Tuesday, November 12, 2019



The Americans may have taken Guam back from the Japanese on August 10, 1944, when General Geiger announced that organized Japanese resistance had ceased, but that didn't mean the island was safe from Japanese danger. Over 7000 Japanese troops were believed to be hiding in the jungles when the battle for Guam ended.

A line was drawn from Fadian Point (north of Mangilao) on the east to Tomhom (Tumon) on the west. The US believed the great majority of Japanese holdouts were north of this imaginary line. They wanted to make sure the Japanese did not venture south of the line.

But, in fact, there were Japanese soldiers hiding in the south of Guam. The last known one was found twenty-eight years later, in 1972!

The military government then decided to create a kind of a border to the extreme south of Guam at the Talofofo River. Guards were posted at the temporary, postwar bridge which replaced the prewar one destroyed in battle. The guards were there for two reasons. First, to keep American military personnel out of the extreme southern villages of Guam : Inalåhan, Malesso' and Humåtak. Even in the other villages and civilian camps, military personnel needed passes to enter. Keeping the military and civilian communities separate was good for everyone's safety. In the extreme south of the island, far from military bases and airfields which were taking up so much land in central and northern Guam, the Chamorros could continue living their peaceful, farming lives as if war had never happened.

Sign at the entrance of Barrigada after the war

Secondly, the guards ensured that any American servicemen authorized to cross the bridge had a weapon. The countryside was too dangerous for them to travel around unarmed. For several years, Chamorro ranchers would find missing chickens and stolen vegetables on their farms, the work of Japanese stragglers marauding for food at night.

You may ask why wasn't there a similar border crossing on the western side of the island, as in Hågat. The answer is simple. There was no road from Hågat to Humåtak in 1945! Nor even before the war. Look at this wartime map of Guam. From Hågat to Humåtak, there is no road. Before that road was finished years after the war, the only way to go from Hågat to Humåtak was by boat or by driving to Yoña, then Talofofo then Inalåhan then Malesso'. Going that way was even faster than by boat!

So there was no need for guards at Hågat. No one was interested in walking up the mountains over to Humåtak, or riding a cart pulled by very slow and uncooperative cows or carabaos.

But no road from Humåtak to Hågat

The border didn't last, of course, and in time anyone could go any where they pleased, except of course on base. A newer, wider bridge over Talofofo River was built, to be replaced several times as the years went by.

But isn't it true that there is a kind of an invisible border still, once you pass Talofofo river, or Hågat on the other side of the island, and enter the deep South. I used to live there, and I always enjoyed the feeling of being in a less rushed, more peaceful and more neighborly part of Guam.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


From Malesso' to Folsom Prison to Gold Rush Country

He was from Guam and he went by more than one name.

Ben Walkins G. Joseph
Ben WG Joseph
Ben Joseph
Benjamin Joseph

The Walkins is really Watkins, a family that was started on Guam by an Englishman named William Watkins who settled on Guam around 1824 and married a Chamorro woman. William Watkins had some children, but the male line died out and the women married so the surname died out that way, too.

His Social Security information states that his father was John Warquin (Watkins) and his mother was María Borja. There was, in fact, a couple living in Malesso' in 1897, Juan Pangelinan Watkins and María Borja. The problem is - they had no children!

What they did have were relatives, on María's side, it seems, living with them. None of them have Watkins in their names. The youngest of the group is Vicente Borja, 13 years old in 1897. But remember that people in those days were very casual about dates. So this is very likely Ben, as Ben is a common Anglo nickname for Vicente. Ben's documents say he was born on August 14, 1887, so he'd be 10 years old in 1897. Not a big difference.

In the 1897 Guam census, Vicente has no maternal surname. He's just Vicente Borja. This suggests that he was illegitimate. Why isn't he being raised by his mother, a Borja? Maybe she had passed? So here we see some shadows of things to come. The boy is starting off life with some challenges already. Later in life, he credits the old folks who raised him, Juan Watkins and María Borja, as his father and mother.

And yet....he flees.

In 1907, or at the age of 20, he arrives in the United States. He could have left Guam even earlier, and went here and there before moving definitively to California. Like so many of the other Chamorro men who moved to the US, he used a different name from his own. Several versions, in fact. I don't know how he settled on "Joseph" for a surname.

Ah the poor lad. He then made a horrible mistake. Just the following year, in San Mateo, California, he committed murder.

