Wednesday, November 2, 2011


A låpida (headstone) with abbreviated Chamorro inscriptions.

Maf = mafañågo (born)
Mat = måtai (died)

Every year on November 2, Catholic Chamorros remember in a special way their deceased.  Days before All Souls Day, they spruce up the graves of their family members; weeding, painting, placing fresh flowers.  Masses are said in all of Guam's cemeteries.

Many families have to divvy up who goes to what cemetery Mass.  You go to that Mass; I'll go to the other Mass.

Libera Me Domine

This Latin chant was sung at the Responso at a funeral or any Mass for the Dead (Requiem Mass), at the church, cemetery and even the home where all wakes (bela) took place before the 1970s when families started to hold them at the church.  The Libera Me fell into disuse, except for a few priests like me who sometimes chant it today.

Our Chamorro people, especially the older women, used to be able to sing this chant purely from memory.  They would sing it loud and clear and raise the church roof top.  I was a small boy, but it made a big impression on me.

Libera me, Domine / de morte aeterna
(Deliver me, Lord / from eternal death)

in die illa tremenda / cuando caeli movendi sunt et terra.
(on that awesome day / when the heavens and earth are moved).

Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
(When you come to judge the world by fire).

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