Wednesday, March 11, 2015


José María Tuason
Wealthy Chinese-Filipino of the 1800s

Pre-war Chamorros on Guam had a saying.

"An måtto si Tuason." "When Tuason comes."


Too bad the generation that started this saying is dead, so they could tell us what they meant by this saying. They didn't write these things down, either.

But, their children and grandchildren, many of whom are still alive and remember this saying, tell me that Tuason was some rich Filipino. The idea was that, when Tuason comes to Guam, he brings lots of money and, humorously, none of us have anything to worry about when he comes. We will all have the money to take care of anything.

So, if someone wanted to buy something, but it was expensive, they could say, "Po'lo para an måtto si Tuason." "Leave it for when Tuason comes (to Guam)."

If someone wanted to give someone else a tip or some money, but didn't have it, he or she could say, "Nangga asta ke måtto si Tuason." "Wait till Tuason comes." When Tuason comes, I'll then be able to tip you, or give you some money.

Or, if someone looked rich or dressed in fine clothing, he or she could be told, "Kalan hao si Tuason." "You're like Tuason."


But why should Chamorros know anything about a rich Filipino during Spanish times? As far as I know, no rich Filipino named Tuason came to Guam. And why would he? What possible incentive would there be for a rich Filipino to come to Guam in the 1800s? In those days, there was little to no money to be made here, and very little to spend money on even if you had it.

But it is possible that Chamorros who had connections in the Philippines came back with knowledge of a fabulously rich Filipino named Tuason.


The Chamorro saying is based on actual fact. There was an immensely wealthy man in the Philippines named Tuason; Antonio Tuason, to be exact. He was so rich, he was made a Spanish noble by the King of Spain, as a reward for his loyalty to Spain against the English and the Moros. His descendants inherited his enviable land holdings in the greater Manila area. José María, pictured above, was one such descendant.

But how did Chamorros 1500 miles away know anything about him?


Some Chamorros in the 1800s did spend time in Manila. The Calvos of the Marianas actually have their origin in Manila first (after Spain) before they came to Guam and married into Chamorro families.

Interestingly, a Tuason lady married a Calvo. I'm not sure if this Calvo is connected to our Chamorro Calvos, but it is entirely possible.

Furthermore, two men, a Calvo and a Tuason, both worked in the same government office in Manila in the 1800s.

To make things more interesting, here on Guam, in 1873, Vicente Calvo sued the heirs of Petrona Tuason, a member of the rich Tuason family. But what the issue was exactly is unknown.


Even stronger and more probable, in my opinion, is the Barcinas-Tuason connection.

The Barcinas clan of the Marianas are descendants of the Filipino Barcinases who moved to Guam. They were all descendants of Eustaquia María Tuason, daughter of Antonio, founder of the wealthy Tuason family.

In fact, four members of the Chamorro Barcinas clan  - Tomás Cruz Barcinas, Benita Cruz Barcinas, Tomás Reyes Barcinas and María Barcinas Manibusan - sold all their rights to the Tuason holdings in the Philippines in 1894 for the sum of 5000 pesos.

In some correspondence of that era, someone discussing a possible enterprise but needing capital is remembered to have said, "Let's use the Barcinas money," to fund the project. The "Barcinas money" spoken of was probably this income from their Tuason shares. Thanks to Carlos Madrid for reminding me of this.


Popular sayings like "An måtto si Tuason" usually have no provable origin.

Whatever the case, we'd all be a lot better off when Tuason finally arrives on Guam.

We're still waiting.

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