Wednesday, February 29, 2012

YOU PROBABLY WEREN'T WONDERING is February 29.  Something that doesn't happen every year.  As a matter of fact, we get a February 29 only every "leap year." do you say "leap year" in Chamorro?

Well, "leap year" would have been an idea introduced by the Spaniards, so åño bisiesto would have been "leap year" for our Chamorro grandparents.

Bisiesto means twice-six.  I've read up on it, and can't make heads or tails of it.  Google it yourself : bissextile.

Ilek-ñiha i man åmko' na yanggen aredondo i tiyån-ña i mapotge' na palao'an, kumekeilek-ña na para u låhe i patgon-ña.

Lao yanggen akadidok i tiyån-ña, pues siempre para u palao'an i finañagu-ña.

If a pregnant woman's tummy is rounded, the child will be a boy.

If her tummy is pointed, it will be a girl.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


In yesterday's PDN, the Fino' Chamorro column stated that words borrowed from English should retain their English spelling, unless that word is modified by Chamorro usage.  So "picnic" would be spelled just like that : Man gaige gi "picnic."  "Picnic" keeps its English spelling, the Commission says, because it is not changed from its original English form.

But it becomes "Manpipiknik i familiå-ko." "My family is picnicking."  English "picnic" has become Chamorro "pipiknik" and so the spelling changes as well, from English to Chamorro. 

Then the column provides another example with the word "eksplika."  And it says that "eksplika" means "explain."

But "eksplika" is not borrowed from English.  The English word for "explain" is, well, "explain."

"Eksplika" is borrowed from the Spanish word explicar, which means "to explain."  The X in explicar is pronounced S.  Older Chamorros who were truer to the original Spanish form would say esplika, not "eksplika."  Adding the K comes from American influence; "explain, eksplika."

Monday, February 27, 2012




In late February of 1856, an American ship, the Frost, arrived on Guam from Manila.  That very day, a passenger died of smallpox and was buried at sea.  The government medical officer believed there was no cause for concern and that a three-day quarantine of the passengers would be sufficient.  But some passengers managed to come ashore the following day.

By early March, another passenger became ill and it was found to be smallpox.  The government moved quickly to isolate all the passengers by moving them to the hills.  Food was provided them from a distance and no one was allowed to go near them.  But it was too little, too late.  In the days prior to the second passenger falling sick, other passengers had mixed freely with the island population.

At the height of the epidemic, in the fall months, as many as eighty people were dying daily.  Carts going from the city of Hagåtña to the burial grounds at Adilok (Adelup) went back and forth all day long. 

Vaccines from Manila would be sent, but would arrive spoiled.  Finally, good vaccine arrived and those not infected were given inoculations.  Hospitals for the sick were erected in several rural areas, to isolate them from the general population.  But the numbers of sick grew so much that many of them stayed at home, where a little sign was placed to warn others that a sick person lived there.

Government inspectors looked for the sick, but the family members often hid them in order to keep them at home, rather than see them leave for the rural hospitals.

On the other hand, some families and neighbors were not so conscientious of the state of the sick and carted them off to the burial ditches even though they were not "completely dead."  Sometimes even the living members of the family were so weak from the disease that they had no strength to bury their dead and let others come and take away the cadaver.

Different sources give different numbers, but, when the epidemic was over, Guam had lost between 50-60% of its 8,000 residents.  It would take years before the 4,000 or so survivors would recover.

Years later, when construction was needed in Hagåtña or Asan, trenches three feet deep were discovered with 50 or more bodies, all piled up on top of each other.  People were buried without ceremony.

Many conjecture that the epidemic dealt a devastating blow to the more indigenous families; the ones with more Chamorro, and less outside, blood.  The idea that the more purely Chamorro population died off at a higher rate seemed to be strengthened by the kind of bones found in these common graves.  The bones indicated a race of people bigger boned than the present-day Chamorro.

This also may have had an impact on the language, in that perhaps the more indigenous families used many native words which were then lost when they died in the epidemic.  These are just suspicions of history.


Most of us are familiar with chicken pox.  Smallpox is worse.  You can look up images yourself; they are hideous. 

Smallpox is believed to have been eradicated in the entire world since the 1970s.  Vaccinations against it stopped.  Those vaccinated a long time ago may no longer be protected.  That leaves a lot of people vulnerable, but they say smallpox does not exist anymore.  But the virus has been kept alive in some laboratories.  There is some fear that terrorists could get a hold of them and use them as a biological weapon against whole populations.

