Monday, August 10, 2020


1870 ~ 1947

The lady pictured above is a symbol of the ties Guam and the Northern Marianas have always had. Family ties, cultural ties and, for most of history, political ties. When we look at her face, we see Guam and Saipan all at once.


Until 1898, Guam and the Northern Marianas were one political unit. They were, and still are, of the same racial and linguistic family - Chamorro.

Moving from Guam to Saipan or Luta did not feel like one was leaving his or her Chamorro homeland. Sure there were differences between the islands, but there were differences even between villages on Guam. Yet it was all one Chamorro homeland. Even the huge presence of Carolinians in Saipan didn't feel unusual to the Guam Chamorro moving to Saipan. Guam itself had its own Carolinian village - Tamuning - until they all moved to Saipan in 1901.

For roughly sixty years, from the 1740s till 1815 or so, no one lived on Saipan. The Spaniards had moved all the people down to Guam, where they mixed with the Guam population to form a new, mixed race with a Chamorro foundation and identity, with added blood lines of Spaniards, Latin Americans and Filipinos. From the 1850s onward, small numbers of Chamorros from Guam, and a few from Luta, started to move up to Saipan. By the 1890s, the numbers grew larger.


Ana Rosario Sablan, the woman pictured above, was one of those Guam Chamorros who moved north to Saipan. She did so because she was married to Francisco Ramírez Tudela who moved to Saipan as his father, mother and siblings had done a few years before him.

Ana was born on March 12, 1870 in Hagåtña, so she was 75 years old when this photo was taken in 1944. She would die only three years after the picture was taken.

Ana bore ten children, and the early ones were born almost a year apart. As a young wife, Ana was busy with a newborn every year almost!

The first four were born on Guam : José (1894), María (1895), Joaquín (1896) and Jesús (1897).

It seems that the family moved to Saipan in 1897 because the next child is born there, and Ana, her husband Francisco and these first four children are still listed as living in Hagåtña in the 1897 Guam Census.

The rest of her children were all born in Saipan : Ana (1898), Rosa (1900), Victoria (1902), Isidro (1905), Agustín (1907), Felicidad (1911).

With so many children, Ana helped make the Tudela name well-established in Saipan for many generations.


His signature in 1901

But she left behind seven siblings in Guam!

They were all children of José Pangelinan Sablan and María Flores del Rosario. This Sablan branch is known as the familian Te'.

Her siblings on Guam were :

Vicente, a teacher at the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán in Hagåtña, who married Ana Flores Guerrero.

Juan, who married Ana Dueñas Palomo. Juan was the school teacher in Hågat and then in the early years of the American administration the Naval Governor appointed him to be Commissioner of Hågat.

Manuel, who married Rita Martínez Torres. Manuel was a clerk in the Guam court, and a teacher before that.

Joaquín, who married María Cepeda Castro.

Pedro, who married Concepción Dueñas Manalisay. Their son Ramón became the famous Doctor Ramón Sablan, the first Chamorro medical doctor and composer of the Guam Hymn (now Fanohge Chamorro).

María, who married Pedro Mendiola Delgado.

Rosa, who married Francisco Santos Camacho.

As you can see, she came from a family of some social standing, with several brothers working in the government, in the courts and in education.

It's no wonder then that Ana put down on a registry form that she spoke and read Spanish. She lived under Spanish rule for almost thirty years and came from a family of school teachers and clerks educated in Spanish.

Rest in peace. U såga gi minahgong.

Friday, August 7, 2020



A man read the newspaper one day that the US had just taken Guam away from Spain.

Guam! He had been there fifty years before, in 1848. He had been, in fact, on Tinian and Luta as well. Memories came flooding back, and he went looking for some notes he wrote about his experience to refresh his memory. He read them again, and shared his memories with newspapers at the time.



Charles Miles was just sixteen years old in 1848. Somehow he became an apprentice crew member of a British ship, the Canton. The Canton was used for many things but one of them was transporting convicts to Australia, a penal colony of England at the time. But the ship also engaged in commerce and that day in 1848 it was bound for Hong Kong from Sydney with goods to sell. Finding itself in a storm, the ship lost its way and ended up crashing into Tinian. It was October. Typhoon season.

Twenty out of the twenty-five men on board perished. The wreck was so bad that even the mainmast came crashing down, but Miles and William Foxal managed to get into a lifeboat that they had lowered. Then they rescued from the water Thomas Avent, then William Thompson, and then a fifth man whose name wasn't recorded. Five survivors only.

For ten hours they drifted in the lifeboat till they managed to climb on shore, on the eastern side of Tinian which is almost all cliffs; not very high but which go straight down into the ocean. They survived on some fruits from trees found near the shore and on shellfish, probably small crabs, which they caught scurrying on the coral rocks.

Hard to land on most places in Tinian


Unlike other shipwreck survivors who ended up on Tinian, the five survivors of the Canton found people on Tinian. That didn't always happen before.

Tinian, since the early 1700s, had no permanent population. The Spaniards had taken all the Tinian people down to Guam where they mixed with the Guam Chamorros. That left Tinian completely empty of people.

But the island was recognized as an excellent place to raise cattle. It was flat and grassy. Everything was owned by the Spanish government. Chamorro workers from Guam, numbering twenty or so, would go up to Tinian for temporary work, butchering cattle and pork and salting the meat, and sending down to Guam the meat and island produce to be sold by the government. The income was meant to support Guam's "lepers" and other indigents.

When other castaways on Tinian found no one, it just so happened they got there when the Guam workers were not there. But had the survivors stayed longer, it was only a matter of time before a boat of Guam workers would come up. Or the Spaniards would get word of a shipwreck in Tinian or Saipan, and the government would send up soldiers to check things out.

