Monday, February 10, 2014


You wear all your religious medals on one safety pin on the outside of your dress.

Of course, many other countries, especially those which were once under the Spanish flag, do the same, but this was a very common thing among Chamorro women in the not too distant past.

The idea of putting all the medals on one single safety pin might be more seen among us, though am sure it happens elsewhere.

That Chamorro women started early in colonial times wearing religious medals and beads is attested to in these scenes from the early 1800s, when Chamorro women still liked to smoke homemade cigars made from locally-grown tobacco :

A religious medal is called a melåya in Chamorro.  Melåya is the Chamorro pronunciation of the Spanish word medalla, meaning "medal."

The LL in Spanish is sounded like a Y, which, in Chamorro, sounds like a DZ.

Chamorro tends to prefer L in place of D and N.  Natilla in Spanish, for example, beomes latiya in Chamorro.  Naranjita in Spanish becomes lalanghita in Chamorro.  So, medalla became melåya.

Chamorro women were so wont to wear these melåya all bundled up this way, on the outside of their dresses or sometimes on their inner undershirt.

When these women were inpatients in hospital, the melåya would often interfere with tubes and wires attached to the women, but not the sternest nurse could get the women to take them off.  All the more reason, they said, to wear the melåya when they were sick in the hospital.

1 comment:

  1. My dear Mother who will be 90 next month wears several medals on a safety pin pinned to her bra. This post made me smile.