Thursday, May 25, 2017


This song was, so I am told, originally a Chuukese song written by a prolific composer by the name of Nichon, who was born blind. The song talks about him being born with a disability.

Later, a man from Saipan named Alfonso Saures translated it into Chamorro for a little girl in Saipan, who was his neighbor, who also had a disability.


Tuhu i lago'-ho kada hu konsidera todo este siha i hu padedese.
(My tears fall every time I think about all these things that I suffer.)

1. Ai na nina'masi' yo' na finañågo, inutit yo' na påtgon i mafañago'-ho.
(Oh pitiable I was when I was born, from my birth I was a disabled child.)

2. Olaria mohon ya bai hu gefsaga, sa' gaige yo' på'go gaige gi chatsaga.
(Oh if only I would be rich, because now I am in hardship.)


Olaria is one version of the word ohalá.

Ohalá comes from the Spanish word ojalá, which means, more or less, "God willing." It comes from the Arabic word for God, Allah. The Muslim Moors ruled over much of Spain for hundreds of years till 1492. All those 700 years or so of Moorish presence in Spain left many marks, including on the Spanish language and, from Spanish, on Chamorro!

Originally, Chamorros said ohalá, just as is said in Spanish. But, over time, many Chamorros started pronouncing it olåra, and adding the word mohon which is a Chamorro word meaning "if only."

Other Chamorros changed it to ola mohon, and, as this singer renders it, olaria mohon, and many speakers shorten mohon to mon.

Despite all these different versions, Chamorro speakers understand what is meant by all of them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Såbanas å'paka' or balutan å'paka'.

Either term is used by some older people to describe a sheet or ball of mist rolling or floating in the distance.

Å'paka' means "white."

Såbanas means "sheet."

Balutan means "a bundle" or "a bale." It can also mean food that is packaged, but not only that. Many different things, besides food, that are bundled up, packaged or gathered together can be balutan.

When people saw a mist in the distance, in the old days, the elders would tell everyone to make the Sign of the Cross.


I have never seen a ghost or a spirit. Nor have I heard voices of a ghost or a spirit.

I have even spent the night in allegedly haunted places. But I have never seen or heard a ghost. I joke that the ghosts don't like me. I feel discriminated! Kidding.

But, many years ago, I did see a very unusual mist. Not only I, but two other friends saw it, too. Here's what happened :

It was during the summer of 1982 or 1983. I was 20 or 21 years old. Two of my friends, around the same age, picked me up one night. We didn't know what to do so we decided to just drive down South. In those days, driving South was a big deal.

I was sitting in the back while the driver and my other friend sat in front. At one point, as we were going up the hills just after you pass Agat, I leaned forward and rested my elbows on the back of the driver's and passenger's seats so I could listen more closely to and talk with the two up front.

In those days, more than now, with the old, two-lane road, there were a lot of dips and crests. You really went up and down on that old road, especially on that stretch by Mount Lamlam.

Just as we reached the top of a crest, and were about to go down into a dip, right after we passed Mount Lamlam to our left, our conversation stopped but I was still leaning forward. There was complete silence. Not even the radio was on.

As we were on the crest, we could see the high ground of the next crest. Just as our car was turning down into the dip, I saw a hazy, whitish reflection on the road on the little hill just before us. It was not blowing; it was stable. But it shimmered. There was a slight vibration or movement to it. And it seemed to have a defined, rectangular form. At first I thought our headlights were beaming onto the side of a cow stuck in the middle of the road. I thought it had better move or else we would crash into it.

Then, all of a sudden, the entire mist, as a single body, swooshed ever so gracefully to the right, going into a thickly wooded valley. It moved as if it were the body of a cow, except that I didn't see any legs, tail or head. Plus the fact that I could see through the mist and see the asphalt road behind it. It couldn't have been a cow, or any animal for that matter. It was a mist, a såbanas å'paka' or balutan å'paka', except that it behaved very strangely. Stable, yet shimmering. When it swooshed to the side, it didn't have an awkward start. It moved like an animal moves when it makes up its mind to get out of the way of a car, except that this mist moved faster than any cow could. The mist seemed, for lack of a better word, "alive." It didn't evaporate; we didn't drive into it. It swooshed gracefully out of the way, to the right.

I kept silence, thinking I was the only one who it. But my inner reaction was just too strong that it had to come out. And so did the other two, because all three of us at the same exact time, just seconds after seeing this mist, blurted out, "Did you see that?" And we all described what we saw, and we all saw the same thing.

The next day, I shared this experience with someone and he said that there are many trails in the country side of the island used by the ancient spirits. Perhaps, he suggested, the mist was one manifestation of these spirits, as a trail could have gone from the mountains, across the road, into the valley and down to the sea.

I have no idea what I saw and what caused it, and I won't draw any conclusions. For all I know, it has a perfectly natural explanation. It is a lost moment, which I cannot retrieve and put under a microscope for analysis. All I have is a memory of something very startling and puzzling.

The road heading south to Humåtak, just past Mount Lamlam

Monday, May 22, 2017


Born on Guam in 1885?

Mention the name Narruhn to a Chamorro and s/he probably will give you a blank stare.

But the Narruhns are a well-known family whose branches extend to the Marshalls, Samoa, the U.S. mainland, Pohnpei and Chuuk, and other places besides.

Apparently, though, there is a small and brief Guam connection, too, with this family.

Frederick Carl Narruhn was a German who immigrated to the United States in the 1870s. In 1879, he enlisted in the US Navy. He eventually became a US citizen.

