Friday, July 15, 2011


Prayer Service at Tinta Cave

On July 15, 1944, the residents of Malesso', about 800 or so, were gathered at the Geus Valley in Malesso' by the Japanese authorities.  The names of thirty people, including five women, were read aloud.  They were told that they would be put to work and that a cave in the Tinta area of Malesso' in that Valley would be their base camp.  They were told to go into the cave.  The Japanese threw in hand grenades.  After the explosions, the Japanese went in with their bayonets and finished them off.  So they thought.  Fourteen survivors were taken for dead, either because they were badly wounded and made no movement, or because they feigned death.  Some used dead bodies to shield them from the bayonets.

The 30 men and women destined for death in Tinta Cave were chosen by the Japanese because they were considered the village elite (leaders, school teachers, people of influence) or because they had ties with the U.S. military (sons in the service, for example).  The Japanese were afraid that these civic leaders would lead the whole village to rebel against the Japanese, or connect with the invading American troops and assist them.  The Japanese knew their days were numbered, and they did not want the Chamorros, or the Americans with Chamorro assistance, to take vengeance on the Japanese for two-and-a-half years of  occupation.

One of those who did not survive the grenades was Maria Lukban Mesa, a Filipina married to a Chamorro.  She was a teacher.  Another victim was Ramon Padilla Cruz, father of long-time Mayor of Merizo Ignacio "Buck" Cruz.

I was pastor of Malesso' two different times when I was a baby priest.  I will never forget going with the group of Malesso' people, children of the victims and even some of the survivors themselves, to Tinta Cave.  We walked through the muddy fields of Geus Valley; it always rained in July.  When we got to the mouth of the cave, we all got silent.  The survivors, especially, became very somber.  We prayed and blessed the cave, asking for the eternal repose of the victims and the healing of hearts of the survivors and the children of those who perished.

Para nuestros lectores hispanohablantes

Recordamos hoy la matanza de 16 chamorros en el pueblo de Merizo al sur de Guam, durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.  En el día 15 de julio de 1944, los japoneses mataron a estas personas en una cueva en el distrito llamado Tinta.  Los víctimas fueron maestros, líderes civiles y gente de influencia.

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