Thursday, September 21, 2017


Here it is, 118 years after the Spanish left Saipan in 1899, and this Chamorro family still prays this nobena to the Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) in Spanish. Even the singing is in Spanish.

While it is true that Spain left Saipan politically in 1899, and left Guam politically a year earlier in 1898, the clergy in both places remained Spanish for another 40 years or so.

In Guam, the last Spanish priest left in September of 1941, just three months before the war, and the bishop remained Spanish until 1945.

In Saipan, the last Spanish priest left in 1947. In addition to Spanish priests, Saipan had Spanish sisters, the Mercedarians, since 1928. These sisters had influence over the women of Saipan, and women generally have more of a role to play in keeping religious customs alive in the home. The people leading this Spanish nobena in this video in Saipan today are the women.

Spanish was used as an official language of government on Guam even in the early days of the American administration. It was in 1905 that Governor Dyer ordered the switch entirely to English. But, even in to the 1920s, performances staged by Chamorros included Spanish songs and dances. Chamorros clung to Spanish in prayers and hymns for many years after and, although in smaller numbers now, up to this day.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Gof chachathinasso un nåna sa' pot kada oga'an mumuta' i hagå-ña achok ha' ti kalentutura pat sinago. Ha konne' i hagå-ña para i mediko ya ma eksamina i me'me'-ña i sotterita. Sinangåne i nana nu i mediko, "Ma potge' i hagå-mo." Ilek-ña i nana, "Ti siña, Señot. Todo i tiempo humahame na dos ya tåya' na ha dingu i gima' guiguiya ha' na maisa, tåya' nobio måfåtto gi gima', tåya' na kumuentos gue' gi telefon yan låhe." An monhåyan ha sångan este i nana, tumohge i mediko gi me'nan i bentåna ya sige de tumalak hiyong. "Håfa, Señot, un a'atan guihe huyong?" mamaisen i nana. Ilek-ña i mediko, "Hu nanangga i Tres Reyes."


Mañugon i dos Etmåna para Inalåhan lao ti ma repåra na esta kumekehokkok i gasolina gi karetan-ñiha. Sen matai karetan-ñiha giya Yoña ya ma espia si Påle' Alvin para u ayuda siha. Ilek-ña si Påle', "Siña hamyo en fañopchop gasolina ginen i karetå-ho, lao tåya' båtde pat låta para u sinahguan i gasolina, solo guaha este na orinola." Pues magåhet na mañopchop gasolina i dos Etmåna pues ma chule' i orinola ni bula gasolina ya ma nå'ye gi kareta ni eståba gi kanton chålan. Guaha taotao maloloffan ya ha li'e' na ma nåna'ye gasolina ginen orinola ya ilek-ña i taotao ni dos Etmåna, "Magåhet, Sister, na todo klåsen milågro si Yu'us  siña ha cho'gue."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017



According to Candy Taman himself who told me, this was the first song Candy wrote in Chamorro. The tune he adopted from songs he heard from Chamorro singers who had lived in Yap and who had returned to the Marianas after World War II.

The song is full of sarcasm and humor. I'll explain in the notes below.

Uriyan tåno', hålom tåsi
(At land's end, in the ocean)
annai hu plånta i gigao-ho.
(where I set my fish net.)
Puro ha' sesyon yan satmonete
(It was all rabbitfish and goatfish)
ya sen dimålas sa' gai hiting.
(and what misfortune as there were bigeye scad.)

Aga' manila yan papåya
(Manila bananas and papaya)
ayo tengguång-ho gi mattingan.
(was my food at the reef.)
Ya låstima i dångkulon talåya
(What a waste was the large net)
sa' todo tinitek nu i guihan.
(because it was torn by the fish.)

I un lancheru mås gef saga
(The rancher is the richest of all)
sa' abundånsia tinanom-ña.
(because his planting is abundant.)
Ya i bulachero et mås dimålas
(And the drunkard is the most unfortunate)
sa' tåya' para kinano'-ña.
(for he has nothing to eat.)

Chinachak tuba na sen mames,
(Very sweet coconut toddy cuttings,)
kinemman kangkung ni bibisbis.
(Sizzling, pan-fried kangkung)
Tamåles chotda para agon-ña,
(Banana tamales as a staple,)
linemmok lemmai na mahange.
(fermented, pounded breadfruit.)

Macheten doffe', galon tuba.
(A dull machete, a gallon of coconut toddy.)
Båtden abono chinile'-ña.
(He brought a bucket of fertilizer.)
Tåya' produkto gi lanchon-ñiha,
(Their ranch had no produce,)
meggai tinanom marihuåna.
(it had a lot of marijuana plants.)

Verse 1 talks about a fisherman using a gigao, a fish trap made of netting. Sarcastically, he says that it turned out to be a bad catch because it included hiting, which was actually a prized fish among the people.

Verse 2 continues the fisherman theme and says that the fish net tore apart because of the abundance of fish caught, recalling a biblical image!

Verse 3 compares the life of a farmer who grows what he eats, and the drunkard who is so drunk that he cannot work and make money or grow food, and thus has nothing to eat.

Verse 4 talks about food, such as tuba, a mild liquor made from coconut sap by cutting certain branches, and kangkung which sizzles in the pan. Older dictionaries spell the word besbes but here they say bisbis. Candy Taman is part Chamorro (Babauta) and part Carolinian (Taman) so he then sings about a Chamorro food (tamåles chotda, banana cooked in a banana leaf wrapping) and then a Carolinian food (linemmok lemmai), which is breadfruit pounded and allowed to ferment.

