Sunday, July 31, 2011


Statue of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Hagåtña Cathedral
Feast Day : July 31

Why is there a statue of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Hagåtña Cathedral?  Blessed Diego was a Jesuit and Saint Ignatius founded the Jesuits, formally known as the Society of Jesus.

But the real reason there's a statue of Saint Ignatius in our Cathedral is because he is the patron of Hagåtña.

"What?" I hear you say?  "But I thought it was the Dulce Nombre," one says.  "Or the Immaculate Conception," another says. 

The patroness of the church is Dulce Nombre de María, the Sweet Name of Mary.  But Blessed Diego chose Saint Ignatius (in Spanish and Chamorro - San Ignacio) as the patron of the city.

Hagåtña was, in fact, called San Ignacio de Agaña by the Spaniards.  Its central district, where the seat of power was, both civil (the Governor's palace) and ecclesiastical (the church), was in the district of San Ignacio.  The district of San Ignacio today would include the Cathedral, the Administration Building, the Agaña Post Office, Skinner Plaza and all the way west to just before the Julale Shopping Center.

An old Spanish document from the early 1800s shows how the City was called San Ignacio de Agaña
In Spanish, I and Y sound the same, so it was sometimes spelled Ygnacio.

Before World War II, the people of Hagåtña celebrated the annual fiesta of San Ignacio, with a novena ending on July 31st with a procession.  In the Chamorro hymnal, the Lepblon Kånta, there are seven Chamorro hymns to San Ignacio - seven!  That means the people were singing a whole lot more to Saint Ignatius than we are today.  Today, as a matter of fact, one has to search high and low for someone who even knows the melody to any of these hymns.

One of the hymns opens with these words,

"Tuna, Hagåtña, i nina'en Yu'us..."  "Praise, Hagåtña, the gift of God..."

A second hymn says,

"O San Ignacio, Gogguen Hagåtña, i inagång-ña ekkungok!"  "O Saint Ignatius, Guardian of Hagåtña, hear her cry!"

It was only after the war, when even the name of the district, San Ignacio, was forgotten, that the feast day was no longer observed as a parish event.  I hope we can reclaim this part of our Chamorro-Catholic heritage.

En Español

Patrimonio olvidado de nuestra historia Hispano-Chamorra, ya no se celebra la ciudad capital de Guam su fiesta patronal del santo guipuzcoano, Ignacio de Loyola.  Eligido patrón de Agaña por el misionero fundador, el P. Sanvitores, jesuita, la ciudad se llamaba "San Ignacio de Agaña" por la mayor parte de su historia bajo la bandera española.  El barrio más importante de la ciudad, donde residían las tropas españolas y donde se encontraban la iglesia parroquial y el palacio del gobernador, fué él de San Ignacio. Lamentablemente, no queda ningún recuerdo de todo esto, salvo una imagen del santo en la Catedral actual.  Apenas saben la gente por qué existe esa imagen en ella.



This was an Aniguåk name.  By 1897, there was one person on Guam left with this last name.  She was Maria Soyoña, married to Pedro Terlaje.  She had at least one son Vicente, who married Josefa Salas and had children, so there is a branch of Terlajes on Guam with Soyoña blood.

Aniguåk used to have its own municipal officials before it was united with Hagåtña and became just a district of the capital city.  When it had its own officials, there was an Ignacio Soyoña and a Manuel Soyoña serving in various positions in Aniguåk in the 1840s.  But by the 1890s, the male members of the family had all died out and eventually the surname did as well.

The name is probably Sohyoña.  Sohyo means to "encourage."  I used this word a lot when I made announcements or preached in Chamorro :

I encourage you to confess during Lent.  Hu sosohyo hamyo para en fangonfesat gi durånten i Kuaresma.
I encourage you to bring your kids to CCD.  Hu sosohyo hamyo para en kekenne' mågi i famagu'on-miyo para i Dottrina.

And so on.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Many people know that såbanas means "sheet," the kind you put on your bed.  So some people wonder why, at a Chamorro rosary, there is a prayer to the Holy Sheet, the Såntos na Såbanas.  When the rosary is prayed in English, using Chamorro prayers rendered in English, the term "holy sheet" is actually used.  I suggest a change.  Why?

Såbanas is a word borrowed from Spanish.  In Spanish, sábanas means "sheet" or "altar cloth."  So when Spaniards talk about the Holy Shroud of Turin, the one with (it is believed) the image of the body of Christ, they talk about the Santa Sábana de Turín.

So, when used in reference to Turin, såbanas in Chamorro should be translated as "shroud."

