Wednesday, December 7, 2016



Hagåtña. 1930s

Annai på'go manhålom i Hapones* giya Guam
(When the Japanese first came to Guam**)

ma sodda' na siña si tatå-ho fumino' Hapones.
(they discovered that my father could speak Japanese.)

Ti gef mefno'*** gue' gi fino' Hapones lao 
(he wasn't very fluent in the Japanese language but)

hunggan maolek gue' fumino' Hapones.
(yes he was good in speaking Japanese.)

Kontodo i intetprete na Chamorro ni ginen Saipan
(even the Chamorro interpreter from Saipan)

ilek-ña as tatå-ho na maolek gue' gi fino' Hapones.
(told my father that he was good in the Japanese language.)

Taiguine estoriå-ña si tatå-ho.
(My dad's story goes like this.)

Popble familiå-na. Bula famagu'on. Ocho siha na mañe'lo.
(His family was poor. There were many children. There were eight siblings.)

Un dia, ilek-ña si tatan-ñiha, "Annai este un kumple dosse åños,
(One day, their father said, "When you reach 12 years,

debe de un fanaligao che'cho'-mo."
(you should look for work.")

Pues pot i esta ha kumple dosse åños años-ña si tatå-ho,
(So, because my dad already reached the age of 12 years,)

ha a'atan maolek esta måno nai siña gue' mañodda' che'cho'-ña.
(he already looked well where he could find a job.)

Guaha un Hapones, na'ån-ña si Kurokawa, na såstre.
(There was a Japanese, his name was Kurokawa, who has a tailor.)

Ma bababa ha' i gimå'-ña ya ha fåfåna' i chalan 
(His house was open and it faced the street)

nai matå'chong si Kurokawa gi tatten i måkinan manlåkse.
(where Kurokawa sat behind the sewing machine.)

Pues katna kada dia tumotohge si tatå-ho guihe gi me'nan potta
(So almost every day my dad would stand there in front of the door)

ya sige ha' adumiddide' ha håtme i gima' Kurokawa ya umimbilikero gue'
(and little by little he entered Kurokawa's house and nosily looked around.)

Ilek-ña si Kurokawa, "Håfa na sesso hao mågi para un atan todo håfa bidådå-ho?"
(Kurokawa said, "Why do you come here often to look at everything I am doing?")

Pues sinangåne as tatå-ho na ume'eche'cho'.****
(So my dad told him he was looking for work.)

Konfotme si Kurokawa fumanå'gue si tatå-ho manlåkse.
(Kurokawa was willing to teach my dad how to sew.)

Lao, fuera de ennao, ha hokka' si tatå-ho i fino' Hapones
(But, besides that, my dad picked up the Japanese language)

sa', masea siña si Kurokawa fumino' Chamorro,
(because, even though Kurokawa could speak Chamorro,)

lao ya-ña lokkue' kumuentos gi lengguahi-ña.
(but he also liked to speak in his own language.)

Genro Kurokawa's entry in the 1930 Guam Census
(It is mistakenly spelled Kurokaw)

The same 1930 Census showing Kurokawa to be from Japan and a tailor


* Hapones - this is the older Chamorro way of saying "Japanese," borrowed from the Spanish word japonés. Modern Chamorros say chapanis, a form of the English word "Japanese."

** She means when the Japanese troops first entered Guam, not when the first Japanese at all came to Guam. That happened long before the war when Japanese agricultural workers came to Guam in the 1800s and later Japanese settlers moved to Guam permanently.

*** Mefno'. It means "eloquent," but also "fluent." It comes from the Chamorro prefix mi (meaning "abundant") and fino' (meaning "word" or "speech"). Mi+fino' become mefno'.

**** Eche'cho'. The Chamorro prefix e means "in search of." Esalappe' means "in search of money." Eche'cho' means "in search of work," and so on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Jose Mesa Cruz, circled, aboard the USS Henderson in 1943 during WW2
There are other Chamorro Navy men in this group photo
(Picture courtesy of Jose Mesa Cruz)

Even before I knew much about Guam history, I already heard the name the USS Henderson from my older relatives talking at the dinner table when I was a kid.

It was the name of a ship and it visited Guam a lot. That's as far as I could gather at the time.

The Henderson was indeed a US Navy ship launched in 1916 to transport Marines wherever needed. In the 1920s and 30s, she sailed all over the Pacific, making stops in Japan, China, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and a few other places.

