Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Some thirty years ago, the late Vicente M. Perez wrote a song in tribute of the employees of Guam's Department of Public Works, to honor all the work they do for the island community.

He gave the song the title "I man ga'chong gi Public Works." Ga'chong means "companion," someone you are with on a journey, or in some event, or staying in the same dwelling. It can also mean people you're associated with in work. So it can mean the gang, the crew and similar words.


Maila’ ya ta saluda
(Let's salute)
i man ga’chong gi Public Works
(the crew at Public Works)
pot todo i ånimon-ñiha
(for all their valor)
yan cho’cho’ para hita.
(and work on our behalf.)
Pues måtto i momento
(So the moment has come)
para ta onra siha på’go.
(for us to honor them now.)
Ta agradese i che’cho’-ñiha
(Let us appreciate their work)
ginen este mañe’lu-ta.
(from these our brothers and sisters.)

Man ma konne' i famagu’on-ta
(They take our children)
pot para u fan eskuela.
(so they can go to school.)
Ma fa’ maolek i chalån-ta,
(They fix our streets,)
man ma yute’ basulå-ta.
(they dispose of our trash.)
I ira yanggen måtto, (1)
(When fury comes,)
taiguennao na påkyo,
(like typhoons,)
i Public Works na man ga’chong
(the Public Works crew)
annai ta sosodda’ alibio.
(is where we find relief.)
Familia u fan ma dingu
(They will leave their families)
gi interes i pupbliko
(in the public interest)
gi impottånte na setbsio
(in the important service)
sa’ siha ta angokko.
(because we depend on them.)
I atension tåt na fåtta
(Attention is never lacking)
ya i problema ma komprende.
(and they understand the problem.)
Yanggen guaha nai linache
(If something is wrong)
todo i tiempo ma korihe.
(they always correct it.)

I Engineering na funsion,
(The Engineering role,)
Administration yan Operations,
(Administration and Operations,)
ginen este i tres na tuhu (2)
(these three droplets)
i fumotma i man ga’chong.
(which formed the crew.)
Siha lokkue’ man impottånte
(They also are important)
sa’ sin siha ti u kabåles
(because it wouldn't be complete without them)
i asentådo na setbisio
(the fitting service)
ni pumosipble gi Public Works;
(which is made possible at Public Works;)
asentådo na setbiso ni u ta sodda’ gi Public Works;
(fitting service which we will find at Public Works;)
i man gåtbo na setbisio ni u ta sodda’ gi Public Works.
(the beautiful service we will find at Public Works.)


(1) Ira in Spanish means "anger, rage" like the English word ire. But applied to nature in means "violence, fury, wrath" as in anything calamitous in nature; typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and so on. Iran Yu'us means "God's rage" and older generations believed that natural disasters could be God's punishment for our evil deeds. Iran Yu'us .

(2) The singer says that the crew (man ga'chong) at Public Works were formed by three tuhu (or droplets, as in water drops). The author is passed away so we cannot ask him what he meant by this. But just as a large body of water is formed by single, individual drops of water, perhaps the author is saying the same thing.

Saturday, October 17, 2020




During a construction project in Hagåtña in 1972, workers discovered a prewar well. 

Sixty years before that, we would have seen many wells all over Hagåtña.

Before the Naval Government made available a modern water supply system, there were only THREE WAYS the people of Hagåtña got fresh water :


Luckily, a river flowed right through the heart of the city, starting at the spring (Måtan Hånom) to the east in the Dedigue area and moving right through the capital till it emptied into the sea at the entrance of Aniguak. But the river water was never used for drinking. People did the laundry in the river. Animals did their business there, too, and all kinds of pollutants made river water dangerous to drink.

The Fonte River was untouched by human activity but one had to walk half a mile or more to Fonte with your water containers. It was done, but Fonte was never a major source of water for Hagåtña in the old days.


This is the water most people drank in those days. The custom was to place large containers, wood, clay and less frequently metal, under the eaves of roofs and catch the rain water. The problem was the dry season. Stored water would eventually dry up if it didn't rain at all for a while. Most times it rained even just a bit during the dry season, but sometimes it did not.


Hagåtña sits on limestone soil, pictured above. The good thing about limestone soil is that it allows rain water to percolate down into the ground till it forms an underground lake. Dig a well and you can tap into that subterranean lake.

The bad thing about limestone soil is that the rain water picks up the chalky, white dust of the limestone. You dig a well and find water, but it is chalky, heavy and brackish. If you put well water into a clear glass, you will see a cloudy, dull gray liquid. Keep drinking that chalky water and in time you might develop kidney stones, among other potential problems.

The other, more serious problem with limestone soil is that rain water that falls on contaminated soil will carry those impurities down to the underground lake. Animals of all sorts lived in Hagåtña, around houses and even under houses. Those animals used the bathroom right on the ground, so fecal matter and urine seeped into the soil and into the underground lake.

Besides animal waste, there was also no indoor plumbing, so people also went to the bathroom outside but in the privacy of outhouses. Still, all that human waste also seeped into the ground. All kinds of waste water was thrown out on the ground. 

So people avoided drinking well water as much as possible. But enough people resorted to drinking well water for government officials, both Spanish and American, to complain that Hagåtña's wells were contaminated and people were getting sick with dysentery and other diseases. 

If you shouldn't drink well water, why dig a well in the first place? Well water was used for almost everything else, then. Washing the body, pots and pans; watering plants; general cleaning and even the laundry if you wanted to skip the river. Some cooking might be done with well water, depending on the dish. Although even the animals could get sick from contaminated well water, that was the drinking source many times. As mentioned, even people at times gave in and drank well water.

Hagåtña woman in front of a well


The well discovered, unintentionally, in 1972 was 4 and 3/4 feet deep from the surface of the ground at the time the well was being used, which was four feet lower than the ground surface in 1972. That's why archaeologists are always digging! The surface of the ground is always growing higher and the older keeps getting buried deeper below.

