Monday, July 22, 2019


In 1925, a woman named María of Hagåtña was serving time in prison for the crime of adultery.

María was married to one man, but broke her vow of fidelity to him and had relations with another man. Her betrayal was discovered, and she was tried and sent to prison.

The problem was she was pregnant.

When the child was born, a boy named Ramón, he was not given María's husband's last name, but rather María's maiden name. The child was María's, but not her husband's. Ramón's father's name was left blank on his birth certificate. Perhaps the father was the man with whom María had adulterous relations. But it could have been another, for all we know!

In order to give birth safely, the prisoner María was taken to the Naval Hospital. Once the baby was born, what to do with the baby? The baby could not remain under María's care, as she had more time to serve in prison.

The medical officer at the hospital gave the baby, with María's consent, to a Merizo woman named Dolores. Dolores and her husband José not long after went to court and, again with María's consent, became the legal parents of Ramón.

Why did the medical officer give the baby to Dolores? What was Dolores doing up in Hagåtña? At the hospital? Questions for which I have no answers.

José and Dolores were not relatives of María. They were not even from the same part of Guam. Perhaps they were childless and looked forward to raising the newborn Ramón as their own. Whatever the case, it was an act of charity for the couple to adopt a baby, the son of a woman in prison.

Thursday, July 18, 2019



He or she died in the bosom of God.

To place someone on another's lap is to sådde.

Sinasådde i patgon as nanå-ña.

The child is being held on the lap by his mother.

Sitting on someone's lap, especially when a child is sitting on a mother's lap, or the lap of some other caring adult, is a place of safety and security. So older people expanded the meaning of sådde to also mean a place of safety, which can be translated by the English word "bosom."

Originally, "bosom" meant a woman's breast. But over time it also began to mean a place of safety, as in the "bosom of Abraham," or when one's friend is a trusted intimate, he can be called a "bosom friend." A mother carries her child in her bosom.

When a Christian dies a holy death, having made a good confession and receiving the Last Rites, he or she can be said to pass from this life to the safety of God's hands, into His bosom.

Måtai gi sinadden Yu'us. He or she died in the bosom of God. A place of mercy and safety.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019



I enjoy the traditional differences between Guam and Saipan (and Luta and Tinian) in language and customs. I think these differences add color and flavor to our collective Chamorro experience. Just as a family would be less interesting if every child were exactly like the other, our Chamorro family is all the more interesting because of our differences.

These differences are very manageable if we simply adhere to the common-sense rule to "do in Rome as the Romans do." When I am in Saipan, I use the Saipan term. When I am in Guam, I use the Guam term. How difficult is that?

In both Saipan and Guam, we eat the same dish which involves cooking some starch (lemmai, chotda or aga' or suni; breadfruit, banana or taro) in coconut milk until most of the liquid in the milk evaporates and only the oil of the milk remains in white, bubbly patches.

In Saipan and the rest of the CNMI, the dish is called saibok. In Guam, it is called gollai åppan.

Gollai means "vegetable" and åppan means "the water in the dish has evaporated."

The late Escolástica Tudela Cabrera of Saipan explains :

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


in 1919

I wish I had more firm evidence to say conclusively that John (who was also called Ignacio) Charfaros is Chamorro, but I can't.

But I can say that there is a huge probability that he is Chamorro, and I would bet my last penny that he is.

All the documents that I have found, so far, say that John Charfaros was born in the Philippines. But I propose that he was not born in the Philippines, but rather in Guam.


1. CHARFAROS is not a surname found in the Philippines. From Ilocos Norte to Davao you can scour every inch of the Philippines and not find a Filipino with the last name Charfaros.

2. CHARFAROS is a surname found in Guam, specifically Hågat (and then spread to other villages). In the old days, people spelled Chamorro surnames in a variety of ways. Even brothers sometimes spelled their common surname in two different ways. To this day, we see this historical fact in names such as Megofña/Magofña, Tedpahago/Tedpahogo and Cheguiña/Chiguiña. In the Spanish records, Charfauros was sometimes spelled Charforos, Charfaulos and many other similar ways.

3. Many Chamorros overseas stated that they were from the Philippines or Spain, instead of saying they were from Guam, the Marianas or the Ladrones. The fact is that the Marianas were, for most of the 1800s, a part of the Philippines, which belonged to Spain. The Spanish Governor of the Marianas answered to the Spanish Governor-General in Manila, and he answered to the government in Madrid. When Chamorros were abroad, many people had no idea where the Marianas were, so it was easier for the Chamorro to say they were from the Philippines or from Spain, which technically was true at the time. Since Charfauros lived in England, which had even less reason to be familiar with Guam or the Marianas, I am not surprised he told the British authorities that he was from the Philippines.

From the Philippines? More likely Guam.
A donkeyman on a ship operated some of the ship's engines.


One thing the records are consistent about is that John was born in 1882. The next thing we know, he is in Liverpool, England in 1912, getting married to a lady from Liverpool with Filipino and possibly Caucasian blood.

John would live the remainder of his life in Liverpool, a seaport city that welcomed many immigrants from all over the world.

His wife, Margaret Madeloso (sometimes spelled Maduloso) was the daughter of a Filipino, Gregorio, and his wife, a woman from Liverpool named Theresa Dair (or Durr). She was born in 1896, and was thus 14 years younger than John and married him at the tender age of 16. There are numerous families in the Philippines with the Madeloso surname, often spelled Madiloso, Madelozo and other ways. John and Margaret were married in the Catholic Church.

John was a seaman, which is probably how he left Guam in the first place. John is identified in half a dozen shipping documents as a crew member of this or that ship, sailing out of Liverpool.

John and Margaret had several children who died in infancy. But one son, Vincent, lived well into adulthood. I do not know if Vincent had his own children, who would have carried on the Charfaros name. It seems that he didn't.

John died on a ship, docked in Glasgow, Scotland in 1947. That makes him 65 years old at the time of death.



It seems that John's original first name was Ignacio.

