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 :

Monday, April 15, 2019


This is a story with a moral, a lesson in right behavior. The moral of this story is : Be generous. God punishes the selfish and takes away what they had.

Ginen guaha taotao ni gai iyo dångkulo yan lokka' na trongkon mångga.
(There was once a man who owned a large and tall mango tree.)

Fuera de i dinangkulo-ña yan linekkå'-ña, sen meppa' na trongkon mångga.
(Besides its size and height, the mango tree was very fruitful.)

Kada såkkan sen bula tinekchå'-ña mångga, asta ke ini'ingak påpa' i ramås-ña
(Every year it had a lot of mango, till its branches bent down)

kulan mohon para u pacha i edda'.
(as if to touch the ground.)

Mamopoddong i mångga yan meggai na fruta man låstima sa' ti man ma hokka' 
(The mangoes would fall and much fruit was wasted because they wouldn't be picked up)

ya ti man ma kånno'.
(and wouldn't be eaten.)

Un dia, maloffan un sottero gi me'nan este na trongko ya ha repåra
(One day, a young man passed in front of this tree and noticed)

na man låstima i mångga ni esta man lamas gi hilo' odda' sa' ti man ma hohokka'.
(that the mangoes were wasted as they ripened on the ground because they weren't picked up.)

Umessalao para u yåma i dueño ni pine'lo-ña na eståba gi halom guma'
(He yelled to call the owner whom he supposed was inside the house)

lao ti humuyung i dueño.
(but the owner didn't come out.)

Entonses, ha tutuhon i sottero måmfe' mångga ginen i mas manakpapa'
(Then, the young man began to pick mangoes from the lowest)

na råmas ni man libiåno ma tife'.
(branches which were easy to pick.)

Gigon ha tutuhon måmfe', humuyung i dueño ginen i gima'
(When he started to pick, the owner came out of the house)

ya ha tutuhon lumalåtde i sottero ya ha dulalak.
(and started to scold the young man and chase him away.)

Må'pos i sottero sin håfa na mångga ya asta ke måkpo' i tiempon mångga,
(The young man left with no mangoes at all and till mango season was over,)

i dueño ti ha sedi ni håyeye para u fånfe' mångga ginen i trongko-ña,
(the owner didn't allow anyone to pick mangoes from his tree)

achok ha' meppa' ya man lålåstima i mångga.
(even though it was abundant and the mangoes were being wasted.)

Gi sigiente na såkkan, annai esta måtto i tiempo ni para u fanflores i
(The following year, when it came time for mango trees to flower,)

trongkon mångga, ma repåra nu i taotao na i mamalo na trongkon mångga
(people noticed that the other mango trees)

manfloflores, lao i trongkon mångga ni iyon i chattao na dueño tåya'
(were flowering, but the mango tree of the stingy owner)

flores-ña. Annai esta bula tinekcha'-ñiha i mamalo na trongkon mångga,
(had no flowers. When the other mango trees had a lot of fruit,)

ayo na trongko ni iyon i chattao na taotao, sen taya' tinekchå'-ña mångga.
(that tree owned by the stingy man was really lacking mango fruit.)

Mina' i chinattao-ña i dueño na si Yu'us ha kastiga ayo na taotao 
(It was due to his selfishness that God punished that man)

ya ti ha na' gai tinekcha' i trongko-ña.
(and didn't make his tree bear fruit.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019



Geologists tell us that Guam does not sit on a dormant volcano, waiting for the next big eruption to explode. Nor is Guam delicately sitting on top some underwater peak that the next mega earthquake will shake so violently that Guam will fall into the Marianas Trench.

But for many years, many people thought that.

On February 25, 1849, a very strong earthquake shook Guam, destroying a number of buildings, burying some victims underneath the rubble. The quake started around 2:40 PM and after shocks, numbering some 128, continued till 11PM that same day.

For nine more days, people could feel that the ground was different. It felt like the earth below their feet was moving like a river. People expected the worst. The dormant volcano of which Guam was thought to be was now awake, ready to explode and send all the people of Guam into the sky.

Sixteen whaling ships happened to be anchored at Guam at that time. According to a report by Spanish Governor Pablo Pérez, many people left the island to board those ships, waiting to see if Guam would explode and fall into the sea. This lasted for a few days till, to their relief, the island was not blasted in a volcanic eruption.

Lewistown Gazette (Pennsylvania), 18 August 1849.

