Saturday, October 22, 2011


In 1985, on a trip to Saipan, I ate part of this fanihi.  I was a young friar all of 23 years of age.
You can't see much of the fanihi; it was mostly eaten by the time we snapped this photo.

I remember...
  • how AWFUL it smelled when my aunties would cook it
  • it smelled like they were cooking mildewy clothing that had been soaking in putrid water for days
  • the smell made me want to run out of the house
  • I refused to try it as a kid and began to doubt my relatives' soundness of mind because they enjoyed eating it
  • the rat-like face and sharp teeth staring at me from the pot didn't help
  • then I tried it - in 1985 - in Saipan - and thought it tasted OK
  • it tasted NOTHING like it smelled
  • as the saying goes, "It tasted sorta like chicken."
What I have just learned...
  • between 1975 and 1981, the Northern Marianas exported 15,805 fanihi to Guam
  • what the Northern Marianas ate within the Commonwealth is not included in that number!
  • a lot of those fanihi were caught outside the legal times to hunt them
  • fanihi can fly between the islands
  • we hope that fanihi colonies in the unpopulated or underpopulated islands in the Marianas will help them survive
From the year 1831...
  • John Lyell, a visiting Scottish doctor on a whaling ship during the years 1830 and 1831, says that the jungles of Guam swarm with fanihi
  • they come out at dusk to feast on breadfruit
  • they are prized by the Chamorros and sell for 3 reales each
  • a real was a Spanish silver coin, worth an 8th of a peso, and a peso was equivalent to about 50 American cents
  • so 3 reales was not a huge amount, about 19 cents
  • they were so numerous that 200 could be seen hanging from the same tree, and one sling shot could kill 17 of them
A 4 reales coin from 1812, a little more than what one fanihi would have cost in the year 1830.  These coins would have been used in the Marianas at the time.

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