Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Traveling’

Why you should care about travel insurance

September 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Traveling No Comments →

Train station, Budapest

Dear Ms. Zafra:

Based on your Affidavit of Loss your MacBook Air and cash was stolen when you fell asleep inside the train.

Premises considered, we regret to advise that we cannot act favorably on your claim as the policy covers loss of personal money due to robbery and loss of baggage/personal belongings covers in-flight only.

We trust you understand your position on this matter.

It was signed by a “Manager, Non-Motor Claims”.

Do they mean I had no right to make an insurance claim because I fell asleep, so I deserve to be robbed? Did my loss not qualify as a robbery because I was not threatened with weapons? Do they mean that the policy doesn’t cover train rides, only airline flights? And does their word processing program not have a spelling and grammar checker?

The second part of our column on travel insurance is now at InterAksyon. Read the first part here.

Travel insurance: What is it for?

September 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

Reuters photo of the jobless in Europe.

Whenever Filipinos apply for a Schengen visa, we are required to buy travel insurance. This way if we require medical care in a foreign land, we do not become a drain upon the state. However, the typical travel insurance policy also covers lost property and travel hassles. Most of us don’t pay attention to our travel insurance policy—it doesn’t cost much, and it’s just a pain we want to get out of the way so we can go to Europe.

Read our column at InterAksyon.

Biri, Samar: An otherworldly landscape at the edge of the sea

August 09, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Traveling 2 Comments →

All photos by Boboy Consunji.

We tend to think of Samar as a typhoon-stricken place, better known for natural calamities than tourism. But there is more to Samar than storms.


Fashion designer Dennis Lustico is from Bobon, Samar. Our friends James, Boboy and Ivar joined him on a recent visit to Samar. During the trip, he took them to Biri in Northern Samar.


To get to Biri, you take a 20-minute jeepney ride from Catarman airport to a town called Lavezares. Then you take a 45-minute motorboat ride to Biri.



The frequent storms have hewn the rock formations into strange, otherworldly shapes. You could film a science-fiction movie there.


Or any movie. Anyone seen Leviathan? It’s so familiar, it could’ve been set in the Philippines.


Or do a fashion shoot. If Ivar is channeling Audrey Hepburn at the Louvre in Funny Face, it is not working. Correction: He was channeling Linda Evangelista. Not working, either.

It’s less fun in this hotel

June 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →

center suites

Owing to a mix-up, the Cebu Literary Festival organizer had to find us hotel accommodations at the last minute, and the guests from Manila were billeted at a hotel called Center Suites. The owners of Center Suites are members of Opus Dei, the ultra-conservative Catholic group, and our party included Carlos Celdran, celebrated “offender of religious feelings”. Carlos has actually been barred from some churches—they bolted the doors upon his approach—bringing up the possibility that the hotel would require an exorcism.

“Are you sure this is okay?” Hendri the one-man Cebu Litfest management asked about 20 times. We agreed so that we could tell our friends we had stayed at an Opus Dei-run hotel; at this point we just do things for the story value.

Upon check-in we were given copies of the house rules. “No instant couples” proclaimed a sign at the reception desk, meaning couples have to present a marriage certificate in order to get admitted. Immediately we thought of sending our friends who had gotten married in Ireland; the house rules did not mention same-sex couples.

The rules also prescribed “stain charges”—Php150 for the sheets, Php120 for the towel, etc—but did not specify the nature of the stains, which became an occasion for impure thoughts. Would the stain inspection be conducted with a black light?

Our room was very small, plain, clean, like a monk’s cell, not that we’ve ever been a monk. The window offered a view of the fire escape. In case the house rules were unclear there were helpful reminders taped on the walls. The bathmat was rolled up with a label that declared in large type: This is not a rag, you will be charged for heavy stains.

To our disappointment, the drawer contained neither hairshirt nor whips in case our conduct required punishment. Then again, it may have been to prevent reenactments of that 50 Shades crap.

The accommodations were so quiet and fun was such a distant threat that we actually got some work done. All we need are freezing airconditioning, a strong wifi signal, and a TV airing endless reruns of Law and Order, any version. If you want thrills, local color, vibrant company and aesthetic delights, this is not the place for you. But if you have responsibilities to meet and drudgery to endure, come on in.

We recommend Center Suites to parents whose children are going to Cebu—nothing keeps the young in line like house rules and a 10:30 curfew. Other hotels offer fun and excitement; Center Suites has a chapel with a full oratory. Does the Four Seasons have that? We think not.

See you at the Cebu Literary Festival

June 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Television, Traveling No Comments →


We’re in Cebu from lunchtime till Sunday morning for the Cebu Literary Festival at the Ayala Center Cebu. We’re giving a talk, signing books, doing an interview with historian Resil Mojares, and visiting the Iron Throne at Happy Garaje.

Read our Season 5 review in our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld. Spoilers.

If you’re not in Cebu, you could go to Fete de la Musique. Click on the image to enlarge.

fete de la musique 2015

In the dungeon where Dracula was imprisoned

May 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Places, Traveling No Comments →


The non-claustrophobic can go down to the Castle Labyrinth (Entrance fee: 2,000 forints), the long, dark, very cold tunnels where the kings kept their prisoners. The most famous inmate of the dungeons was the prince Dracula of Transylvania, which used to be part of Hungary. Dracula was the son-in-law of King Matyas, for whom the fabulous Matyas Church was named. Old Vlad D was accused of being in league with the Turks, who invaded Hungary many times. He was reportedly tortured in the dungeons. Repeat, Vlad the Impaler was tortured in the labyrinth, and if I ran the tour there would be background music punctuated with bloodcurdling shrieks. My main fear was not that Dracula would appear, but that I would wander into a secondary tunnel and disappear. Outside it was noon; inside it was so dark and cold you could imagine vampires eating babies. The tour operator relieved the monotony of endless walls of rock with mannequins dressed as characters in a Mozart opera, finds from archeological digs, and other tchotchkes, but all you need is bad night vision and an active imagination.

Read our article Budapest Saves the Day at the BusinessWorld Weekender.