Monday, February 24, 2020


In Chamorro culture, when two men share the same first name, they are called KÅYO.

Two Josés, two Juans, two each other they are kåyo.

If two Josés work in the same office or business, you could ask one José about the other José and ask, "Mångge i kayu-mo?" "Where is your namesake?"

The same would apply about two Josés no matter what the context, as long as the two Josés knew each other so that the one José would know who you were talking about.


The word, and probably the concept, is borrowed from Hispanic culture.

In Spanish, TOCAYO is someone who shares your personal name.

There is no clear origin of this word, some even suggesting it comes from Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs in Mexico.

Evidently, our Chamorro ancestors borrowed the term and shortened it to KÅYO.

The belief that kåyo comes from Spanish tocayo is also based on the frequency of repeated first names among Chamorros once they all became Catholic.

Prior to colonization, there were some repeated names among our ancestors, but not as much as after colonization. Once our ancestors became Catholic, duplication of first names abounded; many Marías and many Josés.

In Spanish and in Hispanic cultures, two women who share the same personal name are tocaya. But I don't think this was adopted by our ancestors or, if it was, it didn't last long. One hears of kåyo, never a kåya, and this is always applied to men. I never hear it applied to women.

In Tagalog, tocayo became katukayo. The ka- prefix means "partner" and tukayo means "name" or "nickname."

In modern slang, kåyo has been further shortened to kåts.

Friday, February 21, 2020


It was a quarter past 8 in the morning and as I walked from my car in the parking lot to the front door of the building, I saw him sitting on a bench anxiously looking at his phone, as if expecting a message or a call.

As I got closer, I said to him,

~ Kalan guaha håfa un nanangga.
~ It's as if you are waiting for something.

~ Depotsi para u fan gaige esta i taotao-ho gi a las ocho ya trabia ti man måfåtto.
~ My people were already supposed to be here at 8 and they haven't come yet.

Then he added,

Ma tungo' man haggan.

They know how to be a turtle (haggan).

By that he meant it was in their nature to move slowly like a turtle, especially in the morning.

Tungo' means "to know." Ma means "they." Ma tungo' means "they know."

Man can be a plural marker at times but it can also (along with fan) make things a verb.

Haggan is the noun "turtle," but man haggan means "to be or act like a turtle."

There is another way the turtle is used in a Chamorro expression as a metaphor or symbol for something, but that's another blog post.

Monday, February 17, 2020


Lanchero in the old days had a way to tell the difference between a wild pig and a pig owned by someone. This way, they wouldn't make the mistake of capturing and killing a pig that was running around free but which was, in fact, owned by someone.

When you owned a pig, you cut away parts of the ear or made notches in the ear of the pig. You could do this in different ways on the two ears; perhaps two cuts on one ear and three on the other.

Besides ear cropping or ear notching, you could also mark your pig by cutting the tail a certain way.

Wild pigs, on the other hand, showed no cropping or notches on their ears, nor did they have cut tails. If you came upon a pig like that, you could capture and kill it. It belonged to no one.

In order to avoid being accused of killing someone's pig, Chamorro men often cut off the intact ears of the wild pig to show any accusers that the pig was indeed wild and fair game for anyone.

Despite the fact that raised pigs were far more desirable as food, since the wild pigs lacked fat and thus the meat was less enjoyable, many men still killed wild pigs, cutting off the ear as evidence the pig was wild.

This was not just a Chamorro custom. It was practiced all over the world, and animal rights activists campaign against such practices today.

Friday, February 14, 2020


Language tells more than just literal meaning.

Guma' for house and chålan for road.

Language also gives us clues into the psychology of the people speaking that language.

In English, we say, "What's his problem?" when someone seems upset for no reason, or who is in need of attitude adjustment.

While we can say, and often do say, "Håfa problemå-ña?" in Chamorro, which means "What is his or her problem?" we also hear, and among older people I think even more so, "Håfa chetnot-ña?" which translates "What is his or her disease or illness?"

Here we see that the literal meaning of a physical illness or disease is not usually meant. Negative moods do sometimes come from a physical (or even mental) condition. But generally speaking this is not what is meant when someone asks what disease someone has who is throwing out a negative attitude.

We can psychologize why Chamorros call a bad attitude a disease. And our theories are probably right for some people, some of the time.

