Thursday, November 15, 2018


A common theme in many old Chamorro stories is extraordinary strength in exceptional people and even in children.

Sesso ha hungok i metgot kåttan na guaha metgot gi san lichan.
(A strong man from the north* often heard that there was a strong man in the southern* side.)

Humånao gi galaide-ña ya annai måtto Inalåhan ha sodda' gi halom liyang
(He went in his canoe and when he came to Inalåhan gi found inside a cave)

fotsudo na låhe.
(a muscular man.)

Mamaisen, "Kao gaige guine i ma sångan na guiya mås metgot gi san lichan?"
(He asked, "Is the one they say is strongest in the south here?"

Manoppe i taotao, "Hunggan lao mamaigo' esta."
(The man answered, "Yes, but he is already sleeping."

"Lao maila' ya bai na' lågo i na' amotsan talo'åne para hita na dos."
"But come and I'll make lunch for the two of us.")

Ya konfotme i metgot kåttan.
(The strong man from the north agreed.)

I taotao liyang ha goppe i mås lokka' na trongkon niyok ya måmfe' månha.
(The man in the cave jumped the tallest coconut tree and picked young coconuts.)

Gigon tumunok ha fugue gi kanai-ña ha' nu i chigo' månha ya ha na' gimen i metgot kåttan.
(As soon as he came down he squeezed in his own hands the juice of the young coconut and made the strong man from the north drink.)

Entre guiya ha' ilek-ña i metgot kåttan, "Seguro na guiya este i lahen i metgot luchan.
(The strong man from the north said to himself, "Surely this is the son of the strong man from the south.)

Yanggen taiguine minetgot-ña i lahe, kuånto mås i minetgot-ña i tata?
(If this is the son's strength, how much more the father's strength?)

Gigon makmåta si tatå-ña, siempre ha ñukot i agagå'-ho."
(As soon as his father wakes up, he will surely choke my neck.")

Pues chaddek ha dingo Inalåhan ya ha bira gue' tåtte para i tano'-ña.
(So he quickly left Inalåhan and returned to his own place.)

Ti ha tungo' na i taotao ni ha sodda' gi halom liyang era et mismo metgot luchan.
(He didn't know that the person he found in the cave was the very strong man of the south.)

Mandagi i metgot luchan ya ha fa' si lahi-ña gue'.
(The strong man of the south lied and made himself out to be his son.)

* Kåttan/Luchan. In Chamorro, there really is no north, south, east and west in the Western sense; what we call "cardinal points" or "cardinal directions." There is, in Chamorro, "towards the sea" (lågo), "away from the sea" (haya), to the left of the sea (luchan) and to the right of the sea (kåttan).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Because of over a century of American influence, many Chamorros think of the English letter I when they hear the Chamorro sound AI. As in "island, ice, iron."

So they spell GUAIYA, the Chamorro word for "to love," as GUIYA.

This creates confusion because there already is a Chamorro word GUIYA, and it means "he, she or it."

Watch the video.

So, to spell "I love you" in Chamorro, it is : HU GUAIYA HAO.


GUIYA means "he, she or it."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


A song recorded by Genaro Saralu many years ago.

Milalak påpa' i lago'-ho
(My tears flowed down)
esta* påpa' gi fasu-ho
(even down on my face)
lao hu kesungon pot mungnga yo' tumånges
(but I tried to endure it so I wouldn't cry)
lao duro milalak påpa' i lago'-ho.
(but my tears kept on flowing.)

Ilek-mo na pa'** un hånao hao agupa'
(You said you were going to leave tomorrow)
ya på'go uttimo umali'e'-ta.
(and today is our last time to see each other.)
Entre triste yan mahålang bai padese
(I will suffer between sadness and longing)
nene yanggen un dingo yo' esta.
(baby if you will leave me already.)

Humånao yo' tåtte para i gima'
(I went back to the house)
despues de esta hao humånao.
(after you had already gone.)
Humålom yo' gi halom guma'
(I went inside the house)
ai ya duro yo' kumasao.
(oh and I cried a lot.)

* Esta. The older word is asta and it is borrowed from the Spanish word hasta, meaning "until, till, up to, down to, as far up or as far down as" and other similar meanings. When modern speakers change asta to esta, we encounter the question whether asta is meant or the already-existing word esta, which means "already." Usually context will answer that question but many older people retain the original word asta and keep asta and esta separate words.

** Pa' is a shortening of para, meaning "to, for."

Thursday, November 1, 2018


As All Souls Day approaches, this is a good traditional song to learn, to pray for the souls in Purgatory.

The only reason why we pray for the dead is because many of them are still going through a painful but wholesome purification in Purgatory. The souls in heaven do not need prayers (instead, they pray for us), and the souls in hell cannot benefit from prayers. They are eternally condemned there, without hope of release nor of relief.

This song traditionally was always sung or said towards the end of the rosary prayed for the dead. If only one deceased person was prayed for, it was sung using the singular.

But since All Souls Day remembers all the dead, this version is sung using the plural.

The substance of the prayer is that it is through the innocent and unjust suffering and death of Jesus that atones for our sins and wins mercy for the repentant sinner. And so the suffering of Jesus is spelled out in the prayer in a more specific way. Our Lord suffered all these things in order to save our souls. This salvation is extended to us time and time again in the Mass ("Do this in memory of Me......For the forgiveness of sins.") and so the prayer reminds us to remember the dead at Mass. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a special intercessor for the dead and so she is also mentioned.

1. Ma asi'e', ma asi'e', ma asi'e' siha, Yu'os-ho.
(Forgive, forgive, forgive them, my God.)

Refrain : Kristo Jesus-ho, ma asi'e' i anten-ñiha.
(Christ my Jesus, forgive their souls.)

