Friday, December 14, 2018


From a news article in 1911

As the above headline states, Christmas didn't happen on time on Guam one year, in 1910.

Well, that's according to the American Navy which ruled Guam in those days. The Chamorros and their Chamorro and Spanish priests, however, celebrated Christmas on time just the same anyway.

As far as the Americans were concerned, however, it was the United States that brought Christmas to Guam. The article from the same newspaper above stated, "Christmas on Guam is only twelve years old," brought to Guam only in 1898 when the United States took control over the island away from Spain. Never mind that the Spaniard Sanvitores came to Guam in 1668 and celebrated the first Christmas here that same year, two hundred and thirty years before the Americans came.

According to the Americans, Christmas couldn't happen on Guam either unless the American Santa Claus brought gifts and toys to the island. That's why Christmas was late in 1910.

Starting in 1907, the American Navy brought hundreds of Christmas toys and candy to Guam for the school children every year. But in December of 1910, the health officer on Guam would not allow the Navy ship to unload passengers or cargo because one man on board had a mild case of smallpox and was actually already recovering from it. Still, no amount of convincing could change the health officer's mind. The ship had to continue to Manila without leaving behind all those toys and candies for Guam's school children.

And that is why, the American newspaper said, Christmas didn't happen on time on Guam that year.

Better tell that to the thousands of Chamorros who were at midnight Mass for Christmas. Apparently they had no idea that Christmas couldn't happen until the toys came.

Christmas on Guam only started in 1898, according to this American newspaper!
News article in 1911

Wednesday, December 12, 2018



Egg in the grass.

This saying sounds strange at first to people hearing it for the first time, but it was heard by some older people in the past.

Here's the idea behind it. A hen usually lays her eggs in a coop (kasiyas) or basket (ålan månnok).

So if a woman gives birth to a child out of wedlock, it's like the hen who lays her egg out on the grass, in a field and so on. Far away from the public eye, from the usual places a hen would lay an egg. Even the child would be called påtgon sanhiyong, a child "from the outside, " outside of marriage, that is.

There were lots of births out of wedlock in the old days. But it was considered something shameful. There would be no christening party, for example, when the baby was baptized.

Thursday, December 6, 2018



In 1742, the British admiral Lord George Anson stopped at Tinian and saw a sakman (flying proa) sailing on the sea. He was impressed with its speed, reckoned by many today at 20 knots or 23 miles per hour on land.

Anson needed to make repairs and replenish food and water supplies at Tinian, and give his crew some rest and the sick among them some convalescence, but he couldn't stay long since the Spaniards in Guam might send up an armed force if they heard about this British visit.

So Anson destroyed the boat and the sakman being used by the Spanish and Chamorro men drying beef in Tinian before he left the island. But he also had his draftsman draw, in great detail, the design of the sakman. This drawing made its rounds back in England, along with the story of Anson's travels in book form, published in 1748.

Well, twenty-some years after news of Anson's voyage in the Pacific, his visit to Tinian and his depiction of the sakman circulated around England, a British shipbuilder decided to make a canoe based on the Chamorro sakman as documented by Lord Anson. The story appeared in a British newspaper in 1767.

Notice that the article talks about a praw (proa) and that it belongs to the Indians, a common name in those centuries for natives of America and the Pacific. The Spaniards called Chamorros and Filipinos indios in those days, too. The Marianas were still called Ladrones by many in those days, as well.

The British copy of the Chamorro sakman could not have been an exact replica. Local, English materials were undoubtedly used, rather than Pacific island material. I wouldn't be surprised if there were technological changes made, too.

But it goes to show that European admiration for the Chamorro sakman's speed and agility was strong enough for one English man to make a functional replica of it 250 years ago. What became of it remains an unanswered question.