Monday, April 30, 2018


Ana in 1918

Ana McKay was born Ana Martínez Pangelinan on January 3, 1868 in Hagåtña, Guam. Her parents were Vicente Luján Pangelinan and Antonia Cárdenas Martínez.

Apparently she had no brothers, but she had two sisters who married prominent Chamorro men.

Her sister Dolores married Vicente Roberto Herrero, the grandson of the former Spanish Governor of Guam, José Ganga Herrero. Vicente farmed and also engaged in commercial business.

Her other sister Rosa married Juan Crisóstomo Martínez, who was also a prominent farmer and trader. Juan's son Pedro became one of the wealthiest Chamorro men on Guam before the war, and his daughter Ana married James Underwood. His other son Vicente also engaged in business. A daughter Concepción married Hiram Elliott.

Ana remained single for a very long time. It wasn't until the American period, when she was in her 30s, that she married. She married an American named Edward McKay. The couple had some financial means. They hired a domestic staffer (muchacha, for women helpers, in Chamorro), a woman from Yap named Josefa and nicknamed Josefa'n Gupalao. Gupalao is the Chamorro word for islanders from Palau, Yap and the rest of the Carolines. Later, Ana traveled throughout Asia.

Ana's General Merchandise Store

Ana ran a general merchandise store in Hagåtña, near the Plaza de España. She traveled to Manila, and other places, on occasion to purchase items for her store.  Apparently, she was plagued with debtors, people who didn't pay their bills. This was a common occurrence on Guam, right up until just several decades ago. Many a Chamorro store went out of business because Chamorro store owners were hesitant to decline customers who bought on credit, but who never paid back their debt.

In one month's time, from June to July in 1917, she took twenty-nine people to court for non-payment of debts. In one month! She certainly gave the court enough to do that month.

Her debtors taken to court in that period were : José de León (Ila), Vicente Siguenza, Vicente Castro (Payesyes), Lorenzo Aguon (Cristina), Gabina Cruz, Ignacio Camacho (Aragon), Josefa Camacho (Måtot), Ana Sablan (Ana'n Felix), Rosa Castro (Payesyes), Luís Terlaje, Santiago Agualo, Vicente Sablan (Berela), Ignacio Agualo, Vicente Flores (Kabesa), Ignacio Santos (Lencho), Antonia Santos, Juana'n Buche, Filomena Rosario (Lo'lo'), María Rivera (Agaga'), Francisca Javier (Morere), Francisco Javier (Morere), Joaquina'n Carmelo, Pedro LG Perez (Korincho), Vicente Ignacio (Paeng), Mariana Concepcion (Emo), Joaquin Cruz (Le), Ana Aguon (Makaka'), Felipe Cruz Perez (Manga), and Juan "Yoe," a nickname.

Most of the debts were under $20.

Ana disappears from the Guam records by the 1920s. It seems she and her husband Edward never had children.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Hens have a natural instinct to lay their eggs in a safe place and they like to do it privately.

In olden times, besides other places where hens laid eggs, our ranchers sometimes made baskets just for the hens to lay their eggs. They were called ålan månnok. Åla means "basket," and månnok means "chicken."

You can see in the pic above that the basket is open wide enough for the hen to go inside and lay her eggs cozily.

Kids used to say this verse in the old days :

Punidera, punidera! Falak guato gi alå-mo!
(Hen, hen! Go over to your basket!)

Ennao guiya i hilitai, ya u tinicho' i chadå'-mo!
(There's the iguana, and it will devour your eggs!)

The hilitai (iguana) is a lizard that loves to eat chicken eggs, as well as the chickens! And many other things besides.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018



Don't salute with a hat not your own.

That is the literal meaning, but the saying means something else.

Don't take credit for someone else's doing. You're the one greeting someone with a hat, but the hat doesn't belong to you.

Here's a scenario :

~ José, kao un li'e' si Tomás?
~ José, have you seen Tomás?

