Saturday, November 19, 2011


A long time ago, a man and I were talking, and he said that his loyalty was to the village where he grew up as a child, not the village where he actually spent most of his life as an adult. 

When I asked him why, he said, "Siempre nai sa' guihe nai ma håfot i toayå-ho!" "Certainly, because that's where they buried my towel!"

The meaning of his strange speech escaped me until sometime later someone explained that, in days past when children were born at home, with the help sometimes of a pattera or midwife, the child's placenta was wrapped up in a towel (toåya) and buried underneath the house (påpa' såtge), as most houses were built on stilts (haligi).

The man was pointing to the physical and emotional connection he had with the soil of his native village; something intimately connected with his life in the womb was buried there.  In his mind, he literally became part of the soil of his village.

I talked to Tan Esco about this and she taught me the word påres, the Chamorro word for placenta which we borrowed from the Spanish word for the same thing.  I looked it up in Påle' Roman's dictionary and he says that a more Chamorro term for it is ga'chong i patgon - the baby's companion.  It makes sense, doesn't it?  After the baby, out comes the placenta.  The baby's påres is wrapped in a toåya and buried.

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