Tuesday, August 21, 2018


February is usually not the main season for catching atulai (mackerel). July to October are the busier atulai months.

But, in February of 1902, Don Venancio Sablan Roberto was doing a brisk business selling them out of his house in Hagåtña. Roberto was a leading citizen of Guam and most likely had hired fishermen to catch fish for him to sell.

Another well-connected Guam citizen, Don Antonio Martínez Torres, sent one of his muchachos, or domestic boys, to pick up his order of atulai from Roberto. His name was Antonio Martínez Santos, a boy of just 12 years. As he waited at Roberto's, he saw another lad, Joaquín Iriarte Celis. According to Santos, Celis started a fight, which ended with Celis giving Santos a bloody nose.

Since Roberto was attracting customers to buy his atulai, there was no lack of witnesses; others who were there to buy fish. Joaquín Pablo Reyes, Rosa Matanane Taitano and Juana Baza Benavente (Juana'n Emmo') all testified that either they saw Santos with a bloody nose, or that Celis punched Santos.

Celis had a somewhat different story to tell. He said he was at Roberto's waiting to buy his boss some fish, when Santos called out to him, "Hoi! Kaduko!" ("Hey! Crazy!") Celis said he ignored Santos. But when Santos then said, "Karåho! Demonio!" ("Damn it! Demon!"), Celis punched Santos.

The court took into consideration that Celis was believed to be only 13 years old. The court ordered a very curious thing. They wanted two school teachers to interview Celis and determine for the court if Celis had acquired "discernment," meaning the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and to make rational decisions.

Two leading teachers, Luís Díaz de Torres and Manuel Rosario Sablan, rendered the following judgment : in the Marianas, the ability to discern is not reached till between fourteen and sixteen years of age.

When Celis' true age of 12 years was verified by his baptismal record, Celis was let off the hook.

Monday, August 20, 2018


From many parts on Saipan, one can clearly see its highest point - Mount Takpochao - which rises to 1555 feet. That is around 400 feet higher than Guam's Mount Lamlam.

But surrounding Takpochao are other high points slightly below it. The second highest peak on Saipan is to the west of Takpochao and it rises to 1000 feet. It is called Okso' Tipo' Påle'.

It's an interesting name.

Okso' is hill or mount.

Tipo' comes from tupo' which means a well, as in a water well. When one places the definite article "i," meaning "the," tupo' becomes i tipo'.

Påle' means "priest."

So, perhaps, the place was named after a priest who dug a well there. Why a priest would dig a well on a hill 1000 feet high is anybody's guess. Perhaps a priest found a well there. Maybe it was named for a priest for other reasons.


The Americans, when taking over Saipan in 1944, wanted Mount Takpochao very badly. From this high ground, the Americans could do much to take control from the Japanese. But, on the way up to Takpochao, the Americans had to first lay their hands on Tipo' Påle'.

Tipo' Påle' (encircled) was a main objective in the American invasion

American soldiers survey Garapan (right) and the western shore of Saipan from Tipo' Påle'

A similar view today


The modern name for Saipan's highest peak is Tapochau (or Tapochao) but the original Chamorro name is Takpochau (or Takpochao).

Thursday, August 16, 2018


used as mortar in construction projects

Before modern commercial goods were shipped into the Marianas, our people lived mainly off the resources of the land and sea.

In building homes of the modest classes, this meant using bamboo, wood and sturdy palms like åkgak (pandanus) for interior partitions and nipa for roofing.

But for those with the money, houses could be made of stone and mortar. The mortar was a mixture of åfok (powdered limestone rock), sand, water and often some oil, used to bind the stones together once the mortar dried. This type of construction, using stone and mortar, is called mampostería.

In 1902, Manuel Camacho Aflague, the Justice of the Peace in the Guam court, contracted with Félix Palomo de León, better known as Félix Mundo, to provide Aflague with the lime necessary for the building of a new house in Hagåtña. Being a court official, Aflague had the means to build a house of mampostería. Also because he was a court official, it is no surprise that Aflague took Mundo to court when things didn't turn out well.

