Thursday, September 20, 2018


Isabelo Francisco Guevara had a farm up in Ukkudu. In one field he grew suni (taro) and in another he grew kamute (sweet potato).

December, January and February were not good months for his kamute. He noticed how damaged they were, so that he could expect no harvest of sweet potato that year.

Not far from his farm was that of another man, José Iriarte, better known as "Boyok." Boyok raised pigs and Guevara went to court, claiming that Boyok's pigs ran loose and damaged the kamute. Pigs are known for sticking their snouts into field plants and digging up what they think they can eat.

Here's an imaginary court session, based on the court records :

Guevara : Your honor, Boyok's pigs are responsible for these damages to my crops.

Boyok : Your honor, that is impossible because my pigs are always either tied or kept in a pen.

Guevara : Your honor, I ask that you suspend this hearing until we can gather witnesses. Some are sick and the others live far away from the city in their ranches, so we need some time to call them.

Judge : This hearing is in recess until witnesses can be gathered.

Some days later, the court was reconvened and Guevara presented three witnesses, who all testified that they saw Boyok's pigs digging in Guevara's kamute field.

Boyok presented one witness, named Joaquín Cruz.

Cruz : Your honor, one night I was passing through Guevara's fields and saw benådo (deer) digging up the ground in Guevara's kamute field. There are many benådo in the wild and they come out at night.

Guevara : Your honor, I question the impartiality of this witness, as he is related to the accused.

Judge : This hearing is suspended until Joaquín Cruz Pérez and Ramón Borja de León Guerrero, Jueces de Sementeras (Agricultural Field Inspectors) can inspect Guevara's field and give us a report.

Some days later, the two inspectors make their report.

Judge : Let the record show that the field inspectors state that they inspected Guevara's field and have determined that there are signs of both deer and pig disturbance there. They also inspected Boyok's farm and found nine swine. Two were tied and the other seven were inside a pen. The inspectors also state that it is impossible to determine the value of loss in Guevara's field.

The judge made a decision.

Boyok's pigs were responsible for the damage and determined a fine that Boyok had to pay Guevara, to be substituted with other forms of payment in case Boyok did not have the cash.

I suppose the testimony of three witnesses who claimed to see Boyok's pigs in the kamute field swayed the judge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


A Bill of Sale at a Guam store in 1902

What did mama buy over a hundred years ago?

"Stores" as we know them today did not exist in the Marianas for most of the Spanish period which lasted around 230 years. The missionary priests handed out many things in the beginning, and then the Spanish Governor controlled the sale of imported goods for many years after that.

By the 1800s, though, more foreign ships were making trips to the Marianas for various reasons. Some of them brought things to sell. Towards the end of the 1800s, some individuals sold imported merchandise from their homes. Right as Spanish rule was ending, the Japanese expanded their commercial activity in the Marianas, opening small stores in Guam and Saipan. Under the US Navy, foreign and then Chamorro entrepreneurs established modern stores on Guam. The Northern Marianas became very active in commerce, almost all controlled by the Japanese.

Fabric was one item always in demand in the Marianas. Our islands weren't able to supply the need for fabric. Spanish Governors, at times, even paid the soldiers and government clerks in fabric rather than in money.

In this Bill of Sale at a Japanese-owned store on Guam in 1902, we see the following fabrics being sold to a Chamorro customer :

Caranclan. This fabric was known as gingham in English-speaking places.


Gingham, or caranclan, was popular among the women who made their skirts with caranclan. Look at this photo of a Chamorro woman wearing the mestiza dress using caranclan.

Cambray. Among those who speak English, this fabric is called chambray. This was a thicker fabric, and would be used for trousers, for example.


Monday, September 17, 2018


The Jungle where the spirits dwell

Manhålom gi halom tåno' si Chåro', Ling yan unos kuåntos na famagu'on 
(Charo, Ling and some children went into the jungle)

para u fanmanespia tinanom para åmot. 
(looking for some plants for medicine.)

Gotpe ha' do'do' si Chåro' ya magåhet na fotte i pao-ña.
(Suddenly Charo passed gas and the smell was truly strong.)

