CNF Online Journal 2: Wilfredo Pascual’s “Animalia”

Zeril Manaois
5 min readMar 19, 2021


Life passes us by so fast as if we are watching a scenery unfold through the windows of a speeding train. It is all a blur and we don’t even know where we came from nor do we know where we are headed. So what if we change our approach to how we see and reflect? Wilfredo Pascual’s Animalia personal essay does exactly this: he combines and parallels his own retrospection of his life with that of animals. Here Pascual ponders about home, his relationship with his family, and finally about how humans are alike and not alike to animals.

Pascual’s essay is separated into parts where he narrates various facets of his life. All of them were written from the first person point of view, and employ an objective approach. For each section of the piece, there is a designated animal that serves as the symbol for that particular story. We are greeted first with a swarm of bats overwhelming the room of Pascual’s family. The bats were everywhere; their tiny bodies trapped in a room where they will meet their demise. He ponders about this years later, and at this point, I interpreted this as a way for Pascual to show his perspective. For him, we are just like the bats (seemingly lost and looking for something to guide them through their cries), our voices and stories bounce and reflect no matter the obstacle. Pascual had put it very nicely, “Some stories can never be silenced.”

The previous part was a great introduction to how much the author values writing and stories. The second one is about tilapia fish, wherein a researcher had taken upon it to change their sexes to increase yield. Pascual was there to edit the proceedings of a certain conference. As the storm ravaged the area, he and his coworkers were forced to retrieve the tilapias as they escape from the ponds due to the rising water levels. The aftermath of the fish retrieval mission found Wilfredo stuck in a small shelter, and there he develops a fascination with JB, a student working on the fisheries. They are unable to take each other’s eyes off as they eat their meal, and Pascual even remarks that this event is his most memorable meal. Just like how the tilapias changed from female to male, Pascual felt that this moment marked a reversal and overhaul of a part of his life as he realizes his attraction to men. (For some who may not know, he is currently married to a man.)

Other sections that I wanted to highlight in the essay were sections 4, 5, and 8. The 4th part tackles Pascual as he tries to make sense of his disconnect with his community, and in extension his home. In his small town, violence caused by politics was high, and it doesn’t just stop there: dog meat is just as common as chicken meat. Pascual had abhorred and hated it, but there was nothing he can do: it was the norm. This section also shows the author’s indifference towards his father, and yet this very notion was also challenged through their dog, Bracky. Bracky served as Pascual’s connection to his father, as he and the dog both shared a mutual fear and loathing of his father. Section 5 questions how turtles always seem to have a sense and memory of home, and in section 8 he recalls a memory of him and his father feeding him frog eggs.

I interpreted the entire essay as Pascual’s way to represent his longing for a home, and how the ghosts of his past beg him to reflect. Just like as I have said previously, he had this feeling of disconnect from his family, particularly his father. He had always wondered what it’s like to always have a sense of home, just like the turtles and the birds. His memory pales in comparison to their instincts, yet there is a particular joy when something triggers a memory. We might not be driven by instincts to a place we can call home, but through our memories, however flawed they might be, there come times where flashes of past moments remind us of places that we used to call home. At that moment, you feel something, you feel as if you have known this, giving you that sense that you do belong in one way or another.

Another thing to note is how Pascual’s father remained very relevant in the entire essay. Although he might’ve loathed him before, the author’s realizations might point to how he is trying to change his view about his dad. In fact, we can even interpret the father as the one anchoring him to the past and his longing for home: there was trauma or at least unresolved emotions that were not properly discussed before his father passed away.

It can be hard to keep track of what Pascual means to portray due to the piece not being written in chronological order. In fact, one might even question how each section was related to each other because they seem to be anecdotes with differing themes and subjects. Unfortunately, I could not find any reasons as to why Pascual might have written this piece in such a way, but I’m assuming that it was done this way to build-up his revelations and realizations. Through this, the reader wouldn’t be immediately dumped with information and they would feel like they’d have gone through the same journey as they read on.

Reading this essay is quite an eye-opener: non-fiction stories were not really my cup of tea when it came to reading. And yet, Animalia had made me feel various emotions, emotions much more intense than what I usually feel when I read. Although I would like to note that the first story actually made me turn away from disgust because the scene with the bats was very graphic and vivid. I still decided to push through of course, and the second story (the one about tilapias) was a pleasant surprise as it tackled Pascual’s awakening. I was also debating whether I should categorize this piece as objective or subjective. The author’s description of his life was very vivid, and even without the use of emotive language a lot of moments felt like a punch to the gut. His mastery of the language made it in such a way that it evoked such intense emotions in me even though he was just describing what happened as it is.

Animals are driven by instincts. Something they have gained from years of evolution, or maybe given and guided by nature itself which man can’t perceive or comprehend. Yet man has defied all odds, distanced himself from the animals, and yet he himself is a wild being. Wilfredo Pascual’s essay is a beautiful piece of reflection as he realigns himself with his past in relation to animals he had encountered. There is nothing to be afraid about reconciling with the past: it is an inevitability. We need to and we have to because it is part of us no matter how we refuse to acknowledge it. In Pascual’s own words from Animalia, “What had been broken becomes eternal; it latches itself to other things. The wayward universe of the past is my new wilderness and it tugs relentlessly, this epic finding of a rightful place. It won’t let go.”



Zeril Manaois

not everyone loved freely like me. | mapagpatawad pa ang Diyos kaysa sa'kin.