The Balmis Expedition of 1803-1806

In 1803, a Spanish doctor named Balmis took the smallpox vaccine, and live hosts of it, to half a dozen Spanish colonies, including the Philippines.  He reached Manila in 1805.  Most of the population was thus inoculated.  But Balmis never made it to the Marianas.  Perhaps the smallpox epidemic of 1856 would never have occurred on Guam had he come.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


What's that naughty little glota ( ' ) doing there?

Putting the glota ( ' ) all over the place sure makes things look more Chamorro, doesn't it?  But the glota has an actual orthographical function.  Properly placed, it informs the speaker to close the back of the throat sharply (a glottal stop).  One can only do this after a vowel.  Glotas after consonants (as in the sign above) are a mistake, then.  Try closing the back of your throat after making the L sound.  See?  Not that easy, no?  Sa' lache ennao, nai!

Now here, we see that the glota has indeed been properly placed.  One does, in fact, close the back of the throat sharply after the AO sound, which is formed by vowels.

Score 1 for the famalao'an, 0 for the "lal' ahi" - I mean lalåhe.

Mass for Lazy People

Our mañaina were early risers, as mentioned in a previous post.  This was considered normal; a virtue.  Late-risers were considered gago', lazy.

So, on Sundays before the war when there were usually two Masses, at least in Hagåtña or Garapan, the two respective capitals of Guam and Saipan, the second Mass (also called the Misan Tåtte, or "behind Mass") was often called the Misan Gago', the Mass for lazy people - even if this Mass was at 8AM!

The first Mass was just called the Misan Mo'na, the "ahead Mass."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tumotohge i kato!

TOHGE : to stand

Tohge!  Stand! (When telling one or two people)

Fanohge!  Stand! (When telling three or more people)

Ti siña yo' tumohge.  I cannot stand.

Na' fanohge siha.  Make them stand up.

Mungnga tumohge gi hilo' i kattre.  Don't stand on top of the bed.

An aside or two

***Tohge is not used the way we use "stand" in English for something bearable or unbearable, as in "I can't stand it."

***The first stanza of the Guam Hymn is well-known and starts with the plural, third person imperative :

Fanohge Chamorro pot i tano'-ta
kanta i matunå-ña gi todo i lugåt.
Para i onra, para i gloria,
abiba i isla sin paråt.

(Stand Chamorros for our land,
sing her praises in every place.
For her honor, for her glory,
extoll the island without ceasing.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Visited Guam in 1792

Guess what?

We didn't always eat fried chicken and red rice.

Antonio de Pineda describes for us, in a diary he kept when he visited Guam in 1792, what Chamorros ate in those days.

He says the main food was atuleAtule is any available grain or root (corn, rice or even gapgap or arrowroot flour), cooked in water to make a kind of gruel or porridge.  Salt is added and maybe some coconut milk.  Otherwise, it would rather tasteless.

Corn was brought to the Marianas by the Spanish, probably because of the significant number of Mexican soldiers stationed on Guam, some of whom married local women.  Atule comes from the Mexican word atole.

The Chamorro diet was also heavy into the other roots and fruits of the island : dågo, suni, lemmai, nika, fadang and so on.  Kamute, by the way, or sweet potato, was also imported to the Marianas from South America and was not eaten by our ancestors before contact with the West.

A special treat was a dish made of finely ground rice, coconut meat and coconut water.

I doubt you could get our young people today to eat these dishes on a regular basis.

M, m, månnge'!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


The Spanish surname Rios was originally "de los Rios," or "of the rivers."  The family coat-of-arms depicts this.  The name is found mainly in the south of Spain :
The red spots indicate a higher incidence of the last name Rios in Spain.

Spaniards named de los Rios or Rios moved to Latin America (Mexico, Peru, etc) and from there to the Marianas and the Philippines.

In the Marianas, there was a Rios family from the early part of the Spanish conquest.  In the 1727 Census, there is a Sergeant Francisco de los Rios.   He is listed among the "Spanish" troops, but that can also mean he was from Latin America, where many people had mixed blood (Spanish and native).  Francisco married a Chamorro woman, Rosa Taihimas.  "Tai" means "lacking, without," and we don't know what "humas" means.  "Humas" would become "himas" if "tai" goes before it.

They had a son and three daughters, and maybe more after the census was taken.

There's also, in the same census and Spanish, a Miguel de los Rios, married to Marcela de la Cruz.  There is no indication what connection, if any, Miguel has with Francisco.  They, too, had children.