The Chamorro prayer goes like this :

Asaina Yu'us, ni i un po'luye ham nu i fegge i masa'pet-mo gi Såntos na Såbanas ni muna' ono i Sen Såntos na Tataotao-mo annai nina' tunok hao gi kilu'us as Jose, nå'e ham, Asaina, na i finatai-mo yan i ma hafot-mo u na' fan ma konne' ham guato i mina'lak i lina'la' ta'lo, annai sumåsåga hao yan mama' sasaina hao yan si Yu'us Tåta, man hahamyo yan si Yu'us Espiritu Sånto, gi todo i manaihinekkok na ha'åne.  Amen.

Lord God, who has left us an image of your suffering on the Holy Shroud which wrapped your most holy body when Joseph took you down from the cross, grant us, Lord, that your death and burial may take us to the glory of the resurrection, where you live and reign with God the Father, together with God the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.  Amen.

It should be clear from the prayer why it is said for the deceased.  The Holy Shroud is a visible reminder of the death and burial of Christ, who rose from the dead, and we pray that the deceased who has died and is, or will be, buried be given the grace of rising, too, from the dead.


* The Joseph spoken of here is Joseph of Arimathea (not Joseph the husband of Mary), who buried Jesus' body.

Is this the Face of Jesus?

Literally, "lånchon kuero" means "leather ranch."

But the phrase was used by people to be humble about one's home.

For example, someone might say, "Fanmamaila' mågi manbisita gi gima', achok ha' lånchon kuero."
"Come here to visit at the house, even though it's nothing special."

Friday, July 29, 2011


Bishop Dominic Senyemon Fukahori
at the groundbreaking of the Peace Memorial in Yigo, 1966

The Japanese knew very well that the Chamorros of Guam were very attached to their Catholic faith.  It is for this reason that two Japanese Catholic priests were sent to Guam at the behest of the Japanese Navy, with the task of winning the Guam Chamorros over to Japanese loyalty.  After all, how bad could the Japanese be, if , not only were some Japanese Catholics, but there were Japanese Catholic priests as well?

Of the two priests sent, the more important was Monsignor Dominic Senyemon Fukahori.  He was no ordinary priest.  Earlier in January 1941 he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Fukuoka, Japan.  An Apostolic Administrator is a temporary leader of a diocese, when there is no bishop.  Because of impending war, the Japanese government became more nationalistic and turned against foreign missionaries acting as bishops of Japanese dioceses.  Many of the Catholic bishops in Japan were French, as was the bishop of Fukuoka.  He, and many other foreign bishops, resigned.  Fukahori took his place, becoming full-fledge bishop in 1944.

He was accompanied by a Tokyo priest, Father Petero (Peter) Komatsu.

Fukahori was not welcomed at all by Father Duenas, who called him and Komatsu spies for the Japanese.

Fukahori spent only a matter of months on Guam during the war.  He later came back in 1966 to celebrate with Monsignor Oscar L. Calvo, whom he knew during the Japanese Occupation, the groundbreaking of the Peace Memorial in Yigo which Monsignor Calvo spearheaded.

We need to remember that Fukahori faced the possibility of imprisonment or death if he refused to go to Guam.  While on Guam, Fukahori had at least one chapel re-opened by the Japanese, and perhaps did some good.  He filed a report about church conditions on Guam and sent it to the Vatican authorities.

One telling anecdote my mañaina told me about him was, whenever he would speak to the people about the war or about the government, he would take off his cross from around his neck and lay it on the altar.  After the talk, he'd put it back on.  The Chamorro Catholics did not need any other sign to understand that Fukahori was telling them, in so many words, "I am about to speak, but not as a representative of the Church."

Father Komatsu did stay on Guam for the duration of the Japanese Occupation, right up to the American Liberation.  He avoided as much involvement in civic affairs as possible, except that he wrote a letter to Tweed to give himself up, as many Chamorros were getting in trouble with the Japanese on his account.

I knew a woman from a family Father Komatsu befriended, calling the matriarch of the house "mother," in English, a language Komatsu knew.  According to her, Komatsu didn't talk war-time politics, telling the family, "We are in a time of war."  Even when asked by a Chamorro, "I guess we're all going to be Japanese now," Komatsu said, "The sky is so big."  These enigmatic comments showed that Komatsu may have been alluding to the impermanence of political situations, such as the war.

Komatsu was captured by the Americans at the re-capture of Guam and sent back to Japan.  Monsignor Calvo visited both Msgr. Fukahori and Fr. Komatsu on a trip to Japan many years later.

En Español

Durante la ocupación japonesa en Guam, las autoridades japonesas enviaron dos sacerdotes japoneses a Guam para mostrar una cara católica y japonesa a los chamorros de Guam, en su mayoría católicos fervientes.


guam museum
This band, which was active in the 1950s, made up of Chamorros, went by a Spanish name - Recuerdos de Ayer, or Memories of Yesterday.

