Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Obviously, it wasn't always called Bird Island.

What did Chamorros call it before the English name became prominent?

Isletan Maigo' Fåhang.

A list of Saipan place names

The fåhang is known in English as a "noddy tern." These birds favor coastal cliffs and small rocks or islets along the shore.


Isleta means islet, or small island. The word is borrowed from Spanish.

Maigo' means "sleep" or "asleep" and it probably refers to the fåhang using this rock to rest and sleep at.

Apparently the Japanese, who ruled Saipan from 1914 to 1944, had their own name for the island. Tsukimi, which means "moon viewing."

Monday, July 16, 2018


...instead of saying "the funeral," you say, "THE DEAD!"

~ Where are you going?
~ To the dead!

A statesider or some other English-speaking person not used to Chamorro will assume the person is going to a dead person, not a funeral or wake. Of course, there is no funeral or wake without a dead person!

This could be another example of "English the Chamorro way," except that we also say the same thing in Chamorro.


"I'm going to the dead,"in English, is based, I think, on our Chamorro way of speaking and thinking.

We do say in Chamorro, "Bai hu falak i matai," which literally means, "I will go to the dead." But what we mean is that we're going to a funeral or wake.

Måtai can be both an adjective (e.g. "The dog is dead.") or a noun (e.g. "Don't disrespect the dead.")

It can also be the verb "to die." Kumekematai i taotao. "The person is dying."

So we say in Chamorro things like,

Håye matai-miyo? Literally, "Who is your dead?" but what we mean is, "Who in your family or party has died?"

Guaha matai-ho agupa'. Literally, "I have a dead tomorrow," but what we mean is, "I have a funeral or wake tomorrow."


Finatai means "death." So we can say, "Asta i finatai-ho," or "Until my death," but we can also say, "Asta ke måtai yo'," or "Until I die," or "Until I am dead."

Bela means "wake." It is borrowed from the Spanish word vela, meaning the same. A bela really means an overnight vigil with the dead body, which is why in English it is called a wake, because one stays awake all night. But I do hear some people call the viewing of the deceased during the day a bela.

Entiero means the funeral Mass or ritual. This is also borrowed from Spanish, and the root word here is tierra, meaning "earth." Spanish entierro most exactly means "burial," that is, to bury in the earth (tierra).

Håfot means "to bury" and hinafot means "burial." Fanhafutan is an indigenous term for cemetery, in addition to the Spanish loan word sementeyo (from cementerio) or kåmpo sånto ("holy land or field," from campo santo). Naftan, or "grave," is probably a contraction of fanhafutan.

Responso are the prayers over the deceased's body.

Father Ibáñez in 1865 says that onras also means "funeral," meaning the honors (onra) paid to the deceased.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


This Chilean peso was probably used in the Marianas at one time

During the 1800s, various kinds of money from more than one country were used in the Marianas as legal tender. Because of the abundance of silver in the Spanish colonies of Latin America, many coins came from Mexico, Chile and Peru. Then, because of the many whaling ships (and others) who came to the Marianas from England, the U.S., Australia and other places, coins from many parts of the world entered circulation in the Marianas, too.

In 1902, a businessman on Guam named Vicente Roberto Herrero and his wife Dolores Martinez Pangelinan had quite an assortment of those coins, put in an iron box in their general store, located on the ground level of their Hagåtña home. There was coinage from Spain, Chile, Peru, Mexico, England, the United States, Germany (perhaps via the Northern Marianas, in German hands since 1899) and even China.

One day that year, the Herreros discovered that their money was missing. Someone had entered the home during the night or early morning and run off with the money.

It didn't take long, though, before a man was fingered as the primary suspect. Why? He started throwing Chilean pesos around island.

In May of 1900, the American Governor had declared that only the Mexican peso (or its equivalent in U.S. currency) was legal tender on Guam. So, the Chilean peso was put in drawers or boxes, not to be used in commercial buying and selling anymore. Witnesses testified that by 1902 they rarely saw Chilean pesos in circulation on Guam.

So when this man started gambling with Chilean pesos and sending his son to buy groceries at stores with Chilean pesos, people started to notice. The man in question was quite the gambler, showing up at the Santa Rosa fiesta in Hågat to play card games for money, and playing also in other villages and at the cock fight.

It took the court a year, during which time the man in question spent some months in detention, to decide that the evidence against the suspect was weak. He was finally let go.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018


The Cruz Family singers put new lyrics and story to an old melody, Eskatmina Silensio na Puenge. Another song about false love, false expectations, false dreams.