Monday, April 8, 2019



An important part of traditional Chamorro culture is being preserved and promoted through several "houses of healing," or guma' yoåmte.

This is an initiative of the Håya Foundation, headed by Zita Pangelinan. For years she has gathered yoåmte, suruhåno and suruhåna, traditional healers from all over the Marianas, to share their knowledge in conferences and through print and other media.

Now traditional Chamorro medicine and therapy are actually being practiced and not just spoken about. The first guma' yoåmte opened in 2016 at the Sagan Kotturan Chamoru at the old Guam Memorial Hospital site. Now there are three guma', the second one opening in Hågat and the third in Yoña, both in March of 2019.

At the guma', both experienced yoåmte and apprentices being trained are available first for consultation and then treatment. Treatment involves the use of medicinal herbs available on island and the use of massage therapy.

Listen to Kai share how she got started learning traditional Chamorro medicine.


The response from the public has been strong and receptive. The guma' at the Sagan Kotturan Chamoru is always busy with clients, and the other two centers also get many people seeking help. Many people getting Western medical attention like to supplement their care with traditional treatment and some amazing results are seen. One person was scheduled for an amputation due to diabetes but the Western doctor canceled the amputation when traditional medicine started to improve the person's condition.

A wide variety of people are coming to the guma'. Young and old, and people of all races. Even tourists and American military personnel seek traditional Chamorro treatments. Clients come not only for common health issues but also fertility concerns and also infant sicknesses.

In 2018, at the Sagan Kutturan Chamoru location alone, there were 5880 visits from clients.

This lady shares why she appreciates the help she is getting at the Yoña guma'.


It's not just the medicine that is being practiced as a traditional Chamorro value. It's also the traditional Chamorro belief about payment.

In traditional Chamorro culture, there is no fee for the services provided. But, in traditional culture, the beneficiary of the yoåmte's services still shows appreciation by freely donating money or other goods.


To ensure that our traditional healing skills continue for future generations, the Guma' Yoåmte trains apprentices like Clarissa.

Poster of the yoåmte (healers) and hours of operation.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


The seaman was dumped on a lonely Saipan beach, 
probably to avoid Spanish authorities

Having a sick crew member on a ship in the old days was a matter of grave concern. There is no place to escape on a ship while it is on the high seas. Although they could quarantine a sick crew member or passenger, this didn't always prevent the disease from spreading to others.

If many crew members were sick in bed, who would run the ship? If the ship were a whaling ship, who would do the work of catching whales? Sick crew members meant a loss of income.

So there was always the possibility that, if you were sick, your captain would let you stay on the next island, if they would take you, and hopefully another ship would pick you up later.

Then there were times that a captain might dump you somewhere no matter what and, if getting permission from the local government was in question, a captain might let you down on an isolated beach and move on quickly.

In 1859, this is just what happened to an American whaler named Elias Young at the island of Saipan.

Young was sailing on the Arctic, commanded by Captain William Phillips. The Arctic sailed out of Honolulu and headed west. When the ship got close to the Marianas, Young took sick, but not, he claimed, in a way that posed a danger to anyone else, not even himself. Yet, he states, Phillips threw him off the ship at a beach in Saipan, far from the town and without allowing Young to take his personal possessions.

Young did not speak Spanish or Chamorro or anything other than English and had to walk to town and seek help. For a whole year, Young remained on Saipan with much hardship. He complained later that Saipan didn't get many visiting ships, but finally a passing ship took him on board. Returning to Hawaii, Young filed suit against Captain Phillips. The Hawaii court decided not to rule on it, citing a lack of jurisdiction. The ship was American and the two parties involved were American citizens, while Hawaii was still at that time an independent kingdom.

If only Young had written a diary, or taken photos of Saipan in 1859. But cameras were not common in those days, except for professional photographers.

Monday, April 1, 2019



As many of you may know, the Spanish depopulated all the Mariana Islands north of Luta (Rota), completing that by around 1740 or so. All the inhabitants of these islands were brought south to Guam and a few to Luta. With the exception of a small community of Chamorro men from Guam, numbering only a few dozen, living on Tinian to take care of the government cattle herds there for a year or two before returning to Guam, all these islands north of Luta had no human population till much later.

More than once, the Spanish tried to depopulate Luta as well, but no attempt ever succeeded.

The following is the gist of an oral legend passed down by some Luta elders many years ago about the first time the Spanish officials tried to take everyone from Luta down to Guam. This would have been in the early 1700s.

