Thursday, July 20, 2017


José Díaz Wilson
(spelled Willson)

In the 1800s, there was a Wilson family in the Marianas.

James (in Spanish, Santiago) Wilson arrived in Guam around 1826, according to an 1831 document listing the names of foreigners living on the island.

Other records suggest that his full name was Robert James Wilson.

His main occupation, it seems, the whole time he lived on Guam was pilot at the port. This means he directed to shore the boats that would pick up passengers from the larger ships anchoring at Apra.

He seems to have married twice and had nine children, but we're not sure of all of their names, nor of the first wife's name.

But one of the older children seems to have been a María Wilson, born around 1827 and a 70-year-old widow by the time she is listed in the 1897 Census. It is quite possible that she had married a Díaz. In 1897 she is living with two grandchildren.

There seems to have also been a Juana Wilson, deceased by the 1897 Census but the first wife of Francisco Pangelinan, aged 76 years, listed in the 1897 Census.

Juana Wilson and Francisco Pangelinan could be the parents of one José Wilson Pangelinan, born around 1878 who moved to Saipan. He married twice. His first wife was Dolores San Nicolás Sablan and his second wife was María Cabrera San Nicolás. He was better known as Jose'n Obo.

This Juana Wilson, married to a Francisco Pangelinan, might explain why there is also mention of a man named Lorenzo Wilson Pangelinan, He is absent from the 1897 Census but there does appear there a widow named Valeria de la Cruz, who had been married to a Lorenzo Wilson Pangelinan, dead by 1897.

We are more certain about James' children from his second wife, Rufina Palomo Díaz.

One was a daughter named Eduviges, who married Antonio Pangelinan Martínez. Many of their children married into socially prominent families. Antonia married into the Goyo clan (José Flores Pérez); Emilia married the American William Notley; Ana married Carl Bergquist; Josefa married Julián Pérez Sáiz; Joaquín married Rita Anderson Millinchamp; and Ángel married Emilia Roberto Kamminga.

Another daughter, María, married into the Siket family of Castros. Her husband was Ezequiel León Guerrero Castro. From the Chamorro pronunciation of Ezequiel (E - se - kiet) is derived the family nickname Siket.

Thus it seems that James had two daughters named María; one from the first wife and the other from the second wife.

James had one son whose name appears frequently in the old documents. His name was José, and he followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a pilot at the port. In those days, the boat carrying passengers from the ships would land at the pier in Piti, which was part of the village of Tepungan. José was civic head of Tepungan a few years, too.

José married Encarnación de San Nicolás and had some daughters and a son Antonio, but we cannot find descendants from Antonio and so the Wilson name eventually died out on Guam.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


A View of Pågan

It is rare that I come across a song written about one of the northern islands, but I caught something on Facebook. It was a home recording of Tomasa Taman Ada, also known as Tan Båcha', singing about missing the island of Pågan. Tan Båcha' was born in Agrigan but spent part of her childhood on Pågan. Pågan was evacuated in 1981 when its northern volcano erupted but, since then, small groups of people have gone back and forth to Pågan and some live there to this day. Against vocal opposition from the local community, the U.S. military hopes to use Pågan for live-fire shooting practices.

In this homemade video, Tan Båcha' is asked by her daughter to sing the song. Without prior rehearsing, she needed some help in remembering some of the lines.

Later, I made the following recording of the song with the help of two talented musicians, Tony Treltas and John Perez.


I langet yan i chinago'-ña, hongga ha' hulo' i piniti-ho.
(Heaven and its distance, my sorrow is heard above.)

Kulan ha' mo'n para bai hu måtai, ya u dingo yo' i anti-ho.
(It's as if I am going to die, and my soul depart from me.)

I Faibus yan i chinago'-ña, hongga ha' påpa' i koron man ånghet.
(Faibus and its distance, the choir of angels is heard below.)

Olåra mo'n ya bai hu li'e' i tano'-ho iya Pågan.
(Oh that I would see my land of Pågan.)


Chinago'-ña. The sorrow of the singer is due, in part, to the distance that separates her from heaven and from Pågan.

Mo'n. Is a shortening of the word mohon, which indicates something hoped for or possible.

Anti-ho. The song is very theological. In Catholic theology, death is defined as the separation of body and soul. The body dies; the soul does not die. The body dies when the soul leaves it.