Verse 5 pokes fun at marijuana growers, who could care less about running a farm for food. They could care less that the machete is not sharp. They make more money growing and selling marijuana, so no food is grown on their farm.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Map showing the commercial activity of Capelle & Ingalls in the Marshalls

Adolf Capelle was a German gentleman who combined a businessman's ambition with a yearning for travel. Micronesia, mostly unknown to the Western world in the 1800s, proved an exotic and enticing destination. Off he went to the Marshall Islands to work for a German company doing business there. When that company folded up, Capelle started his own business, with various partners. One partner was the Portuguese Anton Jose de Brum and another was the American Charles H Ingalls.

At the top right of the picture above, you can see a German map of coconut plantations in the Marshalls run by Capelle and his partner Ingalls.

Adolf Capelle

The company didn't confine its activity to the Marshalls. It branched out to several places, and the company even tried to get something going in the Spanish Marianas.

In 1880, Ingalls was in Guam and won a contract from the Spanish government to build a warehouse, or almacén, at Punta Piti (in the vicinity of the current Cabras power plant).

Maybe that Piti project was just a way in since, not long after, Ingalls got Spanish permission to exploit Pagan and Agrigan's coconut tree resources to make money from copra.  Hired for the Pagan job in 1880 were the following men from Guam :

Ramón Gumataotao, José Fejarang, Ignacio de la Cruz, José Pereda, Francisco de la Cruz, Vicente Lizama, Ramon Wisle (Wesley), José Pangelinan, Mariano Pangelinan, José Aguon, Juan Roberto, José Tenorio, José de Salas, Pedro de los Reyes, José de los Santos, Vicente Mendiola (but he signed his name "Flores"), Ignacio de la Rosa, Antonio de San Nicolás, Enrique Carolino and Pedro de los Santos.

Enrique Carolino sounds like the name of a Carolinian named Enrique.

Gregorio Pérez, probably the founder of the Goyo clan, which would make him Gregorio Cruz Pérez, was to be the head of this crew. Félix Montufar Roberto was appointed alcalde, or mayor, of Pagan for the duration of the Capelle settlement. I am not sure if these men ever did get to Pagan. The license was only to last a year, anyway.

Not long after, another agent for Capelle, one SS Foster, with Alexander Milne, came to Guam to get government permission to exploit, once again for copra, the island of Agrigan. I am not sure if that project ever actually happened.

The Capelle Company's presence in the Marianas was very brief; more like poking their noses in the area to see what could happen. The answer was nothing much. Their success lay in the Marshalls and other areas close by.

Charles H. Ingalls' signature
on the 1880 Punta Piti contract

Thursday, September 14, 2017


William Pritchard Coe

William Pritchard Coe was a half-American, half-Samoan businessman adventurer who, for whatever reason, moved to Guam right after the American capture of the island. For two weeks, he served as Governor of Guam when a passing Naval officer dismissed the Governor at the time and appointed Coe instead. But Captain Richard P. Leary was just two weeks away from Guam and, when he arrived, Leary took over the government.

Coe remained on Guam and was captain of the port of San Luis de Apra for part of his time on island. As captain of the port, Coe was in charge of the comings and goings of boats and ships in and out of Apra.

On October 24, 1900, Coe saw a boat leave Cabras Island, headed for Piti. In those days, Piti was the actual point of disembarkation for people arriving at Apra. Thus, there was a pier built at Punta Piti (Piti Point), more or less opposite the Cabras Power Plant today.

Cabras Island and Punta Piti in the 1800s
"Pantalán" means "pier"

When the boat landed at Punta Piti, Coe observed three men, namely Joaquín Martínez of Hagåtña, José Martínez and José Finoña, both of Piti. Their boat was laden with lemmai (breadfruit). Coe asked the men if they were aware that the lemmai was government property, since all of Cabras was government property. The men replied that they had the Governor's permission to harvest at Cabras.

Coe filed a formal complaint with the government, anyway.

William Coe's signature in 1900

The island court sat on this issue for over a year! Finally, the government tossed out the complaint because no crime had been committed. According to Philippine forestry law, still in force on Guam since most of the Spanish-era laws had not been abrogated yet by the US Naval Government, people could freely make use of whatever grew on government land.

Coe left Guam for good around this time, and may have even been gone by the time the court issued this final decision.



The original Chamorro name for the island is Apapa.

Cabras is the name Spaniards gave it, and the name means "goats." I suppose goats were raised there at one time. The last name Cabrera comes from cabra. It means "goatherd," a tender of goats just as "shepherd" is a tender of sheep.

Nowadays, no one calls it Apapa and fewer still even know the name. Most people don't even call it an island anymore!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


This Chamorro expression is one more proof that language is not just a matter of vocabulary and grammar. There are modes of expression that go beyond ordinary logic.

Ma tåla' na påtgon means that a certain child is outgoing, speaks up, expresses his or her personality. He or she is the opposite of the shy child who is rarely seen and never heard. The underlying belief is that the ma tåla' na påtgon has confidence in him or herself, while the yomåhlao (shy) child has a lack of confidence and thus dislikes being seen or heard.

The curious thing is the use of the word tåla'. To tåla' means to dry in the sun. Your wet clothes are ma tåla', either hung on the clothes line or spread out over bushes. Salted meat is dried, or ma tåla', in order to preserve it for future use.

So, how is an outgoing child ma tåla'? Is he hung on the clothes line?

So I asked Påle' Jose this question.


So, just as our wet clothes or salted meat are exposed in the sunshine, seen and visible to all the world, in the same way, the ma tåla' na påtgon is not hidden. He or she is exposed, seen and visible to the whole world.