According to Aflague, the lime that Mundo supplied ran out and the house wasn't finished yet. Aflague asked Mundo to get more lime, but Mundo refused, saying that he had given Aflague enough lime for the house. Aflague had paid for the lime by giving Mundo two karabao, one valued at 70 pesos and the other at 80 pesos. Aflague asked the court to compel Mundo to complete the supply of åfok or pay him in cash the value of the undelivered åfok.

Appearing before a substitute judge, since Aflague would normally hear such cases, Mundo pointed out that he had given Aflague sufficient lime for the house, but that Aflague had diverted some of the lime to the building of an outside toilet at the same site. Mundo pleaded with Aflague to release him from the obligation to supply more lime, since Mundo was a poor man. Aflague agreed and released him from the obligation, provided Mundo pay the cost of the hearing. Mundo complied and the case was closed.

Lesson learned. When building a house (in 1900), make sure to include plans for an outdoor toilet from the beginning of calculations!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


The German Flag is raised on Saipan in 1899

Germany took control of the Northern Marianas in November of 1899. As colonial administrators, the Germans were noted for record-keeping. One example of this was an annual handbook printed by the German Colonial Office, giving information, details and statistics about all the German colonies. In German, it was called the Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch.

According the 1901 handbook, which would include data for the prior year of 1900, the ethnic breakdown of Saipan's population at that time was as follows :









There were only two villages on Saipan at the time, Garapan, the capital, and Tanapag. Their respective populations were :




1. Now we see that the Chamorro population outnumbered the Carolinian. For most of the 1800s, the Carolinians outnumbered the Chamorros. But by the 1880s, the number of Chamorros moving from Guam to Saipan increased, and this number swelled in the early 1900s. Free land in Saipan was part of the attraction, as the Germans tried to entice Guam Chamorros to move to Saipan, which needed a larger population.

2. The "Malayans" were Indonesians recruited by the Dutch and hired out to the Germans to work as policemen. When the Germans first took over the Northern Marianas, they weren't too sure how law-abiding the islanders would be. They used these Indonesians, therefore, as their police force. Very quickly, however, the Germans understood that the Chamorros and Carolinians were peaceable and the Indonesians were sent elsewhere and the local police force was then made up by Chamorros and Carolinians.

3. The dozen Japanese residents were involved in trade and commerce, or worked for those businesses. Some of them already married Chamorro women by then.

4. Just as in Guam, there were always a few Filipinos who had come over during Spanish times when both the Philippines and the Marianas were under Spain. The Marianas, in fact, were a province of the Philippines for a time. Most had married Chamorro women.

5. The resident Germans were the colonial officers and the two Spaniards were Augustinian Recollect priests left-over from the Spanish administration. German Capuchin missionaries would not replace them for a few more years still.

The German Colonial Handbook of 1901

Monday, August 13, 2018



It's not the trousers that make the man, but his actions.

A baby in a suit is still a baby.

There is an old saying in many Western languages. "It's not the habit that makes the monk." A habit is the religious garb of a monk. Just because a man wears a monk's habit doesn't make him a good or holy monk who fulfills his obligations.

Likewise, anybody in a uniform or anybody in a grown man's suit doesn't automatically fulfill the role the are dressed to be. Clothing is the outward expression of an inner reality that should be there.

Besides clothing, titles do not guarantee anything. Someone might have a high title, but that is no guarantee about that person's character or performance.

The other side of this coin is that a young teenager, by his deeds, can prove himself to already be a man. Like the teenage boy who amazed the public when he swam to save his drowning brother, or the teenage girl who single handedly saved the house from burning to the ground when no one else was around.

Thursday, August 9, 2018


Early 1800s

Our people were really into tobacco in the 1700 and 1800s.

Tobacco was so prized by our people that they were willing to be paid with tobacco. The Spanish government often did just that; pay government workers with tobacco.