Ilek-ña si Chåro', "Ling. Seguro na guaha taotaomo'na guine gi uriya."
(Charo said, "Ling. For sure there is a spirit around here.")

Mamaisen si Ling, "Haftaimano tungo'-mo?"
(Ling asked, "How do you know?")

Manoppe si Chåro', "Adda' ti un nginginge' i pao-ña?"
(Charo answered, "Can't you smell its odor?")

Taotao (person/people)

Mo'na (ahead, front)

Taotaomo'na - the people who were here before us, from the past, whose spirits still inhabit the land

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Juan Crisostomo left Guam with 13 other young men in 1902 for San Francisco, California.

He was only 17 years old; born around 1884.

According to records upon his arrival, he had no job waiting for him in San Francisco, nor relatives to pick him up. More than likely, the 14 Chamorro men on the journey stuck together, or at least in smaller groups, for a while until they went their separate ways finding work and lodging.

Juan had $10 in his pocket when he landed in San Francisco. In the US, he also went by the name of John.

Unfortunately, Juan was arrested in San Mateo, California (not far from San Francisco) in 1918 and charged with manslaughter. This usually means that someone killed another with either no intention of killing, or in the heat of the moment. It is a less serious offense than murder.

He was found guilty and sentenced to no more than 10 years at San Quentin prison.

He must have gotten sick, as he died in prison in 1921 while still serving his sentence. RIP

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


You would never think!

But yes; Chamorros served in the military during the American Civil War (1861 to 1865).

But if you remember that young Chamorro men were leaving Guam as early as the 1820s to sail as crew members on the whaling ships, many (if not most) of them never returning home, it begins to make sense.

The whaling capital of the United States in the early 1800s was New England, the northeastern corner of the country including Massachusetts and the neighboring states. Some Chamorro whaling men took up residence in New England and other Chamorro whaling men would happen to be there for a time, waiting for the next whaling expedition. So, when the Civil War broke out in 1861 and soldiers were needed, there were Chamorro whaling men living on the East Coast who joined the Union forces. Many times these Chamorro recruits were substituting for Americans who wanted to avoid going to war. These Americans would pay their substitutes a handsome fee.

Now, before we get to the names, some things to keep in mind :


Researchers have come across some records, but not necessarily all records. When new records are found and looked through, we might find new names of recruits from the Marianas.

One thing that makes it a challenge to identify Chamorros in these records is that they sometimes did not say they were from the Marianas (or Ladrones). They sometimes said they were from Spain, since the Marianas were under Spain. A smaller number of people would say they were from the Philippines, since the Marianas were a part of the Philippines while both were under Spain in the 1800s. Thus, a record could show that a person was from "Spain," when, in fact, it is a Chamorro from the Marianas.

Since many Chamorros have Spanish surnames, it's hard to tell if a man listed as being from Spain is actually a Spaniard or a Chamorro with a Spanish name. Since many Filipinos also have Spanish surnames, that makes it all the harder to tell. If a man named Taitano (or another indigenous Chamorro name) is listed as being from Spain or the Philippines, we can be almost certain he is actually a Chamorro who comes from the Marianas which were under Spain (and a province of the Philippines when it was under Spain).


The names included here all joined the US Navy. This should not be a surprise since almost every Chamorro recruit got to the US in the first place as crew members on the whaling ships. Life on the sea is what they knew. All of these Chamorro recruits enlisted in the Navy at American seaport towns or cities. Again, that's where we could expect lifelong seamen to take up residence. The greatest number signed up in New Bedford, Massachusetts (the whaling capital of the US) with a few joining in Boston. One enlisted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and another in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Since these Chamorro recruits were signing up in the American northeast, they all served in the naval forces of the Union. There may have been a small number of Chamorros who ended up in the South and could have joined the Confederate forces, but until we find documents and records we can't say for now.