After the Navy, he bought a schooner, called the Neptune, and sailed the Pacific. He went many places. In Samoa, he fell in love with a New Zealand lady and married. But, off he went again to other lands, his wife in tow. By 1882, Narruhn had made Pohnpei his base of operations, doing business selling merchandise and transporting goods and passengers from here to there. It's not surprising that he would have gone to Guam on occasion. It is documented that several Western businessmen and settlers traveled from the Caroline Islands to Guam in the late 1800s. By 1886, the Carolines were under Spanish control, just as the Marianas had been far earlier in time. There was money to be made on Guam, too!

It seems the Narruhns were in Guam in 1885, just in time for Mrs. Katherine Narruhn to give birth to a son, named Frederick, after his father. According to several documents, this Frederick states Guam as his place of birth.

It is not certain how long the Narruhns stayed on Guam after baby Frederick's birth. But, according to Frederick (junior) himself, by 1894 he was living in Manila, where his father had sent him to get an education.

While in Manila, with its strong layer of Spanish culture, Frederick became more known as Federico. He married a pretty Filipino Spaniard, Concepción Matti, the daughter of two Spaniards living in the Philippines.

Federico and Concepción Narruhn in Manila

In time, both of them moved to California, where they died in the 1960s and 70s.

On a ship's passenger list in 1919, Federico's place of birth is listed as Guam, MI (Mariana Islands).

On a passport application form, Federico states his place of birth as Guam.

As I mentioned, the Narruhns can be found all over the Pacific, from east to west. At times this meant that the family separated and didn't see each other for decades and decades! This happened between Federico and his brother Robert. Quite by chance, though, they met each other again in California in their senior years.

Today, there are Narruhns living on Guam, coming from various places in the Federated States of Micronesia and beyond. I wonder if they are aware that a senior member of their clan was actually born on Guam during the Spanish period.

Thursday, May 18, 2017



Mungnga ma fa' champulådo i atulen teok.

Don't make a mess of things, in other words!

Atule is a porridge made of ground corn, water and coconut milk.

Teok means "thick" as in a thick consistency. Coffee, blood and soup can all be teok.

Champulådo is another kind of porridge, made of rice, condensed milk, chocolate and sugar.

If you meant to make atule, and it ends up being champulådo, something went wrong.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


A Chamorro Woman kneeling before the Cross
Early 1800s

From the very beginning, the Catholic missionaries promoted the veneration of the Christian Cross among the Chamorros. The early Spanish missionaries called the Cross the båbao Yu'us in Chamorro, meaning the "emblem, standard or banner" of God.

The missionaries planted a Cross in the villages they entered. They raised a Cross on the places where missionaries were killed or were buried. And they planted crosses along the roads going through the land, especially the interior of the island, because the Chamorros were so fearful of the aniti or spirits. The missionaries taught them that the Cross of Christ would protect them. The missionaries were not totally successful! To this day, many Chamorros are fearful of the jungle and interior of the island.

Before long, large crosses were placed all over the island. A whole section of Hagåtña was named Santa Cruz, which means "Holy Cross" in Spanish. In Chamorro, "Holy Cross" is translated to "Såntos Kilu'us." When people would pass a Cross on the roadside, they would take off their hat, bow or pay some sign of respect. More devout souls would kneel and pray before them.

The Santa Cruz at Atantåno'

The oldest Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) that remains intact to this day is at Atantåno', a low-lying and swampy area just before the main gate at Naval Station, before one makes the left turn to continue driving to Hågat or Santa Rita. The cross was possibly erected in 1785; the same time the road that ran in front of it was built. If not, then it was erected in the 1800s when, it seems, a commemorative marker was placed in this spot. The area was used for the production of coconuts (copra) and rice.


During the Spanish colonial period, May 3rd was the Feast of the Finding of the True Cross. That feast commemorated the discovery of the true cross on which Christ died by the Empress Helena.

Many Chamorro families made this feast their family promesa, promising to observe and celebrate this feast every year with a novena and a feast on the ninth or last day. Up to now, there are families that continue to observe this family promesa or devotion.

A few families are so devoted to this promesa that they have built small chapels to the Santa Cruz as permanent structures, usually on the side of a road. They are usually simple, but are cleaned up and decorated before the start of the novena.

Here are some photos of just some of the private, family-owned Santa Cruz chapels found on Guam.





Besides family-owned, private chapels of the Holy Cross, some churches erected large crosses in front of the parish church.

In this picture, we see, on the left, one such large cross in front of the pre-war Sumay Church. In the picture on the right, a modern cross sits across the street from Humåtak Church. This cross was built by the late Jesus "Pat" Quinata at the direction of Påle' Eric in 1997.

Monday, May 15, 2017



It is a story full of intrigue and scandal. It was made into a movie. But hardly anyone remembers it.

Thirty Japanese men or so, stranded on a tiny volcanic island in fighting a war that was over, struggled in deathly competition over the one and only woman left on the island. She was called the Queen Bee, with the men willing to fight and kill over her.

Prior to all this, the island of Anatahan had been used by the Japanese before the war for copra production. Some forty Chamorros and Carolinians worked the copra farms on Anatahan under Japanese supervisors. Eventually, the islanders left Anatahan and only the Japanese remained.

One of the few Japanese who remained on Anatahan was a woman of Okinawan background, Kazuko Higa, married to a man named Shoichi Higa. Concerned about his sister who was living in Saipan, where the war would bring all its death and destruction, Shoichi left Kazuko on Anatahan while he went to Saipan to check on his sister. He never came back. Kazuko then came under the roof of another man named Higa, with the given name of Kikuichiro.

The Japanese population of Anatahan increased dramatically in June of 1944 when a convoy of Japanese ships was attacked by American planes. As the ships sank, the 30 Japanese crewmen swam to safety at Anatahan.

As the only woman on the island, surrounded by thirty-some men, trouble was bound to happen.

