Monday, October 2, 2017



Francisco Banig Ballesta was a carpenter in Hagåtña. Originally from Laguna in the Philippines, Ballesta was settled in Guam where he remained a bachelor.

One thing that kept carpenters in business was death. Funerals needed caskets, ataút in Chamorro. Since there were no morgues in those days, nor refrigeration, corpses decayed rapidly in our hot and humid conditions. Burial happened within 24 hours, usually. If someone died in the late afternoon or evening, the sound of the hammer knocking on wood could be heard in the night.

María's granddaughter passed away; the daughter of her son Vicente. She took it upon herself to find a carpenter to make a casket. She chose Ballesta. The agreement was for five pesos. The casket was made; the granddaughter was buried.

But three months later, Ballesta wasn't happy. He claimed that María had not paid one séntimo of the five peso debt. Tired of asking her, he filed a complaint in court for the five pesos.

María appeared in court and explained that, in the last three months since the funeral, she had given Ballesta suni (taro) worth 5 reåt (a Spanish coin, worth less than a peso); a chicken worth 1 reåt; and 12 reåt in coins, amounting to 2 pesos and 25 séntimos. Taking this into account, María stated that her debt to Ballesta now stood at 2 pesos and 75 séntimos, which she was willing to pay.

Ballesta said, "OK," and court was adjourned.

Ballesta, by the way, died in  Sumay in 1922 at the age of 106 years old! Well, that depends if there was solid documentation about his birth and people weren't going just by what he claimed.

On the left, a Spanish reåt coin

In those days, people paid debts with money, if they had it, or with chickens, eggs, vegetables....

No comments:

Post a Comment