Thursday, December 28, 2017


A document from 1823 by Spanish Governor of the Marianas, José Ganga Herrero, lists everyone in the Marianas who had been, or still were, under some form of legal punishment for various crimes, some crimes as early as 1807. These would include Chamorros and foreigners alike. The names, and their crimes, were :

1. Miguel Bamba. Theft..

2. Tomás Evangelista. Theft.

3. Juan Esparza. Drunkenness and having broken a bar in the barracks. He was exiled to Tinian.

4. Juan Coronela. Theft.

5. Rafael Lugay. Bad conduct.

6. José Taitano. Murder of Angela Sarmiento.

7. Ignacio Martínez. Insubordination. Exiled to Luta.

8. Benito Lajo. For hanging his wife. Exiled to Tinian.

9. Juan Delgado. Disobedience. Exiled to Tinian.

10. Juan de Salas. Separating himself from his wife. Exiled to Tinian.

11. Andrés Atoigue. Theft and escape. Exiled to Tinian.

12. Justo Taisigno. Theft and escape. Exiled to Tinian.

13. José Taisague. Theft and escape. Exiled to Tinian.

14. Juan José Manibusan. For having beaten his wife with a cane. Exiled to Tinian.

15. Paulino Quitano. Escaping to the mountains.

16. Desiderio Charsagua. Theft and escape.

17. José Quioja. Theft.

18. Felipe Charsagua. Theft.

19. José de León Guerrero de la Cruz. Theft in the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán in Hagåtña.

20. Ignacio Bay. Theft in the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán in Hagåtña.

21. Juan Asuda. Theft.

22. Ildefonso Asuda. Theft.

23. Manuel de San Nicolás. Theft.

24. Blas de Salas. Theft.

25. José Quitano. Theft.

There was also another case pending, that of Cenobio Saguanamnam, accused of murdering his wife.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


It is a custom in some families that at a Christmas party, someone older, usually a male, will throw up a handful of coins and yell "Biba i Niño Jesus!" "Long live the Baby Jesus!"

As the coins come falling down and rolling everywhere on the floor, the young people run scrambling to pick up as many coins as they can.

Monday, December 25, 2017


There is more than one way to say "Merry Christmas" and this song has almost all of them!

The song is a Chamorro version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."


Fan magof sa' Nochebuena, fan magof sa' Nochebuena, fan magof sa' Nochebuena!
(Rejoice because it's Christmas.....)
Mafañågo si Jesus!
(Jesus is born!)
Ta plånta i buñuelos dågo, ta plånta i buñuelos dågo, ta plånta i buñuelos dågo,
(We'll serve the yam fritters....)
ta selebra på'go!
(we'll celebrate now!)

Felis Påsgua! Felis Nabidåt!
(Merry Christmas!)
Felis Nochebuena yan Åño Nuebo!
(Merry Christmas and New Year!)

In nå'e hamyo minagof på'go.
(We give you happiness now.)
Felis Nochebuena yan Åño Nuebo!
(Merry Christmas and New Year!)

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Chamorro school children in costume

Dr. Larry Cunningham recently shared with me that, over the years, he has been told by more than a few older people that some people used to observe an interesting Christmas custom on Guam called borego'. I had heard the word before, but with a different meaning. More on that later on. But the borego' that Cunningham's informants described was something else.

On Christmas day, or maybe the night before, you would dress up in interesting and creative costumes and joke around in public. A photo from the Fritz collection in Luta in the early 1900s talks about Chamorro men dressed up for a "Christmas game," quite possibly the borego'.

Chamorro men dressed up for a "Christmas game." Luta, early 1900s
Fritz Collection

All kinds of tomfoolery was acted out and tolerated during the borego'. Some people walked on stilts, some acted like buffoons, some cross-dressed. They would paint their faces or use homemade masks. Making my own inquiries, an older lady told me her brother used to walk around in a mestiza, the traditional Chamorro dress for women, to celebrate New Year's. No one was punished for any of these deviations from the social norm. Cunningham thinks this was a way of safely releasing inner tensions under a socially repressive colonial regime; a "safety valve" of sorts.

Some participants in the borego' would go house to house, entertaining the neighborhood. Homes would welcome them and give them treats, especially buñuelos dågo (yam fritters), typical for the season.

Social rules were suspended, to an extent, during a borego', because men who had fathered children illegitimately were able to see their sons and daughters if they were dressed up in costume for the borego'. In many families, these fathers would have been chased away if they came looking to visit their children. But, if they came in costume in the borego', even though they were recognizable for who they really were, the families tolerated their coming to the house with the other costumed men.

Some of Cunningham's informants remember dressing up for the borego' as late as the 1950s, but by the 1960s, it seems to have died out. One source told Cunningham that, since the Chamorros were made American citizens in 1950, there was both a measure of self-government now and a desire to become more American in customs.

A lady writes about her memories of the borego' during the 1960s :

"Santa Rita guys did this around Christmas time when I was a kid, all the way to when I was about 13-14 years old. They wore gunny sacks with holes made for the eyes & mouth, and they wore tattered and torn pants. It was suspenseful sitting outside in our swing set and waiting for them in groups, coming from the bottom of the hill. As they got closer, it was hilarious to see us screaming, running inside and peering at them through the glass louvers. Nana would give them buñelos dago, soda and candy."


Although the custom of dressing up in the borego' has died, the word itself has not completely disappeared, though many Chamorro speakers are not familiar with it. The word itself has taken on several meanings, but it is easy to see how they all spring from the original meaning, connected to wearing costumes.

MASK. Some Chamorro speakers today understand the word borego' to mean "wearing a mask" or "costumed make-up."

SCARY FACE. Since some of those masks or costumes were scary, weird or grotesque, some Chamorro speakers interprey borego' as a "scary face."

CLOWN. Again, because of the costume.

DISGUISE. Someone masked is usually unrecognizable, so someone in disguise.

UNKEMPT. Disheveled. When a person just wakes up and isn't groomed yet. When a lady hasn't put on her make-up. When someone has been doing yard work or been in the jungle and perhaps has smudges on the face. All of these can be an example of looking borego'. Again, since some masks or costumes were scary, borego' became applied to messy looking faces.