In fact, one of the older Chamorro dictionaries (1918) says that tåla' means to "expose or lay out." It doesn't state that tåla' specifically means to "dry out," as in clothing or food. But, if one exposes wet clothes and food to the sun and air, they will dry out. So, perhaps, the most basic meaning of tåla' is simply to expose or lay out.

Ma tåla' na påtgon. It's a mental image that came to the minds of our Chamorro mañaina and came into the language.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Clerk of the Guam Court

My great grandfather Victoriano Joanino was clerk of the Guam Court in the first years of the American Naval Government. He was thus involved in many of the comings and goings of Guam society in those days, including the criminal!

In those days before typewriters and tape recorders, everything documented in court was done by hand, and Victoriano wrote thousands of pages of court records, from transcripts of testimonies to certificates to legal forms.

One such court case put him in the right place at the right time, at least for one suspect.

A man farming in Piti, Antonio de la Cruz, came home one day to find that his wooden chest (kaohao) was broken into. He had spent the night prior to this at his mother-in-law's, together with his wife, and no one was in his own house the night the chest was broken into.

Missing from the chest was 19 pesos, a good sum of money in those days. Then he discovered that a good quantity of pugas (raw, harvested rice) was also missing.

Investigating the surroundings, he noticed footprints of at least two people outside the house, and the prints of a karabao. He followed these prints and they lead him to the house of one Vicente the Tagålo (Tagalog). Antonio believed he had found his suspect.

This Vicente was Vicente Mejos Gonzales, a Filipino from the town of Bangar in the province of La Union, in the Ilocano-speaking region of the Philippines. For Chamorros, all Filipinos are Tagålo (Tagalog), even if that person is Visayan, Ilocano or what have you. Gonzales was, in fact, far from being Tagalog, but his own neighbor, Antonio Cruz, called him Vicente the Tagålo. In the court record seen above he is named "Vicente de tal @ tagalo." "De tal" means "so and so" and @ stands for "alias," or "also known as." Since the court had only Antonio Cruz's information thus far, no one knew Vicente's full name yet, so he was called Vicente the Tagalog.

Government investigators went out to Antonio's ranch house in the Sasa' area of Piti, a good place for growing rice in its swampy terrain. They looked over the ranch house and took measurements of the footprints. Then they went to look for Vicente the Tagålo.

When they found him, they encountered a slight difficulty. Vicente was not Tagalog at all but rather Ilocano. He had married a Chamorro-Chinese mestiza, Maria Mafnas Champaco. Being unschooled, Vicente could not speak either Spanish nor Tagalog, and his Chamorro was very basic. If he had to testify, he could do it in only one language - Ilocano. Where would they find an Ilocano speaker who also spoke excellent Spanish?

Well, it just so happened that the court secretary, Victoriano Joanino, was Ilocano. Although the court clerk or secretary shouldn't act as interpreter, Victoriano had no choice but to translate for Vicente, suspected now of being the robber.

When all was said and done, no charges were brought against Vicente Gonzales. The court determined that there just was not enough evidence to point fingers at anybody, and the robber was never identified.

All of which made very happy one Vicente the-not-so Tagålo.

But I wonder what poor Vicente would have done if Victoriano Joanino had not been the court clerk that day when he was called before the judge. How would he have given his side of the story? My great grandfather was in the right place at the right time to act as Ilocano interpreter for Vicente.

The Sasa' area south of Piti where Antonio had his ranch house

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Chinese laborers started settling on Guam in larger than usual numbers around the year 1858. That year alone saw the arrival of Chinese men named Unpingco, Losongco, Tyquiengco and perhaps that same year, or maybe soon after, Limtiaco.

By the 1880s, there were between 15 and 20 Chinese men living on Guam, maybe a third of them married to Chamorro women and baptized into the Catholic religion.

In a document from the year 1884, Rosauro Unpingco is described as the "current head of the Chinese residents in this island." "Cabeza actual de los chinos residentes en esta isla."

The Spanish colonial government system including neighborhood heads called cabezas de barangay. A barangay was a neighborhood, and its head was the cabeza (Spanish for "head").

As far as I know, there never was a formal office for a cabeza for the Chinese residents of Guam. At least I've never seen such a title on any official list of titles or positions in the island government during Spanish times.

So, I suspect that Rosauro's title was an informal, unofficial but practical one. He would act as the liaison between the Spanish government (its Spanish officials and Chamorro clerks) and the dozen or so Chinese residents on Guam. He would relay to the Chinese community any news, announcements or requests from the Spanish government, among other duties. His position would have been appointed, not elected (there were no elected offices in the Marianas at all under the Spanish).

Rosauro's signature 

Once again, don't be too concerned about the way Rosauro's last name is spelled. Here it is Ung Pinco. "Ung" would have been his Chinese last name. It is often rendered Ng today in his variety of Chinese (Fujian). In the Spanish records, Unpingco is spelled in three or four different ways.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


A song of lost love, sung by Larry Saralu


An ti siña mohon humita kerida
(If we cannot be together, darling)
i tataotao-ho ti maolek siniente-ña;
(my body doesn't feel well;)
ya ti siña hu sungon kerida
(and I cannot bear, darling)
na bai hu mamaisa ha'.
(to be alone.)

Annai un chiko yo' tumånges yo'
(When you kissed me I cried)
sa' ti hu hongge na para un dingo yo'.
(because I couldn't believe you would leave me.)
Ya ti siña hu sungon kerida
(And I cannot bear, darling)
na bai hu mamaisa ha'.
(to be alone.)

Åpmam tiempo de humihita.
(We were together for a long time.)
På'go para un apåtta hao.
(Now you're going to go on your own.)
Nene hu guaiya hao.
(Baby I love you.)
Ti hu sungon man meggai åpmam na tiempo
(I cannot endure many long periods of time)
sa' tåya' mås kerida ke hågo.
(because there's no one more than you.)
Ya ti siña hu sungon kerida
(And I cannot bear, darling)
na bai hu mamaisa ha'.
(to be alone.)