Three sides of the well were expertly lined with chiseled rock, to prevent the chalky limestone from affecting the water as much as possible. Stone steps were placed on the fourth side to allow someone to descend into the well and fill a bucket with water.

I don't know how the construction project could have gone on and still save the well as a relic of the past, but the well was covered over and construction went on as usual.


The well was located on the border between lots 385 and 383, those lots being owned by Juan Díaz Torres and María Aflague Castro respectively, in the barrio of San Ignacio, in between Maria Ana de Austria and Pavia streets. Today, this is the Pedro's Plaza area west of the Hagåtña GPD precinct. The well could have been used by both houses, and maybe even by other neighbors.


Monday, October 12, 2020



Do you touch plants and somehow they die not long after?

Our mañaina (elders) had a belief about that.

They believed that some people's hands were gifted regarding plants, and that plants thrived under the care of their hands, while others were the opposite. Their hands killed plants just by merely touching them or handling them in some way.

They said their hand was maipe, or "hot." Maipe kanai-ña. His or her hand is hot, and that person should not be tasked to do anything with plants. I suppose hot hands kill things! It's opposed to what we say in English about having a "green thumb" which makes plants thrive.

The banana stalk in the picture was cut a week before the photo was taken. It's still green, even after a week of cutting (in Chamorro, ma honggo' i chetda). Our mañaina say that, if the person cutting the banana has a "hot hand," the bananas will not ripen but just turn black and not be fit for eating.

I remember a story in my family about our ranch in Ungaguan, a part of Barrigada, before the war. One of my grandmother's siblings was asked to go cut a bunch of bananas. That bunch never ripened but just turned black one morning after a period of staying green. From then on, that child was never sent to cut bananas. Maipe kanai-ña. Another child was sent, whose pickings always ripened properly.


(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


¿Tocas las plantas y de alguna manera mueren poco después?

Nuestros “mañaina” (ancianos) tenían una creencia sobre eso.

Creían que las manos de algunas personas tenían el don de las plantas y que las plantas prosperaban bajo el cuidado de sus manos, mientras que otras eran lo contrario. Sus manos mataban plantas con solo tocarlas o manipularlas de alguna manera.

Decían que su mano era maipe, o "caliente". Maipe kanai-ña. Su mano está caliente, y esa persona no debe tener la tarea de hacer nada con plantas. ¡Supongo que las manos calientes matan cosas! Se opone a lo que decimos en inglés sobre tener un "green thumb o pulgar verde" que hace que las plantas prosperen.

El tallo del plátano de la imagen se cortó una semana antes de que se tomara la foto. Todavía está verde, incluso después de una semana de corte (en Chamorro, ma honggo 'i chetda). Nuestros “mañaina” dicen que, si la persona que corta el plátano tiene una "mano caliente", los plátanos no madurarán sino que se pondrán negros y no estarán aptos para comer.

Recuerdo una historia en mi familia sobre nuestro rancho en Ungaguan, una parte de Barrigada, antes de la guerra. A uno de los hermanos de mi abuela le pidieron que fuera a cortar un racimo de plátanos. Ese racimo nunca maduró, sino que se volvió negro una mañana después de un período de permanecer verde. A partir de entonces, ese niño nunca fue enviado a cortar plátanos. Maipe kanai-ña. Se envió a otro niño, cuyas recolecciones siempre maduraron adecuadamente.


Friday, October 9, 2020



The monkey was killed by the ants.

The ant is a tiny creature, but it shouldn't be under estimated.

The monkey can be a playful animal, often moving about, touching whatever it finds. But this curiosity and playfulness can get the monkey in trouble, as when it comes in contact with an ant hill and gets attacked by a colony of many ants. It can even result in the monkey's death.

So this saying is a warning. Temper your curiosity or playfulness, don't be reckless in pursuit of fun or adventure, and don't under estimate small dangers that can become bigger.

Monday, October 5, 2020



There's not much to this story except to show one more example what a melting pot Guam was already in the pre-war days. It was that way even 300 years ago.

We hear and are tempted to think how isolated Guam was in the old days, and how Chamorros supposedly didn't know much outside of the Marianas.

But our islands, small as they are, are situated in a part of the Pacific where many sea lanes intersect, bringing ships from all over the world through here.

One of the most exotic and rare origins of a foreign person living on Guam was Finland.

When was the last time you met someone from Finland? See!

How did a Finnish woman named Aina get to Guam in the early 1900s when not even the average American knew much of anything about Guam?

Through her husband, who was a musician in the US Navy. He, by the way, was from San José, Costa Rica, another far away place, in relation to Guam.

Apparently, both Aina and Jesús de Vásquez from Costa Rica immigrated to the US and found each other there. They were married, according to one passenger document, in San Francisco in 1900.

Sometime later Jesús was sent to Guam as a musician in the US Navy, along with the likes of Marcello Sgambelluri, Ermete Pellacani and others who settled on Guam permanently, founding families whose descendants are our neighbors, friends and relatives.

By 1909, Jesús was already mentioned in court records on Guam. Nothing criminal, just transactions that needed the court's involvement.

He eventually retired from the Navy and he and Aina opened a store in Hagåtña. In 1915, a daughter Loreta was born to them, right here in Hagåtña.


Although husband and wife owned and ran the store, Aina seems to have been the more visible of the two in the business. It was her name that appeared in advertisements.

They seem to have lead quiet lives. One doesn't hear stories about the couple. They did make some money, as they both did a good amount of traveling in the 1920s. She even went back to Finland on a visit.

They both died just a few years apart; he in 1935 and she in 1937. They were both buried in the US Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña. We can assume Aina was not Catholic. Finland was once entirely Protestant and even today there are only 15,000 Catholics in a country of over 5 million people. Jesús we can assume was at least born Catholic and probably married Aina outside the Church and may have even stopped practicing Catholicism altogether. This may account for his being buried in a military cemetery rather than at Pigo, besides the fact that he was entitled to a plot there.