Listen to a French visitor in 1828, Jules S.C. Dumont d'Urville, describe his visit to a home in Mongmong,

"Some days later I visited the village of Mongmong.... Some corn, rice and tobacco - the basic crops of the land - were grown there. I went to pay a visit to the highest official in the place, the gobernadorcillo or kind of mayor. I was next presented to his wife, a formidable-looking woman... Without taking her cigar out of her mouth, she replied to the greeting that I had learned earlier. When I said, "Ave María purísima," the woman mumbled, without lifting her eyes a bit, "Sin pecado concebida."

The mayor's wife, just like the woman pictured above, had a cigar in her mouth. In describing the women of Hagåtña, Dumont d'Urville said,

"The women wore nothing on their heads or on their feet, it is true, but they were decently clothed in a skirt and a jacket, with cigars in their mouths...."

Early 1800s

One of the reasons why Chamorros in the old days were so fond of tobacco is because it was successfully and easily grown here.

It was brought to the Marianas during Spanish times, probably very early after the arrival of Sanvitores in 1668. Our tropical climate made it easy for the plant to grow here. Nearly everyone who grew anything grew even a little tobacco. Rose Freycinet, wife of the French explorer, described in 1819 how the spaces in between the houses in Hagåtña were used to grow a little tobacco.

For bigger plantings of tobacco, the American William Safford, living on Guam between 1899 and 1900, said that the best places for growing tobacco were Santa Rosa, Yigo, Fina'guåyok and Matåguak in the north and Yoña in the south.

Early 1900s

Although tobacco took easily to Guam's climate and soil, tobacco was not, in fact, "easy" to grow. Great care had to be taken to grow the seedlings in beds before transferring them to the soil, without damaging the roots. Seedlings had to be planted at the right time of year, August and September. In October and November, the seedlings are transferred to nurseries and then to the fields from December to February.

Now, as the tobacco plants start to grow in the earth, the farmer must weed the area and keep the tobacco leaves free of the sphinx moth whose larvae feeds on the leaves. The tobacco plants can't have too much sun, so coconut palm fronds are stuck in the ground around the tobacco and bent forward to touch each other, forming a protective canopy over the tobacco plants. Side branches are plucked off so that more of the nutrients could go to the better leaves.

When the plant is ready for harvesting, the whole plant is cut as close to the ground as possible and the leaves allowed to wither on the stem. Then the leaves are taken off the stem and hung to dry, usually two or three plants in a bunch. The tobacco is simply rolled, often ten leaves in a roll, called a paliyo, and fastened together by strings made of pineapple (piña) or agave fiber (lirio de palo).

Who enjoyed the tobacco? Almost everybody! They rolled it into cigars or chewed it with pugua' (betel nut), pupulo (pepper leaf) and åfok (lime powder). Safford says that only the higher class women refrained from smoking or chewing tobacco, or at least didn't use tobacco in front of others. So fond were the people of local tobacco that they would buy imported tobacco only if the local supply ran out.

Speaking of the local supply, here's an idea how much tobacco was grown on Guam before the war. In 1919, 81 acres of land were dedicated to tobacco growing. That's not much when you consider that 2,173 acres were used for growing corn in the same year. But tobacco still outranked sugar, to which only 13 acres on island were used for growing. A little over 36,000 pounds of tobacco were harvested on Guam in 1919.


After World War II, as our people switched to a cash economy and agriculture declined, due to the taking of much of the best farm lands for military use, people began to buy imported cigarettes and chewing tobacco from stores.

Still, a few people grow tobacco in small quantities on Guam to this day.

(courtesy of Raph Unpingco)








Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Well, if you really want to know a bit of island life over a hundred years ago, here it is.

The facts of this story come from court records written in 1902.

Before modernization, people "did their business" outside the actual home. Sometimes, there were outhouses on the property. Sometimes, there were public latrines. Some people used orinolas (bed chambers) or other containers and then disposed of the contents in the jungle or into the ocean.

But....in some places, you could relieve yourself outdoors, right onto the land. The problem was, if you did so too close to someone's home, there was bound to be a quarrel.