Maybe we are saying that a bad attitude hurts the person having it, more than it hurts others, just as any disease would. People with bad attitudes are often avoided, and they isolate themselves from others, bringing them added frustrations in life.

Maybe we are saying that a bad attitude has to be cured, just as we would want to cure any disease.

Maybe we are saying that a bad attitude isn't attractive, pleasing or enjoyable, just as any disease would be considered something unpleasant to dread and to avoid. This is why the opposite of a bad attitude, a good attitude, is called månnge' by Chamorros. Good things are "delicious." They taste good and smell good.

Maybe we are saying that something is not right, something is "broken" in your way of thinking when we ask, "Håfa chetnot-mo?" What is wrong with you? Why are you thinking or feeling that way? That is a broken way of thinking, an inappropriate way to feel. Something is wrong with you, just like a disease means something's not working properly in your body.

This is also why we say in Chamorro that a car with engine trouble also has a chetnot. "Guaha chetnot-ña i karetå-ho." "My car has a problem." There is something not right, something wrong, something broken with it. So chetnot can also mean injury, defect, wound and similar things, besides disease or illness. And just as a car might need fixing, some people's attitudes may also need fixing.

I wonder if other cultures have something similar. Instead of asking, "What is his problem?" they ask "What is his disease?" Or "What is wrong with him?"

No matter the answer, it is a very Chamorro way of thinking and talking, among the older generations.

Monday, February 10, 2020


A branch of the Rivera family on Guam is better known as the familian Kakarote. Or Kakaroti.


According to the older dictionaries, kakarote means "to hop while spinning." Thus it also came to mean "fickle," that is, someone who isn't steady; someone who changes opinions or plans; just like spinning ends up in an unpredictable place. Kakarote also came to mean a "rascal," someone mischievous. Tricky people, like rascals, are unpredictable.


The word sounds like it's borrowed from Spanish, but there is no Spanish word cacarote nor even cacarrote. There are a handful of Spanish words, some of them slang, that come close to cacarote, meaning many different things. Cacarote, or words similar in sound, appear in Galician, a language in northwestern Spain, and in Brazil, where they speak Portuguese but have many of their own words and slang and, in the modern age, there is even a Korean doll called cacarote. So, there's just no way for sure we know how kakarote came into the Chamorro language. The Marianas were under Spain for 230 years, but influences on us came from all over the globe.


The Kakarote seem to be the descendants of Juan Rivera and his wife Rosa Ulloa. This couple would have been born in the mid 1800s as their children were born beginning in the 1870s.

Their sons, who would generally be mainly responsible for carrying on the clan name, were :

Joaquín, who married Antonia Rosario and also Ana Tenorio

Manuel, who married Magdalena Dueñas Borja and also Dolores Dueñas Borja

Ignacio, who married María San Nicolás. This couple had a large number of children.

José, who married Carmen Taitingfong Agualo. This couple also had a large number of children.

@ Kakarote

Wednesday, February 5, 2020



"Bootleg" refers to the illegal manufacture, distribution or selling of alcohol.

In 1907, it was illegal to make or sell liquor without a government license.

Long-time Guam resident Hermogenes Daproza from Santa María in Ilocos Sur in the Philippines either didn't know or didn't care. He never got a government license.

But he maintained a still and made åguayente or agi, a hard liquor. Perhaps he thought he could get away with it because he lived and made his booze in Atantåno', a farming area south of Piti, just before you make the turn to travel towards Hågat or Sumay. Atantåno' wasn't exactly teeming with people, so maybe Daproza felt safe and secure in the peaceful, hidden quiet of his ranch land.

He didn't even sell those six and a half bottles of åguayente to Ana Matanane, the wife of José Pérez de la Cruz. He gave it to her as a gift. She said she needed it as medicine, as she anticipated being confined soon to her bed.

Somehow, the Island Attorney heard about it and sent police to Daproza's ranch, where they confiscated implements used in his bootleg operation. The bottles given to Ana were also confiscated.

Daproza plead guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine. He couldn't keep his still, either. The government said it would sell it at public auction and the income put in the island treasury.

There is humor to the end of the story. The court directed the local hospital to analyze the bootleg to see if it would have caused any harm to someone who drank it.