First off, her romantic partner Kikuichiro was shot and killed by Gensaburo Yoshino in 1946. Yoshino in turn was stabbed to death by Morio Chiba. Chiba then died naturally. In order to prevent more fighting over her, she "married" a few more men. One of them, Riichiro Yanagibashi, "drowned" in the ocean (but who really knows if that was truly accidental?). In all, around 11 men died on Anatahan throughout those years. Some were accidental and some were murdered. Feuding was not just over Kazuko, but also over who would be the leader of the small colony.

By 1950, the talk was that the men were done competing over Kazuko. If she were eliminated, they thought, the men would spare each other! When Kazuko found out that her life was in danger, she fled into hiding and in time flagged a passing American ship to rescue her. Another account says a Japanese working for the US government went to Anatahan and convinced Higa to surrender.

Kazuko after her rescue

The man 2nd from the left is Gregorio Sasamoto, a Japanese resident of Saipan married to a Chamorro, Genara Aguon. I know his son very well.

The Japanese men, however, refused to give themselves up, thinking that American claims that the war was over were just lies. Slowly, a few of the men changed their minds and thought of surrendering, but a hard-core patriot dominated them and threatened to kill any man who thought about surrendering to the Americans.

But on June 30, 1951, the remaining 19 Japanese men finally called it quits. When the Americans dropped letters from the men's own family members urging them to surrender since the war was over, the Japanese men then believed. They waved white flags upon seeing American planes after that. The Americans sent boats up to Anatahan to pick up the Japanese men. World War II finally ended for them, six years after the fact!

It is said that, in time, Kazuko made it back to Okinawa, where she ran into her first husband, quite by chance. They became husband and wife again. Life has a way of bringing things full circle.


Surrender of the 19 Japanese stragglers on Anatahan in 1951

One last gesture for Anatahan

The portrayal of Kazuko's saga on Anatahan, with its mixture of sexual intrigue and murder, was ripe for the marketing of books and movies on the subject.

French version of von Sternberg's movie. The French title says,

A book on Anatahan and the drama over Kazuko

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Astumbo is a pretty recognizable place name on Guam. Astumbo is a neighborhood within the municipality of Dededo, situated in between Ukkudu to the south and Gugågon to the north.


But how did this area get to be called Astumbo?


One clue is immediately seen in the beginning of the name. The syllable AS is a Chamorro word more or less meaning "at" when used in place names.

There are many places on Guam whose names begin with AS. It often means "at so-and-so's place."

As Lukas, a place in Talofofo, was probably an area where a man named Lucas (Luke) lived.

In Saipan, there is a place called As Palomo, probably where someone named Palomo lived.

In Luta, there is the famous latte stone quarry called As Nieves, probably where a woman named Nieves once lived.

So there is a good possibility that Astumbo means As Tumbo. "At Tumbo's place."


According to older people who lived in this area before the war, or who at least had ranches in this area and spent some time during the week here before the war, there was a man named Tun Ramón living in this area. His full name was Ramón Camacho.

As is often the case, he was more often called by his nickname, which was Tun Bo.

Chamorros usually take the last syllable of someone's name and create the nickname from that. The nickname CHU comes from the last syllable of the name Jesús. SUS become CHU.

In this case, the MON in Ramón was changed to BO.

Here is a possible way how that came about :


One elderly lady told me that in her father's ranch area, the neighbors were a Cruz family (better known as the Achigo' family), the Arteros and Ramón Camacho, better known as Tun Bo.

Her father would sometimes send her on an errand to Tun Ramón's ranch telling her, "Hånao para as Tun Bo." "Go to Tun Bo's place."


If Tun Bo was living before the war, then it seems that the area could not have been called Astumbo back in Spanish times or in the early American period. Perhaps the name Astumbo came about just prior to the war and certainly after it.

One indication of this is the absence of the name Astumbo in pre-war maps.

In this 1944 map, based on pre-war information, there is no place called Astumbo in the area now called Astumbo. In the top right corner of the map is a place called Gugågon. Just below that area should be Astumbo, but it is not indicated. Instead, there is a place called Taguac (Tåguak), perhaps the older or original name of what is now called Astumbo.

In the Navy's list of place names of Guam, compiled right after the war, there is no listing for Astumbo.

In the coming months, when possible, I will continue searching for this Ramón Camacho who supposedly lived in the area and is the Tun Bo in the name Astumbo. If any readers can provide any clues or information, please do leave a message in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


The conflict resolution and mediation group Inafa'maolek captures the original meaning of the word

Here is another example of how language changes over time.

In every language, the meaning of words changes as new generations add to the possible meanings of a given word.

In Chamorro, take, for example, the word AFA'MAOLEK.

Many people today define afa'maolek (or its noun form, inafa'maolek) as cooperation, mutual assistance, reciprocity, interdependence.

But, as the video below shows, the older meaning was : reconciliation. Two former adversaries make peace. That is inafa'maolek, in its original meaning.

The term can be broken down into parts. The foundation of the word is maolek, which means "good."

The prefix fa' means "to make." Fa'maolek means "to make good."

The prefix a means "together" or "between two subjects." Afa'maolek means "to make good together" or "between each other."

The assumption here is that there had been something "bad." A disagreement, a fight, some injury or injustice. Hence the prefix "to make." Something had to be done to make peace, to make good, because prior to the fa' maolek something had been bad. It's bad, so make it good!

Let's listen to these older women, all in their 70s and 80s, point this out. In the traditional and older understanding of the word, inafa'maolek presumes that enmity or hostility needs to be "made good."

1st lady : She says that it means to make good what was once "broken" (ma yamak) between two people.

2nd lady : She mentions that the two parties had been fighting. Ginen mumu,

3rd lady : She uses a word hardly known anymore - plaito. It means "argument, discord, controversy" and the like. From the Spanish word pleito which means the same.

