Friday, February 5, 2016



Or in the Marianas, for that matter. And since westernization, to be precise. Prior to 1668, our ancestors were not Christian and were obviously buried in our islands.

But ever since Catholic Spain began to run things, only Catholic cemeteries were allowed in the Marianas, under the supervision of the local priest.

So, if you were not Catholic (and the islands always had non-Catholic residents, at least in the 1800s), where was your body laid to rest if you died in the Marianas?

The fact is that Catholic cemeteries had provisions for that possibility.

Catholic cemeteries were consecrated and a fence or a wall marked the area that was consecrated. Right outside that fence or wall was the space provided for non-Catholics, unbaptized babies, suicides and "public sinners," meaning Catholics who lived in a public way in contradiction to the religion who died without reconciling with the Church. Catholics who died unrepentant of living with a partner outside of marriage, or Catholics who joined the Freemasons, for example, would be buried here. Many of these prohibitions concerning burial in a Catholic cemetery are no longer in force, but I remember the days visiting a relative's grave which was outside the fence.

It is documented that, during Spanish times, Protestants and others were buried at Pigo but in the unconsecrated portion of the cemetery.


As far as I know, we don't have any existing documentation detailing the opening of this cemetery but the first burial we know of dates back to 1902, during the tenure of the second American Naval Governor of Guam, Seaton Schroeder.

Seeing the need for a burial space for their own personnel and for the increasing number of non-Catholics on American Guam, the Naval Government chose this site for a military cemetery. At the time, this area of Hagåtña, called San Antonio, as yet had a small population. This area would have been at the outer edge of the barrio or district. But it wouldn't be long before the population grew and new houses would be built to the east of the cemetery. The beach and the road in front served as the northern and southern borders.


The oldest grave is that of an American Marine private, Elwood Hopkins. But more than just active stateside military personnel are buried here. There are some spouses, children and retired military men, too. And there are also some Chamorro military men, both active and retired.

Jesus L. Guerrero, Chamorro, was in the Navy and died during World War II in 1944

Ah Shun Chang was Chinese and a member of the Auxiliary Services of the US Navy, which probably meant he was a cook or other domestic worker in the Navy.

Francisco Unpingco Rivera was a Chamorro Navy man who died in the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His body was later buried on Guam.

Alessandro Veneziano was Greek Orthodox. He came to Guam as a musician in the Navy and married a Chamorro lady. His children eventually moved to the US mainland.

Gertrud Costenoble was a civilian and a German. Her husband had first moved to Saipan when it was under the Germans but he then moved to Guam.

Another German buried here was a civil servant in the Saipan government! For whatever reason (maybe medical?) he was on Guam in early 1903 and passed away.


On April 7, 1917, when the U.S. declared war on Germany, a German ship, the SMS Cormoran, peacefully lay in Apra Harbor. Rather than let the ship fall into American hands, the Germans on board blew up their own ship. Seven crew members died and are buried in this cemetery.

The Cormoran marker, with the German Iron Cross and inscription in the German language.

Poor Emil Reschke of the German Navy didn't make it alive after the explosion.

One of the Cormoran deceased was not German at all but from German-controlled New Guinea. His name was Boomerum (or Bumerum).



  1. Hi Påle',

    Thank you for sharing this. All these years, I thought my grandma's brother Francisco Unpingco Rivera was at Pearl Harbor. I never knew he was buried at the Naval Cemetary in Guam. I will share this with my family.

    Joaquin Cepeda Sablan
    Familian Akangkang as tatå-hu
    Familian Kokora as nanå-hu

    1. Joaquin...I would like to say 100% positive Francisco is buried at Naval Cemetery. I am 98% sure of it. My 2% reservation is that sometimes they will put a marker to commemorate the person, but there is no body underneath. But I am 98% confident that in this case there is a body. Just because the marker is just the same as all the other markers; the spacing is just right for a casket, just like the others. But if I could get Auntie Terry or some documentation to confirm that Francisco is buried there, then we will have 100% confidence.