Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Chamorro matrons in black veils during Good Friday procession in the 1920s

In modern Guam, people argue whether chicken is meat or not, when discussing the Church's Lenten regulations. Forty years ago, no one ever asked that question. Everyone understood that chicken was not eaten on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.

Little do people know how much more strict our grandparents observed the Lenten penances in their day.

A sermon written in Chamorro in the year 1873 explains these Lenten regulations. Here are the main points, with some explanations in the Chamorro spoken at the time, 150 years ago or so.

1. During Lent, all seven Fridays of Lent were fast days AS WELL AS Holy Saturday (which is not the case today). Interestingly, Ash Wednesday was not a fast day for the faithful in the Marianas and , I suppose, also the Philippines, since the Marianas were included in the laws of the Philippines.

Most of the Catholic world had many more fast days but Rome reduced their number for places like the Philippines and the Marianas, considering the indios (natives) weaker in physical strength to be able to withstand a more rigorous fast.

2. On fast days, breakfast was limited to an ounce and a half of food devoid of animal substance.

Para u fan gef ayunat i kilisyåno, u kånno', gin oga'an, onsa i media na nengkanno' ni i tai iyo sustånsian gå'ga'. Pot ehemplo, chokolåte, chå, kafe, un tasitan atule, un pedasiton titiyas, pat kuatkiera ha' otro na nengkanno' yagin tai iyo sustånsian gå'ga'.

For the Christian to truly fast, he will eat, if in the morning, an ounce and a half of food lacking animal substance. For example, chocolate, tea, coffee, a small cup of atule (corn porridge), a small piece of tortilla, or whatever other food if it lacks animal substance.

3. On fast days, a person can eat for lunch whatever his stomach needs, except meat as these days were also days of abstinence. But he could eat fish, and cook it even in lard (animal fat).

4. On fast days, a person's dinner was limited to eight ounces of food, but no animal substance at all, except that he could cook his vegetables in lard (animal fat) as that was allowed in the Philippines, under which the Marianas fell.

Gin puenge, siña u kolasion asta ocho onsas na nengkanno', lao atotta gi kolasion kåtne pat guihan, lao siña u kosina håf na gollai yan i mantika, sa' ma konsiente gine giya Filipinas.

At night, he can have a light meal up to eight ounces, but it is forbidden to have meat or fish, but he can cook whatever vegetable in lard, because it is allowed here in the Philippines.

5. Abstinence was the refraining from eating meat, and those days did include Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent, plus Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday. The Church regulations speak of only two kinds of animal food : meat and fish. Chicken and other poultry were thus clearly identified as meat and not fish.

6. Here is an interesting Lenten rule of the past that, even today, some older Chamorros remember and observe! And that is to never eat both meat and fish at the same meal on any day in Lent. This is because, at one time, that was actually the rule!

I ha'åne siha nai atotta ma na' danña' kåtne yan guihan, este siha : todo i ha'åne siha gi Kuaresma asta i Damenggo-ña siha lokkue', yan i ha'ånen ayunat.

The days when it is forbidden to mix meat and fish are these : all the days of Lent including their Sundays, and the fast days.


Even in these short, partial excerpts from the Chamorro sermon we see some old words not used nowadays, or not used in the same way today.

Atotta : it means "forbidden."

Kolasion : a light meal.

Yagin : another form of the word yanggen (meaning "if").

Gine : another form of the word guine (meaning "here").

Kosina : known to us today as "kitchen," which it also meant in the past, but back then it could also mean "to cook."

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