Wednesday, November 16, 2011


We're still in November, the month of the Holy Souls.  Many of the graves and niches still show signs of their recent annual cleaning and decorating.

These låpida in Saipan show strong attachment to Chamorro, and Spanish-influenced, wording.

"Requerdon i Familia"
Remembrance or Memorial from the Family

The Spanish word is recuerdo, and different låpida spell it recuerdo or requerdo.  Many people today would spell it rekuetdo, since we would pronounce it with a "t," not the "r."  Recuerdo means "memorial," or "souvenir," or "remembrance."

At the bottom of the låpida, it says Pas Deskanso, meaning "peace" and "rest."  The Spanish originals are paz and descanso.

"Requerdon i Asaguaña yan i Famaguon-ña"
Memorial from his Wife and Children

A good example of the blend of Spanish (recuerdo) and Chamorro (asagua and famaguon).

Uncommon Symbols of Birth and Death

In this låpida, the birth and death of the person are noted with symbols.  The shell indicates his birth because the shell represents his baptism.  People were very often baptized the same day they were born.  Even if they were not born and baptized on the same day, the birth was represented by the baptism.  The priest scooped up the baptismal water using a shell - even a metallic one - or some other instrument.  The cross represents the person's death.  Though the cross is a common symbol for death, it is not usually seen on a låpida.

Notice that this particular person died on his or her birthday, November 10.  Na'masi, no?

Chamorro name for the month
A Plea to the Visitor

This låpida shows a rare example of using the Chamorro (Spanish) name for the month.  In most låpida, even the ones with no other English writing, the English names for the month are used.  Here, we see that it is Måyo, or May.  "Sept" could still be Septiembre, for September, but it isn't clear.

Secondly, we see here a very Catholic trait : asking the visitor to pray for the deceased.  "Tayuyute gue as Yuus," or "Pray for him/her to God."  You see this inscription a lot in Spanish cemeteries, and even in Spanish death announcements in the newspapers : Rogad por su eterno descano.  Pray for his/her eternal rest.  Rogad por su alma.  Pray for his/her soul.

Notice also that Chamorro words are used for "born" and "died."  Maf on the låpida is the abbreviation for mafañågo or "born," and Mat is the abbreviation for måtai or "died."

An old låpida entirely in Chamorro

You can barely make it out, but it reads from the top "Mahafot guini i tataotao - Jose M. Aguon" and at the bottom "Requerdon i Famaguonna Siha."  "Here is buried the body of Jose M. Aguon."  "Memorial from His Children."

"Here is buried..." echoes the Spanish custom of beginning the låpida with the words "Aqui yacen..."  or "Here lies..."

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