Todavía en los años 50 se ve la influencia española en Guam.  Recuerdos de Ayer, una banda de música.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Fine'nana, ta atan i "empas" gi bandan dibe.  Guåha na ma sångan, "Maila' ya ta na' empas i dibi-ta." Yanggen hu dibe hao singkuenta pesos ya hu nå'e hao kuarentai nuebe ha', pues ti e'empas.  Lao yanggen hu nå'e hao tåtte ni singkuenta pesos, pues empas hit na dos.

På'go gi bandan isao.  Ennao i "empas isao," ti hita muna' fan e'empas i isao, na si Jesukristo chumåhlao i isao-ta.  Yanggen para u empas i isao-ta, debi di ta asi'e i prohimu-ta.  Yanggen ti ta asi'e i prohimu-ta, pues ti siña empas i isao-ta sa' klåro gi Saina-ta as Jesukristo na ha sångan, "Yanggen ti un asi'e i prohimu-mo, ni si Yu'us ti inasi'e i isao-mo.

Guåha na masusedi na yanggen un dommo' yo', pues hu dommo' hao tåtte, para un dommo' yo' ta'lo otro biåhe.  Lao siña ha' hu sangåne hao, "Cha'-mo, sa' empas hit!"  I Antigo na Testamento ha fanånå'gue hit nu i "Attadok pot åttadok, nifen pot nifen."  Lao annai måtto si Jesukristo, ha na' attrabisao ennao ya humuyong på'go i finanå'guen-ña, "Bendise ayo i mumatdise hao, tayuyute ayo i muna' lålåmen hao, cho'gue maolek para ayo i chumocho'gue i baba para hågo, guaiya i enemigu-mo."

I palåbra "empas" ma chuchule' ginen i fino' Españot "en paz," ni kumekeilek-ña "gi minahgong."  Yanggen gaige i dos taotao "en paz," kumekeilek-ña na esta ti mumumu i dos - pot dibe, pat pot isao pat pot otro na plaito.

Military Commander of Guam 1944

Killed on Guam
July 28, 1944

In March of 1944, the Japanese suspected that the Americans, having captured the Marshalls, had their eyes next on the Marianas.  They sent to Guam the battle-hardened 29th Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, under the command of Takashina.  These soldiers had served in China, where war had been raging between the Japanese and Chinese for a long time.  These soldiers had war in their veins.

Takashina was up on the Fonte Ridge, what is now called Nimitz Hill, trying to organize his troops to evacuate to the north of Guam when he saw that the Americans were successful in taking Asan, Apra Harbor and Agat.  He was killed by an American bullet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

På'guan means "to give off a scent."  Its root word is pao (scent).

I was speaking with an elderly lady about a possible event.  She told me she wasn't sure if it was really going to happen, but she said, "Påpå'guan!"

Sometimes you walk into a kitchen and you can't be exactly sure what it is you are smelling; what food was cooked.  But you can be sure that something was cooked.  Why?  Because the room is giving off an odor - påpå'guan.

In the same way, we can't always be sure about some event or some news, but we see signs, there are some clues, something in the air - like an odor.  Påpå'guan.


Of additional interest to me - he comes from my dad's home town in Illinois.  Small world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


True story.

I was standing in front of the fridge with a friend, looking at what leftovers we might want to eat.

He said, "Påle', you know what's my favorite food?" as we stood there looking at all the leftovers.
I said, "What?"
Says he, "Balutan."

We all know that, at least in today's common speech, balutan means the food you take home from a party.

But the original meaning of balutan means "to wrap up, to bundle."  Un balutan pugua' is a parcel of betel nut, for example.  So balutan does not necessarily mean food you take home from someone else's party.  You can wrap food up in aluminum foil and put it right in your own fridge, at the site of the party, or no party at all, and it can still be called balutan.

Balutan is a part of Chamorro life.  You almost can't leave a party without it.

When I was priest of Malesso' and Humåtak, I would get between 5 and 10 plates of balutan most weeks.  This was food left over from the nightly rosaries held at the church for a funeral or anniversary.  Some weeks, it cold get as many as 20 plates.  All for one person.  I didn't want to waste it (sin; isao), so I often dropped off the balutan to.....well....I better not say.  But it didn't go to waste.

By the way, the word balutan is also used by Filipinos, for the same thing.

I was getting so many balutan outside my parish, too, that I had to devise a way to transport the balutan and avoid spillage in the car.  Nothing worse than the smell of kelaguen uhang on the carpet that lasts for weeks.  So I bought a deep, plastic tub, with a cover, and put the balutan in it.  If there was a spill, the juices stayed in my plastic fanbalutånan (balutan container), which was easily rinsed clean.  People would look at the trunk of my car and go, "What's that?"  I'd say, "For balutan, nai."

When I just couldn't eat at a party, the one way to satisfy the hosts and not upset them that you didn't eat was to say, "Balutåne yo' fan ya bai hu chule' hanao!"  "Wrap it up for me and I'll take it along."  Then all was well.