In some records, he is called Ignasio, Inacio, Enasio, Enagnasio and even the Chamorro nickname for Ignacio, Inas (spelled Enos in the British documents). When he applied for naturalization as a British citizen in 1936, the announcement in a Liverpool newspaper gave both names; Ignacio and John as an alias.

Perhaps John was just an easier name for British people to say, rather than Ignacio (which they spelled in numerous ways!).


Charfaros was not the only Chamorro who ended up in Liverpool, England.

Sometime in the 1880s, long before Charfaros came, Juan Manibusan from Guam left his ship and settled in Liverpool, also marrying a women he met there. The difference was that Juan, his wife and some of his children moved back to Guam at the end of World War I.

You can google my blog post about them. Search for paleric+"a whaler who came back" or copy and paste this link :

I wonder if anyone in the Charfauros families on Guam have heard about Ignacio (John)?

Thursday, July 4, 2019


90 degrees but heads wrapped tightly in case of sereno!

This is a fictional work, "written" by a fictional statesider new to Guam.

I never feared the cool air. Until I came to Guam. Only then did I discover that the cool air can kill you.

I was only two weeks on Guam, moving here from Arizona, when I came into my landlady's house after mowing the lawn, both on her side of the property and on my side, where I was renting an annex.

She always welcomed me into her kitchen whenever I wanted, and since I was sweating profusely, I wanted a nice cold glass of her famous lemonade.

But instead of a warm welcome when I walked into her kitchen, she looked at me with an expression of horror and told me, "Get out of this kitchen! Can't you feel the air con????"

I said, "Yes! It feels good!"

"No, no, no," she said. "Sus Maria! Do you want to get sick? Go back outside and dry off for awhile. Then you can come inside."

Thus began my island education about the evils of cool air.

Do you have a cold? You probably got wet in the rain and walked into an air conditioned room.

Do you have a fever? Close the windows, turn off the AC, wrap yourself in woolen blankets and sweat it out. You kill a fever with heat. The last thing you want is cool air.

Do you have high blood pressure? High cholesterol? Back pain? A tooth ache? You must have walked into cool air.

Some days later, I had to get up at 4AM so I could pick up a coworker arriving at the airport. I was surprised to see my landlady already up as well.

"See you later," I said, "I'm off to the airport!"

"Not like that!" she replied. "It's sereno! You're gonna get sick if you don't cover your head." She gave me a hanky and I put it on my head. "At least when you're out of the car, cover your head till the sun comes up. Especially with your hair wet! You must have just showered."

Driving to the airport, I thought how blissfully ignorant we statesiders are about the dangers of the damp morning air. Sereno, as she said.

A few months later, I was getting out of my car when the heavens opened up and, out of nowhere, it rained cats and dogs. Unprepared for the unexpected rain, I got completely drenched. My landlady saw this happen, and saw me walk into my air conditioned annex.

The following day, she asked, "You're not sick? I saw you get soaking wet and walk into the air con."

"No," I said, "I'm perfectly fine."

"It must be your white genes," she said.

"I must be a sereno-proof statesider," I said with a bit of sarcasm.

Then last night, she called me on my cell phone.

"You didn't go to work today. Your car was here all day. Are you OK?" she asked.

"I'll live, but I think I have a 24 hour bug," I said.

Right away she said, "And knowing you, it will last exactly 24 hours. You're from the States."

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Around the 1920s

How times have changed.

Generally speaking, most Chamorros today would never consider working as a domestic servant.

But, in times past, many Chamorros were just that. And not just to foreigners, either. Many Chamorros worked as domestic servants for other Chamorros. The male servants were called muchåcho and the female muchåcha, words borrowed from Spanish for "boy" and "girl."

One indication how Chamorro attitudes about domestic service changed over time is the connotation those two words took on. The words muchåcho and muchåcha were considered too negative, especially if said in front of the servants, that people would called them lahi-ho or hagå-ho, "my son" or "my daughter," instead.

Working as a domestic servant had its advantages. Usually there was payment in cash, something more people came in contact with under the Americans but to which not all had access. Sometimes the employer would buy the servant work clothes. Servants could eat what was available in the house (later, of course). In general, by being in the home, office or environment of the boss, the servant could benefit from that environment.

When you worked for someone more affluent, who traveled abroad, you could, too!

In 1921, the Governor of Guam, Captain Ivan C. Wettengel, and his wife, wanted to travel to Manila. Accompanying them was First Sergeant Otto Cox, in the Marines but soon to retire. Cox was accompanied by his Chamorro wife, the former Dolores Borja of Sumay. With a bigger group of military and civilian passengers, they boarded the Army transport ship the USAT Thomas, which frequently stopped by Guam on its Pacific journeys.

The USAT Thomas docked in Manila in the 1920s

But the Wettengels and Coxes also brought their Chamorro domestic servants with them on the ship to Manila.

The maid of Mrs Wettengel, the Governor's wife, was Mrs. Juana Cruz. It's a common name, so I can't say which Juana Cruz she was in 1921.

The servant of Otto Cox was Miss T.A. Charfauros. I do not know what T stands for. Tomasa? Teresa? Teodora? Or the other dozen or so possibilities. I've looked through the 1920 Guam census for a single woman named Charfauros with a first name beginning with T.  I can't find one.

I can imagine Juana being told, "Pack our bags, Juana. We're going to Manila!"

showing Juana Cruz and TA Charfauros

Besides these Chamorro servants, Gaily Roberto Kamminga, and a Chamorro Navy man, Enrique R. Quitugua, were also sailing to Manila.

Juana Cruz and TA Charfauros were not the first, nor the last, Chamorro domestic servants to travel abroad, thanks to their employment. A former Spanish Governor of the Marianas and his wife even took their Chamorro maid with them back to Spain, where she lived and died.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Picture of the Foxhound etched on a tooth of a sperm whale captured by the ship
The ship visited Guam twice in 1835

Apra Harbor was very busy in the early 1800s, with as many as half a dozen whaling ships anchored there at one time.