Since there were no private companies providing transportation to and from Guam for civilian passengers, the US Navy allowed civilians who could pay their way to sail on Navy ships, and the Henderson was one of them. Chamorros would take the Henderson to Manila, Honolulu, Shanghai and Tokyo, among other ports.

One of her most famous passengers was L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, who spent some of his childhood on Guam in the late 1920s because of his father's work on the island.


In the late 1930s, the US Navy allowed the recruitment of Chamorro men as mess attendants. A maximum number of recruits was set at 700 men. Just before war broke out in December of 1941, this cap was almost reached as the number of Chamorro mess attendants was well into the 600s.

One Chamorro mess attendant on the Henderson was Fructuoso San Miguel Aflague, better known by his boxing nickname Rocky.

Boxing bouts between the Henderson men, including the Chamorro Rocky Aflague
Matt1c means "Mess attendant 1st class"

The Henderson had just left Pearl Harbor when it was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. For the rest of the war, the Henderson transported troops all over the Pacific and then served as a hospital ship towards the very end of the war. Many Chamorro men served on the Henderson during this time. Many never returned to live on Guam but settled elsewhere instead.

Monday, December 5, 2016


South Vietnamese Pres Thieu, US Pres Johnson, South Vietnamese Prime Minister Ky
At the Guam International Airport, March 20, 1967

It didn't do much good, and has become a forgotten footnote in many history books, but Guam was the scene of a high-powered meeting between the United States President and the leadership of South Vietnam.

It was the height of the war in Vietnam and summits between both the American and South Vietnamese leadership had occurred before. This was to be third such summit and Guam was chosen as the venue, partly because it was a safe and convenient location not far from Vietnam, and because Guam was a showcase of American overseas military power, close to the scene in Asia.

Some scholars believe that the meeting did not result in any major benefits in either securing victory for the anti-communist South or ending the war. The war dragged on and was eventually lost in 1975 by the South Vietnamese government and its increasingly-withdrawing American backers. These scholars say that the "Guam Conference" was hastily put together and was short on specific plans.

For the Chamorros and other residents of Guam, the Guam Conference was a rare opportunity to see and even touch a U.S. President. People lined the sides of Marine (Corps) Drive to see the presidential motorcade and went up to the airport, as well. Some of those at the airport got to shake hands with LBJ.

The Vietnam War was not just some war "far away" for many Guam families. They had sons and daughters in the U.S. military. Many Guam soldiers died in Vietnam.

Reflecting the kind of US patriotism seen among Chamorros in those days, perhaps because so many of our sons were fighting in Vietnam, a Chamorro man held up a sign at the airport when LBJ arrived advocating the bombing of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, and other important cities. Since his family is still around and I am not sure how they would feel about it, I have covered the man's name.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Jose Mesa Cruz
grandson of Jose Sisto

He is 94 years old as of 2016 and he is cheerful, healthy and full of life. He was born in Hagåtña in 1922 but left Guam for good in 1940 when he joined the US Navy. In those days, Chamorro men who joined the US Navy could only serve as mess hall attendants. Other Chamorros teasingly called them marinon mantekiya, or "butter sailors" because, unlike the others, these Chamorro Navy men could buy butter at the Navy commissary.

His ship was out of Pearl Harbor for two days already, en route to San Francisco, when the Japanese bombed the American ships in Hawaii. His older brother Henry was on the USS Arizona and survived the bombing. Ping saw action in the South Pacific and then later settled in Southern California where he still lives today, surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As a youth in Guam, Ping attended the Guam Institute, the only private school on Guam in the 1920s and 30s. He remember the owner and principal, Nieves M. Flores, and his two sons Alejo and Sabino.

His father owned a bar and a pool hall on Hagåtña's main street.


Between June 22, 1898 and August 1, 1899, Guam was in a chaotic political situation. The Americans had removed the Spanish Government from Guam, but did not install a clear, stable American Government until the arrival of the first US Governor appointed by the US President, in August of 1899.

One claimant to authority over Guam was a man named Jose Sisto, whose full name was Jose Sisto Rodrigo Vallabriga. He had been the island treasurer, officially the Administrator of the Department of the "Hacienda Pública," or "Public Works." Unlike the other Spanish government officials, the US Navy did not remove Sisto and take him to Manila. Thus, Sisto claimed, he was still a government official and the highest one remaining, ensuring him, in his mind, control over the government.

