Friday, November 1, 2013


(In this short clip of just 22 seconds, several cultural values are manifested.  The matriarch shows herself a) the boss, commanding her grandkids to b) reverence the hand of the priest the Chamorro way, putting the hand to the nose.  Finally, she shows approval for someone by calling them "månnge'" or "delicious.")

The Chamorro community lost an important cultural icon in the passing of Escolastica Tudela Cabrera of Saipan, better known as Tan Esco.

She was a great resource for my blog and I have less to offer you now because she is no longer here for me to interview.

Esco was truly an icon of the Chamorro culture that those of us old enough to know first-hand ruled the land for the last 250 years or more.  Agrarian, Catholic, family-centered.

She spoke the language beautifully.  She was matriarch; strong-willed and not shy about expressing herself.  There were times I had to edit my recordings of her because she named names.

She was born into the Tudela and Borja clans in Saipan.  Her parents and grandparents came from that generation of Chamorros influenced by the Spaniards.  She knew some Spanish words and phrases and recalled how her elders could say prayers in Spanish.  She had some early training under the Spanish Mercedarian sisters.

She also spoke very good Japanese, having gone to Japanese school when Saipan was under the Japanese flag.


Tan Esco was not born rich, and she did not die rich either.  But all her adult life she and her late husband, Gregorio Cabrera, worked very hard to raise their many children.  Esco was the type of person to see an opportunity and take advantage of it.  She learned skills so that she could do any number of things.  Whatever was near at hand, she put her hand to it.

She would wake up at 2AM to start her work.  Making food she would sell.  Baking.  Opening up businesses.  Many of the foods she made came from the grounds and trees surrounding her home.


Esco was unabashedly Catholic.  Fully dedicated to all things Catholic and, if you were not, she would preach to you to become one.

She was a prayer warrior.  Every hour, on the hour.  The type to wake up in the middle of the night and reach for her rosary.  Her home was strewn with mail from every traditional Catholic organization soliciting donations and sending her devotional leaflets.

She had a chapel or oratory built on her property next to her home.

As does happen with many strong personalities, some people shied away from her.  But I will miss her stories, her truly Chamorro way of thinking and speaking, her complete loyalty to her religion and her knowledge of a level of our culture, tied to the land and all the land's resources, that is disappearing as we speak.

U såga gi minahgong.
Find out more about her life at :

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