2. Manaitai hao yan tumånges gi fangualuan Olibas.
(You prayed and wept in the Garden of Olives.)

3. Ma godde hao kalan sakke Såntos na Yu'us Lahi-ña.
(They bound you like a thief, O Holy Son of God.)

4. Ma saolak hao yan man annok todo i te'lang siha.
(They scourged you and all the bones were visible.)

5. Ma korona yan ma anña' i todo ha' ha na' siña.
(They crowned and assaulted the Almighty.)

6. Maså'pet hao yan ma la'la' gi me'nan Santa Maria.
(You suffered and were flayed in front of the Virgin Mary.)

7. Rai i taotao ni i ma puno' pot i tinailayen-ñiha.
(King of the people who was killed on account of their evil.)

8. Tumunok hao Putgatorio homhom na fansinapitan.
(You descended into Purgatory, a dark place of suffering.)

9. Mañe'lu-ho tayuyute, tayuyute siha gi Misa.
(My brethren pray, pray for them at Mass.)

10. Bithen del Karmen ma åsi'e', gai mina'åse' nu siha.
(Virgin of Carmel forgive, have mercy on them.)

Very often the techa (prayer leader) or the singers will begin again at Verse 1 and end with the refrain.


When sung or recited for one deceased person, siha (them) is changed to gue' or guiya (him or her).

The possessive suffix -ñiha (their) is changed to -ña (his or her).

1. Ma asi'e', ma asi'e', ma asi'e' gue' Yu'os-ho.
(Forgive, forgive, forgive him/her, my God.)

Refrain : Kristo Jesus-ho, ma asi'e' i anti-ña.
(Christ my Jesus, forgive his/her soul.)

9. Mañe'lu-ho tayuyute, tayuyute gue' gi Misa.
(My brethren pray, pray for him/her at Mass.)

10. Bithen del Karmen ma åsi'e', gai mina'åse' nu guiya.
(Virgin of Carmel forgive, have mercy on him/her.)

The following video shows the change made in the first verse and refrain only. The change to the singular has to be made also in verses 9 and 10.


The song is based on a Spanish original called the Mozarabic Miserere. "Mozarabic" refers to the Christian Spaniards living under the Muslim government of the Moors (the years 711 till 1492). The Christians in Spain used the Latin language in the liturgy, as all Christians did in the western side of Europe in those days.

"Miserere" is Latin for "have mercy." This song was also a prayer for the dead.

*** Thanks to Lawrence Borja for the accompaniment and for finding the Spanish original.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


It was the first public execution on Guam under the Americans.

Pablo M. Corpus, just 20 years old, was a servant of an American Naval officer stationed on Guam. On December 13, 1915, Corpus fatally shot Dolores Cárdenas de la Cruz, the wife of a Japanese immigrant on Guam, Antonio Takichi Ooka. Corpus then turned the gun on himself, but he survived his self-inflicted wound. He was arrested, brought to court and sentenced to death. This death sentence was appealed, but the appeal was denied. Corpus was hanged on February 4, 1916 - the first execution of a criminal carried out on Guam by the American government.


On December 13, 1915, Corpus entered the Ooka home in Sumay. It was night, so perhaps Corpus thought he could enter the home undetected, maybe when everyone was asleep. Ooka was a merchant, and Corpus was eventually charged with the crime of theft after this incident, so, conceivably, the impetus for all this tragedy was theft. Without the court records, I do not know if Corpus was after Ooka's merchandise, cash or both.

I can only surmise that Dolores, Ooka's wife, surprised Corpus in the act. Perhaps in a moment of desperation at being caught by surprise, Corpus fired a shot from his gun at Dolores. Realizing that he had shot, and possibly killed, a woman, and would more than likely suffer the worst punishment possible, Corpus turned the gun on himself and fired.

Someone found the two wounded people and called for help. Dolores lingered for a day but then died of her wounds on the 14th. Corpus survived and recuperated from his wounds.

He was arrested and charged with theft and murder.



There was no trial, per se, since Corpus pleaded guilty. The court records covering the court proceedings would have been most helpful, but they are not included in the 1915 and 1916 court records available.

All we can say is that Corpus was arraigned on January 6, 1916 and plead guilty to both charges. The court sentenced him to death.


But an appeal was filed against this sentence on the following grounds :

1. It was claimed that Corpus did not have legal counsel when he entered his guilty plea on January 6. Lacking legal counsel, Corpus may not have known that a guilty plea could have cost him his life.

2. It was claimed that Corpus did not deserve the death penalty due to the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Dolores. No further details are given, but I assume that what is meant is that Corpus did not shoot Dolores with malice of intent. Corpus had entered Ooka's house to steal, not to murder, and that he shot Dolores in a moment of surprise.

3. It was claimed that the court erred in placing the site of execution at Sumay and not in Hagåtña. I am not sure why this was considered a judicial error. Perhaps there was some statute in place (or assumed to still be on the books at the time) mandating all executions be done in the capital city.

There seems to have also been some doubt as to Corpus' age. His defenders thought that he was only 17, and thus not subject to the death penalty.

The appeal was turned down by the court on January 31. I don't know how, but Corpus' age was determined to be 20. The day of execution was set for February 4 at Sumay.


Still, Corpus had his supporters. These were lead by Cándido Agbay Sánchez, a Filipino resident of Guam who occupied various government posts during his lifetime. On February 2, he wrote a petition to the Naval Governor, William Maxwell, asking for the cancellation of the death sentence and instead to sentence Corpus to life imprisonment. Around fifty island residents signed the petition.

The petition reminded Governor Maxwell that five persons, all Chamorro, had been sentenced to death by Guam's courts since the US Navy took control of the island. Not a single one of those five Chamorros were in fact executed. Almost all of the five were not even serving time in jail anymore! Was it fair, so the implied question seemed to ask, for the Filipino Corpus to die, when five Chamorros were similarly sentenced to die but were never in fact executed?

