Thursday, April 7, 2016


Because of Spanish influence, we have a certain kind of human relationship not found in many other Catholic communities.

Among us, the parents and godparents of the same child have a bond among them. They are all co-parents of that child.

In Spanish, the men are compadres. Com (co) and padre (father). Co-fathers.

The women are comadres. Co+madre. Co-mothers.

Many European Catholics, like the Irish or Germans, for example, as far as I know, do not have the idea that the father and godfather of the same child are co-fathers.  Nor that the mother and godmother of the same child are co-mothers. Nor that the two parents and two godparents are all co-parents.

It's an idea that exists among Mediterranean Catholic people like the Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese. The French used to have the idea, too, but that has long since disappeared.


A we often do, we take from another language and change its pronunciation to suit our preferences.

What is compadre for the Spanish is kumpaire for us.

Kompaire, kumpairi, kompairi. Individual Chamorros will differ slightly one to the other in pronunciation.

What is comadre for the Spanish is kumaire for us.


But when a Chamorro says "my kumpaire," the R changes to an L.


The same for kumaire.



The change from R to L is seen also in the shortening of kumaire to målle'.

Målle' is what the two kumaire will use to address each other.

"Håfa målle'!"

Or, målle' can be used as the subject when preceded by the personal article "si."

"Estague' mågi si målle'." "Målle' is coming over here."

But the word målle' is not used as a noun in a sentence when preceded by the definite article "i.".

One would not say "i målle-ko" but rather "i kumaile-ko."


I never heard the masculine form pålle' until I was well into adulthood.

Just as kumaire becomes målle', kumpaire can become pålle''.

I was already a priest (påle') when I heard people calling someone pålle', so I thought they were calling me. When I noticed they weren't calling me, I had to figure it out. I then realized that the L in pålle' is extended. The tip of our tongues stay a bit longer on the back side of the upper front teeth a while, as opposed to when we say påle'.


Chamorros and Filipinos don't have the DR sound naturally occurring in their native languages.

So the inclination among both peoples is to drop the unfamiliar or difficult DR sound.

Filipinos change compadre to kumpare.

And comadre to kumare.

Chamorros change the ADRE to AIRE.

Compadre becomes kumpaire.

And comadre becomes kumaire.


We may have gotten the AY sound in kumpaire and kumaire from Latin America.

In some places in Latin America, compadre evolved into compay and comadre to comay.

There used to be a little verse said long ago among Chamorros that showed that even madre became maire.

The verse uses a naughty word and idea, so I'll have to leave that out. Older Chamorros might be able to discover the full text.

Kumaire, kumaire
pot la ____ su maire.

This is the Chamorro pronunciation of the Spanish

Comadre, comadre
por la ____ su madre.


  1. In Rota we still say Kompaire and short form "pare." And komaire, short form "male'."

  2. I hear my mom say Matlino and Matlina a lot. What is the history in that.

    1. Those are the Chamorro pronunciation of the Spanish words Padrino (godfather) and madrina (godmother).

    2. In Rota, patlino (male) and matlina (female) are the tittle of the godparents and the godchild addresses them as nino and nina.