Maisa. To be one alone, as in "Guiya na maisa," "Him alone/only." Some think it is related to the Ilocano word maysa, meaning the numeral "one." Then, there might be a connection with the Filipino word isa, also meaning "one," found in many local languages in the Philippines.

Bai hu mamaisa ha' has a stronger feeling than just "to be alone." It has the sense in a constant condition of being utterly alone; to be left alone, by oneself, in this world.

Apåtta. To be apart, to be separated from, to be far off.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Poor Vicente never made it up this hill. He was shot and killed around this spot.

NOTE. This is a historical account of a murder on Guam in 1900. The investigation records are still intact. But I am not including last names for the simple reason that 117 years ago is not that long a time. Relatives of the murderer, the suspected accomplice and the victim are still with us. 

Vicente was, from all accounts, a nice guy. Sociable, affable and friendly. Except for a few landowners in Talofofo who differed with him about exact land boundaries, he got on well with everyone and even those neighboring ranchers didn't hate Vicente. It was just the normal squabbling about how far your goat could eat the grass that was routinely found among people in those days.

Vicente's real problem was his wife Rosa. Lots of people in Hagåtña believed that she was unfaithful, carrying on with a certain Juan. Her boyfriend Juan was a single man, and ten or so years younger than her. She made all kinds of excuses never to follow her husband Vicente from Hagåtña, where they lived, to their ranch in Talofofo. One day she would say she was not feeling well; the next day it was because she had too much to do in the Hagåtña home. So, off Vicente would go to the ranch in Talofofo, and Juan the boyfriend would spend time with Rosa in the house while Vicente was gone. Juan made himself at home, going into any room he cared to enter.

Tongues wagged all over Hagåtña. It didn't help that Rosa's own cook swore that she caught Juan and Rosa in physical contact in the bodega or basement. Some of her own children also stated that they believed their mother and Juan had something going on.

Matters turned worse when Vicente himself walked in on his wife and Juan, a kompådre to them by the way, in each other's arms.  A day or so later, Vicente confided to a few people that he was resolved to bring Rosa down to Talofofo to live there for a few years, to keep her away from Juan. Perhaps that's when Juan got the notion to kill Vicente, to put an end to the plan to keep Juan and Rosa apart.

A witness actually called Juan and Rosa achagma (achakma), the Chamorro word for illicit lovers

In the early hours of May 16, 1900, between 2 and 3 in the morning, Vicente and his wife Rosa readied some of their animals and bags and left their house in Hagåtña to go to Talofofo. Another Vicente, a house boy, went with them. Though it was in the dark of night, the moon was out and its light brightened the path of the travelers. They entered San Ramón barrio and were just passing the last house on that road, which leads up the hill to Sinajaña.

Just before the road rose towards Sinajaña, Rosa asked to stop. She needed to urinate. In the meantime, Vicente decided to have a smoke. He lit a match to light his piece of tobacco and out of nowhere shots were fired. Vicente was hit three times in the back. A bullet entered his chest, damaging some vital organs and arteries. He fell on his face, then turned to lie face up, and died.

Rosa cried for help, bent down to examine her husband's body, and saw that he was already dead. She departed to inform the authorities at the government offices in the Palåsyo (palace).

The testimony says Vicente was shot in a spot just before the road rises up the hill

Vicente's body was taken to his home and laid out. People remarked that Rosa did not seem to be grieving. Then there was the matter of the house clock; some noticed that it was two hours ahead of time! Someone had pushed the time forward. Vicente never left Hagåtña for Talofofo so early in the morning before. Why now? Rosa said they left that early at her request, in order to travel while it was still dark and cool. Did Rosa push the clock two hours ahead in order to make Vicente rush, thinking that they had less time in the dark than in reality? The real time was 2AM; their house clock said 4AM. Dawn was coming; hurry!

Strange, too, that they should travel in the darkness while Juan, Rosa's lover, was on guard duty at the Palåsyo. An American military man says he saw Juan leave his post in those dark hours, and then there was the sound of gun fire. Half an hour later, Juan re-appeared at his post. When some American military men examined Juan's gun later, they stated that the gun had been fired within the last 48 hours.

Map of Hagåtña a few years after the murder, showing the barrio of San Ramón
and the pre-war road leading up to Sinajaña

Juan was detained, but let go because of insufficient evidence. But people observed that Juan stayed away from Rosa from then on. Both sides of the family, Rosa's and Juan's, strongly advised them to keep apart. People were pointing fingers mainly at Juan, but also at Rosa, as being responsible for the death of Vicente.

Then a strong typhoon in November of 1900 brought Juan and the widow Rosa together again. Juan went to go see how Rosa fared the storm. In no time Rosa was pregnant, with Juan's child.

The authorities never let all of this pass, however, and by April of 1901, both Juan and Rosa were held in custody, while the government investigated further. Juan and Rosa denied any participation whatsoever in the murder of Vicente, but, on April 4, Juan broke down and confessed to being the murderer of Vicente.

Juan blamed it all on the rage he felt when he happened to see Vicente and Rosa in physical intimacy in the privacy of their bedroom. This rage, Juan said, clouded his mind and he resolved to kill his lover's husband. Passing their house the night of the murder and seeing the light on and the door opened, Juan stopped by and learned from Rosa that they were about to leave for Talofofo. Juan went to get his gun and hid in the bushes in San Ramón by the road that leads to Sinajaña. He shot Vicente when he saw the match light.