We don't hear about Loreta in the 1940 Guam census. She apparently moved away before the war, perhaps soon after her mother passed away in 1937. She would have been in her early 20s by then and probably found a husband off island or one who took her off island. There is no mention of her marriage on Guam before 1941 in the Guam Recorder.

Aina's home town of Hanko in Finland, in the winter time.

In Aina's home town, the yearly average temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit! But for almost forty years, Aina lived on tropical Guam where the yearly average temperature is double that.

"Aina," by the way, is a name found all over Scandinavia, and has nothing to do with the name Ana or Ann.

The Marianas were not as isolated from the rest of the world in the old days as one might think. Even before the Spaniards started a mission and colonial government here, there were shipwrecked people from all over the world; Europeans, Filipinos and the famous Chinese man named Choco.

Then soldiers from the Philippines, Spain and Latin America came. Priests from German-speaking nations, Italians and Flemish came. Then the whalers came; British, American, French, Dutch. Hawaiians, Carolinians, Chinese and then Japanese came and settled permanently. A few men of African descent, as well. There was even a Swedish man on Guam during Spanish times, a member of the Spanish military here in 1898! When we say that American Captain Glass deported the Spanish soldiers from Guam in 1898, we have to add "including one Swede." Who knows what other foreigner may have been in the group?

Yes it was hard to get to the Marianas in the old days. But we weren't as unaware of the big world out there as one might think. We had people from all over the world living here to give us a taste of it.

Aina's Costa Rican Husband
US Navy Band musician on Guam in 1910

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Con esta historia tratamos de mostrar otro ejemplo de que Guam ya era un crisol de culturas en los días anteriores a la guerra. Ya era así incluso hace 300 años.

Escuchamos y nos sentimos tentados a pensar cuán aislada estaba Guam en los viejos tiempos, y cómo los chamorros supuestamente no conocían demasiados lugares fuera de las Islas Marianas.

Pero nuestras islas, por pequeñas que sean, están situadas en una zona del Pacífico donde muchas rutas marítimas se cruzan, encontrándose barcos de todo el mundo aquí.

Uno de los orígenes más exóticos y raros de una persona extranjera que vivió en Guam fue Finlandia.

¿Cuándo fue la última vez que conocimos a alguien de Finlandia? ¡A ver!

¿Cómo pudo llegar una mujer finlandesa llamada Aina a Guam a principios del siglo XX cuando ni siquiera el ciudadano estadounidense promedio sabía mucho de Guam?

Gracias a su esposo, quien era músico en la Marina de los Estados Unidos. Él, por cierto, era de San José, Costa Rica, otro lugar lejano, en relación a Guam.

Aparentemente, tanto Aina como su esposo Jesús de Vásquez de Costa Rica emigraron a los Estados Unidos y se encontraron allí. Se casaron, según un documento de pasajeros, en San Francisco en 1900.

Algún tiempo después, Jesús fue enviado a Guam como músico en la Marina de los Estados Unidos, junto con personas como Marcello Sgambelluri, Ermete Pellacani y otros que se establecieron en Guam de forma permanente, fundando familias cuyos descendientes son hoy nuestros vecinos, amigos y parientes.

En 1909, Jesús ya fue mencionado en los registros judiciales de Guam. Nada criminal, solo transacciones que necesitaban la participación del tribunal.

Finalmente se retiró de la Marina y él y Aina abrieron una tienda en Agaña. En 1915 les nació una hija, Loreta, aquí mismo en Agaña.

Aunque marido y mujer poseían y dirigían la tienda, Aina parece haber sido la más visible de los dos en el negocio. Era su nombre el que aparecía en los anuncios.

Parece que llevaban una vida tranquila. No se escuchaban historias sobre la pareja. Hicieron algo de dinero, ya que ambos viajaban bastante en la década de 1920. Incluso Aina regresó a Finlandia de visita.

Ambos fallecieron con solo unos años de diferencia; él en 1935 y ella en 1937. Ambos fueron enterrados en el cementerio naval de Estados Unidos en Agaña. Podemos asumir que Aina no era católica. Finlandia fue durante mucho tiempo totalmente protestante e incluso hoy en día solo hay 15.000 católicos en un país de más de 5 millones de personas. Podemos asumir que Jesús nació al menos católico y probablemente se casó con Aina fuera de la Iglesia y puede que incluso haya dejado de practicar el catolicismo por completo. Esto puede explicar por qué fue enterrado en un cementerio militar en lugar de en Pigo, además del hecho de que tenía derecho a una parcela allí.

No escuchamos sobre Loreta en el Censo de Guam de 1940. Al parecer, se mudó antes de la guerra, tal vez poco después de que su madre falleciera en 1937. Para entonces habría tenido poco más de 20 años y probablemente encontró un marido fuera de la isla o uno que se la llevó. No se menciona su matrimonio antes de 1941 en el Registro de Guam.

En la ciudad natal de Aina, la temperatura media anual es de 42 grados Fahrenheit. Pero durante casi cuarenta años, Aina vivió en la zona tropical de Guam, donde la temperatura media anual es el doble.

"Aina", por cierto, es un nombre que se encuentra en toda Escandinavia, y no tiene nada que ver con el nombre Ana o Ann.

Las Islas Marianas no estaban tan aisladas del resto del mundo en épocas pasadas como podría pensarse. Incluso antes de que los españoles comenzaran una misión y un gobierno colonial aquí, había náufragos de todo el mundo; europeos, filipinos y el famoso chino Choco.

Luego vinieron soldados de Filipinas, España e Hispano-América. Vinieron sacerdotes de naciones de habla alemana, italianos y flamencos. Luego vinieron los balleneros; británicos, americanos, franceses, holandeses. Hawaianos, carolinos, chinos y luego japoneses vinieron y se establecieron de forma permanente. Algunos hombres de ascendencia africana también. Incluso hubo un sueco en Guam durante la época española, ¡un miembro del ejército español aquí en 1898! Cuando decimos que el capitán estadounidense Glass deportó a los soldados españoles de Guam en 1898, tenemos que añadir "incluido un sueco". ¿Quién sabe qué otro extranjero pudo haber estado en el grupo?

