Friday, March 11, 2016


Mañagaha is a small island, or islet, that sits off Saipan's shore in the lagoon formed by the coral reef on the northwest side of the island. For those readers from Guam, it's Saipan's version of Cocos Island. Tourists go there every day.

But the island was, and still is, culturally significant to many Carolinians who have been living in Saipan since the early 1800s. Tradition says that a Carolinian chief named Aghurubw is buried there. I was able to attend the yearly memorial service for Chief Aghurubw one year in the 1990s.

The other day, while in Saipan, I heard two Chamorros share their theories about the meaning of the name Mañagaha.

Of course, people rarely wrote down the reasons why places have the names they do. In most cases, then, it is sheer speculation to explain what the names of places mean. But, people don't mind doing a whole lot of speculating!

So one man offered this theory.

When the Chamorros from Guam started to move to Saipan, where Carolinians already lived, some Carolinians moved to Mañagaha to live.

When a Spanish officer asked a Chamorro clerk to check on how these Carolinians on the island were doing, he returned saying "Mañåga ha'." "They are staying."

Then a second Chamorro man offered his own explanation.

When the Carolinians moved to the little island, "Mañåga sa' guaha." "They stayed because there was." There was what? Enough for them to live off the island.


  1. Place names are very important and significant to indigenous people. This is a point of reference to their natural environment.

    Hence,Mañåga ha is literally translated- Man (they)/Ñaga (contraction stay)/ ha (only) - "they only stayed" OR "they stayed only." Either reference indicated that the Carolinians were visitors OR tourists.

    But more importantly, we were told that the reason why "they only stayed" on our Islet was because the CHAMORU warrior or Maga'lahi did not allow Ahgurubw and the Carolinians to enter his island at Sengsong ANAGUAN, Puntan Muchot or Fatiguan. So, whose story do we believe, from the native inhabitants Who are the Chamorus; OR stories from migrants, who are the Carolinians? You be the judge.

    And No, the Carolinians are not allowed to bury their dead on the island. Ahgurubw may have been buried at Sea.

    Btw, in modern times definition of the presence of Ahgurubw on MAÑAGA HA. He is considered a squatter; and it is illegal to squat on Public Lands.




  2. The Refaluwasch (Carolinian) name for the islet is Ghalighal, which roughly means "It is here" while the
    Chamorro name, which derived from it, is Maῆᾰga-ha, which means "It stays" elders said that it is thus named because 'the islet tends to move with the current, yet it stays/it is here'...sounds like a riddle but if one looks at it, it is a sandy island that grew from the reef that tends to change shape (moves yet at the same spot) according to the currents.
    Si Den