Friday, July 1, 2011

Until I find a real kuåtta to photograph, this will have to do.

When I was younger, I did see a real-life kuåtta.  But I've asked around, and no one seems to have one.  I'll keep looking.

The kuåtta is a whip made of the hair of a cow's tail (daddalak guaka).  Ma na' ånglo' pues ma filak.  The handle of the whip is made of kuero (leather).

The word comes from the Spanish "cuarta," which means several things (such as "quart") but it can also mean a whip used for horse riding.  That's probably the original use of it in the Marianas.

But the kuåtta became the most feared instrument of corporal punishment in olden times.  It was reserved for special cases, annai gos åguåguat hao.  When ordinary spankings didn't do the trick.  Pues ma yågai i dagån-mo.

When you knew you were going to get whipped with the kuåtta, you made preparations if possible.  You put on several pairs of pants, or stuffed your behind with old newspapers. 

An elderly lady told me how her brother was always getting into trouble.  One night he wanted to sneak out of the house, so he took the kåmyon niyok (coconut grater horse) and put it in bed instead, put a pillow on top and covered it all with the sheet.  But the dad couldn't be outsmarted and was waiting for him when he came home in the early morning hours.  The boy hurriedly put on several pairs of pants.  His mistake was not pretending to hurt.  The father noticed the lack of screams and tears, examined the boy, saw the extra pants and had him take them off.  I need not go further.

Because the children (especially boys) hated the kuåtta, parents hid it.  If a boy got a hold of it, he usually threw it down the kommon sanhiyong (the outside toilet).  Who would dare look down the outhouse, much less go down to retrieve it.  If the boy didn't throw it down, he threw it up, onto the roof of the outhouse.  But one time a father was using the kommon sanhiyong, looked up and saw one end of the kuåtta hanging over the roof.  I need not go further.

Many people today do not believe in any form of corporal punishment at all.  Many parents do approve of spanking, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, "provided it is given firm enough, often enough and low enough."  When I was a kid, my father never once spanked me.  He didn't need to.  His look was enough to freeze the blood in my veins.  I am thankful for that.

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