Sisto was opposed by Padre Palomo, Venancio Roberto and other Chamorro leaders. They accused him of emptying the island treasury by paying himself his salary in advance. When stronger American control came to Guam, Sisto resigned office, was ordered to repay the island treasury and left for Manila.

All of this is well-known in the history books.

What wasn't well-known is that Sisto fathered children while he was on Guam. According to family lore, Rosa Cruz was a domestic worker at the Governor's Palåsyo, or palace. She became romantically involved with Sisto and became the mother of two sons of Sisto, Juan and Jose, who carried their mother's maiden name of Cruz. Juan and Jose were twins, so their descendants were known as the Dinga ("twins") family. Rosa later married into the Gåbit (Pereda) family and became known as Rosa'n Gåbit.

Jose, son of Sisto, married Andrea Mesa. In the picture below, Jose (son of Sisto), Andrea, Jose (or Ping) and his older brother Henry are identified.

                                                  (Courtesy of Carmelita Edwards)

                                                           WHO WAS JOSE SISTO?

Books speak of Jose Sisto as either a Spaniard or a Filipino Spaniard. This raises some question as to his background and ethnicity.

If the Americans deported all the Spanish government officials, that is, government officials who were Spanish by race and birth, why then did they leave Jose Sisto behind on Guam?

It is true that the Americans did leave behind some Spaniards. But these were of only two sorts; the missionary priests and Spanish ordinary (non-government official) civilians who had married Chamorro wives. Sisto was neither of these two sorts.

So, some speculate that Sisto was Spanish by race but born in the Philippines. A criollo, as pure Spaniards born in the colonies were called back then. I have some doubts about this. It seems to me, from reading the literature of the time, that the US Navy was very clear that they wanted a clean sweep of all European officials out of Guam. I am somewhat doubtful that it mattered little to Captain Glass if this white, Spanish official was born in Manila or in Madrid instead. He would've been put on the deporting ship. But, perhaps I am wrong.

Others think that Sisto was a mestizo, of mixed Spanish and Filipino blood. I lean towards this possibility. Sisto could have identified himself to the Americans as a Filipino, meaning someone native to the Philippines, and this could have allowed Glass to let Sisto stay on Guam. For the Americans, the Spaniards were the enemies, not the natives of the former Spanish colonies.

Still others think that Sisto was Filipino, meaning someone with a more pronounced native heritage. Many Filipinos have a Filipino, Chinese or some other foreign ancestor, but are mainly identified as simply "Filipino," with less European or Chinese physical features. Some authors have alluded to Chamorro-Filipino enmity in the Sisto controversy. The idea is that the Chamorro civic leaders were able to bear Spanish or American rule, but never a Filipino master. But, if the early documents refer to Sisto as being Spanish, I highly doubt they would have called someone with brown skin and more Austronesian features a Spaniard.

All of this is just guess-work until we find documents to show us Sisto's background. Discovering those will take some time and a lot of effort.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


A retired Navy man who was stationed on Guam in the 1930s recalls how many pre-school Chamorro children went around completely or partially naked. By the time a child was maybe 5 or 6, then he or she was usually covered.

Behind his Navy installation in the outskirts of Hagåtña was the simple home of a Chamorro family. The area was mostly jungle brush and a few, small garden patches; ample play ground for the large brood of children in the family.

One of the younger boys in the family often played in the yard without pants and, on occasion, without a shirt.

Years later, he was told by a former Navy colleague that the naked little boy became none other than the Governor of Guam. The Navy man remembers the family name, and, indeed, this family did produce one of Guam's elected governors!

It was just the politician's way of showing that, even from childhood, he had nothing to hide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Language is so interesting. One word can have more than one meaning.

Take for example the Chamorro word pudos.

With the definite article, pudos becomes i pidos.

Pudos literally means the interior of the anus.  It is the rectum or anal canal. The exterior or the buttocks is the dågan.

We rarely ever hear people say the word pudos because almost everyone uses the word dågan instead.

I remember one older lady, who barely spoke English, talking about a lady she didn't get along with, and she asked me rhetorically,

"Dalai, håfa malago'-ña? Para bai nginge' i pidos-ña?"
("My goodness, what does she want? For me to smell her...?")