Very common for Chamorros back then

His victim was a Chinese merchant named Wong Ying Gim. Ben and Mr Wong lived in the same place, the cabin of a Mrs Nettie Harrison in Fair Oaks, a neighborhood of Redwood City south of San Mateo. It was Chinese New Year's, February of 1908, and Wong and Ben went to the Chinese neighborhood of nearby Menlo Park to celebrate and indeed they did. They had a lot to drink. When they got home, they argued, as drunk people often do. It was an argument about taking a trip to San Francisco, and Ben lost his cool. Unfortunately, deadly instruments were at hand. A club, a knife and a razor. Ben used all three. With the razor, he almost cut Wong's head clean off his neck. Blood was everywhere.

Ben ran, all the way to Oakland, across the Bay.

But another Chinese man, a relative of Wong, knew that Ben lived with Wong and may have also seen the two together that night at the Chinese New Year's celebration. The Chinese community of the area got the action started. They put reward money together and offered it to whoever might track the murderer down. Then they tasked Wong's relative to get on Ben's trail and never let go till police apprehended him. The man knew what Ben looked like, so it was a matter of time. The man spotted Ben in Oakland and called the police. Ben was arrested. Ben also confessed, making the police department's job a lot easier. Ben was sentenced to life imprisonment at Folsom State Prison.

And yet....he was released after just 8 years and 8 months.

In the 1920 census, Ben is living in a small town called Gridley in northern California, north of Sacramento, doing manual labor. For the census, he told the enumerators that he was from the Philippines and was 31 years old, which makes his birth year 1889. Like many others, he wasn't bothered by accuracy!

By 1930 he had moved to his more or less permanent home. Placer County, California. Gold rush country. Once again he told enumerators that he was from the Philippines and his stated age gave him a birth year of 1886, rather than 1887.

In 1944, he asked for and got a full pardon for his crime.

Ben lived many more years after that, remaining in Placer County. As he got out of prison after such a short time, when he had been sentenced to life, I'm not surprised that Ben avoided going back to San Mateo or the Bay Area. His victim's relatives and friends were still there. I don't think they would've been happy to know Mr Wong's murderer served such a short term.

Ben passed away on August 30, 1968 at 81 years of age. He was buried in the public cemetery in Roseville, in a grave marked Benito "Ben" Joseph, giving yet another variation on his name.

Apparently, Ben never married and never had children. He probably worked very humble jobs. One was at the Pacific Fruit Express plant, which transported farm products in refrigerated cars, at one time the largest network of refrigerated rail cars in the world.

But he managed to live to 81. Who attended his funeral? Did he connect with any Chamorros before his life was over? By the 1960s, there were a decent number of Chamorros living in the Sacramento area, not far from Placer. Had Ben made any contact whatsoever with relatives on Guam? So many unknowns in Ben's mysterious life from tropical Malesso' to the wooded hills of Placer County.

In this draft registration in the 1940s, Ben says he was from Guam in the Philippines!

In an earlier draft registration for World War I, Ben adds Watkins to his name and fudges his birth date again. One day off and if that says 1889 then two years off.

Ben also says he was born in Luzon, the Philippines! And is of the Malayan race.

He also says his work at the time was growing rice for a company in Gridley. Gridley and the surrounding area was, and is, a rice growing region. And so was Malesso'. So Ben probably had some rice farming experience already.

If I ever meet you in the afterlife, Ben, I'd ask you the questions I've already posed here, and a final one. What did the G stand for in your name Ben WG Joseph?

Rest in peace, Ben.


I'm old enough to remember the days when people would ask me where I was from and when I'd answer "Guam," they'd reply, "Where is Guam?"

That was in the 1970s and even 80s. Can you imagine 1900?

So many Chamorros just didn't bother with the hassle of explaining. Many Chamorros just said they were Spanish or Filipino.

Monday, November 4, 2019


People on Guam were able to enjoy imported German beer very early in the American administration, at least for a year or so.

A German entrepreneurial adventurer from Dresden named Paul Ferdinand Gustav Dachsel was already in business selling German beer on Guam in 1905. He sold it out of a restaurant he ran on Calle de la Soledad in Hagåtña called the Palm Garden. He served German beer in his restaurant, but he also sold beer to other businesses and private customers.

He sold German beer to the Hiki Trading Company, a Japanese business which probably sold the beer retail in its store. He sold beer to the Service Club for military patrons and also to two private clubs for the American colony on Guam, the Agaña Club and the Civil Club. He supplied the hospital mess hall with beer and one of his private customers was none other than Padre José Palomo, who once bought 200 pesos worth of beer. Be aware that a case of beer cost 14 pesos. Either Palomo liked beer or entertained a lot of guests, or both.