Balutan can be abused.  We all see some people, barely invited to the gupot or fiesta (feast) and take home enough balutan for a week.


The Japanese military code of honor did not allow for surrender.  Surrender meant disgrace.  One either won the victory or died trying to achieve it.

So, when backed into a corner, the Japanese commander prepared his men for a banzai attack.  They drank liquor as much as they could, breaking the sake cups into pieces, and, usually after midnight, they raced out of hiding towards the Americans, screaming and yelling "Banzai!",  waving their swords wildly above their heads.  If they had guns, they shot continuously, moving back and forth from one side to the other, stepping over the dead bodies of their Japanese comrades.  These Japanese soldiers knew they were going to die; they just wanted to take as many Americans as possible with them.

In earlier battles, such as in China, the Banzai Attack actually proved successful at times.  But success was due to the slower re-loading guns used by the enemy, giving the wave of oncoming Japanese soldiers an advantage.  But in the case of Guam and Saipan, the Banzai Attacks failed.  In a sense, the Americans both dreaded Banzai Attacks, and loved them.  A failed Banzai Attack meant fewer Japanese to deal with the next day.

The word "banzai" is a Japanese form of the Chinese expression "ten thousand years."  It was originally used a salutation for the Emperor, wishing him a long life.  It was also used for the Japanese Emperor.  When the Japanese soldiers shouted "banzai," it was a patriotic slogan as well as a reference to the Emperor.  But "banzai" does not always refer to the Emperor, or to a suicidal attack.  It can be used today in a general, celebratory way; like when your team scores at a game.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Soldiers of the 3rd Marine Division transport their wounded down Nimitz Hill
On July 25 - this day - sixty-seven years ago, the Japanese and the Americans were still duking it out on what the Americans called "Fonte Ridge," what we call today "Nimitz Hill," and what Chamorros called, before any of these others got here, Libugon.  Lt. General Takashina, highest Japanese commander on Guam, assembled 5,000 soldiers on Nimitz Hill by July 25 to launch a counter-attack against the ascending Americans, slowly moving up from the Asan beach head.

American control of Nimitz Hill was absolutely necessary for the Americans to push north.  Had Nimitz Hill remained in Japanese hands, they would have commanded the high ground over-looking Apra Harbor and Orote Peninsula, as well as central Guam.
Advance of the 3rd Marine Division
July 22-26

Progress was made by yards, not by miles, on a given day in those first days, as seen in the map above.  The Americans had to fight their way up hill, and the mud created on that reddish clay soil from heavy rains did not help.  At one point, the Japanese broke through a weak spot in the American lines and got within firing range of a U.S. field hospital.  Wounded Americans trying to get stitched back together leapt off operating tables to grab their guns and fight back the charging Japanese.

The Japanese would often drink all afternoon and evening and then attack in the dark of night, drunk as a skunk.  These tactics were called "Banzai Attacks."  On the night of July 25-26, the Japanese launched a Banzai Attack against the Americans on Fonte Ridge (Nimitz Hill/Libugon).  In the morning, most of them were dead.

This video clip of a biker enjoying the trails of Nimitz Hill (Libugon) gives you an idea of what the terrain looked like this time sixty-seven years ago, minus the bombs and bullets and dead bodies.


NOW we know which Anita you're talking about!

When I was a kid, my mañaina would often call their sister Ana "Anan Vicente."  Likewise, their brother-in-law was "Vicenten Ana."  Otherwise, there are just too many Anas and Vicentes to know which one you're talking about.

So we attach the name of your husband or wife, mother or father to your name, and now it's clear that we're talking about you.

When I was a priest in Malesso', one of the ladies always referred to her husband Juan as "Yannek-ko."  I spelled that the way it's pronounced.  It's really "John-neh-ko," as in "Johnny-ko."  "My Johnny."

That's another thing we can do.  Si Rita-mo, si Titde-mo, si Kiko-mo.  Your daughter Rita, your wife Titde, your husband Kiko.  Now we know which Rita, Titde or Kiko we're talking about.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chamorro participant in the Liberation of Guam

Imagine seeing your home island of Guam being re-taken from the Japanese, but from behind American lines.  Jorge "George" Cristobal, born in Hagåtña in 1918, the son of Adriano and Carmen Untalan Cristobal, had spent several years at Waseda University in Tokyo, having been fascinated by Japanese language and culture, and then joined the US Navy.  Many people knew him as "Boy Cristobal."


Boy Cristobal was interested in studying porcelain making. Accompanied by his mother and an uncle, who was a dentist, Boy sailed for Tokyo in 1935. He was just in time. Had he waited a few more years, it would have been harder for him to move to Japan, as relations between Japan and the U.S. grew more and more tense.


By 1939, things became very worrisome. The war in China against the Japanese was well underway. Japan was entrenched in Manchuria and skirmishes broke out even between the Japanese and the Russians.

