Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Traveling’

Looking for Kafka in Prague

January 27, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

It’s been 14 years since we went to Prague with our sister. We’re old. We saw a hotel called Metamorphosis. Cracked us up. Check in as a person, check out as a cockroach. It was snowing in late March. A man on the street sold us cheap tickets to the opera. Our seats were just below the ceiling and we froze our butts off. People were eating ice cream in the snow. It was supposed to make you feel warmer. Not true. We had an attic room in a pension—Airbnb had not yet been invented, so we found it on a site called Eurocheapo. Our first choice was a converted mental hospital turned Soviet torture chamber but someone had already booked it. Our landlord wore a different costume every day. It made him happy. A typical meal consisted of a slab of meat, breaded and fried with cheese, with an egg on top. That made us happy.

9 years, 9 stories: Travel, music, and world domination

September 27, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Music, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling, World Domination Update No Comments →

From 2013: Turkey Travel Diary, featuring some of the handsomest cats we’ve ever seen


From 2008: Sad, Sadder, Saddest, in which we wound up at a “Lost 80s” concert.

Either all the ticket-holders had already gone inside, or they were all late, because there were no queues of any sort. Ernie went up to some people standing by the flower beds and asked them if they needed tickets.

Sad: They all said, “Hindi kami manonood niyan (We’re not watching that),” with matching expressions of loathing.
Sadder: A woman glared at Ernie and said, “I already have tickets.” What she meant was, “Extra tickets to an 80s concert is a problem I don’t need.”
Saddest: Later, Grungella realized that they probably mistook Ernie for a scalper.
Positively funereal: Being mistaken for a scalper to A Flock Of Seagulls show.
Lugubrious: They literally could not give the tickets away!

World Domination
From 2012: Let’s Buy Spain. We can afford it, it would be our revenge for three centuries of colonial oppression, and we can call them our muchachos and muchachas.

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.