The analysis showed that Daproza's booze was 45% alcohol. His liquor was on the same level as whiskey. The doctor said it wouldn't do anyone any harm if drunk in moderation.

By the way, the doctor said, there's no need to dump Daproza's bootleg. The hospital could use it as rubbing alcohol.

Friday, January 31, 2020


Chocolate Drink

Long before we were sipping our coffee mocha at our favorite island coffee shop, our great grandparents were drinking chocolate almost every day.

That's right, drinking chocolate. Not eating chocolate.

Chocolate comes from the cacao seed and, thanks to our tropical climate, the cacao tree can grow very successfully here. Thanks also to our historical connection with Mexico, the cacao tree was brought to the Marianas. Spain ruled the Marianas out of Mexico. The yearly galleons sailed from Acapulco, Mexico to Manila, often stopping by the Marianas. Many of the so-called "Spanish" soldiers stationed on Guam were actually Mexican.

So, growing cacao and using the beans to make chocolate became a very Chamorro thing to do.

Just listen to a man's testimony in a 1910 Court case.

A man living in Hagåtña was called by his nephew Mariano in Hågat to come down back to the south, as the man's mother was seriously ill in Humåtak. The man describes passing the night in his nephew's house in Hågat  and what happened when they woke up.

"We passed the night on that day in his house. On the next morning, when we woke up, I opened all the windows of the house. Afterwards I charged Mariano to cook chocolate, and I went to the Japanese store to buy biscuits for our breakfast."

A few notes about this short paragraph.

1. He opened all the windows of the house. Despite the lack of air conditioning or even electric fans, our people closed all the windows at night. They had a strong fear of the sereno or cool wind. They believed the sereno caused illness.

2. Cook chocolate. Chocolate was a common breakfast beverage. Not a candy but a beverage. And it had to be cooked. I'll describe that further down in this post.

3. Japanese store in Hågat. In the court testimony, the store is identified as being owned by Kosaku Okiyama, later known as Francisco as he was baptized Catholic in order to marry Ana Charfauros Carbullido.


1. Dry the cacao seeds after harvesting and extracting the seed from the shell. According to Safford, one could also ferment the seeds first, which improved the flavor of the cacao.


2. Roast the seeds, or toast them in a pan over fire. This step is only done when one is ready to drink chocolate that day. Otherwise, the dried seeds are stored for later roasting.

3. Grind the toasted seeds on the metåte, also something we got from the Mexicans. If there was no metåte, a lommok (mortar) could be used. Now we get cacao powder. This is then made into a paste and from the paste it is formed into little balls or disks, each one enough for a single serving of chocolate.


4. The chocolate balls are heated into a drink by adding hot water and thickened with regular flour or with arrowroot (gapgap) starch, and sweetened with sugar. A battidot (beater) was often used to do the mixing.


Our court testimony shows that chocolate was drunk as a breakfast beverage, but Safford says that our people drank chocolate in the late afternoon, what we call merienda, an afternoon snack to hold you till dinner at night.

Safford also says that our people gave local chocolate away as gifts to departing friends or family. When a visitor came to someone's house, hot chocolate was often served, along with a biscuit or cake.


The Chocolate House in the palåsyo complex in Hagåtña is so-named because the Spaniards drank chocolate here as a social event. But period records are also quite clear that it was a custom practiced regularly by nearly all Chamorros.

Pat Santos shows a stateside visitor how the battidot is used to make chocolate drink

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


1899 ~ 1968

When the Americans took possession of Saipan from the Japanese in July of 1944, they opened up camps for the Japanese military prisoners of war and for the civilians of many races : Japanese, Okinawans, Koreans and the indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians.

The Americans needed indigenous leadership to assist them, and it was a public relations asset to have local leaders in place. America, they said, stood for democracy and they had better give the Saipan natives a taste of it.  The Americans said they were training the local people for future self-government.

An election, therefore, for a mayor (sometimes called "chief" among Americans) was held in December of 1944. Whether by intention or by oversight, only adult Chamorro and Carolinian males were allowed to vote. The women had no vote. Elected was Gregorio Sablan, better known as Kilili'. Then, he passed away in March of 1945.