Boy was advised to return home to Guam.

When he returned he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Unlike almost all the other Chamorro men who joined the Navy, Boy did not end up being a mess attendant, cleaning tables and dishes. Because he was fluent in Japanese, Boy was assigned other work. He was to work in intelligence, using his Japanese language skills to assist in monitoring activities in Japan. Obviously, he could not do that work on Guam so off he went overseas.

He was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on December 7, 1941.  When the U.S. was making plans to re-capture Guam, they knew they could profit from Boy's knowledge of the terrain of his native land and of the Japanese language.  He was transferred to the Marines and was with them during the liberation.  Always on the lookout for his family, he was with a search patrol one day and convinced a Marine not to shoot at a suspected Japanese figure in the distance.  It turned out to be Cristobal's father, who looked surprised at Jorge's Marine uniform, asking, "Son, I thought you joined the Navy!"  Jorge was an interpreter on Guam during the war crimes trials following the war.  Jorge passed away in 2009.

HÅNOM : water

Another word with deep Austronesian roots, seen in just a few other Austronesian languages below that have similar words for "water."





Hånom maipe.  Hot water, used to brew coffee, for example.

Hånom sinaga.  Rain water collected in a barrel or tank.

Hånom ais.  Ice water.

Hånom grifo.  Faucet water.

Hanume.  To sprinkle water.

Hånme.  A contraction of hanume.

Mama' hanom. To become watery.

Mehnom.  An abundance of water.  A contraction of mi (abundance) + hånom (water).

But...."Holy Water" is ågua bendita...the Spanish term...not såntos na hånom.

"Water fall" is kaskåda, from the Spanish, related to the English word "cascade."

Saturday, July 23, 2011


My mother was not the biggest fan of the Japanese.  She was 13 and a half years old when the war broke out, and was 14 and 15 during the war.  She said that the Japanese stole from her "paradise," life in Hagåtña before the war, which to my mother was a perfect life.  She went to Japanese school in Barrigada and became one of the best students.  Funny enough, she was proud that she picked up Japanese and remembered a lot of it.

One thing she never forgot was a Japanese war song called "Kohan no Yado."  It was recorded in 1940 and was a favorite of Japanese soldiers fighting in China, as the sentimental song recalls scenes of home.  My mother learned the song during the war and she sang it to me when I was a teenager.  I remember one verse of it, after all these years.  She learned it in the 1940s, I learned it from her in the 1970s.

Here is a clip of the same song, sung in complete and immensely better form by the singer who released it in 1940, Mieko Takamine.  Takamine lived a relatively long life, passing in 1990 at the age of 72.


Thirty-three residents of Agat and Sumay were killed by the Japanese on July 23, 1944 (though another source says it was on July 19).  There were many survivors, some of whom are alive today.  Those rounded up and forced into the caves near Fena Lake had worked on Japanese defenses, and so were mostly younger people.  Some of the women were raped.  Some men were given sake to drink and told to celebrate, in an attempt to massacre them while intoxicated.

After the war, the whole area around Fena Lake was made Naval Magazine, a weapons depot.  Because of tight security, memorial ceremonies for the Fena Massacre usually happen in Agat.


Friday, July 22, 2011


Vicente Camacho Reyes
The Japanese made him district head of Barrigada
Or - Haruta Mura

When the Japanese occupied Guam for two-and-a-half years, they changed the names of many island places.  The whole island was re-named Omiya Jima (Great Shrine Island), Hagåtña became Akashi (Red City), Sinajaña became Shinagawa and so on.  Barrigada became Haruta Mura.

Guam was divided into districts headed by a Chamorro whose position was called kucho.  The villages were lead by a soncho.  You didn't volunteer to be a soncho, nor were you elected, nor were you asked - you were made soncho by the Japanese and accepted it or be killed.

Vicente Camacho Reyes, married to my grandmother's sister, Ana Perez Torres, was Island Attorney before the war.  He was a lawyer, having gone to UC Berkeley and Hastings College of Law in the 1930s thanks to a Navy scholarship.  As soncho of Barrigada, Uncle Ben's main duties were assisting with police efforts in the village, and letting people know any new policies or orders issued by the Minseibu, the Japanese civil administration. 

But the one duty he liked to share with me was his obligation making sure the Barrigada farmers turned in their quota of corn and other crops to the Japanese.  If the Japanese told Uncle Ben they wanted five bags of corn by Tuesday, Uncle Ben had better come up with five bags by Tuesday.  If he was a day late, or, if on Tuesday, he produced only four bags, Uncle Ben was beaten or otherwise disciplined.

His wife, Auntie Ana, would pray, her hands shaking as she fingered her rosary beads.  But Uncle Ben was never severely disciplined; at least he had no scars to show for it years later.  Auntie Ana also had a hard time during the war, having miscarried during that time. 

