How to pick a guide – Pinoy style

Location scouting in Laguna, Philippines yesterday, I was already up to my knees in brush when I thought to ask the man standing by the tree, “Meron bang ahas dito, po?” (are there snakes here, sir?)

The man, in his late 40’s, looked calmly at me, twitched his eyebrows upwards and puckered his lips out; which for Filipinos means definitely.

Hidden Valley Springs guide, Mang Antonio, hauling a set of Manfrotto sticks for a shoot further up the canyon.

Hidden Valley Springs guide, Mang Antonio, hauling a set of Manfrotto sticks for a shoot further up the canyon.

“Saan, po?” I asked.

“Just behind you a ways,” he said in perfect English.  I slowly stepped back on the path.

Antonio, it turns out, is a man of great courage and loyalty. Pressed for more details, he explained how last November he spied a Philippine cobra (Naja philippinensis) –  drop-for-drop, the most toxic venomous snake in the naja genus.

Pushing his guest out of the way, Tony was struck once in the left shin by the reptile and then chased to the edge of a small lake where he dove in for temporary safety.

With only an hour to get antivenom needed to stop cardio-respiratory failure, Antonio was rushed to hospital where he spent 2-weeks in recovery.

Now, with my own plans to return to the canyon with model and assistants later this month, I am being very specific in selecting local guides to help along the way.

Obviously, with references like that, Antonio is a shoe-in for the job.

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