Ana Taitano Gay
When one reads the early records of the Chamorro Protestant community on Guam, one is struck by the repeated references to Ana Taitano Gay. She was a pillar of the fledgling community, a haligin Protestånte, at a time when Chamorro Protestants received a cold shoulder, alternating with heated condemnation, from some of their Catholic neighbors, relatives and all.
Ana was the daughter of Jose Mendiola Taitano (Kueto) and his wife, Juana Perez San Nicolas. Born in 1877 during Spanish times, she was baptized a Catholic, as were all her siblings. She had a twin sister, Maria, who later married Tomas Cruz Gutierrez.
But in 1899, her father, who had been exposed to Protestantism during his years as a whaler, formally left Catholicism to publicly embrace Protestantism when the Custino (Castro) brothers came back to Guam from Hawaii to begin a Protestant church in their native land. The American flag flying over Guam guaranteed their freedom to do so.
Ana embraced Protestantism with great enthusiasm. She was a constant presence in the mission. Eventually, she became the backbone of the Day School established by the Protestant mission. The Day School, separate from the Sunday School which only taught religion, focused on English language classes, with an average enrollment of around 20 students, some of them Catholic. Ana herself learned much of her English from Rosa Custino, daughter of Luis, one of the two Custino brothers. Rosa had been born and educated in Hawaii.
At the time, the Protestant mission on Guam was affiliated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and had a Congregationalist orientation in theology, worship and practice. They baptized infants, for example, unlike the Baptists.
Another important member of the Protestant mission on Guam was Elmer Lee Gay, a Congregationalist deacon originally from Illinois. He was, at the time, a clerk in the paymaster's office of the Naval Government on Guam. At times, when the mission lacked an ordained minister to run things, Elmer shared temporary administrative powers with another American member of the Protestant community, a Mr. Sanderson, also working in the paymaster's office. Ana, the mission school teacher and deaconess, married Elmer in those early years. They eventually had nine children.
The following quote is attributed by Reverend Francis M. Price, the American Protestant missionary, to Ana Taitano, concerning the social isolation Chamorro Protestants experienced in those early years, "But what need I care? I have my Bible and I have Jesus."
Ana Gay eventually became a teacher in the public schools run by the Naval Government. In 1910, the American Board decided to withdraw from Guam. By 1911, the General Baptists took over the Protestant mission on Guam.
Beginning under Congregationalist tutelage, continuing under the Baptists, Tan Ana would, many years later, move to a third form of Protestantism - the Seventh Day Adventists. The Adventists did not establish a presence on Guam until right after World War II, but Tan Ana was one of their earliest and strongest converts. She donated the land where the SDA church sits today in Agaña Heights.
SDA Church in Agaña Heights
Elmer, by the way, even in his old age, had to endure POW camp in Japan from 1942 till 1945. Upon his release at war's end, he returned to Guam.
Gay Drive in Agaña Heights, right across from the SDA Church, serves as a reminder of the presence of the family in that location.
|From the personal collection of Susan Gay Kirk|