Uncle Ben would have had to deal with the Saipanese interpreters during the war, since he was soncho.  Uncle Ben had to do the Japanese's bidding but could speak no Japanese.  So, the Saipanese interpreters mediated and Uncle Ben got to know a few of them.  Years later, Uncle Ben took me to Saipan and we visited a former interpreter, Vicente S. Camacho, on a daily basis.  Obviously, there was no animosity shared between two Chamorros who had similar names.  Many Saipanese interpreters tried their best to avoid trouble between all parties during the occupation.  Another time, on Luta (Rota), Uncle Ben sat down and talked all night with William S. Reyes, another Saipanese interpreter during the war.  We were all visiting Luta for the fiesta.

After the war, Uncle Ben went on to practice law, serve on the bench as judge of the Superior Court and engage in politics, serving twice in the Legislature and being one of the leaders of the Territorial and later Republican parties.

Ai si Uncle Ben!  Onrao yan gof yo'ase na kabayero!  Ma na' sonchon Barrigada fuetsao ni Hapones.  Kuånto biåhe ma patmåda pat ma lalåtde?  Duru manåyuyut si Auntie Ana pot para u siña ha li'e ta'lo i asaguå-ña kåda pupuenge, sa' hai tumungo' na ti pinino' si Uncle Ben ni Hapones ayo mismo na dia? Gråsias a Dios, lumå'la' si Uncle Ben katna ha' kuarenta åños mås despues di gera, ya hu gacha', hu ekkungok i estoriå-ña siha ya hu li'e giya guiya maolek na ehemplon kilisyåno.

En Español

La ocupación japonesa de Guam durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial empezó una época de grandes dificultades para los guameños.  Mi tío Vicente fue alcalde del pueblo de Barrigada, llamado Haruta Mura en japonés.  Fue golpeado algunas veces por los japoneses cuando los rancheros no producieron su cuota de maíz para los soldados y oficiales japoneses.



I'm beginning to see more and more people use the word piot when they want to say "even more so" or "what's more," as in :

"Ha gånna si Juan i rifa på'go na ha'åne!" "Juan won the raffle today!"
"Piot sa' på'go birthday-ña lokkue'!" "What's more, today's his birthday, too!"

The problem with using piot in this context is that piot means "worse."  Its meaning is "even worse so," or "what's even worse."  So piot can't be used in a positive context, like winning a raffle or being released from prison and so on.

"Mutcho mås sa'," would be the expression used in the birthday example above.

Piot can be used in a negative context, to denote a worse or compounding negative condition.

"Ma aresta si Juan på'go na ha'åne." "John was arrested today."
"Piot sa' birthday-ña på'go lokkue'." "Worse, because it's his birthday today, too."

"Birthday," by the way is kumpleaños but more and more people today use the English word.

Piot was borrowed from the Spanish peor, which means "worse."

Trås is a more flexible intensifier which can be used in either a negative or positive context.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Perhaps the most life-changing event in recent Guam history.  Because of the American re-capture of Guam, our island would never be the same in the most dramatic ways.

As far as our mañaina were concerned, July 21 was the beginning of salvation.  Tears would well up in my mañaina's eyes when they talked about seeing American soldiers for the first time since the war began.

"There is some good in the worst of us, and some evil in the best of us.  When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."  Martin Luther King, Jr.

I grew up with listening to tons of war stories - especially when July came around!

I was raised by women who were in their 20s, 30s and 40s during World War II.  My mother was in her early teen years.  They lived through the war and told me about leaving their home in Hagåtña to live on the farm in Ungå'guan, a part of Barrigada; of having to bow before the Japanese; of the two Japanese priests brought here to spread Japanese propaganda and so on.

So what a surprise one day when they started to tell me about a good Japanese.  He was an officer in the Japanese Imperial Navy (Kaigun), as he always wore white (the Army wore brown).  Prior to that, he had spent some time in the U.S. and spoke some English.  He was also a Catholic, of all things!

He was stationed in Barrigada and would come to my family's ranch house many nights to pray the rosary with them.  My grandma also did his laundry.  My great-grandmother gave him fresh eggs from our farm, and he gave her canned fruit.  I was given the impression that, because of his friendship with the family, the other Japanese soldiers in Barrigada were given to understand to leave my mother alone, the only girl in the family and in the first flush of womanhood.  I might add that my mother was beautiful, but then again I am biased.

Eventually he had to move on and he was never heard of again.  But my folks did tell me the story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Japanese Consul General pays respects at Mañenggon

Do you want to know how bad it was in Mañenggon in July 1944?

I talked to an 83-year-old woman, a Mañenggon survivor.
She said,

"I can talk to you about the war.  But you'll never get me to talk about those two weeks in Mañenggon."

(by Susie Reyes Arceo, a Mañenggon Survivor)

1. Fanohge todos hit ni man Chamorro,
ta saluda este i tano'-ta;
puede siña ta konsige este mo'na
i man maså'pet gi tiempon gera.