Sí, era difícil llegar a las Marianas en los viejos tiempos. Pero no éramos tan ajenos al gran mundo como podría pensarse. Para darnos una idea, tuvimos gente de todo el mundo viviendo aquí.





Thursday, October 1, 2020


Today on Guam is the feast of the patron saint of Mangilao, Santa Teresita.

In English, we call her "Saint Therese," but there is another "Saint Therese" yet we call her in Chamorro (or Spanish) Santa Teresa, not Teresita.

What's the difference between TERESA and TERESITA.


A diminutive is a change in a word to make that word a "little" version of the original.

In English, we all know that a kitchenette is smaller than a regular kitchen.

Adding -ette to "kitchen" makes the kitchen smaller. -Ette is a diminutive.

A cigarette is smaller than a cigar; a towelette is smaller than a towel.

The -ette we borrowed from French.

But we have other ways of making something a smaller version of the original. A duckling is a small or young duck. A piglet (-let, not -ette) is a small or young pig.

Spanish has many diminutives. Probably the most common is to add -ita (if feminine) or -ito (if masculine) to the word.

SEÑORA means "lady"

SEÑORITA means "young lady"

When the word is masculine, it goes

MOMENTO means "moment"

MOMENTITO means "a little moment"

So TERESITA means "Little Teresa." The reason for this is because there already was a Santa Tesesa who lived 300 years before Little Teresa.

And since "little" often means "younger," at the same time, diminutives can often mean something younger.

To add one more thing, something smaller and younger often means something more endearing, like babies or children are smaller and younger but also more protected and more cared for by older people. So Spanish diminutives are often a way of showing affection for someone or something.

Spanish gives us a short and easy way to distinguish between the two saints. The older one is Teresa, the newer one is Teresita. Older and younger. Bigger and smaller.

Monday, September 28, 2020



There are several recorded versions of this song, because it is one of our standard, "oldie but goodie" songs that started so long ago we don't even know when it was first sung or who composed it. It's been around so long that it has had time to be changed here and there by the many singers who sing it.

So you will see differences in the lyrics among the versions recorded by Johnny Sablan, Jimmy Dee and whoever else may have recorded it, or if you just hear it being sung live at parties or the kitchen table.

This is the late David Peter's version, as recorded in his album from many years ago. Most people know this song as "Dalai Nene," taken from the refrain, but here it is entitled "Sombres i Pilan," taken from the opening lines.

This song is FULL of Chamorro phraseology; things expressed in Chamorro that we would never phrase that way in English. So I have numerous explanatory notes at the very end.


Sombres i pilan yanggen sumåhi (1)
(Because even the moon when it is born)
guaha nai triste sumahi-ña. (2)
(its birth is sometimes sad.)
Kostaria un kilisyåno (3) (4)
(What more the person)
yanggen guaha piniti-ña.
(when he or she has pain.)

Ya dalai nene ya ti un siesiente (5)
(And my goodness baby and you don't sense)
i manåddong siha na inigong. (6)
(the deep groanings.)

Likido na finañågo (7) (8)
(Unique one)
kumaotiba i korason-ho. (9)
(captured my heart.)
Ya bai måtai gi hilo’ tåno’
(And I will die upon earth)
ya ti un li’e’ ine’son-ho. (10)
(and you won't see my fatigue.)

I lassås-mo para i kaohao (11)
(Your skin for the chest)
ya i fino’-mo maila’ mågi. (12)
(and let your word come here.)
Korason-ho aseladura (13)
(My heart is the lock)
ya i te’lång-ho para i yabe.
(and my bones will be for the key.)


(1) Sombres. This is a shortening (contraction) of the phrase sa' ombres. Sa' means "because." Ombres is from the Spanish word hombre meaning "man." As we say in English, "Hey man!" The Spaniards say to each other, "Hombre!" and Chamorros picked it up and say ombre or åmbre. From there the meaning became "come on" or "oh please" as when we're asking someone to do something or if we're being sarcastic or disbelieving. There are many meanings to this expression! Ombres has the meaning "even." Ombres hågo means "even you." Sa' ombres, or sombres if cut short, means "because even you." Sombres hågo chumocho'gue! "Because even you do it!"

(2) For many people, the moon, in any of its phases, evokes deep feelings all across the board. For one, it can romantic. For another, it can make him or her homesick. For someone else, it can be scary, especially in the woods or jungle. There is no logical reason why. A fire burns everybody but how the moon affects you is personal to you. So whoever composed these lyrics is expressing his or her personal reaction to seeing a new moon being born. Why a new moon can be sad, only the composer knows why he or she says so, and every listener can hold the meaning it has for each.

(3) The Chamorro word kostaria comes from the Spanish "cual estaría," which means "which would be" or "what would be," as in the question in English, "If I, who am young and strong, get sick like this, what would be the case with you, who are old and weak?"  So the Chamorro version of "cual estaría," kostaria, means "what more" or "what would be the case," as in "If the new moon can be sad, what more, or what would be the case, with the person who has pain?

(4) Kilisyåno literally means "Christian." It's the Chamorro version of the Spanish word cristiano. But since all the Chamorros in time became Christian, the name became a way of calling another person. Instead of saying, for example, "Here comes that person," we could say, "Here comes the Christian." It emphasized the Christian identity of the other person, even another Chamorro we never met before. If the other person is a Christian, then we should treat him or her as a brother or sister in Jesus.

(5) Dalai is one of those that is hard to define precisely. Just as it's hard to define the English word "gosh." It is said to express our reaction to an imperfect situation, something we may find objectionable, even mildly. It's similar to the English "oh come on!" which we say when someone says something unbelievable or does something irritating.

(6) The deep (tåddong) groans (ugong is the verb, inigong is the noun) of the singer's heart which loves his or her romantic interest.