Then there's a third Rios, also Spanish, named Juan Antonio de los Rios, married to Josefa de la Cruz, of unknown connection to the others.  They had at least four sons (and a daughter) by 1727.  Plenty of Rioses to keep the name going.  Rioses show up again in the 1758 Census.

1897 Census

1. Felipe Rios.  From Hagåtña.  Possibly the son of Vicente Rios and Josefa de la Rosa.  Married Rosa de los Santos, and after her death, Antonia Megofna Salas.

2. Brigido Rios.  From Hagåtña.  His mother was a Filipina with the last name Ayuban.  Married Josefa Garrido de Leon Guerrero.  Their son Jose was a Guam educator and businessman for whom Jose L.G. Rios School is named.

3. Benigno Castro Rios.  From Hagåtña.  Married to Gregoria Campos de Leon Guerrero.  Now one of Benigno's sons, Casiano, has Ayuban as a middle name.  So Gregoria is possibly the 2nd wife of Benigno, and that Benigno is the father of Brigido in #2 above.

4. Vicente Rios.  From Hagåtña.  Married to Josefa Cepeda.


In the western, Gregorian calendar, today is February 23.  But our ancestors looked at the phases of the moon, and tonight the new moon starts its cycle, taking on more and more light till it becomes full many days from now.  So a new lunar month has begun, and our ancestors called this month Maimo.  Unfortunately, we don't know what it means anymore.  Lastima.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012






Does Webster get to answer?

Not if the question is asked in the Catholic context of Lent.

Since abstinence from meat during some days in Lent is a Catholic law, the definition of meat must come from the same lawmaker enjoining the abstinence from meat - that is, the Church.  Not Webster.  Nor you, nor the National Chefs Association. When it comes to abstinence in the Catholic Church, "meat" is what the Catholic Church defines it to be.

How does the Church define "meat?"

For thousands of years, in law and in practice, the Church has defined meat as the flesh, marrow and blood of animals and birds as constitute fleshmeat (viand).  As proof that the Church's definition of meat included fowl, remember that, many years ago, even the products of such animals - cheese, butter and eggs (aha!) - were also prohibited during certains days of Lent.

If one couldn't eat the eggs of chickens, then how could the Church say the chicken itself could be eaten?

Furthermore, at one time, even on non-fast days in Lent, one could not mix meat and fish in the same meal.  In Catholic mentality, there are only two categories : meat and fish.  Chicken is not a fish; it is a meat.

Common Sense

The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia says that the definition of meat comes from what intelligent people normally consider meat.  Ask yourself this, if you wanted to buy chicken one day, went into the supermarket and saw only two signs - left for meat, right for fish - would you turn left or right, to find the chicken?

Even Webster isn't helpful

Even if one wanted to get all definitive answers from Webster (who made that dictionary the ultimate law?), you get different answers.  Why?  Because dictionaries don't mandate meanings; dictionaries describe meanings.  Word meanings are derived from people's usage.  So, every now and then, there are new editions published of each major dictionary as words die, words are born and words change.

So good old Webster has multiple definitions for meat, because people use that one word with a variety of meanings :

1. As the edible part of something, as opposed to its husk or shell.  So, there's even something we call coconut meat, though it isn't prohibited in Lent by the Church, because that's not what the Church means by "meat."

2. As solid food, as opposed to drink.

3. As animal tissue, used as food.  Thus we can even say that a certain fish is very meaty, as opposed to another kind of fish which is less meaty.

4. The flesh of mammals, as opposed to fowls or fish.  But this isn't what the Church means when it speaks of meat.

5. The flesh of domesticated animals, as opposed to wild ones, like jungle boars or tigers.  Yet everyone would agree that a wild boar pork chop is meat, or that tiger steak is meat.

Let's Face It

The doubt about chicken as meat never came up till the 1970s.  Let's be honest.  Changing definitions from what was once understood and unquestioned concerning poultry is just our way of getting out of giving up all meat on abstinence days in Lent.


The word "amen" comes to us from the Jewish religion and the Hebrew language.  It means "may it be so," or "truly."  It is used to affirm or agree with the prayer just said, or a statement made.

Some languages have translated "amen" literally and use it at the end of their prayers in place of the word "amen."  So, in Italian, one might hear a prayer concluded with "Cosi sia," meaning "may it be so."  The same thing in French, "Ainsi soit-il."

Pale' Roman translated it "taiguennao mohon."  Taiguennao means "like that."  "Mohon" means "may it be so."  Taiguennao mohon means "may it be so like that," meaning, "as we have just prayed."

In Chamorro, either "amen" or "taiguennao mohon" are appropriate conclusions to prayers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012



Where there's a will, there's a way.