~ Åhe' adei Kiko', ti hu li'e'.
~ Nope, Kiko, I haven't seen him.

~ Kao siña un nå'e gue' ni este na balutan mångga?
~ Can you give him this bunch of mangoes?

~ Hunggan!
~ Yes!

Moments later, José sees Tomás, taking with him the mangoes from Kiko'.

~ Tomás! Chule' este na balutan mångga ni hu tifi'e' hao!
~ Tomás! Take these mangoes which I picked for you!

Monday, April 23, 2018


Perhaps the newspaper statement was melodramatic. It was a time of many earthquakes on Guam, but none as strong, it said, as the appointment of a "Filipino rebel" to one of the highest government positions of the American Naval government of Guam.

That "Filipino rebel" was Pancracio Rábago Palting and, in 1903, a man who, just a few years before, fought to end American rule in one place, was appointed by Americans to occupy a high government position in another place!

Palting was an insurrecto (insurgent) who rose up against Spanish and American control over the Philippines. Captured by the Americans, he was exiled to Guam in 1901, along with other Filipino nationalists, one of the more famous being Apolinario Mabini. These Filipino political exiles were camped at Asan Point, known as the Presidio in Spanish times.

But what was supposed to be punishment turned out to be a kind of reward! Palting was appointed by Guam's Naval Governor William Sewell in 1903 to serve as a judge of the Court of First Instance. Only the Governor himself was a higher authority than this court.

But, I suppose Sewell could have argued, he needed capable men to hear and judge cases and Palting was educated. He spoke excellent Spanish, still the normal language of the court in 1903. An American Naval officer served as judge at times, too, and so did several Chamorros who could read and write Spanish. Interpreters were available for witnesses who could only testify in English or Chamorro.

Meanwhile, Palting was improving his English as fast as he could and, in time, was able to speak decent, legalese English. One observer remarked that legal English was all he really ended up being able to speak. Casual, informal English was not his strong suit, according to the writer.

Palting had already served as clerk (escribano, in Spanish) of the court in 1902 after he was pardoned by US President Teddy Roosevelt. Nearly all of the Filipino prisoners on Guam returned to the Philippines, but Palting was among the few who decided to make Guam their home and Sewell thought he could use Palting's skills.

Palting when he was the clerk of the court in 1902

Still, some took exception to Palting's appointment because of his recent revolutionary past. But the newspaper article doesn't specify who didn't appreciate Palting's appointment. Was it a few Americans, who held it against Palting that he had fought against the US just a few years before? Was it a few Chamorro government officials, who thought that their loyalty to the US made them the justifiable choice for high jobs, as opposed to a rebel? Or could critics of Palting be found among both peoples?

Whatever outcry this newspaper article indicated, it didn't amount to much because Palting stayed in his job for a while. He married a Guam girl of Filipino ancestry, Concepción Gozum Dungca, and when she died he married her sister, Soledad Gozum Dungca. After leaving the bench, Palting worked as an attorney on Guam. After the war, the Palting family became active residents of Tamuning. One of his sons, Paul, was elected to Guam Legislature. One of the streets in Tamuning is named after Pancracio, though the first name is misspelled.

Another street sign that needs correcting. His name was Pancracio.

* Palting was the son of Francisco Palting and Martina Rábago, both from the Philippines.

** Concepción and Soledad, Palting's wives, were the daughters of two Filipinos who settled on Guam - Justo Bautista Dungca and Marcela Gozum, sometimes spelled Goson or Gozon.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Today is the third Sunday after Easter.

Starting in 1835, that meant that today was the ninth and final day of the Nobenan Promesa, a novena prayed by the people of Hagåtña and its surrounding villages, asking the Blessed Mother for protection against earthquakes, which had been terrifying the island in the years before 1835. The documents authorizing this novena specifically call on Mary in her Immaculate Conception and it was the novena to the Immaculate Conception that was prayed during the Nobenan Promesa.

The hymn included here below is strongly associated with that nobena. It was also sung in the Cathedral, at least since after the war, after the Saturday morning Mass, traditionally celebrated in honor of Mary.