Dachsel bought the beer in Yokohama, Japan and had it shipped down to Guam.

Some of the specific brands he sold were Kaiser Pilsner, Kieler Tafelbier (a "table beer" lower in alcohol than the others) and Hofbrau München.

Prior to coming to Guam, Dachsel had tried to make a go of farming in Saipan in 1904, after hearing from Hermann Costenoble, the first German private citizen to move to Saipan in 1903 to seek his fortune. Both Dachsel and Costenoble experienced the opposite, having disagreements with the German colonial authorities and soon leaving Saipan for American Guam.

Whereas Costenoble stayed on Guam for a while, Drachsel didn't. By 1908 he was running a restaurant in China, in the port city of Tsingtao which the Germans controlled. If you've ever heard of a Chinese beer called Tsingtao, now you may have figured it out. That brand was founded by German and British businessmen in Tsingtao, China.

Another brand sold by Drachsel on Guam

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Even today, despite much Americanization and loss of the older culture, a Chamorro funeral is not quite the same as a funeral in the US mainland. Unless, of course, the funeral in the US mainland is that of a Chamorro; then it is possible, to some extent, to have the same feel there as a Chamorro funeral in the Marianas.

But many people are not aware of all the aspects of the old-time Chamorro funerals.

Take, for example, the way children were buried a hundred and more years ago.

To give us a little glimpse of that, let's hear from the pen of a German Catholic missionary in Saipan, writing around the year 1910. What he describes would have applied to Guam, as well, since the Chamorros in Saipan originated in Guam. Some of them in 1910 would have just moved from Guam to Saipan a few years before. And, the missionaries on Guam during the same period have the same things to say about children's funerals on Guam as this German missionary says.

Before I share what he said, a few remarks are necessary to prepare you for it :


1. This is written from a foreigner's perspective, so expect him to be shocked by what you and I may have considered completely normal had we lived 100 years ago. That's just human nature. You and I do the same this very day. If we were to watch old news clips of the days when Russian Communist leaders, all male, sometimes kissed on the lips, you and I would be shocked and we might come up with some very inaccurate conclusions about what we just saw. So when a German missionary describes Chamorro customs, keep that in mind.

2. Our Chamorro grandparents and great grandparents were very knowledgeable about Catholic teaching concerning the death of a baptized child. According to Catholic belief, a baptized child is free of Original Sin, the sin of Adam and Eve which closed the door of heaven to the human race. Since the child is not old enough to commit his or her own sins (lying, stealing and so on), the child is not guilty of sin that would send him or her to hell, nor even Purgatory which a place of purification for those who die in the state of grace but who need cleansing from imperfections. The baptized child who dies goes straight to heaven and is like an angel. Thus, there should be happiness that the child is in the perfect joy of heaven. Furthermore, there is no need to pray for the soul of the child.

Our great grandparents expressed this happiness that a child has entered heaven in a manner that faded in time, such that even you and I would find it strange, as you will see when you read on.

3. What follows now is a LOOSE TRANSLATION of the German article written by Father Gallus Lehmann in 1910 about the funeral of a child in Saipan. It is not an exact translation since my knowledge of German doesn't allow it to be exact. But, I can assure you it is faithful to the general ideas expressed by Father Gallus.

German Father Gallus and some children of Saipan

by Father Gallus, OFM Cap

Surely one of the most good natured people living on this bumpy world are the Chamorros in the Mariana Islands. They do not make life difficult for themselves or for others. In all circumstances they know how to find their way quickly and contentedly. The Europeans often want to envy this people on account of their adaptability. While we Nordic civilized people ponder, grumble and worry about unavoidable occurrences, there the Chamorro goes quickly to the day's affairs, with the same indifferent attitude as if nothing had happened.

But please, do not misunderstand me. My flock here is not stupid and cold, without any thinking. We'll hear right away when people feel an obligation to show feelings and thoughts. It doesn't especially take a long time to get to the heart. This is shown particularly when there is a death in the family.

How deeply does it cut into the soul of a European at the passing of a dear one! The tear, the wound in the heart often does not heal after years. When I tell this to a Chamorro, they find it hard to believe. He says: why? People have to die, no one can change that; there is nothing to wonder about if the wife, a child or a brother passes away.

Thus is his behavior when it comes to death. Especially when a child dies, he loves to hear some more cheerful music. A typical case is mentioned here.