Not a pleasant thought. But she said it, and used that word.


But pudos can have a second, and seemingly unrelated, meaning.

It can refer to someone being overly attached to someone else, who always has to follow or be with someone else. From there, the word came to also mean a tag along.

"Kalan hao pudos nanå-mo!"
"You're always following your mother!"

Well I think this phrase above gives us a clue why pudos can mean either the rectum itself or someone who always has to follow someone else.

One can never move from here to there without also bringing along one's pudos.

It is invariably attached to you.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Hu hungok este ginen as Peter J. Santos, sa' ha na' tungo' yo' si Jeremy Cruz

Un puengen Damenggo ha faisen yo' si bihu-ho kao humånao yo' para Eskuelan Påle' guihe na oga'an, oga'an Damenggo.
(One Sunday night my grandfather asked me if I went to catechism that morning, Sunday morning.)

Ilek-ña, "Ilek-ho na ti humånao hao."
(He said, "I say you didn't go.")

Hu oppe gue' tåtte, "Hunggan, Pop, humånao yo' para i Eskuelan Påle' på'go na oga'an."
(I replied back to him, "Yes, Pop, I went to catechism this morning.)

Pues ha faisen yo', "Pues håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us?"
(Then he asked me, "So what is God's name?")

"Yu'us nai, Pop."
("God, Pop.")

"Åhe'. Yu'us gue' lao håye na'ån-ña?"
("No. He is God, but what's His name?")

Ilek-ho, "Jesukristo."
(I said, "Jesus Christ.")

Ilek-ña, "Åhe'. Lahi-ña ayo. Lao håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us?"
(He said, "No. That's His Son. But what's God's name?")

Ilek-ho, "Hekkua', Pop, ti hu tungo'."
(I said, "Beats me, Pop, I don't know.")

Ilek-ña, "Annok nai na ti humånao hao para Eskuelan Påle."
(He said, "It shows that you didn't go to catechism.")

"Sa' yanggen humånao hao ya un atituye si Påle', siempre un tungo' håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us."
("Because if you went and paid attention to Father, you would surely know what's God's name.")

Ilek-ho, "OK, Pop. Pues håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us?"
(I said, "OK, Pop. So what's God's name?")


Ilek-ho, "Howard? Haftaimano na Howard na'ån-ña?"
(I said, "Howard? How is Howard His name?")

Ilek-ña, "Ekkungok ha' si Påle'. Kada manaitai, ilek-ña, "Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name."
(He said, "Just listen to Father. Every time he prays, he says, "Our Father who art in heaven. Howard be thy name.")

Eskuelan Påle' is known as Doktrina (or Lottrina) in the Northern Marianas

Thursday, November 24, 2016


A story from the 1960s.

Annai kinse åños ha' yo', humame yan un amigu-ho ya malago' ham chumupa.
(When I was just 15 years old, I was with a friend and we wanted to smoke.)

Primet biåhe yo' para bai chagi chumupa.
(It was the first time for me to try to smoke.)

Lao måno nai siña ham chumupa sin ma gacha'?
(But where could we smoke without getting caught?)

Eståba nuebo na guma' påddet ni katna ha' kabåles ma håtsa-ña
(There was a new concrete house that almost completed)

lao trabia ti ma sagågåye.
(but was still not lived in.)

Era guennao kåsi gi a las kuåttro ya in pe'lo na maolek ennao na ora
(It was around 4 o'clock and we believed that was a good time)

sa' tåya' esta eskuela lao trabia ti man måfåtto i taotao siha ginen i che'cho'.
(because school was already out but the people from work hadn't come around yet.)

Humålom ham gi gima' ya matå'chong ham gi satge pot no in ma li'e'.
(We entered the house and sat down on the floor so as not to be seen.)

In sengge i chipa. Fana'an dos pat tres biåhe hu chagi lao sen ti ya-ho. Pues in dingu i lugåt.
(We lit the cigarette. Maybe 2 or 3 times I tried it but really didn't like it. Then we left the place.)

Lamme' sa' pine'lo-ko na tåya' ham lumi'e' lao ayo na Damenggo despues,
(Man, I thought no one saw us but that Sunday afterwards,)

matåtå'chong ha' yo' gi gima'yu'us ya hu li'e na på'go humåhålom si Påle'.
(I was just sitting down in church and I saw Father just coming in.)