(7) Likido means "unique" and I have only heard it in reference to a person and only in love songs. So, "unique" means "special." For years I have tried, without success, to find a possible Spanish original word because the sound of this word suggests a Spanish origin. So rare and mysterious in origin is this word that it didn't appear in any published Chamorro dictionary until 2009 (Katherine Aguon's dictionary).

(8) Finañågo literally means "someone birthed," and thus can mean "baby" or even, as in this song, a "person." Just like calling a person a Christian (kilisyåno), calling a person "birthed" is unusual to our Americanized ears but it's pointing to the other person's identity as a human being born into this world, just as the singer is. When combined with likido, it means "you're one of a kind," "the only person born into this world like you is you."

(9) Kaotiba is no longer understood by most Chamorro speakers and even some Chamorro singers think the word is kastiga ("to punish") and sing it that way rather than kaotiba. Kaotiba means "to captivate." It is borrowed from the Spanish cautivar, also meaning "to captivate." The singer's heart was captivated by this unique human being.

(10) His love is so genuine and lasting that till the day he dies he will never tire of loving her or working for the good of the family. O'son doesn't mean physical tiredness, but rather emotional or mental fatigue or boredom.

(11) Now we get into symbolic and poetic language, where words are not to be taken literally. A kaohao is a wooden chest where valuables are locked and stored. Their love is a treasured thing that must be protected so he is using the idea of the kaohao that is made up of their body parts; her skin, his heart and bones, for the different parts of the chest and the padlock. The imagery comes from an old Chamorro perspective which modern Chamorros may find unusual.

(12) He is asking his sweetheart for her word of promise, her word accepting his love and maybe marriage proposal. Her "yes" to him will be safely stored as in a kaohao.

(13) Aseladura means "lock" and comes from the Spanish cerradura, of the same meaning. Some people say seladura instead of aseladura and you'll find that in other versions of this song.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020



Our islands may be tiny according to the world's standards but a tiny piece of land is still paradise to anyone clinging on to dear life in the deep blue sea.

Time and time again our islands in the Marianas have saved the life of many a shipwreck survivor.

One such wreck from long ago happened in November of 1818. Mind you, Napoleon Bonaparte and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few, were still alive.

An American merchant ship, the Resource, under the command of Captain Cornelius Sowle (his name is spelled several ways), hit an unknown reef in the north Pacific and sank. Before the ship completely sank, they managed to get casks of drinking water and loads of biscuits onto the boats they were using to escape the wreck.

To add to their misfortunes, the longest boat which had the biggest stores of food and water leaked and was sunk, losing all its provisions.

Two boats were now left but one of them disappeared in the night. It was supposed that it capsized and all lives were lost. Included in that disappeared boat was Captain Sowle.

The one remaining boat was adrift at sea for 25 day during which time three men died on the journey. Their bodies, naturally, were sent overboard to be buried at sea. They had bread to eat but no water except what they could catch with their hands when it rained. On December 15, the nine remaining survivors landed on Agrigan.

Agrigan had wild goats and hogs, besides natural vegetation, so they could survive. But one of the nine died during an accident while fishing. Finally, after eleven months on Agrigan, a Spanish brig picked them up and took them to Manila.


(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Nuestras Islas Marianas pueden ser pequeñas si las comparamos con el resto del mundo, pero un reducido pedazo de tierra se convierte en un paraíso y una salvación para cualquier persona que se aferre a la vida en un mar azul profundo.

Una y otra vez, nuestras islas han salvado la vida de muchos náufragos.

Uno de esos naufragios ocurrido hace siglos acotenció en noviembre de 1818. Napoleón Bonaparte y Thomas Jefferson, por nombrar algunos, todavía estaban vivos en esa época.

Un barco mercante estadounidense, el "Resource", bajo el mando del capitán Cornelius Sowle, chocó contra un arrecife desconocido en el Pacífico Norte y se hundió. Antes de que el barco se hundiera por completo, consiguieron llevar toneles de agua potable y montones de panes a los botes salvavidas que utilizaban para alejarse del naufragio.

Lamentablemente y para agregar a sus desgracias, el bote más grande que tenía las mayores reservas de comida y agua se hundió, perdiendo todas sus provisiones.

Quedaron dos botes, pero uno de ellos desapareció en la noche. Se supuso que había volcado y se habían perdido todas las vidas. En ese bote desaparecido viajaba el Capitán Sowle.

El bote restante estuvo a la deriva en el mar 25 días, durante los cuales tres hombres murieron en el trayecto. Sus cuerpos, naturalmente, fueron arrojados por la borda para ser sepultados en el mar. Tenían pan para comer, pero nada de agua, excepto la que podían recoger con las manos cuando llovía. El 15 de diciembre, los nueve supervivientes restantes desembarcaron en Agrigan.

Agrigan tenía cabras y cerdos salvajes, además de vegetación natural, para que pudieran sobrevivir. Por desgracia, uno de los nueve murió durante un accidente mientras pescaba. Finalmente, y después de once meses en Agrigan, un bergantín español los recogió y los llevó a Manila.


Thursday, September 17, 2020


If you look up funeral announcements on Guam, and search for deceased with the nickname SARASA, you will find many people with MANY different last names being members of the Sarasa clan : Bautista, Sahagon, Borja, Crisostomo, Dueñas, Cruz, Mafnas, Sanchez and even more.

How can they ALL be Sarasa?

One reason is because many of the deceased are married women, so the actual Sarasa clan is hidden in their middle (maiden) name.

A second reason is because their Sarasa ancestor is two or three generations back, so the actual name connected to Sarasa is hidden, but they still identify as members of the clan.


But the earliest recorded Sarasas in Spanish documents and records from the early American period (before 1910) were either BAUTISTAS or SAHAGONS.

Both the Bautistas and Sahagons were CAMACHO on their mother's sides. I believe this is where the Sarasa comes in.

