Friday, September 26, 2014


Guam's Lepblon Kånta
"Katoliko" is not found in the Guam hymnal

"Katoliko" is one of the better-known Chamorro Catholic hymns in all the Marianas. But, oddly enough, it is not found in the Guam Chamorro Catholic hymnal, the Lepblon Kånta, which was printed before World War II.

The reason is because "Katoliko" was first sung in Saipan. We do not know who wrote the Chamorro lyrics. It does not appear among the hymns composed by the German Capuchins, so it was more than likely written during the Japanese period. Oral tradition says Gregorio Sablan (Kilili') may have had something to do with its composition. That means he probably assisted a Jesuit priest stationed in Saipan with the Chamorro text. Or, he could have composed the Chamorro lyrics entirely. Ton Kilili', as he was known, was the strongest lay leader in the Church in Saipan at the time.

After the war, Guam and Saipan became united under the one Catholic mission, or Apostolic Vicariate, based in Guam. Bishop Baumgartner was responsible for the Northern Marianas, as well as Guam (and Wake!).

Påle' Jose Tardio, a Spanish Jesuit, stayed on in Saipan till 1947 to ease the transition from him to the American Capuchins. Father Ferdinand Stippich, an American Capuchin who came to Guam in 1939 and who spoke basic Chamorro, was the first American friar assigned to Saipan. The Chamorros called him "Påle' Fernando."

It was he who thought it might be a good idea to send Saipanese choir members to Guam to teach the Chamorros of Guam the hymn "Katoliko." Maybe it was thought a good idea to create some contact between the Chamorros of both islands, since they were now, for that time, one Vicariate. The war was just over, and there were still bitter feelings among many Guam Chamorros about some Saipanese interpreters (and this lasted for well over 40 years). Perhaps they could find some common ground in their common Catholic faith.

As Tan Esco narrates, she was one of those sent to Guam to do this. As she says, a good number of Saipan Chamorros, as herself, had close relatives on Guam with whom she could stay. She implies that two families had a friendly competition who would house her.

Some notes on our dialogue :

1. Notice the way she disciplines the children to be quiet. 

2. She uses the expression "Manana si Yu'us" in the traditional way, meaning "When daylight broke," not as a greeting, which only came about in the last ten years or so.

3. She uses the word chatgon, meaning "cheerful, smiling."

4. Her word for "not yet" is the Saipan form tarabia, whereas on Guam it is trabia. Both forms are derived from the Spanish todavía.

No comments:

Post a Comment