"Fa'gåsi matå-mo! Paine gapotilu-mo! Kalan hao borego'!"
("Wash your face! Comb your hair! You're like a borego'!")


In Saipan, the borego' means a Christmas play. One sees the connection, again, with the older meaning : dressing up in costume. In a Christmas play, characters dress up as St Joseph, the Blessed Mother, shepherds, the Three Kings and so on.

Singing at a Borego', or Christmas Play, in Saipan in 1992

In the Marianas, priests and teachers put on plays all throughout the year. Here is a news excerpt about a Christmas play performed on Guam in 1910 :


The word borego' is borrowed from the Spanish word borrego. In Spanish, a borrego is a lamb or a yearling sheep.

In time, borrego became a slang word for someone easily fooled or tricked, since sheep are seen as docile and easily led by their shepherds. People who are naive or dimwitted, who are easy victims of a prank or a hoax, are sometimes called borrego.


Now we come to December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, in Spanish, los Santos Inocentes. The Innocents were the baby boys killed by King Herod in and around Bethlehem.

But, in Spanish, inocente can also mean naive, simpleminded or gullible. So, on December 28, in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world, people dress up in different kinds of costume to have fun and play pranks on people, to celebrate the ease with which many people become victims of pranks and tricks.

I believe it is from this Spanish custom, dressing up in costume on December 28, that the borego' finds its origins. It was a way of poking fun at people for being like obedient sheep - borrego - and playing tricks on them. To get away with those tricks, and to have fun, people dressed in costume. And from there, all the later meanings of the word borego' took shape.

There may also be an ancient connection with the Roman feast of Saturnalia, which ran from December 17 to December 23. That feast took on a carnival-like atmosphere, with masters switching places with slaves and all kinds of overturning of social norms, much like the borego'. Of course, if there is indeed such a link between the Roman Saturnalia and the Chamorro borego', it is first by way of Spain. And here I think the link with the feast of the Inocentes also plays a part.

December 28 in Spain

December 28 in Mexico

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Two, three or even more songs are sung during the Nobenan Niño (Christmas novena) which takes place in the homes nine (nuebe - NOBEna) days or nights before Christmas, or sometime after Christmas, depending on the family.

These songs are a very important part of the experience. The melodies put us in a Christmas mood, even if we don't all understand the words.

The techa, who leads the nobena, often observed the children very closely.  Usually a woman, she expected all the kids to join in singing the songs, at least the chorus or refrain of every song. If she saw that you were not singing, she'd give you a pinch if she were close enough to you. Otherwise, she'd stare you down or maybe mouth the word "kånta" or "sing!" It wasn't good enough for you to just physically be there; you had to participate and pray the nobena at least by singing its songs.

Another reason why the techa wanted all the kids to sing was so that the whole neighborhood would know there was a nobena going on at that house. Kids sing loudly, if they know the song. What better advertisement!?! This way, everyone would know that there was a nobena at that house and all were welcome to come to the house and join in.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


An old Chamorro Christmas tradition was to clean the house, from top to bottom, a few days before the start of the Nobenan Niño (Christmas novena).

For nine days or nights, your living room would be full of people attending the nobena. In those days, family, friends and neighbors would come. No invitations were really needed. If neighbors heard Christmas hymns being sung at your house, they would just wander over there and enter. Families wanted that to happen, and thus they would encourage people to sing loudly, to let the whole neighborhood know that the house was having a nobena.

Children, especially, loved to attend the nobena. When children heard the nobena songs being sung, they would drop their sticks and balls in the streets where they were playing and run to the house having the nobena. The children all piled into the front of the belén (nativity scene), right on the floor.

I remember at our house all these kids my age, that I never knew existed, showing up in our living room for the nobena! I never saw them before on our street. But no one was turned away. Everyone was welcome to attend the nobena. The treats passed out after the nobena were another draw, but that is a subject for another post.

Because all these people would be showing up at the house, the house was cleaned before the start of the nobena. Of particular concern was the cleanliness of the floor, since the children would be sitting and kneeling on it. Many floors were made of wood, sometimes ifit wood, which were termite-resistent. Polishing the wooden floors was a top priority and it was done the old-fashioned way, using a dried, cut coconut husk. The fibers of the husk allowed a nice shine on the wood. One could use modern, store-bought polish with the coconut husk, or one could use old-fashioned coconut oil as the polishing agent. Just put your strongest foot on the husk and dance away!

From Mother Nature - a coconut husk floor brush

Put on your favorite dance record and work away!

Monday, December 18, 2017


Long before we saw Douglas firs.....

The Christmas Tree is an American custom, itself borrowed from Germany. During Spanish times in the Marianas, there was no Christmas Tree.

When the United States took over Guam, the American Naval community wanted to have an American Christmas in Hagåtña, where the highest levels among them lived, at least as much as possible.

As early as 1907, according to former Governor Dorn, the American Governor did something for the Hagåtña school children. After 1907, year after year, the children would gather at the Plaza de España and the Governor, with his wife, and other Naval officers and their wives, with some teachers, would pass out candy and toys, which were ordered and shipped in from the U.S. mainland, the Philippines or Japan.


For trees, the Americans had to improvise. The trongkon gågo, also known as the ironwood or Australian pine tree, was used as a substitute for the true pine and fir trees grown in North America. Though called Australian pine, it is not a pine tree but rather a she-oak. Its leaves are drooping needles that resemble horse hair or a horse tail.

Slowly, a few Chamorros adopted the American custom, modified in that the local trongkon gågo was used. This was an interesting choice since, at least by the 1930s, there were trees on Guam which looked more like pine trees, as seen in this photo of the Hagåtña Cathedral taken before the war. These were Norfolk pines, which aren't real pine trees either, but they sure looked it!

But these trees were not plentiful on Guam and, if cut down, it would take years to replace them. The trongkon gågo, on the other hand, grew in many places where, if one were cut down, hardly anyone would notice!


Then, in 1924, an American fir tree was shipped to Guam by Hans Hornbostel, a former serviceman who had lived on Guam and who was then traveling between Guam and Hawaii while working for the Bishop Museum, collecting Guam artifacts for that institution. The tree was put in cold storage for the trip. It is not known if more firs were sent to Guam for subsequent Christmases but, whatever the case, the trongkon gågo remained Guam's primary Christmas Tree for the moment.