A Spanish ship, the Pronto, sailed from Manila to Sydney, Australia, in 1835, selling sugar, rice, cigars, molasses and various things besides. Before coming to Australia, the Pronto had stopped by Guam and reported the following whaling ships visiting the island at around the same time :

Walmer (British)

Cheviot (British)

Foxhound (British)

Samuel Enderby (British)

Henrietta (British)

Superior (American)


Due to the arrival of significant numbers of whaling ships at Apra from 1820 onwards, the once-abandoned village of Sumay was repopulated mainly by people from Hagåtña moving down there.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


View of Tinian from Anson's ship in 1742

Hopefully it is by now well-known by my readers that Tinian was used, during the major part of the Spanish period, for cattle raising and a few other animals.

The island is, in the main, quite flat and suitable for animal grazing.

Under Spain, Tinian was also depopulated, so the entire island could be dedicated to agriculture and animal husbandry. The sale of Tinian beef, pork and other farm produce helped fund the Spanish government and the care of lepers and other needy people in Guam.

Since Tinian itself had no population, the Spanish government employed Chamorro workers from Guam, often single men who could work on Tinian for a couple of years then return to Guam, replaced by a new batch of workers repeating the cycle. Towards the end of the 1800s, Carolinian workers were brought in, but that didn't last long.

Thanks to an English shipwreck survivor, we have a bit of a description of life in Tinian in 1835, lived by these Chamorro workers from Guam.

The survivor, whose name was William Reney, sailed in a boat with five other shipmates after his ship had crashed in the Kiribati (Gilbert) Islands, some two thousand miles away. When they spotted Tinian a month later, they had depleted their meager store of food and water. They were overjoyed to find land!

They arrived at night so it wasn't until dawn's light that they met human beings on Tinian. The men described themselves as being "exiles" from Guam. I'm not sure what was exactly meant by the term. Were they found guilty of some crime on Guam and sentenced to work the Tinian farms as punishment? Or was the term "exile" misapplied or misunderstood by either party? In any case, Reney met men from Guam. He doesn't say how many men he met, but the impression given is not too many; certainly not in the hundreds. From other documents, we can estimate some thirty or forty men, more or less.

These workers are under the command of a sergeant, sent from Guam as well. He had the power to punish any man by flogging. The men lived in little huts. There is water from a well, and the water, though brackish, is drunk. As an alternative, the men make and drink their own tuba (coconut toddy).

Today's Tinian Cattle

Tinian was abundant with fruit. Coconuts, oranges, breadfruit, sweet potatoes and more. The workers raised cattle, all milky white, and pigs, and many of these ran wild. Well-trained dogs were employed to hunt down wild pigs. Sometimes twenty to thirty pigs were caught in a day. They were cut open and emptied of the inner organs then hung up over a fire to burn off the hair.

One man was in charge of making salt from sea water. Then the others would salt the meat. Three times a year, a vessel from Guam would come up to collect the dried, salted meat to take back to Guam, and to supply the Tinian workers with whatever supplies might be needed.

Though no priest regularly lived on Tinian, the Chamorro men got up every morning at the sound of a horn, and gathered as one body to say their morning prayers. Around 9PM at night, they gathered for prayer one more time, then went to sleep.

Reney's report makes no mention of women. Unless each man was able to bring his own wife and children to Tinian, it would be dangerous, if experience is any teacher, to have a small number of women on an island inhabited by that many men. No wonder, then, that the men from Guam served in Tinian only for a few years then went home, either to find a wife or return to the one they already had.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


The Payesyes bat

A branch of the Castro family on Guam is known as the familian Payesyes.

More people know about the fanihi bat, also known as the fruit bat.

Fewer people know about the payesyes bat, known by its scientific name Emballonura semicaudata. One of the reasons for this is because, as far as we know, the payesyes has disappeared from Guam. The last known sighting was in 1972. The brown tree snake and disturbances of their environment are causes for their extinction on Guam. There is a more or less safe population of payesyes on Aguiguan.

Payesyes used to live in caves and eat insects, unlike the fanihi which feed on fruits. Our people didn't eat them, again unlike the fanihi!

A deceased member of the Payesyes clan

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Why do chickens scratch the ground so much? Well, common sense tells you the chicken is scrounging for food. But here's a more colorful explanation, thanks to our mañaina a long time ago.

Mamaisen i patgon gi as tatå-ña biho,
(The child asked his grandfather,)

"Tåta, håfa na sesso de ha ka'guas i edda' i mannok?"
("Father, why does the chicken frequently scratch the dirt?")

Manoppe i amko' taiguine.
(The old man answered this way.)

"Ginen guaha låncho åpmam na tiempo tåtte.
("There was a ranch a long time ago.)

Entre todo i man gå'ga' ni man gaige guihe na låncho,
(Among all the animals that were at that ranch,)

gof umabbok un babui yan un månnok.
(a pig and a chicken were great friends.)

Ilek-ña i babui un dia gi mannok,
(The pig said one day to the chicken,)

'Pot i sen umaguaiya-ta, chule' este na aniyo
('Because of our loving each other much, take this ring)

kuentan inagofli'e'-ta.'
(as a token of our friendship.)

Sen magof i mannok ha chåhlao i aniyo
(The chicken was very happy to accept the ring)

ya ha pega gi agapa' na patås-ña.
(and he put it on his right foot.)

Un åño despues, må'pos i babui para otro na tåno'
(One year later, the pig left for another land)

ya åntes de ha dingu i lancho, ha sangåne i mannok,
(and before he left the ranch, he told the chicken,)

'Nangga yo' asta ke måtto yo' tåtte.'
('Wait for me till I come back.')

Lao humåhnanao i babui ti ha bira gue' tåtte.
(But it went on that the pig didn't return back.)

Pine'lo-ña i mannok na ni ngai'an ta'lo
(The chicken thought that never again)

para u ali'e' yan i babui.
(would he and the pig see each other.)

Un oga'an, makmåta i mannok ya ti ha sodda' i aniyo.
(One morning, the chicken awoke and didn't find the ring.)