No one knows for a fact when and where this hymn comes from, or who composed it. It appear in Påle' Román's pre-war Lepblon Kånta so it must go back at least to the 1920s if not earlier. I have always heard, since the 1980s, from older people, that it supposedly goes back to Spanish times, but we have no hard evidence for that.

If it does go back to the 1800s, there are clues in the hymn itself that seem to jive well with that.

First, the hymn portrays a clear link between Guam itself and Our Lady. She is called the må'gas (head/ruler) and raina (queen) of Guåhan (Guam). The refrain underlines the love the Chamorros have for her. The people calling out to her are the natives of this land (taotao håya). The concerns expressed are island-wide concerns : earthquake, tidal wave, typhoon, famine and so on. Finally, there is a verse, not included in this recording, describing the finding of Mary's image in the waters between Dåno (Cocos Island) and Malesso', the image which became Our Lady of Camarin (Sånta Maria'n Kamalen) and venerated in the Hagåtña church.

It seems pretty clear to me that this hymn was written for the Chamorro people, expressing their love for Mary and asking her protection from natural disasters. That fits very well with the Nobenan Promesa's whole intent.


O Señora Nånan-måme, Må'gas yan Rainan Guåhan,
(O Lady, Our Mother, Ruler and Queen of Guam,)
talak papa' giya hame ya magof pumulan ham.
(look down to us and happily watch over us.)
I taotao guine tåya' otro fanlihengan-ñiha.
(The people here have no other shelter.)

I Chamorro, O Maria, siempre hao un guinaiya!
(The Chamorros, Oh Mary, will always love you!)

Tungo' na sen ti yan-måme i mañuha as Jesus,
(Know that we truly do not like to stray away from Jesus,)
sa' gos metton giya hame hinengge as Yu'us.
(because we are very attached to faith in God.)
Na' måfnas nai Maguaiya i tinaihinenggen-ñiha.
(Erase then, Beloved, their lack of faith.)

Chomma' Nånan mina'åse' i pakyo yan i niñalang,
(Prevent, Mother of Mercy, typhoon and hunger,)
i linao, i napon tåse, yan todo i na' mahalang.
(earthquakes, the waves of the sea and all sorrow.)
Pulan i taotao håya yan i guinahå-ña siha.
(Watch over the native people and all they possess.)

"Third Sunday of Easter (Promesa)"

The Nobenan Promesa ended on this Sunday. Taken from the Debosionårio, a Chamorro prayer book of standard devotions, written by Påle' Román de Vera, Capuchin missionary.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


When the island of Guam rocked with violent earthquakes in April of 1825, and more earthquakes came again in April and May of 1834, civic leaders in the capital city of Hagåtña, and the leaders of the five satellite villages of Aniguak, Sinajaña, Asan, Tepungan and Mongmong, met and voted to observe every year a novena to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, asking for deliverance from future earthquakes.

The expenses of this annual observance were voluntarily shouldered by these officials.

The petition was endorsed by the Spanish Governor of the Marianas and, as a final step, granted approval by the Bishop of Cebu, under which the Marianas came.

Some of the Spanish terms seen below will be explained at the end of this post.

The local government officials, almost all Chamorros, who signed the petition in 1834 were :

Lucas de Castro - Gobernadorcillo of Hagåtña

Justo de la Cruz - head of the 4th Company of Urbanos, Justice of the Peace

José de Torres - Interim Sergeant Major, head of soldiers, active and retired

Pedro Pangelinan - head of the barrio of San Ignacio

Faustino de Borja - head of the barrio of Santa Cruz

Nicolás de León Guerrero - head of the barrio of San Nicolás

José Fernández de Cárdenas - head of the barrios of San Ramón and San Antonio

Francisco Crisóstomo - head of the Artillery Company

Pedro Guerrero - head of the 1st Company of Urbanos

Emeterio Pangelinan - head of the 2nd Company of Urbanos

Antonio de la Cruz - head of the 3rd Company of Urbanos

Javier de Salas - officer

José Tainatongo - officer

Miguel de la Cruz - officer

Nicolás Cepeda - officer

Diego Taitague - Gobernadorcillo of Aniguak

Clemente Megofña - Gobernadorcillo of Asan

Andrés Chargualaf - Gobernadorcillo of Tepungan

José Tedtaotao - Gobernadorcillo of Sinajaña

Juan Asuda - Gobernadorcillo of Mongmong


Gobernadorcillo - This literally means "little Governor" and it meant the head of a town or village.

