Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘The Bizarre’

Manananggurlash: Transgender, trans-species, trans-dimensional

July 21, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, The Bizarre 2 Comments →


In the scary tales of our childhood, the manananggal was a bisected monster with an insatiable craving for human bopis and dinuguan. In the daytime, the manananggal assumed the guise of a woman who lived alone in a hut in the woods. At dusk, she would rub herself with magic oil that caused batwings to grow out of her back, talons to grow out of her fingers, and her upper body to detach from her trunk. Then the upper half would fly around villages in search of fresh human viscera. She was said to be especially fond of fetuses, which she would slurp straight from their mothers’ wombs with her extremely long tongue.

To kill a manananggal (not the title of a third novel from Harper Lee), you had to find the monster’s trunk and sprinkle rock salt in it. This prevented the upper half from returning to its lower body so it was forced to fly around until sunrise, when it would be vaporized by sunlight.


The manananggal story reveals what Filipinos of the past were really afraid of: single women who lived alone. They were suspected of being grotesque hell-creatures who were out to eat other people’s babies.


What if there were manananggal in our midst, living in the city and hanging out with people? They might look like Manananggurlash by Jason Moss, sculptures in metal, ceramic, resin and other materials. Hey, is that Anna Wintour?


Manananggurlash is currently on view at Secret Fresh Gallery, Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills, San Juan. Telephone +63 2 570 9815. The gallery is open from 10am to 7pm everyday except Monday.

Is that a ghost?

November 13, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, The Bizarre No Comments →


Last Saturday we attended a screening of the 1971 gothic melodrama Lilet, organized by the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA) on the occasion of the great filmmaker Gerardo De Leon’s centenary. More on the movie (And we’re doing a podcast with Celia Rodriguez!!!) later. After the screening, organizer Onat Rios had his picture taken with us. We could hardly decline to pose with our gracious host, but we don’t have to show you the picture. As far as we’re concerned, the most terrifying thing about it is our triple-chin.

But Onat pointed out that there are orbs in the photo, notably the one next to his head. Orbs are circles that are supposed to indicate ghostly presences. “Naah,” we said, “That’s not a mumu, that’s probably our mummudrai.” Onat wanted an expert opinion, so we asked a professional photographer, who said the circle was caused by a dirty camera lens or sensor, or a drop of water in the air that got blurred in the shot.

And then we showed the photo to our friend Tina, who said it really was an orb. “Is it Gerry de Leon?” we asked. “We should’ve gotten his autograph.” Tina noted that the orb is next to Onat, so it probably has something to do with him. We can believe that the CCP is haunted, if not by ghosts then by dust creatures, because the place really needs a major vacuuming.

As they say in the movie, “Lileeeeeet…Lileeeeeeeeeeet…”

What do you think?

The Lord of the Mosquitoes

July 18, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Health, Science, The Bizarre 5 Comments →

We’d like to thank all the concerned friends who’ve sent us the link to the article, Why are some people mosquito magnets? We have mentioned that mosquitoes love us. Put us in a crowd of thousands and if there is one mosquito in the area it will home in on us. At garden parties a crown of mosquitoes forms over our head, officially proclaiming us the Lord of the Mosquitoes.

According to the article, these are the factors that make certain people alluring to mosquitoes:

– Blood type O
– Beer ingestion
– Full moon
– Sockless stinky feet
– Pregnancy
– Carbon dioxide exhalation and sweat
– Dark-colored clothing, esp. black and red

Way to go, scientific research! You’ve just narrowed the field of potential mosquito meals to nearly every human in existence. (We especially like the part about exhaling carbon dioxide.) This method of reportage is known as reeeaching, and it is often driven by the desperate desire to meet a deadline—an impetus we know extremely well.

Tarot cards from

The mosquito magnet article reminds us of our own research in a very different field: manghuhula, fortune-tellers, psychics and tarot card readers.

Read our column at

During Lent, avoid “flagiarism”

March 23, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, The Bizarre 1 Comment →

Inside Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, photo by Juan.