So, a new election had to be conducted to elect a successor, and what better day for the Americans to hold it than on July 4th. This time, adult Chamorro and Carolinian women were allowed to cast ballots as well as the men. The women had made their displeasure known about being disenfranchised the first time.

Many candidates put forward their names, but there was no overt campaigning. It was not the Chamorro way, said the Americans. No candidates' names were on the ballot, either. The voter him or herself had to write the name of the candidate.

Elected was Elías Sablan, a relative of the mayor who just died. He garnered 670 votes among the 1300 ballots cast.


Elías was 46 years old when he was elected and had grown up under the Germans till he was 15 years old. He thus spoke German, besides his native Chamorro and Carolinian languages; Carolinian because his mother was Carolinian while his father was Chamorro. It was said that Elías not only spoke Carolinian but both dialects of that language as spoken on Saipan; the Tanapag dialect and the second one spoken by the majority of Carolinians.

His father had served on an American whaling ship, and spent some time in San Francisco when the ship was taking a break. From his father, Elías learned basic English but also a positive assessment of the United States. This was never to leave Elías, who even under the Japanese subscribed to an English-language magazine published in Japan. In the early part of the war, the Japanese put Elías in custody as a suspected spy. Although he was released as there was no evidence that he was a spy, the Japanese kept a wary eye on him as they knew he spoke English and had warm feelings for the US.

So Elías represented it all. He was like a microcosm of Saipan itself. By blood he was both Chamorro and Carolinian, the two local communities of the island. He spoke those languages as well as the languages of all the foreign powers that had ruled and were now ruling Saipan : Spanish, which many Chamorros, especially those from status families and the very religiously devout of that generation spoke, German, Japanese and English. As mayor, Elías could understand and make himself known to everyone on Saipan.

Friday, January 24, 2020


It seemed like such a harmless thing.

Mariano de los Reyes was a prison guard who was tasked that morning with escorting three prisoners - Juan Pérez de la Cruz (better known as Oto, familian Gåga), José de Toves (better known as Katingo) and Vicente Crisóstomo (better known as Gañote) - to Chaot, just past Sinajaña, where they were to work on some public project. Prisoners were sometimes sentenced to do some hard labor, in addition to jail time, to pay for their crimes.

They had to pass through the barrio of San Ramón and the house of Ramón Díaz Camacho. Mariano, who was a close friend of Camacho, lead the way to Camacho's house, where they stopped for five minutes and each had some tuba to drink, both guard and prisoners.

Tuba is the fermented wine of the coconut's sap.

Five minutes' worth of tuba normally isn't enough to get a grown man drunk. Tuba is refreshing, if not invigorating, in that small amount. Sure what harm could it do? And it was only a five minute delay.

Well, Reyes got hauled into court for dereliction of duty.

His orders were to take the prisoners directly to Chaot and to prevent the prisoners from speaking with anyone on the way. Stopping by Camacho's house and conversing with him over tuba was in defiance of those orders, or so the complaint said.

But the judge decided otherwise. He ruled that, strictly speaking, the prisoners had never fled; that they remained under custody the whole time, and so Reyes never lost jurisdiction over the prisoners.

The judge dismissed the case.

I think today, if DOC guards stopped by Jeff's Pirates Cove for a round of Bud Lite with escorted inmates on their way to bush cutting detail, they'd get in trouble. I think.

with a little tuba along the way

Monday, January 20, 2020


1839 ~ 1907

Even today, many people in our islands die without writing a last will and testament prior to death.

In the past, this was even more the case. There was a Chamorro judge, lawyer and politician I once knew who died in the early 1980s - with no will! He had the profession of helping people draft their wills, and got paid for it, but didn't have one himself!

Many times, the person made known his or her wishes before death, and in many cases this was respected. In many court documents involving land ownership, many people claimed ownership of a piece of land "as inherited by my late father or mother," with no document to show that, and everyone accepted the claim in many cases. But as the American judicial system started to become observed more and more, and when estate issues started to become more contested, things got more complicated.

If the deceased had little to nothing left behind, things weren't complicated at all! But in the case of a wealthy man or woman, it wasn't so easy.

Take the case of Antonio Pangelinan Martínez, who died in 1907 at the age of 68 years. According to the standards of Guam at the time, Antonio was a wealthy man. And he died without a will.