Urbanos - The Compañía de Urbanos was a kind of military unit that acted as policemen as well.

Barrio - A district within a town. At this time, there were five barrios of Hagåtña : San Ignacio, Santa Cruz, San Nicolás, San Ramón and San Antonio.


Tainatongo. We think of Malesso' when we hear this name but it originally came from the Hagåtña area. Then Tainatongos moved down to Malesso' in the last half of the 1800s and established that branch there.

Asuda. Might be the Chamorro word asodda' (to find each other) but this is just a guess.

Megofña. In this list, Clemente's last name is actually spelled Magofña, the way the Saipan branch of this family spells it.

Notice that the gentlemen from Hagåtña have Spanish and Filipino surnames. Pangelinan, for example, goes back to a soldier or soldiers from Pampanga in the Philippines named Pangelinan who moved here. The officials from the outlying villages have Chamorro surnames like Tedtaotao. The Spanish, Mexican and Filipino soldiers in the early 1700s lived in Hagåtña and many married Chamorro women, giving birth to a mixed-blood Chamorro people. People living in the outlying villages had less contact with foreigners.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


A man killed his father in Litekyan in 1905. When you read the story, you'll see how utterly senseless the killing was.

Litekyan is the Chamorro name for the northernmost point of Guam. The Spaniards spelled it Retillan or Retidian and the Americans favored the spelling Ritidian.

Patricide is the killing of one's own father. Sometimes the word parricide is used for the same thing.

Since the murder occurred just 113 years ago, and descendants are sure to still be around, I won't mention last names for the people directly involved in the murder.


Around 5 o'clock one Saturday afternoon in July of 1905, a grandfather from Hagåtña arrived at his son's ranch house in Litekyan. According to one grandchild, the old man started joking around with two of his grandsons when the father of the boys came in and said, "Instead of joking with them, you should beat them." Another grandchild said that the grandfather arrived and saw that the grandchildren were crying because they hadn't gotten their share of watermelon which the father was slicing.

In any event, provocative words were exchanged between the old man and his son, the father of the kids, and the old man picked up a long piece of wood as if to hit his son on the back. One grandchild said he actually did. The son walked out of the ranch house, towards the beach, with the old man following, clutching the knife which, apparently, the son left on the table.

At the beach, the son asked his father what he intended to do with the knife. "Kill you," replied the old man. At that, the son knocked his father to the ground, grabbed the knife from him and began to stab him multiple times. Some of the grandchildren ran to call neighbors to intervene. But when people began to arrive, it was too late. The old man lay lifeless on the sand, face up. His son was straddled on top of him, still holding the bloodied knife. One of the adult men who came on the scene forcefully took the knife out of the murderer's hand.


Someone must have gone to Hagåtña in the dark of night to report the murder because, early the next day, the Commissioner of Hagåtña, Lorenzo Lizama Fránquez, gathered a group of men to follow him up to Litekyan to investigate. The Island Attorney, who prosecuted cases, Tomás Anderson Calvo, was one of them. The court alguacil, or marshall, Lucas Pangelinan Camacho, also went along, as well as guards named Enrique Taijeron, Vicente Mendiola, Manuel Taitingfong and Félix Benavente.

They found the body of the old man still lying on the beach, in the initial stages of decomposition. There was no blood surrounding the corpse, since at high tide the sea water came in and washed it away. The men observed stab wounds on the face, neck, chest, abdomen and back of the victim.