4th lady : She speaks in English and defines it as "making peace."

5th lady : Once again, having had a fight is mentioned.


When two people make peace, then they start to help each other. So people started defining inafa'maolek as all those other things that result from peace making : mutual assistance, reciprocity, interdependence and so on.

But the original meaning always includes a prior state of enmity between two parties, which they then repaired (fa' maolek).

In fact, whenever someone uses fa' maolek with their car, for example, the listener always takes it to mean that the car was repaired. Or, with a sick person, fina' maolek means the person was healed. The presumption is that prior to the fa' maolek, there was a negative condition. A car was broken, a person was sick.

Once again the foundation of the word : It's bad, sick, broken, at war! Make it good! Fa' maolek!

Monday, May 8, 2017


In olden times, our mañaina did certain things according to the phase of the moon or the rise and fall of the ocean tide.


When planting tubers like dågo (yam) or kamute (sweet potato), the old people believed that if you planted when the tide was low and the moon was full, you would get a lot of tubers at harvest time, but their size would be small.

If you planted them when the tide was high and the moon was full, you wouldn't get a huge number at harvest time, but they would be larger in size than average.


Old people would cut wood for homes or for tools, cut bamboo or coconut leaves for thatching when it was low tide and during the first quarter of the moon. They believed the wood was drier in these times and would thus last longer.

If you cut them when the tide was high and the moon was full, the wood would be wet and decay faster and get infested with insects.


Our mañaina believed that blood would flow less, when castrating animals, if it were low tide and the moon dark or in the last days of its final quarter. If a person accidentally cut himself, blood would also flow less in these times.


Our older people would make coconut oil when it was high tide, believing that one produced more oil during that time than at low tide. The coconut meat would be squeezed to get the juices out, then the drippings would be boiled and the oil would rise to the top of the pot, where it would be skimmed off.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


Si Don Luís guiya i Chamorro na eskribienten i Españot na Maga'låhe gi 1850 
(Don Luís was the Chamorro clerk of the Spanish Governor in the 1850s)

siha na såkkan ya kalan listo gue' na klåsen taotao.
(and he was somewhat cunning.)

Ha ågang i sisugon as Båttolo ni mangongonne' taotao desde Hagåtña asta Sumay
(He hailed the driver Båttolo who took people from Hagåtña to Sumay)

gi sahyån-ña  såhyan koche. Långa' si Båttolo mientras kalåktos si Don Luís. 
(in his covered horse buggy. Båttolo was dim-witted as much as Don Luís was sharp.)

Gina'chunge si Don Luís ni ayudånten-ña as Vicente.
(Don Luís was accompanied by his aide, Vicente.) 

Mientras matåtå'chong i dos gi halom koche, ma repåra na kiekieto i koche. 
(While the two were sitting in the buggy, they realized that the buggy wasn't moving.)

"Oi," umessalao si Don Luís, "håfa na ti man håhånao hit?" 
("Hey," cried Don Luís, "why aren't we going?")

Manoppe si Båttolo, "Guaha kåmpo para dos ta'lo mås na pasahero. 
(Båttolo answered, "There is room for two more passengers.

Ti bai hånao asta ke guaha dos mås ta'lo." 
(I won't go until we have two more.")

Si Don Luís, ni kolot åttilong tuhong-ña, ha faisen si Vicente, ni kolot betde tuhong-ña, 
(Don Luís, who wore a black hat, asked Vicente, who wore a green hat)

kao siña ma atulaika i tihong-ñiha. Pues tumunok si Don Luís 
(if they could switch hats. Then Don Luís got down)

ya ha fa' nuebo na pasahero gue' 
(and pretended to be a new passenger)

ya ha apåse ta'lo si Båttolo ni dos reåt na åpas pasåhe ya humålom ta'lo gi koche. 
(and paid Båttolo the two reales fare again and got back in the buggy.)

Dos minutos despues, tumunok ta'lo si Don Luís på'go na biåhe sin tuhong 
(Two minutes later, Don Luís got down again this time without a hat)

ya ha fa' nuebo na pasahero gue' ya manapåse ta'lo dos reåt ya humålom ta'lo gi koche.
(and pretended to be a new passenger and paid two reales again and got back in the buggy.)

På'go nai guaha "kuåttro" na pasahero, må'pos i koche para Sumay.
(Now with "four" passengers, the buggy left for Sumay.)

Thursday, May 4, 2017


There used to be a family on Guam called the Pachecos.

As far back as 1727, there was a Filipino soldier on Guam, very likely from Pampanga, named Pedro Pacheco. He was part of the Pampanga regiment, but it is also possible that he came from another part of the Philippines.

In 1727, he was still unmarried. But, in the 1758 Census, he had been married and was now a widower, with possibly nine children.

Five of those nine children were still unmarried in 1758 and living with Pedro. They were Francisco, Alejandro, Miguel, Domingo and María.

His married children were :

Lorenzo, who married María Charsaga, a Chamorro name.

Then there were three married daughters. Ignacia, who married the Filipino Pedro de Herrera; Bárbara, married to a man from Pago named Simon Taichigo; and María Agustina, who was widowed in 1758, having been married to a man named Cruz.

There was another Francisco Pacheco living in Humåtak, whose mother was María Taitingo. What relation he had, if any, with Pedro Pacheco of Hagåtña, is unknown at this time.

There was also a man named Pedro Pacheco from Pago, but whose parents seem to have been "pure" Chamorros, Carlos Lalalo and Juana Taasi. It was sometimes the case that a baby received, not only a Spanish first name, but also a Spanish surname as well.

Given that the older Pedro from Hagåtña we first mentioned had five sons, you would think that the Pacheco name would continue up to the present. But it didn't.