When the Spanish ship arrived to put into action the depopulation plan, the Spanish officials saw the reluctance of the Luta Chamorros to abandon their beloved island. The people of Luta had been spending day and night in church praying before their patron saint, San Francisco de Borja, pleading him to do something to stop the forced relocation.

People of Luta carrying San Francisco de Borja in procession

The Spanish officer in charge told the people of Luta that, because they were so devoted to their patron saint, he would take the image of San Francisco de Borja and tie it to the tallest mast of the ship. That way, the people would have to follow their patron and board the ship. The people grieved at the idea and remained praying in the church.

That night, the tallest mast of the ship fell straight down inside the ship and pierced through the bottom, filling the hull with water. Everyone on board abandoned ship and headed for shore. The ship sank! There was no way the people could be transported to Guam. Heaven had answered their prayers, thanks to the intercession of San Francisco de Borja.

Friday, March 29, 2019


Around eight years before this incident
Sketch by Arago

Ever since the Spaniards depopulated Tinian in the early 1700s, the island never had a stable human community living there until the late 1800s.

For those hundred years or so, the Spaniards on Guam used Tinian for agriculture, especially cattle raising. The meat from those cows was sold and helped finance various things, including the government's care of Guam's lepers and other patients.

In order to raise that cattle, Chamorro men from Guam were employed, usually for a couple of years, to live on Tinian and take care of the government herd. Since wives and children couldn't normally live on Tinian at the time, these male workers did their time in Tinian and returned to Guam, replaced by a new set of workers. At times, no one was physically in Tinian now and then.

It was on one such occasion in 1826 that a British whaling ship, the George the Fourth, commanded by a Captain Buckley, stopped by Tinian and found no one there.

Buckley took advantage of whatever he found in Tinian for the benefit of his ship and crew but, being English and knowing that Tinian was a Spanish possession, Buckley decided to destroy whatever he could on Tinian before he left, and put the Spaniards at a disadvantage.

He burned down the homes used by the cattle workers. He even cut down breadfruit and coconut trees, and did various acts of devastation. One only wonders what he might have done to the cattle, besides letting them loose, after butchering some, I suppose, for the ship's needs.

The reason why we know of Buckley's razing of Tinian is because two of his crew deserted and remained behind on Tinian when the ship left. When the Spanish Governor on Guam, José Ganga Herrero (ancestor of Guam's Herrero family), sent a few soldiers to inspect Tinian some time later, they found the two deserters and learned the facts from them.

Vermont Journal, January 27, 1827

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Yanggen para hågo, siempre u fåtto.

(If it's meant for you, it will surely come.)

Don't work too hard for your dreams. Hard work does not guarantee that all dreams come true.

If it's meant to be, it will surely come. Sometimes without you even working for it, or even looking for it.

Work. Plant. Collect. Store. Ask. Watch.

But do not worry. Some things are meant for you, and they will surely come.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Maga' is an area in Mangilao, not far from the site of the University of Guam.

This entire, huge area of central Guam, up to the northern cliffs overlooking the northern coast, was Guam's prime farmland. Almost everybody in Hagåtña, the capital city, had farms east and north of the city.

Dionisio de Salas was one such farmer. In order to get to his ranch, he had to pass through Maga', using a road that went through Félix Meno's property.

According to Salas, this road was used by the general public without any problems for time immemorial. But, one day in 1902, he saw that Meno had put a fence right across the road. Salas now could not get to his ranch. He filed a grievance at the court house in Hagåtña.

Meno countered that the road he fenced was not the public one, but one which was on his private property. The public road was just a few feet away. That one he did not block.

Salas disputed that, and brought to court Pedro Torres Pangelinan, Agustín Cruz Royos, Vicente Flores del Rosario, Antonio San Nicolás Ada and José Demapan Rojas to testify that the road which Meno fenced off was the public one.

Meno brought his own witnesses to court, namely Juan Santos Quichocho, Joaquina Lajo Quidachay and Fernanda Balajadia Quichocho. Meno's witnesses were less helpful. They were somewhat vague in their testimony.

The court must have thought so, too, since it ruled in favor of Salas. Meno had to take down his fence and open the road again.

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Asaina Yu'us Tåta,
(Lord God and Father,)

hågo muna' fan huyung todo i guaha.
(you made all that exists.)

Todo i ma susesede gi hilo' tåno', man ginigiha siha nu i kanai-mo.
(Everything that happens on earth is guided by your hand.)