An un tulaika i hinasso-mo
(If you change your mind)
ya åhe' ti para un dingo yo'
(and no, you will not leave me)
nene nå'e 'u mågi ni guinaiya-mo
(baby give me your love)
ya un dalak yo' para iya håme.
(and come with me to our place.)

Hu nå'e hao alahås-mo
(I gave you jewelry)
ai yan salappe'-mo
(and money)
lao ti este ha' siña bai hu cho'guiye hao.
(but these aren't the only things I can do for you.)
Nene nå'e 'u mågi ni guinaiya-mo
(Baby give me your love)
ya un dalak yo' para iya håme.
(and come with me to our place.)

Pues pine'lo-ko na ti dåkon i guinife
(So I thought that dreams don't lie)
sa' tåya' na hu susede taiguine
(because I never went through this)
i para un pångon yo' gi maigo'-ho
(that you would wake me in my sleep)
sa' malago' yo' bai kuentuse.
(because I want to talk.)

Gi annai makmåta hao un oga'an sen tåftaf
(When you woke up one morning very early)
ya hu hahasso i guinifi-ho
(and I remembered my dream)
pues pine'lo-ko na magåhet na gaige
(so I thought that it was true)
si nene nai gi fion-ho.
(that baby was by my side.)

I ha ofrese 'u na palåbras gi kattå-ña
(The words she offered me in her letter)
ha na' sen pinite korason-ho
(really hurt my heart)
sa' ha ofrese 'u na para bai in assagua
(because she proposed that we be married)
lao mandagi eyo na kontråta.
(but it was a false agreement.)

Pues pine'lo-ko na ti dåkon i guinife
(So I thought that dreams don't lie)
sa' tåya' na hu susede taiguine
(because I never went through this)
i para un pångon yo' gi maigo'-ho
(that you would wake me in my sleep)
sa' malago' yo' bai kuentuse.
(because I want to talk.)

Monday, July 9, 2018


An tumåtånges i patgon
nå'e na'-ña entot tupu.
Yanggen sige ha' de tumånges,
håtsa hulo' ya un na' susu.

(When the child is crying
give him a piece of sugar cane to eat.
If he keeps on crying,
lift him up and breast feed him.)

Now, I could be wrong but I don't think this verse is to be taken literally.

I'm not sure it's good to give an infant a piece of fibrous sugar cane that s/he can choke on! Even with mommy watching, I think it would be a challenge to get a baby to just suck the juice and not swallow the fiber. And chew with what teeth? No; I think the verse is meant solely for entertainment value.

Entot means a cut-off piece, a fragment. It comes from the word utot, which means to cut off.

Tupu (or tupo) is sugar cane. It is not to be confused with tupu' (tupo'), which has a glota at the end, which means a water well.

Thursday, July 5, 2018



The Spanish have a saying.

"Quien nombre no tenía, García se ponía." "Whoever lacks a name, is given the name García."

Back in the days when people were beginning to adopt family names or surnames in great numbers, let's say around the year 1400 or so, García was chosen by or given to so many in Spain that García came to be, and still is, the most common surname in Spain. Thus the saying, "If you don't have a surname, we'll call you García."

A million a half people in Spain today have García as a paternal last name. Another million and a half have García as their maternal name. García is so common that almost 80,000 people in Spain are García García, from both mom and dad's sides. The next most common surname (Fernández) doesn't even reach a million.

So, as the Spaniards went out into the world, to their conquests in America, Asia and Africa, the García name went with them. García ranks very high in places like Mexico and Argentina, and it is the most common name among Hispanics in the United States.

Closer to the Marianas, García is in the top ten most common surnames in the Philippines.

But when we come to our own islands, the Marianas, García doesn't make even the top twenty. In 1930, there were just a little less than 60 people on Guam with the surname García, and that includes women who were married to García men. There were more Gumataotaos than Garcías on Guam at the time.


And yet, it seems as if the García surname had the possibility of becoming a huge family on Guam, as far back as 1727. In that Census, there is a García family listed in the roll of Spanish soldiers, which meant that the names listed could be Mexican and other Latin American, as well.

The head of that family was Lázaro García, married to Juana de Cárdenas. They had three boys (Feliciano, Ignacio and Dionisio); enough, it seems, to plant the name rather well in these islands. But in the 1758 Census, only Feliciano is still listed among the sons of Lázaro (also named in the 1758 Census) and he is married to a Chamorro, Ignacia Taitiguan.

