Monday, March 9, 2020


My favorite line in this song recorded by Alfred Saures from Saipan is,

"Hu fa' eskusa un pugua' yan pupulu."

It means "I made betel nut and pepper leaf an excuse."

The man singing the song is attracted to a lady he has just seen for the first time. Apparently there is no one to introduce them, as he sees her at a social gathering. So, he goes up to her (and the friends she is with) and asks for a betel nut and pepper leaf. Just like people bum a cigarette off of others.

In the act of asking for betel nut, the guy can strike up a conversation with the woman he fancies. The betel nut was just a pretext, an excuse for making contact with her.

This is very cultural, and is vanishing. How many young people bum pugua' and pupulu off of others nowadays? Maybe still in the Northern Marianas, but less so on Guam.

Sumåsaonao yo' mangonne' taotao
(I went along bringing people)
para guato Memorial Hall.
(over there to Memorial Hall.)
Guaha masusede ya ti bai maleffa
(Something happened and I won't forget it)
sa' i eksperiensia sumen båli.
(because experience is very worthwhile.)

Annai todo monhåyan i okasion
(When the occasion all was finished)
eståba yo' yan i man ga'chong. (1)
(I was with companions.)
Annai hu atan guato gi halom homhom
(When I looked there into the darkness)
esta ti hu hongge i dos matå-ho.
(I couldn't believe my two eyes.)

Eståba gue' nai si neni lokkue' yan man ga'chong.
(Baby was there as well as with companions.)
Hu fa' eskusa un pugua' yan pupulu. (2)
(I made an excuse of betel nut and pepper leaf.)
Annai hu tungo' i na'ån-ña
(When I knew her name)
esta ti siña yo' nai kontento
(I already couldn't be content)
gi hinanao-ho yan gi maigo'-ho guihe na puenge.
(on my way and in my sleep that night.)

Maloffan dos semåna ni sikiera kåtta
(Two weeks passed and not even a letter)
masea dilingding telefon.
(not even a ring from the telephone.)
Bula hu siesiente tåddong gi korason
(I felt a lot deep in the heart)
pot ha' si neni man nanangga.
(waiting just for baby.)

Hu resibe kåtta man ma kombibida ham
(I received a letter inviting us)
para fiestan san kattan. (3)
(to a fiesta in the north.)
Annai tumunok yo' gi karetå-ho
(When I got down from my car)
såbe Dios sa' hu li'e' ta'lo. (4)
(God knows I saw her again.)


(1) Ga'chong. The literal meaning of ga'chong is companion. That is why we can ask someone what he or she is eating steak with; rice or potatoes? Håfa ga'chong-ña? But it can also mean "friend," in the sense that one is usually accompanied by friends and not strangers or enemies. "Friend" is more properly amigo (male) or amiga (female), or the indigenous word åbbok.

(2) Fa' eskusa. Fa' is a prefix meaning "to make." Eskusa is the verb "to excuse." Hu eskusa hao. I excuse you. Eskuso is the noun "excuse." Håfa eskusu-mo? What is your excuse? But, many times, speakers use the verb when they mean the noun. Everyone understands what is meant.

(3) San Kattan. The singer is from Saipan and there kattan is "north" whereas on Guam most people say lågo for north. The problem comes from the fact that, in Chamorro, we don't think of north, south, east and west. We think of towards the sea, away from the sea, to the left of the sea and to the right of the sea. Kattan means to the right of the sea. Lågo means towards the sea. So these words will take on different meaning, depending on where you, the speaker, are standing in relation to the sea. On the western shore of Saipan, where most of the population lives, to go "north" to Tanapag and San Roque, one goes to the right of the sea, thus kattan. It's the same in Humåtak, Guam. To go "north" from Humåtak to Hagåtña (or even Hågat) you go to the right of the sea, thus kattan again.

(4) Såbe Dios. A phrase borrowed directly from Spanish. It means "God knows." "God knows that I love you." Såbe Dios na hu guaiya hao. Or, if someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer, you can say, "Såbe Dios!" "God knows!' as in He's the only one who does.

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