To make matters more challenging, he had numerous children, and some of his heirs didn't live on Guam. So the court had to get involved, and it took six years to settle the estate. There were no squabbles among the heirs, but one administrator of the estate decided to move to Manila, so another had to be appointed. Antonio's holdings had to be appraised, so a committee of competent men had to be appointed by the court to do that. Family members died or moved away in the meantime, changing the dynamics of the process.


When the estate was settled, one of the biggest assets of Antonio was his cattle ranch in Dandan, west of Malojloj. Dandan was more or less flat and grassy, and considered an excellent location for cattle ranching. The court divided the ownership of his cattle ranch equally among the heirs. In Chamorro, this is called påtte pareho, or "equal parts." Påtte means "part" and pareho means "equal, the same." This phrase is often heard among families when a parent dies and either the will, or lack of one, distributes the assets equally among all the heirs.

When Antonio died in 1907, he owned the following assets :


at the time

One house of masonry with tiled roof in Hagåtña


A second house of masonry with tiled roof in Hagåtña


A lot in Hagåtña


A lot and building in Hagåtña


Cattle ranch in Dandan (land only)


A lot in Mongmong


A lot in As Penggao


A lot in Maso’


A lot in Mañila’


144 cows, bulls and calves


One horse


37 carabaos, male and female


Furniture, household goods, bullcarts, etc.


TOTAL : $7214.50

In today's value, Antonio's estate was worth $190,000.

Antonio's wealth is visible in that he had two houses built of masonry (mampostería), a mixture of rock and lime, rather than a house made of wood or bamboo. Both roofs were made of tile, not thatched, although zinc was also starting to become more common in roofing for those who could afford it.

Antonio had properties, mostly in central Guam not far from Hagåtña, but that piece of Dandan land in southern Guam used for cattle ranching was also a big asset. He had a large herd of cattle, as well as carabao. Very few locals had a horse, but Antonio did.

The attire speaks volumes about their social standing

The court decided there were seven heirs of Antonio; the five children who were alive when he passed away in 1907; one daughter who died before Antonio but who had children who took over her interest; and one grand daughter, the only child of one of Antonio's sons who died before him. The other children who died before their father Antonio died left no heirs. Antonio and his late wife, Eduviges Díaz Wilson, had fourteen children together but some died in childhood or in their youth.

While various lesser goods were distributed to different heirs, ownership of the Dandan cattle ranch was divided equally among the seven. Påtte pareho as far as the ranch went. It was up to each of the seven parties to decide whether to sell their share to someone else or go along with everyone else if they all wanted to sell to another buyer at the same time.

Thursday, January 16, 2020



This one photo is an image of the melting pot Guam was for all its modern history. "Modern" from 1668 to this day.

The woman in the photo has Chamorro blood. And Spanish. And English. And Scots. And Polynesian blood from the Marquesas.

The man in the picture is Portuguese but born in Hawaii.

The baby boy is all of the above. His great great grandmother was a Castro. His great great great grandmother was a Cruz. All the rest of his recent ancestors on his mother's side were Duarte, Andújar (both Spanish), Millinchamp (English), Anderson (Scots) and a Polynesian great great grandmother whose last name is hard to pin down. Pacific islanders traditionally didn't have surnames until European powers colonized them.

On his father's side, the baby boy is all Portuguese.

But, a Chamorro biha (elderly lady) living on Guam in 1920, if she asked who the baby's parents were, and heard that the mother was Rita'n Duarte, the biha would've said, "O! Låhen Duåtte!" "Oh! Duarte's boy," and the baby boy would have been considered Chamorro, part of the local, indigenous community. Even with all the extra ethnic lines. Why?

Because as long as there is one Chamorro line among the many; as long as the community can say, "Oh. So-and-so is the mother, grandmother, father, grandfather," and know who they're talking about, and whose parents they had, then the baby boy belongs to the Chamorro community. One drop of Chamorro blood makes you Chamorro, according to Chamorro culture, because it's all about connections. We don't care who else you're connected with. If you're connected with us, you're connected.