This is indeed what happened one Saturday in 1902 in the seaside village of Tepungan, located in between Asan and Piti. Some homes there were located not far from the beach, just yards away from the sand. One such home belonged to Vicenta Terlaje Quidachay. She looked out her home to see her neighbor's son, José Megofña Salas, defecating openly in the area between their houses, with his mother Ana Pérez Megofña standing nearby.

Vicenta threw a stone at them and cried out, "Håfa na masisinek gue' guennao?!?" "Why is he defecating there?!?"

Defending her son, Ana replied "Ya amåno mås malago'-mo para u masinek?" "And where else do you want him to defecate?"

Vicenta replied sharply, "Po'lo ya u masinek gi sasalåguan!" "Let him defecate in hell!"

Now it turned into an ugly verbal tirade of insults.

José then said, "Åsson ya un baba i pachot-mo ya bai cho'gue guennao!" "Lie down and open your mouth and I'll do it there!"

Vicenta retorted, "Cho'gue gi as nanå-mo!" "Do it on your mother!"

Then, another son of Ana, Ignacio, came in from the beach and heard what was going on. He, too, joined the fight, calling Vicenta every cuss word he knew.

Despite the fact that all four of these individuals hurled vulgar insults at each other, it was only Ignacio whom Vicenta took to court. Since he openly admitted he had said those things, the court found Ignacio guilty of verbal abuse and fined him.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Yanggen mañule' hao håfa gi halom tåno' para åmot, hånao ha' tåtte ensegidas para gumå'-mo yan i chinilele'-mo. Cha'-mo sumusugo' pot otro lugåt fine'nana.

If you take whatever from the jungle for medicine, go straight away back to your house with what you took. Don't dare go somewhere else first.

A woman shared with me the story about sending her adult daughter to the jungle to get some herbs for medicine. The lady strictly told her daughter to come right back home after doing so, without making any stops whatsoever.

It must have slipped the daughter's mind because, on the way back home, with the herbs in the front passenger's seat, she decided to stop by a neighborhood store to buy something. When she returned to the car, all the herbs had disappeared. Nothing else in the car was amiss, only the vanished herbs.

"The taotaomo'na didn't allow her to reach home with the herbs, since she made a stop somewhere," the mother told me.

Thursday, August 2, 2018



Zinc was all the rage in the Marianas in the late 1800s. Called sin in Chamorro, using the Spanish word for "zinc," "cinc" or "zinc." It was used for roofing on select government and church buildings, and on the homes of the rare wealthy families. Japanese merchants in the Marianas, on the rise since the 1890s, helped bring in more zinc products. The Hagåtña store keeper Yoshinori Seimiya was one such Japanese supplier of zinc merchandise.

Josefa Torres de Borja bought a zinc pail from Seimiya in the early 1900s. She then gave it to Rita Aguon Watkins, the wife of Calixto (sometimes Calistro) Torres Taitano. One day, Rita left the pail at the hotno (oven) of Justo de León Guerrero at his house in Hagåtña. She intended to get water from Justo's well, but got busy with baking bread. She decided to send one of her children later to get the pail, but they discovered that it was gone.


Rita then saw Catalina Aguon walking with the pail in hand. Catalina was on her way to fetch water at Justo's well. Rita followed and snatched the pail from Catalina, stating that it was hers.

The matter went to court!

Rita presented her witnesses who vouched that the pail belonged to Rita. Catalina also produced her witnesses she hoped would testify that the pail belonged to Catalina. Unfortunately for Catalina, the best her witnesses could say was that the pail looked like one that belonged to Catalina, but could not state that it was the exact pail owned by Catalina.

The court awarded the pail to Rita.

On a side note, when aluminum was introduced to the Marianas, it looked like zinc so Chamorros called aluminum sin, as well.


A river flowed through Hagåtña, but people didn't drink from it. People did their laundry and other washing in the river. At least they didn't (normally) go to the bathroom in it.