An adage found in many other cultures.  There is nothing you cannot do, if you really want it.

Although someone told me recently, "Yanggen guaha testimonio, siempre guaha plaiton familia."

"Where there's a will, there's a family quarrel."

Monday, February 20, 2012


I am working only from memory.  If anyone knows of any others, let me know.  But how many sitting presidents of the United States have ever, even ever so briefly, visited Guam?
President Lyndon Johnson at Guam Airport
March 19, 1967

LBJ came to Guam that year to have talks with the South Vietnamese leadership; Chief of State Nguyen Van Thieu and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky.  The Vietnam War was in full swing.

There was a big crowd of Guam residents, civilian and military, at the airport.  See footage at :
President Richard Nixon (and wife Pat) on Guam
July 25, 1969

At a famous press conference on Guam that day, Nixon stated what became known as the Guam Doctrine, wherein he promised assistance to allied nations fighting communist aggression, but placing primary responsibility on these countries for their own defense.  It was a way the U.S. could slowly, and without embarrassment, pull out of the unpopular Vietnam War; something Nixon campaigned on and helped win him the election.

Sleep Over at Nimitz Hill

Then, on February 20, 1972, while on the way to China to be the first American President to ever visit that communist country, President and Mrs. Nixon flew to Guam to spend the night at the Admiral's place on Nimitz Hill.

You can see footage of the 1969 visit (on a wet runway) at :
President Bill Clinton
November 23, 1998

Hillary came as well, and she returned to Guam years later as Secretary of State.

President Barack Obama
November 19, 2011

But he just needed gas.

An aside

Besides sitting presidents, Dwight Eisenhower visited Guam as a president-elect when, in December of 1952, having won the race for the White House, he stopped on Guam on his way back to the U.S. from a trip to South Korea.

George Herbert Walker Bush was a Navy pilot on the USS San Jacinto, which made stops at Guam during WWII.


Well, 18 of you voted.  More of you could have.  But, here are the results.

72% of you would have saved your CHILD if your boat had capsized.

22% of you would have saved your MOTHER.

And (na' mase' i asaguå-mo) just 5% of you would have saved your SPOUSE.

Cultural / Psychological Interpretation

According to one theory, we all should have saved our MOTHER.  Why?

If our child had perished, we could always have another child.
If our spouse had perished, we could always marry again.

But we have only one mother.  She's irreplaceable.  And should be saved.  She gave us life.

Which is more Chamorro?

So is it more Chamorro to want to save your mother?  Or your child?

Although in some cultures, mother is the most sacred thing on the planet, most Chamorro people I talk to say, and it shows in this survey, that even mother finds the meaning of her life in giving up her life for the sake of her child.  A capsized mother or father would save the child more than save anyone else.

My response

My response to this survey was with the 72%.  I would save my child.  When I was asked why, I was accused of being very American in my mentality.  Would you agree?

I said I would save my child because my child still has a future to enjoy; whereas my spouse and my mother have had those opportunities.  I was told I was very pragmatic; that everything boils down to practicalities.  And thus very American, and not Chamorro.

But on further reflection, I think my strongest motive for saving my child above anyone else is the fact that I (with my wife) brought the child into the world; I owe that child all the protection and safety I can give.  I am responsible for that child's life.

What do you think?



A man with a small frame, but a political dynamo.

He was universally acknowledged as smart.  Valedictorian of his graduating class at George Washington.  Prior to that, a student at the pre-war private school, the Guam Institute.  Educated in the mainland at Berea College (Kentucky) and the Wharton School, a part of the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania.

He held some important positions.  Director of Finance (GovGuam), 1952-1961.  Deputy High Commissioner of the Trust Territory, 1964-1966.  He served six terms (12 years) in the Guam Legislature in the late 60s and early 70s.  Notably, he was the first and only islander to serve as head of the Office of Territories in the Department of Interior in Washington in the early 1960s.

He was a candidate in the first election for Guam's Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  That was in 1970.  He was running mate to Ricky Bordallo, who was running for Governor under the Democratic banner.

I remember that election.  The Bordallo campaign had mystic, or religious, overtones.  The campaign was called New Day, and the jingle said, "Hey, a New Day is coming, coming."  How could I forget?  The Bordallo pick-up trucks would go throughout the village with the jingle playing on loud speakers.  In contrast, I also heard the Camacho-Moylan jingle, "Keep Camacho Governor!"


The torch, and motto, "Never in Darkness," lent the campaign a semi-religious aura.