She is Rita Millinchamp Duarte, born on Guam in 1896. Her father was Pedro Andújar Duarte, a Spaniard but born in the Philippines. He became a Spanish military officer and was sent to Guam, where he married María Victoria Anderson Millinchamp of Hagåtña. She was the daughter of Henry Millinchamp, born in the Bonin Islands of an English father and a mother from the Marquesas, in French Polynesia.

María Victoria's mother, though, was Emilia Castro Anderson, so the Chamorro enters in with Castro, and even her father, Juan Cruz Anderson, was Chamorro through his mother, a Cruz.

Adventure on the high seas brought Anderson to Guam, being part of the Freycinet expedition and, according to one account, remaining on Guam because of some past controversy. Proximity to the Marianas and troubles in the Bonin community brought the Millinchamps from those islands to Guam. Spanish military service brought Duarte to Guam. Working for the Cable company brought American David Dias from Hawaii to American Guam. Everyone else in the baby boy's lineage was born here.


One of the first things the Americans did after they took possession of Guam in 1898 was connect Guam to the worldwide cable system. This put Guam in cablegram communication with the rest of the world. Electrical impulses on Guam were sent via an underwater cable to connection points all over the world and, voila, news and information could be sent and could be received within minutes.

The Cable Station was located in Sumay.

David Dias, born in Hawaii of Portuguese parents who moved there, came to work for the Cable company in Sumay. He met Rita Duarte and they were married at least by 1918, because their baby boy Walter was born on Guam on May 28, 1919.

Monday, January 13, 2020


A short, but to me catchy, song brought to us by Larry and Mary Saralu.

It seems to me that the man doing the talking in this song caused the woman great pain through his infidelity. He promises to be faithful from now on. Let's hope!

Saosao i lago' gi matå-mo ya un chagi kumomprende
(Wipe the tears in your eyes and try to understand)
na i korason-ho manehyok pot hågo.
(that my heart aches on account of you.)

Saosao i lago' gi matå-mo ya un chagi kumomprende
(Wipe the tears in your eyes and try to understand)
na magåhet yo' desde på'go giya hågo.
(that I am true to you starting now.)

Humånao yo' lao ti para bai åpmam,
(I left but I won't be long)
yan bai hu fañotsot asta i ha'ånen finatai-ho.
(and I will repent till the day of my death.)

Thursday, January 9, 2020



When your life and sustenance depended on getting food off your own land and at other times from a thick jungle, nothing came in handier than a machete.

With a thicker upper edge that made the whole blade heavy, the machete could cut, chop, slash, split, scrape, scoop and even dig. With the thick, blunt edge, it could even hammer and crush. It could handle animals, all sorts of trees, bushes and vegetation and crack open a coconut. If you needed to protect your life, a machete could help do that.

Europeans brought the machete, as well as all metal implements, to our islands. Even before the Spaniards set up a permanent presence here, passing Spanish and other European ships would trade with our ancestors riding their sakman (flying proas). The Europeans wanted food and drink; the Chamorros only wanted lulok, lulok! Iron, iron! They even knew the Spanish word for it. Hierro, hierro!

I'm sure the machete, or something similar, was wanted by our ancestors yelling "Hierro! Hierro!" to passing ships, besides wanting nails, axes and chisels.

The word machete is Spanish in origin, and it comes from macho, an old word for hammer. This shows you the versatile use of the machete. It could cut but it could also hammer.

We can't discount the possibility that our knowledge of iron hundreds of years ago also came by means of Asian sources, such as China, the Philippines or Indonesia. Choco from China, who predated Sanvitores, knew a thing or two, it was said, about hard metals.


More than one visitor to the Marianas during Spanish times remarked that the daily uniform of every adult Chamorro male included the machete. Chamorro men may not have worn much, due to the climate, but a machete was almost always attached to the waist. Some remarked that you never saw a grown Chamorro male walking around without a machete strapped to his hip.

In time, Chamorros didn't always need someone from off island to bring a new machete. Once the local men learned how to work with iron, they could fashion a machete out of iron. Some Chamorro men specialized in iron smithing and became ereros or fragueros. Erero comes from the Spanish word herrero (iron smith) and fraguero comes from the Spanish word fragua or "furnace."