My neighbor over on the other side of the street experienced the death of  a two-year-old child. At the moment of death, the mother let out a loud scream heard on all sides. That was more or less "official." That scream was to let the neighbors know that someone had died. (1)

It was soon seen that the sadness, though, was not so deep. Because dead bodies rapidly decay in the tropics, they are buried soon, usually in the first 8 to 12 hours, and so it was in this case. (2)

The father of the child immediately set to work to make a coffin. He did that in the same room where the dead child lay. The sawing, planing, tapping, testing was all done in the presence of the mother. She looked on, with a double-sized cigar, (3) going in and out, chatting with whoever about the most mundane things of this world. Much less did the coffin maker display his emotion.

In the evening at 5 o'clock was the funeral. At the house, the clergyman and his five altar boys picked up the body. The interior of the Chamorro hut was full of grieving women, mostly relatives. The men were outside. The corpse was blessed in the usual way, and now four children were getting ready to carry the deceased to the cemetery. (4)

At this moment, the custom appeared as it always has to for the mother to show her emotions a second time, in a totally pagan manner. (5) When the four children put the stretcher on their shoulders, the mother raised a wild howl, waving her hands in the air. Then with her disheveled but beautiful, coal-black hair, she gestured as if to throw herself out the window. The relatives held her back, trying to calm her. Of course, the fuel was already in the fire of tragedy and she behaved even more desperately, calling her child all sorts of nicknames and....then suddenly the soothing funeral music.

This consisted of 3 violins, a triangle, a beat up drum and an accordion. So these 6 musicians were doing their best to give the funeral a different look. They succeeded completely. They played with an airy touch, "I must, I must leave the town."  (6) Yes, that's what they played. I could not believe my ears when I first heard it. Since then I am as used to hearing it as I was used to hearing Chopin's famous funeral march. I had to exert all my power to keep serious.

When the song was over (they played it a few times), the noble musicians then played an even funnier waltz, making the listener itch visibly in the feet. (7)

And so it ended at the cemetery, under cheerful wise men, the dead child was tucked into the earth. Meanwhile, this little one is smiling up in the sky, shaking his head as he looks down on this strange funeral.


(1) Chamorro women traditionally (even before European contact) expressed emotions at the death of a family member in very loud and dramatic ways, as can be seen also in many other cultures. Some people think it can be just a lot of show, at times. It is suggested by Fr Gallus that, in this case, the loud screaming was a way of notifying the neighborhood that someone had just died. It was a custom to leave the house lights on all night, inside and out. When people passed by at 2AM to see a house all lit up, it was a sign that there was a death in that house. Since in this case the child during the day, a scream was needed.

(2) Thus not even a funeral Mass was celebrated many times in the old days. This was because the body had to be buried soon, and one couldn't wait till the next day to arrange a Mass. A priest could be called more quickly for a simple burial. In those days, too, the priest had to say Mass early in the morning (4AM even) because the rules for fasting before Mass or communion were more strict than today. From midnight on, a priest could not even drink water before saying Mass. So a funeral Mass at 1PM was unthinkable.

(3) Many foreign observers in the 1800s mentioned the particular fondness Chamorro women had for smoking cigars. They didn't mention the men (who also smoked, but the women stood out). The tobacco was grown locally.

(4) Apparently an old custom was for children to carry the corpse of a child to the cemetery.

(5) Fr Gallus is using a judgment here, calling the wild actions of the mother "pagan" or "unchristian." Christian grief is supposed to be tempered by hope in the resurrection. Those who do not believe in the resurrection from the dead through Christ's resurrection (the pagans) can go overboard all they want, but the Christian can't. But there is something cultural, not theological, going on here Fr Gallus may not have been attuned to.'

(6) The shock is that the Chamorro musicians were playing a totally non-religious German folk song at a funeral. Here are some of the words of that song :

Do I have to, have to

Leave the city, leave the city
And you, my dear, stay here
When I come, when I come
When I come again, come again
I come, my dear, to your house
Can't I be with you for a while right away
I really enjoy you
When I come, When I come
When I come again, come again
I come, my dear, to your house.

No one was singing any words to the song, but Fr Gallus knew what the song was! Here's a link to the song. I'm sure some of you will recognize the tune, known by the English version "Wooden Heart," and that it has been put to Chamorro words.

What happened at this burial was not an isolated event. Even on Guam, the Spanish Capuchin missionaries who first came to the island in 1901 complained that church choirs were playing non-religious, secular songs that didn't belong in church. 