That day when the Canton was shipwrecked was a time when Guam workers were on Tinian. It was only a question when, not if, the five survivors would be found by those Chamorros farm laborers. The first indication that the survivors were not alone on Tinian was when they heard an unseen human voice cry out, "KOO EEE! KOO EEE!" Even though they had no idea if the calling was by friend or foe, the desperate survivors yelled back. Now even more unseen voices yelled out "KOO EEE," followed by the sound of barking dogs.

First appeared the dogs, then five island men, their teeth stained black and red from betel nut, most if not all we can assume were Chamorro, appeared, carrying musket guns and spears. The island men made friendly gestures and restrained the dogs, so the five survivors felt at ease. The Chamorro men offered the castaways local tobacco and then took out corn on the cob from woven baskets, which the survivors eagerly ate. Miles and his companions were escorted to the western side of Tinian, where the settlement was.


Eventually, the alcalde (mayor) of Tinian came on the scene. Don Diego was dressed somewhat more fancy than the workers, who wore just the bare essentials, but the alcalde was barefoot. He had a long, dangling sword that got in the way of his legs. The alcalde explained that workers on the island had found wreckage washed ashore, plus the life boat and a box of stick candles, probably from the Canton. The candles the alcalde had burned before the image of San Antonio (Saint Anthony), who was obviously responsible for the survivors being found, the alcalde said. Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things.


There were fifteen workers on Tinian at the time, the alcalde and his family and one convict, Manuel. Manuel was a Spanish political prisoner, having participated in a failed uprising in Madrid. Due to Tinian's isolation, Manuel was not confined to a cell; the whole island was his prison. The survivors ate well on Tinian and tried tuba for the first time. Though not a strong liquor, Miles noticed some of the men becoming rowdy after drinking it.

Every full moon, Carolinians in their canoes came to transport the dried meat and other products to Guam. It was one such Carolinian canoe that brought the survivors to Luta, their next stop before going to Guam.

Many of the Carolinians in the Marianas were from Satawal


Miles said that Luta rose out of the ocean like a "green gem." Luta was much higher than flat Tinian, and its coast not as rugged. There also seemed to be much more farming in Luta. Of course, what Miles may not have known is that Luta always had a permanent population since prehistoric times, never having been depopulated by the Spanish. Thus, while Tinian may have had 15 to 20 temporary workers, Luta always had 200 to 400 lifelong inhabitants. There, the alcalde, Don Joaquín, received the five Englishmen courteously, having read a letter handed over by Miles, written by the Tinian alcalde explaining who the survivors were.

On Luta, Miles found four Spanish convicts, all political prisoners, but this time they were chained, unlike Manuel who was not chained in Tinian. But, it was explained, the alcalde chained the Spaniards only when visitors came to Luta, for fear that the convicts might convince the visitors to take them off the island. Once visitors left, the prisoners were let loose again.


The Carolinian canoe brought the survivors down to Guam and, being a canoe and not a ship, went straight for Hagåtña which a canoe could reach through the small channel. Hagåtña, with 5000 residents, presented of course a scene altogether different from Tinian and Luta. Here were many houses, stone buildings, a large stone church, a fort on the hill and the Governor's palace. Chanorro spectators looked on without smiles, not knowing if the five white men were pirates or unfortunate castaways. A large group of soldiers took the five to the Governor, who read the letter from the alcalde of Luta. All was well after that, and the Governor treated them very nicely.

The five men of the Canton stayed only a week on Guam. In 1848, many ships were coming to Gum and a French vessel happened to be leaving Guam for Manila. Miles eventually moved to the United States and it was there that he read the news about Guam coming under American rule and prompted him to publicize his time in the Marianas in 1848.

Two things about Guam made a big impression on Charles Miles.


A man from Guam with elephantiasis

Elephantiasis is a disease caused by parasitic worms which lodge in the body, blocking the flow of lymph which is part of our immune system. This results in the swelling of arms, legs and other parts of the body. The worms are carried by mosquitoes who pass the worms into the body when they bite.

The condition was common in the Marianas during the Spanish era. Apparently, it didn't always cause pain in those afflicted.


Cockfighting was all the rage on Guam on Sundays after Mass. Huge crowds, mostly men, gathered at the gayera held in an open field in front of the Hagåtña church. Men would walk to the pit with their roosters under their arms. The cocks fought with spurs, the crowd hissing and clapping and screaming bets. Dozens of birds died, but as soon as one match was over, a new one began. When the church bell rang, everyone knelt down and said prayers and got back up and the game continued.


It was only 1848, but quite a few Chamorros and Spaniards Miles met knew at least a few words in English.

This was certainly due to the large presence of British and American whalers who visited the Marianas starting around the 1820s. Many young Chamorro men joined the whaling ships and picked up basic English, but most never came back. If someone on Guam or Luta could say a few words in English, even swear words, it was because there were always Anglo whalers hanging around Guam, mixing with the people.

The very first English words Miles heard on Tinian outside his group of companions was from a dark-skinned woman nursing a baby at the small encampment on the western side. "Alright, alright," she said as she patted Miles' head to comfort him. That was the full extent of her English.

The alcalde of Tinian knew some English, but he did greet the English sailors "Good morning" when the sun was setting, so obviously his English was rough. But he did tell Miles, the 16-year-old, "Poor boy." I have a feeling Miles was not just young but also short at the time such that everyone was calling him "boy" and treating him like one.

The alcalde of Luta also knew some English. But when he received from the survivors the letter from the alcalde of Tinian, instead of saying "Thank you" he said "You're welcome." One of the guards on Luta said, "How do, Jack? We speak English very much." There was also a Carlos living on Luta who spoke English, whom the alcalde tasked to show the survivors around the island.

Miles said the Spanish Governor he met, who would have been Pablo Pérez, spoke very good English, telling them how glad he was that they were safe and sound and would be on the next ship possible sailing to Manila.

The point of all this is not to ascribe any value to our people's English-speaking abilities at the time. It is to point out the historical evidence that the British and American whalers were making an impact on a handful of Chamorros of the 1800s in terms of spreading familiarity with English. Long before the US took over Guam in 1898, many of our people were familiar with Americans, American ways and the English language.

