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!

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