Because many machetes were made locally from spare bits of metal, many of them had their own distinctive look. The handles could also be unique and thus identify whose machete it was. Court records show that a machete found at the scene could sometimes be traced right back to the owner, due to the distinctive look of the machete. People didn't just leave their machete lying anywhere. Iron was hard to come by, so every machete was valuable and was passed down from one owner to the next, usually from father to son. If you saw a machete just lying around in an odd place, you could expect its owner was in trouble or worse. He wouldn't have just left it lying there on purpose.

Romualdo Chargualaf Diego from Inalåhan, aged 96 years in 1959, shows a machete that had been in his family for 150 years. It was given to him by his father. The handle of the machete was made from a carabao's horn.

Take a look at what William Safford says about the machete, writing in 1899 :

"Notwithstanding the fact that Don Joaquín is one of the principales (leading citizens) of this island, and occupies the highest social position, he was dressed simply, like any other native, in a loose shirt and trousers, and wore sandals. Hanging to his belt in a leather scabbard was his machete. Conforming to the custom of the natives I also carried a machete - a very good one it is - made by the village blacksmith and armorer of our native guard, Don Joaquin Leon-Guerrero. The blade was fashioned out of a condemned musket's barrel, with the steel from the spring of the trigger - welded in as an edge. The handle is of carabao horn and is inlaid with coin silver."

As you can see, Safford says it was the "custom of the natives" to carry a machete as they went about. It was made locally, using spare metal. And, like Romualdo Diego's machete, the handle was made from carabao horn. Safford was second to the American Governor and was interested in all things Chamorro.

The machete allowed you to cut stepping grooves in any coconut tree so you could climb and enjoy the fruit when needed.


Since the machete was always attached to the hip of a Chamorro male, the machete always posed a danger to everyone else!

Time and time again, the court records of Guam in Spanish days and in the early part of the American period show how the machete could have been used, and was used, as a weapon against people. Two men meet on the road and start an argument. One of them loosens his machete hanging on his waist, as he makes threatening remarks.

Salomón Garrido, the island's prison warden, was mortally wounded with a machete and died from those wounds in 1904. Various people were wounded with angry adversaries carrying machetes, and in some cases people took revenge by crippling their enemies' cattle, slashing them in the legs with machetes.

Recently, two young men were arrested for threatening drivers and damaging their cars with machetes. It's an old tool, but it still does the job, good or bad. That depends on whose hands those machetes are in.

EVEN IN 2019


If a machete was used in the commission of a crime, the courts could, and did, confiscate that machete from the criminal and sell it to the highest bidder in an auction? The money would go into the court's coffers.


Monday, January 6, 2020


At age 16, he witnessed José carry off the fabric, promising payment which never came

In 1907, Pedro Lizama Cepeda, better known as Pedro'n Kókora, had a little store in his Hagåtña home in the barrio of San Ignacio, on Maria Ana de Austria Street. He was actually a neighbor of my great grandmother.

One January day that year, a man named José, who was known for being something of a petty crook, walked into the Kókora store, asking to look at some fabric. Pedro'n Kókora was away that morning, but his wife Natividad Santos Mendiola was minding the house and store. She showed José a bolt of fabric called crespón rayado (crepe with stripes).

Striped Crepe Fabric
"Crespón rayado"

José asked for 15 and a half yards of it and Natividad cut it out. José then took up the fabric in his arms and turned around to walk out. Natividad asked him for payment. He told her, "I will pay you soon. I have to go home and get the money."

Natividad balked. She said, "I cannot allow that. My husband is not here and he would not be happy if I did that."

"Then let one of your children walk with me back to my home," José said.

Natividad then instructed her daughter Isabel, ten years old, to follow José to his house to get the money; seven Mexican pesos and 75 céntimos. But after they crossed the Hagåtña river, on the north side, José told Isabel to go back home and said he had no money to pay her mother.

Isabel went back home and told her mother.

Meanwhile, José went to a house and asked the owner if he would be willing to exchange the fabric for tuba. As the owner had no tuba, he declined. José had better success selling the fabric to two sisters, for 2 Mexican pesos and one dollar in gold. When the sisters asked José where he got the cloth, he made up the story that he got it as payment from the cable company in Sumay.

When Natividad learned from Isabel that José was dodging his obligation to pay for the cloth, she went, accompanied by a male neighbor, to look for José. When they found him, José said he had burned the cloth!

