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!