Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Papa' såtge. Under the floor.

I noticed some of the huts built at the Paseo for FestPac follow the old custom of building our dwellings on haligi or posts so that the actual living space is above ground.

The first house I ever lived in, from 1962 till 1971, was a wooden, tin-roofed house with a papa' såtge. I remember the cool air breezing through the cracks of the wooden floor.

There were two main reasons for building raised homes.

1. To keep out unwanted things.

Animals, insects, flood waters!

2. To cool the house.

Air can travel below and around the house.

There is always the temptation to use the papa' såtge as a storage space. In old Hagåtña, far from the ranches where the Hagåtña people grew their food and raised their animals, some families did indeed fence in a hog or two, or chickens, goats and dogs, underneath the house. This practice fell out of favor under the American Navy and their concern for health and hygiene.

After the war, many homes were still built on haligi and the papa' såtge was often used for storing lumber or fishing gear and numerous other things. Concern over thievery was less in those days, but it happened once in a while that a fishing rod might go missing.

In the 1960s, for us kids, the papa' såtge was a place for us to be imbilikero (nosy), wondering what the adults were hiding down there, and to be píkaro (mischievous).

One of my first accidents happened in the papa' såtge. It happened at a neighbor's house where my two older brothers were playing with other guys from the neighborhood. Hiding in the papa' såtge, they made a cannon from bamboo poles (piao) and were firing empty soda and beer cans from them! They melted candles for some reason (perhaps to seal up holes?) and I, not wanting to be left out of the fun, went into the papa' såtge uninvited by the older boys. I was about 8. As the papa' såtge was dark, and as the boys were in the deeper part of it, I had a ways to walk, hunched over to avoid hitting the floor above. In my naked foot went (I was wearing zori, the Japanese rubber slipper) into a coffee can of melted wax. I felt my foot burning! As my oldest brother carried me out, the wax began to cool and harden, and I thought the whitish film appearing on my foot was actually my burnt skin breaking off into pieces. In the end, all was well.


Larger latte stones are believed to have served as pillars where the flooring of the homes of the higher status Chamorros were built.

In Spanish times, many homes were still being built above-ground. You can see what looks like a pig lurking around the papa' såtge here.

All the homes in this pic, it seems, are on haligi and have a papa' såtge during the early American period.

There still are a few homes, here and there on Guam, with a papa' såtge, many of them going back to the 1950s and 60s.

No comments:

Post a Comment