Hymn in honor of the Immaculate Conception composed by Padre Palomo
Father José Bernardo Palomo y Torres, also known as Padre Palomo or Pale' Enko', was ordained a priest in 1859 - the first Chamorro to be raised to the priesthood.
Five years earlier, Pope Pius IX had solemnly defined the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. At some unknown time, but certainly during the 19th century and during the Spanish administration of the Marianas, Padre Palomo composed - in Spanish - a hymn extolling that dogma. The elite of the Marianas spoke Spanish, some better than others. The vast majority of the Chamorros did not speak Spanish. The fact that Padre Palomo wrote this in Spanish is a sign that the language of prestige at the time was Spanish, not Chamorro. Chamorros prayed and sang in Spanish; Latin, of course, being the exclusive language of the official liturgy. Sermons were preached in Chamorro; we have copies of them. But Spanish was also used in sermons, even though most people in church could scarcely understand a word. It was the Spanish Capuchins, especially Pale' Román, who turned this situation around and actually hammered the last nail on the coffin of the Spanish language on Guam.
The Spanish lyrics are :
Mil albricias al siglo presente / Pío Nono se llena de honor. Pués proclama del trono docente / toda pulcra es la madre de Dios. Disputaban los siglos el hado / de escuchar la divina sanción; que fijase cual dogma sagrado / la impoluta sin par concepción. El tesoro celeste sellado / este arcano divino encerró. Pero al fín Pío Nono inspirado / con sus célicas llaves lo abrió. Once lustres contaban centuria / cuando Pío los sellos rompió / y al clamar que María era pura / todo el orbe de luz se inundó. Suenan arpas de eterea harmonía / el abismo al oir los bramó. Mas la tierra aclamaba a María / ¡toda pura más bella que el sol / más bella que el sol / más bella que el sol!
A thousand cheers to the present century / Pius the Ninth is filled with honor. For he proclaims from the teacher's throne / all pure is the mother of God. The centuries debated the fate / of hearing the divine sanction; that such a sacred dogma be observed / the unequaled unstained conception. The closed heavenly treasure / this mysterious foreseer closed shut. But in the end Pius the Ninth, inspired / with his heavenly keys opened. Eleven lights numbered a hundred / when Pius broke open the seals / and on proclaiming that Mary was sinless / the whole world was filled with light. Harps sounded with heavenly harmony / the abyss of hell howled. While the earth acclaimed Mary / all pure, more beautiful than the sun / more beautiful than the sun / more beautiful than the sun!
Preserving this Hymn
As far as I know, this is the first time this hymn has been translated into English, and the first time it has been recorded. The hymn does not appear in the Chamorro hymnal that Pale' Roman put together to be used on Guam. He was certainly aware of the song, but was opposed to all Spanish songs and prayers since the Chamorros did not understand them. But the song appears in the religious literature printed for the church in Saipan. They had different missionaries (German Capuchins then Spanish Jesuits) who did not oppose Spanish hymns and prayers as much, and Saipanese Catholics until very recently prayed and sang in Spanish at times. On Guam, this hymn, written by a Guam Chamorro, is totally forgotten.
It is apparent in the video that the Saipanese woman, who has known this hymn since childhood, struggles a bit with it, since it is not sung much at all even in Saipan today. But when I was a priest in Saipan in the 1990s, the man åmko' easily sang this song, some from memory.
En este video, se oye una chamorra de Saipán cantando un himno a la Purísima, escrito por el primer sacerdote chamorro, el P. José Bernardo Palomo y Torres (1836-1919). En los 90, cuando yo era párroco en Saipán, los ancianos lo cantaban con toda facilidad. Pero ahora, como es obvio en el video, le cuesta a la señora cantarlo por no ser cantado mucho en la isla. Oiga como la señora pronuncia castellano "a la chamorra."
Padre José Bernardo Palomo y Torres
Besides Chamorro and Spanish, he spoke Latin, English, some French, Italian and a dialect of Carolinian from his contact with the Carolinians living in Tamuning (Guam) and Saipan