Except for a few, most of these recruits identified as natives of Guam or the Ladrones (Marianas) have names that don't resemble any Chamorro family names we know of. Some have English names like Brown, Ogden and Rogers. This was because some Chamorro men wanted to avoid the problems that came with having a strange name in their new home. By adopting an English name, rather than keeping Pangelinan or Chargualaf, for example, they could avoid the strange reaction of Americans when they asked their names, and the interminable question how to spell it, when many a Chamorro seaman didn't know the answer himself.

This is also why most of them switched to the English form of their given names. Juan became John; José became Joseph.

Sometimes they kept their Chamorro surnames, but changed them a little to sound more English. A man whose last name was Nicholas could easily have been a San Nicolás, and someone named de la Cruz could simplify it and fit right in by calling himself Cross.

Spelling, also, was not consistent. In the list there is both a Peres and a Pérez. Both names would have been pronounced the same way by a Chamorro in those days.

Now, here are the names :

Jose Aglur, 19 (Aguon? Agulto? Aguilar?)

Thomas Andrews, 22

Francis Antonio, 26

Joseph Brown, 25

Benjamin Button, 24

Joseph Carter, 23

Leon Cepeda, 21

Joseph Corsman, 22

Joseph Cross, 25 - more than likely de la Cruz

Joseph Cruise, 33 - more than likely de la Cruz

Joseph Cruze, 20 - more than likely de la Cruz

Mario de la Cruz, 20

Philip de la Cruse, 18 - more than likely de la Cruz

John Douty, 22

Alonzo Ernandes, 21 - in some records it is spelled Hernandez

Joseph Estredo, 20

John Flores, 16 - the youngest so far!

Joseph Garido, 19 - more than likely Garrido

William Gruse, 24 - possibly Cruz

Antone Henry, 22 - the only one identified as being from Rota

Vincente Leon, 18 - probably de León

John Lucas, 28

Peter Mindola, 23 - probably Mendiola

John C. Nicholas, 21 - could have been San Nicolás

Joseph Nichols, 38 - the oldest so far; also possibly San Nicolás

Henry Ogden, 21

Antonio Peres, 22

Joseph Perez, 28

Andrew Rogers, 20

Benjamin Rosario, 24

Peter Mindola (Mendiola?) from Guam
Recruitment Record 


Bernard Punzalan at came across a Peter Santos from Guam who, unlike everyone else who joined the Navy, enlisted in the US Army. He, too, was a substitute for another man.

AND SO.....

Did any other Chamorros join the US Army besides Peter Santos?

Did any Chamorro soldier or seaman die in battle in the Civil War?

Did any Chamorro serve in the Confederate forces?

Thursday, September 6, 2018


In Spanish times, after the end of the wars between the Chamorros and Spaniards, the population of Guam never exceeded 10,000 people. For many years, the population stood at 2000, 4000 or 6000.

You can imagine how much idle land there was, besides silence, with such a small population. Just think of it this way; imagine if Talofofo, which numbers today around 3000 people, was the only village on Guam, and that those 3000 people in Talofofo had the entire island, from Merizo to Yigo, to work and play in!

So one of the common features of island life in those days was the great availability of land for just about anyone. For sure, much land was claimed and legally owned. But much land was also unclaimed and lacked legal owners.

Many land documents indicate land "with no known owner(s)."

But it was also possible to acquire land simply by taking possession of it, without paying a dime. Just by occupying the land somehow, usually by doing some farming on it, you could become the legal owner, as long as no one else contested it.

In the land document above, someone named José finally files a legal claim in court. He describes that he came into ownership of the land "por mera ocupación," in Spanish, meaning, "by mere occupation." This type of land acquisition is seen over and over again in the land documents of Guam. In time, many of these land owners formalized their ownership of the land.

Old Guam had much unclaimed, undocumented land

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Gi kareran kabåyo, ha li'e' si José na si Påle' ha bendise si kabåyo numero dos, 
(At the horse race, José saw that Father blessed horse number two,)

pues ha aposta si José salape'-ña gi ayo na kabåyo ya magåhet na mangånna!
(so José bet his money on that horse and truly he won!)

Pues ha li'e' si Påle' na ha bendise kabåyo numero sais. 
(Then he saw that Father blessed horse number six.)

