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.

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