Lamme' sa' ha fatoigue yo' si Påle' ya ha faisen yo',
(Oh boy, because Father came to me and asked me,)

"Håfa este hu hungok na inespipia hao ni polisia?"
("What is this I heard that the police are looking for you?")

Pues hu admite gi as Påle' na hunggan in hatme i gima' lao solo para in chagi chumupa.
(So I admitted to Father that indeed we went into the house but only to try smoking.)

Humuyong na guaha besino lumi'e' ham humålom ya pine'lo-ña i besino 
(It turned out that there was a neighbor who saw us enter and she thought)

na para in fañåkke pat guaha para in yamak pot minagof-måme ha'
(we were going to steal or break something out of fun)

ya ha ågang i polisia.
(and she called the police.)

Lao atrasao guato i polisia ya esta må'pos ham åntes de måtto.
(But the police were late to go there and we were gone before they came.)


These teenagers thought no one was around. They looked at the school across the street and school was out. Students, faculty and staff were gone.

They looked around the neighborhood and no one was around. Working husbands and wives were not back from work yet.

They went into a concrete house nearly built and thought they had found a safe place to smoke. They sat on the floor to avoid being seen through the windows.

But someone saw. It's what she did next that was interesting.

Thinking that theft or vandalism were involved, she called the police. People from other cultures would have done the same.

But then she called the parish priest! That's not something often done elsewhere, and it wasn't done all the time in Chamorro culture in the past, but the fact that she did it in Guam in the 1960s shows something about the thinking of the time. Why didn't she just call the parents?

Then the priest. He waits till Sunday when he knows he will see the boy at Mass. He walks up to the boy sitting in his pew and asks him to explain himself. The priest was satisfied with the boy's explanation and didn't take it further with the boy's parents. The boy was very thankful for that!

In those days, people knew whose kid you were. And they got involved when they saw kids misbehave.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


A story from the 1950s. The names have been changed.

Si Terry'n che'lu-ho gos bonita yan meggai nobiu-ña.
(My sister Terry was very beautiful and she had many boyfriends.)

Guaha uno ni na'ån-ña si Frankie ya gos ande'.
(There was one named Frankie and he was a showoff.)

Hekkua' måno na ha sodda' lao un dia kada biråda maloloffan si Frankie gi me'nan gima'-måme 
(I don't know where he found them but one day Frankie was always passing in front of our house)

lao kada biåhe na maloffan ti parehu karetå-ña.
(but each time he passed his car was different.)

Ti ya-ña si nanan-måme na u atungo' si Terry yan si Frankie
(Our mother didn't want Terry and Frankie to know each other)

sa' gai patgon....ha na' mapotge' un palao'an giya Hågat....
(because he had a child...he made a lady in Agat pregnant....)

ya ilek-ña si nanå-ho na an siña ha cho'gue un biåhe,
(and my mom said that if he can do it one time,)

siña ha cho'gue ta'lo an esta umassagua hamyo.
(he can do it again when you two are married.)

Pues ti sinedi si Terry as nåna para u a'sodda' yan si Frankie
(So mom didn't allow Terry to meet Frankie)

lao lini'e' gue' ni muchåchan-måme ni ilek-ña,
(but he was seen by our maid who said,"

"Terry! Eyigue'!" Pues in baba in kuttinan i bentåna
("Terry! There he is!" So we opened the window curtain)

ya kada maloffan si Frankie, otro ta'lo karetå-ña.
(and each time Frankie passed, he had a different car.)

Ti magof si nanan-måme ya ilek-ña,
(Our mom wasn't happy and said,)

"Terry, måno na mañañakke karetå-ña si Frankie?"
("Terry, where is Frankie stealing his cars?")

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


(A story from the 1930s. The names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.)

Many times in the old days, when a man and woman had a child out of wedlock, the secret was often safely guarded. Many children went to their graves never knowing who their biological father was. But, once in a while, there were clues. One of them was the following. When your family always included another family in enjoying good things from the farm or sea, and there was no obvious reason why this should be, one could always wonder if there was some prior romance involved. In those days, one could only wonder, because you were quickly shut down if you dared to ask.

Un tungo' si bihu-ho as Jose? Annai sottetero ha' trabia si bihu-ho, 
(You know my grandfather Jose? When my grandfather was still single,)

guaha patgon-ña påtgon sanhiyong ginen as Ana.
(he had a child out of wedlock with Ana.)