Older people would say that Dick was smart because he was a Kueto, a branch of the Taitanos.  My mother worked for him at both the Department of Finance and at the Trust Territory office, and she said he was smart and a good administrator.  During the 1970 campaign, I was told that Dick was a savvy campaigner, one of the main strategists.  It was he who went after the opponents, while Ricky stuck to the lofty agenda proposed by the New Day.  Others would say that, despite his aggressive campaign style, Dick was a man of principle, whose word was as good as gold.  As a senator, it was said he stood by his convictions, even when his stance was unpopular.


By the time I came along and became active in politics (Guam Youth Congress), Dick was a senior senator.  I would see him during legislative sessions, wearing a sweater.  He was very thin all his life and probably felt the cold more than others.  By that time he also had respiratory issues and sometimes needed to leave the session hall to get fresh air.  After he retired from politics, his breathing became more of a challenge. 

In his younger days

The Micronesian Area Research Center at UOG is named after him because he authored the legislation that created MARC.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Your real kitchen is outside the house...

...and is as big as half the house.

We cook a lot, and big.  We feed hundreds of people, and sometimes thousands.  Not a parish; not an association.  Families feed hundreds and sometimes thousands.  So big kitchens, outside the house proper, is the rule.

Cooking for hundreds can be messy.  So - outside cooking makes sense.

As for the indoor kitchen.  Well, maybe we could consider it a museum.  Look, but don't touch.


A tiny bit from a Chamorro sermon preached in the 1870s.

I mismo na momento na ma desapåtta i ante gine i tataotao taotao, ayo mismo na momento ma sodda' i ante na gagaige gi me'nan Jesukristo para u nina'e gue' kuenta ni i todo na bidå-ña.  U sodda' guihe lokkue' i Santo Ånghet ni i pumulan gue', yan i anite para u fa' aila' gue'.  An ta sodda' na si Jesukristo ha a'atan hit yan i sen yo'ase' yan sen mames na inatan, na sen magof i Santos na Ånghet-ta, ya sen lalålo' i anite, sen fiho na señat na man måtai hit gi gråsian Yu'us.  Lao an ta sodda' na si Jesukristo ha a'atan hit yan i sa'pet na inatan, na ti magof i Santos na Ånghet-ta ya sumen magof i anite, fiho na señat na man måtai hit gi desgråsian Yu'us muna' i ma'gas na isao.

The very moment that the soul separates from the body of a person, the soul finds itself before Jesus Christ to give Him an account of all his deeds.  He will also find there the Guardian Angel who watched over him, and the devil who will accuse him.  If we find that Jesus Christ is looking at us with a most kind and sweet look, that our Guardian Angel is very happy and the devil is very angry, it is a sure sign that we have died in the grace of God.  But if we find that Jesus Christ is looking at us with a pained look, that our Guardian Angel is not happy and the devil is very happy, it is a sure sign that we have died in God's displeasure due to great sin.

Some Interesting Words

Desapåtta : today we say adespåtta; "to separate."  Languages evolve!  They are both forms of the Spanish word apartar, to move away, separate.

Gine.  "From."  An older form, now replaced in practice by the more common ginen.

Fa' aila' : an old word hardly used today.  Pure Chamorro.  "To accuse."

Fiho : today, it usually means "often."  But in the 1870s, it still meant something closer to its Spanish original fijo, which means "fixed, sure, certain."  How did fiho go from "sure" to "often?"  Well, I suppose, if something happens often, it is sure to happen!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Charles W. Morgan
in Mystic, Connecticutt

The Charles W. Morgan has survived to this day as one of the best examples of the wooden whaling ships that traveled from New Bedford, Massachusetts to the waters of the Pacific in search of whale blubber which was converted into oil right on her decks in huge try-pots.  Underneath were the cramped quarters of the crew, who lived on the ship for years at a time.

The Charles W. Morgan first set sail in 1841 and lasted till 1921.  Guam was often visited by these whaling ships, and Chamorro names, and Chamorro-sounding names, appear on the crew lists of the Morgan.  Mind you, it isn't very easy to pick out the Chamorros from the crew list.  Many Chamorros have Spanish surnames, so we can't be sure if Joe Castro, for example, is Chamorro, Portuguese, Spanish or Latin American.  Americans often gave the Chamorro an English name (like John) or nickname (like Joe or Pete).  People were also very informal about accuracy; the names listed may not be complete or spelled right.

But in 1886, there is a Juan Quitugua on board.  That is definitely a Chamorro name.

In 1888 : John Sablan and Jose Taitano.  For all we know, Jose Taitano could be Jose Mendiola Taitano, the founder of the Kueto clan and one of Guam's first Protestants.

