Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The uniquely gifted Sidro Torres of Santa Rita saw an old photo of a man resting his head on a wooden pillow while he lay on a guåfak (woven mat).

History shows that pillows were made of all sorts of materials all over the world before today's soft, stuffed pillow became ubiquitous. The ancients used wood, stone, straw, bamboo and even porcelain.

Sidro made the pillow out of narra wood which, though not native to Guam, grows here in limited quantity. In fact, he had to get the narra wood at a private ranch.

In the old days, people did with what they had.

Before stores existed, people made their own pillows using the cotton-like bulbs of the kapok tree, called the trongkon atgidon in Chamorro. Atgidon is the Chamorro form of algodón, the Spanish word for cotton. Though not true cotton, it is very similar in feel and Chamorros would take whatever fabric they had, make a sack, stuff it with kapok and sew it closed.

Fallen bulbs of the trongkon atgidon

If atgidon was not available, people in those days used what they had. They would fold up some clothes or fabric or, as seen above, use a wooden pillow or block to rest their head. Sometimes, they wouldn't use a pillow at all. Or, as one elder said, they would rest their head on someone else's body.

Ha fa' alunan i tiyan nanå-ña!

S/he made a pillow of his/her mother's tummy!

Sidro Torres

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