The murderer, the victim's son, was waiting for the officials in a neighbor's house. He did not resist arrest and quickly confessed to being the perpetrator. The body of the victim, the arrested suspect and the knife he used to kill his father were all taken down to Hagåtña.

The court documents seem to be incomplete, as I found no verdict and no sentencing.

Whatever may have been the legal punishment, both the guilty and the innocent suffered the loss of a father and grandfather, and the remorse of being responsible for that loss.


Monday, April 16, 2018


Puffer Fish or Butete

Antonio Dueñas de la Cruz of Hågat was better known as "Chiget." Chiget, in Chamorro, means to pinch in or press in on two sides, as when using a clothes pin to hang the laundry, or when a car runs over you.

On March 19, 1902, on the feast of Saint Joseph, Chiget ate the wrong thing.

Chiget was at his ranch in Talaifak, in the area of the old Spanish bridge. His wife María Álvarez Charfauros was not there; she was at Mass for the feast day. Someone had caught butete, or puffer fish, of which there are more than one kind. But they are dangerously poisonous. People had warned Chiget not to eat it, but he went ahead and cooked it. I have been told by experienced fishermen that there is a way to remove the poison and eat the butete safely, but it has to be done right. Perhaps Chiget messed up trying to do so! He served some to two of his children, but they ate just a small amount. His brother-in-law Félix Taitague Babauta, married to his sister Soledad, also ate some but, again, a small amount.

After stuffing himself with butete, Chiget went to sleep. He woke up in miserable pain, located in his abdomen. He was in such pain that he could not talk to the people trying to see what was wrong. Félix Babauta also felt pain, in his stomach and hands, but in time the pain went away. The two children did not get sick. Finally, Chiget died that same afternoon. RIP

Due to the unusual circumstances of his death, the government formally investigated the event, and we still have the court documents in Spanish that concluded that Chiget died from eating poisonous fish.

It's a good thing that Félix Taitague Babauta, the brother-in-law, did not die or else there would be no Sa'i family in Saipan today. Félix, very soon after, moved himself and his family to Saipan where they became known as the Sa'i family with many descendants, including a former Governor of the CNMI!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


in the early 1800s

In 1825 and again in 1834 the island of Guam experienced a series of strong earthquakes. It must have been quite strong and quite frightening because the leading citizens of Hagåtña, with the Spanish Governor's endorsement, made a promise to celebrate every year a novena of Solemn Masses, with a sermon and procession on the last day.

This meant nine straight days of sung Mass. On the ninth and final day, the priest had to preach a sermon and then the people of Hagåtña would march and pray in procession through the streets of the city. These things involved some cost, such as paying the priest his stipend, buying candles and so on. The city government and leading citizens thought this novena so important that they promised to shoulder those costs themselves. Not only were the people living in the city proper involved, but also those of the surrounding villages (pueblos inmediatos) such as Aniguak, Mongmong, Sinajaña, Asan and Tepungan.

This novena was called by the people the nobenan promesa, the "novena of the promise" and its opening day was the Saturday before the 2nd Sunday after Easter and it ended on the 3rd Sunday of Easter every year. In one year, in 1900, it was not celebrated because the American Naval Governor at the time was very much opposed to the Spanish and Catholic elements of Guam life and he did not allow Catholic processions in the public streets. This is why, the people said, there was a devastating typhoon in November of that year, as God's punishment for breaking the promise. Today this nobena is kept by a handful of older people.

In the Chamorro Debosionårio or Prayer Book, the 3rd Sunday of Easter is shown as the Sunday of the Promesa, when the Nobenan Promesa ended

To add even greater weight to the seriousness of this promise, the approval of the highest church authority over the Marianas at the time, the Bishop of Cebu in the Philippines, was sought. The document from the Bishop of Cebu granting this approval still exists. Here is the text in English and then the original Spanish :

We, Sir Friar Santos Gómez Marañón of the Sacred Order of Saint Augustine, by the grace of God and of the Holy Apostolic See, bishop of the diocese of Cebu, of the Council of His Majesty, etc etc.