Natividad had no other option than to take the matter up with the law. José was tried and found guilty of swindling. He was sentenced to two years and four months' imprisonment and ordered to pay the sisters to whom he sold it. The fabric was recovered from the two sisters and used as evidence in the trial, after which it was restored to the Cepedas. José had to pay for the expenses of the trial or work on public projects if he had no money. Part of the reason for the severity of the sentence was the fact that José had been in court several times already for charges of theft, perjury and swindle.

Natividad's children Isabel, Pedro and Rosa testified at the trial.

She was 13 when she saw José swindle her mother

Thursday, January 2, 2020


Chicken that packs a punch - probably with red chili pepper - can aptly be called Dynamite Chicken.

But in 1907, Guam had a different kind of Månnok Dinamita (Chicken Dynamite), and it wasn't due to donne' (red chili pepper).

Instead, 100 pounds of dynamite were stolen from the Navy's machine shop, located at the old Customs Office at Punta Piti.

Punta Piti, or Piti Point, was the landing spot for vessels anchored in Apra Harbor. From the big ships, people and cargo would ride smaller boats and land at a wharf (pantalán) at this point in Piti. This is where passengers' paperwork was processed and import taxes levied if applicable. When necessary, passengers were quarantined on Cabras Island nearby and, in those days, Cabras Island was really an island, not connected by a bridge yet to the main island as it is today.


When the Americans started governing Guam in 1899, they built up Punta Piti little by little over the years, including improving the facilities and the road from Piti to Hagåtña. The old customs house at Piti was a machine shop operated by the Navy by 1907.

Police and naval authorities were at a loss who stole the dynamite but they didn't lack "persons of interest," and they were Chamorros.

The two main characters in the story were Tomás Espinosa de la Cruz from Malesso', and Pedro Camacho Quitugua, better known as Pedro'n Karabao, of Piti.

They both had two different versions of the story.

Cruz claimed that he had come up from Malesso' to Piti by boat, with a fighting rooster to sell. He says that Quitugua became interested in the rooster, and asked if Cruz would trade it for dynamite. Cruz said he'd have to ask the owner of the rooster, Juan Barcinas of Malesso', who happened to be in Hagåtña at the time. Barcinas, Cruz claimed, said go ahead and trade it. But Cruz couldn't find Quitugua when he returned to Piti.

Cruz gave the rooster to Mónica de San Nicolás, also known as Oka, of Piti, to hold on to. Cruz said if Quitugua appears, to trade the rooster with him for dynamite.

The following day, Cruz checked on Oka. She said Quitugua did come by but told Oka, "Tell Cruz to take back the rooster and eat it. Where can I steal dynamite?"

But when Cruz met up with Quitugua shortly after that, Cruz claimed Quitugua was willing to make the trade, chicken for dynamite but would give Cruz the dynamite the next time Cruz was in Piti. Cruz left the rooster with Oka in Piti and left on his boat for Malesso'.

Back in Malesso', Cruz had a talk with Vicente de Torres who informed Cruz that using dynamite was illegal. Cruz then asked Torres to retrieve the rooster from Oka, as Torres was intending to travel north. Torres eventually did just that. The rooster ended up back in Malesso' in Cruz's hands.

Well, none of this made Quitugua look very good but Quitugua had his own tale to tell.

He said that Cruz came to Quitugua at the Beach Master's Office at the old custom's office at Piti, asking where he might find Vidal de los Santos, for he was going to trade the rooster for some dynamite Vidal supposedly had. Quitugua informed Cruz that Vidal was working in Sumay and had no dynamite anyway.

The enterprising Cruz then asked if Quitugua would be interested in trading dynamite for the rooster. Quitugua said he would, if he could find any.

Later, Quitugua met up with Oka and told her to tell Cruz to keep the rooster, as he had no dynamite. When Quitugua went back to his home, he discovered some detonators that mysteriously appeared there. He took the detonators to the American Beach Master, who then went to the machine shop and discovered the missing dynamite and detonators.

It sounded all too suspicious. All this talk about dynamite just when 100 pounds of it were stolen.

Yet, despite all the interrogations, officials could not find any solid evidence who stole the dynamite and no one was ever charged.

Thus ended, with an unimpressive thud, Guam's first Dynamite Chicken story.

Early 1900s