In the Northern Marianas, which did not have American influence until after the war, Christmas Trees did not become common until much later.

When Chamorros decorated the trongkon gågo, they used whatever mother nature or their home closets provided. Store-bought decorations were limited, by each year one could add something new and, in time, a family could amass a little collection of Christmas ornaments. Otherwise, you used whatever you could easily find - even stringing popcorn, as seen in the picture above.

The one drawback of the trongkon gågo was that it quickly browned. Within a few days, its needles would drop to the floor and eventually the branches would be bare.

Judging from the smile of Julie Manley Villagomez, the young lady in the picture above, people were still happy with their trongkon gågo Christmas Tree, until the arrival of American trees became more available.


Gågo can easily be mispronounced as gago'. That changes the meaning of the word entirely.

Gago' means "lazy." Without the lonnat above the A, as in Å, a flat A is pronounced, like in the English word "fat." With the lonnat, it becomes an open A, like in the English word "father."

Also, in gago' there is a glottal stop at the end. In gågo, there is no glottal stop at all.


Utot i tronkon gagu,
(Cut down the gagu tree,)
chule' guatu gi gima';
(take it over to the house;)
po'lo gi fi'on i bentana,
(put it next to the window,)
pues na'ye ni kampana.
(then put on bells.)

Na'ye ni estreyas,
(Place stars,)
kana' diferentes kulot bola;
(hang balls of different colors;)
godde i paketi siha,
(tie the packages,)
pues agang i mambiha.
(then call the older ladies.)

I mambiha mambuñelos,
(The old ladies make buñuelos,)
para todu i bisita;
(for all the visitors;)
ma totche gi anibat,
(they dip it in the syrup,)
pues ma kana' i katupat.
(then they hang the rice pouch.)

Thursday, December 14, 2017


På'go manana, ma papadda' i titiyas.

(The sun just rose, they're making titiyas.)

Manana means "clear" as in "visible." When the sun comes up and the sunlight makes everything around us visible and clear, it is manana. På'go means "now." På'go manana, it is just now clear and visible.

Padda' is to slap with the open palm. When making titiyas, in order to form the flat pancake, one pats the titiyas back and forth with the two palms of the hands. This thins and stretches out the titiyas. Padda'.

Older Chamorros used figurative speech to talk about socially embarrassing topics like sex.

When two people who should not be doing it, are known to be engaged in such intimate activity, trying not to be caught, hiding perhaps behind a shack or in the woods, some people could say, "På'go manana, ma papadda' i titiyas."


In the old days, titiyas was the staple carbohydrate people ate, not rice. Corn was much more abundant and grown by almost every family. Rice was harder to grow and fewer people grew it. So every house had corn titiyas, nearly all the time. Rice, less so.

As soon as the family cook was awake in the morning, she or he would make the titiyas dough and padda' the titiyas right before putting it on the iron, so when the rest of the family is awake there is something to eat. People wake up hungry. They're in a hurry to eat something. The sun just came up (på'go manana) and already they are making titiyas (ma papadda' i titiyas).

This haste to eat something, pushed by physical desire to fill the stomach, is being paralleled to sexual urges which two people are impatient to satisfy, even to the point of hiding behind a shack or in the woods, where there is a high chance of being caught.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


One of Larry Saralu's very popular Chamorro remakes if of the Everly Brother's hit song Walk Right Back. The Chamorro title is Bira Hao Mågi, meaning "Turn Back Here."


Malago' yo' na un sangåne 'u
(I want you to tell me)
håfa na un dingo yo'.
(why did you leave me.)
Mampos yo' na sen triste.
(I am exceedingly very sad.)

Malago' yo' na un tungo'
(I want you to know)
na desde ke humånao hao
(that ever since you left)
i korason-ho esta kumåkåti.
(my heart is already crying.)

Atan ha' nene i bidå-ña
(Look baby what)
i guinaiya na esta
(love has done that already)
ha sosongge i korason-ho.
(it is burning my heart.)

Ai bira hao mågi kerida nene,
(Oh turn back here darling baby,)
chulili'e' yo' mågi nu i guinaiya-mo
(bring to me here your love)
ai sa' mampos yo' mahålang kada dia.
(oh I am exceedingly missing you each day.)

Now compare with the original English lyrics :

I want you to tell me why you walked out on me
I'm so lonesome every day.

I want you to know that since you walked out on me
Nothin' seems to be the same old way.

Think about the love that burns within my heart for you.
The good times we had before you went away, oh me.
Walk right back to me this minute.
Bring your love to me, don't send it.
I'm so lonesome every day.

I want you to tell me why you walked out on me.
I'm so lonesome every day.

I want you to know that since you walked out on me.

Nothin' seems to be the same old way.

Monday, December 11, 2017



He was Navy surgeon Frederick Alexander Hesler. Born in Chicago in 1861, he was the son of a famous photographer named Alexander Hesler. His father's photographs of Abraham Lincoln became very famous. Frederick entered the US Navy in 1884.

In August of 1900 he was assigned to Guam and arrived sometime thereafter.

He served on Guam, as a Navy doctor, for a very short time. By 1902, he was re-assigned to Cavite in the Philippines. Because of some health concerns, he was ordered to Yokohama Hospital in Japan in early 1903 but died at sea on March 11, 1903 due to heart failure.

Not long after Hesler left Guam, a street was named after him by the Naval Government. It's interesting that a man who spent less than two years on Guam would have a street named after him, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was an early medical officer on the island in the American administration, at a time when the Naval Government gave a lot of emphasis to health care among the people. Perhaps he assisted in the founding of Guam's first hospital. Maybe it was because he died soon after leaving Guam that the Navy wanted to honor him for his brief but important work on Guam.

The map below is from the year 1915 and already there was a Hesler Street.


Although Hesler died in 1903, a report he wrote just before he died continued to be quoted after his death. In this report, made to the Secretary of the Navy, Hesler stated that living for a year or more in a Pacific or Asian military base had adverse effects, physically and mentally, on many American officers.

Hesler's statement was used in the defense of an assistant Navy paymaster who had been dismissed due to irregularities in his performance. The paymaster, Phillip W. Delano, spent several years in the Philippines and China in the early 1900s, as well as on the USS Brutus when it was based on Guam for a while. He claimed that serving in Pacific and Asian duty stations had those adverse effects on him, as Hesler's report stated.