Lao hame ni famagu'on, tåya' håfa in tingo' pot este.
(But we kids didn't know anything about this.)

Despues, umassagua si Jose yan si bihå-ho as Dolores. Si Ana, tåya' na umassagua.
(Later, Jose married my grandmother Dolores. Ana never married.)

Lao kada mamuno' gå'ga' gi lanchon-måme, 
(But whenever he killed an animal in our ranch,)

siempre ha tågo' yo' si bihu-ho para in na'e si Tan Ana pietnan kåtne pat håfa.
(my grandfather would surely tell me to give Tan Ana a leg of meat or something.)

Ha na' manman yo' sa' tåya' na man a'bisita ham yan si Tan Ana, solo an guaha 
(It surprised me because we never visited Tan Ana, only when)

ma puno' gå'ga' ya ma tågo' uno gi famagu'on para u nå'e si Tan Ana.
(an animal was killed and one of the kids was sent to give Tan Ana.)

Pues hu faisen si bihu-ho, "Håfa tåta na ta nånå'e håfa hit na komo pumarientes hit?"
(So I asked my grandfather, "Why, grandpa, do we give whatever as if we were relatives?")

Ilek-ña, "Ti guailaye un kuentos pat un famaisen. Cho'gue ha' håfa ma tåtågo' hao.
(He said, "It isn't necessary for you to talk or ask. Just do what you're told to do.


Sunday, November 20, 2016


Take a good look at the picture above. That's the seal of the parish of Garapan in Saipan during Spanish times. This stamp is on a document from the late 1800s.

It says "Parish of San Isidro of Garapan." It doesn't say "Church of." The Spaniards had a custom of sometimes (not always) having one patron for the parish or town, and another patron of the church building.

That's why Hågat has two fiestas; Mt Carmel is patroness of the church building and Santa Rosa is patroness of the village. In Malesso', San Dimas is patron of the village and Our Lady of the Rosary is patroness of the church building. It's all but forgotten now but, in Hagåtña, Dulce Nombre de Maria is patroness of the church building and San Ignacio is patron of the city.

In Saipan, there was, for the longest time, only one town or village and that was Garapan. Tanapag was not settled as a village until the Carolinians from Tinian moved to Saipan around 1887 or so. Thus, from 1815, when human settlement of Saipan resumed, there was only one village on Saipan. The Spanish missionaries made San Isidro patron of Garapan. But, in time, the church building itself acquired its own patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

So why is Garapan known today as the parish of Kristo Rai, or Christ the King?

This is where knowledge of world events in 1925 help us answer that question.

Pius XI was the Pope at the time and he was seeing the world of his childhood quickly fall apart. World War I was over and the world would never be the same. By 1918, the German Kaiser was no more. The Russian Czar was no more. The Austrian Emperor was no more. Kings were losing their thrones left and right!

In the place of kings, some countries became democratic, but this was not a fruitful solution in all cases. In some of these democratic countries, economic crises lead to political chaos, with governments changing every 2 or 3 years in some cases.

In some countries, some were successful in installing dictatorships, as the communists did in Russia and the fascists in Italy. These dictatorships were outright atheist or, at least, unfriendly towards religion.


So Pope Pius XI created a new feast for the church calendar in 1925, the feast of Christ the King. It was his way of reminding everyone, at a time people were getting rid of kings, that there was one King they could not get rid of.

Christ the King became a rallying cry in the defense of the Church. In Mexico, where the government was anti-Catholic, "¡Viva Cristo Rey!" or "Long live Christ the King!" became the slogan of the Catholic forces and the last words, many times, of Catholics shot dead by the Mexican military.


In Saipan, as well as the entire Northern Marianas, a new government ruled over the Catholic Chamorros and Carolinians since 1914. The new rulers were not Christian. In the beginning, the Japanese government respected the Catholic missionaries in Saipan and Luta and allowed them to work unimpeded. The Japanese even allowed Spanish sisters, the Mercedarians, to begin work in Saipan in 1928, something not even the Christian American government would allow down in Guam.

But the Spanish Jesuits, who were in charge of the Catholic mission in the Northern Marianas, were ever so careful. They knew that there were always threats to the Catholic identity of the local people, whether those threats were manifest or not. The mere fact that the government was not Catholic and represented a world so vastly different from western Christianity was enough to cause the Spanish missionaries concern.