Juan was eventually condemned to death. Rosa was set free. Juan's legal counsel appealed the sentence. Under Spanish law, a death sentence on Guam was appealed to the higher court in Manila. But that court was no longer in existence under the new American judicial system in the Philippines. Guam was lost somewhere in legal limbo. The United States Congress had not yet instituted a clear court system for Guam. Without a higher court to appeal to, the Navy in Washington told the Governor of Guam that the best thing to do was cancel the death sentence for Juan. It was reduced to a life sentence and, in time, Juan was pardoned.

Modern map of Hagåtña showing the general area of the murder

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Msgr. Louis Antonelli
Påle' Luta since 1973

For some time now, Luta (Rota) has had two parishes - San Francisco de Borja, the original in Songsong - and San Isidro, the new one, in Sinapalo.

Various priests have come and gone since Luta opened a second parish.

But, if you ask most people in Luta, there is only one "Påle' Luta," the one who's been there for forty-four years! Monsignor Louis Antonelli. For most of those 44 years, he was the one and only priest on Luta and he got to know everyone on the island, and everyone knew, and knows, him.

Ten years ago, I sat down with him and had a conversation that I made notes of. Here are some things I learned :

~ The first place (outside of Guam) he asked to be assigned to was Alamagan. But the diocese didn't send resident priests to the northern islands. Priests from Saipan would alternate going up to all the inhabited northern islands every three months or so on a government vessel.

~ There was a man in Luta who had been an interpreter in Guam during the war. Apparently he had made some enemies on Guam, and would have been killed if he set foot back on Guam. Antonelli prepared the man for death when his health deteriorated.

~ Antonelli's first experience of Luta was during summers in the 1950s. Since he was a school teacher (at Fr Dueñas), summers were when he could cover a parish while the pastor took a break. In the 1950s, Capuchin Father Cornelius Murphy was pastor of Luta. He lived very poorly. The konbento (rectory) had no electricity yet. Antonelli used a kerosene lamp at night. Father Cornelius also ate very poorly. On one day, Father Cornelius would have spam for lunch and canned corned beef for dinner. The following day he would have canned corned beef for lunch and spam for dinner. Antonelli got sick of canned meats because of this.

Father Cornelius in front of the old konbento in Luta

~ Marcelino Mangloña was Father Cornelius' house boy (låhen Påle'). Marcelino would ring the church bell 70 times every morning at 5AM to get people up for Mass.

~ Daily life in Luta in the 1970s. People went to Mass early in the morning then went to their ranches to farm. During the day, no one was at home except the very old. The children were at school and the adults were at their ranches.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Pedro came home one night, to find his house locked and his wife, Ana, refusing to open the door.

It was Guam in the year 1872.

As Pedro became agitated, demanding that Ana open, a man named Félix jumped out a window. Ana then opened the door, to a screaming Pedro repeatedly shouting, "Where was that man!" "Måno eståba ayo na taotao!" Pedro was screaming so loud that neighbors started to gather outside Pedro's house. The five small children born to the marriage were standing around Pedro, crying their eyes out.

Such a public scandal ensued that the matter was brought before the island government.

It seems many people knew that Ana was carrying on with Félix. Some testified that Félix had claimed to some that he was planning to take off with Ana on his boat and move to the Bonin Islands, in Spanish and Chamorro, the Boninas.

The Bonin Islands were, by the time Félix and Ana were carrying on, under Japanese control. But, prior to that, the deserted island was settled by a mixture of British, American and other European men, along with islanders, male and female, from Hawaii and elsewhere. There was even one Chamorro lady, María de los Santos, married to the American settler Nathaniel Savory. There had been periodic contact between the Bonin Island settlers and the Marianas, and people in the Marianas knew of the existence of these islands to the north. One former Bonin Island resident, Richard Millinchamp, with his son Henry, left the Bonins and settled on Guam.

Félix never got to accomplish his dream. The law found out and forced an end to the illicit relationship he had with a married woman. Pedro and Ana stayed married till death.

NOTE : Although I know, from the documents, the last names of all involved, I am leaving them out. The descendants of these people are alive and well down the street from us. History is not confined to the past. Past events touch us even today.

Monday, August 28, 2017


Signature of Family Founder Lucio Aldan
in 1881 when he was still living on Guam

The Aldan family is a well-known family in Saipan which originated in Guam. For a time before the war, there were some living in Yap, as well. Now, the Chamorro Aldans can be found all around the Marianas and the U.S. mainland.

The family founder was a Filipino named Lucio Santos Aldan, the son of Tomás and Ana. Lucio was born in Imus, in the Province of Cavite, very close to the capital city of Manila. Tomás, therefore, was Tagalog-speaking. Spanish records indicate that he was a carpenter by trade.

Aldan, by the way, is not a surname found in Spain. But there are Aldans in the Philippines and is probably a Filipino name.

At some point before the 1860s, he moved to Guam. There he met his future wife, the Chamorro María Rivera de León, the daughter of Juan and Rosa, all from Hagåtña.

Their first children (Ana, Tomás, Juan, Antonio, Rita and Manuel) were born on Guam but sometime in the mid 1880s (1884-1886) he moved with his family to Garapan, Saipan where he stayed till he died in 1896. He lived for a very short time in Tinian, as well, during his Saipan years. In Saipan, a son Vicente was born. In Tinian, a daughter Francisca, the last of the eight children, was born.

The five sons, of course, were mainly responsible for the spread of the Aldan name as they married and had numerous children.

Tomás married Encarnación Cruz Concepción.

Juan married Nicolasa Cruz de León Guerrero.

Antonio married twice. First with Soledad Aurora Fausto and, after her death, with Maria Muña Charfauros.