(7) Meaning the waltz was so lively it made the listener want to dance (itchy in the feet). Perhaps Fr Gallus so some people tapping their feet as the band played on at the funeral.

Monday, October 28, 2019


The well-known singer Candy Taman took the Beatles' original Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da and gave it a Chamorro twist, making it a song about an åpbladora, a woman who talks too much and who talks about other people's business.

The word åpbladot (for a man) or åpbladora (for a woman) is borrowed from the Spanish, based on the Spanish word hablar which means "to talk." We also get from there the word åpbladurías, meaning "gossip, rumor, hearsay."

Humånao yo' machocho tåftaf gi ega'an;
(I went to work early in the morning;)
gaige i asaguå-ho gi besino.
(my wife was at the neighbor's.)
Tinane' de umåpbla yan si kumaire
(She was occupied gossiping with comadre)
ya i gimå'-ña mampos mutung kochino.
(and her house was overly stinking dirty.)

Obladi oblada åpbladora.
(Obladi oblada gossiper.)
Ti måtto tåtte gi ora.
(She didn't come back on time.)

Sige de tumånges sa' ma trompåda;
(She kept crying because she was punched;)
todo man ma botcha matå-ña.
(all her face was swollen.)
Trinikos ni asaguå-ña sa' ha såsångan
(She was hit in the face by her husband because she was saying)
i mina' tres na påtgon otro tatå-ña.
(the third child had a different father.)

Obladi oblada åpbladora.
(Obladi oblada gossiper.)
Hågo lao pot mudora.
(You alone are stupid.)

Yanggen esta tåya' para un cho'gue, kieto.
(If you already have nothing to do, keep still.)
Maolek-ña un fama'gågåsi masea un fan lålåkse.
(Better for you to be washing or sewing.)

Maolek-ña mo'n pendeha ennao un cho'gue;
(It would be better silly for you to do that;)
laksiye famagu'on magågo.
(sew the children clothes.)
Tulaika i kostumbre-mo båsta umåpbla
(Change your ways, stop gossiping)
sa' i probecho puro ha' para hågo.
(because the benefits are all yours.)

Obladi oblada åpbladora.
(Obladi oblada gossiper.)
Hågo ha' bai adora.
(You alone I will adore.)


(1) Kumaire comes from the Spanish word comadre, or co-mother. The mother of a baby and the godmother of that baby are co-mothers or kumaire. But in this song the lady isn't necessarily gossiping with her kumaire. Kumaire can mean, at times, a woman with whom you are close, as if you both are kumaire.

(2) The idea here is that the lady is gossiping about other people's dirty laundry and yet her own house is filthy because she neglects her duties in order to gossip with others.

(3) I am unsure if these lines refer to the gossiping lady, or do these lines represent the kind of gossip she engages in? In any case, the first two lines talk about a lady, I assume, being physically abused; she is crying because she is punched and her eyes are all swollen. Why? Possibly on account of the next two lines. Her husband has been deceived because the third child is not his but another man's.

(4) She should give up gossiping because she herself will benefit, not just those she is gossiping about.

(5) "You alone I will adore," is meant sarcastically. A gossip makes everyone else look bad, as if he or she is perfect and worthy of adoration.

Monday, August 26, 2019


One of my favorite singers of Marianas music

A song of blessing for someone leaving home. This happens a lot in the Marianas. People leave for the military. People leave for work in the US. Some come back; many never do.

Si nanå-mo un inecha (1) bendision-mo (2)
(May your mother pour your blessing on you)
masea måno hao guato.
(wherever you may go.)
I Saina-ta un binendise gi karerå-mo.
(The Lord bless you on your journey.)

Karerå-mo ti u chågo';
(May your journey not be far;)
fottunå-mo siempre un sodda'.
(may you surely find your fortune.)
I Saina-ta un binendise gi karerå-mo.
(The Lord bless you on your journey.)

I karerå-mo i atdao u inina;
(May the sun illumine your path;)
kåten påharo siha gi aire;
(the cry of the birds in the air;)
freskon månglo' siempre un guinaife
(a cool breeze blow on you)
masea måno hao guato.
(wherever you may go.)

Todo gåtbo siempre guinifi-mo;
(May your dream surely be all beautiful;)
tåya' siempre parehu-ña.
(surely it will have no equal.)
I Saina-ta un binendise gi karerå-mo.
(The Lord bless you on your journey.)


1) Echa. Comes from the Spanish word echar, meaning "to chase out, fire from work" but also "to pour out." So "echa bendision" means "to pour out a blessing."