Un po'lo hame ni taotao-mo guine na tåno' gi talo' gi halom tåse.
(You place us your people on this land in the middle of the sea.)

Meggai na chinatsaga in susede, man maså'pet ham gi todo klåsen minappot.
(We have gone through many hardships, we have suffered in all manner of difficulty.)

Lao i yo'ase' na kanai-mo sumåtba ham todos.
(But your merciful hand saved us all.)

Bendise ham todos på'go annai in silelebra i kutturan-måme.
(Bless us all now when we celebrate our culture.)

Na' fan uno ham gi guinaiya yan inagofli'e'.
(Make us one in love and mutual endearment.)

Sa' todo i bidan-måmåme para i ma tunan i na'ån-mo.
(Because all that we are doing is for the praise of your name.)

In gagagao hao ni este ginen i Lahi-mo as Jesukristo i Sainan-måme.
(We ask you this through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.)

Taiguennao mohon.

Friday, March 22, 2019


(Every time you eat the cake, eat the bread)

A song that has been around for a long time; for sure before the war. But the song may have come about only since American times (1898 and after) since the song uses the English loanword kek, for "cake." It is possible that the song goes back even earlier to the 1800s, since English-speaking British and American whalers and other seamen did visit the Marianas in those days and some English influence did affect the Chamorro language even during Spanish times.

At least the refrain of the song is definitely of foreign origin. The melody can be found in different countries, where it goes by various names such as the Tippy Tippy Tin Waltz, or Tipi Tin in Cuba.

The Chamorro version can also differ slightly depending on the version being sung or on who is singing it.


Ai ke yånto si Tan Martina,
(Oh what weeping is Tan Martina)
si Tan Rosa'n Benjamin.
(Tan Rosa'n Benjamin.)
Mås ke nungka yo' un guaiya,
(Even if you never love me,)
lao bai faisen hao pot fin.
(but I will ask you at last.)

Tipi tipi tip, tipi tan,
kada un kånno' i kek, kånno' i pån.
(every time you eat the cake, eat the bread.)
Tipi tipi tip, tipi tan
tipi tapi tipi tip.

Sinetnan chotda, chotdan tanduki,
(Boiled banana, tanduki banana,)
titiyas fadang yan mañåhak.
(Federico tortilla and rabbit fish.)
Sinetnan suni, sunin bisåya,
(Boiled taro, bisaya taro,)
konne' båsta nene de ababa.
(take, enough baby of being silly.)


This song is something of a nonsense song, with no particular story or message. It's meant to be playful; an excuse, I think, to get up and dance.

Yånto. From the Spanish llanto, meaning "sobbing, weeping." The whole phrase is borrowed from Spanish, "Ay que llanto." "Oh what weeping."

Tan Martina. We don't know what woman named Martina is being mentioned. Perhaps it was just made up; or perhaps the composer had an actual Martina in mind. Tan is the honorific title for women.

Tan Rosa'n Benjamin. A woman (fictitious or real, we don't know) named Rosa is being mentioned.  People were identified through another person they were connected with. Benjamin could have been Rosa's husband, father or some other man.

Kada un kånno' i kek. This seems to be teasing; eating both cake and bread at the same time seems to be overdoing it. Some versions say : kada un kånno' i kek, un kånno' i pån. "Each time you eat cake, you eat bread."

Båsta nene de ababa. Most versions I hear do not say "Konne' båsta nene de ababa," but simply "Båsta nene de ababa."


As mentioned, the refrain is definitely borrowed from an older source. Here's a compilation of other versions of the refrain, from different countries.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019



Chamorro hymn to Saint Joseph

SAN JOSE LAO tai achaigua matunå-mo yan bittut-mo :
(Saint Joseph your praises and virtues are without equal :)

(Beloved Saint Joseph defend us
by your holy prayers.)

1. Si Yu'us ha' muna' håne ayo i mafañagu-mo.
(God alone brought about your birth.)

2. Man sen manman i lumi'e' i sinantos pinatgon-mo.
(They are awestruck who witnessed your holy childhood.)

3. Si Maria asaguå-mo si Jesus ma fa' patgon-mo.
(Mary was your spouse and Jesus was made your child.)

4. Gos ya-ña si Jesukristo i minames tinektok-mo.
(Jesus Christ liked very much your sweet embrace.)

5. Na'manman yan sinantusan sasahnge i fina'pos-mo.
(Your life was awesome, holy and unique.)

6. Hungok i tinayuyot-ho gi sen ma'lak na tachong-mo.
(Hear my prayers from your glorious seat.)

7. Pulan yo' gi finatai-ho ya un såga gi fi'on-ho.
(Watch over my death and stay by my side.)


Verse 3 : Jesus was not the biological son of Saint Joseph. Thus, Jesus "was made" his son, meaning Saint Joseph was considered the legal father of Jesus.