In 1758, there are new Garcías unseen in the earlier census. Two are Filipino, and one is listed under the Spaniards who could have been a son of Lázaro, but maybe not. There is also an orphaned male with the last name García. The two Filipino Garcías are incidentally married to Chamorro women. All these males with the last name García could have established a large number of García descendants, but by the 1800s, the number of Garcías on Guam remained small.

IN 1897

In what I call "modern Guam," the Guam about which we have much more information and can make clearer connections within families, there seems to have been three main lines of Garcías at the turn of the century in 1900, based on the 1897 Census and birth records from the early 1900s.

Two of those three lines, the García-Lujáns and the García-Manibusans, seem to date back to the Marianas in the early 1800s and could be descendants of the even earlier Garcías of the 1700s, either Spanish or Filipino in origin or both.


A Francisco Luján García from Hagåtña married Gertrudes Aquino. Their line continued and they have descendants to this day.


A Justo Manibusan García also from Hagåtña married Angela de la Cruz. One of their sons married Magdalena Pereira Atoigue, and they have descendants. A daughter, Antonia, married Félix Martínez Camacho, and they were the parents of former Governor Carlos García Camacho and the grandparents of former Governor Félix Pérez Camacho.

García-León Guerrero

A Santiago García from Pampanga in the Philippines moved to Guam at least by the 1850s and married a Chamorro woman named María de León Guerrero.

Their son Demetrio married Isabel San Nicolás and they have many descendants. Demetrio's signature is seen at the top of this post.

A possible son of Santiago and María was Antonio León Guerrero García, and he married Gertrudes Cabrera, and they also have descendants.


Today, there are many more Garcías from many different origins. Filipino Garcías continue with new lines started, such as Jesse García who married Amparo (Paning) Díaz Gumataotao, and Tomás García who married Engracia Palomo, Father Pat García's grandparents. Jesse's brother Bert García has part-Chamorro grandchildren.

Then there are Hispanic Garcías. Juan Sáenz García, from Mexico, was stationed in the military on Guam before the war and married María Garrido Eustaquio. They had children who gave them descendants to this day. In Saipan, Juan García originally from Cuba but then in the U.S. military, married Fermina Sablan Pangelinan, and they had children and now descendants. Not too long ago, Thomas García, whose family hails from Enseñada, Mexico, had a child with Lynn Borja from Guam and another with Persha Mendiola, also from Guam.

And, given, the presence of Chamorros today all over the place, there are bound to be new lines of Chamorro or part-Chamorro Garcías that we're only beginning to know about.

So, while the García name was not as numerous among Chamorros as it was among Spaniards, Hispanics and Filipinos, little by little there are more and more of them as time progresses.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Yes, fake news is not just a modern phenomenon. It happened on Guam in 1902.

On the 9th of November, in the morning, the Court House in Hagåtña was the recipient of an anonymous letter, delivered by unseen hands.

The letter claimed to be from a fisherman who was casting his talåya at Alupang Island on the night of November 5. He said he saw, in the darkness, a little canoe approach the island, while he stayed quiet and hidden. A man and a woman landed on what little beach the island has. The man told the woman he was going to kill her. The woman asked for pardon. The fisherman author states that he recognized both persons as lovers living in the same house, but unmarried.

The letter goes on to state that the woman was killed and buried at the beach in Alupang.

Well, despite the questionable origin of the letter, the court officials decided they had to act. They formed a group to go out to Alupang and investigate. Those participating were the judge, Pancracio Palting; the island attorney, Tomás Anderson Calvo; the bailiff Lucas Camacho and the American Naval forensic physician, Dr HM Tolfree. Seeing the little island for themselves, they noticed nothing to suggest a murder nor a burial. There was only a little bit of sand that could have been dug up for a grave, the rest of the islet being made of hard coral rock. There was no trace of a freshly dug grave.

Returning to Hagåtña, the court decided to make a public announcement, not specifying a murder, but the receipt of a letter making a serious claim of a crime. The announcement insisted that the author of the anonymous letter make himself known within two days. The two days came and went, and no one showed up claiming to be the author. An announcement was made giving the author another three days. Still, no one showed up.