Sunday, December 10, 2017



På'go na tiempon Atbiento, ta prepåran mamaisa hit para i finåtton-ña i Niño
(In this time of Advent, we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the Child)

gi ha'ånen mafañagu-ña. Lao magåhet lokkue' na gi kada Misa måfåtto mågi
(on the day of His birth. But it is also true that in every Mass our Lord comes here)

i Saina-ta, ya debe de ta prepåran maisa hit kada Misa para i finatton-ña.
(and we should prepare ourselves at every Mass for His coming.)

Kada ta hasso i Sånta Misa, debe de u ta hasso dos na sinisede : i Uttimo na Sena,
(Each time we think of Holy Mass, we should think of two events : the Last Supper,)

yan i finatai i Saina gi kilu'us. Finene'na, kada Sånta Misa otro na Uttimo na Sena.
(and the death of the Lord on the cross. First, each Holy Mass is another Last Supper.)

Ta hahasso na åntes de u måtai i Saina, ha na' huyong i Sånta Misa gi Uttimo na Sena.
(We remember that before the Lord died, He established the Holy Mass at the Last Supper.)

Ha tungo' esta i Saina na para u dingo i tano', lao malago' gue' lokkue' sumåga gi tano'
(The Lord already knew He was to leave the earth, but He also wanted to remain on earth)

komo nengkanno' para i man disipulu-ña. Ennao mina' ha na' huyong i Sånta Eukaristia
(as food for His disciples. That is why He established the Holy Eucharist)

gi Uttimo na Sena. Nengkanno' para i ånte i Sånta Komunion. Ya ti ta agradese i nengkanno'
(at the Last Supper. Holy Communion is food for the soul. And we don't appreciate food)

yanggen ti man ñålang hit. Solo yanggen man ñålang hit nai siña ta agradese i nengkanno'.
(if we're not hungry. Only when we're hungry can we appreciate food.)

Pareho ha' yan i yiniusan na nengkanno'. Ti mangokomotgan hit sa' pot esta man håspok hit.
(It's the same with divine food. We don't receive communion because we're already full.)

Åhe' ti pot esta man bråbo hit. Åhe' ti pot man metgot hit. En lugåt, mangokomotgan hit
(Not because we're already healthy. Not because we're already strong. Instead, we receive communion)

sa' man yayas hit ginen i problema siha ni ta fåfåna guine gi tano';
(because we're tired from the problems we face here on earth;)

sa' pot man ñålang hit para i kinensuelon Yu'us.
(because we hunger for God's consolation.)

Lao hahasso na i man måtai ti siña mañocho. I man yayas yan i man malångo,
(But remember that the dead cannot eat. The tired and sick,)

hunggan siña mañocho. Lao i man måtai åhe'. I man måtai ha nesesita nuebo na lina'la'.
(they can eat. But the dead cannot. The dead need new life.)

Gi halom i kosas espirituåt, yanggen umisao hao makkat, måtai i inagofli'e'-miyo
(In spiritual things, if you sin mortally, the friendship between you and God dies)

yan si Yu'us, ya ti siña un kånno' i linangitan na pån.
(and you cannot eat the heavenly bread.)

Un nesesita nuebo na lina'la' ni måfåtto ginen i Sakramenton Konfesion, annai ma funas
(You need new life which comes in the Sacrament of Confession, where your sins)

i isao-mo siha. Meggai na biåhe, man maleffa hit ni este na obligasion na,
(are erased. Many times, we forget about this obligation,)

yanggen guaha makkat isao-ta, debe de u ta fangonfesat åntes de u ta fangomotgan.
(that if he have mortal sin, we need to confess before receiving Holy Communion.)

Ya debe de u ta repåra lokkue' na i makkat na isao åhe' ti i mamuno' ha',
(And we ought to remember also that mortal sin is not just murder,)

o sino i mañåkke ha'. Håfa ñahlalang gi lini'e'-ta siña makkat para si Yu'us.
(or stealing. What is innocent in our eyes may be grievous for God.)

Yanggen ti humosme yo' Misa an Damenggo pot gago' ha', makkat na isao para si Yu'us.
(If I don't attend Sunday Mass just because of laziness, that is mortal sin for God.)

Ta komprende ha' yanggen malångo i taotao, lao otro kosa i gago' na taotao
(We understand if the person is sick, but the lazy person is a different thing)

pat ñaba' i debosion-ña. Ginen i dikkike' na problema nai humuyong i dangkulo na problema.
(or that his devotion is weak. From small problems come bigger ones.)

Guaha remedio para todo isao, era i sinetsot-ta yan i Sakramenton Konfesion.
(There is a remedy for all sin, which is our repentance and the Sacrament of Confession.)

Este na Sakramento ha nånå'e hit ta'lo ni nuebo na lina'la'; i matai na ånte ma na' lå'la' ta'lo.
(This Sacrament gives us new life again; the dead soul is made alive again.)

Despues, ha nesesita nengkanno' i ånte para u mås metgot ya u mås homlo',
(Later, the soul needs food to become stronger and healthier,)

Ennao mina' mangokomotgan hit. I Sånta Komunion åhe' ti para i man prefekto,
(That is why we receive Communion. Holy Communion is not for the perfect,)

sa' solo gi langet nai man gaige i prefekto.
(because only in heaven are the perfect.)

En lugåt, i Sånta Komunion para todos hit ni man ñålang yan man yayas.
(Instead, Holy Communion is for all of us who are hungry and tired.)

Hamyo ni mañaina ni man mamadedese pot famagu'on-miyo, ya en siente na kalan
(You parents, who suffer on account of your children, and feel as if)

man desganao hamyo man man nanangga, kånno' i Tataotao Jesukristo,
(you are giving up hoping, eat the Body of Jesus Christ,)

guiya ni ha sungon todo i linachen i man disipulu-ña yan i taotao siha
(He who endured the mistakes of His disciples and the people)

lao tåya' na desganao. Hamyo na taotao ni man pininiti pot i manailaye
(but who never gave up. You who are pained by the bad deeds)

na kostumbren otro taotao, kånno' i Tataotao Jesukristo, guiya ni ha padese
(of others, eat the Body of Jesus Christ, who suffered)

i chinatli'e i taotao siha, lao tåya' na ha chatlie' tåtte i taotao.
(the hatred of the people, but who never hated others back.)