Sige de ha espia, lao ti siña ha sodda'.
(He kept looking, but couldn't find it.)

Pot fin, måtto tåtte i babui gi lancho ya ha faisen i mannok,
(At last, the pig returned to the ranch and asked the chicken,)

'Mångge i aniyo ni hu nå'e hao?'
('Where is the ring I gave you?')

Tumekkon i mannok gi minamamahlao-ña ya ilek-ña,
(The chicken lowered his head in his shame and said,)

'Un oga'an makmåta yo' ya ti hu sodda'.
('One morning I awoke and didn't find it.)

Humåhnanao ha' ti hu sodda' i aniyo asta på'go.'
(It went on that I didn't find the ring till now.')

Lalålo' i babui ya ilek-ña,
(The pig got angry and said,)

'Pot i un na' falingo i hu nå'e hao na aniyo,
('Because you lost the ring I gave you,)

hu matdisi todo i mannok siha desde på'go para mo'na.
(I curse all the chickens from now on.)

Asta i uttimon i tano', todo i mannok siha
(Till the end of the world, all the chickens)

siempre ma ka'guas i edda' asta ke ma sodda' i aniyo.'
(shall surely scratch the dirt till the ring is found.')

I leksion ni para ta eyak guine na fåbula : Cha'-mo muna' falilingo i ma na'i-mo.
(The moral we are to learn from this legend : Don't dare lose what is given to you.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


In a list of Chamorro government officials in the 1830s, we find the following officials for Hågat.

JOSÉ BABAUTA was the "Mayor" or Gobernadorcillo ("little governor").

MARIANO MATANANE was the second-in-command or Teniente.

RAYMUNDO BABAUTA was the Agricultural Officer or Juez de Palmas, Sementeras y Animales (Judge of Palms, Fields and Animals).

BLAS QUINTANILLA, JOSÉ BABAUÑA and ALVINO GUIGILO were the neighborhood leaders or Cabezas de Barangay (heads of the barangay). A barangay was a district or neighborhood.

Because the Hågat baptismal records go back to the late 1860s, we can actually say a little about some of these people.

JOSÉ BABAUTA was more than likely the husband of Ana Jocog. These are the forefathers of the Min branch of the Babautas, which include the late Hågat mayor Antonio "Min" Babauta. Another branch of this family moved to Saipan in the early 1900s and became known as the Sa'i branch of Babautas.

RAYMUNDO BABAUTA was the patriarch of the second clan of Babautas. He married Joaquina Taimanglo. They have many descendants. It seems almost all the Hågat Babautas are either descendants of José and Ana Jocog or of Raymundo Babauta and Joaquina Taimanglo.

There was also a BABAUÑA family in Hågat, but I cannot find more information about a José Babauña going back to the 1830s.

Both names, Babauta and Babauña, come from the old word båbao, which was later dropped from common usage, which meant "flag, emblem, sign, banner." We know the meaning of the word thanks to the Spanish missionaries who wrote it down.

ALVINO GUIGILO's last name seems to be GIHILO' meaning "on top of" or maybe it's GEHILO' which means "higher." The name died out.

Blas Quintanilla, by the way, is the only one who has a Spanish last name. This means his ancestor was a soldier brought to Guam, and the Quintanillas eventually mixed with the Chamorro population. His first name Blas means "Blaise" in English. The first name "Blas" became a last name, just as Pablo ("Paul") and Francisco ("Francis") are first names that became last names.

Friday, May 31, 2019


Drinking tuba out of a bongbong

Gi 1900 na såkkan, ma sodda' na tumutuba si Encho' sin lisensia. 
(In 1900, Encho' was discovered making tuba without a license.)

Ma otden si Encho' para u fåtto sigiente dia gi tribunåt para u fåna' i Señot Hues.
(Encho' was ordered to go the following day to the court to face the Judge.)

Finaisen si Encho' ni amigu-ña, "Ti ma'åñao hao Encho' na debe de un falak i kotte agupa'?"
(Encho' was asked by his friend, "Aren't you afraid Encho' that you have to go to court tomorrow?")

"Åhe' adei," ilek-ña si Encho'. "Bai fañule' un galón tuba ya bai na' chagi i Hues. 
("Not at all," Encho' said. "I will bring a gallon of tuba and I'll make the Judge try it.)

Siempre ha sotta yo' an monhåyan gue' gumimen."
(He'll surely let me go when he's done drinking.")

Tuba is fermented coconut sap, which develops into alcohol. It isn't very strong, usually 4% alcohol. But drink enough of it and you can become mildly intoxicated.

In the old days, a tuba maker was called a tubero. But nowadays hardly anyone uses the word. In the Philippines, a tubero is a plumber, based on the Spanish tubería (plumbing). Another Chamorro word for a tuba maker (or drinker) is tituba. The emphasis is on the first syllable; TItuba.

A bongbong was a bamboo container for liquid.

The early American Naval governors tried, some more than others, to regulate the production of tuba by requiring a government license to make it. Those who made tuba without the license, if caught, were fined. Some governors didn't pursue this very much and others did.

Monday, May 27, 2019



While a great many people know about Guam's Father Jesús Baza Dueñas, killed by the Japanese just before the American return to Guam in 1944, very few people have even heard of Luta's Brother Miguel Timoner.

Timoner is Luta's Father Dueñas. He was executed by the Japanese in Luta around June 5, 1944, just a month ahead of Father Dueñas.


Miguel Timoner Guadera was born in in 1892 in the town of Manacor, on the island of Mallorca in the Baleares, a part of Spain.

before he left for the Jesuit mission of Micronesia

He joined the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) but to remain as a brother, not to become a priest. As a brother, he was assigned to assist Father Juan Pons as his secretary. Pons was in charge of the Jesuit novitiate in Veruela near Zaragoza in Spain. The novitiate is the first formal step in becoming a member of a religious Order or congregation. It is a time spent in rigorous discipline and training.