By 1897, there was only one person on Guam having the last name Pacheco.

Her name was Cipriana Pacheco, and she was married to José Finoña. Thus, the Pacheco name was to last just one more generation, as the maternal last name of her children, who all carried Finoña as the paternal last name. The Finoña would survive, but the Pacheco would not.

In fact, the Finoñas who are descendants of Cipriana Pacheco are the Familian Englis today.

Many years ago, I did the family tree of an elderly lady from the Familian Englis, and when I explained that her great grandmother was named Cipriana Pacheco, she said she had never heard the last name Pacheco before.


Scholars believe that the last name Pacheco started in Portugal and then some Pachecos moved to Spain, where it is found today, especially in the south and in the parts closest to Portugal. They are not sure what the name means or how it started.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Humåtak's Hidden Protestant Cemetery
located in West Ginahit, Humåtak

As far as most people are concerned, Humåtak has but one, solitary cemetery. You make a right turn immediately after the big, towered bridge, leaving Route 1 and entering the West Ginahit area and take the road all the way in and there you will find the Catholic cemetery at the dead end. No pun intended.

And most people would not be surprised that Humåtak (so it seems) has but one cemetery. The village is one of Guam's smallest, so one cemetery should suffice. And, no surprise, it's the parish or Catholic cemetery, since everyone in Humåtak is Catholic. Right?


Today, of course, many Chamorros are no longer Catholic but even in the 1930s, not everyone in Humåtak was Catholic.

There was one Baptist family there.

The head of the family was Juan Aguon Quinata, the son of Faustino Mendiola Quinata and Clara Infaña Aguon. He was born in Humåtak in 1883 and then married a Sumay woman, Elocracia Guzmán Dueñas. Her first name has been spelled in a variety of ways! Her headstone spells it Elocracia. One census spells it Elogracia. And the oldest census she is in, the 1897 one, renders her name Lucrecia. She was the daughter of José Quintanilla Dueñas and María Santos Guzmán.

The couple became Baptist. Till his death, Juan read a Spanish Bible every day and lead family prayers at night.

As Baptists, none of them could be buried in the Catholic cemetery in Humåtak, the only one existing in the 1930s. So when Juan's daughter Guadalupe died in 1934, land for a non-Catholic cemetery had to be found. I am not sure how this piece of land became the Protestant (or, at least, non-Catholic) cemetery. I'd have to research at Land Management who is the owner and who were the owners in the past. I wouldn't be surprised if this land was Juan's to begin with, but that's just a guess.

Either by design or by coincidence, the Protestant Cemetery is just a few yards away from the Catholic one. It is so small; the headstones so darkened with the passage of time and the effects of the weather, that it is easy to miss when driving by.

Guadalupe's grave

Of the headstones that still exist, the oldest belongs to Juan's daughter Guadalupe, who was born on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12th in 1909. I have a suspicion, then, that Juan was still Catholic in 1909 since he named his daughter after the saint on whose feast the daughter was born. Our Lady of Guadalupe also happens to be the patroness of Sumay, the village where Elocracia came from.

Guadalupe had married Francisco T. Manalisay, a school teacher, but unfortunately she died a young woman, being only 24 years old at the time of death.

Sadly, just the following year, Juan's wife Elocracia also died, at the relatively young age of 55. Hers is the second oldest headstone in the cemetery.

Elocracia's weather-beaten headstone.
You can just barely make out the writing.

After the war, many of Juan's family became Seventh Day Adventists, but Juan remained a Baptist and played the organ at the Talofofo General Baptist Church. When he died in 1958 he was buried in this small cemetery along with his wife and daughter.

Juan's headstone is in better condition.

There is, finally, the grave of a stateside woman, Mary Violet Cathey (maiden name Bridges), born in Missouri. She died in Guam in 1966 and is buried in Humåtak. I do not know her story, nor her connection to the Quinatas, if any in fact exists.

For all we know, there may other graves in this cemetery, but the headstones are missing.

Monday, May 1, 2017


In October of 1799, the whaling ship Barclay set out from New Bedford, Massachusetts in search of seal skins. Griffin Barney was in command of the ship. After many months of travel and seal catching in various places in the Atlantic, they headed up the Pacific to Hawaii and from there to China.

But on the way to China the Barclay made a stop at Tinian in the fall of 1800. Perhaps the first visit to Tinian, and indeed perhaps the entire Marianas, by an American ship. The American ship the Lydia would not come to Guam until 1802.

The reports of the Barclay about Tinian state that the island was uninhabited, except by "immense droves of white cattle." The men of the ship helped themselves to abundant supplies of lemons and red peppers.

Interestingly, nothing is said about the House of Taga. Perhaps the men didn't find it or, perhaps finding it, didn't know what it was, there being no one on Tinian at the time to tell them. But I tend to think that, had they seen those tall pillars, they would have simply reported seeing them, even without knowing what they were.

The House of Taga did not make it in the story but Tinian cattle did.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


For any years I had read about how some taotaomo'na (manifestations of the ancient spirits) appeared with gaping holes on the sides of their torso, but only recently did I come across a pre-war story giving one of them a name.

Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña.

Apparently, in pre-war days, everyone knew him by that name.

Songsong can mean "village" but it can also mean "to stuff, to fill in a hole."

Kalaguak means the left and right sides of the torso, from the rib cage down to the waist.

So Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña means "stuffed his side."

According to the description, this taotaomo'na had a gaping hole on his side and he stuffed it with banana leaves or coconut husks. Then he covered the entire hole with a banana leaf.

All the children of Guam knew him by name because mothers and grandmothers would warn them that Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña went after misbehaving kids and put them in his hole and covered the hole with the banana leaf and went back to the jungle with the child.