Ha aposta salape'-ña gi kabåyo numero sais ya mangånna ta'lo!
(He bet his money on horse number six and won again!)

Ha li'e' si Påle' na ha bendise kabåyo numero tres. 
(He saw that Father blessed horse number three.)

Ha aposta todo i ginanå-ña na salåppe' gi kabåyo numero tres 
(He best all his winnings on horse number three)

lao ai sa' guiya na kabåyo i uttimo gi karera!
(but oh that horse came in last in the race!)

Lalålo' si José pues ha faisen si Påle', "Håfa na un bendise i kabåyo numero tres 
(José was angry so he asked Father, "Why did you bless horse number three)

lao guiya uttimo gi karera!"
(but he was last in the race!")

"Lahi-ho," ilek-ña si Påle'. "Ti hu bendise ayo na kabåyo na hu Såntos Oleos!"
("My son," Father said. "I didn't bless that horse; I gave it the Last Rites!")

* Såntos Oleos literally means the "Holy Oils" and it is used in the Last Rites to spiritually prepare a person for death. Of course, it's just a joke. Priests do not give animals the Last Rites.

Monday, September 3, 2018


Na' masi' na taotao sa' alunån-ña ha' siña ha toktok sa' pot taigue si kerida.

Poor guy; he can only hug his pillow because sweetheart is not there.

This is the Chamorro part of a song that also has a Carolinian part, sung by Dan Laniyo, a Carolinian from Saipan.


Nene esta* på'go i prendå-mo nu guåho
(Baby, up to now your gift to me)

gagaige ha' gi fondon kaohao-ho.
(is at the bottom of my chest.)

Yan i litratu-ta na dos ni hu pega gi liga
(And the  photograph of the two of us which I hung* on the wall)

kada hu atan nai nene ha na' suspiros yo'.
(every time I look at it baby it makes me sigh.)

Kulan mohon magåhet nene na gaige hao gi fi'on-ho
(It's as if you are truly by my side, baby)

sa' esta hu totoktok maolek alunån-ho.
(because I am giving my pillow a good hug.)


Esta. The original word is asta, from the Spanish hasta, meaning "until." The older people keep the original word more, while younger people tend to change asta to esta, which creates a bit of a problem because there is already a word esta, meaning "already." Esta guaha finiho "esta!"

Prenda. A gift a lover gives to his or her sweetheart. A word borrowed from Spanish.

Kaohao. This is a chest to place special things. In the old days, almost every home had a kaohao where the woman of the house stored special fabrics, jewelry, important documents, photos and so on.


Pega. This means "to place something," but I am rendering it "to hang something," as it makes better sense that way in English, although "to hang something" in Chamorro is kana'.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


It was a Monday morning, the start of the new work week. But the week would not begin in the usual way.

After the rumbling was heard, the ground began to shake. It was September 22, 1902.

Witnesses walking on the perimeter of the Plaza de España said they saw wave after wave wash over the grassy field.

The shaking was so strong that everyone was in a panic.

Because people were already awake, people could find a safe place to ride it out and escape the destruction, which was considerable. Many stone and mortar buildings (mampostería) crumbled into dust. The Marine Barracks in Hagåtña collapsed. When the costs were tallied, $23,000 was estimated for the damages to the Naval Station; $22,000 for other public buildings and bridges. The total amount for earthquake damages came to $214,000. Those are in 1902 values, which would equal over $6 million today.

Many of those public buildings were the public schools, and they all closed for awhile. The Protestant Sunday school was used to continue some classes in English for a time.

Sadly, two Chamorros died in the earthquake. There were no other casualties.

People counted around 180 aftershocks in the 24 hours following the earthquake.

Besides this, the island rose by a foot, some say. Some claimed Cabras Island rose by three feet.

One of the important buildings severely damaged by the earthquake was the church in Hagåtña. It would take many years for it to be restored.

The Chamorro people gave the 1902 a curious name. They called it the "rich man's earthquake." Linao i man riko. Why?