Pons felt called to the missions and left, in 1921, to work in the Jesuit missions of the Carolines. Timoner followed Pons, ever his ready assistant. When Pons was assigned to Luta (Rota) in 1937, Timoner moved to Luta, as well. Timoner dedicated his whole life to nursing Pons who suffered from terrible ulcers on his legs. Pons eventually died in Luta in March of 1944.


In June of 1944, the Americans began making war on Luta. American ships and planes bombed the island intensely. The 800 or so Chamorros, many of whom lost their homes to American bombs, were sheltered in caves on orders from the Japanese. The Japanese eluded air raids as much as they could, and a thick feeling of dread overcame the Japanese as they expected the Americans to land any time. Even though the Americans never did invade Luta, the Americans sure made the Japanese think it was just about to happen.

Just as it happened on Guam, the Japanese were put in a volatile mood due to their fears of an American invasion, helped by locals feeding them information about Japanese defense positions. The Japanese on Luta were on high alert for any signs of Chamorro betrayal.

In this tense atmosphere, a dozen or so Chamorros were suspected of being American spies. After investigating their cases, only five of the suspects were deemed guilty of espionage. The rest were let go. Timoner was included among the five "guilty."


What were these acts of espionage? The Japanese observed that torches, flashlight signals and different colored flares would go off at night, and that the American ships responded with their own signals. It was as if someone on shore was communicating with the American ships.

During the day, the Japanese discovered wide sheets of cloth spread out over the beach, as if to signal American planes. They would also find the remains of bonfires, some of them shaped like an arrow pointing to the Japanese air strip at Sinapalo. If lit at night, these fires could be seen and, even during the day, their ashen remains could still be seen by a passing plane.

As the Japanese investigated and interrogated people, they claimed to find secret notebooks and letters among these five "spies," indicating Japanese positions, describing weaponry, ammunition and numerical strength. Some of the information dealt with areas off-limits to the civilian population, indicating that these suspects trespassed into prohibited territory.

The Japanese claimed that these five individuals recorded all this sensitive and confidential military information to give to the Americans once they came. In addition, the Japanese claimed that these men cut off Japanese telephone lines, and spread demoralizing rumors among the people. Finally, the Japanese claimed that some Chamorros mentioned that these five men said they would contact the Americans once they arrived, in order to assist them, and some of these five men admitted, so the Japanese claimed, all the above to the Japanese when they were questioned.

Unfortunately, the records spelling out the specific instances of espionage by each of the five individually did not survive the war. We do not know what exact evidence was obtained (if at all) against Timoner, nor the others. All these accusations concerning these five men were based on oral statements by the Japanese involved in the killing of the five.

For the Japanese command in Luta, it was all cut and dry. They were convinced these five men were siding with the Americans and doing everything possible to harm the Japanese and assist the enemy. The Japanese commander in Luta asked the higher command in Guam what to do with these five men. Guam replied that the Japanese Army policy was to execute spies. No trial was considered necessary. The Japanese commander on Guam was judge, lawyer and jury.


The first execution took place around June 25 along the cliff line in Tatåchok, not far from Songsong. A Japanese captain, Akira Tokunaga, had two Chamorro men taken to the spot and told them they were to be shot for the crime of espionage. Both men were given a cigarette each to smoke right before the execution. Six Japanese soldiers formed a firing line and shot them. Since the written records were lost after the war, one man was never identified and the second man was believed to be Bonifacio Esteves. Esteves was the only shoe maker in Luta at the time and several Japanese remembered that a Chamorro shoe maker was one of the two shot that day.

Around two weeks later, it was Brother Miguel Timoner's turn. A Japanese officer claimed he wanted more time to confirm the evidence against Timoner before killing him. What specific evidence surfaced was never identified. Around the 5th of July, the Japanese ordered Tomás Cruz Mangloña, Valentino Songao and Tomás Mendiola to fetch Brother Miguel and another man, the elderly Ignacio de la Cruz, from the cave where they were sheltered along with many other civilians.

By this time, the Japanese command had moved its headquarters to Tatgua, as American bombardment had rendered the Tatåchok area unusable. Timoner and de la Cruz were taken to Tatgua. There, Yoshio Takahashi, a military doctor, added potassium cyanide, a deadly poison, to a cup of coffee and offered it to Timoner, who did not know about the poison.

Timoner took a sip of the coffee but his shaking hands spilled some of it and he had an instant reaction, refusing to drink any more. He fell to the ground in great pain, clutching his stomach. Eventually he was able to sit up, but he writhed in agony. He had taken enough to poison to affect him, but not enough to kill him quickly. Takahashi sent a runner to inform Tokunaga of the situation and to ask what to do next. The runner came back with the instruction to finish off Timoner. It was seen as an act of mercy to kill him quickly, rather than let him suffer the effects of the poison some more.

Takahashi ordered a guard, Shigeo Koyama, to kill Timoner. Koyama hesitated at first, but then plunged his rifle's bayonet into the left side of Timoner's chest. Just one thrust, and Timoner fell back and died quietly.

Next, it was de la Cruz's turn. He was taken some distance away from Timoner's dead body, where it can be assumed de la Cruz could not see what happened to the Jesuit brother. De la Cruz was seated at a table where several Japanese were also sitting, with cups on the table as if they were drinking. Takahashi gave de la Cruz a cup of coffee laced with potassium cyanide, but this time de la Cruz was so thirsty that he drank the whole cup at once, after which he fell back and died in an instant.

After an American air raid, the Japanese and some Korean workers buried the two bodies in the area. No markers were used to identify the graves.

Thanks to a Chamorro passing by, Ramon Blanco Barcinas*, who knew Ignacio de la Cruz and saw him at the execution site, we can be sure it was de la Cruz who was killed. Barcinas also testified that it was Timoner who was also killed that day. Barcinas had been digging trenches and had run past the area when the American air raid began. De la Cruz was around 70 years old, and some Japanese witnesses stated that the second man killed the same day as Timoner was an older man.

The last civilian to be executed was an unidentified Chamorro male, shot by two Japanese soldiers in the Tatgua area on or around July 8.