In 1889 : Ignacio Sablan and a man named John Saipan.  You see, names were often nicknames.

In 1891, there's a Enos Chaco.  "Enos" could be "Inas," the Chamorro nickname for Ignacio.  There's also Felix Sablan and Joseph Sablan.  Also one Joaquin Quinata.  There's an Enos de la Cruz, which raises the possibility he is a Chamorro, with a nickname like Enos/Inas.  There's a Vicente Guantanilla, which could be Quintanilla misspelled.  There's a Domingo Blas, Ben Castro, J. Dela Cruze, Vicente de la Cruze, Felix Martinez, Peter Peres and Jose Santos.  Never mind the misspelling, they're really Cruz and Perez.  But are they Chamorro?  Very likely, but we can't be sure.

On the same crew, there's Manuel Rose and Vicente Rose, possibly de la Rosa.  There's a Bernabe Enecencio.  I would guess this is really Inocencio, a family that lived in Humåtak.  Finally, there's a Jose de San Nicolas.  That's a Spanish name, but common in the Marianas and not so common elsewhere, so I'd say he was Chamorro.

If our guesses prove right, that's a heck of a lot of Chamorros, roughly 1/4 of the crew!  I can just hear a lot of Chamorro being spoken on that ship, among themselves.

In 1892, we see a Tilge Aflague.  Tilge is some nickname.  There's also a Joseph Sablan.

In 1893, there's a Felix Aflague and a Luis Gumataotao, Jose Manalisay and Felix Sablan.

In 1894, Luis Gumataotao appears again, and a J. Luhan, probably Lujan.  On that voyage, a John Sablan died at sea.

In 1895, there's a Nicolas Aflague.

The following year, an Enos (Inas) Aflague and a Peter Taitano.

Even after the U.S. took Guam, a few Chamorro names appear on the crew list; even someone nicknamed Jerry Guam.

GUSSE' : hurry, rush, speedily, quick, fast, immediate, prompt

There is a difference in nuance between chaddek and gusse'.

Chaddek means fast, speedy, quick in the actual movement.  Gusse' means fast in the timing of the action.

One can be late to a meeting and be running quickly to arrive (chaddek), but not be gusse' in making it to the meeting.

Remember to pronounce this in the Chamorro way, not in the English way.  U in Chamorro (as in Spanish) sounds like "oo"  in English.

Gusse' ya un falak i eskuela.  Hurry and go to school.

Gusse' nai ya un fåtto mågi.  Hurry then and come here.

Gusse'!  Hurry!

La gusse'!  Hurry up even more!

Lakse'.  A contraction of la gusse'.

Gusse' ånglo'.  Quick to dry.

Gusse' manhasso.  Quick-minded.

Gussie'.  To be quick for something.

Hu gussie' chumo'gue.  I did it promptly.

Ginisse'.  Promptness.

Ma guaiya si fulåno sa' pot i ginisse'-ña.  So-and-so is liked for his promptness.

Friday, February 17, 2012


In English, we have the rather plain statement, "I've been hearing," or "Someone told me."

But, in Chamorro, we say "Bengbeng gi talanga-ho," "It buzzes at my ear," like a bee buzzing around the ear.

Bengbeng = to buzz, or hiss.  Talanga = ear.

Påle' Jose in the clip talks about how a man says he's been hearing that the Pope was coming to Guam. 

Or, a man complains to his friend about the price of gas on Guam.

Then his friend says, "Cha'-mo inestototba sa' bengbeng gi talanga-ho na ti apmam para u ma rebåha i presion i gasolina."  "Don't be upset because it's buzzing in my ears that soon they will reduce the price of gas."

If only!  I mohon!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I don't recall anything in the written record about the bedtime rising of the pre-contact Chamorros.  Of course, there's a lot to go through so maybe there is mention of it somewhere.

But what is easily called to mind is the description, by missionaries and others, that the Spanish-era Chamorros were early risers and were proud of it.  How early? Try 4AM!

Even today, from Guam to Saipan, if you go to a 6AM Mass in church, you're likely to see many man åmko'.  I know of senior volunteers who opened churches at 5AM or earlier - in the recent past, not ages ago.

Reasons for such a habit?

1. Agriculture
Farming on Guam
Early 1800's

Nobody wants to be out in the fields past 10 or 11AM in the boiling sun.  Spanish-era Chamorros did much more farming than their ancestors, who did more gathering and fishing.  So our forebears tried to get as much of the outdoor work over with before midday.  Tilling the soil as soon as the sun rose (6AM or so) meant being up by 5, if not earlier.  During the hot part of the day, one ate, took a siesta, worked in the shade.  Then, one could resume more outdoor work when the sun was less brutal towards the end of the day.