2) The traditional expression is "Si nanå-mo un inecha bendision-ña." "Her blessing," because she is pouring on you a blessing from her.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Commodore George Anson of the British Royal Navy visited Tinian in 1742, and lost two anchors.

Apparently, according to news accounts, one of the two was found around 1829 by a whaling vessel stopping at Tinian. When the whaling ship lowered its anchor, it touched Anson's old anchor resting at the bottom. The anchor was taken down to Guam, rusty but in usable condition, where it was banged by Chamorro workers into bars and bolts, since someone was building a ship and needed those parts.

Well, if this makes you sad, hold on.

History-minded persons in Saipan took advantage of a Scripps Institute research team doing some exploration in the very area offshore in Tinian where Anson's ship was anchored. They asked the researchers to keep an eye out for anchors, and they did in fact find two. In 2017, these two anchors were brought up. They very well could be Anson's two anchors, but the jury is still out on that until we can be more sure.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Here is a glimpse of agricultural låncho Chamorro society; the way they lived for 250 years until life after World War II took most of the people off the land.

People borrowed from each other in those days. A lot! Not everyone had everything, but those without X could borrow from those who needed their Y. That way, nearly everyone was covered.

This applied to animals, too.

One farmer might have fertile cows, but no bull to impregnate them. Another farmer down the trail might have a bull but no cow to get pregnant.

Alakunao in northern Guam

In 1922, this was Joaquin's situation. He had a bull, but no cow at his ranch in Alakunao. And so he asked Florencio if he could borrow Florencio's cow so that his bull could impregnate her.

Florencio considered the benefit possible for him. And so he agreed under these conditions :

1. The first baby calf born of the cow was to be Florencio's. The second would be Joaquín's.

2. If the cow died due to Joaquín's negligence, Joaquín would have to pay Florencio the value of the cow.

3. If the cow died and Joaquín was not at fault, both Florencio and Joaquín could still profit from the cow by selling the meat. In order to do this, however, Joaquín had to inform Florencio of the cow's death within 24 hours of finding out about the cow's death. That way, the meat of the dead cow would still be fresh enough to butcher and sell, to the profit of both men.

Well, a year later, Joaquín did find the cow dead on a Saturday morning at the ranch in Alakunao. He told Florencio, the owner, right up to the 24 hour limit, informing him of the death right after the 5AM Sunday Mass at the Hagåtña cathedral.

Florencio was not satisfied that Joaquín had taken proper care of the cow and was thus, he claimed, responsible for its death. Florencio took Joaquín to court but, in the end, Joaquín was exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Thursday, August 15, 2019



A euphemism is a nicer way of saying something.

"Passed away" sounds nicer than "died." That's a euphemism.

In traditional Chamorro culture, one doesn't come straight out and talk about sex. One finds ways to talk about it between the lines, around the bush. Hinting, suggesting.

There are many ways to do this. But the other day an older lady showed me one more way.

We were sitting across each other at a party and next to me was her older brother. Both, by the way, are in their 80s.

The lady started telling me about her brother, who was in his own world eating his food. He's hard of hearing anyway.

She was saying how he, a widower, met this younger lady "pues pumanggengge i dos unos kuåntos meses." The two "played panggengge for some months."

Panggengge is an old card game, using Spanish cards as seen above. The word appears in an old song, "Panggengge, panggengge kon kuåttro Españot."

So, literally, she said her brother and the younger lady played a card game, but the hidden meaning was not so hidden.

Monday, August 12, 2019


If you ever wonder how languages change over time, just keep your eyes opened.

It's happening right now, in our own times.

It's just a fact of life. Languages change over time. The English spoken today is not exactly the same English spoken 500 years ago. And neither is Chamorro.

It doesn't happen because the government changes it. It doesn't happen because a committee changes it. It happens because people change it. Without planning it, without intending it. It just happens.

Someone just starts saying something different, or someone gives an old word a new meaning, and it spreads, like the flu or cold.

We have had for several hundreds now two Spanish loan words with different meanings, and happening right now before our eyes (or ears) is that one of those words is taking on both meanings.

The first word is ÅSTA.

It comes from the Spanish word hasta, which means "until." In Spanish, the H is silent. It sounds like asta. So we can say the following in Chamorro using the word åsta :

Åsta a las dos. Until two o'clock.

Åsta ke måtai yo'. Until I die.

The second word is ESTA.

We know it comes from Spanish, but there are two Spanish words. One is esta, which means "this." And the other is está, which means "it is." Most people think the Chamorro word esta comes from the second Spanish word, está. Some even think the Chamorro word esta comes from the Spanish phrase está ya, which means "it is already there" or "it already is."