In view of the request which the Reverend Father Parish Priest of San Ignacio of Agaña Friar Bernardo Esteves del Rosario has made to us in a letter of June 6, 1834 that we deign to approve the vow and promise, which according to the accompanying testimony signed by the current Governor Sir Francisco Villalobos, the principal mayors and the other residents of that city and surrounding villages made to celebrate yearly at their cost and responsibility a novena of Solemn Masses with sermon and procession on the last day in honor of the Most Pure Conception of the Most Holy Mary, Patroness of those islands, that through the powerful intercession of the mother of God they reach the Divine Mercy to become free in the future from the terrible and repeated earthquakes which they suffered on April 14, 1825 and for a space of some consecutive days and which they resumed to experience on April 10 and May 4, 1834 and taking note that the mentioned individuals voluntarily oblige themselves to contribute to the necessary expenses for said solemn event each year, we come to accede to the petition and request of the mentioned Parish Priest, approving the vow made by the principal mayors and residents of San Ignacio of Agaña and its surrounding villages and declaring as their Patroness for the earthquakes the Most Pure Conception of the Most Holy Mary and to concede in what pertains to us that they may celebrate yearly the novena of Solemn Masses with sermon and procession on the last day under the formalities and conditions which they have spontaneously obligated themselves to as a perpetual witness of their vow the Lord Governor with the Reverend Father Parish Priest have signed on May 4 of the same year 1834. And for the greater spiritual benefit of all the faithful residents of that city and its surrounding villages to concede forty days of indulgences for every Mass heard in that novena, another forty days for the sermon and another forty for the procession. Given in our episcopal palace in the City of Cebu, signed by Us, and authenticated by our secretary signed below on February 10 in the year 1835.

Friar Santos, Bishop

Esteban Meneses, Secretary


Nos, Don Fray Santos Gómez Marañón del Sagrado Orden de San Agustín, por la gracia de Dios y de la Santa Sede Apostólica, obispo de la diócesis de Cebú, del Consejo de Su Majestad, etc etc.

En vista de la solicitud que el Reverendo Padre Cura Pårroco de San Ignacio de Agaña Fray Bernardo Esteves del Rosario nos ha hecho en carta de seis de junio de mil ochocientos treinta y cuatro para que nos dignasemos aprobar el voto y promesa que según el testimonio que acompaña firmado por el actual Gobernador Don Francisco Villalobos, hicieron los gobernadorcillos principales y demás moradores de aquella ciudad y pueblos inmediatos de celebrar anualmente a su costa y mención un novenario de Misas Solemnes con sermón y procesión al último día en honor de la Purísima Concepción de María Santísima, Patrona de aquellas islas, que mediante la poderosa intercesión de la madre de Dios alcanzen de la Divina Misericordia el que sean libres en lo sucesivo de los terribles y repetidos terremotos que sufrieron el día catorce de abril de mil ochocientos veinticinco y por espacio de algunos días consecutivos y que se volvieron a experimentar el diez de abril y el cuatro de mayo de mil ochocientos treinta y cuatro y en atención a que voluntariamente se obligan los expresados individuos a contribuir con los gastos necesarios para dicha función solemne en cada año, venimos en acceder a la petición y súplica del expresado Cura Párroco aprobando el voto que hicieron los gobernadorcillos principales y moradores de San Ignacio de Agaña y sus pueblos inmediatos y declarando por su Patrona por los terremotos la Purísima Concepción de María Santísima y concedernos por lo que toca a nuestra para el que puedan celebrar anualmente el novenario de Misas Solemnes con sermón y procesión al último día bajo las formalidades y condiciones a que se ha obligado expontaneamente cuando para testimonio perpetuo de su voto lo firmaron con el Señor Gobernador y con el Reverendo Padre Cura Párroco en cuatro de mayo del mismo año de mil ochocientos treinta y cuatro. Y para mayor provecho espiritual de todos los fieles moradores de dicha ciudad y sus pueblos inmediatos concedernos cuarenta días de indulgencias por cada Misa que oyeren del dicho novenario, otros cuarenta días por el sermón, y otros cuarenta por la procesión. Dadas en nuestro palacio episcopal de la Ciudad de Cebú, firmadas de Nos, y refrendadas por nuestro infrascrito secretario a diez de febrero de mil ochocientos treinta y cinco años.