Perhaps some families kept the memory of his name but, after asking around, no one I asked had ever heard of the name Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña. More people had heard that some taotaomo'na had holes on their sides, stuffed with leaves. Fewer people told me they knew about one who stole bad children by putting them in the hole. But no one that I talked to knew his name.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


An elderly woman shares with me how her deceased husband (she thinks) was showing her signs that he was still around, at least for a while.

It's important to understand a few details before proceeding.

Her husband died young, just in his early 30s. He was not sick. He died of a work-related injury.

Annai måtai i asaguå-ho, lamme' maolek na bidå-ña, (1)
(When my husband died, boy did he do good,)

åmbre sa' hoben ha' annai måtai.
(well you see he was young when he died.)

Ayo na ilek-ña i man åmko' na eyi i ti malångo' na finatai. Bråbo nai.
(The older people talked about someone dying who was not sick. He was healthy.)

I asaguå-ho annai måtai, si nanå-ho ha nå'e yo' uno gi mane'lu-ho palao'an para u ayuyuda yo'
(When my husband died, my mother gave me one of my sisters to be helping me) (2)

sa' i famagu'on; kuåttro famagu'on-måme yan i asaguå-ho.
(because of the children; my husband and I had four children.)

Pues todo i dumalalak yo', i man sobrinå-ho yan i man primå-ho,
(So everyone who accompanied me, my nieces and cousins,)

gi gima' annai på'go måtai,
(in the house when he just died,)

ma siesiente sa', annai mamokkat gi tatten guma' ni cha'guan.
(were feeling his presence, when he walked behind the house on the grass,)

sa' fihu eyi a las dos gi chatanmak annai tåya', pues på'go komo ha hungok  i ga'-måme ga'lågo
(because he often did that at two in the morning when all was quiet, if he heard our dog)

na duru humaohao. Pues mamokkat gi cha'guan gi san tatte. (3)
(keep barking. Then he would walk on the grass in the back.)

Pues guaha guå'ot hulo' gi galeria pues in hingok ha' på'go i patås-ña.
(Then there were steps going up to the porch and we would hear his feet.)

Pues eyi i che'lu-ho, sa' hilo' tåpbla na mamaigo' pues hame yan i famagu'on gi kåttre.
(Then my sister, because she was sleeping on the floor while me and the kids were on the bed.)

Pues sige ha' på'go eyi i sabanas, ilek-ña, "Maria, Maria, eyigue' ta'lo." (4)
(Then the sheets, she said, "Maria, Maria, there he is again.")

Ya pues in hingok annai mamokkat gue' hålom gi gima', i sapatos-ña.
(And then we hear him when he walks into the house, his shoes.)

Pues eyi i pettan i kuåtto, an un baba chechekchek i kuetdas i petta,
(Then the door to the bedroom, the door springs squeak when you open the door,)

pues in hingok annai ha baba i petta.
(so we heard when he opened the door.)

Ya guaha siya gi halom kuåtto ya un li'e' ha' annai matå'chong gue' gi siya, i minakat-ña. (5)
(And there was a chair inside the bedroom and you see when he sits on the chair, his weight.)

Pues guaha na an chatanmak in hingok i båño, eyi i hanom, na ma bira 
(Then at times in the early morning we hear the bathroom, that the water is turned on)

ya duru de palåspas i hanom.
(and the water keeps splashing.)

Pues, ilek-ñiha i man åmko' na sesso man bisita i difunto sa' pot måtai hoben
(So the old people said that my deceased husband kept visiting because he died young)

yan chachathinasso gue' pot hame yan i famagu'on sa' ha dingu ham,
(and he was worried about me and the kids because he left us)

lao hu sangåne gue' gi un puenge,
(but I told him one night,)

"Båsta ham man ma bisita, sa' esta un li'e' na man mamamaolek ha' ham.
("Stop visiting us, because you see that we are well.)

Hånao ya un deskånsa på'go sa' tåya' chinatsagan-måme."
(Go and rest now because we have no troubles.")

Pues pumåra man bisita.
(And he stopped visiting.)


(1) She is being sarcastic. Her husband's hauntings were noticeable! If his intention was to be noticed, he succeeded. He did well!

(2) You can see here the family support system at work in Chamorro culture. The widow was young, with four young children to care for. So her other sent one of her other daughters, a younger one who was still single, to help the widow care for the children while the widow found a job and worked during the day. These were the days when most couples had many children, which meant there was no shortage of helpers. Even nieces and cousins would come and stay at the widow's house to help care for the children.

(3) The deceased would get up when he'd hear the dog bark at night, and the sound of his feet brushing against the grass behind the house where the dog was could be heard even after he had died, at the same time of night.

(4) She meant that her sister could feel or see someone pulling the sheets while they were sleeping.

(5) They could see someone's weight push down the cushion on the chair.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Humåtak in olden days

"Gi sengsong" is the name used at one time for everybody who didn't live in Hagåtña.

It literally means "people from the village." Hagåtña was "the city," "the capital."

Songsong means "village," and gi means "from" or "at."

There was a bit of deprecation implied in the term gi sengsong. People from the city were supposed to be "higher;" smarter, more sophisticated, more affluent. The gi sengsong were supposed to be slower, less affluent.

But the one thing the gi sengsong could say about themselves was that they had whatever was needed for life right at their finger tips. From the guålo' (farm) or tåsi (sea), they had what was needed for food and material.

The gi Hagåtña (people from Hagåtña) also farmed and fished, but their farms or ranches were located farther away from their homes. Many Hagåtña people farmed as far away as Yigo. This meant that a lot of city people had to sleep most of the week at their farms, coming into town only for the weekend. Southern people, though, lived closer to their farms. They didn't need to sleep at the farms since their farms were only a short distance from the village in most cases.