This would make sense because the Chamorro word esta means "already." So we use like this :

Esta måtto. He or she already came.

Kao måsa esta? Is it cooked already?


But now, many Chamorros have dropped asta and say esta when they mean asta.

Listen to this short clip of two different singers singing the exact same line. One singer says asta and the second says esta, even though the singer means asta. The line they sing is "asta/esta i finatai-ho," "until my death."


When languages change, there is hardly anything anyone can do about it. We probably won't be able to stop people from abandoning asta and saying esta when they mean asta.

But now we have a harder time telling if they mean asta or esta. If esta can mean both "until" and "already," we now have to look for more information to know if they mean one or the other, because nowadays, "Esta a las dos" can mean EITHER "until two o'clock" or "it is already two o'clock."

Before, when asta clearly meant "until" and when esta clearly meant "already," we could easily tell the difference.

Now that esta can mean both words for many people, we have a harder time seeing the difference between "until" and "already."

So some of us old-fashioned people continue to say asta when we mean "until," and we say "esta" when we mean "already."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Prior to 1944, there was no place on Guam called "Agaña Heights."

The area which we now call Agaña Heights was not considered one place before the war. The area was included in Sinajaña municipality and was known by the specific names of the separate smaller areas such as Tutuhan, Taigigao, Pa'åsan, Apugan and a few others. Even today, some people refer to these specific areas by these traditional names.

Here is a map of the area in the 1940 US Census :


As you can see, there is an Agaña, a Sinajaña and an Asan but no Agaña Heights. The area now known as Agaña Heights was then a part of Sinajaña municipality.

A village breakdown of the 1940 Census shows that Tutujan and Apugan (now parts of Agaña Heights) were barrios of Sinajaña in 1940 :



Immediately after the return of US forces to Guam in July of 1944 we see the first references to an area called Agaña Heights. It started with the US military.

It started with the US military because the area above the capital city had strategic military value. This was recognized even in Spanish times, which is why the Spaniards built a fort in Apugan, now a part of Agaña Heights, which still remains to this day.

From the heights above Agaña, one could enjoy a military advantage over the city below.

And so, the US military started referring to "Agaña Heights" as they fought the Japanese coming from the south entering into Hagåtña. Here is an example. A war reporter writes as early as August, 1944 about a machine gun placed at "Agaña Heights."


But, just to be clear, the writer wasn't referring to an established, political entity called Agaña Heights. In other news articles at the very same time, reporters sometimes do not capitalize "heights," meaning they literally are saying "the heights above Agaña," rather than saying there is a specific municipality called Agaña Heights. Other reporters call it "Agaña height," in the singular. Again, "Agaña Heights" was not a village name in 1944. But the name did get its start right at the time of the American return to Guam.


And so, from the last half of 1944 until around 1950, people called the same area by two names; the traditional name Tutujan and the newly-coined "Agaña Heights."

The area received a lot more attention after the war than before. The military had a lot to do with that.
The US Navy used the Tutujan area a lot right after the war, and sometimes referred to the area as "Agaña Heights." The US used the area for the stockade of Japanese prisoners and even for Saipan Chamorros, Guam Japanese civilians and Japanese-Chamorros. Then, the US built Naval Hospital in the area.

So, here's an October 1944 report on military construction on Guam, mentioning a building project in "Agaña Heights."


And yet, people didn't abandon the name Tutujan just yet, as seen in this court testimony given by Adolfo C. Sgambelluri, a civilian police officer, in 1945 :


And, as you can see, Tutujan was still considered a part of Sinajaña in 1945.

This map of Guam was printed just a year or so after the end of World War II. In it, Tutujan is still the name of the area we now call Agaña Heights.



But change was on the way and very quickly. By 1950, "Agaña Heights" was the preferred, and eventually official, way of designating that area of the island.

And so, in this 1950 Guam Census map, the area once named Tutujan in earlier maps is now called Agaña Heights, still considered a part of Sinajaña in 1950.


One very nice example of how the name Tutujan phased out and was replaced by "Agaña Heights" is seen in the Catholic directory of Guam parishes. The switch to "Agaña Heights" occurred in 1948, just four years after the American return to Guam. The 1949 Catholic Directory, reflecting information for the calendar year 1948, no longer lists a parish located in Tutujan, but rather in Agaña Heights. Here's an example from the 1952 Catholic Directory.