There were at least three different ways to get drinking water. One was to catch rain from the roof tops. One common way to do that was to put big clay pots called tinåha underneath the roof and the rain water would fall into them.

A second way was to transport fresh water from the spring in Didigue or from the river in Fonte. But that necessitated bringing an animal-lead cart.

Thus, no drinking from it!

The more common way to get drinking water was from wells dug right in your own back yard in Hagåtña. The soil in Hagåtña is made of coral limestone. The rain falls onto this ground and percolates downward till it hits a solid slab of rock and stays there. The problem with well water, though, was that it collected a lot of residue, such as the coral rock but also animal feces, as animals defecated on the same soil. People in the city kept animals around and even underneath their homes. The American Naval Government would in time clamp down on this, issuing regulations but not ridding the city entirely of animals. It couldn't. People depended on the animals for transportation and food.

But due to the brackish quality of the well water, and the animal waste, people often got sick from it. In time, the Naval Government had water piped in from cleaner sources outside the city.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Before 1983, it was a universal requirement that Catholic churches announce the foreseen wedding of a bride and groom for three consecutive Sundays (or Holy Days of Obligation) in both the bride's parish and the groom's parish. The reason for this was to discover any legal impediments that would prevent the wedding.

The idea was that a man might still have a wife living somewhere, unbeknownst to the priest. Announcing the intended wedding well in advance should, so the theory went, uncover any hidden prior marriages or whatever else might prevent the wedding. A bride and groom might even be first cousins but unaware of the fact, because one or even both of the two could be illegitimate, only the mother knowing who the biological father was. First cousins can get married, but only with the bishop's permission. Otherwise, the wedding could not proceed.

In the English language, these announcements are called marriage or wedding "banns," from an old English word meaning "proclamation." The names of the brides and grooms were announced at Mass, and anyone who might no a reason or reasons why the couple could not legally get married in Church had to inform the parish priest.

In the Marianas, these announcements were called the amonestasiones, a word borrowed from the Spanish. The word comes from the Latin word for "warn or advise."

Since many people could not read or write, the amonestasiones were read out by the priest during the announcements in church. In time, they became printed in the church bulletin and/or tacked to the bulletin board or doors of the church.

Here is a sample of an actual amonestasiones read out in Chamorro by a Spanish priest in 1925.

Hu na' fan manungo' todos :
(I make it known to everyone :)

na si Antonio Díaz Pérez, sottero, de 24 åños de edåt,
(that Antonio Díaz Pérez, single, aged 24 years,)

låhen Félix yan Josefa, mafañågo giya Agaña (Guam),
(son of Félix and Josefa, born in Agaña (Guam),)

yan si Estella Pangelinan Sablan, sottera, de 17 åños de edåt,
(and Estella Pangelinan Sablan, single, aged 17 years,)

hagan Mariano yan Elisa, mafañågo guine,
(daughter of Mariano and Elisa, born here,)

malago' umassagua, si Yu'us mediånte.
(wish to marry, God willing.)

Pot lo tånto, håye i tumungo' na guaha håf na impedimento,
(Therefore, whoever knows that some impediment exists,)

na pot guiya ti siña u ma selebra este na umakamo',
(by which this union cannot be celebrated,)

u sangåne yo' åntes de i 16 på'go na mes.
(will inform me before the 16th of this month.)

It was signed by Father Dionisio de la Fuente, the Jesuit priest of Garapan, Saipan.

The bride and groom in this case, Antonio and Estella, went on to get married. Antonio passed away in 1969. Estella lived for many more years, passing on in 1993.

Antonio Díaz and Estella Pangelinan Pérez


1. The Spanish priest rendered the names of the bride and groom in the Spanish style, which places the person's father's last name first, followed by the mother's. So Antonio Pérez Díaz's father was a Pérez and his mother was a Díaz. On Guam in 1920, the American Naval Government ordered everyone to follow the American custom of placing the father's last name last, so Antonio Pérez Díaz became Antonio Díaz Pérez.