2. Religion
The agrarian context of the Spanish Marianas jived well with the rhythm of church life.  In those days, anyone intending to receive communion had to fast completely from midnight on.  That meant one wanted Mass as early as possible!  Because priests had to receive communion every day, since they said Mass every day, priests said Mass as early as possible, even as early as 4:30AM.  Most people would not receive communion every day, or even every week or month, but many went to Mass every morning nonetheless before heading out to the ranch.  So, one got up at 4AM to make it to the 4:30 or 5AM Mass.

The routine of the day was regulated by the church bell.  At the first bell (åtba) got people up, to get started preparing for Mass.  That bell was rung at 4AM, something which the first American governor did not appreciate.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


A vessel of admirable speed and agility

Known to westerners as the "flying proa," the sakman awed European explorers as their huge ships were greeted by hundreds of sakman that seemed to fly on the waters surrounding the Marianas.  These European ships would be surrounded by the sakman on all sides with our ancestors yelling at the Europeans to trade, especially asking for lulok (iron).

Though simple in material and design, the sakman was expertly suited to seafaring.  They could be as long as 40 feet and sail as fast as 20 knots (that's 23 mph for us land lubbers).

With the steep decline in population and a new focus on land cultivation under the Spanish, the use of the sakman declined.  They were still around, though, in 1742 when the British Lord Anson visited Guam.

In San Diego, which has a large (perhaps the largest?) concentration of Chamorros in the U.S. mainland, a group of Chamorros have built a sakman.  The CHELU organization gave it full support.

The San Diego Sakman
in achote red!

It took several years for this project to realize its dream.  But there was a lot of support and pride involved, and in 2011 the sakman was completed.  It was featured at an event in Long Beach and also at the San Diego Maritime Museum.

Mario Borja, Fred Blas and Joey Cepeda

Chamorro Sakman in California Waters

Para mås infotmasion, atan guennao gi

Para todos hamyo ni Chamorron San Diego - Enorabuena yan Biba Chamorro!

~~~San Diego Sakman photos courtesy of Tara Blas

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


In February 1903, Jose was assisting his boss Harvey at the Navy Public Works shop in Hagåtña.

"What are you doing, boss?" Jose asked.
"Writing my Valentine," Harvey answered.
"What's a Valentine?" asked a puzzled Jose.
"Here.  Look."  Harvey showed Jose the card he had just written.

"My dear miss,
I send thee a kiss."

Later that afternoon, Jose put pen to paper and wrote his own Valentine to his sweetheart Amparo, who went by the nickname Pau :

"Guaha minaulek-ho,
guaha lokkue' isao-ho.
Yanggen kombiene para hågo,
malago' yo' na hågo para i Pau-ho.
Yanggen guåho i trongko,
pues hågo i hale'.
Maila' ya ta assagua agupa'
yanggen konfotme si påle'."

(I have my good points,
I also have my faults.
If it's OK with you,
I'd like you to be my Pau.
If I am the tree,
then you are the roots.
Let's get married tomorrow,
if the priest agrees.)

Jose folded this note up just as tiny as he could get it, not like the pretty card trimmed with lace that Harvey had.  No; if Pau's parents ever saw his note, the little lady would have gotten a nice scolding.

Instead, Jose went to Pau's house with the gift of a basket of young, green mangoes for the parents.  As he turned to walk out the door, he let the little note drop next to Pau's foot, unnoticed by anyone but her.  With her one foot, Pau swept the note under the living room bench for later retrieval when everyone was asleep on the guåfak (mat). 

Unfortunately, Pau's mother was always the last to sleep, and she saw the piece of paper under the bench.  Unable to read or write, Pau's mother simple threw the paper the following morning in the fire in the outside kitchen where she was boiling alåguan (rice gruel) for breakfast.

And thus, the first Chamorro Valentine ever written was never read.  It didn't matter.  A year later, Jose and Amparo were married, and all was well.  Love conquers all.

~~~A fanciful story born in my imagination at 7AM, Valentine's Day

Monday, February 13, 2012


I was recently asked this question to test how Chamorro I am in my thinking.

If your mother, wife or husband, and child were all capsized on the high seas, and you could save only one of them, which of the three would you save?

Your answer (supposedly) will reveal how Chamorro you are, or are not, in your mentality.


I will share with you my answer, and the psychology behind the question and answers, when the survey is done.