We were under Spain for 230 years so we inherited many spellings of our Chamorro names, both of places and of people, from Spain. In Spanish, J is pronounced like Chamorro or English H.

Juan and Jose, for example.

And so we get Chamorro names like Sinajaña and Inarajan spelled with a J. Or last names like Fejeran and Terlaje where the H sound is spelled with a J.

So while the move lately has been to stick with the H instead of the J (Tutuhan instead of Tutujan), older documents will still use the J and I don't think we're going to see many Taijerons and Tajalles switch to the H just yet.


In recent years there has been some attempt to bring back the name Tutuhan from the past.

The grassy triangle at the eastern entrance of the village, popularly called "Triangle Park" was christened "Tutuhan Park" by the mayor some years ago.

The village marker in that area says Tutuhan. It doesn't say "Agaña Heights."

But efforts to do more, as in officially changing the name of the municipality to Tutuhan, have met strong resistance by some of the residents of Agaña Heights themselves.

Apart from stating that people are so used to calling the village Agaña Heights for over 70 years already, opponents to the reversion to Tutuhan say that Tutuhan is not an accurate name for the village since Tutuhan is only one part of the municipality. Specifically, Tutuhan is the name of the area around the parish church and the center of the village. But many of the village residents actually live in Pa'åsan, or Taigigao or Apugan and other areas within the municipal borders. Is it fair, they ask, to name the entire village by just one of the many areas making up the municipality?

But, some others point out, that shouldn't be a problem because that's the situation with a number of other villages. Barrigada, for example, includes Cañada, As Penggao, Leyang, Ungåguan, Lålo' and many other areas, but no one living in those areas minds if the entire village is called Barrigada.

One Agaña Heights resident told me that there is, perhaps, another, more important reason for keeping the name "Agaña Heights." "In the alphabetical list of villages," he told me, "Agaña Heights appears at the very top of the list. The letter T, as in Tutuhan, comes towards the bottom of the list, as in Talofofo or Tamuning."

Ai ke!

Monday, August 5, 2019


by Paul Jacoulet 

A song of lost love sung by Chris Kaipat of Saipan

Farewell beloved.

1, Adios keridå-ho ya bai hu hånao
(Farewell my beloved and I will go)

sa' esta hu sen tungo' na guaha otro
(because I truly know that there is another)

guinaiya-mo mås ke guåho gi tiempo.
(whom you love more than me all the while.)

Ai sa' sen pinite korason-ho.
(Oh how very painful is my heart.)

2. Tumekkon yo' un råto ya hu hahasso
(I bowed my head awhile and was remembering)

i tiempo gi annai humihita.
(the time when we were together.)

Ai sen gåtbo lina'lå'-ta lao ti hu tungo'
(Oh our lives were so beautiful but I didn't know)

na otro esta nene ga'chochong-mo.
(that another already, baby, was your companion.)

3. Po'lo diåhlo ya bai hu sungon
(Just let it be and I will endure)

nu todo este piniten korason-ho.
(all this pain of my heart).

Ya un dia ma tulaika hinaso-mo
(And one day your mind changes)

ya un bira hao mågi nene gi fi'on-ho.
(and you turn back here, baby, by my side.)

Thursday, July 25, 2019


When the United States entered World War I (late) in 1917, males aged 21 to 30 had to register for the draft. This included males who were not U.S. citizens but residing in the U.S., which meant that some Chamorro men living in the U.S. mainland registered for the draft.

These are some of them.

A few Chamorro men served in the U.S. military during World War I but directly from Guam. These are some of those who were already in the U.S. mainland in 1917 and registered. I don't know which of them actually were sent to war. At least one, who was in prison, probably did not go.

It's possible that one of these men was a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1917, but I'd look for documented evidence of that.

John (Juan) Crisostomo, born in 1884. He lived in Marin County in California.

Manuel Guerrero, born in 1886. Registered in New York, New York.

Frank (Francisco) Perez, born in1889. Living in Erie, New York.

Antonio Dueñas Materne. Born in 1891. Registered in Ohio. He actually rendered his name in the Spanish style; Antonio Materne Dueñas.

John (Juan) Herrero, born in 1892. Oakland, CA

Joaquin Aflleje Tydingco, born 1895. From Asan. Confined at San Quentin, CA

GC Felix. Born in 1895. Colorado. This was probably not his original surname (Felix) but many Chamorros did change their names when they moved off-island in those days.

Juan Tydingco. Born in 1896. San Francisco, CA

John (Juan) de la Cruz Flores, born in 1891. San Francisco, CA

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.