2. Si Yu'us mediånte. This is the Chamorro form of the Spanish phrase "Dios mediante," literally meaning "by means of God," or "God willing." Man might want something, but if God doesn't want it to happen, it won't.


In this Spanish document, we see the word "bilangos," the plural of "bilango."

A branch of the Pérez family on Guam is known as the familian Bilånggo.

If you look at the picture above, the encircled word is bilangos, the plural of bilango, according to the Spanish way of spelling it.

You can see the word again in the picture below. Two words down from bilango is another word - Alguacil, spelled with a Z instead of a C as it is spelled nowadays. Both words - Bilango and Alguacil - meant an officer of the law. A law enforcement agent.

Back in the 1700s, the Spanish Government in the Marianas had a village position called the bilango. He was usually a member of the islands' troops who, by the late 1700s, were the descendants of the Spanish, Latin American and Filipino soldiers brought here earlier, many of whom married Chamorro women.

At the time, each village had a bilango, who was like a sheriff or police officer.

It's possible that an ancestor in this family was a bilango at some point, and he and his descendants were nicknamed Bilånggo.

The title for that position was later changed and the word bilango was completely dropped. But the nickname survived to this day.

One of the island's Bilånggos was Juan Cárdenas Pérez, who married Carmen Padilla Laguaña. His descendants are still known as familian Bilånggo.


The Spaniards who set up the local government here knew the term bilango from the Philippines, where it was used already. So they simply used the same word here for the same village position as was used in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, a local chief's (datu) constable, sheriff or law enforcer was called a bilanggo, who often used his own house as a jail. That's why the word bilanggo also came to be known as "to be jailed" - \ma bilanggo, or "jailed" - because the bilanggo apprehended you and put you in jail, often the bilanggo's own house. So bilanggo also meant a "prisoner, someone jailed."

So maybe the Chamorro person given the nickname Bilånggo had also been imprisoned, instead of being the law enforcer as was the original meaning of the word. Either way is possible. But if bilånggo had, at one time, meant "prisoner" in Chamorro, as well as in the various Filipino languages, that meaning did not last. In fact, the word bilånggo didn't last at all in Chamorro, except as a family nickname whose meaning also became lost.

Some people, like the author Jean-Paul Potet, speculate that the word bilanggo used in the Philippines actually comes from India, by way of Tamil, one of the many language spoken in India. In Tamil, vilangku means "fetters," or "chains." That, in turn, might come from another Indian language, Malayalam where belunggu or lunggu means "prisoner."

Thursday, July 26, 2018


The word is still "in the books," but hardly ever heard in conversations today.

Failaye means "to betray." According to some old dictionaries, it can also mean "cunning, deceit" or a crime done with forethought, as in premeditated murder which would be "failaye pumuno'."

Some of the older dictionaries spell it failahye, with an H. In the photo above, of a document written in 1902, the H is missing, but, in those days, people spelled in a very inconsistent way. Since it's more usual to forget a letter than to put one in that doesn't belong, and since three very old dictionaries (1865, 1918 and 1932) all have the H, I reckon failahye is the more accurate spelling, matching the pronunciation of the word in those days.

Påle' Román (1932) says that failahye can be used to describe interrupted sleep. Hu failahye i maigo'-ho. All those interruptions, waking one up, is a betrayal of the desire to sleep long.

The fafailahye is the traitor and finailahye is the noun form for "treason, betrayal."

Failahye was replaced in conversation by the people themselves with the Spanish loan words traidot (traitor) and traiduti (to betray). Fa'baba is a Chamorro word than can mean "to betray," but it has a wider meaning, including "to fool, trick, cheat, pretend, defraud."

In 1902, there was a man named Antonio Blas who was nicknamed Antonio'n Failaye.


Failahye seems very close to the word fa'aila', which means "to accuse." Later, the word took on more meaning, such as "to report on." I wonder if there is a connection between failahye (to betray) and fa'aila' (to accuse). Even fa'aila' has been forgotten, most people saying sokne or akusa for "accuse." Sokne really means more than "to accuse," but that's a topic for a future post.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


The Masons are a fraternal organization which, to this day, Catholics are forbidden to join.

