Not as the Serpent Intended

Our work with the Agta people—a semi-nomadic, tribe indigenous to the Philippines—started in 2005. Through a guy we knew, we managed to find and go into the “hub village” we had been told about. We knew we were going to have to hike in, so we prepared and began hiking. It’s an all day hike—about seven hours or so. It’s not accessible by vehicle. You’re walking on trails that are you know a foot wide sometimes, with a fifty foot drop off and no guardrails or anything, so it’s intense. We did find the village, but the people were being very standoffish. We were able to greet a couple of them, but for the most part they were very uncomfortable with us being there. They weren’t used to being found. “What’s this Americano doing here?”

My friend, Gary, went down to the river to wash up, and he kept yelling at me, “Carl! Carl, you have to come down here! There’s a snake down here! You gotta catch the snake!” I thought he was pulling my leg. He knows I like snakes, and I honestly thought he was just trying to get me out to the river, because I really didn’t want to go swimming. I wasn’t feeling good, and the water was cold. But as it turns out, there really was a snake. It was this gorgeous, gorgeous, bright green viper with a really nice arrow shaped head—obviously a viper; obviously a very dangerous snake. And that made it all the more exciting!

a green snake being held with its fangs bared
So I got a piece of bamboo and managed to pin it down, and caught this snake. Well, while I’m in this process, the people who had been very standoffish not letting us approach them, just kind of disappearing off in the jungle, they just couldn’t stand themselves. “What in the world, is this crazy white guy doing?” My background with snakes comes from my dad who was a keeper at the St. Louis Zoo in the Herpatariam. I grew up around all these snakes and I knew how to catch them safely. But the people are telling my Filipino traveling companions “Don’t let him do that, that’s a dangerous snake! That snake will kill him!” They were worried about me! This Americano’s going to die out here in our village and we’re going to get blamed for it! So one of the guys that’s with me says, “Don’t worry. He knows what he’s doing. Just watch.” Well, they did they watched with rapt attention. So after I caught the snake I got out my pocket knife, and opened up its fangs and got them out and gave the Agta people a little talk on snakes. You know typically here these are people that often don’t have enough to eat and a snake’s good eating. It’s good food—it’s a nice white meant, but of course they are afraid of it. So I was showing them where the venom sacs are located, where the fangs are, that if you cut the head off the rest of it is perfectly good to eat and tasty, and yaddy yaddy yada.

Carl holding the snake next to a river
They were enamored, crowding in to see more, hear more. It really opened the door, so we proceeded to tell them the story of the Garden of Eden, when the serpent approached Eve to sin, and that that’s what separated us from our Creator. Then we took the story to Jesus, our savior who paid the price so we could be reunited with our Creator…it was just awesome. These are people that don’t care about time, so this proceeded all evening. We were telling a story and talking, and I’d put the snake away, and they’d want to see it again, so I’d pull it out and tell a little more of the story. Over the course of the evening, they got the whole story from Creation to Christ. By the time we were ready to go to bed, we had sung some songs, and we had an invitation time and practically everyone in the whole village came forward! So it turned from they don’t know who we are, not wanting to approach us, to catching that snake, and then a church service. All in one day!