Fray Santos, obispo

Esteban Meneses, secretario

Santos Gómez Marañón, OSA
Bishop of Cebu who granted permission for the Nobenan Promesa in Hagåtña

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


In today's society, where English predominates, we say "heads or tails" when flipping coins to make a decision.

But our mañaina were greatly influenced by Spanish. In Spanish, coins in the distant past usually had the head of a reigning monarch or some other government official on one side. On the reverse side, there was often a cross.

In Spanish, the head side was called cara, meaning "face." The other side, with the cross, was called cruz, meaning "cross."

So, in the past, when our people tossed coins, they'd ask "kåra pat krus?" "Face or cross?"

One lady told me the following story from her childhood :

Annai på'go sumotterita yo', guaha låhe, besinon-måme,
(When I just became a teenager, there was a boy, our neighbor,)

ni ha duduse yo' kada biråda.
(who flirted with me every moment.)

Un dia, ha faisen yo', "Kao siña hao hu chiko?"
(One day, he asked me, "Can I kiss you?")

Naturåt na ti konfotme yo', ya hu sangåne na mungnga yo'.
(Naturally I wasn't willing, and I told him I didn't want to.)

Pues ilek-ña, "Maila' ya ta yotte sensiyo! Yanggen kåra, siña hu chiko hao.
(Then he said, "Let's toss a coin! If it's heads, I can kiss you.)

Yanggen krus, ti bai chiko hao."
(If it's tails, I won't kiss you.")

Ilek-ho, "Maolek." Pues ha yotte i sensiyo ya humuyong kåra.
(I said, "Good." Then he tossed the coin and it came out heads.)

Hu estira i kanai-ho ya ilek-ho, "Chiko i kanai-ho."
(I stretched out my hand and said, "Kiss my hand.")

Lalålo' i taotao ya ilek-ña, "I fasu-mo para bai chiko!"
(The guy got mad and said, "It's your cheek I'm going to kiss!")

Ilek-ho, "Ilek-ta na yanggen kåra, siña un chiko yo'
(I said, "We said if it's heads you can kiss me)

"lao tåya' na ilek-ta måno guato!"
("but we never said where!")

Monday, April 9, 2018


It's a side of the Japanese Occupation (1941-1944) that gets talked about very rarely. The main reason is because those involved in the story don't want to talk about it. Part of that comes from shame. Part of it comes from the difficulty of thinking and talking about a horrible experience.

Two stories, however, brief as they are, came to me from family members recently. Due to the fact that other family members would likely get upset if identities became known, I won't include names. But my informants believe that, even if in general terms, the story should get out. Some Chamorro women were forced to give sexual services to the Japanese.

Before I share these two stories, let me briefly mention that there were several types of sexual workers during the Japanese Occupation on Guam. First, the Japanese brought in mainly Korean "comfort women." These Korean women catered to the average Japanese soldier.

Second, the Chamorro women who were known to cater to American sailors and Marines before the war (known as "Monday Ladies" because they visited the doctor on Mondays), were rounded up and expected to cater to Japanese officers now.

Third, some Chamorro women who never engaged in such activities in their life, but whom the Japanese thought to be desirable, were forced to become sex workers. The more attractive women, usually in their late teens and early 20s, were especially sought after by the high-ranking Japanese officers.

We know that at least one local Japanese, meaning a Japanese resident of the island long before the war, was tasked by the Japanese military to obtain some pretty Chamorro ladies for this purpose. In order to avoid such work, we hear stories of young Chamorro women making themselves dirty or pretending to be sick with tuberculosis.