Faibus. Is the name of a location on Pågan. It is probably Carolinian in origin. Carolinians (as well as Chamorros) settled on Pågan. There is also a place called Faibus on Tinian, which at one time was settled by Carolinians.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Korean Peace Memorial
Marpi, Saipan
In memory of the Korean fallen in Saipan in World War II

Long before more recent Chamorro-Korean marriages, a few Chamorros in the Northern Marianas married Koreans in the 1920s and 30s.

Japan invaded Korea in 1910 and colonized it. In 1914, Japan occupied the Northern Marianas and the League of Nations later recognized Japanese rule in the Northern Marianas.

Over time, Japanese, Okinawan and Korean settlers moved to Saipan and vastly outnumbered the Chamorro and Carolinian population. During the war, Koreans in the Imperial Japanese Army were sent to defend the Northern Marianas from the oncoming American invasion.

Serafina King Nabors, a well-known resident of Tinian, is the child of one such Korean-Chamorro marriage. Serafina has served in elected office and has always been active in civic life. Here she tells of her discovery of her Korean paternal roots.

Serafina went to Korea and did some digging and found out that her father's last name was Kim, the most common Korean surname. It wasn't unusual for some last names to be changed by clerks and priests who recorded them. Kim became King.

Her father moved to Luta (Rota), working on a tapioca farm and the sugar cane fields. There he met a Chamorro lady from Saipan, whose mother came from Guam, from the del Rosario family. Serafina is related to the Ngånga' and Seboyas clans.

After the war, the Kings resettled in Tinian. All four main islands of the Marianas are involved in Serafina's family history!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Although our islands were a bit out of the way, we are so situated and so stretched out north to south that ships were bound to make stops in any one of the Marianas during the 17 and 1800s.

One such visit was made to Alamågan in 1799 by a ship in need of water.

The ship's visit was written up by a certain Captain Bass, who I can only assume was British since he had his story printed in a British magazine.

His ship was on its way to China, traveling in a westerly direction and running low on water. Without a fresh supply of it, they were sure to run out of water before they arrived in China. It was common knowledge among mariners who sailed in this area of the northwest Pacific that any one of the Mariana islands could supply food and water. Some, Bass said, preferred to by-pass the lower and larger islands in order to escape Spanish encounters. The northern islands were largely abandoned at the time and passing ships could enjoy perfect liberty in these islands.

Bass' ship decided to stop at Alamågan, which appeared before them one hazy morning. They found out soon enough that the haze was caused by plumes of smoke billowing out of Alamågan's volcano, active at the time. While on land, Bass got somewhat close to the volcano and heard rumbling deep from the earth.

Alamågan's crater, dormant at the time the photo was taken

Water was unfortunately not found so the men collected as many coconuts as possible, which were plentiful by the shore.

One lemmai tree (breadfruit) was found and some bananas, but also papaya, which came to the Marianas from abroad, so they must have passed through Guam before being brought up to the northern islands. The crew also feed themselves with the pånglao (land crabs) that were abundant and also some birds. But there was no sign of the Hawaiian pig and some chickens that were left on Alamågan by an earlier visiting British ship.

Alamågan would be settled then abandoned numerous times, under Spanish, German, Japanese and Trust Territory times, right up to Commonwealth times, all depending on the mood of the volcano.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017



In 1919, we find a Chamorro man living in New Orleans, Louisiana.

His name was Manuel San Nicolás, born in Hagåtña in 1878, the son of Mariano.

In 1893, Manuel came to the United States. More than likely, he joined the crew of a whaler or some commercial vessel stopping by Guam. That would have made him 15 years old, not unusual at that time period.

In the U.S., Manuel worked in various jobs,

Manuel is found in the 1920 US Census named "Manuel Nicolas." It's not unusual for names to change slightly, and sometimes completely, in documents of those days, especially with non-Anglo names. But we know from documents that Manuel lived at 1215 Royal Street in the year 1919, and the 1920 Census entry is for the residents at 1215 Royal Street.

The Census says that Manuel is from the Philippines, but we know that many Chamorros listed Spain or the Philippines as their place of origin in those days because the Marianas were not well-known by others back then, and because the Marianas were a province of the Philippines which was under Spain in the 1800s.

According to this Census, Manuel was married to a woman from New Orleans named Louise, who is of Portuguese and Mexican descent. Other records show that her maiden name was Laurence (sometimes spelled Lawrence) and that they had married in 1905. They had four children by 1920 :a daughter Manuella, aged 13, and two sons, Manuel, aged 4, and Peter, less than a year old.