Todos hit man kinembibida para ta resibe minetgot yan minesngon para i lina'lå'-ta
(All of us are invited to receive strength and perseverance for our lives)

gi Sånta Komunion. Maila' ya ta hahasso este, ya ta prepåran maisa hit,
(in Holy Communion. Let us think of these things, and prepare ourselves,)

åhe' ti para i finåtton i Niño ha' un biåhe gi sakkan,
(not only for the arrival of the Child once a year,)

lao todo i tiempo para i finåtton i Saina gi kada Misa.
(but always for the coming of the Lord at every Mass.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017


"Pika! Pika! Pika!"

The things our parents got away with which now could get them in legal trouble.

In some families, if a child was caught telling a lie, the punishment could be being forced to chew on fiery hot donne' or chili peppers.

A man tells this story which happened in the 1950s :

Annai påpåtgon yo', gof ya-ho man ngångas "bubble gum."
(When I was a child, I really liked to chew bubble gum.)

Lao si nanå-ho ti malago' ha nå'e yo' salåppe' para bai famåhan gi tenda.
(But my mother didn't want to give me money for me to buy at the store.)

Un dia, mañåkke yo' "bubble gum" gi tenda ya maleffa na eståba si nanå-ho gi kusina
(One day, I stole bubble gum at the store and forgot that my mom was in the kitchen)

annai hu tutuhon man ngångas "bubble gum."
(when I started to chew bubble gum.)

"Måno na mañule' hao salåppe' para un famåhan 'bubble gum?'" ha faisen yo' si nanå-ho.
("Where did you get money to buy bubble gum?" my mom asked me.)

Hu dagi ya hu sangåne na si bihå-ho munå'e' yo' ni salåppe'.
(I lied to her and told her that my grandmother gave me the money.)

Lame' sa' si nanå-ho ha ågang si bihå-ho gi telefon para u faisen kao ha nå'e yo' salåppe'.
(Boy my mom called by grandma on the phone to ask her if she gave me money.)

Annai sinangåne as bihå-ho na åhe',
(When my grandma told her no,)

ha afuetsas yo' si nanå-ho para bai fan ngångas donne'.
(my mom forced me to chew chili peppers.)

Gi tutuhon libiåno hu sungon lao annai esta singko pat sais na donne' ni hu ngångas,
(In the beginning it was easy for me to stand but when it was already five or six peppers I chewed,)

esta ti siña hu sungon ya hu tutuhon tumånges.
(I couldn't take it already and I started to cry.)

Milalak påpa' i lago'-ho!
(My tears flowed down!)

Annai hu faisen si nanå-ho håfa na ha kastiga yo' taiguennao, ilek-ña si nanå-ho,
(When I asked my mom why did she punish me that way, she said,)

"Umisao hao yan i pachot-mo man dagi, pues i pachot-mo lokkue' siempre ma kastiga."
("You sinned with your mouth by lying, so your mouth will also surely be punished.")

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


According to an American visitor to Guam in 1902, the church in Hagåtña had reusable coffins. A small room to the side of the main body of the church served as a store room for one common coffin, available for reuse by each new funeral.

If you wanted one, and could afford one, you could also be buried in your own coffin. We have documented evidence at the time that shows that individual coffins were also made to order.

Otherwise, the dead were wrapped only in cloth; white for infants and black for adults. Then the cadaver was placed in the common casket only as a means of carrying the body to Pigo' cemetery for burial just in the sheet, usually in the same grave as another family member.


White was the color of baptized infants who had died because they died sinless. Being baptized, they were washed clean of Original Sin. Being infants (or less than 7 years of age) they were incapable of committing mortal sin. Thus they died sinless and destined for heaven. According to another source, musical bands would play joyful music while accompanying the caskets of dead infants to the cemetery; joyful because these dead children were destined for heaven.

People who died older than seven years of age could very well have died in the state of Sanctifying Grace. But chances were that they would spend some time in Purgatory. The sorrows of Purgatory, and man's uncertainty where the soul of the older person is at this moment, made black a suitable color for mourning the deaths of people older than infants.

Monday, December 4, 2017


Hagåtña Ice Plant built by the Navy

According to one American visitor, the local people were not too happy with the building of Guam's first ice plant. They blamed it for making the capital city cooler than normal.

The Spaniards on Guam got along fine without ice, but one of the first things the new American administration did was open an ice plant, in October of 1900, just a year after the first Naval Governor had arrived.

But some of the citizens of Hagåtña, so the story goes, noticed that the weather got a bit cooler since the ice plant opened. Apparently that wasn't a good thing, and people started to complain that, if the climate continued this way, they'd have to leave Hagåtña, which they dreaded to do.

I am reminded by this how we traditionally fear the nighttime cool air (sereno) and that our old custom was to handle all sickness by closing all the windows and cutting off all ventilation in the patient's room.

Well, our mañaina got over this disdain for the ice plant quick enough because Ton Pedro'n Martinez opened his own commercial ice plant in 1913 and stayed in that business a long, long time.


Since the people had never seen ice before, there were bound to be some humorous reactions.

A 200 pound block of ice was cut into smaller pieces to hand out to the Chamorro laborers working at the plant. When each was handed their piece, many of them dropped them, claiming that the ice was "burning" their palms.

Others left their pieces to the side for later, and when they returned to look for their piece, it had disappeared. They didn't understand that the ice melted. Instead, they accused coworkers of stealing their piece.

Friday, December 1, 2017



Santos (originally de los Santos) is one of the most widespread surnames among Chamorros on Guam. And so there are numerous Santos families with different nicknames.

One of the branches of the Santos name is the familian Månnok. Månnok means "chicken" in Chamorro.

According to more than one older members of the family, a male ancestor (great-grandfather for some of my informants) raised a lot of chickens, so many chickens that people started calling him Månnok.

Other than family oral tradition, we don't know exactly why this family is better-known-as the Månnok family. It goes back to Spanish times when most cultural things weren't documented.

Two brothers are documented as being members of the Månnok family.