Vicente also married twice. The first time with Antonia Díaz Castro and, after her death, with María Tenorio de la Cruz.

Manuel married twice, as well. First with Nicolasa Camacho Manibusan and, after her death, with Rufina Hernández.

Among the three daughters, Ana married Luís Luján de la Cruz, Rita married Antonio Esteves and Francisca apparently never married.


The Saipan records also show that there was a man named Pedro Magofña Aldan, born in Guam around 1874. Was this an error made by a priest or secretary? Was his "Aldan" name really something else? Lucio was already married to María de León long before 1874, so who was this other Aldan married to a Magofña (unless it really wasn't an Aldan, only a mistake made by the record keeper). Pedro appears in the marriage records as having married on Saipan in 1917. His bride was Natividad Cabrera San Nicolás. No children apparently issued from this union.


Some people who speak good Chamorro know that the Chamorro (Spanish) name for Adam (as in Adam and Eve) is Adán. It sounds awfully close to Aldan, because in traditional Chamorro the L in Aldan is changed to a T. At - dan. And some people wonder, humorously, if the First Man Created was from the Aldan family.

No. The answer is no. It's just that the two names are just one letter apart and sound very similar. But the two names are totally unrelated.

Listen to the slight difference in the way they both sound :


Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Santa Rosa de Agat

One of the earliest Spanish military commanders in the Marianas was from Peru. His name was Damián de Esplana. He was on Guam by 1674 and took up military leadership that same year, and later became actual Governor of the Marianas from 1683 to 1686 and once again from 1689 to 1694.

Esplana, being a Peruvian Spaniard, was naturally very proud of his saintly compatriot, Rosa de Lima. She was the first saint born in the Americas, the New World. A Dominican tertiary, Rosa de Lima lived a life of extraordinary prayer and penance, and her fame spread throughout the New World as well as Europe. She was canonized a saint in 1671, just three years before Esplana came to the Marianas.

The devotion Esplana had for Santa Rosa was noted by the missionaries in their records. A girls school in Hagåtña, founded in 1674, was named in honor of Santa Rosa. More than likely the same year, a church in Tepungan (in Piti) was built and named Santa Rosa to honor Esplana's devotion to her. It was the first church in the Marianas named for Santa Rosa. For some unknown reason, the patroness of Tepungan (Piti) was later changed to Our Lady of the Assumption.

In 1680, a church in Hågat was built and also named Santa Rosa. Years later, we see evidence that the patroness of the Agat church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but the Spanish had this custom of often having multiple patron saints. One for the village itself, and another for the parish church. We see this in the capital city of Hagåtña, where the patron of the city is San Ignacio de Loyola, and the patroness of the church is Dulce Nombre de María.

Esplana may not have had anything directly to do with the naming of Hågat's church as Santa Rosa, but he wasn't totally unconnected with it. He was an important figure in the struggling Spanish colony, and the missionaries knew about the special place Santa Rosa had in Esplana's heart.


Capt. Richard P. Leary, USN
First American Naval Governor of Guam

On August 7, 1899, the first American Naval Governor of Guam appointed by the US President, Captain Richard P. Leary, arrived at Apra Harbor. Leary was very critical of the Catholic Church on Guam. He had a low opinion of the Spanish missionaries and in short order expelled them all from the island. He also opposed the role of the Church in public life on Guam, and banned religious instruction and the hanging of crucifixes and religious pictures in the schools.

He also put his attention on banning the public observance of the church fiestas on Guam. He issued this ban just a few days before the fiesta of Santa Rosa in Hågat. Maybe he had heard talk about the upcoming fiesta; how people took off from work in order to prepare for the fiesta by erecting the åtkos (street arches) and cooking the food and organizing the entertainment (such as cockfighting, or gayera) that usually accompanied such celebrations. Well, Leary wasn't going to have any of that and issued Executive Order No. 4 stating, "Public celebrations of feast days of the patrons saints of villages, etc. will not be permitted. The church and its members may celebrate their religious feast days within the walls of the church...." Keep it inside the walls of the church, he said. No processions with the statue, no arches on the public streets. A copy of the Order was sent to the gobernadorcillo (like a mayor) of Hågat the day before the fiesta, which was celebrated on August 30th in those days.

It was a very different, then, if not dull, Santa Rosa fiesta in Hågat that year. The fiesta of 1900 went back to normal, as Leary was no longer Governor of Guam.

Needless to say, Leary was not a very popular governor on Guam, and some of his decrees were later rescinded by subsequent governors.

Leary's orders banning the public celebration of fiestas was a wake-up call to the Chamorros of Guam that a new way of life had entered. Though short-lived, the fiesta ban was only one of many changes the American administration ushered in, much of them to last to this day. For many decades, Guam Chamorros lived with the tension created between two hundred years of Catholic, Spanish colonization and the new American style. We see this tension even today.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


This Chamorrita verse gives new meaning to the Bee Gee's hit song "How Deep is Your Love." According to the man, he would dive to the bottom of the sea for his sweetheart.

Candy Taman sings the verse for us.

Yanggen lulok bai hu hulok,
(If it is iron I will break it,)

an kadena bai desåse.
(if it is a chain I will undo it.)

Bai atotga bumusero
(I will dare to be a diver)

yanggen gaige hao fondon tåse.
(if you're at the bottom of the sea.)

The verse points to a man's natural desire to prove himself worthy of the lady's love, and to his great strength and determination.


Desåse. Many Chamorros pronounce this dechåse. It comes from the Spanish word deshacer. "Des" is a negation, like our English "dis" (dislocate, disregard). "Hacer" means "to do, to make." Deshacer means "to undo, unmake." If you build a temporary wooden platform (palapåla) for a party, after the party you desåse it; you break it up and put away the parts.