Consolata reports that on the evening news last Sunday, a priest was discussing Lenten practices and reminding the flock that they need not make panata that require physical torment–‘sakripisyo tulad ng pagpapako sa krus, tulad ng flagiarism…’

He meant ‘flagellation’. But do refrain from ripping off other people’s work at Lent and throughout the year.

Historical mangkukulam and the possibility of zombies

August 22, 2011 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Science, The Bizarre 2 Comments →

Dr Cuanang invited us to the opening of the Complementary Medicine Service at St Luke’s in Bonifacio Global City. According to the US National Institute of Health website, “Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard care.” Examples: acupuncture, yoga therapy and ventosa, all of which are now on offer at St. Luke’s.

St Luke’s medical director Dr Joven Cuanang at the Complementary Medicine center. Those extraordinary floral arrangements are lotus flowers, Buddhist symbols for purity. These beautiful flowers only grow in dirty water.

The guest of honor at the launch was our walking Rizal app, historian Ambeth Ocampo. According to Ambeth, our national hero Jose Rizal did research on traditional Filipino medical practices, including herbal treatments and bewitchment. As in mangkukulam.

“To the Tagalogs, bewitchment varies in intensity according to whether it is caused by a mangkukulam or a manggagaway. The bewitchment that befalls children when a stranger becomes too fond of them, and is called uhiya, does not deserve to be included in this chapter, for it can be caused by anybody in the most innocent manner.

“The bewitchment that comes from a mangkukulam is the most mysterious and hence the most terrible, though fortunately rare. In general, a mangkukulam is a man who is born with this power, though some believe that it is a sickness which is acquired, endowing the patient with terrible and fabulous powers. They say that during the frigid period of the fit, the mangkukulam sheds tears of real fire and his gaze has such potency that it paralyzes small animals, even flying birds. It is believed that the sickness which a mangkukulam can cause has no cure; and on account of the terror that it inspires and its oddity very little is known about the nature of this bewitchment. The mangkukulam turns out to be a terrible hypnotizer or charmer, a kind of very unfortunate and involuntarily malevolent fakir. He must not be confused with the magol of whom we shall speak elsewhere…”

Read a summary of Jose Rizal’s The Treatment of the Bewitched here.

After Ambeth’s speech one of the guests recounted a story told by one of Rizal’s students during his Dapitan exile. Every day after lunch they were required to take siesta. During siesta hour they would sneak under their teacher’s hut and spy on Jose Rizal doing it with Josephine Bracken. “That’s not likely,” Ambeth said, “as Josephine Bracken had (a social disease).”

Massage therapy room

That’s a shower.

I asked Dr Cuanang, whose field is neurology, whether zombies can exist. “Of course,” he said. “I’ve seen patients whose prefrontal lobes had been removed, and they behaved in a zombie-like fashion.” Perhaps the pain receptors in zombie brains are not functioning (they are undead), which is why they keep on going until they are decapitated or burned.

Zombies and mangkukulam, another typical day at work.

One is a freak but 1,000 is a religion.

February 09, 2011 By: jessicazafra Category: The Bizarre 5 Comments →

Watch the classic South Park episode on Scientology (Tom Cruise trapped in the closet) here.

“A major cause of mankind’s problems began 75 million years ago,” the Times wrote, when the planet Earth, then called Teegeeack, was part of a confederation of ninety planets under the leadership of a despotic ruler named Xenu. “Then, as now, the materials state, the chief problem was overpopulation.” Xenu decided “to take radical measures.” The documents explained that surplus beings were transported to volcanoes on Earth. “The documents state that H-bombs far more powerful than any in existence today were dropped on these volcanoes, destroying the people but freeing their spirits—called thetans—which attached themselves to one another in clusters.” Those spirits were “trapped in a compound of frozen alcohol and glycol,” then “implanted” with “the seed of aberrant behavior.” The Times account concluded, “When people die, these clusters attach to other humans and keep perpetuating themselves. . .”

Read The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs the Church of Scientology, in the New Yorker.