robert Alejandro designed the very first Twisted book. We had planned on a catch-up lunch in the new year, but even before we had agreed on the details, I ran into him. I was ten minutes early for a lunch appointment, his lunch appointment had finished fifteen minutes early, and my lunch appointment was thirty minutes late. In short, we had catch-up time! So I’m adding to my list: Make another book with Robert.

The next day I had my catch-up lunch with Ige Ramos, who designed Twisted 2 and nearly every one of my books after that. In the last decade Ige has become well-known food historian, for which I take credit because who do you think hounded him to write? Ige has designed hundreds of books, but this year, his first self-authored book, Republic of Taste: The Untold Stories of Cavite Cuisine, will finally be published.

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At lunch with my first workshop group yesterday (Nearly all of us finished our novels! Absent: Angus, who was out of town), I asked everyone to write down their big projects and pose for photographs: this way there is a record and a reminder of what they have to do. (Click photos to read the lists.)

Weekend in Cebu: LitFest, Writing Boot Camp, fabrics and accessories

September 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Food, Places, Projects 2 Comments →

I left the house under the guilt-inducing gaze of Drogon, who disapproves of any activities that do not involve him.

I was in Cebu from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning for two events organized by Hendri Go, who runs the Cebu Literary Festival. I like Cebu: One can still breathe, even if the traffic is getting heavy; there are enthusiastic creative enterprises like Happy Garaje the design studio and Anthill the fabric gallery; there are intense chocolate creations at The Chocolate Chamber and that cake at the coffee shop of Big Hotel; and the major malls have wider, taller spaces than the ones in Manila. Also, Avatar earrings and accessories and Sunburst fried chicken.

After a quick lunch and chocolate fix, I did a reading and Q&A at one of the Cebu LitFest venues, a rooftop amphitheatre at SM Seaside. Near the amphitheatre is a cafe staffed by fluffy, lazy cats.

I slept like a baby at the Marco Polo Plaza, where the lovely staff sent up midnight snacks: ensaymada and tea on the first night, chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk on the second.

Before boot camp the next day I visited Anthill, a gallery and training center for producers of indigenous handwoven fabrics and accessories. I bought a reversible shawl that can be worn sixteen ways, which means I only have to bring a bunch of black T-shirts and jeans when I go to Tokyo this week.

Writing Boot Camp was held at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the I.T. Park in Lahug. I talked about building the habit of writing, gave writing exercises, and interviewed each participant about what was keeping her/him from writing. Then we talked about the writing projects they will undertake, the first five pages of which are due on Saturday, 30 September.

En route to the airport I stopped by the Avatar showroom, where I stuck to my resolve to buy only two or three items. Lately I’ve felt that my things are closing in on me like the trash compactor in Star Wars, so I limit my purchases to stuff I need or really like. Hence, the slightly weird.

Thank you, Cebu! I’ll be back.

Megacity Fictions: Constructing the megalopolis with words

November 02, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Projects No Comments →


In October I got an email from Kathleen McCaul-Moura, a novelist, journalist, and doctoral candidate in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She’s doing work on megacity fiction and how the infrastructure and architecture of massive urban hubs affect the literature which is created within them. She was looking for partners for the Megacity Fiction website and the anthology to be published by Boiler House Press in 2018. I’ve written several stories about Manila so I said yes, and volunteered my friend Budjette Tan (now based in Denmark) whose Trese series investigates Manila’s mystical underworld.

The Megacity Fictions site is up, with stories by Budj and myself. (Lamentations 5:23, which I wrote for an art exhibition many years ago, appeared in my book The Stories So Far). Coming up: stories from Moscow, Jakarta, São Paulo and Chongqing. Visit the site, enjoy the stories, and submit your own writing.

10 writers, 10 stories in our just-concluded Writing Boot Camp

October 23, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Projects 4 Comments →


The objective of Writing Boot Camp was to produce a story in the time between our two Saturday sessions. Last Saturday, the participants stood before the class one by one to read their first drafts. We got an intriguing range of stories, from fantasy epics to alternate histories, from the beginning of romance to the end of friendship, from the shenanigans of confidence tricksters to the inner worlds of small children. Good work, everyone!

Watch out for the Writing Boot Camp anthology featuring the complete and final versions of these stories.

Angel With A Stoma by Ramy Roxas. A surgeon finds his logical assumptions about life, sex and death challenged by a seriously ill patient.

The Confident Man by Kyo Mendoza. Hard work is all very well, but if you want your rewards quickly—like, right now—what you need is confidence.

Men, Not Boys by Jeffrey Resurreccion. In a violent, hedonistic society, a boy with a mission hopes to be chosen for a strongman’s harem.

Vivid Vengeance by Michael Bartolo. A secret agent wakes up from a coma in an alternate 1980s in which the Philippines is a socialist country.

Commuter by Rizza Estoconing. A call centre agent longs to escape her daily commute and live in the city. Is it worth it?

Anatomy of a Break-Up by Barny Rivera. One minute you’re giddy with happiness, the next minute you feel like a bag of trash hurled into an active volcano.

Boy by Philler Uy. We always assume that kids are making up things, but what if they’re not?

Harsh Tag by Rizalee Ibarra. When Zen logs onto Facebook she turns into Zena the Warrior Princess, obliterating dissenters with the strength of her political convictions. Then her online and real lives collide.

The Wrong of Being Right by Zack Lim. A teacher realizes that he could’ve changed the course of history, but is the past really past?

Ghost by Alexis Roxas. Is the blond boy sitting by himself in the woods a ghost, a figment of her imagination, or a time anomaly?

The next Writing Boot Camp will be held in February, 2017. For inquiries, or to commission a Writing Workshop for your group or office, email

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Thanks to WSI Corporate Center for our excellent venue and facilities. WSI Corporate Centre has spaces for seminars, parties, wedding receptions, family reunions, clandestine superhero conventions and so on. For rental inquiries, call (02)8585405.