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.