Alupang (or Alupat) Island today

The court's last move was to call on Pedro María Duarte y Andújar, a Spaniard married to a Chamorro who had been a government official under the Spanish administration and who kept working for the government even under the American flag, to act as a handwriting expert. Duarte was asked to study the writing and suggest a possible author, comparing the writing to the many documents kept in the island's archives.

It took Duarte some days, but he finally wrote a report, stating that he believed the letter was written by a Chamorro, but one with a good knowledge of Spanish. The grammar was basically good but the spelling was not. He suggested that the spelling was bad on purpose, to hide the identity of the author. Based on the handwriting he knew of many local people, he suggested three names as possible author of the anonymous letter.

Part of the Actual Letter written in Spanish
The grammar was OK, the spelling was not

All three people were brought to court for official questioning. All three denied being the author and of having any knowledge whatsoever about it.

The three suspects were let go. It was all a hoax, but one that cost the government a week or more of investigation.

As Duarte said, the perpetrator either wanted to distract the court from actual business, which may have included a case against the author, or to play a humorless joke on the government.

Monday, July 2, 2018


The wharf at Punta Piti 
Early 1900s

What major, life-changing event in the history of Guam happened at Piti?

Spanish rule over Guam ended at Piti on June 21, 1898.

Two hundred and thirty years of Spanish rule over Guam came to a screeching halt in a matter of hours that day, and it happened at Piti.

It didn't happen at Hagåtña, the capital city. It didn't happen in Apra Harbor or at Sumay. It happened in Piti. Specifically, not far from the dock that made Punta Piti (Piti Point) important in those days.

Apra Harbor, of course, was where almost all ships anchored when coming to Guam. Sumay was an important village for that reason. One could get on a smaller boat and head into Sumay. But, if one wanted to go to the capital, Hagåtña, people in their smaller boats headed towards Punta Piti. It was faster for them to get a ride into Hagåtña from Piti, rather than take a bull, karabao or horse-driven carriage from Sumay.

So when the American Captain Glass came into Apra Harbor on June 20, 1898 with orders to capture the Spanish officials on Guam, Piti was drawn into historic events.

Glass was in his own ship, the USS Charleston, but he was accompanied by three transport ships. These American ships had been spotted sailing down the western coast of Guam, past Hagåtña, and some Spanish military officers and other private citizens went down to Piti to observe the arrival. In time, they got on boats and went out to meet the Charleston and found out, for the first time, that war existed between the US and Spain. The Spanish officers were ordered to deliver a letter to Spanish Governor Juan Marina, in which the surrender of the island to Captain Glass was demanded. Much later that day, as the day was coming to a close, a letter from Marina arrived, declining the order to come on board the Charleston, and requesting Glass to come ashore to meet Marina.

Spanish Governor of the Marianas Juan Marina y Vega
In 1897 while in Cavite, the Philippines

The following day, on June 21, an American contingent under the command of Lieutenant William Braunersreuther went ashore at Piti. There, Braunersreuther met Governor Marina and gave him thirty minutes to surrender himself to the American forces. Marina was placed under US custody and transported to one of the American ships. The Spanish and Chamorro soldiers were ordered to appear at Piti not later than 4 o'clock that afternoon.

In compliance with this order, the 54 Spanish and 52 Chamorro soldiers gathered at Piti on the afternoon of June 21 and were relieved of their weapons. The Spanish soldiers were transported to the American ships, and the Chamorro soldiers were told to return home to their families. The next day, June 22, the four American ships left Guam with all the Spanish military officers and soldiers to be taken to Manila. Spanish rule over Guam had come to an end on the shores of Piti.

Spanish rule ended over Guam. But Spanish rule would not end in the Northern Marianas till the following year, in 1899, since the US wanted only Guam. Spain held on to the Northern Marianas for another year till Spain sold them to Germany.


If you look at old maps of the dock at Punta Piti, it was located right across Cabras Island, which was separated, at the time, from the main island. This map below is from before World War II.

Here is an even older map, showing Piti's older location.

And here is an even older map, showing the location of the pantalán, or pier, at Punta Piti.

If we look at a modern, aerial view of this same area seen in the two old maps above, here's what we find :

So the older location of Piti, and the location of the dock in which area the surrender of Spanish power to the Americans in 1898 took place, was in the area of Atlantis, in the area circled above.

Here's what the place looks like today.

It was somewhere in this vicinity, near today's Atlantis tourist office in Piti, that Spanish rule over Guam came to an end. One hundred and twenty years ago.