One has to wonder if the issue of race enters in, as the Filipino Sánchez fought to save the life of the Filipino Corpus, who, being young and apparently unmarried, had no familial connections to the local population that may have saved his life. Yet, among those fifty persons who signed the petition asking to save Corpus' life were undoubtedly a good number of Chamorros.

Maxwell turned down the petition. The execution of Pablo Corpus proceeded.

Guam's Governor William J. Maxwell, USN


The night before the execution, on February 3, Corpus was taken to a tent set up for him at the execution site in Sumay. With him was his spiritual counselor, Påle' Román de Vera, a Spanish Capuchin missionary, who was fluent in Tagalog (among many other languages). Someone had cooked dinner for Corpus, and Påle' Román served it to Corpus. Then, Corpus slept soundly in his tent.

At six o'clock on the morning of February 4, almost the whole town of Sumay followed Påle' Román from the church to the execution site. Påle' Román was bringing with him the Blessed Sacrament to give Corpus his last holy communion. I am almost sure, then, that the people had gone to the church earlier that morning for Mass and then followed Påle' Román afterwards.

After receiving his last holy communion, Corpus and Påle' Román spent several hours in prayer. Corpus asked forgiveness of the Governor, from the family of Dolores, the woman he killed, and asked Påle' Román to write to his mother in the Philippines, assuring her that he died in the best spiritual state possible.

At nine o'clock, Corpus ascended the scaffold, accompanied by Påle' Román. He asked to be allowed to speak, and he began in attempted Chamorro but continued in Tagalog.

"Cha'-miyo pinite ako. Ito ang suwerte ng Diyos sa akin. Ipanalangin ninyo ako. Paalam na sa inyong lahat."

"Don't be sorry for me. This is God's will for me. Pray for me. Farewell to all of you."

Then his hands were bound and his head covered with a hood. The noose was fitted around his neck. All the while, he was praying along with Påle' Román. Moments before he died, Påle' Román told him, "Pablo, now you know that within a few moments you will be in heaven." Pablo replied, "Yes, Father." "Farewell," said Påle' Román. "Farewell," said Corpus, and the trap was opened and Corpus fell to his death.

His body hung for a little over ten minutes, but it was assumed he has dead, since there was no movement at all of his body, except for the natural swinging of the body as it hung suspended over the ground. At 9:22 AM, the medical officer pronounced him dead and at 9:27 AM the rope was cut and the lifeless body of Pablo Corpus was placed in the casket and turned over to his friends for burial.


Påle' Román

Why did Påle' Román tell Corpus that he would be in heaven within a few moments?

Catholics believe that everyone who dies in the state of grace is assured of heaven. Purgatory is a state of final cleansing before one enters the perfect holiness of heaven. But by dying for his crime and sin, and doing so after having confessed his sin and accepting Christ's mercy, Corpus was making atonement for his crime and sin. The innocent life he unjustly took away was being paid for by his own death.

What Påle' Román said cannot be taken as a matter of fact. Only God knows what became of Corpus' soul once he died. But Corpus' repentance, his turning to Christ for mercy and his resignation towards his earthly punishment all point to a firm hope that he was on his way to heaven.

Source : Army and Navy Register, Washington, DC, May 6, 1916, 583-584

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Maria Manibusan Díaz-Igibara from Saipan was interviewed many years ago about life on the island before the war.

She says,

Guaha nu kompañían atkohot, kompañían ais.
(There was a liquor company, an ice company.)

Lao mangaige ha' nai guine Chalan Kanoa todo na mandadanña'.
(But they were just here in Chalan Kanoa where everything came together.)

I gellai i taotao tåno' ha' man manånånom.
(The natives of the land planted the vegetables.)

Man baråto yan man fresko kada dia man lililiko' gi chalan man manbebende.
(They were inexpensive and fresh, every day they would go around the streets selling.)

I Chamorro i man manånånom mai'es. Åntes man mamai'es, man kamumuti,
(The Chamorro were the ones planting corn. Before, people grew corn, sweet potatoes,)

man manånånom suni, todo klåsen tinanom man ma chocho'gue åntes.
(they planted taro, all kinds of plants they did before.)

Tan Maria starts by talking about there being a liquor company and ice company, then switches to  specifying the agricultural role of the Chamorros. She may be contrasting the activities of the Japanese, who focused on sugar plantations, and that of the Chamorros. The Japanese made use of all aspects of sugar and by-products of sugar are alcohol and molasses. Haruji Matsue, the "Sugar King" of Saipan, also built an ice plant.

The Chamorros, on the other hand, kept up their traditional dependence on corn, besides the variety of other crops that sustained them.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Nations have often used far-off possessions as a place of exile for criminal and political prisoners. The Marianas were no exception under Spain.

Many times, the convicts sent here were given much freedom. They often lived among the people, finding girlfriends and sometimes wives. A few even ended up working for the very government tasked to detain them.

At other times, they lived under some restrictions and were made to work on public projects. Many times they found it easy to run away into the hills, but in time they'd be caught and they were often found hungry, thankful to be back under custody if at least for a steady meal, simple as they were.

In 1821 we find lists of these presidiarios or prisoners on Guam. The lists do not say they were Filipinos, but the lists do state the place of origin of these prisoners, and the vast majority are clearly from the Philippines. I put a question mark on the few whose home towns are unclear to me.

It is doubtful that the Filipino convicts sent here in 1821 were political prisoners. There were no revolts against the Spanish in the Philippines at that point in time. The last uprising was in 1807 and the next one would not be till 1823. Still, it's entirely possible some or many of these prisoners were indeed political exiles.

