Saturday, May 25, 2013


Told by a woman from Inalåhan.  July of 1944 during World War II :

Gi annai esta para u fan hålom i Amerikåno, ya ma tutuhon ma bomba i isla,
(When the Americans were ready to come in, and the bombing of the island started,)

Ha ågang ham todos si tatan-måme.
(Our dad called all of us.)

Lao ti ma sodda' i mås åmko' na che'lun-måme låhe.
(But our oldest brother wasn't found.)

Ma sokne si bihan-måme na guiya kumonne' i che'lun-måme para u ga'chong-ña.
(They supposed that our grandmother took him to be her companion.)

Lao ti in tingo' amåno na gaige i dos.
(But we didn't know where those two were.)

Pues hame man attok ham gi halom un liyang.
(So we hid inside a cave.)

Despues, annai esta man måtto i Amerikåno ya manhuyong todo i taotao,
(Later, when the Americans came and the people came out)

Man a'sodda' ham yan si bihan-måme yan i che'lun-måme,
(We met our grandmother and our brother,)

ya pokpopok atdet i patås-ña i che'lun-måme.
(and our brother's foot was really swollen.)

"Amåno na eståba hamyo na dos?" ilek-ña si tatå-ho.
(My father said, "Where have you two been?")

Man oppe si bihå-ho, "Hu konne' este ya umattok ham gi liyang giya Malojloj."
(My grandmother answered, "I took him and we hid in a cave in Malojloj.")

Ya in pe'lo na guaha håfa na taotaomo'na guihe na liyang ya nina'ye si che'lun-måme ni chetnot maipe.
(And we supposed that there was some ancient spirit there in that cave and our brother got sick from the spirit.)

Si bihan-måme ha konne' si che'lun-måme para as San Roque giya Barrigada ya ayo ha' na mumågong i chetnot-ña chetnot maipe.
(Our grandmother took our brother to San Roque in Barrigada and only then did his sickness abate.)

This short and simple story is full of cultural and linguistic tidbits :

Chetnot maipe - is the term used for a sickness caused by, so it is believed, the spirit of an ancestor.  Literally it means "hot sickness," meaning it causes inflammation of some kind, like a swollen foot, ankle or hand.  Western medicine cannot cure it.  From the gist of the story, Chamorros would assume that the boy did something inside the cave to upset a spirit, like urinating or disturbing the place or making noise. 

Bomba - the older meaning is "to pump."  There was no word for "bombing" since airplanes dropping bombs is a new reality.  But older Chamorros use the word also for the modern kind of bombing.  In Spanish, the bomb itself is called bomba; bombardear is the verb in Spanish "to bomb."

Che'lun-måme låhe - There is no separate Chamorro words for "sister" or "brother."  Che'lo means both brother or sister.  To distinguish them, we add "låhe" or "male" for "brother" and "palao'an" or "woman" for "sister."

Sokne - means "to accuse" but here it is not used in a derogatory way.  Here it means "to allege, purport, imply, suggest" as a way of explaining something.

Påtas - this shows this is a Guam Chamorro speaking, because originally the word for "foot" is addengPåtas was only an animal's foot, or the leg of a table or chair.  In the rest of the Marianas addeng is still used for the human foot.

Mågong - not to be confused with måhgong.  The latter means "peace" and the former means "to be cured of, relieved of a sickness."

San Roque - a healing saint.  His chapel was in Barrigada since before the war.  He himself had a sore on his leg, as can be seen in his statue.  Veneration for him was strong among Chamorros for relief from sickness, especially contagious diseases.

The story shows a combination of both ancient and Spanish-influenced thinking.  The cause of the sickness is the irritated spirit of an ancestor; the cure for the sickness is a Catholic saint!

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