August 21, 1848
Sydney, Australia newspaper

Monday, August 3, 2020



Several of Candy Taman's songs warn us against losing our culture and language as we become super Americanized.

We have a Chamorro term for that - Amerikånon Pao Asu. The smokey, or smoke-smelling, "American."

The Amerikånon Pao Asu is a Chamorro who tries to shed his or her Chamorro ways and become American alone in language and culture. But for all his or her effort to sound and act American, he or she still "smells like smoke," åsu (smoke), in reference to the brown Chamorro skin or perhaps ranch life or outdoor cooking. The Amerikånon Pao Asu speaks only English, with a stateside accent, and behaves and acts in American style, but his color and facial features, and certainly his roots and lineage are all Chamorro.

So the term Amerikånon Pao Asu is bursting the balloon of the American wannabee, who fails to change his skin color or make his Chamorro identity disappear entirely.

Candy's song pokes fun at the Chamorro lady trying to be as American as possible. So we switch to the feminine gender and instead of Amerikåno she is Amerikånan Pao Asu.


Un yute' nai i Chamorro
(So you threw away the Chamorro)
pot i Amerikåno.
(in exchange for the American.)
Binense hao sa' bulenchok
(You were won over by his pointed nose)
ya å'paka' i lasås-ña.
(and because his skin is white.)
Un penta i gapotilu-mo
(You dyed your hair)
agaga' yan amariyo. 
(red and yellow.)
Lasås-mo åttilong.
(Your skin is dark.)
Mampos ti chumilong.
(It really doesn't match.)
Pao asu hao na haole. (1)
(You're a smoke-smelling haole.)

Ai ke pendeha! (2)
(What a vixen!)
Hågo ha' ma chachatge.
(Only you they mock.)
Ti usu-mo un u'usa (3)
(You don't use what is yours)
sa' mampos hao banidosa.
(because you are overly vain.)

Ginen lemmai yan chotda.
(It used to be breadfruit and bananas.)
Guihan yan fritåda. (4)
(Fish and blood stew.)
Ayo hao nai pumoksai.
(That's how you were raised.)
Chamorro na sentåda.
(Chamorro meals.)
Maleffa hao ni kostumbre.
(You have forgotten the customs.)
Kontodo i lengguåhe.
(And also the language.)
Lasås-mo åttilong.
(Your skin is dark.)
Mampos ti chumilong.
(It really doesn't match.)
Pao asu hao na haole.
(You're a smoke-smelling haole.)

Un pula' i magagu-mo. (5)
(You took off your clothes.)
Un usa i bikini.
(You wore a bikini.)
Annok sensen dagån-mo
(The flesh of your butt is showing)
kulan låtan kåtne.
(like a canned meat.)
Ma chuchuda' i sisu-mo.
(Your breasts are spilling out.)
Ti nahong nai tåmpe.
(There's not enough cover.)
Lasås-mo åttilong.
(Your skin is dark.)
Mampos ti chumilong.
(It really doesn't match.)
Pao asu hao na haole.
(You're a smoke-smelling haole.)


(1) Chamorros picked up the Hawaiian word haole and use it to mean any Caucasian statesider. 

(2) Pendeho (for the male) and pendeha (for the female) are not so easily translated. In Spanish, it generally means "rascal, rogue, mischievous person" but in Chamorro it's just a playful or teasing way of calling people. 

(3) Literally "Your use is not what you're using." You do not use what is yours, meaning your own language and culture.

(4) Fritåda is a stew of animal organs cooked in its own blood and vinegar. The song points out that Americanized Chamorros lose their desire to eat traditional foods.

(5) Traditional Chamorro culture since Spanish times does not approve of women showing their bodies.


Candy's song borrows the tune from Marty Robbins' 1962 hit song Devil Woman.

Friday, July 31, 2020


In the 1500s

In 1856, a smallpox epidemic on Guam erupted, killing half of the island's population. I have a blog post on it here :

But in this post I want to show the numbers. Just how much the population declined due to the epidemic.

These figures come from the missionaries on Guam. They, in turn, could have gotten them from the government but they also could have gotten these statistics on their own, as they kept records of baptisms and deaths. In fact, there were no "birth certificates" at the time. People had to get their baptismal certificate from the priest to show proof of birth and parentage, since everyone at the time was Catholic and everyone got baptized.

The missionaries reported how many people lived in the capital city and the outlying villages the year before the epidemic, and how many died the year of the epidemic. Many things "killed" people in 1856; old age, accidents, other diseases. Not every death, therefore, can be attributed to the smallpox but the large majority could be because if a village had 10 deaths in 1855 but in 1856 had 150 deaths, something unusual must have happened in 1856.

For Hagåtña, included in the numbers were people from Aniguak, Sinajaña, Mongmong, Asan and Tepungan (which later became Piti in American times) because these villages were all considered districts of the capital city. They didn't even have their own priest; the priest of Hagåtña had care over them.
























Statistics around this time will be all over the place, depending on the source. Some government reports will give different numbers for the population of Guam in 1856, the year of the epidemic. Those reports will give different numbers for how many died and how many survived.

But the differences are not drastic. They mostly hover around 8000 people at the time of the epidemic, and 4000 after the epidemic, or a 50% reduction in population. Half of Guam - gone in a year!


Newspapers in 1857 reported that there was starvation on Guam at the time. It makes sense. If people were dying left and right from smallpox, it means that there were far less people to tend the farms and crops died. Thus, there must have been a food shortage on Guam following on the heels of the epidemic.


It's interesting that Malesso' and Inalåhan were devastated by the epidemic worse than Pågo, if the missionaries' numbers are right, but it was Pågo that the Spaniards closed down, not those two southern villages. I suppose the difference was the fact that Pågo was closer to Hagåtña and the people didn't have to travel far to move there and to Sinajaña where a number of Pågo people transferred. But to close down the southernmost villages of Guam and transfer the survivors north would have been too drastic a change for them.