Scene from the Guam War Crimes Trials

The Americans never invaded Luta, as they did Saipan, Tinian and Guam. The war was actually over when the Americans simply showed up on Luta and the Japanese surrendered, in September of 1945. In time, all the Japanese military on Luta, including the killers of the five civilians, were sent back to Japan. It can be assumed that the Americans had not learned yet, about the killings.

But, in time, they did and the Japanese involved in these killings were arrested in Japan and brought to Guam in 1949 for trial as war criminals. Tokunaga, the commander on whose orders everyone else acted, Takahashi the doctor who mixed the poison with the coffee, and Koyama, the guard who bayoneted Timoner, were all found guilty and given sentences, the longest being Tokunaga's seven years. But these sentences were shortened due to the time these three already had already spent in jail before trial. They did their time at Japan's famous Sugamo prison, used by the Americans for Japanese war criminals.

The main argument of the prosecutors was that the accused executed the five men without the benefit of a trial, which violated the rights of espionage suspects as stated in the Hague Conventions.


What little you can find in books, news articles and the internet about Timoner and the others sometimes state that he was shot or beheaded. The records from the war crimes trial show that Timoner was neither shot nor beheaded. He was poisoned then stabbed with a bayonet.

Some sources also state that he, and the others, were sent to Saipan first for questioning by the Japanese. This is never mentioned in the testimony of the Japanese arrested for their executions. Until I find documentation on this, I'll leave it alone for now.


This poison prevents cells from "breathing," using oxygen absorbed by the blood. In short time, the brain just shuts down and dies. If taken in sufficient amount, death can occur immediately. This was the poison of choice for such famous Nazi suicides as Eva Braun (Hitler's wife), Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Erwin Rommel.

Based on the war crimes trial records and early biographical notes in old Spanish press and some missionary letters.

* The documents state his name as Ramon B. Blanco, but this error is due to the fact that Northern Marianas Chamorros were still using the Spanish naming system where the father's surname comes first, followed by the mother's surname. There was no Ramon B. Blanco in Luta in 1944, but there was a Ramon Blanco Barcinas (American style naming), in Spanish style naming Ramon Barcinas Blanco.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Education was quite limited in the Marianas until modern times. Even in the early American administration of Guam and the Japanese administration in the Northern Marianas, the typical Chamorro child could go only as far as the fourth or fifth grade. More education than that was thought unnecessary for a society made up mainly of farmers and fishermen who were destined to be born and to die on the same, small island. You didn't need to know Spanish, nor grammar, nor even spelling, in order to grow corn or catch mañåhak.

Under Spain, colonial officials did, indeed, want some Chamorro men educated a lot more. This select class of Chamorro men would become part of the colonial system, connecting the system with the masses of Chamorro people who carried on with life on the farm and on the shore. In time, a school for girls prepared a select class of Chamorro women to become school teachers to educate some children in the basics. Some wives of prominent men, or daughters of prominent men, received a very good western education, often thanks to being taught in the home and not in the classroom.

But even in the highest schooling possible under the Spanish, one could sometimes only go as fast as the slowest learner. In order to get ahead of everybody else, one sometimes had to resort to private tutoring.

Besides being a government clerk and official, he tutored others

What one really wanted, in order to get ahead, was a more extensive knowledge of Spanish. It was the language of government and - government jobs, what few there were. But if you landed a job as a clerk in the colonial government that paid a few pesos every month, you didn't have to work in the hot sun to feed yourself. You could pay someone to bring you the food and a cook to prepare it.

It wasn't just vocabulary that mattered. One wanted to learn a bit of history, law, literature and almost anything else that elevated you in people's eyes. Some Chamorros prided themselves, and were admired by others, as knowing a bit of Shakespeare.

Besides Spanish, if you learned English, all the better. English enabled you to do business with British and American whalers and other English-speaking people who came to Guam, some permanently, and many just passing through.

Other than academic subjects, one went to a tutor to learn how to play the piano or violin, or to do special sewing.

Someone like Manuel Camacho Aflague, a Chamorro government clerk and official, who was more than likely tutored himself as a child, made a few more pesos tutoring others when not at his government desk. Other educated Chamorros who tutored were Manuel and Luís Díaz Torres. Some of the Anglo settlers on Guam spread the knowledge of English to a number of Chamorros. Some of the Spanish priests, too, tutored promising Chamorro students.

was privately tutored by Spanish priests, besides getting a classroom education
in the 1840s and 50s

The ambitious parents of these ambitious children paid the tutors with money, if and when they had it. Otherwise, tuition was paid with a basket of taro or a dozen eggs.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


One morning in 1853, as the sun was just rising, Captain Shiell of the British ship Rodsley, saw what looked like a small European vessel in the distance.

As the ship got closer, he realized it was not European at all. Six islanders in an outrigger were barely clinging to life, lost at sea. The stranded men were hundreds of miles away from any land.

It took until the next day for the rescued men to be able to stand up. They were that weak.

When the Captain tried to communicate with the men, all he could find out at first was that the six men were from Saipan.

Shiell wanted to know how long they had been adrift. He pointed to the sun, meaning "how many days?" How many times did the sun rise and set when you were lost at sea?

The men thought the captain was saying that the sun was a god. So they held up three fingers as a sign of the Trinity, and crossed two fingers, indicating that they were Catholics, and not sun worshipers.

I wonder if this is what the seamen did.

This sign of the cross involves making a cross with the thumb and the index finger. Besides making a cross, this sign uses two fingers, representing the two natures of Jesus, being both God and man. The three other fingers pointing straight up represent the Three Divine Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who are all one God, not three gods.

Older people kept this gesture well in the old days. Over time, people stopped forming the cross with the thumb and index finger, and just used their thumb to sign themselves.

Eventually Shiell ascertained that they had been lost for ten days.

In 1853, the vast majority of people living on Saipan were Carolinians. Chamorros there were a small number still. But many of the Carolinians were only just beginning to become Catholics in the 1850s. We'll never know for sure if the six rescued men from Saipan were Carolinian, Chamorro or possibly a mixed group.