There are only three Sahagons in the 1897 Guam Census, and they are all Camacho Sahagon and they are all brothers. They are the sons of the deceased Ignacio Agustín Sahagon from the Philippines and Antonia Aguero Camacho. She is the Sarasa, and her children took on that nickname. There are also some daughters and granddaughters under Antonia, but they have, in the Census at least, the last name Camacho, yet in some other documents they could also be called Sahagon. It's possible these daughters were born after Ignacio Sahagon had died and are therefore not his daughters, thus they are named Camacho after the widowed mother, and maybe, because Antonia had been married to a Sahagon, sometimes they were also called Sahagon. Whatever the case, they had the nickname Sarasa because the Sarasa was the mother Antonia, who was a Camacho.

Then there is the Bautista family, of which there are many children, almost a dozen in the 1897 Census. They are the children of the deceased Gregorio Milicelda Bautista of the Philippines and his Chamorro wife Maria Aguero Camacho, the same family names as Antonia who married Sahagon.

Both Antonia Aguero Camacho and Maria Aguero Camacho are the daughters of Juan and María, so I am confident that Maria and Antonia are sisters, and come from a Camacho family nicknamed Sarasa, and this is why Bautistas and Sahagons, and their descendants, have the nickname Sarasa.


That's not the answer many people want to hear, but it's the honest and safest answer in the case of Sarasa.

When our family nicknames started long ago, people didn't write down the reason.

So if the explanation isn't written down, the explanation has to be passed down by word of mouth, from one generation to the next. That didn't happen a lot of the time; perhaps even most of the time. The information died with the last person who knew it.

Some families did preserve the story how the clan got its nickname.

Sometimes it's not difficult to explain the origin of a family nickname. The nickname is really the name of an ancestor, sometimes in abbreviated form.

So when we lack those kinds of evidence, we can ask a few questions that may get us closer to an answer, but no guarantees.




It's a Spanish last name, though not very extensive. At last census, there were 1,268 people in Spain with the last name Sarasa. Another 30 people spelled it Saraza and only 10 spelled it Zaraza. 

From Spain, the name spread to Latin America and the Philippines, in all its several spellings.

But what does the Spanish surname have to do with the nickname of a Chamorro family? Maybe nothing at all! We just don't know.


Yes. Right here on Guam.

The Sarasa River.

The Sarasa River flows in the hill country of Talofofo, way in the interior of the island. It eventually flows into and joins the Talofofo River.

Did the Sarasa family get its nickname from the river? Did the family perhaps own land by the banks of the river? Someone in the family could know, or perhaps someone in the family still own lands along the Sarasa River. Old land records could be researched, if someone had the time and interest to do that. If the family owned land along the Sarasa River, it would strengthen the theory that the nickname comes from the river.

Most of Guam's rivers have Chamorro names like Talofofo, Ylig, Ugam and Pågo. But a few have Spanish names, like the Salinas and Pasamåno rivers. Is the Sarasa River a Spanish name or a Chamorro name?


There is such a word in Spanish. You can find it in any good Spanish dictionary. Even in that one language, sarasa can have more than one meaning and more than one spelling.

In Spain, sarasa is a slang word (but not the usual slang word) for an effeminate male.

In Mexico, when spelled saraza, it means fruit, especially corn, which is beginning to ripen.

Also in Mexico, when spelled zaraza, it means a kind of printed, cotton fabric.

Don't forget that, in Mexico, Z is pronounced like an S. And don't forget also that Mexican soldiers came to Guam in large numbers 300 years ago, so we have a lot of Mexican influence in our food and language. Before the war, our people grew and ate a lot of corn. Maybe the word saraza was used at one time by our farmers.

Besides these, sarasa can mean half a dozen other things in Spanish depending on which country you're in. In Argentina, sarasa can mean "blah blah blah," but even many Argentinians are not familiar with the word. Did any of these other meanings, which are found just in particular countries, most of which did not have direct links with the Marianas, make it to our islands? It's hard to imagine. And even if one of them did, which one of them explains the nickname Sarasa? It's a case without enough clues.

There is also a word sarasa in the Philippines. There, a sarasa is a plant (also called balasbas).Many Filipinos also moved to Guam in Spanish times. Did the word sarasa come to us from the Philippines? We have the sarasa plant here in Guam, but here it is called San Francisco!

So here we have more possibilities. Ripening corn, as in Mexico, or a plant called sarasa, as in the Philippines. Not to mention all the other less common definitions. We just can't be sure if any of them can explain the nickname Sarasa.


The 1975 Chamorro Dictionary put out by Donald Topping had the assistance of a man from Luta, Pedro M. Ogo. Thus, some words used only in Luta appear in that dictionary. Topping made sure to state clearly when a word was a Luta word, and salasa is one of them.

In Luta, a salasa is an area of shallow water just beyond the reef. Katherine Aguon's 2009 Chamorro Dictionary also has salasa (she spells it salåsa), but she doesn't indicate that it's a Luta word. I've asked a few older people from Guam and Saipan and they've never heard the word salasa (nor salåsa).

The older Guam-based Chamorro dictionaries, going back to 1865, do not include the word salasa. So I can only assume, based on all this documentation, that salasa is a word used in Luta, supplied to Topping by Pedro Ogo.
Perr isn't on
Some might wonder if the nickname Sarasa comes from the Luta word salasa.  But, if it did, how did a word used in Luta come to be a Guam nickname? Furthermore, Chamorro generally avoids the R sound and even replaces the R with an L when the original Spanish word has an R. Think of Spanish guitarra becoming Chamorro gitåla. But the family nickname is Sarasa, with an R, not salasa with an L. If a Guam family has a Luta word salasa for a nickname, how did it come to Guam in the first place and secondly how did salasa change to Sarasa when the Chamorro trend is the opposite; to change R to L?


Someone in the family makes the claim that the Sarasa nickname comes from the fact that one of the males in the family was a maker of shrimp and crab traps called nasa. But how does Sarasa come from nasa? The jump from one word to the other seems a bit far. Secondly, the Sarasa nickname goes back to Spanish times, and the male member of the family said to have been a nasa maker came later. In other words, the Sarasa nickname predates the nasa maker.

People love to offer explanations and often the explanations are just what seem right to them.

