Friday, February 15, 2019


Kao manhongge hao gi magåhet na guinaiya?
(Do you believe in true love?)

Eståba dos na asagua ni sen umaguaiya i dos.
(There were two spouses who really loved each other.)

Un dia, ilek-ña i lahe gi asaguå-ña, "Kerida, desde ke umassagua hit na dos,
(One day, the husband said to his wife, "Sweetheart, ever since the two of us got married,

tåya' ni un biåhe na ti humihita na dos maigo'.
(there was not even one time that we didn't sleep together.)

Promete yo' na masea håye dumingo este na tåno' fine'na,
(Promise me that whoever leaves this earth first,)

siempre ma håfot i uttimo måtai gi mismo naftån-ña i fine'na."
(the last to die will surely be buried in the same grave as the first.")

Ya taiguennao kontråtan-ñiha i dos.
(And that was how the two agreed.)

Måtai i lahe fine'na, ya para bente åños lumuluto i palao'an ha'åne yan puenge.
(The husband died first, and for twenty years the wife wore black day and night.)

Ti un li'e' i biuda solo gi halom guma'yu'us yan gi propio gumå'-ña.
(You wouldn't see the widow except inside the church and in her own house.)

Taiguennao tinaddong-ña i piniten i bumiudå-ña.
(That was how deep the pain was of her widowhood.)

En fin, kontodo i biuda måtai yan taimano ha' i kontråtan-ñiha i dos,
(Finally, the widow also died and as the two had agreed,)

ma guåddok i naftan i lahe pot para u ma håfot i palao'an.
(they dug up the grave of the husband in order to bury the wife.)

Annai måtto gi ataut i lahe, ma baba i ataut, ha estira i kanai-ña
(When they reached the husband's coffin, the coffin opened, the dead man )

i matai na låhe ni puro' ha' to'lang
(stretched out his bony hand)

ya ha go'te i kanai i matai na asaguå-ña.
(and grasped the hand of his dead wife.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019



(Bird sleep)

Have you ever seen birds taking a nap while perched on a tree branch or utility cable? Do you notice how they bow their heads slightly, but wake up quickly every few seconds or so, because of a noise?

Some older Chamorros use that image when they see someone dozing off while sitting up. Just as soon as their chin hits their chest, they snap out of it and lift their head. Only to doze off again after a few seconds. Again the cycle repeats.

The sight reminded them of the way birds do the same when they nap on tree branches and other places. Maigo' paluma. Bird sleep.

Maigo' paluluma este na palao'an.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Trust our mañaina (elders) to come up with a descriptive Chamorro name for a bell clapper; the hanging metal piece that strikes the bell from the inside.

We didn't have bells until the Spanish came and brought them with them, for use in the church, primarily. Thus our word for "bell" is borrowed from the Spanish - kampåna (in Spanish, campana).

So the Chamorro word for the clapper can also be the Spanish name for it, which is badajo (or badåho in Chamorro).

Our elders also called it the panak kampåna (bell striker).

But two other old dictionaries give us descriptive Chamorro terms for the clapper.

Von Preissig (1918) calls it the CHILIN KAMPÅNA.

Påle' Román (1932) calls it the DAMMUT KAMPÅNA.

Both chili and dammut mean the male organ.

Go figure.

Friday, February 8, 2019


One of the things that makes the English language so flexible is the wide choice of different words meaning, more or less, the same thing.

To describe someone powerful, you can use the words durable, forceful, vigorous, robust and many other words.

The reason why English can do this is because English borrows words from all over the place. The word strong is from German roots, while the words durable and robust are from Latin roots.

Chamorro also borrows from more than one language, but especially from Spanish, the language of the government of the Marianas from 1668 till 1898 (and 1899 in the Northern Marianas).

While the indigenous language has a word for "life," being lina'la', and "to live" being "lå'la'," our forebears also adopted the Spanish word vida or "life." Our pronunciation for it is bida.


The main meaning in Chamorro of bida is "action" or "activity." Certainly, action and activity are signs of life.

Håfa bidå-ña? What did s/he do?

But we can also ask, "Håfa ha cho'gue?" and mean the exact same thing, "What did s/he do?" but using the indigenous term cho'gue ("to do").

Tåya' bidådå-ña. "S/he is doing nothing."

Bida can also be used in a passive sense, meaning "what is done to someone else."

Ai ma bidå-ña! "Oh my, what was done to him!"

Tai bida ("without action or activity") can be used to describe a person with nothing to do.

Malabida is a word meaning "bad life," but can mean a person who has done something wrong.


But Chamorro also uses bida to mean "life" itself. Fewer and fewer Chamorro speakers use the word in this way, but old writings clearly use it, even though we have had long before the Spaniards our own word for "life," which is lina'la'. So, we have two ways to say "life" in Chamorro : bida and lina'la'.

So, in the example above, from the Apostles' Creed, we can say "taihinekkok na bida" to say "everlasting life," or we can also say, "taihinekkok na lina'la'." In fact, we switch between the two depending on the island or even depending on the techa (prayer leader).

In this hymn from Saipan (which has spread elsewhere), the title of the song is "Jesus Bidå-ho," meaning "Jesus My Life." But one could just as easily say, "Jesus Lina'lå'-ho," "Jesus My Life."

In a Guam hymn entitled "Jesus Pån-måme," or "Jesus Our Bread," there is a line that goes

Yåfai yan mahgef i minetgot-ho
sa' ti dumanña' hao gi bidå-ho,

which means

Tired and weak is my strength
because you are not joined to my life.

So there you have it.

Two ways to say "life." Lina'la' and bida. One indigenous to the Marianas and the other borrowed from Spanish.


Because we have incorporated many Spanish words into the Chamorro language, we actually have a linguistic connection with Latin, the language of ancient Rome. Because Rome conquered so much of Western Europe, the Latin language was planted there and over time developed into Italian, Spanish, French and many other languages and dialects of those languages.

So,  in Spain, the Latin word for "life," vita became vida. Then Spanish vida became Chamorro bida.

From Latin vita we get English words based on vita, since French also influenced English. Some of those words are vital, vitamin and vitality.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Age 20 years in 1928

There's not much to this story, sad as it is. But it's not often we can look into the eyes in a photograph of a Chamorro born over 100 years ago.

Miguel Garrido, like many young Chamorro men, left Guam on a ship in search of a better life, so they believed. Many of them did settle down elsewhere and did well for themselves. Not all of them did.

Miguel, it seems, arrived in San Francisco from Manila in 1926. At least one Miguel Garrido from Guam, born in 1907, appears on a passenger list that year.

It didn't take long, however, for Miguel to find himself in trouble. Just the following year, he was arrested and charged with rape. He was found guilty and sentenced up to 50 years. In January 1928 he entered the gates of San Quentin Prison. He stood 5 foot seven and weighed 133 pounds. He was 20 years old, so born in 1907 as mentioned before.

There was a Miguel Garrido born in Guam in 1907. His full name was Miguel Sablan Garrido, the son of José Garrido and María Agüero Sablan.

He and his family appear in the 1920 Guam census as living in Malesso'. His mother had passed away already. He was only 13 years old and without a mother.

Garrido served 10 years at San Quentin and was paroled in 1938. He died just two years later in 1940, at the age of 33 years. RIP