Félix Camacho de los Santos was officially named "better-known-as" Månnok in a court document in 1901.

In the document above, Félix de los Santos is alias (@ ) Manoc, or Månnok.


Another Camacho Santos of the same period is Romualdo Camacho de los Santos. He seems to be Félix's brother. Romualdo's mother's name was Micaela Camacho, but I haven't come across his father's name.

Romualdo married Ana Guzmán Untalán, the daughter of Marcos Untalán, a Filipino settler on Guam, and his Chamorro wife Joaquina Guzmán.

Romualdo and Ana's sons were Manuel, Vicente, Antonio and Marcos. Their daughters were Nicolasa, Trinidad, Maria and Ana.

Many of Romualdo's descendants lived in Talofofo since the early 1900s and many of the Månnok family are still in Talofofo to this day.


There was also a José Camacho Santos, probably brother to Félix and Romualdo. He was married and lived in Sumay. He also went by the nickname Månnok.

a 1905 court case involved José Camacho Santos, better known as Månnok


According to the early Europeans who wrote descriptions of the Marianas, there were no chickens here until the Europeans colonized the islands. Usually, then, we should have a Spanish word for "chicken." If the animal, or flower or what-have-you, is imported, then there ought not to be an indigenous or native word for it. The Marianas didn't have deer, so our word for deer is borrowed from Spanish, "benådo." Kabåyo (horse), chiba (goat) and karabao (carabao) were all imported and are thus called in Chamorro by words with foreign origins.

But månnok is not the Spanish word for "chicken." It's not a Spanish word for anything at all. But månnok is related to similar words in other Austronesian languages, similar in sound and meaning. Manok is Tagalog for "chicken," as it is in Visayan and some other Filipino languages. In Indonesia, the Karo Batak people say manok for "chicken," and in a few other Austronesian languages it is the same.

I have a theory about månnok but I will save it for another post in the future!

Thursday, November 30, 2017


San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 1903

Spanish rule over Guam effectively ended on June 21, 1898 when Spanish Governor Marina, and all the other Spanish officers and troops, were put on board American ships and taken to Manila. The American flag now flew over Guam.

Many babies were born on Guam for the rest of the year 1898. Many more were born in 1899, 1900 all the way up to 1903. But none of them were American.

No, the first American baby born on Guam didn't appear until March 23, 1903. It was a baby girl, the daughter of Lieutenant and Mrs. Eugene Ryan of the US Navy, occupying the position of island paymaster.

Why weren't all those babies born in 1900 and 1902 with names like Pérez and Taitano and Borja and Sablan considered American babies? Because the Chamorros of Guam just happened to be living on an island owned by the United States, but not an integral part of the United States. United States citizenship wouldn't be granted until 1950 and, even now, Guam remains an unincorporated territory of the United States. Unincorporated. Not an integral part of the United States.

The little girl, names Eugenia Louise Elizabeth Ryan, happened to have Catholic parents and she was baptized at the Hagåtña Church (it wasn't a cathedral yet) on Easter Sunday, with none other than the American Governor, William Sewell, taking the part of godfather while the godmother was the wife of a Navy doctor.

Her birth was hailed as a historic event, not only by the military community but also by some of the Chamorro upper class who gave their share of christening gifts to the infant.


Lieutenant Ryan's baby girl was perhaps the first child born on Guam to American parents that the US Navy knew of at the time, but it is altogether possible that a child was born on Guam to American parents long before 1903. It's just that the US Navy didn't know about it since it happened during Spanish times, and as the child and parents eventually left Guam.

Guam was constantly being visited by American whaling ships (and those of other countries as well). Although it wasn't often that women were on board, it did happen at times that whaling captains had their wives along. We cannot rule out the possibility that an American couple came to Guam just as the wife was about to give birth and did give birth to an American baby on Guam during Spanish times. We do know of one case where a British mother, married to a British man, gave birth to a girl either on Guam or on the high seas heading towards Guam during Spanish times.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


John Manibusan and Family
Liverpool, England
1891 British Census

Not all the Chamorro men who left Guam and the other Mariana islands on the whaling ships left for good. Some came back. One of them was Juan P. Manibusan.

According to Juan's marriage record, he was born in 1866. But, in those days, people were often unsure of their ages and birth days, so we have to keep an open mind about the question of his age.

He ended up in Liverpool, England at least by the 1880s. Liverpool was a great seaport at the time, sometimes called "the New York of England." It was home to the Cunard and White Star shipping line, and the home port of such historic ships as the Titanic, the Lusitania and the Queen Mary. Huge amounts of cargo came through the port as well as thousands of immigrants from all over the world. I'm not surprised that a Chamorro seaman of the 1800s found himself in Liverpool.

The great port City of Liverpool

Because of poverty and the famine in Ireland, which began in 1845, thousands of Irish, mostly Catholic, moved to Liverpool for work. Among them was a young lady from Kilkenny, Ireland named Mary McKenna Drennan. Juan met her, the two fell in love and were married in Liverpool in 1889. While some of their children died in infancy or childhood, at least four children lived to adulthood : Anthony, John, Joseph and Maria. These Chamorro-Irish children were all born in England.

In Liverpool, Juan ran a tobacco shop and a boarding house where he provided lodging to sailors. In the 1891 British Census, Juan rented out lodging to a Filipino sailor named Chris Puto Labiron and his much younger British wife and step children. In Juan's neighborhood, in fact, there were no less than 4 or 5 Filipinos living there.

The star marks Upper Frederick Street, home of the Manibusans in 1891

In 1891, the Manibusans were living on Upper Frederick Street in the Pitt Street Ward district of the city. This area was close to the docks, so it's no surprise that Juan rented out lodgings to seamen.

It is said that at the end of World War I, he brought his wife and the two youngest children to Guam for good. The two older boys, Anthony and John, joined the British Navy and in time settled in the U.S.

Juan the seaman became the opposite when he returned home to Guam. He farmed the land! He is not listed in the 1930 Guam Census so he must have passed away between 1920, when he is listed, and 1930. Mary appears in the 1930 Guam Census as a 61-year-old widow, and in the 1940 Guam Census, as well. It is said she died right after the war in 1945.