Someone else says Sarasa comes from a Hindu goddess named Saraswati, all the way in India. And someone could also go in the opposite direction to the Americas and there we find a place in Florida called Sarasota, a name of mysterious origins but possibly Native American (Indian). We need more than coincidental similarities between words from two different languages to establish a connection. It would be like thinking the Guam locale called Cañada was the country Canada.

Someone else wonders if Sarasa comes from the word råsa, or "race." Well, we could also wonder if Sarasa comes from the name Sara, Spanish and Chamorro for Sarah.

One's fertile imagination can create all sorts of suggested answers. But they're all products of our own minds, with nothing outside our minds to back it up.

If only Antonia or María Aguero Camacho, or someone else in that family, had written down an explanation!

But alas no one did. And so, while we have a few hunches, we have no sure way of knowing what the Sarasa nickname means nor how the family got that for a nickname but everyone is welcome to believe the version they think best.

Monday, September 14, 2020


Off the road that takes you into Pågo Bay is a street with this curious name.

Does anybody know someone named Juan dela Tran?

I don't. But I do know SAN JUAN DE LETRÁN.

San Juan de Letrán was the name of the first school in the Marianas during colonial times, founded by Blessed Diego Luís de Sanvitores in 1669, just the year after his arrival. His idea was to educate the most promising boys in the Marianas, not only in worldly subjects but especially in religion.

Following the European use of the word "college," the school was a Colegio, meaning a secondary school, not a part of a university.

San Juan de Letrán is the Spanish form of the name Saint John Lateran, the name of the Cathedral of Rome, the Pope's cathedral. That church was originally a huge building owned by the Lateranus family. That name is Lateran in English and Letrán in Spanish.

The Pope's Cathedral

The Colegio de San Juan de Letrán on Guam sat for two centuries in Hagåtña off to the side of the Dulce Nombre de María church. Chamorro boys schooled there became government and church clerks, municipal officials, teachers and military men. Boys from the southern villages and Luta lived at the school and took their meals there. The Spanish government paid for the running of the school. When the Americans took over Guam, the Colegio was closed for good.


(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Saliendo de la carretera que nos lleva a la Bahía de Pago existe una calle con este curioso nombre.

¿Alguien conoce a un tal “Juan Dela Tran”?

Yo no. Pero sí conozco a SAN JUAN DE LETRÁN.

San Juan de Letrán es el nombre de la primera escuela de las Islas Marianas durante la época española, fundada por el Beato Diego Luís de Sanvitores en 1669, justo un año después de su llegada. Su idea era educar a los muchachos más prometedores de las Marianas, no solo en temas mundanos sino especialmente en religión.

Atendiendo al significado europeo de la palabra "colegio", la escuela era un instituto, es decir, una escuela secundaria, y no una universidad.

San Juan de Letrán es el nombre de la Catedral de Roma, la catedral del Papa. Esa iglesia fue originalmente un enorme edificio propiedad de la familia Lateranus. Ese nombre es "Lateran" en inglés y "Letrán" en español.

El Colegio de San Juan de Letrán en Guam existió durante dos siglos en Agaña, al lado de la iglesia del Dulce Nombre de María. Los niños chamorros escolarizados allí se convirtieron en secretarios del gobierno y de la iglesia, funcionarios municipales, maestros y militares. Los chicos de los pueblos del sur de Guam y de la vecina Rota vivían en la escuela y comían allí. El gobierno español financiaba el sostenimiento y funcionamiento de la escuela. Cuando los estadounidenses se apoderaron de Guam, el Colegio San Juan de Letrán se cerró definitivamente.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020



(Make the meat bigger)

Guaha un taotao gi tiempon Españot ni na’ån-ña si Betto. I chalan ha’ sagågå-ña sa’ uniko na låhen sottera yan popble na palao’an ni esta måtai. Pues tolot dia lumalaoya ha’ gi chalan si Betto, man gågagao ayudu, magågo yan nengkanno’. 
(During Spanish times there was a man named Betto. He stayed on the streets only because he was the only son of a poor and single mother who was already dead. So all day Betto walked the streets asking for help, clothing and food.)

Un dia, ha faisen un taotao kao siña ha na’ sena gue’. Meskino yan chattao na taotao i ha faisen, lao i taotao ha sedi na u hålom si Betto para u sena. Ha na’ sena si Betto kåddo, lao un dikkike’ ha’ na pedåson kåtne ha nå’ye gi tasón. 
(One day, he asked a man if he could give him dinner. The man he asked was stingy and selfish, but the man allowed Betto to come in and have dinner. He gave Betto a dinner of stew, but there was just a small piece of meat in the bowl.)

Matå’chong i taotao gi otro båndan i lamasa, ha laknos un lepblo para u taitai ya ha po’lo i anteohos gi matå-ña. Si Betto tåya’ na ha li’e’ anteohos pues mamaisen, “Håfa señot na un u’usa ennao gi matå-mo?” Man oppe i taotao, “Pot para u ma na' la dangkulo i letra.” Pues ilek-ña si Betto, “Kao siña un atan este na pedåson kåtne ya un na' la dangkulo?”
(The man sat on the other side of the table, he took out a book to read and he put eyeglasses on. Betto had never seen eyeglasses so he asked, "Why, sir, are you using that on your eyes?" The man answered, "To make the letters bigger." So Betto said, "Can you look at this piece of meat and make it bigger?")

Tuesday, September 1, 2020



Nowadays driving from Hågat to Humåtak is a quick, pleasant and scenic drive on a very decent road.

Far from the narrow two-lane road of my childhood and youth, seen in the top left photo. That road was not exactly on the same path as today's road. It also went up and down more, curved more, and one had to be more wary of speeding drivers on the opposite lane. It was certainly more fun, like a roller coaster, especially riding on the back of a pickup truck. But it did take longer to get to Humåtak.

What many people may not know is that, in modern times, there wasn't even a road that connected Hågat and Humåtak until just about 66 years ago.


