Monday, August 25, 2014


What was the traditional Chamorro attitude towards illegitimate children?

It's an interesting question because there was a high frequency of illegitimate births among Chamorros even when religion pervaded the atmosphere a hundred years ago.  Almost every family had an occurrence of illegitimate births somewhere along the way.

But it was normally considered something scandalous.  Let's hear what one of our mañaina in the clip has to say.

First, I ask her what is the Chamorro custom concerning illegitimate children.  She says,

"I sinanganen-ña si nanå-ho annai kokkokolo' yo' ilek-ña, este i patgon sanhiyong ma nåna'na'.  Anggen på'go ma fa'tinas, ma nåna'na' i nana, sa' ma å'ålok eyo na kalan desgustao gi familia, man a'abak, pues ilek-ña ma nåna'na' sa' na' mamahlao gi familia, dångkulo na eye i kalan isao na cho'cho' gi familia ni ma sedi ayo na påtgon para u mafañågo.  An mafañågo ayo na påtgon, matakpånge ha', lao kalan ma nåna'na'."  (My mother's saying when I was growing up was that the illegitimate child was hidden.  When the child is born, the mother hides it, because they said it was like a dishonor in the family, they went astray, so she said they hid the child because it was shameful for the family, it was like a sinful thing for the family to let that child be born illegitimate.  When the child was born, it was baptized, but it was like they hid the child.)

I then told her that I had heard that some fathers who had illegitimate children did take care of them, even making them heirs of his property.  She said,

"I para u ma erensia i patgon baståtdo?  Ennague ma såsångan na anggen gai tano' ya sopbla lao man mofo'na i famagu'on propio ni i famagu'on sakramento."  (To make heirs of the illegitimate child?  That's what they say when the person has land and has extra land, but his proper children from the sacrament of matrimony come first.")

So, to sum up the traditional Chamorro attitudes :

1. Though it happened quite a lot, illegitimate births were not something to be proud of, much less think normal.  It was considered a moral failure, and to be hid as much as possible.

2. One way they did this was not to throw christening parties for the child.  The child was baptized, but quietly.

3. Rarely were illegitimate children told who their biological fathers were.  It was not a topic for open discussion.  Sometimes the child was lucky to hear from someone outside the immediate family who the father was.

4. Sometimes the illegitimate child was acknowledged by the biological father and taken cared of by him, usually from a distance because he normally had his own wife and children from her, whom he had to care for up close.

The common Chamorro term for a child born out of wedlock was påtgon sanhiyong. It means, "Child from the outside," meaning "outside marriage" or "outside the union of husband and wife."

A harsher word, usually avoided and not told to the illegitimate child directly, was baståtdo, meaning "bastard," borrowed from the Spanish language.

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