The star indicates where the six Saipan sailors were rescued, far from home.

Nottinghamshire Guardian (UK), 11 August 1853

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Ai pobre kilisyåno!
Ma na' chispas sin pinto'-ña.
Ya ma sodda' gi bodega
na ha sasaosao lago'-ña.

(Oh poor person!
They made him/her disappear against his/her will.
And they found him/her in the basement
wiping away his/her tears.)

I have no idea what made the poor guy/gal run and cry.

But the verse is somewhat sympathetic, somewhat teasing.


Pobre. This is Spanish, meaning "poor." Not necessarily materially poor, but as in lacking in other ways. Someone in a bad situation, or suffering some setback, is thus afflicted, grievous, woeful and many other adjectives. "Poor me!" is a common phrase said by someone in some disadvantageous situation. The word pobre is left untranslated, since in Chamorro we say popble, which is our pronunciation of pobre. The Spanish version of the word is kept in this verse because our elders did, in fact, say many things in the original Spanish, even if there were a Chamorro version of the same word.

Kilisyåno. This literally means "Christian," from the Spanish word cristiano. But Chamorros used it to refer to any human being, but assuming the person was a Christian. The term wouldn't have been used for Pacific Islanders or Asians who had not (yet) been baptized.

Ma na' chispas. Chispas literally means "spark." Then it came to mean any sudden movement, like a sudden burst of water from the hose, or a sudden rush from here to there. To be "made to rush" is to be forced to move, to run away, to disappear from sight.

Sin pinto'-ña. Pinto' means "will." Sin means "without." "Without his will" means it was something he didn't want to do, but was forced to do.

Bodega. Basement. Almost all the homes built of mampostería (rock and lime) had a basement for storage and, when needed, shelter from a typhoon. Since it wasn't used like an ordinary part of the home, it was a good place to hide or find privacy.

A bodega (bottom part) in Inalåhan

Since the bodega was part-storage, part-shelter, it was usually made of stronger material and the rest of the house of lighter.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


1868 ~ 1934

The Marianas in the 1800s were known to quite a bit of people in the Western Hemisphere, especially those traveling from east to west across the Pacific.

Whalers, explorers, adventurers and opportunists were among them. Take for example a man from a prominent family in Hawaii - James "Kimo" Wilder.

The Wilder family in Hawaii was founded by patriarch Samuel, a native of Massachusetts. In Hawaii, Samuel was a shipping and transportation magnate. He was also active in Hawaii politics. In the Makiki district of Honolulu, there is a Wilder Avenue.

Kimo was the fifth child out of six. In 1893 he went to Harvard University and its Law School, became interested in art and studied painting, finishing university studies in 1895. But Kimo was not quite ready for a stationary life. After short stints at various jobs even as far away as Japan, he signed up for an expedition to the South Pacific, visiting many islands and atolls all over that vast ocean.

The expedition ended up in Hong Kong in 1897 and there he met Captain J.T. Harrison, an Englishman who had commercial and family interests in Guam, having married locally. Harrison was owner of the ship Esmeralda. Wilder agreed to go with Harrison to Guam, arriving there in 1898 with two Harvard classmates. They paid 300 yen each to go. It was supposed to be a little excursion of two weeks. Wilder ended up staying for six months. The Esmeralda did not return on schedule.

Wilder and his two companions rented an old konbento or priest's house in Hagåtña that was already showing signs of decay but still inhabitable after some simple repairs and cleaning. The one and only Spanish government doctor on Guam, José Romero y Aguilar, befriended Wilder and was the one who identified the old konbento as a place Wilder and the others could rent.

The Spanish government doctor on Guam who befriended Wilder

For a cook, Wilder hired a Chamorro man named Mariano, who apparently had spent time in Hawaii working as a cook on two Hawaiian boats, serving up special dinners at $10 each time. Back on Guam, he was happy earning $5 a month!

Hawaii was transitioning from an independent monarchy to an American territory and the Wilder money was not as available at that time as in years past. Wilder was in need of income on Guam. One way he earned money was by using his artistic skills. Wilder could paint portraits, and he made money painting the portraits of some Spanish officials on Guam and some members of the upper crust of society. He also stretched out an old sail from a boat and painted the portrait of the last Spanish governor of Guam, Juan Marina. For that, Wilder was allowed to eat as much as he wanted, I assume in the governor's kitchen.

Last Spanish Governor on Guam

Wilder had nice things to say about Marina, describing him as an excellent administrator and a charming man. Wilder also made lasting friends among the Chamorro elite, calling them unspoiled and delightful.

Taking advantage of a ship going from Guam to Pohnpei, Wilder and companions took a trip there. As they made their way back to Guam, Wilder somehow got news that relations between the US and Spain were not good. The USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor in February, and many in the US blamed Spain for it. Spain accused the US of aiding the Cuban independence effort. It seemed that war could break out between the US and Spain, with the American Wilder passing away the time on Spanish Guam!

So when the Esmeralda arrived on Guam and planned on sailing again, Wilder took the opportunity to leave with it. He later wrote out an extensive report on Guam which he sent to American authorities which was used in war preparations for the island.

Wilder left Guam with a special souvenir, a 13 year old boy! María Castro was a friend of Wilder's and Wilder was very fond of her. María brought her young son to see Wilder off, and she more or less gave José to take with him to Hawaii. "Teach him to read and write and to work hard," she said. "And don't let him do as he likes." José went to Honolulu with Wilder, working for him for five years and learning about the big, big world.

One can only wonder if he sketched or painted any Guam scenes, and where they may have ended up now. Did he write any memoirs or diary while on Guam? Did he have any Chamorro sweethearts and did he leave any descendants behind?

Settling for good in his native Hawaii, Wilder did good for himself, continuing his painting and founding the Boy Scouts in Hawaii.

Friday, May 3, 2019


A Korean snack brand known as Pepero.

A branch of the Dueñas family on Guam, and some Sablans from Saipan, are better known as familian Pépero.