Secondly, many in the higher classes in Hagåtña didn't farm at all, but rather bought what they needed from those who did farm.

By the 1930s, more and more Hagåtña people were relying on store-bought items imported from the U.S., Japan and the Philippines, which meant that if the stores ran out of things, the customer had to wait for the next shipment. The gi sengsong, however, still relied mainly on their own resources, which, in most cases, never ran out.

Thus, an old lady originally from the south said,

Masea pånglao yan gåmson,
ti man fåtta i man gi sengsong.

Even if it's just crab and octopus,
the villagers are never lacking.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Ninety years before we on Guam started dealing with the rhino beetle, it was the Coconut Scale.

The Coconut Scale is a tiny insect that damaged our island's coconut trees in 1924. Its scientific name is the Aspidiotus Destructor. The scale feeds off the sap of coconut and other trees, causing damage to and often the death of the tree.

The insect can travel to new lands by wind or on birds. It was suspected that the ones on Guam were carried by birds coming from Saipan, where the scale had already been active for some time.

Upon discovering the presence of the insect, the government started identifying infected trees and then burned them to contain the spread of the insect.  Something worked to eradicate the plague because, before long, the trees bounced back and Guam continued to produce copra (dried coconut meat) for export.

Besides the revenue from copra sales, in those days, the people really relied a lot on the coconut tree for all the benefits it provided. The meat and juice provided food; the fibers made string and rope; the shell was used as cups and ladles. Almost everything from the tree was put to some use, and most people did not have money to buy substitutes in the stores.

Today, we hardly feel the loss of our coconut trees, due to the rhino beetle. We even buy imported coconut juice and imported shredded coconut for food. About the only time we feel the sting of the rhino beetle invasion is when we look for tuba and cannot find it.

Coconuts infected with the Coconut Scale insect

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


As in any other language, some Chamorro songs are more than just catchy or moving in sound; they also have a social or political message. Here is one such song, followed below by commentary :

by Tropicsette

Gi durånten i geran dos / i hinalom-ña i Amerikåno,
ha na' tacho' i banderå-ña / sa' ha gånna i Hapones.
Man mafanå'gue i famagu'on / fino' Englis gi eskuela,
ya an ma plånta i amotsa / "scrambled eggs" ginagao-ñiha.

REF : Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
sa' guiya i palåsyo / ma fa'tinas para hita.
Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
masea ta fan US / lao Marianas i tano'-ta.

Man ma emplea i natibo / ma abandona i fangualu'an,
man hotnalero i lancheros / ya man mendioka i bulacheros.
Mampos på'go i suetdo / lao abundånsia nengkanno',
sa' iya Marianas sumen riko / hilo' tåno' yan halom tåsi.

Mit nuebe sientos setentai ocho / gi estorian Marianas
ma establese i Commonwealth / i nuebo na gobietnamiento.
Meggai ginaddon gi entalo' / eksekutibo yan lehislatibo,
taotao Marianas ha' siha / lao maloffan man enemigo.

And now, for your convenience, an interlinear translation :

Gi durånten i geran dos / i hinalom-ña i Amerikåno,
(During World War Two / when the Americans came in,)
ha na' tacho' i banderå-ña / sa' ha gånna i Hapones.
(they raised up their flag / because they beat the Japanese.)
Man mafanå'gue i famagu'on / fino' Englis gi eskuela,
(They taught the children / English in school,)
ya an ma plånta i amotsa / "scrambled eggs" ginagao-ñiha.
(and when breakfast was served / they asked for scrambled eggs.)

REF : Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
(Brethren let's protect / the Mariana Islands)
sa' guiya i palåsyo / ma fa'tinas para hita.
(because it is the palace / made for us.)
Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
(Brethren let's protect / the Mariana Islands)
masea ta fan US / lao Marianas i tano'-ta.
(even if we become the US / but the Marianas is our land.)

Man ma emplea i natibo / ma abandona i fangualu'an,
(They employed the natives / the farms were abandoned,)
man hotnalero i lancheros / ya man mendioka i bulacheros.
(ranchers became day workers / and the drunkards became tapioca.)
Mampos på'go i suetdo / lao abundånsia nengkanno',
(Wages now are high / but there is an abundance of food,)
sa' iya Marianas sumen riko / hilo' tåno' yan halom tåsi.
(because the Marianas is very rich / on the land and in the sea.)

Mit nuebe sientos setentai ocho / gi estorian Marianas
(Nineteen hundred seventy-eight / in the history of the Marianas)
ma establese i Commonwealth / i nuebo na gobietnamiento.
(the Commonwealth was established / the new government.)
Meggai ginaddon gi entalo' / eksekutibo yan lehislatibo,
(Many became trapped within / the executive and legislative,)
taotao Marianas ha' siha / lao maloffan man enemigo.
(they are all people of the Marianas / but extreme enemies.)


It is very difficult to understand many things in a language if one goes just by a literal translation. Some things are just understood to native speakers, but these things need to be fleshed out to those who understand the language less or not at all.

The central message of this song is : Becoming Americans does not guarantee a perfect life. It also presents some problems. Be careful!

There is the danger of cultural loss or change. The kids now ask for "scrambled eggs" for breakfast. They are learning English in school, but the implied question is, "Are they forgetting their own language?" People have more jobs now and salaries are good, but people are forgetting how to farm and all this money might be allowing more people to spend on liquor and become alcoholics.

There is an implied critique of prosperity here, too. Mampos på'go i suetdo. How can money ever be mampos? Mampos means "excessive." Can one have too much money? The song seems to answer in the affirmative. When there is an excess of money, all kinds of vices can take root. Spending on bad things; making money the highest priority, to the point of suing one's own family over money or land (leading to fractured families).