Closed after the Smallpox Epidemic of 1856

Monday, July 27, 2020



Pigo' (later Holy Cross) Cemetery was the main cemetery of Hagåtña before the war, as it is now. There were private cemeteries, a Baptist cemetery and a Navy cemetery as well. But Pigo' was the main graveyard and owned by the Church.

It went back to the 1870s and so there were graves in Pigo' since Spanish times, their lápida or headstones written in Spanish. Here are two of them, but I will focus on the one on the right.

Although blocked in large part by the wooden fence, so that we cannot identify whose grave it is, we see enough to know it is written in Spanish.

The top of the lápida has the initials D.O.M.

These stands for the Latin expression "Deo Optimo Maximo," which means "To God the Best and the Greatest."

Next we can see the Spanish "Aquí yacen los restos mortales de..." which means "Here lie the mortal remains of..."

The name of the deceased should follow and it looks like it says "María" and then what looks like "Borja." The BOR is clear, which means it can only either be Borja or Bordallo, and there was no María Bordallo before the war.

One thing we can learn from this is that no one would have written a lápida in Spanish if there were no one able to read and understand it. This is not the grave of a Spaniard, nor of an elite Chamorro from the highest level of society. And so we can learn from this that, at least at one time, a good number of ordinary Chamorros, perhaps those more exposed to Spanish language and manners, but not necessarily just of the elite class, had a good knowledge of at least some Spanish.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


El cementerio Pigo (luego “Santa Cruz” o “Holy Cross”) fue el cementerio principal de Agaña antes de la guerra, como lo es también hoy en día. 

Hubo en Guam cementerios privados, un cementerio bautista y un cementerio de la Marina. Pero Pigo era el cementerio principal y era propiedad de la Iglesia Católica.

Se remonta a la década de 1870, por lo que había tumbas en Pigo desde la época española, con lápidas escritas en español. Aquí hay dos de ellas, pero me centraré en la de la derecha.

Aunque tapada en gran parte por la valla de madera, de modo que no podemos identificar de quién es la tumba, vemos lo suficiente como para saber que está escrita en español.

La parte superior de la lápida dice D.O.M.

Es la expresión latina "Deo Optimo Maximo", que significa "A Dios el mejor y el más grande".

A continuación podemos ver en español "Aquí yacen los restos mortales de ...."

El nombre del difunto debe estar a continuación y parece que dice "María" y luego parece que dice "Borja". El BOR es claro, lo que significa que solo puede ser Borja o Bordallo, y no hubo nadie con el nombre de María Bordallo antes de la guerra.

Una cosa que podemos aprender de esto es que nadie habría escrito en español si no hubiera gente capaz de leerlo y entenderlo. Ésta no es la tumba de un español, ni de un chamorro de élite del más alto nivel de la sociedad. Y así podemos entender que, al menos en un momento, un buen número de chamorros, tal vez aquellos más expuestos al idioma y al estilo de vida españoles, pero no necesariamente de la aristocracia, tenían un buen conocimiento de al menos algo de español .

Friday, July 24, 2020


This is a story about a mother and the pains she went through to keep her ailing youngest daughter alive, while the Japanese could have killed them both at any time, or a stray American bullet could hit them as well.

She was no ordinary mother. She was perhaps the most influential female Chamorro on the island, before, during and after the war. Agueda Iglesias Johnston was a school teacher from a very early age and was quickly given more leadership roles and became principal of Guam's only public high school, George Washington, before the war.

If the Japanese were to be suspicious of any Chamorro, one of them would have to be Agueda. She was part of the American system of Guam, teaching Chamorro children English and American patriotism. She was married to an American, and an ex-military man at that. Indeed Agueda was suspected, of helping George Tweed, the lone American fugitive from the Japanese, or at least of knowing his whereabouts. They suspected she was involved in the underground radio, which fed war information to a select few. So, she was periodically dragged into Japanese interrogations and suffered beatings. That is a story in itself.


Around July 10, 1944, after over a month of terrific American bombardment, the Japanese ordered the Chamorros of central and northern Guam to march to various designated isolated camp sites. The idea was to keep the Chamorro population away from the expected battle sites, to keep them from informing Americans they might meet, as much as to keep them out of harm's way. Tå'i was one rendezvous point for the various groups forming the march to the camps. So Agueda and her children packed what they could and started marching towards Tå'i.

By the time they reached Ordot, just two miles from Hagåtña, the youngest child, Eloise, aged 11 years, was too sick to keep moving. Eloise had been ill nearly the entire Japanese Occupation. They thought perhaps the shock of seeing her father shipped off to prison camp in Japan was too much for the young girl, who was just eight years old at the time. So Agueda told the rest of her children, some already in their 20s, to move on ahead and she would stay behind with Eloise in the abandoned house of Mariana León Guerrero in Ordot.

Okinawan and Korean forced laborers who were working on an airstrip but who deserted it under American fire found Agueda and Eloise in the home. They ordered Agueda to cook the foods the men found, but their foraging for food was spotted by American planes and soon those American planes were shooting the house! The house was also close to a radio station used by the Japanese and also to a Japanese camp, so the house was always a target for the American flyers.

Then, one of Agueda's sons, Tom, came to the house urging his mother to follow him to Mañenggon. Agueda refused, saying Eloise's temperature was so high that they couldn't move. They were in the hands of God, she said. If the Lord took Eloise, Agueda had a pick and shovel ready. Tom left without mother and sister.

Another surprise came when a Japanese doctor appeared and rather quickly told Agueda to take the medicine he was handing her and run away with the child.



Not long after the doctor disappeared just as quickly as he appeared, Agueda saw the top of a head passing the window. She called out in Chamorro. It was Frank Pérez, Goyo. He was looking for food for his mother, but seeing Agueda' situation, he promised to help her.