Manuel and Louise reappear in the 1930 Census in New Orleans, still on Royal Street but now at house number 2237. Their older children, Manuella, Manuel and Peter are not living with them anymore but they have the following children living with them : Thomas (13), Raymond (6), Rita (3) and Calvin (4). If Thomas is truly 13 years old, he should have been listed in the 1920 Census, and maybe he is, but named Manuel. If people had two given names, records sometimes use the 1st and at other times the 2nd given name, which explains the discrepancy. In 1930, Manuella would have been 23 years old by then and possibly married. Peter could have died in infancy. Many did in those days.

Interestingly, the 1930 Census says that Manuel was from the Philippines but all the children's entries state that their father Manuel is from Guam! So much for human record keeping.

One of Manuel's seasonal jobs was to go to Cuba and work for the Hershey company. Needing a better source of sugar for his candies, Mr. Hershey bought acres and acres of sugar cane fields in Cuba in 1916. Manuel would go there to work as Centrifugal Foreman at the mill.

The Hershey Mill in Cuba at the time Manuel would have worked there

Another time, we find a document showing that Manuel went to Veracruz, Mexico on account of work. It seems the 15-year-old sailing boy never lost his love of travel.

What became of Manuel's Chamorro children? One of them, Raymond, moved to Kentucky where he died in 1984.

Despite numerous records simplifying San Nicolas to just Nicolas, Raymond signed his name using the full name San Nicolas

It would take some research to find out where Manuel's descendants are today and if they have any inkling of their Guam and Chamorro roots.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


There are many beliefs held by many Chamorros about what transpires among those about to die. For example, it is said that the dying see their dead relatives in the room, as if the dead relatives are beckoning their family member to join them in the afterlife.

But here is one story I was recently told about a dying woman which points to another kind of experience. Did this grandmother have an out-of-body experience, visiting grandchildren, thousands of miles away, to say goodbye before she passed away?

Diddide' åntes de u måtai si nånan-måme, annai esta kumåkama
(A little before our mother died, when she was already bed-ridden) 

ya ti siña gue' kahulo' ginen i kattre-ña, mangågao si nånan-måme paopao
(and couldn't get up from her bed, our mother asked for perfume)

sa' para u palai gue' paopao malago'-ña. 
(because she wanted to put some on her.)

Si nånan-måme tåya' na ha dingu i gima' sin ha nå'ye gue' paopao, 
(Our mother never left the house without putting on perfume,)

masea yanggen para i tenda ha' para u hanaogue. 
(even if she was just going to the store.)

Man manman ham ni mañe'lo sa' mangågao paopao ya ti siña kahulo'! 
(We siblings were surprised because she asked for perfume and couldn't get up!)

In faisen gue', "Nang? Para måno hao na para un nå'ye hao paopao?" 
(We asked her, "Mom? Where are you going that you're going to put on perfume?")

Chumålek sanhalom ha' i amko' lao tåya' håfa ilek-ña. 
(She just smiled and said nothing.)

Ha huchom matå-ña ya kalan ha tutuhon maigo' lao in li'e' na guaha ha hahasso, 
(She closed her eyes and it was as if she started to sleep, but we could see she was thinking about something)

lao umachigo' matå-ña. Despues, guaha entre i mañe'lo ilek-ñiha
(though her eyes were closed. Later, some among the siblings said)

na mangågao paopao si nånan-måme sa' para u bisita i famagu'on famagu'on-ña 
(that she asked for perfume because she was going to visit her grandchildren)

ni mañåsaga Amerika ya ti siña man måtto Guam 
(who were living in America and couldn't come to Guam)

para u atende i bihan-ñiha ni esta kumekematai.
(to attend to their dying grandmother.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


There is a beach just south of Two Lovers Point that is very popular with people seeking the sun, sand and surf.

Now if we could only figure out its name!

It is called both Faifai and Fafai, depending on who you talk to or what map you consult.

I have looked through several pre-war maps of Guam, and they all say Fafai.

This map above is from 1901. It spells Fafai with a Y; Fafay.

This map is from 1914.

This map is from 1941.

Finally, this map is from 1954.

There may be old maps that say Faifai, but, so far, I haven't found them.

It is also true that spelling mistakes were made in older maps. But, in time, most of these were corrected. In the case of Fafai, all the maps spell it Fafai (or Fafay) but never Faifai.

From Peter Onedera's book, compiling the place names of Guam, we find this :

The National Register of Historic Places also lists the beach as Fafai.

