Regarding the Pain of Snakes

Posted: March 27, 2009 in All and Sundry

(title is after Susan Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others,” a book about war photography)


While sipping my coffee before noon, I heard my landlady’s kids and neighbors talking excitedly outside our apartment, so I peered out our window to find out what the ruckus was all about. I heard someone mutter aloud the Visayan term for Cobra. It all seemed to appear that they were looking at something on the ground to the right, outside my window. Like any frightened and curious resident, I went out and found a Cobra’s corpse lying limp two feet away from my doorstep, near the plants lined on what was supposed to appear like a small yard. Even though  the sight of the Cobra scared me, I also wanted to go near it, and touch its skin, except that fear already dominated me, and so I decided to move away even while taking pictures of it.

Our landlady’s daughter, mother, and neighbors, recounted to us how they killed the snake. While Therese (the daughter) was washing clothes by the sink, she noticed rats scampering and frogs hopping away from the area. She looked below the sink and glimpsed the snake’s tail lazily moving about. She thought it was scouring for food or had just swallowed a rat, hence, the slow movement of its tail. So, she called everyone for help. To make the long story short, they doused it with water, grabbed an electric wire to electrocute it, and then dumped its corpse into the canal near our doorstep.

“Did it raise its head like Cobras do?” I asked.

“Almost,” the female neighbor who dragged her twin daughters along to see the spectacle replied. “But it didn’t have time to move. We were fast enough. It wriggled while we electrocuted it. Then it died just like that.”

When I asked Therese to transfer the body somewhere else because I couldn’t stand the sight of its corpse outside our door, I discovered that the snake had lost its head. Therese told me that they bashed its venomous head to oblivion. I feel a bit sorry for the creature. Obviously, by the shape of its body, it seems that it had just swallowed a meal. If there’s any consolation, it died happy.

“Beautiful skin. Enough to make a belt,” I joked as I walked away from the poor thing.

“A bag too!” Therese replied with a laugh.

“That’s not enough for a bag. Maybe a wallet,” N said.


Slightly trembling, I closed the door right away once we stepped inside our house. Then I told N that we might have to clean the cabinets under our sink. While recounting the story of how the snake was electrocuted, the old woman (our landlady’s mother) informed me that “surely, there are snakes living under your house” as the compound was built atop and across a riverbed and a swamp of sorts. I couldn’t help but feel unsafe. I remembered how for the past days I have been dreaming of snakes crowding in my room. Later, I told N about these dreams, and he quipped, “maybe they just wanted to greet you a happy birthday.”

“I took pictures of it for documentation,” I muttered, recalling how one night at Jacinto Cafe a Biologist friend who was visiting from Manila, convinced me to carry a camera almost everywhere I go in Mintal or even in our compound, so I could take pictures of the species of snakes hereabouts.

“You’ll never know, you could be helping document these species for Filipino biologists,” she said, convincing me that there are still many undocumented species of snakes in the country.

I wanted to message my friend this morning to tell her about the dead Cobra, but I surmised that she might freak out after hearing how it was killed.

  1. liguified says:

    yikes…..another snake at irish cottage

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