Thursday, October 4, 2012


I was raised in Sinajaña, but my father sent me to Saint Francis School in Yoña for elementary school, from 1968 till 1974.  I was there 5 days a week for 9 months out of the year.  Since we weren't parishioners, monthly tuition was $35.  Our bus picked us up in Sinajaña where we picked up Francisco and Rosa Santos' children, usualy 3 or 4 at a time; and Erwin and Genaro Gorostiza, one of the first Filipinos I ever knew.  We picked up a few more in Chalan Pago and then we got off at Yoña.

Being mestisos to begin with, my haole dad wanted his three boys to grow up in a Chamorro environment where we would assimilate into the cultural mainstream.  Yoña was the best place to do that.

Some memories...

  • When I first got there in 1968, the sisters still wore the full habit, though modified.  I remember telling Sister Antoinette San Nicolas, "Your hair is showing!"  and she'd tuck it in.
  • I learned that there were families called Eustaquio, Balajadia, Sudo, Sayama, Baza, Quichocho and others; names I didn't hear too often in Sinajaña.
  • The dozen or more paintings depicting the life of St. Francis painted by Fr. Marcian that still hang in the nave of the church impressed me and may have had a part in my vocation.
  • Vatican II was just coming into full swing and the nuns taught us songs like "Sons of God, hear His holy Word, gather 'round the table of the Lord;" "And they'll know we are Christians by our love;" "Come let's share in the banquet of the Lord," "Kumbaya;" "Spirit of God in the clear-running water."
  • I made my first confession there and received First Holy Communion there.
  • I got into a fight with a pure haole guy and I don't even remember what it was about.  The funny thing is the Notre Dame sister who passed by just looked at us, and, without saying a word, walked away.  That's how bad we were as fighters.
  • Daily snacks were daigo, pickled mango, pickled papaya, konsetba, rakyo.
  • I had my first crush there, in the 4th grade.  It lasted a day.  Sign of future vocation.
  • I saw my first girl fight while sitting on the bus after school.  One of the two women fighting is still around.  I never bring it up when I see her.  But watching them made me scared.  I said to myself, "Don't mess with her."
  • The three Notre Dame sisters who taught me were Sisters Antoinette (RIP), Mona Therese (RIP) and Rosine Guerrero.  Rosine is still around.  She never ages.
  • Sister Antoinette was older already and I felt she was like a grandma.  Firm but sweet.
  • Sister Mona Therese I thought was beautiful, with serene gracious features like the Blessed Mother.
  • Sister Rosine was an excellent teacher.  She controlled us and never had to raise her voice.  Wow.  And she was a good music teacher.
  • Perhaps the first earthquake I remember happened at the school, in the 3rd grade.  It terrified me.  I thought the world was going to end.  We walked past the pastor, Fr. Daniel, and he just chuckled at our fears.  Very sympathetic.
  • Whenever it would rain, the gutters would be filled with tadpoles as if out of nowhere.
  • A Notre Dame nun (who shall remain nameless) scolded me severely when a classmate started banging the louvers in the auditorium while a school play practice was going on.  My crime?  Just looking at him mess around and not doing anything about it.   First time I learned what "my brother's keeper" meant.
  • The students all said never to go to the far rear of the school, which was the convent wing at the edge of the cliff.  They said it was haunted.  I think it was just a way to keep us from seeing the nun's laundry hanging on the line.  There were no dryers in those days.  We still sneaked back there and felt a great sense of accomplishment we did it and didn't get caught.
  • In the 1st grade, after lunch, we all had to lay our heads down on our desk while the office piped in soothing instrumental music on the PA system.  I never did sleep.  I never could understand the concept of "sleeping on command."  I think it was more for the benefit of the teachers.
  • By the 5th grade, Urban Renewal started in Yoña and roads were torn up and old houses demolished.  The aunt who raised me, my grandmother's sisters, worked for Urban Renewal at the field office in Yoña.  Somehow she managed to have the sisters allow me to go to her field office and eat lunch with her.  It saved me 50 cents.  The Yoña kids also had that option, to walk home for lunch if their homes were nearby.
  • I met my first New Zealander at St. Francis School.  He was Maori, whose mom and dad came to Guam to work in the hotels as Polynesian singers and dancers.  We all laughed when he called the gas station a "petrol station."
  • One of the BEST things about Yoña in those days was the Cruz home bakery.  I believe Tan Gloria was one of the sisters.  Right there in their home, they had huge industrial ovens and baked rolls every day.  How good they smelled!  And when my aunt worked in the Urban Renewal field office, we would stop by there and buy some every now and then.
  • My aunt would also get her pugua' (betel nut) supply from old Mrs. Ichihara.  She was a huge woman who seemed permanently fixed to her drooping couch, with bags of pugua' in front her as she removed most of the husk with her tiheras pugua' (betel nut scissors).
  • One morning, we heard fire engines.  Then the teachers had all of us go out to the roadside.  A wooden house was on fire.  It was the home of the student standing next to me.  Tears rolled down his eyes as he looked at his house, with all his belongings, go up in flames.  For some reason, I had a sandwich.  I gave it to him without saying a word.  He ate it without saying a word.  I don't think he really cared about the sandwich.  I think he was stunned.  But I spontaneously wanted to comfort him in some way and with no forethought that's what I did.  Fourth or fifth grade.  Now that I look back, I find it strange that the teachers wanted us to all go out and look at this house burning.
There are more things I remember, but this is long enough.  I really treasure my six years in Yoña.  My dad made a wise decision.

Sister Rose Marie Manibusan, SSND, was never my teacher, but that's how the Notre Dame sisters looked like when I first saw them in 1968.

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