But, the name Faifai has recently become equal to if not ahead of Fafai in popular speech.

I haven't found a meaning, either, for fafai nor of faifai.


Numerous reader feedback says that the name of the place is pronounced Fafa'i. In other words, three syllables. Fa - fa - i.

This would suggest a connection with få'i, which means "rice seedlings" at the planting stage. There are several speculations why this coastal area would be so named.

Monday, July 3, 2017


(Family Photo)
Juan Blas Blanco

He was perhaps Japan's greatest success in its effort to form some people from Saipan in the Japanese mold.

He was sent to Japan to be educated there, and was even given a Japanese name. Kamiyama Seiichi. His Japanese language skills were superb, as were his knowledge of Japanese customs and the Japanese mindset. He lived with Japanese host families, one of them getting so close to him that he considered them his Japanese "father and mother." Some noted that his Japanese accent was a proper Tokyo one.


Juan was born in Saipan in 1923. His parents, like so many Saipan families, were originally from Guam.

His father was Juan Taitano Blanco, the son of Domingo de León Guerrero Blanco from Hågat and his wife Juana Manahane Taitano. They moved to Saipan at the end of the 19th century.

(Family Photo)
Domingo de León Guerrero Blanco, seated, and his wife Juana Manahane Taitano
Juan Taitano Blanco is the tall man standing. The two ladies are his sisters and the young ones are their children.

His mother was the former Antonia Blas, from Hagåtña.

(Family Photo)
Juan's parents : Juan Taitano Blanco and Antonia Blas


In 1934, twenty years after the Japanese took over the Northern Marianas, four representatives from Japanese universities paid a visit to Saipan's schools.  These representatives believed that a few Saipan students should be sent to Japan to continue their education. Juan was class president in the third grade, and was selected.

He was first sent to a school in Tokyo and then to another school in Shimizu City in Shizuoka Prefecture. As already mentioned, he stayed with Japanese host families. In Shimizu City, he had the good fortune of having his older sister living with him as she was studying midwifery in the same city.

Juan Blanco stands in class in Japan

Juan's time in Japan had a big effect on him. His experience was generally a positive one. Most of his teachers were good to him and, as mentioned earlier, he got on so well with one hosting couple that they became surrogate parents to him.


But Juan's father started to get concerned about his son being in faraway Japan when signs of international war loomed on the horizon. Japan was already engaged in full warfare in China. What would happen if war broke out between Japan and America? How could his family keep in contact with Juan if war in the Pacific made such communication difficult, if not impossible. Juan's father thus decided to bring Juan back to Saipan.

With his mainland Japanese education, Juan wouldn't have profited much being enrolled in the school for Chamorros and Carolinians. He was allowed the rare privilege of entering a school in Saipan normally reserved for Japanese students alone. Eventually he became the only Chamorro graduate of the Saipan Industrial School.

After graduating, there were two possible job opportunities. One was to work for the Japanese military on Saipan, and the other was to work for the largest commercial interest in Saipan at the time, the sugar company or the Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha or NKK for short. It was here that Japan's racial divide showed. The military would have paid him lower wages for being non-Japanese. The NKK was willing to pay him the same wages as a Japanese in the position he was to fill. Juan opted therefore to work for the sugar company.


Juan was picked up by the Americans and put in the same stockade with the Japanese, not believing he was Chamorro! After two weeks, with the help of an American officer who spoke good Japanese, he was able to convince them that he was Chamorro and he was transferred to the Chamorro camp.

Juan did many and sundry things after the war, and all pretty successfully. He worked for the U.S. military, served in the Saipan Municipal Council and other political offices, was first branch manager of the Bank of America in Saipan, and was involved in other business ventures which brought him also to Guam at times, where he had many friends.


According to one of Juan's sons, Juan had one misgiving about life under Japanese rule in those days. No islander was ever supposed to excel over a Japanese in anything. When Juan rose to the top of the class or made it to the honor roll, the parents of a Japanese or Okinawan classmate complained, and Juan was deprived of his honors. If Juan beat a Japanese or Okinawan classmate in wrestling, there would be trouble.

"At least the Americans made us citizens," Juan's son said, quoting his deceased dad.

Still, it could not be denied that all his Japanese experience, much of it very positive, left a permanent mark on him. He kept in contact with numerous Japanese friends and was present at many Japanese events held in Saipan.

(Family Photo)

Juan Blanco
before his passing in 2014

* A note of thanks to Juan's sons John and Harry for information and photos