Monday, December 23, 2013


From Luta (Rota) comes this charming Christmas carol which borrows from several Spanish melodies and combines them into this medley.

It's very possible that a German missionary in Luta, Capuchin Father Corbinian Madre, wrote much of these verses, because we do know that he composed other hymns in Chamorro for the people of Luta, using music already known in Europe.  But, as far as I know, we have no clear evidence that he is the author of these Chamorro verses.

Another clue that the author is perhaps a foreign missionary is the use of Spanish terms that were not in wide usage among Chamorros even at that time.  Many of the German Capuchins who were sent to the Northern Marianas, from 1907 till the Japanese expelled the last of them in 1919, spoke some Spanish and freely incorporated Spanish vocabulary into their Chamorro speech and writings, even if the majority of Chamorros didn't always understand some words.


I ångheles mangåkånta yan suåbe na kompås :
"Gloria as Yu'us gi langet yan para i taotao pås!"
Gloria para i taotao tåno' pås!
Gloria a Dios en las Alturas;
para i taotao tåno' pås!
Mafañågo i Mesias
giya Belen gi un pottåt.
Gloria para i taotao tåno' pas!
Ya u hongga i tembåt,
dåndån-ña u ma dånsa!
Pastores a pottåt,
fatoigue sin tåtdånsa!
Guihe, guihe, guihe ta sodda' si Jesus!
Guihe, guihe ta sodda' si Jesus!
Ta chule' i turrones yan miet
ya ta ofrese i Niño Manuel!  Manuel!
The angels are singing with a gentle rhythm :
"Glory to God in heaven and peace to mankind."
Glory, peace to mankind on earth!
Glory to God in the Highest,
peace to mankind on earth!
The Messiah has been born,
in Bethlehem, in a stable.
Glory, peace to mankind on earth!
May the sound of the drum be heard,
may they dance to its beat!
Shepherds, to the stable,
go without delay!
There, there, there we will find Jesus!
There, there we will find Jesus!
Let's take nougat and honey
and offer the child Emmanuel!  Emmanuel!
---The opening line, "I ångheles mangåkånta...." is the same line of a carol sung in Saipan.  It seems this Luta carol is a medley of several musical pieces.
---Notice the line "Gloria a Dios en las Alturas" is left completely untranslated.  It is kept in its original Spanish, perhaps to rhyme with pås.
---Tembåt.  The more familiar word for "drum" is tambot, from the Spanish tambor.  This is more than likely tambot but there is a change in vowel placement.  Perhaps a distinctive Rotanese version of tambot.  Conveniently, tembåt rhymes with pottåt, seen in the next lines.
---Dånsa.  Again, the usual word for "dance" is baila.  Both baila and dånsa are borrowed from the Spanish and they both are connected to the word "dance."
---Pottåt.  In Saipan and Luta, the word for "stable" is often pottåt, from the Spanish portal.  On Guam, the more usual word is liyang for "cave."  Depending on the Gospel, Jesus was born in a stable or in a cave.  So, on Guam, pottåt is rarely heard.
---Pastores a pottåt.  The phrase, though pronounced in a Chamorro way, is thoroughly Spanish.  The word "a" means "to," in Spanish.  "Shepherds, to the stable!"
---Tåtdånsa.  From the Spanish tardanza for "delay."  This is a word almost unknown among Chamorros, even very senior ones, today.  But perhaps in those days a few more people were familiar with it.
---Turrones.  A Spanish candy, like nougat.  The singers in this recording pronounce it "tarones."
---Miet.  Honey, and is borrowed from the Spanish miel.  The singers here pronounce it "muet."


At least one part of the Rota version is taken from this traditional Spanish villancico, or Christmas carol.

I find it charming that the Chamorro version runs quite parallel to the Spanish :

Allí, allí  (Guihe, guihe)
nos espera Jesús.  (Ta sodda' si Jesus)

Llevemos pues turrones y miel (Ta chule' i turrones yan miet)
para ofrecer al Niño Enmanuel. (ya ta ofrese i Niño Manuel.)

***Some Spanish versions just say Manuel rather than Enmanuel.  They both mean the same thing.


  1. Wow, this made me wistful... I remember when I was young and would always join one of the Niño caroling groups from our church in our village and go around house-to-house so the people can kiss the baby Jesus. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Es éste un villancico precioso en el idioma chamorro. Conozco dos villancicos en español que todavía se preservan en Guam: "PASTORES A BELEN" y "NOCHEBUENA NOCHE SANTA".