GUAM.  FEBRUARY 8, 1862.  ASIGA (between Inalåhan and Talofofo).

For six days, a boat full of Chamorros, twelve in all, tried to leave Hagåtña for Luta (Rota).  Bad weather constantly impeded their voyage, forcing them to seek shelter in some bay or cove along the northern coast of Guam, or blowing them off-course.  On the night of February 8, the boat had been blown towards the southeast of Guam and hit the reef at Asiga.  The boat broke up, and these unfortunate souls drowned : Francisco de Castro, his wife Manuela de la Cruz, Rosa Cepeda, Crisanto Hocog, Pedro Manglona and Jose Suarez.

Manuela was married to Castro, but the Chamorros at the time followed the Spanish custom of the wife keeping her last name.

Rosa Cepeda had been banished to Luta because of her bad conduct.  La pobre, she ended up dying in the sea instead.

Jose Suarez was just a child, the son of the alcalde (mayor) of Luta.

(P. Aniceto's Chronicle)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Chamorro from Guam drawn by an artist on the


which arrived on Guam
February 12, 1792

Alejandro Malaspina was an Italian, born into the provincial nobility.  Parts of Italy were then ruled by Spain, and he entered into service in the Spanish Navy.  He undertook voyages around the world, taking artists and scholars with him to record their findings in various lands, from botany to local culture to animal life.  Thanks to these people, we have artistic sketches and some information about life on Guam in 1792.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Si Jesus ha fa'gåse i addeng i man apostoles

Istorian i tano', desde ke umisao si Adan yan si Eba.  Desde ke ti man afa'maolek si Yu'us yan i taotao siha pot i isao-ñiha, ti siña umafa'maolek i taotao yan i prohimu-ña.  Che'lo kontra i che'lu-ña, besino kontra i besinu-ña, un råsa kontra otro na råsa. 

Pot los uttimos, annai sige ha' de ma aumenta i guinahan tåno', unos kuåntos na taotågue man huyong mås man gefsaga, mås man riko, mås man gai podet ke ni pumalo siha na taotågue.  Åmbres entre i man mofo'na siha na Chamorro, takkilo'-ña i matua ke ni mangåchang.

Eståba na guåha åmo yan muchåcho, rai yan takpapa....lao på'go, fuera de riko yan popble, solo guåha diknitårio yan otdinårio.  Ma tulaika i sisteman gobietno, ya ta elilihe pat ta bobota i diknitårio siha på'go na tiempo, lao i kostumbren taotao ti ma tulalaika.  Asta på'go, meggai beses, i diknitårio ha fa' bababa i otdinårio.

Si Jesus, ni guiya Låhen Yu'us, Saina yan Rai, dumimo på'pa' ya ha fa'gåse i addeng i takpapa na disipulo.  Giya Jesukristo nai ta lili'e na i diknitårio ha fa' mamaolek i otdinårio.

It's the story of the world.  Those who have, beat down those who haven't.  It used to be kings over people, lords over servants.  Besides rich and poor, now we just have dignitaries and ordinary people; and, what's more, we elect our dignitaries.  But human nature seldom changes.  At times, the dignitary gets the advantage over the ordinary citizen.

In Christ, who washed the feet of the student disciple, we see that the dignitary served the ordinary.

Friday, February 10, 2012


An old map of the Malabar Coast of India
(look to the left side of the map)

It just goes to show how unisolated the Marianas were 400 years ago when you stop and consider that someone from India had been living among Chamorros since 1638!

In that year, the Spanish galleon, the Concepción, sunk off the southern shores of Saipan.  There were many survivors, from a variety of races as would be expected on a ship owned by an international empire as Spain was in those days.  Some remained in our islands and became part of the local scene.

One of them was a man identified as being Lorenzo from Malabar.  Malabar was the name of the southwest coast of India, where Portuguese and then Dutch traders set up shop.  Lorenzo ended up sailing on the Concepción, perhaps as a slave, and stayed in the Marianas after it sunk.  There were thousands of Indian Christians from ancient times living in Malabar, so it wouldn't be a surprise if Lorenzo was a Christian from birth.

When Sanvitores settled on Guam in 1668 (thirty years later), Lorenzo joined as a missionary and was killed by anti-missionary Chamorros in 1669 on Anatahan.  Imagine living with Chamorros for 30 years, learning the language and culture, then being killed by some of the people you've been living with for that amount of time.  We don't know if Lorenzo fathered children in those 30 years, or if some of us have his blood flowing in our veins.
Indian blood was spilled there in 1669