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.

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