Descendants of Juan and Mary Drennan Manibusan live to this day in Guam and the United States mainland.

Liverpool, England
Canning Dock, not far from Juan's residence

*** The assistance of Juan's descendant, Jamie Bolton-Ronacher, is gratefully acknowledged.

Monday, November 27, 2017


Back in the day when Air Micronesia, a subsidiary of Continental Airlines, existed, travel between Saipan and Guam was usually done on a 727 jet plane. The trip took a mere 20 minutes from take-off to touch-down. Those days are now gone as we squeeze into a smaller propeller plane for a 40 minute flight.

A man loses the love of his life to the 727 jet, taking her to God-knows-where, but far from the shores of Saipan and the man who loves her.

Esta para un hånao gi 727 jet.
(You are ready to leave on a 727 jet.)
Mampos yo' triste yan mahålang
(I am really sad and dejected)
pot i para un dingo yo' nene.
(that you're about to leave me baby.)

Pues hanao ha' kerida
(So just leave darling)
lao cha'-mo maleleffa
(but don't forget)
na gaige ha' yo' nai guine
(that I am just here)
na hu nanangga hao kerida nene.
(waiting for you darling baby.)

Gi annai kumikilolok i ruedan 727 jet
(When the wheels of the 727 jet were turning)
duro lokkue' i lago'-ho
(my tears also)
de milalak påpa' gi faso-ho.
(really fell down on my face.)


Mahålang. The root word is hålang, and describes a weakening of spiritual energy and power. So it can apply to fear, nostalgia, yearning for what is absent, discouragement.

Kilolok. To revolve, to make circular turns.

Milak. Flowing liquid.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017



It's interesting how even scary folklore changes over time.

For example, I came across a duendes story from 1852 that differs, in some detail, from our duendes stories today. I'll add that link at the end of this post.

Now I've come across a story about a bruha from 1902.

The word bruha is borrowed from the Spanish word bruja, which means "witch." Most of us, raised in the American culture, think of pointy hats and pointy noses. Wizard of Oz and Snow White sort of things.

We don't hear the word bruha much anymore, or about their alleged existence. As a kid I heard older people say the word bruha only rarely. Maybe once every few years. But the word does appear in older Chamorro dictionaries (Ibáñez 1865 and von Preissig 1918).

This story comes from an American reporter in 1902 who heard it on Guam. That's not directly from the local source, so take it for what it's worth.

"The bruja is never seen, but commits awful atrocities on people and property. One evening a man was eating his supper when he heard the peculiar click, click which indicated the presence of the bruja. In a sudden fit of bravery he invited the unseen to partake of food, adding that he was not afraid, when without a moment's warning the candle was extinguished, dishes broken and the man himself attacked until his face was covered with blood and his hair lay in tufts about the room. This was the work of the witch, itself frightened away at last by the terrified man's prayer to the saints, 'Jesús, María, José,' from whom protection was asked. Suffice it to say that that man never again invited the bruja to lunch."

Just like us to call out "Jesús, María, José" when in a jam!

A duendes story from 1852 :

Monday, November 20, 2017


Pan Am 1941 route map showing Canton Island

Canton Island in 1941 was a tiny, barren atoll of sand and rocks, with no native population. But it made a convenient spot where Pan American Airline's clipper planes could stop for refueling on their way from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Pan Am also had a station on Guam, and it was from Guam that Pan Am recruited workers to staff various positions on Canton Island.

That's how these Chamorro Pan Am workers got stuck on a remote atoll, far from home, when World War II broke out on December 7, 1941.

From the list of Chamorro Pan Am employees working at Canton Island in 1941

When war broke out and disrupted normal travel and communications, and with the Japanese at the outer fringes of that Pacific area, the residents of Canton Island abandoned the island. The Chamorro workers were first taken to Pago Pago in American Samoa, not too far from Canton Island. From American Samoa, they went by ship to Honolulu in January of 1942.

The Chamorro workers were (name, age, occupation, home village) :

ANDERSON, Jose (24, waiter, Sumay)
BORJA, Antonio (21, launderer, Sumay)
CARBULLIDO, Albert (23, clerk, Agat)
CHARFAUROS, Ignacio (23, mess boy, Agat)
CONCEPCION, Juan (23, waiter, Sumay)
CRUZ, Ignacio (31, cook, Sumay)
CRUZ, Vicente (25, assistant cook, Agana)
DE LEON, Jose (46, aircraft mechanic, Agana)
DUEÑAS, Ramon (47, carpenter, Sumay)
GARRIDO, Anselmo (27, aircraft mechanic, Sumay)
GUERRERO, Jose (27, cook, Agana)
GUERRERO, Magno (18, messboy, Agana)
MAFNAS, Antonio (23, waiter, Agana)
MATAGULAY, Juan (41, aircraft mechanic, Garapan, Saipan)
MATERNE, Domingo (23, laundryman, Agana)
MESA, Felix (24, utility man, Agat)
PEREZ, Vicente (20, waiter, Agana)
QUITUGUA, Enrique (30, cook, Asan)
RIVERA, Vicente (22, waiter, Agana)
SALAS, Juan (33, cook, Agana)
VALENZUELA, Francisco (27, mess boy, Agana)
WON PAT, Vicente (23, bar keeper, Sumay)

The large number of Sumay men is not surprising, given that the Pan Am base and hotel site were located in Sumay before the war.

One of the Chamorro Pan Am employees on Canton Island in 1941



Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Santa Ana (Saint Anne), mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus

In the old days, most parents and grandparents were very strict with their adolescent children, especially the girls. Their every movement was monitored and who they kept company with was duly noted. Even at dances, older sisters or cousins or aunts went to chaperone the activities. This meant that young people in love found it a challenge to find time to chat with each other.

One opportunity was Sunday Mass. Since almost everyone was Catholic and went to Mass on Sundays, there was a good chance you could see your sweetheart there. One young man thought he could take advantage of Mass and spend a few moments chatting with his girlfriend. But even in church there are challenges to be met.

Era 1956 na såkkan ya sen umaguaiya si Francisco yan si Luisa.
(It was the year 1956 and Francisco and Luisa were so in love.)

Lao pot i mampos estrikto todo i mañainan-ñiha, ti siña i dos umali'e'
(But because all their parents and elders were so strict, the two couldn't see each other)

solo an umeskuela i dos ya para un råtoto ha'.
(except when they were both in school and only for a brief moment.)