This list is interesting because we find some recognizable surnames among the prisoners : Sarmiento, Candaso, Matías. But we can be sure that the Matías on this list has nothing to do with the Leonardo Matías who came to Guam much later than 1821 and married a Tanaka. As for Candaso and Sarmiento, we cannot say one way or the other, for now, if they have any connection with today's families by those names.

The Santiagos of Malesso' and Humåtak do indeed come from a Filipino by the last name Santiago, but his first name was José, not the Mateo in this list.

There is clearly one Mexican prisoner by the name of Esparza. Chamorros would have pronounced that name ESPÅTSA and indeed there is a branch of the Camachos known as the familian Espåtsa. I wonder if there is any connection between them and this Mexican Esparza.

A Mexican prisoner sent to Guam isn't surprising since Mexico was indeed fighting for independence from Spain in 1821, but Guam seems an awfully far place to send a Mexican political exile, especially since the Acapulco galleon ships had stopped coming to Guam by 1815 due to the Mexican war of independence. Maybe Esparza was a Mexican who just happened to be living in the Philippines and was arrested there for something other than rebelling against Spain.


LORCAS, José Antonio

Guadalajara (Cebu or Mexico?)


Guadalajara (Cebu or Mexico?)

URRUTIA, Vicente

Ermita (Manila)

BRIONES, Antonio

Tanlag (?)

GUERRERO, Alejandro

Quiapo (Manila)

DURÁN, Francisco

Malabon (Manila)

DURÁN, Pedro

Calumpit (Bulacan)


Aklan (Panay)


Calarcar (?)


Aparri (Cagayan)

CANDASO, Teodoro

San Mateo (Rizal)

MALDONADO, Alejandro

Calumpit (Bulacan)

ESPARZA, Juan de Dios

San Luís Potosí (Mexico)

DÍAZ, Pedro

San Luís (Pampanga)

RAFAEL, Lorenzo

Morong (Bataan)


Malolos (Bulacan)

SARMIENTO, Fulgencio

Tagui (Zambales?)
*or is this really Taguig (Manila)?

MATÍAS , Felipe

Malate (Manila)

NAGUIO, Francisco

Macabebe (Pampanga)

CRUZ, Salvador

Masicog (?)

EGUILUZ, Ángel Domingo

Sampaloc (Manila)

Monday, October 15, 2018


In old Chamorro tradition, the photo above would be unthinkable. The belief of the older people was that pregnant woman had to avoid the beach and the ocean.

An mapotge' i palao'an, debe de u suhåye i tasi yan i taotao ni mafåtto ginen i tasi.

If the woman is pregnant, she must avoid the sea and someone coming from the sea.

The issue was not so much the ocean or the sand or the salt water. The issue was the taotaomo'na, the spirits of our ancestors, who were believed by many to venture out to the sea or spend time at beaches, besides dwell in the jungle.

Older people believed, in fact, that these spirits had their own trails from the upper or inland places down to the sea. Since one could never be totally sure all the time when or if a taotaomo'na was in the area, it was best for a pregnant woman to avoid the beach altogether. If she went to the beach, a taotaomo'na might see that she is carrying a child and some harm might come to the baby.

It was also believed that some fishermen were assisted by a taotaomo'na when they fished. Whether the fisherman knew it or not, a taotaomo'na might actually be the reason why he had a good catch. When the fisherman called it a day and headed back inland from the beach, the taotaomo'na could follow him. If the fisherman met a pregnant woman as he returned inland, the pregnant woman and the invisible taotaomo'na might meet up, and harm come to the baby. So, the teaching of the elders was for the pregnant woman to run inside her house and stay there if she saw someone coming inland from the beach or sea.

One of the most tempting times for a pregnant woman to go to the beach was when the whole village or neighborhood would stand on shore as the communal fishing party came back from the day's fishing. Everyone joined in bringing in the catch and the nets, as the fish was also distributed among fishermen, boat owners, the sick and elderly and then the community at large. It was a fun and exciting event, so the pregnant woman was tempted to join the fun, but was warned not to.

This old belief didn't last long among most people. By the 1970s, I was seeing pregnant woman at the beach all the time. Labor Day Picnics at Ipao; birthday and christening barbeques at the beach; oceanside political events; I have seen pregnant Chamorro women at many such occasions for a long time now.

Thursday, October 11, 2018



In 1922,  Asan Point became the location of a Marine Corps camp. Included was a small arms range, which probably was a continuation of a rifle range that apparently was already there in the 1910s.

According to a 1919 news article, an American man was working by himself one day at this rifle range in Asan. No one else was around.

As he worked away, he looked up and saw some 600 yards away a man wearing a cape. The American looked down to resume his work but when he looked up just a few seconds later, the man with a cape had come closer 300 yards in record time!

Looking back down again, he was startled to find, when he looked up again, that the caped man had come right up to him in a matter of seconds. Then, the caped man extended his cape in the form of wings and turned into a bat, flying over the promontory at the end of Asan Point and ventured out of sight.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


In Spanish

Most people in the old days weren't aware of the date that day. If asked, many people wouldn't be able to answer what day of what month it was. Sometimes not even the year.

They'd have to ask those who had more reason to know the exact time of the year it was.

As farmers and fishermen, there was no practical reason for them to know the day of the month. They did know the day of the week, as Sundays were church days and days of no manual labor. Sundays were also days for the gayera, or cock fight. So, there were reasons to know the day of the week. 

But, for most people, May 10 meant as much or as little as June 5. Many people didn't even know their birthday, and didn't celebrate it either. When asked their age, people were notoriously inexact, since many did not know their actual date of birth. They'd have to run and ask the priest to look it up in the baptismal register. Otherwise, most people guessed it. Year to year, they would give census takers or court officials a different age, because they'd even forget what they said the last time they were asked. It makes sense. Why would a farmer or fishermen care how old he was? It made little to no difference in his practical life. There were no forms to fill out; no elections to register for; no retirement plans to qualify for.