Atotga. Taken from the Spanish otorgar, "to consent, to give." Chamorro took the meaning of this word further to mean to be courageous enough to consent or agree to dare, to chance and to risk.

Busero. Borrowed from the Spanish buzo meaning "diver."

Fondo. Borrowed also from the Spanish word meaning "bottom, depths, end, back, bottom." We get the English words "profound," "foundation" and "fundamental" from the Latin root word fundus meaning "bottom." The word fund, as in a bank account, is also connected to this, because, as they say, money is the bottom line, and fondo in Chamorro can also mean a bank account.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Cultural stereotypes often fail when we meet exceptions to the rule, but it does seem that there are some traits which are strong among certain groups of people. We could say, for example, that respect for elders is one of many Chamorro traits, keeping in mind there are exceptions to that rule here and there!

Many people, over the years, have made the observation that it's very hard at times to pin down a Chamorro on what s/he thinks, wants, likes and knows. Outsiders are not the only ones who have made this comment; some Chamorros themselves have said this, as well.

Perhaps it comes from our hesitation to be assertive or to disagree or differ from the person we are speaking with.

A Chamorro writer, John Del Rosario, talks about this trait among many Chamorros. He uses the word håfkao to describe it. Håfkao refers to something uncertain or doubtful. The word could come from "håfa kao" or "what" plus the question marker "kao." Or it could come from "håfa hao," literally "what" and "you" but perhaps meaning "what have you," again, pointing to something uncertain or undetermined.

The writer imagines a court scene where this trait comes into play. I have taken the liberty to base the following on his imaginary scenario :

Guaha taotao ilek-ña na i Chamorro et mås båba na testigo gi kotte. 
(There is someone who says that the Chamorro is the worst witness in court.)

Sa' håfa? Sa' pot ma u'udai i lenguahi-ta gi palåbras "fana'an, kåsi, buente." 
(Why? Because our language rides on the word, "perhaps, almost, maybe."

Adeset, puro ha' håfkao i Chamorro (ilek-ña este na taotao). 
(That is to say, it's all uncertain with Chamorros (says this person).)

Pot ehemplo, ma faisen un testigun Chamorro gi kotte, 
(For example, a Chamorro witness was asked in court,)

"Håf kulot chininå-ña i mamuno' annai humuyong ginen i gima'? Kao asut pat betde?" 
("What was the killer's shirt color when he exited the house? Blue or green?")

Manoppe i testigo, "Fana'an asut. Åhe', betde. Kåsi todo i dos!"
(The witness answered, "Perhaps blue. No, green. Almost both!")

Håfa opinion-mo? Kao konfotme hao na taiguine kostumbre-ta an manguentos hit?
(What's your opinion? Do you agree that this is how we are when we speak?)

Friday, August 18, 2017


An Indian Teen of the 1800s

The whaling ships and others who visited Guam in the 1800s brought people here from all corners of the world.

Take, for example, a 16-year-old man named Sheg Apdug. He was from Calcutta (modern-day Kolkata) and was brought to Guam on George H. Johnston's schooner, the Ana, in 1865. Johnston was married to Ana Olivares Calvo, of the Calvo clan that settled in the Marianas. More than likely, Johnston recruited Sheg to work on his schooner out of Hong Kong, which Johnston would visit once in a while. Sheg was Christian, by the way; a Protestant. It could be that he was taken in by Christian sponsors, or a church, in India or Hong Kong. He wasn't educated in a Christian school, though, because at age 16 he still wasn't able to sign his name.

José Aguon Herrero was his sponsor on Guam. I am not sure whatever became of Sheg. If he stayed, married and had children, we should see some evidence of that in the records, but we don't. It could be he eventually left Guam. As easily as many came, many left.

Sheg wasn't the first Indian who lived on Guam or the Marianas.

In 1638, the Spanish galleon the Concepción sank off the southern coast of Saipan. A Lorenzo Malabar was a survivor who remained in the Marianas all the way till the arrival of Sanvtores in 1668. As a layman, he joined Sanvitores' missionary crew. Malabar isn't his family name. It describes him as coming from the region of Malabar in India. Located in southwestern India, Malabar had many Christians.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Chamorro man on right with Carolinian men, early 1900s
NMC Archives

As the island had been depopulated of its native Chamorros by the 1740s, when the Spanish authorities moved the Saipan Chamorros down to Guam, where they mixed and became indistinguishable from the Guam Chamorros, the Spanish government allowed Carolinians to settle in Saipan in the early 1800s. The generally accepted date is around 1815.

That was only the beginning. People from islands such as Satawal, Woleai, Eauripik and many others continued to move to Saipan for the rest of the century into the early 1900s.

By the 1850s, the Spanish officials in Guam wanted to bring the Carolinians more and more into the cultural and religious environment the Spaniards had established on Guam and Rota. So the Spaniards sent a Chamorro teacher from Guam to Saipan; they organized the Carolinians into a community with their own leaders holding Spanish colonial titles; they sent a priest to establish a church on Saipan.

There were no forced conversions at the point of a spear or gun barrel. But the resident priest, and the handful of Chamorro settlers, did encourage the Carolinians to consider baptism, especially for their children if there was danger of death. In time, the children were regularly brought to the priest for baptism, even when the parents remained unbaptized!

Who, then, were to be the godparents of these Carolinian children (and adults, too!). In the 1850s and 60s, it was the Chamorros from Guam and Luta who moved to Saipan who acted as godparents for the Carolinians. This shows that the two groups did interact with each other and formed some bonds. For most of the 1800s, the Carolinians were the majority group in Saipan, until the late 1800s and early 1900s when both a higher Chamorro birthrate and increased movement of Guam Chamorros to Saipan between 1890 and 1914 pushed the Chamorro population higher than the Carolinian.