Just then, Segundo León Guerrero appeared, his leg swollen four times its normal size after a dog bit him. A Japanese doctor said he could do nothing more for Segundo. Pérez cut open the wound and let the puss drain. Then he and his brother Gregorio found a scrawny cow and an old buggy. Attaching planks and mattresses to the buggy, they placed Eloise and Segundo on them. Accompanied by José Quitugua they started their journey towards Mañenggon.


Following the Ylig river inland into the Mañenggon valley, the cart could not traverse the rough jungle trail. So they unhitched the buggy and carried Eloise on an improvised stretcher. They agreed to let Segundo wait on the side of the trail and fetch him later.

When word came to the thousands sheltering in Mañenggon that American troops had met some Chamorros, and when they noticed that the Japanese guards had quietly disappeared, thousands of people began marching across the hills and valleys of the central terrain towards Hågat, safely behind American lines. They met up with US Marines who escorted the long line of people to safety. Eloise was being carried on her stretcher by Manuel Mesa, Cristóbal Benavente and Henry Butler.

Eloise's temperature hovered around 103 degrees still, and Agueda doubted she would make it. It didn't help that Eloise couldn't even believe the Americans were there. Agueda walked a good distance ahead to find a Marine. She told the Marine there was a sick girl back in the line who wanted to see an American and that she may not make it. The Marine walked back to Eloise.

Eloise said, "I've been sick since the Japanese came and sent my daddy away. Now he's dead and I don't want to live anymore."

The Marine patted her and said, "You're safe now, little girl. The Americans are here and we'll never leave you again." Eloise bent up and said, "I'm better now. I want to walk." And walk she did, which was a relief, since there was a point where the trail was so narrow, with steep edges on both sides, that a stretcher would have presented a problem.

When they arrived at a camp, she rode her first jeep to a hospital. Her temperature was now normal. Eloise lived for the next 75 years, passing away in 2019 at the age of 86. May she and Agueda rest in peace.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Ésta es la historia de una madre y el dolor que sufrió para mantener con vida a su hija más pequeña y enferma, mientras que los japoneses podrían haberlas matado a ambas, o una bala estadounidense perdida también podría haberlas alcanzado.

Ella no era una madre cualquiera. Ella fue quizás la chamorra más influyente en Guam, antes, durante y después de la guerra. Águeda Iglesias Johnston fue maestra de escuela desde muy temprana edad y rápidamente se le asignaron más funciones de liderazgo y se convirtió en directora de la única escuela secundaria pública de Guam anterior a la guerra, la George Washington.

Si los japoneses sospecharan de algún chamorro, uno de ellos tendría que ser Águeda. Ella era parte del sistema estadounidense de Guam, enseñando a los niños chamorros, inglés y patriotismo estadounidense. Estaba casada con un americano, un ex militar. De hecho, se sospecha que Águeda, ayudó a George Tweed, el solitario fugitivo estadounidense de los japoneses, o al menos sabía su paradero. Sospechaban que estaba involucrada en la radio subterránea, que proporcionaba información de guerra a los americanos. Por todo ello, fue conducida periódicamente a interrogatorios japoneses y sufrió palizas. Aunque ésa es en sí misma, otra historia.

Alrededor del 10 de julio de 1944, después de más de un mes de terroríficos bombardeos estadounidenses, los japoneses ordenaron a los chamorros del centro y norte de Guam marchar hacia varios campamentos designados. La idea era mantener a la población chamorra aislada y lejos de los lugares de batalla para mantenerlos fuera de peligro y asimismo evitar que informaran a los estadounidenses con los que podrían encontrarse. Tå'i fue un punto de encuentro para los diversos grupos que formaron la marcha hacia los campos. Entonces Águeda y sus hijos empacaron lo que pudieron y comenzaron a marchar hacia Tå'i.

Cuando llegaron a Ordot, a solo dos millas de Agaña, la niña más pequeña, Eloise, de 11 años, estaba demasiado enferma para seguir la marcha. Eloise había estado mal durante casi toda la ocupación japonesa. Pensaron que tal vez la sorpresa de ver a su padre enviado al campo de prisioneros en Japón era demasiado para la joven, que tenía solo ocho años en ese momento. Entonces Águeda le dijo al resto de sus hijos, algunos que ya tenían 20 años, que siguieran adelante y ella se quedaría con Eloise en la casa abandonada de Mariana León Guerrero en Ordot.

Los trabajadores forzados de Okinawa y Corea que trabajaban en una pista de aterrizaje pero que la abandonaron bajo el fuego estadounidense encontraron a Águeda y Eloise en la casa. Le ordenaron a Águeda que cocinara los alimentos que encontraron aquellos hombres, pero su búsqueda de comida fue detectada por aviones estadounidenses y ¡pronto esos aviones estaban disparando a la casa! La casa también estaba cerca de una estación de radio utilizada por los japoneses y también de un campamento japonés, por lo que la casa siempre fue un blanco para los aviadores estadounidenses.

Entonces, uno de los hijos de Águeda, Tom, llegó a la casa pidiendo a su madre que lo siguiera a Mañenggon. Águeda se negó, diciendo que la fiebre de Eloise era tan alta que no podían moverse. Estaban en manos de Dios, dijo ella. Si el Señor se llevaba a Eloise, Águeda tenía un pico y una pala listos para enterrarla. Tom se fue sin su madre y su hermana.

Otra sorpresa llegó cuando apareció un médico japonés y rápidamente le dijo a Águeda que tomara el medicamento que le estaba entregando y que se fuera con la niña.

Poco después de que el médico desapareciera tan rápido como había aparecido, Águeda vio la punta de una cabeza pasar por la ventana. Era Frank Pérez, alias Goyo. Estaba buscando comida para su madre, pero al ver la situación de Águeda, prometió ayudarlas.