People who were more engaged in government, teaching and business, and those with advanced education, were aware of the day, month and year.

For the rest, if they had to recall an event, they had one means to help them remember the time frame. The church calendar.

Everyone being Catholic, most people were aware of the church calendar and its major feasts. These major feasts were events with a palpable celebration. Christmas meant kissing the niño (infant Jesus). Corpus Christi meant processing from låncho to låncho (outdoor altar).  Palm Sunday meant we got our palm branches blessed and we brought them back home after Mass. The feast of Santa Rosa meant going down to Hågat, a journey of a day and usually an overnight stay at some friend or relative's house in Hågat. Those things we remember.

So, now and then, in Guam's old court records, when Chamorro witnesses were asked when something occurred, sometimes they would answer something like this :

Hihot yan Tolos Såntos. Close to All Saints Day. Or, close to November 1st.

Dos dias despues de Patrosinio. Two days after March 19 (feast of Saint Joseph).

Diddide' åntes de Damenggon Ramos. A little before Palm Sunday.

Gi gipot Tres Reyes. On the feast of Three Kings. Or, January 6th.

What helped in this was that most church feasts never moved on the calendar. Christmas was always December 25 and Asunción (the Assumption of Mary, Piti's patroness) was always August 15, for example. A few feasts (like Corpus Christi or Ash Wednesday) fell at different times on the calendar., but generally in the same month or neighboring months each year.

Monday, October 8, 2018


Not an old, traditional song but something more recent, written and sung by Candy Taman in the 1980s.

Mungnga yo' ma guaiya pot i guaha iyo-ko Chevy
(Don't love me because I have a Chevy)
sa' un dia u mayulang ya un fañoñotsot siempre nai nene.
(because one day it will break down and you'll surely regret it baby.)
Ti bai ofrese hao oro, diamånte nene
(I won't offer you gold or diamonds baby)
ya ti bai ofrese hao kosas ni ti man kombiene.
(and I won't offer you improper things.)

Annai hu tutuge' i katta hu hahasso hao.
(When I was writing my letter I was thinking of you.)
Dalai yan ti un tungo' na hågo ha' guinaiya-ko.
(My goodness if you don't know that you alone are my love.)
Ti bai ofrese hao oro, diamånte nene
(I won't offer you gold or diamonds baby)
ya ti bai ofrese hao kosas ni ti man kombiene.
(and I won't offer you improper things.)

Nåna atiende, nåna i taotao.
(Mother attend to, mother, the person.)
Nåna, nåna konsidera
(Mother, mother consider)
sa' sumen chago' tano'-ña.
(because his home* is very far away.)

Whatsamata you last night?
You no come see papa.
I think so you no like'a me no more.
You too much like another guy.
Another gal like me too.
She's number one, a good lookin'.
Too much ado ai, ah...away.

Ti bai ofrese hao oro, diamånte nene
(I won't offer you gold or diamonds baby)
ya ti bai ofrese hao kosas ni ti man kombiene.
(and I won't offer you improper things.)

* Literally tåno' means land but here it means his home, the place where he comes from

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


Ha tungo' mamide si Yu'us.

God knows how to measure.

In English we say, "God never gives you more than you can handle."

Our Chamorro grandmothers phrased it, "God knows how to measure."

If everyone has a cross to carry and, if no cross is ever too heavy for the person to carry, those crosses have to be measured to fit the shoulder of the person carrying it.

The elders believed that if we carried our crosses with God at our side, those crosses somehow managed to turn out for the best. What seemed to be too heavy for us turned out to be just right. God knows how to measure.

One elderly lady shared her story.

Annai på'go umassagua ham yan i asaguå-ho, sumåga ham gi gima' tatå-ho
(When my husband and I first got married, we lived in my dad's house)

sa' ha erensia yo' ni gimå'-ña ya esta måtai.
(because I inherited it from him and he was already dead.)

Biho na guma'; guma' håyo yan sin.
(It was an old house; a wood and tin house.)

Gi primet åño na sumåga ham guihe, in sedda' na bula chå'ka gi papa' såtge.
(In the first year we lived there, we found a lot of rats under the house.)

Problema sa' ma ngångas i kosas-måme ni in pe'lo guihe,
(It was a problem because they chewed on our things which we put there,)

ma ngångas i alåmlen elektrisidåt....bula peligro yan dåño!
(they gnawed on the electrical wiring....lots of dangers and damage!)

Pues humånao påpa' i asaguå-ho para u dulalak siha
(So my husband went down to chase them away)

yan para u na' gåsgas i papa' såtge ni håfa muna' fanmåfåtto siha guihe.
(and to clean out the under house from what was bringing them there.)

Ya un tungo' håfa? Ha sodda' i asaguå-ho un kaohao lulok
(And you know what? My husband found a metal crate)

ya annai in baba in sedda' na guaha kantidan "silver dollars"
(and when we opened it we found a bunch of silver dollars)

ni man ginen åntes gera. Fana'an iyon bihu-ho siha.
(from before the war. Probably they were my grandfather's.)

Humuyong na bålen tres sientos pesos annai in deposita gi bangko.
(It turned out to be worth $300 when we deposited in the bank.)

Ha tungo' mamide si Yu'us. Pine'lon-måme na problema i cha'ka
(God knows how to measure. We thought the rats were a problem)

lao i cha'ka muna' in sedda' i salåppe'.
(but the rats made us find the money.)

Monday, October 1, 2018



The first Catholic sisters on Guam arrived in 1905 from Baltimore, Maryland. But they left Guam in 1908.