Well, the feast of Christ the King was a good way to reinforce the idea in the Catholic people of Saipan that they had only one true King, Christ the King, and not the Emperor of Japan.

I believe that is why the Jesuit missionaries of Saipan started to invoke Christ the King as the patron of Garapan's church.

All of this can also be seen in the lyrics of the Chamorro hymn to Christ the King.


In the Chamorro hymn, composed in the 1920s to go along with the new feast, the message is clear. The people have but one, supreme allegiance and it is to Christ the King.

Here are a few lines that show it.

Siempre gi tano'-måme hågo un fan månda
(Always in our land You will rule)

Mungnga umotro dueño, mungnga mungnga!
(Don't fall under another owner/ruler/master, no no!)

Friday, November 18, 2016


Rev. & Mrs. Joaquin Flores Sablan sitting on comfy siyan gai kanai.

Long before the Europeans, our ancestors sat down. But not necessarily on chairs.

Tå'chong is the Chamorro word for "seat." We can sit on many things. The ground, a rock, a tree stump. Those can all be tå'chong.

When we sit, we make something our tå'chong, so "to sit" is fatå'chong. Fa' (to make) and tå'chong (seat). To make something a seat!

But the piece of furniture we call a "chair" probably did not exist here until the Europeans brought them to, or made them on, our islands. And thus our word for "chair" is borrowed from the Spanish word for "chair" - silla, which becomes our Chamorro siya.

Once again we see a link to the Latin language of Rome, because Spanish silla comes from Latin sedes or sedis by way of Italian sedia. Think of the word sedentary. Someone who sits down all day long is a sedentary person. From sedes/sedis, Latin for "chair."

Well, an arm chair is a chair that has arms. So, for us, it's a siyan gai kanai.

Kånnai is the hand but also the whole arm. The word gai ("has") changes the pronunciation of kånnai. The stress is on gai, the å becomes an a and the extended N in kånnai is eliminated.

As an aside, the first ordained Chamorro Baptist minister, Joaquin Flores Sablan, is sitting next to a Spanish Capuchin friar, at this public event. The friar could be Påle' Gil but that pith helmet makes him harder to identify.

In any event, you can bet that the minister and the priest weren't saying much to each other. That was the way it was back then.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Måtso dia 19 gi 1947 na såkkan.
(March 19, 1947)

Chalan Kanoa, Saipan.

I famagu'on i Chalan Kanoa School ma na' fan etnon gi plåsa gi despues de talo'ånen Bietnes
(The children of Chalan Kanoa School were gathered in the park Friday afternoon)

ya despues de kaddada' na seremonias, fuera de salåppe' ni ginen i Pacific Coast Club,
(and after brief ceremonies, besides money from the Pacific Coast Club,)

pot medio de i Komandånten i Isla para i man ma konne' chå'ka 
(through the Island Commander for the catching of rats)

gi durånte i acha ikak mangonne' chå'ka,
(during the rat catching competition.)

man ma nå'e i famagu'on nu i mås man mi kinenne' chå'ka.
(children with the most rats caught were rewarded.)

Tåya' espesiåt na premio para i famagu'on ni man mangonne' chå'ka 
(There was no special prize for the children who caught rats)

lao man ma nå'e salåppe' ya nina' man sen magof.
(but they were given money and they were made very happy.)

Un totåt de 3990 na chå'ka siha man ma konne' nu i famagu'on durånte i Nobiembre yan Disiembre,
(A total of 3990 rats were caught by the children during November and December)

i patgon ni mås meggai kinene'-ña si Ramón Muña ni ha konne' 364,
(the child who had the biggest catch was Ramón Muña who caught 364,)

ya ma nå'e espesiåt premio un bola, un panak yan $7.28.
(and he was given a special prize of a ball, a bat and $7.28.)

(Pregonero, March 25 1947)


Acha ikak. Competition. Ikkak is to do something ahead of someone else; to beat someone to it. Acha is the prefix meaning "the same" or "equally." Acha ikak is to try and beat each other. When acha is added before ikkak, ikkak no longer has that sustained K sound so I remove the second K. Just my preference. The stress, by the way, is on the second syllable in the prefix acha, so it sounds like a - CHA. This is where an acute accent ( ' ) over the A would be good, to show that stress. Achá. But, these are things we still need to sort out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


If you want an example of our changing Chamorro culture that you can sink your teeth into, one of them is tinaktak.

