Saturday, March 7, 2015


There used to be a time when Chamorros looked towards Manila when they needed something our islands could not give them

Sort of what we do now when it comes to Saint Luke's Hospital at Global City.

But 100 years ago, when it came to commerce and education, we cast our gaze westwards to Manila.

So it happened to a young boy in Dededo named José Roberto Palomo.

Courtesy of Dolores Palomo

José's father and mother lived on their ranch in Dededo, mainly growing corn, among other things. But an uncle, on his father's side, had been a sailing man for many years. After seeing a lot of the world, this uncle settled in the Binondo district of Manila. The uncle wrote to José's father, suggesting that he send the young José to live with him in Manila and enroll in a school there that could provide an education unavailable in Guam at the time.

In 1912, José entered the Liceo de Manila, a private school recently opened by highly educated Filipinos, like Leon Ma. Guerrero, an academic and Philippine nationalist. Most of the education imparted at the Liceo was in Spanish, still the language of prestige in the Philippines even after the Americans arrived.

Courtesy of Dolores Palomo
José Palomo in the uniform of the Liceo's military-training battalion. One can see the initials "L.M." on the collar.


José's stay at the Liceo was nothing short of successful. He did outstanding work there, winning many honors. It was just the beginning of an academic career that brought him to become the first Chamorro to earn a Doctorate many years later.

Palomo spent the rest of his life mainly in the United States, in both academia and in business. He passed away in the U.S. in 1995.


In 1950, Palomo was called back home to Guam to become the Director of Education. Back on Guam, he envisioned founding a teacher training program. In due time, this became the Territorial College of Guam, which also in time became the University of Guam.

In the early 50s, some stateside parents advocated for segregated schools, with the mainland students separate from the local students. The rationale, they claimed, was that the stateside children were being slowed down in academic progress by the local students. Palomo opposed this move towards segregated schools and the idea disappeared.

Courtesy of Dolores Palomo

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