LADY ONE, as I shall call her, was an innocent woman in her early 20s minding her own business when the Japanese forced her to become a comfort woman. If she had refused, she could have been killed or the Japanese could have made life unbearable for her family. After the war, she married but she was never able to become pregnant. The two and a half years she was sexually abused by Japanese soldiers was enough to mess with her reproductive system.

I knew this woman, growing up as a teenager. I saw her at Mass every day. Only now do I know this story from her life.

LADY TWO was also forced into giving sexual service to Japanese soldiers and lower-ranking officers. The experience was so bad that, as soon as the Americans returned, she married an American GI and left the island for good, moving to the US mainland with her military husband.

When her mother passed away many years later, she wondered if she could really return to the island to attend her mother's funeral. The thought of seeing the island once again, even with all the monumental changes in island terrain and landscape, filled her with horror. Memories of her time as a comfort woman would flood back, she thought. She got a plane ticket. She made it to the gate at the terminal. But she just could not get on the plane. She never made it to her mother's funeral on Guam.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Ignacio Mendiola Cruz

Talo' in Chamorro means "middle." Gaige gi talo'. It's in the middle.

So the family story is that there were three Josés in this branch of the Cruz family. They were all, somehow closely related.

Since all three were named José Cruz (or de la Cruz, at the time), they called the oldest one José'n Dångkulo ("Big José"). In time, people pronounced it Ångkulo and this family is still called this.

The youngest of the three was called José'n Dikkike' ("Small José").

And the one in the middle, José Candelaria Cruz, was called José'n Talo'. "José in the middle."

He married Dolores Pangelinan Mendiola. Their son was Ignacio Mendiola Cruz, pictured above. Ignacio married Angelina Rosario and raised a family. We all called her Tan Angelina'n Talo'.

Children of Ignacio and Angelina Rosario Cruz
(Pedro, Teresita, Catalina and Bea)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Apparently, one of Hawaii's oldest residents in 1923 was a Chamorro man named Ramón Mesa. People thought he was at least 100 years old, if not older.

As was usual in those days, his name was spelled in a variety of ways, like Raymond Messa. When Chamorros moved to English-speaking places, they often changed their Spanish first names to the English equivalent. As for the spelling of the last name, that was at the mercy of the official's whim. Sometimes the Chamorro changed his last name, as well.

According to the Hawaii newspapers, Mesa was born on Guam and had moved to Hawaii around the year 1863.

In 1905, the Honolulu City Directory listed Ramón as a laborer.

In his later years, Mesa lived in a shack on Houghtailing Street in Kalihi. Towards the end of his life, he depended on the kindness of people to meet his physical needs. Evidently, Ramón never married nor had children. Evidently, people around him checked on him every day to see if he was alright or if he needed anything.

At ten o'clock in the morning, on the day he was discovered dead, someone brought him food and reported that Ramón seemed to be doing fine. But a little past 6 o'clock in the evening, a motorcycle policeman dropped in to see how Ramón was doing and found him dead, by his bedside in an "attitude of prayer." It was December 17, 1923. He was later buried at Maluhia Cemetery, just in his neighborhood.

U såga gi minahgong. Rest in peace.

1335 Houghtailing Street today, not far from the Bishop Museum
This may not be where 1335 was in 1923, but maybe it was

Monday, April 2, 2018


Here's a custom some people practiced in the old days.

This was told to me by older people from Malesso'.

When a child loses a tooth, he or she is told to throw the tooth on the thatched roof, or go up there and hide the tooth in between the leaves.

The rat would come along and find the tooth, and bring back to the child a gold one!

The child was taught to call to the rat in a sing-song way, saying

Chule' este i nifen-ho måfte',
ya un nå'e yo' nifen-ho oro!

Take this broken tooth of mine,
and give me a gold tooth!

Even when roofs switched to tin or tile, some children still threw the tooth on the roof.

~ Jennifer Peralta, informant go-between