En ese momento, apareció también Segundo León Guerrero, con la pierna hinchada cuatro veces su tamaño normal después de que un perro lo mordiera. Un médico japonés dijo que no podía hacer nada más por Segundo. Frank Pérez abrió la herida y dejó que el pus saliera. Luego, él y su hermano Gregorio encontraron un viejo carro tirado por una flaca vaca. Sujetando tablones y colchones al carro, acostaron a Eloise y a Segundo sobre ellos. Acompañados por José Quitugua, comenzaron su viaje hacia Mañenggon.

Siguiendo el río Ylig hacia el interior hasta el valle de Mañenggon, el carro no pudo atravesar el camino áspero de la selva. Entonces desengancharon el carro y llevaron a Eloise en una camilla improvisada. Acordaron dejar que Segundo esperara al lado del camino y lo vendrían a buscar más tarde.

Cuando se corrió la voz entre las miles de personas que se refugiaban en Mañenggon de que las tropas estadounidenses se habían encontrado con algunos chamorros, y cuando notaron que los guardias japoneses habían desaparecido silenciosamente, miles comenzaron a marchar a través de las colinas y los valles del terreno central hacia Agat, con seguridad, detrás de las filas estadounidenses. Se reunieron con marines americanos que escoltaron a la larga fila de personas a un lugar seguro. Eloise estaba siendo llevada en su camilla por Manuel Mesa, Cristóbal Benavente y Henry Butler.

La fiebre de Eloise rondaba los 40 grados todavía, y Águeda dudaba que pudiera seguir adelante. No ayudó que Eloise ni siquiera pudiera creer que los estadounidenses estaban allí. Águeda caminó una buena distancia para encontrar a un marine. Ella le dijo al marine que había una niña enferma en la fila que quería ver a un estadounidense y que tal vez no lo lograría. El marine regresó a Eloise.

Eloise dijo: "He estado enferma desde que vinieron los japoneses y se llevaron a mi papá. Ahora está muerto y no quiero vivir más".

El marine le dio unas palmaditas y dijo: "Ahora estás a salvo, pequeña. Los estadounidenses están aquí y nunca más te dejaremos." Eloise se inclinó y dijo: "Estoy mejor ahora. Quiero caminar." Y caminó, lo cual fue un alivio, ya que había un punto donde el sendero era tan estrecho, con bordes empinados a ambos lados, que una camilla causaría problemas.

Cuando llegaron a un campamento, ella montó en su primer jeep a un hospital. Su temperatura ahora era normal. Eloise vivió durante los siguientes 75 años y falleció en 2019 a la edad de 86 años. Que ella y Águeda descansen en paz.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Plaza de España July 21, 1945

The very first Liberation Day on Guam had no parade. No marching bands nor village floats went down Marine Drive, although the road was already there.

There was no carnival, no ferris wheel and no beto beto booths.

July 21, 1945 was a Saturday, so there was no work that day for most anyway. But it wasn't a public holiday for GovGuam yet. There was no GovGuam yet! The island was still under a military government.

On that first Liberation Day, World War II was still being fought. The US was bombing Japan by air and had surrounded it by sea. When the Chamorros were celebrating Liberation Day on July 21, 1945, the war wasn't over but Guam was playing a part in ending it, with its massive air fields built by the US for American planes to bomb Japan. Just 120 miles north of Guam, Tinian's airfields were used by the US to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war was over by August 15.

So when Agueda Johnston, island educator, suggested to the military brass that the first anniversary of the American return to Guam be celebrated, the American big shots didn't jump for joy at the idea. Maybe they thought there was a war still to be won, and had other priorities. Maybe they doubted that the island had what it took to put on a celebration, since the island was still picking up the pieces of the damage left by war. Hagåtña was a city in ruins, half-destroyed homes sitting empty covered with weeds. Military quonset huts covered the bulldozed terrain of the capital.

But Agueda got her permission and the anniversary was planned. But how different that first Liberation Day was from the ones that came later.


As can be seen in the photo above, the people gathered in the Plaza de España for an early morning Mass celebrated by Spanish Bishop Olano. There was a temporary church in Hagåtña by then, built by Monsignor Calvo, to replace the ruined prewar Cathedral, but it was smaller than the original church and an outdoor Mass could accommodate more people.


After the Mass, there was no parade. Instead, there was a religious procession of the people, lead by a crucifix and altar boys.

Newspapers said the procession went through the streets of devastated Hagåtña. A few streets were probably meant, and it must have been a somber mood to walk past the useless, mangled walls of what used to be homes filled with the sounds of family life.

Processing on Marine Drive would have been out of the question. It was a Saturday, but there was still a war going on, with hundreds of military trucks going up and down Marine Drive from the naval base at Apra up to one of the airfields in the north.


The Hagåtña Mass and procession could be considered island-wide events. At least everyone was invited to participate, though transportation wasn't all that easy in 1945 and nearly everyone lived outside of Hagåtña. From the photo above, you can see that the crowd was decent but far from the actual number of people who would have attended had they still lived in Hagåtña, as they had before the war, and had transportation been more easily available.

So the rest of Liberation Day was a localized affair, each village and each family or association of whatever sort putting on their own celebration.

Agueda Johnston hosted a party at a school in Aniguak, where the youth were so enthusiastic in dancing the jitterbug that she was afraid they'd go through the flimsy walls made of light wood and local weaving. So there was dancing, music and cake, cut by her and a Marine officer. The people gathered in the school sang "God Bless America."


In the villages that had a priest in their churches or chapels, Mass was said that morning, the same way Bishop Olano said Mass in the Plaza.

Admiral Chester Nimitz addressed the radio listeners on island that morning with his greetings.

