Tuesday, March 21, 2017


In Guam history, there are two Gådaos. And both were chiefs. Of the same village.

One we cannot be entirely sure existed (but that doesn't matter to me), and one we can be completely sure existed.

Even if he did not exist, the first Gådao exists in the history of Guam's legends and stories. The story may not be informational about the life of a historical figure, but the story does give us insight into the way our people thought, what they esteemed and how they composed stories.

The second Gådao is the subject of this post. He was nicknamed on account of the first Gådao, known for his physical strength and size.

Joaquin San Nicolas Diego was, like the first Gådao, a son of Inalåhan and eventually its maga'låhe or "chief." In those days, that was called the village Commissioner. Now, we call them Mayors. In olden times, the villages had maga'låhe. The må'gas låhe, or "Great Man or Son." Well, Kin Diego was truly a great son of Inalåhan, or so the people thought, because he was elected numerous times to serve as Commissioner, a total of 28 years, from 1944 until 1972.

Kin was born in the village on May 11, 1914, according to the Social Security Administration. His father, Romualdo Chargualaf Diego, was himself Commissioner of Inalåhan from 1919 till around 1928. Kin's mother was Dolores Leon Guerrero San Nicolas.

Like Father, Like Son
Kin is on the far right, and his father Romualdo is on the far left
A photo of all the Inalåhan Commissioners, past and current

Before he became a political leader, Kin Diego had been a school teacher. According to the 1940 Census, he had completed 9 years of schooling, the maximum possible for students in Kin's day. A high school, guaranteeing 12 years of education, would not open on Guam until the year 1936 when Kin was already in his 20s and teaching elementary school.

Kin taught at Maxwell School (Sumay), Salisbury School (Sinajaña) and Potts School (Inarajan). He was also a member of the pre-war Guam Militia.

While Gådao was teaching, his wife, Rosa Leon Guerrero Diego, was more involved working for a store as well as running her own businesses.

During the war, food production was a high priority, not only for the Chamorros but also for the Japanese who lived off the work of the local farmers. Kin was a kumicho, or team leader in rice production. The couple were successful in hiding enough food from the Japanese that they were able to feed their children as well as help others without being detected.

One thing Kin was not successful in avoiding was being forced by the Japanese to witness the torture and beating of Father Jesús Dueñas in the San Nicolas home in Inalåhan. Kin was one of the men rounded up by the Japanese and compelled to watch.

Kin "Gådao" Diego at a meeting of Guam and Northern Marianas political leaders in the late 1960s
To the left of Kin is Rota civic leader Melchor Mendiola


After the war, Kin turned his attention to politics and became Commissioner of Inalåhan.  In those early years, with the island just recovering from the war, Kin oversaw the building of a slaughterhouse, laundry and toilet facilities for public use, since these were not available in many private homes.

Gådao oversaw a lot of developments in Inalåhan during the 28 years he spent as Commissioner. During that period, modern schools were built, the Southern Health Center was opened, and the Inarajan Pool was developed as a recreational site.

He pushed to make Inalåhan appreciated for its historic significance. He organized many festivals that brought people down to the village from all over the island.

Then, just as today, Malojloj was part of Inalåhan and Gådao helped in the surveying of land in Malojloj for people interested in moving out of Inalåhan into Malojloj. Government land in Malojloj was made available to new homeowners by lottery system.

Gådao was known for his booming voice, when he needed to project. "He had a built-in microphone," someone said, not needing a manufactured one.

in Inalåhan right after the war

"Everything was the village," one daughter said of her dad while he was Commissioner. He promoted agriculture, worked to get power, water and telephone service to the village, kept up good relations with the U.S. military who lent a hand now and then, especially after typhoons. He encouraged athletic programs for the young and participated in the launching of Lånchon Antigu, a replica village of olden times, which inspired the present Gef Pa'go Village.

"An påkyo guaha na ti in lili'e' i tatan-måme," she said. "When there was a typhoon, there were times we didn't see our father." He was supervising the typhoon shelter or typhoon preparations or the clean-up and restoration work afterwards.

When the cemetery proved to be too small for the growing number of burials, Kin Diego donated his own land to expand the present cemetery for the needs of the community.

Due to his long tenure and the respect he gained from the villagers, Gådao had influence over the way voters in Inalåhan swung. In one election, an island-wide candidate who would not have normally done well in Inalåhan, carried the village on election day because Gådao supported that candidate and campaigned for him.

Kin, Rosa and their 12 children


According to older people from Inalåhan, Kin was nicknamed Gådao because, like the legendary chief, he was physically big. Tall, big boned and, as we say in Chamorro, loddo' (big framed). One person remembers how huge his hands were.

But they also remember, as already mentioned, how strong and booming his voice could be.

"Tåya' mås maolek ke guiya yanggen ma nesesita man ma ågang todo i komunidåt para u fan etnon."

"No one was better than him if the whole community was needed to be called to gather together."

And, like the Gådao of old, this more recent Gådao will be remembered and his story recounted many years from now.

He passed away in 1993.

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