Here are some early Carolinian baptisms, with the names of their Chamorro godparents :


Mónica Mangud
Mónica Pangelinan

Mariano Metao
Mariano Arriola

Pedro Failimas, 14 years old
Mariano Paulino, alcalde (mayor) of Saipan*
Gregorio Rangamar, infant
Father from Satawal
Mother from Elato
Gregorio Perez, of Agaña
Carmen Parong, infant
Father from Olou
Mother from Satawal
Carmen de los Santos, of Agaña
Antonio Kileleman
Parents from Satawal
Antonio de Torres, of Agaña

Benigno Kaipat, infant
Rodrigo de Castro, of Agaña

Ana Pialur, infant
Ana de los Reyes, of Agaña

Dolores Olopai, 8 months old
Dolores Lizama
Ana Selepeo, 4 years old
Maria Mangloña, of Rota

Jose Laniyo, 3 years old

Eugenio Cepeda
Basilio Rapugao, adult, in danger of death
Basilio Gogue, of Agaña


  • Many of the Carolinians took on the Christian name of the godparent. Most, if not all, Carolinians maintain the tradition of carrying their Carolinian given names to this day, even if those names are not seen on birth certificates and are used only inside the family, clan or close associates.
  • The majority of the godparents came from Agaña, a few (not shown here) from other villages of Guam (Agat and Sumay, for example) and a tiny number from Rota
  • I have modernized the Carolinian names so they can be identifiable to modern generations; the Spaniards spelled some of these names in very unique ways!
  • Not all the Chamorros in Saipan at the time stayed there. Gregorio Perez (whom I suspect was the founder of the Goyo clan, but I have no proof for this) did not remain in Saipan for the rest of his life. There is no trace of him in the Saipan documents later on.
* Mariano Paulino was not Chamorro. The founder of the Paulino clan of Guam, he was a Filipino who married a Chamorro, Maria Borja Aguon.

Monday, August 14, 2017

"MISS GUAM 1830"

Juliana's signature in 1864

I say that in jest, of course, as there were no beauty contests on Guam in 1830.

But it does suggest that Juliana Aguon was a beautiful woman, who captured the hearts of four Spaniards, more or less one right after the other!

Some suggest that she was born in 1805. If that is not the exact year, then it is close enough. Juliana's "busy" years being pursued by Spaniards (or did she also pursue them?) seem to begin around 1825 when she would have been 20 years old or so.

An early suitor was no less than the Spanish Governor of the Marianas, José Ganga Herrero, who arrived on Guam in 1823. Apparently he already had a wife, but that didn't stop him and Juliana from having two sons. Perhaps he didn't bring his wife with him to Guam. In any case, the Governor legally recognized them as his sons, so they carried the Herrero surname. Although the Governor left Guam (amid a lot of controversy with his own Spanish government), his sons remained on Guam with Juliana and the family was later involved in government and commerce.

Another suitor was no less than a Spanish priest, who arrived on Guam in 1829. He eventually became the priest of Hagåtña. He had a daughter with Juliana named Dolores. The priest couldn't legally recognize her, so Dolores remained Dolores Aguon. Dolores eventually married Manuel Flores and their descendants are the Kabesa Flores clan. And I always noticed how many of the Kabesas have Spanish features! The priest died on Guam in 1843. The Kabesas have always been prominent on Guam in all aspects of public life.

Finally, Juliana got married. Her husband was the Spaniard Luís Portusach. They had a son Joaquín, and from him came the Portusach family of Guam, perpetuated by his sons José and Francisco. This family, too, was always involved in government and commerce.

We may as well go for a fourth! After Portusach died, Juliana married another Spaniard, Francisco Salar and had a daughter named Rita with him, so the Salar last name eventually disappeared in the Marianas when Rita got married.

So there you have it. At least four Spaniards became the fathers of Juliana's children. I would think that had Guam a beauty contest in 1830, Juliana would have been one of the prime candidates for that crown.

NOTE : When Juliana signed her name in 1864, even though she had been married to Portusach and then to Salar, she followed the Spanish custom whereby married women retained their birth names and did not take on their husband's surname.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


It isn't a surprise that José de la Cruz had a nickname. Names as common as his almost required a nickname, to help people distinguish WHICH of the many José de la Cruzes you were talking about.

What's surprising is that this José de la Cruz had a Mexican nickname.

In the 1832 document, this person's identity is, "José de la Cruz, alias 'el Guachinango.'"

Having an ear for regionalisms, I suspected it was Mexican. And sure enough, there is a town in the State of Jalisco in Mexico called Guachinango.

To make matters more interesting (or more complicated), guachinango can also mean a kind of fish (red snapper). In Cuban and Puerto Rican dialect, it can mean a clever person, a joker or a flatterer.

So why does this Chamorro guy have a nickname like this?

Well let's not assume he was Chamorro. In 1832, there very well could have been a Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican or just about any Latin American person living on Guam. But even if he were Chamorro, Mexican influence made a mark on the Chamorro language and culture in the 1700s. The Acapulco Galleons were passing through Guam until the time during Mexico's war for independence in 1815, not too long from 1832, the date of this document.

In some parts of the Philippines, gwatsinanggo means "shrewd" or "cunning," among other things, which follows one of the meanings of the word for in the Caribbean. The fact that the word made it even as far west as the Philippines makes it more credible that the word spread to the Marianas.

The fact is that our islands were always getting visitors from east and west and being influenced by them. Why José was called "El Guachinango" will remain a mystery.