It was up to each village to feast as they wanted or could. Inalåhan went all out. Here's how one newspaper described it :

Here and there around the island, people held dances, put out food, waved the American flag, listened to civic leaders make speeches, poured out many glasses of tuba (coconut toddy).

at the Liberation Day party hosted by Agueda Johnston

There was also a remembrance of the American soldiers who died in the 1944 invasion. Many Chamorros died in that violence, but Chamorros laid wreaths on the first Liberation Day at the graves of American troops who fell in battle as well.

at the grave of US Marine RG Phelan on July 21, 1945

When our parents and grandparents celebrated July 21, 1945, they could still hear the bombs and bullets; they could still see the menacing faces of Japanese soldiers looking at them; they could still hear the screaming voices of irate Japanese rulers; they could still feel the pain in their hearts looking at relatives and friends wounded, and even dead, with no medical care in sight. And they could also see that all of that was over.

So, yes, the first Liberation Day was religious and patriotic. The people were proud to see the American flag wave again, and they were happy the Japanese were gone.


But this patriotism did not erase the Chamorro's sense of justice and love for their island and people. Concerns, and even resentment, brewed among some Chamorros over military land grabs and the prices paid. Just a year after the first Liberation Day, Chamorros were in the same Plaza where they had Mass to thank God for war's end, to protest the presence of US Navy man George Tweed, who wrote some objectionable things about some Chamorros in his postwar book about his flight from the Japanese.

Four years after the first Liberation Day, some members of the Guam Congress, all Chamorros, staged a well-publicized walkout to protest the Naval Governor at the time who was impeding their actions. Later that year, President Truman took Guam out of Naval control and put a civilian Governor in place and then the Organic Act followed the next year.

One year after the first Liberation Day celebration, Agueda Johnston, the woman who began that observance, aired her grievances about the continued military rule over Guam. She told reporters that Chamorros wanted their capital city rebuilt, a representative government instituted, the removal of military restrictions, constitutional protection and an acknowledgment from the US that the Chamorros of Guam fought the Japanese in their own way, and paid a price for it. All this coming from a Chamorro woman whose American patriotism was lauded by the US and resented by the Japanese.

In other words, Chamorro leaders at the time wanted to be as American as the Americans themselves defined America, with liberty and justice for all.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


El primer “Día de Liberación” que se celebró en Guam no tuvo desfile. No hubo bandas de música ni carrozas de los pueblos circulando por Marine Drive, aunque la calle ya estaba construida.

No hubo atracciones, ni ruleta de la fortuna ni cabinas beto beto (un juego de azar).

El 21 de julio de 1945 era un sábado, así que ese día la mayoría de la gente no trabajaba. Pero aún no era un día festivo para el Gobierno de Guam. De hecho, el Gobierno de Guam todavía no existía. La isla aún estaba bajo el gobierno militar americano.

En ese primer “Día de Liberación,” la Segunda Guerra Mundial todavía se estaba librando. Estados Unidos estaba bombardeando Japón por aire y lo había rodeado por mar. Cuando los chamorros se disponían a celebrar el “Día de Liberación” el 21 de julio de 1945, la guerra no había terminado, pero Guam estaba desempeñando un papel importante para ese fin, con sus enormes bases aéreas construidas por los EE. UU. para que sus aviones bombardeasen Japón. A solo 120 millas (193 km) al norte de Guam, los campos de aviación de Tinián fueron utilizados por los Estados Unidos para lanzar las bombas atómicas sobre Hiroshima y Nagasaki y la guerra terminaría el 15 de agosto.

Entonces fue cuando Águeda Johnston, una maestra de la isla, sugirió a los jefes militares que se celebrara el primer aniversario del regreso estadounidense a Guam, los peces gordos americanos no saltaron de alegría ante la idea. Tal vez pensaron que aún había una guerra por ganar, y tenían otras prioridades. Tal vez dudaron de que la isla tuviera lo necesario para organizar una celebración, pues aún se estaban recogiendo los escombros que había dejado la guerra. Agaña era una ciudad en ruinas, casas medio destruidas, vacías y cubiertas de maleza. Las cabañas militares prefabricadas cubrían el terreno arrasado de la capital.

Pero Águeda consiguió su permiso y el aniversario se iba a organizar. ¡Pero qué diferente fue ese primer “Día de Liberación” de los que vinieron después!

Como se puede ver en la foto, los chamorros se reunieron en la Plaza de España para una misa matutina celebrada por el obispo español Miguel Ángel Olano. Había para entonces una iglesia provisional en Agaña, levantada por Monseñor Calvo, para reemplazar a la catedral destruida, pero era más pequeña que la iglesia original y una misa al aire libre podía acomodar a más personas.

Después de la misa, no hubo desfile. En cambio, hubo una procesión religiosa por la ciudad, dirigida por una cruz y varios monaguillos.

Los periódicos señalaron que la procesión había discurrido por las calles de la devastada Agaña. Probablemente algunas calles estaban preparadas pero debió haber sido desolador caminar al lado de las paredes destrozadas de lo que habían sido hogares llenos de sonidos de la vida familiar.

Era sábado y la procesión en Marine Drive hubiera estado fuera de toda duda. Pero todavía había una guerra, con cientos de camiones militares subiendo y bajando por Marine Drive desde la base naval en Apra hasta uno de los aeródromos del norte.


La misa y la procesión de Agaña podrían considerarse eventos para toda la isla. Al menos todos fueron invitados a participar, aunque el transporte no era fácil en 1945 y casi todos vivían fuera de Agaña. En la foto, se puede ver que la multitud era considerable pero lejos de la cantidad real de personas que hubieran asistido si aún hubieran vivido en Agaña, como lo habían hecho antes de la guerra, y también si el transporte hubiera sido más disponible.

Así que el resto del Día de Liberación fue un asunto localizado, cada pueblo y cada familia o asociación de cualquier tipo organizó su propia celebración.

Águeda Johnston organizó una fiesta en una escuela en Aniguak, donde los jóvenes estaban tan entusiasmados bailando el jitterbug que se temía que atravesaran las endebles paredes hechas de madera clara y tejidos locales. Así que hubo baile, música y tarta, cortada por ella misma y un oficial de la Marina. La gente reunida en la escuela cantó "God Bless America" (“Dios bendiga a América”).