In November of 1900 there had been a strong typhoon that hit Guam. It was said to have been the worst typhoon on Guam since 1855. Being a typhoon, the main damage was suffered by the modest homes of the middle and lower economic classes, made of wood, bamboo and thatched roofing. The stronger homes of the higher classes, made of stone and mortar, withstood the strong winds.

But Mother Nature has a way of leveling the playing field. The earthquake of 1902 did little to hurt wooden homes that swayed with the earth's movements. But the earthquake had its impact on the stone and mortar homes of the wealthier families, crumbling into dust. Thus, the people called it i linao i man riko. The rich people's earthquake.

Stone homes in Hagåtña lie in ruins after the 1902 earthquake

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


The merry beer-drinking, one-legged pirate above feels no pain, but many an older Chamorro refused to have any part of his or her body amputated or removed by doctors.

Why? One reason was :

"Mungnga ma utot addeng-ho sa' dos mana'i-ho as Yu'us ya dos ta'lo para bai nana'lo an måtai yo'."

"Don't cut my foot off because God gave me two of them and two I will return to Him when I die."

Some would say,

"Kabåles yo' ha fa'tinas si Yu'us, ya kabåles yo' para bai måtai."

"God made me complete, and I will die complete."

This went for anything; fingers and internal organs, as well; even if it meant certain death if the diseased body part were not removed.

The logic, of course, is wanting. Accidents happen, too, and people unintentionally lose a finger or a toe here and there. They won't be condemned by God for that on judgment day. God Himself, in the Old Testament, decreed that the Jews at the time even remove part of the skin of the male organ. Not to mention our ever-falling hair and ever-shedding skin.

But, in the minds of some older people, no body part should ever be intentionally amputated, regardless the medical issue.

Monday, August 27, 2018


A court case in 1902 gives us some insight into island life over 100 years ago.

Some people kept dogs and gave them names. And some of these dogs were used to help hunt deer, and perhaps other animals in the wild.

Around 1901, Pedro Torres Hernández asked to borrow a dog owned by Luís Palomo San Nicolás.  The dog was named Fortuna. In Spanish, the word can mean "fortune, luck or success." The court document is in Spanish, so we don't know if the dog had that Spanish name, or if the court document translated the dog's Chamorro name into the Spanish "Fortuna," if it indeed had a Chamorro name, such as Guinaha or Suette.

San Nicolás lent Fortuna to Hernández, on the condition that he return the dog.

A year passed and the dog was not returned. Meanwhile, Hernández had taught Fortuna how to hunt deer.

San Nicolás went to court, asking the court to require Hernández to return the dog. Hernández answered that he was more than willing to return the dog, but that San Nicolás had never asked for it back. Additionally, Hernández asked that San Nicolás pay the court fees since all this could have been avoided had San Nicolás merely asked for he dog back. On top of all that, Hernández asked that San Nicolás pay him six pesos for teaching Fortuna how to hunt!

San Nicolás replied that he in fact did ask for the dog back, when he met Hernández on the road in Apotguan. He also spoke to Marcos de Castro, better known as "Sarmiento," who said that Hernández was selling two dogs, a Fortuna and a Perita. San Nicolás told Castro that Hernández had no right to sell Fortuna as the dog did not belong to him. San Nicolás also said he already paid Hernández six pesos for teaching the dog how to hunt, and that he had witnesses to vouch for this.

Hernández backed down and agreed to return Fortuna to San Nicolás and the case was closed.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


This is an example of the kassi (teasing) or butlea (mocking) side of our humor, which goes all the way back to pre-European times. Early visitors to the Marianas describe our ancestors teasing and ridiculing each other in word and song.

Kada hu atan i matå-mo
amariyo kalan mango'.
Ya maolek-ña na un mamatai
ke ni un låla'la' gi tano'.

Every time I look at your face
it's yellow like ginger.
And it's better that you die
than for you to live in this world.

Mango' or Yellow Ginger imparts a yellow tinge (and flavor) to food

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2018


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

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

It's an interesting name.

Okso' is hill or mount.

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

Påle' means "priest."

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


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

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

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

A similar view today


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

Thursday, August 16, 2018


used as mortar in construction projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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