Monday, June 27, 2016


A catechism is a summary of church teaching, traditionally in question-and-answer format.

Blessed Diego Luís de Sanvitores taught the catechism to Chamorros in the Chamorro language, setting it to music, as our people loved to sing.

Sadly, we don't have many copies of the Chamorro writings used by the missionaries 300 years ago. But we do have a catechism in Chamorro composed by the first Chamorro priest, Padre José Palomo (Påle' Engko') written 100 or more years ago.

Palomo was born in 1836 and his parents were born around the beginning of that century, and his grandparents were born in the last decades of the 1700s. When Palomo was a teen, he would have known people born in the 1750s and would have heard the Chamorro that they spoke. So when you see Palomo's Chamorro writing, we most likely have a glimpse into the language that goes back to the mid 1700s, very close to the pre-contact language. One will see very clearly that the Chamorro spoken by Palomo was deep in the indigenous tongue, though Spanish loan words are present. Palomo's catechism uses Chamorro words that today have fell into disuse and he uses words in now-forgotten forms.

When Palomo set out to write a Chamorro catechism, he did the time-efficient thing and decided to translate a Spanish catechism into Chamorro, rather than compose one from scratch. Why reinvent the wheel!


In Palomo's day, there were only two widespread Spanish catechisms, known by the last names of the authors : Astete and Ripalda. It was said that these two catechisms were the only truly known and used catechisms in Spain for many years that when two Spaniards met up for the first time, they would ask each other, "Astete? Or Ripalda?"

Palomo chose Astete's catechism. You can see Astete's name on the title page of the Palomo catechism at the top of this post.

A Spanish edition of Astete's catechism


Monhan. An old word, not even appearing in the latest Chamorro dictionary (2009). It is connected to the still-used word monhåyan. They both mean "completed" or "finished."

Yuhe. "That." Today we mostly say "ayo," which was also used in the past. Uhe is another form of yuhe.

Hulon. "Superior, chief, top, supreme." From the root word hulo' (top, above). Can also mean "judge." I am of the opinion that the last name Taijeron comes from the words tai (without) and hulon (superior) because the Spaniards often used an R in place of our L in words. The tai changes the hulon to hilon, just as the tai changes guma' to gima' (taigima' = homeless).

Ini. "This." Ini was gradually lost and replaced by the Spanish word este.

Ereda. "To inherit." From the Spanish word heredar, "to inherit." Ma ereda yo' ayo na tåno'. I inherited that land. Erensia (also from Spanish) means "inheritance," but inereda can also mean "inheritance."

Atochocho. "To force, coerce." Ma atochocho yo' humalom. I was forced to go in.

Chihet. "To join, adhere, get close to, unite with." Na' chihet hao as Yu'us. Get close to God.

Kaikai. "To move." Ti ha kakaikai yo'. It doesn't move me.

Iseknåne. "To judge wrongly, to damage someone by judging wrongly." Cha'-mo mamaiseknånåne ni håye. Do not judge anyone wrongly.

Kahna. "To cast spells, witchery." From the pre-contact makahna who were intermediaries with the spirits.

Guailaye. "Useful, necessary, helpful." Diddide' guailaye-ña. It has little usefulness. What remains today is the expression "Ti guailaye," or "It isn't necessary."

Pekka'. "Position, charge, responsibility, duty." I man gai pekka'. Those in charge.

Pennga. "Habit, custom, tradition."  Båba penngå-ña. He has bad habits. This was gradually replaced by the Spanish word kostumbre.

Chengle. "Detain, capture, imprison, enslave." Ma chengle yo' annai måkpo' i gera. I was detained after the war.

Mansangan. "It is said." From ma+såsångan.

Tuka'. "To poke, as with a thorn." The word "thorn" or tituka' comes from this. Tuka' can also mean "to incite, to spur to action, to begin something" as when one is poked from idleness and starts to move.

Fa'hiyunge. "To calumniate, to accuse someone falsely." Cha'-mo mamahiyunge. Don't accuse someone falsely.

Muto'. "To resolve, to obligate oneself." Minito' is "resolution, determination." Muto' yo'. I am resolved.

Alle'. "To make a mistake, commit error." Inalle' is "defect, sin, fault, mistake."

Guot. "To maintain, hold on to." Ha guot i kanai-ho. He held onto my hand.

Guahåye. "To provide." From guåha (to have, to exist) and the suffix -e (for someone).  Bai na' guahåye hao karetå-mo agupa'. I will provide you with a car tomorrow.

Eppok. "To excite, stimulate, persuade." Ha eppok yo' humånao. He persuaded me to go.

Diles. "To excel, to surpass." Cha'-mo didiles i lai. Do not go beyond the law. Mandiles hao. You shined.

Famaiche'cho'. "Force, effort." Na' famaiche'cho' i ilu-mo umestudia! Force your head to study!

Måsga. "To change for the better, to repent." Ha tutuhon mumåsga. He has started to change for the better. It is a surname in Luta.

Fa'aila'. "To accuse, to report a wrong-doing." Esta ma fa'aila' i sakke. The thief has already been reported.

Seko. "To punch, to beat with the fist." Gi Misa hu seko i haof-ho. I beat my chest at Mass.

Fegge'. "Impression, image or imprint left behind." Guåha feggen måtan taotao gi liga. There is an imprint of a man's face on the wall."

Ingen. "To detest, to abhor, to reject." Hu gof ingen i dinage. I really detest lies.

1 comment:

  1. Pekka' - translated as "dignity" in the Topping-Dungca dictionary, but obviously not referring to the inherent dignity of the human being, but rather to dignity in the sense of what distinguishes "dignitaries."—Is there no word for dignity in the sense of "human dignity"?