That didn't stop Masons from coming to Guam, nor Chamorros from joining the Masons in small numbers before the war. Generally, Chamorros who did join the Masons before the war stopped practicing Catholicism.

There may have been Spanish Masons in the Marianas during Spanish times, as well, though there was no lodge in the Marianas until the American Masons opened one on Guam before the war.

But that didn't stop one Catholic Chamorro couple, Vicente Roberto Herrero and his wife, the former Dolores Martínez Pangelinan, from becoming interested in a Masonic ring. Herrero wasn't a Mason, but a ring, especially if it were made of gold, had economic value, and Herrero somehow acquired one. The Herreros ran a store on the ground floor of their Hagåtña house and someone had stolen the ring, among other numerous items, when the store was somehow infiltrated undetected.


And then, in 1902, a US Marine stationed on Guam, William Dalby from Indiana, walked into the Herrero store looking to buy handkerchiefs. Dolores studiously observed Dalby's hands on the counter. Dolores called to her husband to come over. Vicente looked at Dalby's hands and saw a Masonic ring on it. "That ring belongs to us," Vicente said.

Dalby replied, "I bought it from another soldier. It's a Masonic ring for the 10th degree in the United States." Herrero answered, "It's for the 13th degree, Spanish Masonic lodge." Well, Dalby said he'd go and get the American Marine he bought it from.

Alvin Acree from Virginia walked in and said that he had bought the ring from a Chamorro. He wasn't totally sure it was a Chamorro, but he thought so. He described the man as being short, of dark color and having hunched shoulders. The man couldn't speak much English; only a few words.

The court summoned José Taitano de León Guerrero, a silversmith, who testified that he had seen the ring in the possession of Herrero since around 1897, as Herrero had brought it to him for an appraisal. Another witness, Nicolasa Cruz Santos, a seamstress who used to work for Herrero, said she, too, had seen the ring in the possession of the Herreros some years back when she was working for them.


Somehow, perhaps just from the physical description, or maybe because someone informed the authorities, a man named José was identified as a suspect. Because his family is still around, and rather numerous, I'll just keep it at José. That's what happens when the author is local and the island is small and interconnected!

José completely denied having anything to do with the ring. He didn't know who it belonged to nor anything else about it. He did say he was at the barracks (probably the Marine barracks in Hagåtña) and saw a Filipino young man named Jabe (or Tabe or Fabe, the first letter is not clear). Jabe was laughing and José asked why. Jabe said, "I just tricked an American! I told him I'm Chamorro but I am not!" José was certainly insinuating that this Jabe was the real suspect.


But, the authorities created a lineup, the first I've come across in Guam's documentation. Four men were brought into the room and made to stand shoulder to shoulder, their backs against the wall. Besides the suspect José, there was another José, surnamed Cruz, and then a Pedro Mendiola Delgado and a Nicolás Garrido Iriarte. Then, four American Marines who claimed to have been there when the Chamorro man sold the ring to Acree were brought in, one by one so that one man's answer wouldn't influence another. Three of the four identified José as the man they saw selling the ring to Acree. One of the four couldn't identify any of the four men at all in the line-up.

Then the judge did an interesting thing. Out of sight of the four Marines, the judge had José change shirts with Iriarte and changed up the order of the line. Then he brought in the four Marines again, one by one. The same three Marines still identified the suspect José, while the fourth one still couldn't tell which of the four the man was.


So, the charge stuck with José and he eventually paid the price for it. The local officials of Hagåtña were asked to testify as to José's character. They all said he started out with a good reputation. He was known as an industrious man, always working hard at his ranch to feed his family. And then....gambling. Card games, cockfights. He lost a lot of money and sold possessions to cover his debts.

Monday, July 23, 2018


Early 1800s

From a list of Chamorro government officials in the 1830s, we see the names of the officials for the barrio or district of Aniguak :

IGNACIO SOYOÑA - he was the Gobernadorcillo, meaning "little governor" who acted like a town mayor.