It wasn't until 38 years later that another community of Catholic sisters, the Sisters of Mercy, came to Guam, in 1946. Finally, young Chamorro women aspiring to become Catholic sisters could join a community right here on Guam. But before that, they would have to join a convent somewhere else, hundreds and even thousands of miles away, and some did just that.

One of these young Chamorro women, feeling a call to the Catholic sisterhood, was María Pérez Fránquez from Hagåtña. She was born in 1910, the daughter of Vicente Iglesias Fránquez and Rosa Martínez Pérez.


Several women her age expressed a desire to the Capuchin priests and bishop on Guam to enter the convent. At the time, in the 1920s and early 1930s, the Spanish Capuchins on Guam were trying hard to get the Navy's permission for the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, a community of sisters, to come to Guam. Time and again, the US Navy denied permission.

But the Capuchins did send these young women from Guam to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary convent in the Philippines to join there. Maybe, just maybe, the US Navy would allow these sisters to come to Guam one day and there would be Chamorro sisters ready to come back home and help build the Church.

So, María Fránquez went off to the Philippines in 1933 and became Sister Margarita, FMM. Unfortunately, the US Navy never allowed the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to come to Guam, and Sister Margarita remained in the Philippines till death.

In 1967, the strict rules of the community were relaxed a little and Sister was able to fly back to Guam for the first time since 1933 and visit her family. What a different Guam it must have been to her in 1967. She made several more visits to Guam after that.

Later, when the rules of the Sisters allowed them to return to their baptismal names, Sister became Sister María.

She lived to the ripe old age of 91, spending 67 years in the convent. She passed away in 2001, just six days after her birthday, and is buried in the convent cemetery in Tagaytay in the Philippines. Rest in peace, Sister!

Thursday, September 27, 2018



When the moon underwent an eclipse and turned blood red last January 31, a man from Luta told me that the old people have a saying : gai pilan.

The prefix gai means "to have" and when joined to another word it modifies the first vowel in that word if the first vowel is an A, O or U. So when gai is joined to pulan, pulan becomes pilan. Gai pilan.

There are at least three meanings of the word pulan.

The first is the moon. That leads to the next meaning. A month is basically from new moon to new moon, so "month" is pulan. Even in English, the word "month" is connected to the word "moon."

Finally, pulan can also mean "to watch over," as when someone watches over a baby, or guarding a house, or to watch over a sick person. We can only speculate why our ancestors used the word for "moon" for "watch over." Maybe it's because, in the darkness of night, the moon guides our path in the darkness when the moon's light is full.

So, gai pilan can mean....

A woman's menstrual period. Even the English word menstrual is connected to the Latin word for "month" which is mensis.  So when a woman is going through that time of the month (pulan), people can say of her gai pilan.

When someone is mentally "off." All over the world, all across different time periods, people have associated mental illness with the moon. Many people believed in the moon's effect on people's moods, mental states, fertility and so on. The English words lunacy and lunatic come from the Latin word for "moon" or luna. Many mentally ill people were pictured staring or even howling at the moon.

So, when someone is mentally "off," as perceived by others, people can say that the "off" person is gai pilan. Somehow the moon has affected that person's mental state.


Pulan is found, in many variations, in dozens of other Austonesian languages, meaning "moon."











Tuesday, September 25, 2018



In 1903, a good number of Sumay landowners sold land to the US Navy.

Sumay had been revived as a village sometime in the 1840s, perhaps even earlier, when whalers decided to anchor in Apra Harbor rather than at the old galleon trade port of Humåtak, which had ceased to be active when the galleons stopped coming to Guam because of Mexican independence from Spain in the 1810s. Even before the end of the galleon trade, Apra Harbor, more than Humåtak, was becoming the favored anchorage.

The Spaniards were well-aware of Apra Harbor's military significance. Forts were built on Orote Peninsula in the 1700s and the most prominent one, Fort Santa Cruz, was built around 1801 right in the harbor itself, on an islet in the shallow part of the harbor.

But the US Navy had bigger and more ambitious plans for Apra Harbor and the land surrounding it. Since Spanish times, the harbor was known as "San Luís de Apra" and even that was often misspelled by the Americans.


These plans for military expansion in and around Apra Harbor meant the acquisition of land on the Orote Peninsula outside the village of Sumay. Federal money was allocated for the project, as seen in the 1903 newspaper clipping above.

In 1903, the US Navy began buying land just south of Sumay village. The landowners were residents of Sumay and typically sold one to three hectares of land to the Navy. That's a good amount of land, considering that a typical modern house in the urbanized villages of Guam sit on less than an acre of land. One hectare is roughly equal to two and a half acres.

On Orote Peninsula, there were many specific areas with their own names, now long forgotten except for the older, former residents of Sumay who used to own land there and farm there.

The sellers, arranged by place names, were the following :

IN HALOMÑA (also spelled Jalomña)

Nicolás Cruz Díaz
Gregorio Blas Mendiola
Mariano Dueñas Ulloa


Sebastián Baleto
Guillermo Fejaran Lizama
Martín Taitano Dueñas
Ignacio Mendiola Cruz
José Cruz Quintanilla
Tomás Sablan Camacho


Ramón Tello Dueñas
Francisco Guzmán Sablan
Vicente Ulloa Sablan


José Camacho
Heirs of Félix Díaz Sablan

IN ATOTDAN (also spelled Atordan)

José Camacho
José Lizama Santos
Antonio Santos Dueñas
Carmelo Guzmán Guerrero
Martín Taitano Dueñas
Ignacio Mendiola Cruz
Heirs of José Quintanilla Dueñas
Heirs of Félix Díaz Sablan

Monday, September 24, 2018


A story told to me by a 90-year-old man.

