Friday, March 8, 2013


Her name was Isabel Rosario Rivera Santos.

But to us she was Tan Sabet Såra.

She was a sweet elderly lady who always wore the mestisa.  From time to time she would come to our house to be the techa at some devotion or novena.  My family had no shortage of techa; my grandmother's spinster sister could do them all.  But asking Tan Sabet to be the techa from time to time kept a friendship going.

These were the days when families would have frequent devotions in the home.  I noticed in mine that certain individuals would be invited for specific devotions, and others for other devotions.

I often wondered where the Såra came from.  As I grew up, it sounded more to me like the Spanish/Chamorro form of the name Sarah, which it is.  I am told the Såra refers to the Rosario side of the family, so I am guessing there was a Sara Rosario in the lineage.  Perhaps I'll find such a person in the research one day.

Tan Sabet and my grandmother would also talk on the phone, chirping away in Chamorro.  I could understand bits and pieces only at the time.  I was a mere ten or eleven years old.

And, for some inexplicable reason, my grandmother handed me the phone with no clue as to why, when she was speaking with Tan Sabet.  Maybe grandma just needed me to keep Tan Sabet on the line for a while till grandma came back.

But while I had her on the phone, I clearly remember Tan Sabet telling me, "Cha'-mo maleleffa fumino' Chamorro, sa' lengguahi-ta."  "Don't forget to speak Chamorro, because it's our language."

I managed to say "Hunggan" or "Si, señora," I forget which; but I said something in the affirmative.

It struck me that she was not berating me for hardly being able to speak Chamorro at the time.  And that she was speaking to me in full-blown Chamorro as if I knew every word she was saying.  Her approach was positive and encouraging.

Very sweet lady.  A generation that is pretty much gone.  Too bad for us.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't communicate in Chamorro much until I lived in Saipan and their version had a lot of Japanese words, but I feel fortunate to have learned. I learned to read when I started to help as a lector at San Juan Bautista chamorro mass on Sundays. Mrs. Umpingco (my brother's mother-in-law) helped me alot with some of the most troublesome words as well as my old friend, the late Felomena U. Diaz (better known as "Menang") who passed away July, 2012. Menang also did some translations of some songs from the Music Issue into chamorro which we sang for those masses; Pete & Rosa Quitugua have since taken the reigns and lead the congregation on Sunday.