Verse 7 : Saint Joseph is the Patron of a Holy and Happy Death.

Monday, March 18, 2019


We don't write an awful lot in Chamorro.

Dalai. Many Chamorros don't even speak Chamorro.

And, being immersed in an English-speaking and an English-writing world, we are apt to let that influence us when we attempt to write in Chamorro.

But, itt was the Spanish and not the Americans who taught our ancestors the Roman alphabet and, for whatever reason, the Spaniards chose to use the letter Y (mainly) to represent the Chamorro sound that, in English, we might spell DZ. I have an idea why they used Y to stand for Chamorro DZ but that's something for another blog post.

Chamorro has its own sound, represented by the letter Y.

Check this out :

And so that's how we got the Chamorro Y. It has its own sound. And we really ought to be very familiar with it because we have two large villages whose names begin with Chamorro Y.

In Saipan, there is a place called Obyan and another called Chalan Kiya, and in both cases the Y is Chamorro Y, not English or Spanish Y.

We also have the surname Ayuyu.

And yet, despite an abundance of cases where the Chamorro DZ sound is spelled with a Chamorro Y, our Americanized minds revert to the English J when we want to say Chamorro DZ.

For example, in the picture at the very top, many people spell the family nickname Beyong with a J.

Or the family nickname Goyo with a J.

Or the family nichname Yeye with a J.

And in vocabulary, there are many people who spell it LATIJA and TITIYAS, instead of LATIYA and TITIYAS.

In these cases, we're switching from a Spanish-era Chamorro spelling to an American-era English spelling. We're mixing up two spelling systems.

So what happens in the case where the Bejong's first name is Juan?

In this example, the J has two different sounds. In Bejong, an American J. In Juan, a Spanish (and Chamorro) J.

If, in Chamorro, J and Y sound the same (which they don't), then what becomes of Joaquin Jeje and Josefa'n Gojo?

Far better to stick to the very clear Chamorro Y. Jesus Yeye. Juana'n Goyo. Joaquina'n Beyong.

Even in the top picture, the Siboyas family page keeps the Chamorro Y sound, instead of spelling it Sibojas.


Just to complicate things further, the Spaniards also used LL for the Chamorro DZ sound.

This is because, in Spanish, LL sounds the same as Y.

And so Acfalle, Tajalle and Quintanilla all have the Chamorro DZ sound, because LL in Spanish sounds like Y, and Chamorro Y is like English DZ.

And so, some Goyos also spell their nickname Gollo.

But it's also perfectly right, in Chamorro, to spell it Goyo.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Francisco Quitugua Tenorio
(pic courtesy of Fred Tenorio Rodriguez)

Around 1975 or 1976, our science teacher at Bishop Baumgartner Middle School, Sister Joan Weisenbeck, told us that we would all have to do something for a Science Fair she was organizing. It could be anything but the topic had to relate to a branch of physical science.

I decided to make a display about Chamorro herbal medicine. You can see that I already had the cultural bug in middle school. Well, herbs deal with biology, so I'm good, I thought.

I turned to my grand aunt, Asunción "Chong" Torres, my grandmother's sister. She was one of the elders in the family who raised me (ma poksai biha) and she was always willing to help me in anything. Sure enough, she took me one day to visit a suruhåno (folk doctor or herbal practitioner). His name was Francisco Quitugua Tenorio, better known as Supiåno, the family nickname.

We got into her car and we drove not a far distance to Chalan Pago. We went into the house of an older man whom I remembered as quite solid-framed. My aunt and he did most of the talking in Chamorro; I just listened. But in time he started getting out some leaves, branches and roots and explaining to me the various uses. I started to write down the information. What plant was used for what ailment. Most of the time it was a mixture of several plants.

Ton Supiåno gave me those plant samples and we went home and I started to put the display together. I got three poster boards and taped them together to form a three-paneled display. I taped or stapled the plants to the board and artistically explained their use on the boards. I also had some things displayed on the table in front of the boards. The Science Fair was just the next day. I think I won a prize.