Dies ham na mañe’lo. Guåho mås påtgon na mafañågo yo’ gi 1928 na såkkan.
(We were ten siblings. I am the youngest, born in 1928.)

Lao entre hame i dies, singko man måtai nene yan singko ta’lo
(But among the ten of us, five died as infants and five again)

man maolek mo’na i dumångkulon-måme.
(were fine growing up.)

Ma sangåne si nanan-måme na man måtai i fine’nana singko na famagu’on
(They told our mother than the first five children died)

sa’ pot gai defekto i lechen nanan-måme.
(because our mother's milk was defective.)

Ti nahong sustånsia para u nina’ fan lå’la’ i famagu’on annai mañususu.
(There wasn't enough nutrition to give life to the infants when they were being breastfed.)

Pues hame i uttimo singko na famagu’on ma na’ fan gimen ham Carnation Milk
(So we last five children were given Carnation Milk to drink)

ya ennao muna’ fan lå’la’ ham.
(and that's what made us live.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Isabelo Francisco Guevara had a farm up in Ukkudu. In one field he grew suni (taro) and in another he grew kamute (sweet potato).

December, January and February were not good months for his kamute. He noticed how damaged they were, so that he could expect no harvest of sweet potato that year.

Not far from his farm was that of another man, José Iriarte, better known as "Boyok." Boyok raised pigs and Guevara went to court, claiming that Boyok's pigs ran loose and damaged the kamute. Pigs are known for sticking their snouts into field plants and digging up what they think they can eat.

Here's an imaginary court session, based on the court records :

Guevara : Your honor, Boyok's pigs are responsible for these damages to my crops.

Boyok : Your honor, that is impossible because my pigs are always either tied or kept in a pen.

Guevara : Your honor, I ask that you suspend this hearing until we can gather witnesses. Some are sick and the others live far away from the city in their ranches, so we need some time to call them.

Judge : This hearing is in recess until witnesses can be gathered.

Some days later, the court was reconvened and Guevara presented three witnesses, who all testified that they saw Boyok's pigs digging in Guevara's kamute field.

Boyok presented one witness, named Joaquín Cruz.

Cruz : Your honor, one night I was passing through Guevara's fields and saw benådo (deer) digging up the ground in Guevara's kamute field. There are many benådo in the wild and they come out at night.

Guevara : Your honor, I question the impartiality of this witness, as he is related to the accused.

Judge : This hearing is suspended until Joaquín Cruz Pérez and Ramón Borja de León Guerrero, Jueces de Sementeras (Agricultural Field Inspectors) can inspect Guevara's field and give us a report.

Some days later, the two inspectors make their report.

Judge : Let the record show that the field inspectors state that they inspected Guevara's field and have determined that there are signs of both deer and pig disturbance there. They also inspected Boyok's farm and found nine swine. Two were tied and the other seven were inside a pen. The inspectors also state that it is impossible to determine the value of loss in Guevara's field.

The judge made a decision.

Boyok's pigs were responsible for the damage and determined a fine that Boyok had to pay Guevara, to be substituted with other forms of payment in case Boyok did not have the cash.

I suppose the testimony of three witnesses who claimed to see Boyok's pigs in the kamute field swayed the judge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


A Bill of Sale at a Guam store in 1902

What did mama buy over a hundred years ago?

"Stores" as we know them today did not exist in the Marianas for most of the Spanish period which lasted around 230 years. The missionary priests handed out many things in the beginning, and then the Spanish Governor controlled the sale of imported goods for many years after that.

By the 1800s, though, more foreign ships were making trips to the Marianas for various reasons. Some of them brought things to sell. Towards the end of the 1800s, some individuals sold imported merchandise from their homes. Right as Spanish rule was ending, the Japanese expanded their commercial activity in the Marianas, opening small stores in Guam and Saipan. Under the US Navy, foreign and then Chamorro entrepreneurs established modern stores on Guam. The Northern Marianas became very active in commerce, almost all controlled by the Japanese.

Fabric was one item always in demand in the Marianas. Our islands weren't able to supply the need for fabric. Spanish Governors, at times, even paid the soldiers and government clerks in fabric rather than in money.

In this Bill of Sale at a Japanese-owned store on Guam in 1902, we see the following fabrics being sold to a Chamorro customer :

Caranclan. This fabric was known as gingham in English-speaking places.


Gingham, or caranclan, was popular among the women who made their skirts with caranclan. Look at this photo of a Chamorro woman wearing the mestiza dress using caranclan.

Cambray. Among those who speak English, this fabric is called chambray. This was a thicker fabric, and would be used for trousers, for example.


Monday, September 17, 2018


The Jungle where the spirits dwell

Manhålom gi halom tåno' si Chåro', Ling yan unos kuåntos na famagu'on 
(Charo, Ling and some children went into the jungle)

para u fanmanespia tinanom para åmot. 
(looking for some plants for medicine.)

Gotpe ha' do'do' si Chåro' ya magåhet na fotte i pao-ña.
(Suddenly Charo passed gas and the smell was truly strong.)

Ilek-ña si Chåro', "Ling. Seguro na guaha taotaomo'na guine gi uriya."
(Charo said, "Ling. For sure there is a spirit around here.")

Mamaisen si Ling, "Haftaimano tungo'-mo?"
(Ling asked, "How do you know?")

Manoppe si Chåro', "Adda' ti un nginginge' i pao-ña?"
(Charo answered, "Can't you smell its odor?")

Taotao (person/people)

Mo'na (ahead, front)

Taotaomo'na - the people who were here before us, from the past, whose spirits still inhabit the land

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Juan Crisostomo left Guam with 13 other young men in 1902 for San Francisco, California.

He was only 17 years old; born around 1884.