Maila' ta hasso Mañenggon;
ta fan danña' todos ni man Chamorro
ya ta hasso todo i fina'pos-ta;
laknos i binibun korason-ta.

2. Hahasso todo siha i man måtai,
ni man ma puno' gi tiempon gera;
ya ta nå'e si Yu'us ma'åse'
na man lålå'la' hit para siha.

3. Mañe'lu-ho hahasso este na gera,
man maså'pet yan man malångo;
mutcho mås todos siha i man måtai
ni manaigue guine på'go.

1. Let us Chamorros all rise; let us salute our land; may we be able to continue this further; those who suffered in the time of war.
Chorus : Let us remember Mañenggon; let us all come together, Chamorros; and remember all our past; express the anger in our hearts.
2. Remember all the dead; who were killed in time of war; and give God thanks; that we live for their sakes.
3. Brethren, remember this war; those who suffered and were ill; but above all those who died; who are not present here today.


(Rainy Season)

Beginning around June each year, the rainy season starts.  It ends by the time December comes around.  But it rains every month on Guam, and it can rain in the dry season and we can go for days with no rain in the rainy season.

A rainy July means : bring your umbrella at every Liberation Day parade.

The fiestas of Agat (all three of them), Barrigada, Talofofo, Mangilao, Yoña, Umatac and a few others can all get drenched because they occur during Fanuchånan.  Sometimes the lukao (procession) is cancelled.

Fanuchånan comes from FAN + UCHÅN + AN.  Fan+word+an = place of, or time of.



The year 2004 was one of our wettest.  That year, June had 38 inches of rain, and August had 37.3 inches.  Fotgon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


A shining example of people who COULD be brothers!

CHE'LO : sibling, brother, sister

Often used between friends to denote a close friendship.

Or, between people not very close, or perhaps even at odds, to convey friendliness or a desire for peace.

Che'lu-ho si Maria.  Maria is my sister.

Mañe'lo hit.  We (3 or more people) are brothers (or sisters, or both).

Chume'lo si Joaquin yan si Ana.  Joaquin and Ana are brother and sister.

At a bar, two men feeling no pain start to argue politics (what else?) and it seems a fight may start.  One of them says to the other :

"Ai adei, che'lo, båsta pot politika!  Bai falak i kemmon."  "Well, brother, enough about politics.  I'm going to the restroom."  The use of the word che'lo may diffuse tension and life goes on.

Hafañe'los.  A term used to call people's attention before or during a speech. 

This is an interesting construction.  It borrows from the Spanish plural ending -s.  The "ha" is actually "a," meaning "mutual."  A + fan + che'lo + s = Hafañe'los.  Brothers and sisters.  But this word is only used to call people's attention when publicly addressing them.

There is also an exclamation che'lutas!  It has no particular meaning; it's just an exclamation, like "wow!"

Åmbre che'lutas!  Mungnga ma påtek i ga'-ho ga'lågo!  For crying out loud, don't kick my dog!


Et Dicho!

The very one! The very same!

This comes from the Spanish "el dicho," literally meaning "the said," that is, "the very one, or thing, mentioned."

"Tan Maria, håye un espipia?"  Tan Maria, who are you looking for?
"Si Påle'."  Father.
"Si Påle' Juan?"  Father Juan?
"Et dicho."  The very same.
Or :
"Håye fumåhan este siha na nengkanno'?"  Who bought this food?
"Si Carmen."  Carmen did.
"Si Carmen che'lun Maria?"  Carmen, Maria's sister?
"Et dicho." The very one!

It can also mean, "the previously mentioned, the aforementioned."

"Ginen guåha un taotao ni ma fana'an si Buyo'.  Et dicho Buyo' bulachero gue'."

There was a man named Buyo'.  Said Buyo' was a drunkard.

Monday, July 18, 2011


A local cultural association (Ginen i Hila' i Maga'taotao Siha) recently put on a wonderful story-telling presentation.  Members re-told the stories heard originally from people living before, during and after World War II.  It was delightful for me to see and hear Severina Atalig's performance, in which she portrays a man from Luta (Rota) telling the story of life on our neighboring island during Japanese times.  Listen for strong elements of the Rotanese pronunciation I enjoy hearing.

People seem to fixate on only one trait of the Rotanese way of speaking Chamorro : the sing-song accent.  But this is not prominent at all in Severina's delivery.  What is noticeable in her speech is the Rotanese use of the "a" instead of the "å" which is said by Guam and Saipan Chamorros.  The "a" sounds like "apple," whereas the "å" sounds like "awesome."

Severina says, for example, "pa'go" whereas Guam and Saipan Chamorros say "på'go."  Some other words to look out for is when she pronounces : klase, katbon, tangantangan, ma guaddok, ma apapase, la'la', tatanom, brabo, grasias, tatte, mama'nanague, hatsa, salappe, libiano - all said with the "a."

