Wednesday, April 18, 2012


There's always a lot of talk about Chamorro culture; what it means to be Chamorro.  And a lot of it, I think, misses the point.

It's not just, or even mainly, about necklaces and dances and chants, which are sometimes our own creations based partly on limited historic descriptions written by foreigners, and partly on our own imagination.

It's mainly, I suggest, about values and ways of thinking.

Take, for example, the elderly Chamorro man I visited last night in one of our southern villages.  We talked about his declining health, and he told me that some years ago, both he and another man from the same village, sharing the same first name, last name and middle initial, were both getting medical attention at GMH.  They had the same middle initial, but for two different names.

GMH sent this man the medical bills for both him and the other man!  The other man's bill, by the way, amounted to $3,000.

What did this man do?  He PAYED THE OTHER MAN'S BILL.

I asked him why, when he had his own bill to pay.

"Hu konsidera, Påle', na mås diddide' salape'-ña i kilisyåno ki ni guaho."  "I considered, Father, that the man had less money than me."

More than that, Chamorros of this man's generation, Catholic and Chamorro to the core, don't even think twice about doing something munificent like that.  They don't struggle and weigh the pros and cons.  They just do it; naturally, spontaneously.  They trust that God will make all things turn out alright.

THAT - to my mind - is Chamorro culture; at least what I saw in my grandmother and her generation, spiritually and psychologically formed at a time some people consider less pristine.

If only our "recovery" of the Chamorro culture today would include a recovery of such values.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful story and I share the sentiment that this alone would be a wonderful legacy of Chamorro culture.

    In my experience, it is still practiced today, and it is practiced among Chamorros not on Guam as well. I do notice that we tend to want to provide an explanation such as, "Oh, I think you paid the bill last time", or "I want to pay because I don't see you guys very often". But I feel like it is more than that. It is almost an instinctive action to express appreciation for someone or somethings, a form of tythe. And I think it reinforces a giving up of control, like you said, to trust that God will make all things turn out.