For the traditionalist, tinaktak is a dish made of beef, coconut milk, green beans, cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. That's the bottom line, though some add a little this or that, like eggplant or lemon juice.

None of those "bottom line" things except the coconut milk and salt would have been available to our ancestors who lived before the Spaniards came. Even the Chamorro words we have for the remaining ingredients are taken from the Spanish : kåtnen guaka, friholes, tomåtes, seboyas, åhos and pimienta.

But, safe to say, tinaktak has been around for a long time and part of our culinary culture for a couple hundred years or more.

The theory is that the name of this dish comes from the sound made when the beef was pounded on by a knife. Tak tak tak!

But there is a word taktak, and another form of it, talaktak, which means the sound of a bang or clap, as when something falls to the floor. That would correspond to the sound of a knife hitting a piece of beef lying on a cutting board or table.

So, tak tak tak went the cook until the meat was broken down into crumbly bits, like the ground beef you buy to make burgers or meat loaf.

Since our people didn't slaughter cattle a whole lot but rather for special occasions, tinaktak would not be a frequent meal served on a weekly basis.


Nowadays, you can have tinaktak without the taktak.

There are cooks who do not pound the beef but slice it instead. Everything else in the recipe remains the same, but you bite into beef strips instead of ground beef.

Some people also use ground chicken or ground turkey. Salmon. Tofu. Octopus. Fake beef (vegan). I can't wait to see what else they will make tinaktak with.

Tofu Tinaktak
with Sriracha sauce by the way

You don't even need to eat tinaktak with rice anymore. You can now have a Tinaktak Burger.

People will be experimenting with new and creative ways to make tinaktak.

So, with all these changes, can you call anything tinaktak? How much change is needed so that it's no longer tinaktak? How does tinaktak remain tinaktak?

I suppose most people would agree that as long as the protein source is (1) ground or at least in small, bit-sized pieces, and (2) it is cooked in coconut milk, it qualifies as some version of tinaktak.

Even with the Tinaktak Burger, the meat is cooked in coconut milk but the liquid is cooked down till nearly gone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Chamorro ladies with American military men at a social gathering right after the war

A "war bride" was, in its most general meaning, a woman who married a man while he was still in active service in wartime.

The term is more often applied specifically to foreign women who married American servicemen during or right after a war.

To the extent that Chamorro women were not American citizens right after the American return to Guam in 1944, it might be argued that these Chamorro ladies were "foreign" to the American men, just as much as the American men were "foreign" to the Chamorro ladies!

In any case, I'll use the term "war bride" in its broadest meaning.

One American missionary, writing about life right after the war, said that so many Chamorro ladies were marrying American soldiers and, were so in a hurry to do it, that they didn't bother to see the priest. They went straight to a civil official and, ten minutes later, they were married. No mamaisen saina (the old ritual of asking for the lady's hand), no fandånggo or komplimento, no religious observance at all, not even the belo or wedding veil covering both bride and groom. In particularly devout families, these civil weddings were often attended by the bare minimum of family members, since in very Catholic families marriage outside of church was a source of family shame.

Even among the not-so devout, the absence of all the usual wedding customs was a cause for sadness, or at least disappointment. Someone remarked how these quick weddings with American servicemen lacked the usual and drawn-out festivities and joy. The Chamorro brides were often shipped off-island with their military husbands as quickly as they were married, as soon as the groom received new marching orders in many cases. Many of these brides never came back to Guam.

One American missionary said that, if the first Chamorro-American couple who married civilly right after the war took off after the ceremony in a jeep and crashed and got injured or died, that would have put a complete halt on all future civil weddings involving a Chamorro bride. It's not that the missionary wished this would happen. He meant that some people in those days saw random events as evidence of cause-and-effect. The other Chamorro brides would have been too afraid to follow in the footsteps of the couple who crashed.

I can just hear the dialogue :

~ Un hungok håfa ma susede annai umasaguan kotte si Maria yan eyi Amerikåno?
~ Did you hear what happened when Maria and that American married in court?

~ Aksidente i karetan-ñiha ya måtai i dos.
~ Their car got into an accident and they both died.

To this day I hear some people think this way. They almost drowned on a Tuesday so from then on they never get near a beach on a Tuesday.