Luta Chamorros do say the "å," for example, when she says "papåya."

I knew only one woman in Humåtak (Umatac) who had the old, pre-war Humåtak accent, which, like Luta, was sing-song.  She has passed away now.  But both Luta and Humåtak were less overwhelmed by Hispanic and Filipino immigrants during Spanish times, so I believe these two places conserved the original Chamorro accent.  So did, perhaps, Pågo, Inalåhan and Malesso'.  But in the case of Pågo, that village shut down and the few remnants moved to Hagåtña and Sinajånña.  Inalåhan and Malesso' both were said to have had the sing-song accent before the war, but these two villages were also settled by many Hagåtña people in the 1880s, so I think the original accent weakened.  Saipan was mainly settled by Hagåtña Chamorros in the late 1800s, so they, too, carried with them there the Hagåtña accent.

So, in my opinion, when I hear the Luta accent, or when I heard Tan Ana's accent in Humåtak, I am hearing the sound of my ancestors, or at least something close to it.

En Español

Representación de cuentos dada en el idioma chamorro donde se oye el acento chamorro de la isla de Rota.


Let's move north of Guam to the only island in the Marianas where the Spaniards allowed the people to stay on their land and not move to Guam - the island of Luta or Rota.

The Ayuyu family is named after the coconut crab, so-called because they often feast on fallen coconuts and can crack them open with their powerful claws.  Don't touch one.

The Ayuyus seem to be descended from one of the following three men :

Mariano Maratita Ayuyu (born around 1836) : he married Teresa Matantaotao

Jose Ayuyu (born around 1860) : married Luisa Borja Atalig

Andres Ayuyu (born around 1859) : married Josefa Masga

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Nobody likes a typhoon - except that, as long as it's far enough from the islands, a typhoon does create large waves, which surfers enjoy.  With all the danger, though, I had to say a prayer when I saw these young people in Humåtak bouncing in these big waves (nåpu).  A typhoon is passing north of the populated Mariana Islands at the moment.


Built in Hagåtña in 1911
Still Standing

Jose Pangelinan Lujan, at age 20, built this house - one of the few pre-war structures still standing in Hagåtña.  Not only does it still stand, it is intact - a tribute to Lujan's craftsmanship for he indeed built it with his own hands.  The Guam Institute, the island's only private school during the pre-war American period, was situated here for a long while.  The house is now the office of the Guam Preservation Trust.  The Centennial celebration of the house was celebrated yesterday, July 16.

Three daughters of the late Mr. Lujan (known affectionately as Tun Pepe) and his late wife Dolores (Tan Lola) survive : Mrs. Ana L. Carrillo, Mrs. Luisa L. Edquilane and Mrs. Carmen L. Glenfield.  They were present at the ceremony and took a walk down memory lane looking at mementos of the house's history.

For more on the house, go to

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Malesso' is the unfortunate scene of not one - but two - massacres at the hands of the Japanese.  Yesterday, sixteen people of Malesso' were killed sixty-seven years ago.  They were the village elite.  Today, thirty men of Malesso' were killed in a different location in the village.

On July 16, the Japanese rounded up the most physically powerful men of Malesso'.  The civic leaders and those with American ties were not the only threat to the Japanese; these big, powerful men could also prove a worthy adversary should they rise up against the Japanese.  The thirty men were taken to the hills of the northern side of Malesso', behind the present-day cemetery - a place called Fåha.  They were made to stand in an open trench, where they were open and visible targets for Japanese bullets.   No one survived.

The Memorial to the Victims of the Tinta and Fåha Massacres
San Dimas Church, Malesso'

At the Memorial Mass on July 16, 2011 for the Tinta and Fåha Massacres, chairs were marked with the names of the victims, so that a family member could sit and represent them at the ceremonies after Mass in front of the Memorial.
En Español

El pobre pueblo de Merizo es el sitio de no sólo una matanza, sino dos matanzas, hechas por las manos de los japoneses.  En el día 16 de julio de 1944, treinta varones, los hombres mas fuertes del pueblo, fueron fusilados en una zanja en el lugar llamado Fåha.  Ninguno de los treinta salieron con vida.


When the prefix man is used in front of a word that begins with a CH, F, K, P, S or T, those initial letters are changed in the way described in the chart below.  The reason?  Purely for the sake of what the ear thinks sounds nicer.  Just as, in English, the word "the" is pronounced differently when one says "the coast" as opposed to saying "the east coast."  "Theee east coast" sounds a lot nicer than "thuuuuuh east coast."

MAN + CH =




MAN + F =




MAN + K =




MAN + P =




MAN + S =




MAN + T =

     Omit the T



Just remember....even with the above patterns....there are always exceptions to the rule!