Sr Joan Weisenbeck, FSPA

I know I pleased Sister Joan, which was important to me because I really liked her as a person and as a teacher.

But my exposure to Ton Supiåno was a new experience for me. For the hour or so I was at his house, I got a glimpse into Chamorro life I didn't see at my own house. The sights and smells of different plants. And the names of these plants!

Lodogao and betbena. But also tomåtes chå'ka, which even at age 14 I understood as "rat tomato," and mumutung palao'an, which I also already could understand as "woman's stench."

At age 14, from Ton Supiåno's explanations, I was seeing how people got sick (I didn't see much of that yet in life) and in so many different ways. And I saw how our people had their own way of addressing illness and using the natural things found right around us. Plants and trees were not just "there." They had practical uses, and maybe even "life and death" uses. The experience taught me that we were resourceful and that we had "our own way."

Ton Supiåno was not my first experience of Chamorro medicine. That happened when I was 5 years old (or maybe even younger but I don't remember) when Tan Romana Ramos, our next door neighbor, would come over with her åmot Chamorro (Chamorro medicine) made from some very bad tasting herbs. I don't even know what illness I had but they would lay me on someone's lap and force open my mouth and Tan Romana would dip a cloth into her herbal medicine and squeeze the cloth into my screaming mouth! Did it taste awful! But the old ladies were happy that I would now be able to live another day!

But Tan Romana was not a suruhåna in the full sense of the term. She was able to make one kind of medicine for children. She was not consulted by many about many health issues.

Later, I would encounter a suruhåna who was more of a makåhna (spirit intermediary) who dealt with spirits and divination, and not with herbal medicine. That was a weird experience.

But Ton Supiåno was my first experience of a bona fide suruhåno, someone the community looked up to as knowledgeable about all herbal medicine and many health concerns. And meeting him was an affirming experience of my Chamorro culture.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


They say that love makes you do crazy things.

Case in point. Two American Marines, stationed on Guam in 1920, decided to grab a boat and hit the high seas with their newlywed brides.

First Sergeant Everett E. Clifton, 25, and Corporal William V. Dawson, 22, were both in love with Chamorro girls. Clifton fell in love with Tita León Guerrero Palomo, the daughter of Joaquín Blas Palomo and Rita Acosta de León Guerrero of Hagåtña. Their Palomo family nickname was Palolo. Dawson's belle was Rosa Cruz Lizama, the daughter of Ezequiel Fejarang Lizama and Candelaria Ulloa Cruz of Sumay.

The problem was that the Navy Governor at the time, Captain William Gilmer, disapproved of interracial marriages on Guam between military personnel and Chamorro civilians, so he outlawed it. His Executive Order forbidding interracial marriage was not scrapped till June 30, 1920, after enough voices in protest were heard in Washington, DC. By this higher authority, Gilmer was told to rescind his prohibition of interracial marriages on Guam and Gilmer was soon replaced as Governor.

Well, the two couples were not going to wait. With Gilmer's prohibition was still in force, what to do? They decided to escape Guam (and military duty) by finding a boat, loading it with supplies and head towards Australia, away from American jurisdiction. Then, free from Gilmer's laws, they could find someone to marry them. They set out on April 22.

But, problems soon came. First, they started to run out of food. Then, the fuel got desperately low. Finally, a storm obscured vision and posed a danger. Fortunately, they saw a small island and made for it. Sadly, the island had little to offer. The two couples subsisted on shell fish and what meager vegetation the island provided. But then, a Japanese trading vessel passed by and saw their distress signals. The ship picked them up and took them to Yap.

We know that the four left Guam and ended up in Yap, and somewhere along the way they stayed for a while on an unpopulated island with very few resources. Maybe it was Gaferut, but who knows?

In Yap, the Japanese authorities held them in custody. Then, the four were sent to Yokohama and then put under American supervision while there. The two Marines were made to live on a stationary Japanese ship while the two Chamorro ladies were housed at the local YWCA. Eventually, the four were sent back to Guam, where they celebrated their nuptials with the government's blessing since Gilmer was now gone. Both pairs got married on the same day - September 19, 1920. Dawson and Lizama got married in Sumay by Påle' León de Alzo, the future Bishop Olano. Clifton and Palomo got married at the Hagåtña Cathedral, officiated by Påle' Román de Vera.

There remained one problem. The two Marines faced trial for desertion.

