Monday, February 27, 2017


The short answer to the question, "Were the Marianas discovered?" is YES.

BUT.... different people, at different times.

In its basic meaning, to discover (dis - cover, un - cover) is to come to know something you didn't know before.

"Discover" does NOT ALWAYS MEAN to be the FIRST person to know something.

We use the word "discover" like this all the time.

"Wow, I just discovered that new yogurt place in Mangilao and it's good!"

"I thought he was my friend until I discovered some things she was telling other people about me."

"Only yesterday I discovered who my biological father is!"

Now, other people had already discovered the new yogurt place; others already discovered that the friend was really a false one; and mama already knew who the biological dad was. And yet, those people can legitimately say that they discovered the new yogurt place, the false friend and the biological dad....for themselves.

So did Magellan discover Guam and the Marianas?

He did. For himself.

But that personal discovery (the personal discovery of the rest of his crew, specifically those who made it back to Spain) had lasting and enormous consequences for us. We were now known and made vulnerable before others.


Chamorro sakman in Anson's time in 1742

We don't know. For all we know, it could have been someone or a few people who intended to go from Taiwan to the Philippines and were blown off course and came here. Stayed a bit and moved on.

A lot of things could have happened, and we'll never know.

What we do know is that, in time, around 3500 or 4000 years ago, human beings started coming to the Marianas and staying. Even 1000 years is a long time and it seems unreasonable to think that only one group of people came over. Chances are that different groups of people came over, spread out over many years, and blending one with the other, formed what we call the Chamorro people. Archaeological evidence suggests that one wave of new settlers came around 1000 years ago, bringing with them the idea and technology of the latte stone.

So, different people, at different times, made their personal discovery of our islands. These ancient peoples had the biggest impact of all, because while Europeans and others had their impact and added their DNA, beliefs and vocabulary, they added these things to a people already here and whose DNA, beliefs and language continue to this day in some form.



My friend Mike has a Chamorro dad, which makes Mike a Chamorro. But Mike grew up in the States, not knowing much about his Chamorro homeland or culture. Last year he came to Guam for what was supposed to be a temporary visit. He is still here almost a year later. Why? Because he is discovering new things about his culture and language for the first time.

Lifelong Guam residents continue to make personal discoveries about their island, history, culture and language. Only recently did they discover that there had been a village at Pago Bay until 1856. Only the other day did they discover that the word mesngon comes from sungon. And only last night over dinner did two people discover that there are no rivers in the north of Guam because of the limestone terrain.

A group of high school students who live in Barrigada went down to Humåtak over the weekend and discovered a village they knew little about and had rarely visited before.

Hopefully, someone who never before cared at all about his or her Chamorro identity, language and culture discovers the importance of these things.

So, yes. People are discovering things all the time. Even old-timers and experts learn new things.


So I, for one, don't mind calling it Discovery Day.

Even if we mean it's the day that Magellan discovered, for himself, islands that saved him from starvation. That event had lasting impact on us. We are who we are today, in part, because Magellan's discovery allowed history to continue the way it did.

We could call it Discovery Day as a day to remember when all people discovered our islands for themselves, including our ancestors who came here long before Magellan.

For me, it's Discovery Day because, by recalling our history, and looking at our present situation, people are discovering things about their culture.

So let's keep observing Discovery Day, even if you give it another name, with all these different meanings.

Because a Discovery Day is better than a Recovery Day.

1 comment:

  1. I am enjoying your take on a "discovery." Granted, there is benefit in examining the word, but an open interpretation and a sense of humor are always useful.

    Any chance you have time to talk between now and tomorrow night? I am on island briefly. We should discuss how to work together with the House of Chamorros opportunity.

    With hope,