There is the danger that politics will lead to community divisions. Self-government is now in the hands of the local people, but now they have turned against each other over political issues and, perhaps, over power plays. At the time this song was written, there was a huge fight in the CNMI between the first Governor (executive) and the first Speaker of the House (legislative) of the newly-established Commonwealth.

And the song asks the question, in so many words, "Why be so enamored with the U.S. when our islands are already a palace supplying everything we really need?" Happiness, the song argues, between the lines, is already ours. It does not lie somewhere else, in a country far away.

The song also seems to imply, what I think is really what many people think, that we are Americans only to a point. We are our own people. We might be American citizens, but "the Marianas is our country."

More than that, the song says we have to protect ourselves against the very Americans we are becoming part of. The refrain urges the people to "protect the Marianas." Protect the Marianas from whom? From what? Too much American influence at the expense of our culture, language and social unity? The Chamorros of the Northern Marianas had to protect themselves against the Japanese, and now against the Americans as well! Now there are many in the Northern Marianas who feel the need to protect the land against the U.S., specifically the use of some islands for military purposes.


Geran Dos. This literally means "War Two" or "the Second War." For Chamorros, there is really only one gera (war); the one fought between 1941 and 1944 because that war was the only war, in modern times, where Chamorros suffered the effects of war. So Chamorros normally don't say "World War Two" in Chamorro. It's just the gera.

Haponés. Notice how the singers do not say Chapanis. Chamorros from all the Marianas say Chapanis nowadays, but the older Chamorros, mostly all gone now, used to say Haponés, which is the Spanish way of saying "Japanese." But the Spanish influence on our language is disappearing and English influence ("Chapanis" as our version of  "Japanese") has taken over.

Plånta. Literally means "to place on or to set the table." But, originally, it meant "to set up, establish, lay the foundation of." So one can plånta i låso (set the trap) or plånta i tereno (plant the field).

Scrambled Eggs. This is interesting because the "complaint" of the song is that the kids are becoming Americanized, and one example of that is their desire for scrambled eggs. Didn't Chamorros eat scrambled eggs long before the Americans came? Inafliton chåda'? Well, in the mind of the composer of this song, scrambled egg is a symbol of Americanization.

Hotnalero. From the Spanish jornalero, meaning "day laborer." These were people who were hired on a daily basis and paid day to day, as well. The Latin word diurnalis (daily) is the root word for derivatives in many languages such as Spanish jornalero, Italian giorno (day), French jour (day) and English journal (daily newspaper). The song uses hotnalero in the sense of an employee (someone paid by the hour). Before the war, most Chamorros were farmers. Farmers are not employees, nor are the paid by the hour. Farmers work for themselves and live off their produce or the income they get from selling them.

Man mendioka i bulacheros. I will have to ask Candy Taman one day what the real joke is here. Mendioka is tapioca. This is obviously a joke aimed at drunkards (bulacheros).

Establese. NOT establisa. Establisa shows that the American influence ("establish") has really made a dent when some people want to find a Chamorro equivalent. Long before the Americans came, the Spaniards made their dent on our language for 200 years. In Spanish, "establish" is establece, or estabese in Chamorro.

Maloffan. Means "to pass" or "to pass by." It can also mean to "go beyond", to be "extreme." Maloffan lalålo' means "extremely angry." Something has "passed" beyond the normal way of being angry or what have you.

Monday, April 17, 2017


What is a "hose" in Chamorro?

It depends.

In Guam, tilipas.

In the CNMI, hos.

Why the difference?

The difference comes from who influenced them first. It is possible that rubber hoses were used on Guam during the late Spanish period. Hoses have been around for a long time, the later ones being made of stitched leather. By the 1870s, hoses were made of rubber. Had they been used in the Marianas then, the Spanish word manguera for "rubber hose" would have also been used by the Chamorros.

But, rubber hoses wouldn't have been used much in the Marianas till the 1900s. By then, Spain was no longer ruling over the Marianas and the Spanish language would now have no strong influence over the Chamorros. Manguera never entered permanently into our Chamorro speech, if at all.

By the time a real system of water pipes was put in place in Guam and Saipan in the early 1900s, the Americans on Guam and the Japanese in Saipan were changing things up for the Chamorro people.


So, assuming our people had no word for what they probably didn't see or use much, or at all, they had to come up with their own word for the hose once it became a common item.

So some imaginative person on Guam looked at a hose and said, "Kalan tilipas este!" "This looks like intestines!" Well, I don't know that for sure, but that's the word that stuck on Guam, probably because a hose resembles intestines.


What's interesting is that some of the first hoses in ancient history were indeed made of intestines! Just as they were historically used as casings for sausages, the intestines of animals were cleaned and then used as water channels.

The Chamorro word tilipas comes from the Spanish word tripa, or tripas in the plural. Tripa refers to the innards or guts of an animal, including the intestine. It is related to the English word "tripe."

In older Chamorro, people sometimes had to say "tilipas goma" or "rubber intestines" to differentiate a hose from an animal's intestines. Even more clear, to avoid confusion, was "tilipas goma para hånom," or "rubber intestine for water."

Today, the context is enough to tell people which tilipas is being used, the hose or the body part.

Ma puno' i babue ya ma laknos i tilipås-ña. They killed the pig and took out its intestines.

Chule' i tilipas ya un rega i tinanom. Get the hose and water the plants.


Now up in Saipan, the Japanese ruled from 1914 till 1944, and their influence added to the Chamorro language spoken there.

The Japanese had a word for "hose," and, if we were to spell it in Roman letters, it would be spelled hōsu. That word itself comes from the Dutch word hoos, which sounds like our English "hose" and means just that - a hose. The Japanese got the word from the Dutch, who did a lot of trading with the Japanese. There are, in fact, a good number of Dutch words that came into the Japanese language.