En las aldeas que tenían un sacerdote en sus iglesias o capillas, la misa se celebró aquella mañana, de la misma manera que el Obispo Olano lo hizo en la Plaza de España.

El almirante Chester Nimitz se dirigió a los oyentes de radio en la isla esa mañana con sus saludos.

Dependía de cada pueblo festejar en la manera en que quisieran o pudieran. Inaraján hizo todo lo posible. Así es como lo describió un periódico: “En Inaraján, en la costa sureste, la gente decoró las fachadas de sus casas con hibiscos y hojas de palma. Se reunieron en siete grupos, los mismos siete grupos creados por los japoneses, porque ésa era la forma más fácil de controlar sus movimientos”.

Aquí y allá, alrededor de la isla, la gente organizaba bailes, preparaba comida, ondeaba la bandera estadounidense, escuchaba a los líderes cívicos pronunciar discursos, derramaba muchos vasos de tuba (bebida de coco), etc.

También hubo un recuerdo para los soldados estadounidenses que murieron en la invasión japonesa de 1944. Muchos chamorros murieron en ese momento, pero los chamorros depositaron igualmente coronas de flores en el primer Día de Liberación en las tumbas de las tropas americanas que cayeron en la batalla.

Cuando nuestros padres y abuelos celebraron el 21 de julio de 1945, todavía podían escuchar las bombas y las balas; aún podían ver los rostros amenazantes de los soldados japoneses mirándolos; todavía podían escuchar las voces de los gobernantes japoneses furiosos; todavía podían sentir el dolor en sus corazones al mirar a familiares y amigos heridos, e incluso muertos, sin una atención médica disponible. Y también podían ver que todo eso se estaba terminando.

Entonces, sí, el primer Día de Liberación fue religioso y patriótico. La gente estaba orgullosa de ver la bandera estadounidense ondear nuevamente, y estaban felices de que los japoneses se hubieran ido.


Pero este patriotismo no borró el sentido de justicia y amor de los chamorros por su isla y su propia gente. Las preocupaciones, e incluso el resentimiento, surgieron entre algunos chamorros por el acaparamiento de tierras militares y los precios pagados por los americanos. Justo un año después del primer Día de Liberación, los chamorros se reunieron en la misma Plaza de España, donde se había celebrado aquella misa para agradecer a Dios por el fin de la guerra, para protestar por la presencia del soldado americano, George Tweed, quien escribió algunas cosas objetables sobre algunos chamorros en su libro de la posguerra durante su huída de los japoneses.

Cuatro años después del primer Día de Liberación, algunos miembros del Congreso de Guam, todos chamorros, organizaron una huelga muy publicitada para protestar contra el Gobernador Naval que en esos momentos impedía sus acciones. Más tarde ese año, el presidente Truman sacó a Guam del control militar y estableció un gobernador civil. Posteriormente se aprobó la Ley Orgánica al año siguiente.

Un año después de la primera celebración del Día de Liberación, Águeda Johnston, la mujer que comenzó esa observación, expresó sus quejas sobre el continuo control militar del gobierno americano sobre Guam. Ella declaró a los periodistas que los chamorros querían que la ciudad de Agaña fuera reconstruida, un gobierno representativo instituido, la eliminación de las restricciones militares, la protección constitucional y un reconocimiento de los Estados Unidos de que los chamorros de Guam lucharon también contra los japoneses, y pagaron un precio por ello. Todo esto proviene de una mujer chamorra cuyo patriotismo estadounidense fue elogiado por los Estados Unidos y resentido por los japoneses.

En otras palabras, los líderes chamorros en ese momento querían ser estadounidenses con libertad y justicia para todos, como los mismos estadounidenses definieron a Estados Unidos.

Friday, July 17, 2020



The nut of the fadang (fedrico) palm has been used for centuries by Chamorros as a source of food, especially as flour. When the nut is dried and ground into a flour, it can be used in cooking and made into titiyas (flat bread like tortilla).

The one thing you have to know, though, is that fadang is poisonous. It contains cyanide!

So the nut is cut and is soaked in water that is constantly changed, for several days at a minimum, so that the toxin leaches into the water until it is all gone and the nut is safe to eat. Just to show you how poisonous it is, if the first batches of water in which the nuts are soaked are thrown out and somehow gather into a puddle, chickens will die if they drink that water.

During the war, some Japanese soldiers in Sumay were curious about the tree and some Sumay people told the soldiers that Chamorros used the nut as food, but they didn't tell the soldiers about the poison.

The soldiers picked the nuts and cooked them somehow, without soaking them for the several days required.

When the Sumay people saw how sick those Japanese soldiers became, there was an air of contentment in Sumay that day.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


La nuez de palma “fadang” (federico) ha sido utilizada durante siglos por los chamorros como fuente de alimento, especialmente para hacer harina. Cuando la nuez se seca y se muele, se puede usar para cocinar y preparar “titiyas” (pan plano como la tortilla).

Sin embargo, lo único que se debe saber es que el “fadang” es venenoso. ¡Contiene cianuro!

Por lo tanto, la nuez se corta y se empapa en agua que se cambia constantemente, como mínimo durante varios días. Así la toxina se filtra en el agua hasta que se acaba y la nuez es segura para comer. Solo para demostrar su veneno, si se arrojasen los primeros lotes de agua en los que se mojan las nueces y de alguna manera se juntan en un charco, las gallinas morirían si bebiesen esa agua.

Durante la guerra, algunos soldados japoneses en Sumay sintieron curiosidad por el árbol y algunas personas del pueblo les dijeron a los soldados que los chamorros usaban la nuez como alimento, pero no les advirtieron sobre el veneno.

Los soldados recogieron las nueces y las cocinaron, sin remojarlas durante los varios días requeridos.

Cuando la gente de Sumay vio cuán enfermos se pusieron los soldados japoneses, hubo un aire de satisfacción en Sumay aquel día.