Friday, April 8, 2016


Kiko Feja
(1896? ~ 1985)

The Guam Seal that we see all over the island, on flags and government letterheads, is the subject of some controversy.

For years, a stateside woman named Helen Longyear Paul has been credited for the creation of the Guam flag, which includes this seal. She had entered her design in a flag contest begun by Naval Governor Roy Smith in 1917. The seal on that flag was adopted as the official seal of the government of Guam by Naval Governor Willis Bradley in 1930.

The heart of the debate is whether a Chamorro student in Hagåtña, originally from Humåtak, by the name of Francisco Feja Feja, was the true artist who conceived and sketched the seal. There is a lot of support for this claim since Francisco (Ton Kiko) lived all the way till 1985 and the story was known by many people. It's the "official" literature of the past that is silent about Feja, giving all the attention to Helen Paul.

The story isn't very clear how Feja's design ended up in Paul's hands, who then used it in the design for the Guam flag.

I think it is safe to say, though, that both individuals had something to do with the existence of our Guam flag and seal as we have them today.

Feja's creation. Paul's submission.

Had Feja not designed the seal, we might not have the seal and flag we see today. Had Paul not submitted her flag design, which included the seal, in the contest, we might not have the seal and flag that we see today. As far as I know, we aren't aware of any other flag design submissions in that fateful contest in 1917. History, they say, is written by the winners.


Reading up on this topic is an experience of the frustrations and limitations of doing history.

We don't have all the evidence we would like to have, and what we do have doesn't always check out.

Different sources have different years for Feja's birthday.

The official resolution from the Guam Legislature in 1992 states that Feja went to school around 1910 at the Jose Rizal College in Manila and didn't draw the seal until he returned to Guam. But Jose Rizal College didn't exist until 1919, two years after the Helen Paul submission won the flag contest.

These, and other examples, serve to remind us about the weakness of human memory and the importance of documents, even though documents themselves are far from totally reliable in all cases.

Rest in peace, Ton Kiko and thanks for the Guam Seal. I wonder what Ton Kiko and Helen might be saying to each other as they watch us on earth struggle with this puzzle.

BY THE WAY......

I think the Chamorro family nickname is misspelled in the funeral announcement.

I believe it should be Payesyes, and not Jasjesjyes.

The payesyes was the small, insect-eating bat that is now extinct on Guam.

1 comment:

  1. Tun Kiko is my Great grandfather. It was my mother, Marie Feja Guerrero (Familian Robat), who first told me the story of her grandfather, the artist, who created the Guam seal.That was over three decades ago. Since then, I have always gleamed with pride whenever I look upon our flag. A bit of my family's history as well as the island's identity, is firmly rooted in that Great seal of ours. The seal is also used for the Guam National Guard's unit patch. As a guard member, I was told to remember who we represent. My squad leader once said, "The seal represents your island, your last name represents your family, and the American Flag represents your country." Words that still inspire me today! Thank you for the research Pale Eric!