The interesting thing about the nickname Pépero is that the sound of it is Spanish, not indigenous Chamorro, but, as far as I can tell from searching, the word has no meaning in Spanish or even in slang, whether from Spain or a former Spanish colony. There is also no surname Pépero among Spaniards. So....where did Pépero come from?

From a Guam funeral announcement. The deceased was a member of the Pépero clan, among others.

Some indications that Pépero is not an indigenous word is the use of the letter R. Typically, in Chamorro we avoid the R sound and often replace it with L. Guitarra becomes gitåla; cigarro becomes chigålo.

It's also not typical that an indigenous word of three syllables stresses the first of the three syllables. It does happen, but not often.

A Saipan funeral announcement. There, Pépero refers to some Sablans.

There are many possible origins of the nickname Pépero. There might be a connection with the nickname Pepe for José. It might come from some slang word that has long been forgotten or which was once in use by a small group of people from Latin America or the Philippines. One day we may find the answer in some obscure, old book hiding in some dark corner of a library somewhere.

The family itself might have some oral legend about the name. But, until then, we do not know what it means or why it became a nickname for some families among us.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Mai'es (Corn)
The main staple of the Chamorro diet before the war

In 1902, Juan Mesa, from the familian Dodo, owed José Cruz Fejarang seven gånta of corn. That was a lot of corn.

A gånta was a measurement of dry grains or cereals, equivalent to about three liters. The term was borrowed from the Philippines.

Freshly harvested rice in a gånta crate

So imagine seven of the crates pictured above, but filled with corn kernels. That's how much corn Juan owed José.

One afternoon, Juan Dodo went to José Fejarang's house in Santa Cruz, a barrio on the western end of  Hagåtña.

Juan yelled at Fejarang from the street, so that even the neighbors could hear.

"Are you wanting to collect from me?"

Fejarang yelled back, "Yes!"

Juan yelled back, "Gran puñetero! Lanña' hao! Karåho! Maila' ya ta mumu! Tåya' ma'åñao-ho, ni gi as nanå-ho!"

"Big idiot! Screw you! Damn it! Come and let's fight! I have no fear, not even of my mother!"

Thankfully, the verbal fight did not move to fists.

Instead, the case was brought to court. Witnesses testified that Juan Dodo did say those words.

But the two enemies asked the court to drop the case, as they would solve the problem on their own.

The case was dropped.

Not even of his mother. Imagine that.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Salomón Tenorio Garrido was the alguacil of Hagåtña in the early 1900s.

The alguacil (Spanish title) was like a sheriff, court clerk or bailiff. His signature appears in countless court documents, like the one above.

Salomón was born around 1863, the son of Diego Garrido and María Tenorio. He married the former Carmen León Guerrero Blaz.

He had a ranch in what is now called Agaña Heights. According to one source, writing between 1917 and 1919, the ranch was southwest of today's Government House.

Salomón began noticing that things on his ranch went missing. Chickens, eggs, pigs. He told his wife, "I'm going to spend the night at the ranch and catch the thieves." Carmen pleaded with him not to do it, but Salomón took his machete and went to the ranch. He had his son Vicente bring him his rifle to the ranch later that day. The young Vicente returned home.


The next morning, Salomón had not returned home and Carmen was getting anxious because it was time for her husband to get ready for work at the court house. She saw a woman passing by the house on her way to fetch water from a well and told her about it. Carmen had already sent, Vicente, her oldest son who was around 12 or 13 years old, to check on his dad. Just as Carmen was talking to this woman passing by, Vicente returned to the house, visibly shaken.

So upset was Vicente that he couldn't talk for half an hour. The whole while Carmen kept asking him what was wrong. Finally he said, "Tåta is dead." Carmen became emotional and started screaming and all the children with her. The judge was called and he, accompanied by some men, went to the ranch and found Salomón dead on the ground. They carried his body to the hospital, where the doctor looked over the wounds of his body.

His wounds included gun shots, so he was probably overpowered by more than one man and shot with his own rifle. This happened in 1904.

The thing was that the gun shots that night were heard by a sentinel who stood guard not far from the ranch, in a place known back then as Kasamata, where Government House is now and where a tuberculosis hospital was located from 1916 till around 1930. But the sentinel who heard the gun fire felt he could not leave his post to check on what happened. One wonders if he had gone looking and found Salomón, would he have found Salomón alive? Would there have been enough time to run down to Hagåtña, bring back help, bring Salomón to the hospital and save his life?

No one, as far as we know, was ever charged with his murder. There were a few suspects, but nothing based on solid evidence and the case went cold to this very day.

* Salomón is the Spanish version of the name Solomon, which is the English version of the Hebrew original Shelomoh

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Cha'-mo tumattitiye i sihek yanggen chineflålågue hao.

(Don't dare follow the sihek if it is whistling to you.)

The sihek is a member of the kingfisher bird family. Besides being a pretty bird, it has a chirp that is just as pretty and which can be heard from a distance. But, if you're in the jungle and are attracted to its chirping, you will get lost if you follow it.

There is a story about the origin of the sihek and its loud chirping. There was once a loud woman in the village and the taotaomo'na (ancestral spirits) turned her into the sihek! That'll show you!

There are different versions of this saying, apparently because more than one bird can lead you astray in the jungle. In Saipan they even call one type of bird nossan na' abak. Na' abak means "to lead astray." Some identify this bird as the chichirika.

As birds often move from tree to tree, or perch to perch wherever that may be, and since birds can fly and change location quickly and over more space, following the bird will lead you in all sorts of directions and you can easily lose your bearings or find yourself in a dangerous spot in the jungle.

Whatever the zoological details, the saying is a metaphor for the care we should take about the people, things and ideas that can lead us astray.

You can listen to various birds of our islands here :

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


If you pronounce those two surnames differently, chances are your pronunciation is greatly influenced by American English.

In traditional Chamorro pronunciation, the Z sounds just like an S.

Try it out on names like Cruz, Baza, Lizama, Martinez.

If you hear the BUZZING of BEES when you say those names, that's American influence right there.

This video may help :