According to records upon his arrival, he had no job waiting for him in San Francisco, nor relatives to pick him up. More than likely, the 14 Chamorro men on the journey stuck together, or at least in smaller groups, for a while until they went their separate ways finding work and lodging.

Juan had $10 in his pocket when he landed in San Francisco. In the US, he also went by the name of John.

Unfortunately, Juan was arrested in San Mateo, California (not far from San Francisco) in 1918 and charged with manslaughter. This usually means that someone killed another with either no intention of killing, or in the heat of the moment. It is a less serious offense than murder.

He was found guilty and sentenced to no more than 10 years at San Quentin prison.

He must have gotten sick, as he died in prison in 1921 while still serving his sentence. RIP

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


You would never think!

But yes; Chamorros served in the military during the American Civil War (1861 to 1865).

But if you remember that young Chamorro men were leaving Guam as early as the 1820s to sail as crew members on the whaling ships, many (if not most) of them never returning home, it begins to make sense.

The whaling capital of the United States in the early 1800s was New England, the northeastern corner of the country including Massachusetts and the neighboring states. Some Chamorro whaling men took up residence in New England and other Chamorro whaling men would happen to be there for a time, waiting for the next whaling expedition. So, when the Civil War broke out in 1861 and soldiers were needed, there were Chamorro whaling men living on the East Coast who joined the Union forces. Many times these Chamorro recruits were substituting for Americans who wanted to avoid going to war. These Americans would pay their substitutes a handsome fee.

Now, before we get to the names, some things to keep in mind :


Researchers have come across some records, but not necessarily all records. When new records are found and looked through, we might find new names of recruits from the Marianas.

One thing that makes it a challenge to identify Chamorros in these records is that they sometimes did not say they were from the Marianas (or Ladrones). They sometimes said they were from Spain, since the Marianas were under Spain. A smaller number of people would say they were from the Philippines, since the Marianas were a part of the Philippines while both were under Spain in the 1800s. Thus, a record could show that a person was from "Spain," when, in fact, it is a Chamorro from the Marianas.

Since many Chamorros have Spanish surnames, it's hard to tell if a man listed as being from Spain is actually a Spaniard or a Chamorro with a Spanish name. Since many Filipinos also have Spanish surnames, that makes it all the harder to tell. If a man named Taitano (or another indigenous Chamorro name) is listed as being from Spain or the Philippines, we can be almost certain he is actually a Chamorro who comes from the Marianas which were under Spain (and a province of the Philippines when it was under Spain).


The names included here all joined the US Navy. This should not be a surprise since almost every Chamorro recruit got to the US in the first place as crew members on the whaling ships. Life on the sea is what they knew. All of these Chamorro recruits enlisted in the Navy at American seaport towns or cities. Again, that's where we could expect lifelong seamen to take up residence. The greatest number signed up in New Bedford, Massachusetts (the whaling capital of the US) with a few joining in Boston. One enlisted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and another in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Since these Chamorro recruits were signing up in the American northeast, they all served in the naval forces of the Union. There may have been a small number of Chamorros who ended up in the South and could have joined the Confederate forces, but until we find documents and records we can't say for now.


Except for a few, most of these recruits identified as natives of Guam or the Ladrones (Marianas) have names that don't resemble any Chamorro family names we know of. Some have English names like Brown, Ogden and Rogers. This was because some Chamorro men wanted to avoid the problems that came with having a strange name in their new home. By adopting an English name, rather than keeping Pangelinan or Chargualaf, for example, they could avoid the strange reaction of Americans when they asked their names, and the interminable question how to spell it, when many a Chamorro seaman didn't know the answer himself.

This is also why most of them switched to the English form of their given names. Juan became John; José became Joseph.

Sometimes they kept their Chamorro surnames, but changed them a little to sound more English. A man whose last name was Nicholas could easily have been a San Nicolás, and someone named de la Cruz could simplify it and fit right in by calling himself Cross.

Spelling, also, was not consistent. In the list there is both a Peres and a Pérez. Both names would have been pronounced the same way by a Chamorro in those days.

Now, here are the names :

Jose Aglur, 19 (Aguon? Agulto? Aguilar?)

Thomas Andrews, 22

Francis Antonio, 26

Joseph Brown, 25

Benjamin Button, 24

Joseph Carter, 23

Leon Cepeda, 21

Joseph Corsman, 22

Joseph Cross, 25 - more than likely de la Cruz

Joseph Cruise, 33 - more than likely de la Cruz

Joseph Cruze, 20 - more than likely de la Cruz

Mario de la Cruz, 20

Philip de la Cruse, 18 - more than likely de la Cruz

John Douty, 22

Alonzo Ernandes, 21 - in some records it is spelled Hernandez

Joseph Estredo, 20

John Flores, 16 - the youngest so far!

Joseph Garido, 19 - more than likely Garrido

William Gruse, 24 - possibly Cruz

Antone Henry, 22 - the only one identified as being from Rota

Vincente Leon, 18 - probably de León

John Lucas, 28

Peter Mindola, 23 - probably Mendiola

John C. Nicholas, 21 - could have been San Nicolás

Joseph Nichols, 38 - the oldest so far; also possibly San Nicolás

Henry Ogden, 21

Antonio Peres, 22

Joseph Perez, 28

Andrew Rogers, 20

Benjamin Rosario, 24

Peter Mindola (Mendiola?) from Guam
Recruitment Record 


Bernard Punzalan at came across a Peter Santos from Guam who, unlike everyone else who joined the Navy, enlisted in the US Army. He, too, was a substitute for another man.

AND SO.....

Did any other Chamorros join the US Army besides Peter Santos?

Did any Chamorro soldier or seaman die in battle in the Civil War?

Did any Chamorro serve in the Confederate forces?