PEDRO TAITAGUE - he was the Teniente, or second-in-command.

DIEGO TAITAGUE - he was the Agricultural Officer, or Juez de Palmas, Sementeras y Animales (Judge of Palms, Fields and Animals).

The neighborhood leaders, or Cabezas de Barangay, were :



Every single Aniguak official has an indigenous Chamorro surname, not a Spanish (Cruz, Santos, Pérez) nor Filipino (Pangelinan, Manibusan) surname. The Hispanic and Filipino settlers lived mainly in the city proper of Hagåtña. The outlying villages of Hagåtña (Aniguak, Mongmong, Sinajaña and others) were almost entirely populated by the more indigenous, less mixed-blood Chamorros.

SOYOÑA more than likely comes from the word sohyo, which means "to encourage, persuade, influence" and the like. Many indigenous names end with the suffix -ña (Mangloña, Megofña, Laguaña) and could mean either "his/her/its" or "more than someone else." Or adding -ña to a word could have a meaning no one knows anymore!

TAITAGUE more than likely comes from the word tahgue, which means "to replace, to take the place of, to succeed someone." Tai means "without." Taitague could mean "lacking a replacement, someone to replace him or her." Many indigenous names begin with the prefix tai (Taitano, Taimanglo, Taitingfong).

AFLAGUE might have something to do with falågue, which means "to run toward or after." The prefix A means "together." Aflague could mean "to run towards each other" or "after each other."

MATERNE is sometimes spelled Matednge and gives us a clue as to its meaning. Totnge means "to light a fire" or "to feed a fire." Matetnge (Materne) could mean "was inflamed" or "ignited."

Thursday, July 19, 2018


In 1910, Stockton, California was a growing city of 23,000 people. Just ten years before, the city had 17,000 people, so people were moving to Stockton, were jobs could be found in agriculture, industry and transportation.

Among them were some Chamorros from Guam. There were still commercial ships, some of them whalers though in decreasing number, that passed through Guam in the 1890s, and some Chamorro men joined the crew. From there they landed in Hawaii, the US West Coast and other places.

These four Chamorros appear in the 1910 Census in Stockton, all living together at 242 South San Joaquin Street in a boarding house run by James Hammond :

Ben Santos, 21 years old. He arrived in California in 1898. He worked as a cook in a tamale factory.

Joe Armandola, age 32 years. He arrived in California in 1898. He worked as a tamale maker. I wonder if his surname was really Mendiola.

Bob Santos, 30 years old. He, too, arrived in California in 1898. He was a butcher.

Joe Gros, 25 years old. He arrived in California in 1894. He was a cook on a steamer. If he really was 25 years old in 1910, then it means he arrived in California at age 9 years! Not impossible, but that is awfully young to leave home. But.....people often just guessed their ages and were often notoriously off from their actual ages. Gros is not a surname found on Guam, and could be a shortcut of Guerrero, or a nickname of some other origin.

Chamorros seems to have found jobs as tamale makers. In other records, I found Chamorro tamale makers in San Francisco in the early 1900s. The tamales made were Mexican, using corn husks rather than banana leaves as wrappers, as is done the Chamorro way. Despite this and other differences between Mexican and Chamorro tamales, the basic idea and ingredient (corn meal) were the same.

Chamorro seamen often got new names and went by nicknames, as well, so don't be surprised by names like Armandola and Gros, and they all had nicknames (Ben, Joe, Bob) rather than Vicente, Jose and Roberto.

In 1910, all four Chamorro men were single, but maybe in time some or all of them got married. It's hard to track them down in future censuses because they sometimes changed their names or put down Spain or the Philippines as their home country. This is because the Marianas had been under Spain and had been a province of the Philippines under Spain.

The boarding house they lived in housed around 30 people, men and women, from all over the world. When in close proximity to Mexicans, Chamorros in the US in those days tended to associate and even identify with Mexicans than with other races (or with the Portuguese in Hawaii), because they really did a lot in common at the time.