Sinangåne si Luisa as Francisco un dia gi eskuela,
(Francisco told Luisa one day in school,)

"Gi Damenggo, ta asodda' gi Misa."
("On Sunday, we'll meet at Mass.")

"Lao mångge?" mamaisen si Luisa.
("But where?" Luisa asked.)

"Tohge gi fi'on i mañåntos gi pettan san me'na," ilek-ña si Francisco.
"Stand by the statues of the saints at the front door," Francisco said.

Ya magåhet na ayo na Damenggo eståba si Francisco
(And sure enough that Sunday Francisco)

na ha nanangga si Luisa gi fi'on i mañåntos gi pettan san me'na.
(was waiting for Luisa beside the saints at the front door.)

En fin måtto si Luisa lao ti magof matå-ña.
(At last Luisa came but her face wasn't happy.)

"Håfa, kerida, na ti mamagof posision-mo?" mamaisen si Francisco.
("Why, sweetheart, is your expression not happy?" Francisco asked.)

"Francisco. Atan hulo' ya un li'e' håye na såntos un ayek para un fi'une," ilek-ña si Luisa.
("Francisco. Look up and see which saint you chose to be next to," Luisa said.)

Tumalak hilo' si Francisco ya ha repåra na tumotohge gue' gi fi'on Santa Ana.
(Francisco looked up and saw that he was standing next to Saint Anne.)

"Ai lokkue'. Sa' kontodo gi halom guma'yu'us ha pupulan hit si Nanan Biha," ilek-ña si Francisco.
"Oh dear. Even in church grandmother is watching us," Francisco said.)

Monday, November 13, 2017



You can't totally get away with it.

That seems to be the message of this bit of wisdom from the elders.

The inner ugliness of an evil person will somehow manifest itself outwardly in the body of that evil person when he or she dies.

Thus, even if an evil person who did much harm in life got away with it, the punishment will come when the dead body of the evil person becomes so ugly that the person suffers an ignoble death.

Here's how one older lady explained it :

I taotao gi durånten lina'lå'-ña yanggen mampos bula tinailaye bidå-ña,
(The person who during his life if he has done a great deal of evil,)

tåt komo mampos båba i pachot-ña,
(such as having a very bad mouth,)

sesso de muna' mumu taotao,
(who stirs up fights between people,)

gi oran finatai-ña siempre u guaha ma susede.
(at the hour of his death something surely will happen.)

Siña ha' ma baba i pachot-ña, ma laknos i hila'-ña
(It's possible his mouth will open, his tongue come out)

ya ti siña ma na' halom.
(and it can't be put back in.)

Horror! But this is the punishment.

Even though evil people often get away with it in this life, still, at death, you can't get away with it completely.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


It was only the second mass trial of black military servicemen in the U.S. during World War 2.

Some forty-five black service men were convicted and given different sentences for a "riot" on Guam involving white Marines. The troubles included some deaths, and also, according to many reports, Chamorro women who were pursued by both white and black military men.

Reflecting the general tenor of the country at the time, the U.S. military was a segregated one in World War 2. Black servicemen were grouped together in their own companies and quarters, separate from the whites, and even had their own line for meals in the canteen. Black nurses treated black patients in military hospitals.


Black Marines in Saipan 1944

On Guam in 1944, four companies working in the Marine supply depot were comprised entirely of blacks.

For some time, white Marines targeted these black Marines, yelling racial slurs, throwing at them empty bottles, rocks and even hand grenades and smoke bombs on a few occasions. One of these smoke bombs thrown by a white Marine landed in the fuel dump, where black Marines were working with dangerous amounts of octane gas. An explosion, putting the black men at the risk of their lives, was gratefully avoided.

Complaints by the black Marines fell on deaf ears with the higher command. This only increased the sense of frustration and helplessness among the black men, convincing them that they had to take matters into their own hands. As one black Marine said about doing military service on Guam, he might as well be in a "town in the deep South," since he found the same racial discrimination in both circumstances.

Part of the tension involved competition over the Chamorro women these military men met. Besides a general kind of competition for these women's attention, there seems to have been a few cases of specific rivalry between a black and a white service man over a specific Chamorro lady.

The military commander (and civil governor) of Guam, Major General Henry Larsen, was warned that trouble was brewing among his own service men. Larsen preached reconciliation and unity, but his words came too late. In December of 1944, verbal assaults and bottle throwing turned more violent. Shots were fired and men, both black and white, were killed.

More than once, black Marines left their camps in the Hågat-Sumay area and went up to Hagåtña, only to engage in fights with white Marines. White Marines in jeeps drove by the black camps, firing shots. The last time, early in the pre-dawn hours on December 26, a caravan of black Marines, armed with weapons taken without permission, heading towards Hagåtña hoping to get back at the white Marines, was stopped on the road by a military barricade. The black men were arrested.


During World War 2, news reports were heavily censored by the government in the interest of national defense. After all, you don't want the enemy to get tipped off about America's military situation by reading the morning newspaper. The Navy therefore blocked the release of news reports about the racial riots among the military on Guam. It would be bad for military morale and bad for the image of the U.S. in the world.

Except that.....Walter White was in the picture.

Walter White

Walter White was the Executive Secretary, at the time, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, the nation's influential advocacy group for black Americans. White happened to be on Guam in December of 1944 right when the racial troubles blew up.

He served as counsel to the black Marines arrested on Guam. He would make sure that their case would receive the attention and fairness that he believed they had a right to.

The forty-some black Marines tried and convicted for things such as rioting and the abuse of military property (like the guns they took) got dishonorable discharge and prison terms as high as four years down to four months. The fewer white men facing charges got considerably lighter sentences, as low as 20 days' confinement which was then written off.

As soon as the news blackout was lifted in July of 1945, White made sure that the story of the convicted black Marines made national news. He also put pressure on the Navy to reopen the case and look at significant factors that were not considered at the trial, such as the intimidation given the black Marines by the white ones, and the non-action of the military commanders to diffuse racial tensions by taking seriously the complaints of the black Marines.

In 1946, the Navy released from prison those black Marines still serving time for the Guam "riots."