A story in the Marianas Variety tells us that police arrested a certain Tai Ting Fong for assault and robbery.
Since there is no Western first name preceding Tai Ting Fong, it's easy to wonder if the person arrested was Chinese, since the Chinese normally have three names. First would come the family name (Tai), then the personal name (Ting) and the generational name (Fong).
You know, like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
Someone also commented that he had heard that Taitingfong was actually a Chinese name that had been "Chamorrolized." I prefer the word "Chamorrocized."
So, is the name Taitingfong Chinese or indigenous Chamorro?
PROBABLY NOT CHINESE. WHY?
1. We have lists of Chinese immigrants to the Marianas during the late Spanish period. These lists were taken in the 1870s and after and name all the Chinese who came to the Marianas since the 1850s. They all settled on Guam. Every family on Guam with Chinese origins (Limtiaco, Unpingco, etc) is in these lists, except for the ones that came afterward during the American period (e.g. Won Pat). Yet, there is not a single Taitingfong in these "Chinese lists."
If you say that the first Taitingfong on Guam was a Chinese who came long before the 1850s, that would be pure speculation without documented evidence. You would have to explain how a single Chinese man came to Guam during a period of time that no other Chinese person came to Guam. The Chinese who did come to Guam in the 1850s came in groups from the Philippines, recruited by the government to help boost farming on Guam. A lone Chinese named Taitingfong coming to Guam before the 1850s would be an anomaly that would need explanation as well as verification.
2. The name Taitingfong does appear in lists of people living on Guam in 1843, more than ten years before the Chinese immigrants listed in the Spanish records. Taitingfong is a name that appears in lists of people from the village of Pago, at present-day Pago Bay. This small village was inhabited by "purer" Chamorros, with indigenous names like Mafnas and Atoigue. In the 1897 Guam census, a Josefa Taitingfong, born around 1842, married a man named Agualo, another indigenous name.
As with many names written in the past when people spelled the way they wanted to, Taitingfong in the Spanish records is sometimes spelled Taitinfon.
As the documents show that there were Taitingfongs living on Guam before the Chinese immigration of the 1850s, and that these Taitingfongs either lived in almost exclusively Chamorro villages like Pago, or married others with indigenous Chamorro names, the evidence suggests that the Taitingfongs were also Chamorros living among other "purer" Chamorros. "Purer" meaning less mixed with foreign blood, as suggested by their indigenous surnames and residence in villages far from Hagåtña, location of the greater ethnic mix of Chamorros and Spaniards, Hispanics and Filipinos.
3. The name itself can be understood within the Chamorro language.
We all know that tai means "without, lacking" in Chamorro. There are a number of indigenous Chamorro names that begin with tai : Taitano, Taimanglo and Taijeron to mention just a few.
The "tingfong" looks suspiciously close to tufong, which means "to count." Just as tucha (to lead prayers) morphed into techa (prayer leader) via titucha, tufong could have morphed into tingfong via titufong. One possible meaning, therefore, could be "without a counter," someone who counts.
4. The similarity between Taitingfong and two verified Chinese names, Tyquiengco and Tydingco, is only an apparent similarity, thanks to our Americanized brains.
Modern Chamorros pronounce it TAI-quiengco and TAI-dingco. But this isn't the original pronunciation.
The TY in those two names was pronounced like TEE, not like TAI. TEE-quiengco and TEE-dyngco In fact, older people and even younger people who know their culture still pronounce it like TEE, not like TAI.
Remember that it was Spaniards who first wrote down those Chinese names in a Spanish way. For a Spaniard, TY will never be pronounced TAI. The Y in Spanish sounds like an I. TI-quiengco, TI-dyngco.
Thus, Taitingfong and Tyquiengco are similar only to Americanized minds that think in English.
Putting all of this together, I think the evidence all points to a Chamorro classification for the surname Taitingfong.
We are only being fooled by coincidental and apparent similarities if we assert the original hypothesis.