Those mountains we call Lamlam and Humuyong Månglo' are the reasons why it was so difficult and required tremendous resources to build a road up those highlands to get from Hågat to Humåtak in the old days. And so, if you look at prewar maps of Guam, you won't find a road from Hågat to Humåtak. From around where the Talaifak Bridge is, you see trails but then those disappear as the terrain climbs higher.


As you can see in the above map from before the war, there is a road on the eastern side of Guam going down to Inalåhan then across to Malesso and up to Humtak, but the road ends there. You cannot go past Humåtak up the mountains and then down to Hågat, nor from Hågat to Humåtak.

So, at the time, to get to Humåtak from Hagåtña, you had to either :

1. Go from Inalåhan to Malesso' to Humåtak by road


2. Go from Apra or Hågat to Humåtak by boat

It was the same for Malesso' residents. They often took a boat to Hagåtña unless they went by land through Inalåhan. Either way, it was a long trip.



After World War II, Guam modernized by leaps and bounds. Many jobs became available, especially for southern residents, at the new naval base in Sumay. How could a Humåtak employee at the naval base get to work? How could the sick from Humåtak get quickly to the hospital up north? Southern farmers wanting to sell their produce also needed a faster way to get north.

In February of 1950, a little before the Organic Act was passed, an Assemblyman from Humåtak, José S. Quinata, was calling on the government to build a road from Hågat to Humåtak for all those reasons mentioned. Before the Organic Act created our current Guam Legislature, the island had two houses in the purely advisory Guam Congress. Quinata was a member of the lower house, the House of Assembly.


By July of 1950, work began on a road between Hågat and Humåtak but it seems the work stalled because in 1953 the newly-inaugurated 2nd Guam Legislature introduced a bill to extend the road from Hågat to Humåtak.

The next year, 1954, Congressman Jesus R. Quinene of Malesso' (members of the Guam Legislature were called "congressmen" in the 1950s and 60s), was inviting members of the Guam Legislature to view the new Hågat to Humåtak road.

So perhaps we can say that Hågat and Humåtak were connected by road in 1954, but news reports speak of repairs all the way to 1956 when the Department of Public Works talks about "the completion" of the road. That year, 1956, is also when news articles speak about car accidents on that road, so we can be certain the road was done by 1956.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Hoy en día, circular desde Agat hasta Umatac es un viaje rápido, agradable y pintoresco por una carretera en buen estado.

Lejos de la estrecha carretera de dos carriles de mi infancia y juventud, que se ve en la foto superior izquierda, ese camino no estaba exactamente en el mismo lugar en el que está el de hoy. También ascendía y descendía en más ocasiones, tenía más curvas y había que tener más cuidado con los conductores del carril opuesto que se excedían en velocidad. Ciertamente era más divertido, como una montaña rusa, especialmente si se viajaba en la parte trasera de una camioneta. Pero se tardaba más que hoy en llegar a Umatac.

Lo que muchas personas tal vez no sepan es que, en épocas más recientes, ni siquiera había una carretera que conectara Agat y Umatac hasta hace unos 66 años.

Esas montañas que llamamos Lamlam y Humuyong Månglo' son las razones por las que era tan difícil y se requerían tremendos recursos para construir un camino por esas tierras altas para llegar de Agat a Umatac. Entonces, si se miran los mapas de Guam de antes de la guerra, no se encontrará una carretera de Agat a Umatac. Desde donde está el puente Talaifak, se ven senderos pero luego desaparecen a medida que el terreno asciende.

Como se puede ver en el mapa anterior de antes de la guerra, hay una carretera en el lado Este de Guam que baja a Inaraján, luego a Merizo y sube a Umatac, pero la carretera termina allí. No se puede cruzar Umatac por las montañas y luego bajar a Agat, ni de Agat a Umatac.

Entonces, en ese momento, para llegar a Umatac desde Agaña, había que:

1. Ir de Inarajan a Merizo y a Umatac por carretera, o

2. Ir de Apra o Agat a Umatac en barco.

Lo mismo ocurría con los residentes de Merizo. A menudo tomaban un barco a Agaña a menos que fueran por tierra a través de Inaraján. De cualquier manera, era un viaje largo.

Después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Guam se modernizó a pasos agigantados. En la nueva base naval de Sumay había muchos puestos de trabajo disponibles, especialmente para los residentes del sur. ¿Cómo podría ir a trabajar un empleado de Umatac a la base naval? ¿Cómo podían los enfermos de Umatac llegar rápidamente al hospital del norte? Los agricultores del sur que deseaban vender sus productos también necesitaban una forma más rápida de llegar al norte.

En febrero de 1950, poco antes de que se aprobara la Ley Orgánica, un asambleísta de Umatac, José S. Quinata, solicitó al gobierno que construyera una carretera de Agat a Umatac por las razones anteriormente mencionadas. Antes de que la Ley Orgánica creara nuestra actual Legislatura de Guam, la isla tenía dos cámaras en el Congreso puramente consultivas. Quinata era miembro de la cámara baja, la Cámara de la Asamblea

En julio de 1950, se inició el trabajo para una carretera entre Agat y Umatac, pero parece que el trabajo se estancó porque en 1953 la Segunda Legislatura de Guam recién inaugurada presentó un proyecto de ley para extender la carretera de Agat a Umatac.

El año siguiente, 1954, el congresista Jesús R. Quinene de Merizo (a los miembros de la Legislatura de Guam se les llamó "congresistas" en las décadas de 1950 y 1960), estaba invitando a miembros de la Legislatura de Guam a ver la nueva carretera Agat a Umatac.

Entonces, quizás podamos decir que Agat y Umatac estuvieron conectados por carretera desde 1954, pero los informes de noticias hablan de reparaciones hasta 1956, cuando el Departamento de Obras Públicas declara "la finalización" de la carretera. Ese año, 1956, es también el año en el que los periódicos ya hablan sobre accidentes automovilísticos en esa carretera, por lo que podemos estar seguros de que la carretera estaba terminada en 1956.