Clifton and Dawson were sentenced to three years in prison and after that to be dishonorably discharged. They did their time in California.

Talk about broken dreams. They married, but they never got to enjoy their matrimony for long, since the two husbands were sent to be incarcerated in the US mainland. Rosa remained on Guam, and so did her son that she had with Dawson, George Lizama Dawson. They appear in the 1930 Guam census. But, in the 1940 census, Rosa Dawson is identified as being divorced and George is no longer with her. George had enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 and was off on his own. I suppose when Dawson was released from prison, he decided against returning to Guam and chose instead to find a new wife and remain in the US. By the early 1930s he already had a son with a new wife.

Clifton's marriage to Tita also did not last as he appears in the 1930 US census having a new wife, living in the US mainland.

Serving time in San Quentin

Monday, March 11, 2019


From the 1913 Typhoon

An American visitor to Guam around 1895 wrote about his experience of a typhoon coming out of nowhere.

We know, of course, that typhoons don't come out of nowhere but are actually formed over time when the right factors combine to create a storm that intensifies into a typhoon. But, in those days, they didn't have the technology we have today to see trouble spots and track the development and direction of storms.

Our American visitor was a spectator at the island's biggest cockfight of the year, where people were so focused on the contests that they didn't notice some of the telltale signs that islanders believe suggest a typhoon is on the way.

First, people eventually did notice that the air became still. There was no more wind, and it was the time of year when the trade winds should have been shaking the trees. People looked up, and all the coconut fronds were perfectly still. Not a breeze in sight.

Second, the birds had all disappeared. There were none to be seen resting on branches. There was no chirping to be heard. The birds had all flown somewhere else, to seek shelter from a storm they knew, ahead of the human beings, was coming.

Next, someone went down to the beach and looked at the horizon and the sky above. He was soon followed by others, till there was a bit of a crowd with him, all scanning the same horizon and sky. They all concluded that a storm was on its way, and they returned to their homes to prepare for it.

Long wooden stakes were nailed into the ground and the main posts and beams of the roofs of houses were anchored to these stakes by cords and ropes.

Wooden or metal stakes to help keep the roof from flying

Just as people were busy doing these things and tying up animals, a large gray cloud appeared from the southwest. The trees swayed once more, but with ever-growing strength. Gray turned to black and more black clouds appeared and the sky was darkened. The wind started to blow hard now, and some thatched roofs blew off.

But this storm was not a long one, nor a particularly strong one. By dawn the wind had died down to a normal breeze for that time of year. Some houses lost their roof and roads were impassable due to downed trees, but no one was seriously hurt. Thank God, it was a weak typhoon this time.

Friday, March 8, 2019


Para hita guine gi islas siha i familia yan asunton familia i mås impottånte.
(For us in the islands, the family and family matters are the most important.)

Gi pot båndan i lai ti libiåno ma komprende kabåles
(In legal matters it isn't easy to understand thoroughly)

mucho mås para un fakcha'i un abogådo osino abogåda
(even more to find a lawyer, male or female,)

ni siña ha eksplikåye hao pot i lai gi klåro yan komprendiyon na manera
(who can explain the law to you in a clear and understandable way)

yanggen guaha kaosa fumåfåna' hao.
(when you are facing a case.)

Lao guaha remedio. I ofisinan i abogåda as Señora Rosemond Blanco Santos
(But there is a solution. The office of the attorney Mrs Rosemond Blanco Santos)

siña ha probeniye hao akonseho pot i fundamenton i lai,
(can provide you with advice concerning the basics of the law,)

håfa ha sedi yan ti ha sedi hao para un cho'gue,
(what the law allows and doesn't allow you to do,)

håfa i direcho-mo yan håfa lokkue' siha i gåsto yanggen un deside para un ma representa
(what are your rights and also what are the costs if you decide to be represented)

pareho ha' yanggen måtto i kaosa gi kotte osino åhe'.
(whether the case goes to court or not.)

Tåya' dinagi, tåya' fina'baba, tåya' fina'ga'ga' sinede nu i lai.
(The law allows no deceit, fraud or abuse.)

Yanggen este na manera ni malago' hao ma ayuda
(If you want to be helped in this way)

pues ågang i ofisinan Rosemond Blanco Santos
(then call the office of Rosemond Blanco Santos)

gi numero 234 4357.
(at number 234 4357.)


Abogådo. Lawyer. Many people say abogao (abugao) instead. The female form of the word remains abogåda.