Monday, March 27, 2023



You may have noticed this past Sunday, if you went to Mass, that your church covered the statues in the sanctuary (altar area). Not all Catholic churches do this, but all of them did prior to the 1960s and the custom seems to be returning to most churches in our islands.

Veiling the statues shocks us, and it is meant to.

We are two weeks away from the bitter suffering and crucifixion of the Lord when the statues are covered. The Church is wanting us to feel the loss of the Lord. He was arrested and taken away. Imprisoned, He was absent from His Mother and His disciples for that time. We, too, should feel something of their sense of loss when He was taken away.

Two Sundays before Easter was called by our mañaina (elders) DAMENGGON LÅSARO. LAZARUS SUNDAY.

Which Lazarus?

Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, who died and who was brought back to life by Jesus even after Lazarus had been buried several days in the tomb.

Well that was the last straw for the enemies of Jesus. Outdone by Jesus, His enemies resolved to put Him to death, and the ball started rolling leading to His arrest and crucifixion.

But why is this Sunday named after Lazarus? 

In the Missal (Mass prayer book) used in Spain at one time, and still is used in a few parts of Spain, took its Gospel for the Sunday before Palm Sunday from the story of Lazarus' resurrection. So, in Spain, the Sunday before Palm Sunday was called DOMINGO DE LÁZARO, and because the Catholic missionaries in the Marianas were mainly Spaniards until the late 1930s, our mañaina called it the same thing, but using the Chamorro version of the name.

Here's how the schedule looked in the old days :



(cover statues)










Start of Holy Week

(Semåna Sånta)

Holy Monday

Holy Tuesday

Holy Wednesday

Holy Thursday

Good Friday

Holy Saturday



Statue veils come off at Vigil Mass












Wednesday, March 22, 2023



Julia Miller was an outgoing, cheerful person.

And she had a sense of humor.

She was born Julia San Nicolás Chargualaf, and she often told people she was Russian.

She said it with a straight face and the rest of us just looked at each other in bewilderment.

Then she would pronounce her name CHARGUALAF to match with STROGANOFF.

Then we'd burst out laughing.

She was the daughter of Pedro and Maria San Nicolás Chargualaf and was born in the Bilibik barrio of Hagåtña then lived in Talofofo after the war, until she got married.

She married Joe Miller (RIP) and she herself recently passed away. U såga gi minahgong. Rest in peace.

Thursday, March 16, 2023



In the Marianas, there are the suruhånas and suruhånos everyone speaks about.

And there are also the ones fewer people talk about.

The well-known ones are the herbal doctors who get interviewed, gain recognition and are put on special lists, such as Master Suruhåno/a.

They were, shall we say, the full-fledged suruhånas who dedicated most of their day treating clients with all sorts of ailments.

But the less-known ones never got nominated to win special titles. They were more or less known mainly in their villages, and weren't "full time" healers. They often stuck to just making common herbal remedies for ordinary illnesses such as the flu. While not regarded as full-blown suruhånas, they were the go-to people in the village when you needed åmot Chamorro (local, herbal medicine).

Here are just two examples, from people I knew in life and who gave me herbal medicine.


Lucia was a more-or-less homebound lady living in Malesso' when I was the priest there now and then in the 1990s.

Though homebound, due to her difficulty walking, she knew what was going on in the village, as most people in small villages do. A devout Catholic, I saw her once a month on First Fridays to give her Holy Communion. She always gave me some Mass intentions to be said at the parish.

But when she would hear that I had the flu or a cold, invariably someone would come to the konbento (priest's house) with a plastic gallon jug of åmot Chamorro and tell me, "This is from Tan Lucia."  If she heard I had the flu five times, five times a bottle of herbal medicine would be dropped off to me from her. God bless her.


Tan Romana was from my home village of Sinajaña. She was known as a healer of children's illnesses.

I can't say for sure which specific children's illnesses she treated, because I was just 4 or 5 years old when I got the Tan Romana treatment. So I don't know what my illness was! I wasn't told; who tells a four-year-old what their illness is?

All I know is that Tan Romana came to my grandmother's house one day (or night) with her herbal concoction. I was put on someone's lap and held down, and someone used their hand to force my mouth open.

Tan Romana dipped a fresh piece of gauze into her brown, liquid medicine then squeezed the gauze till the herbal medicine poured down my throat. It was very bitter! I wanted to cough it all out, but everyone was telling me to swallow, and with hands holding me down on someone's lap and another hand firmly holding my mouth open, I complied.

I don't even remember being sick, or getting better. But I never received a Tan Romana treatment again. I didn't hold it against her, and I never developed a fear of Tan Romana. She was always a nice lady to me as I continued to see her till her death in 2001. God bless her, too.

In all the island's villages, there were women, and a few men, who weren't considered full-fledged suruhåna/o, but they did make åmot Chamorro and helped people with ordinary bouts of sickness. I'm sure many readers could add more names to this list of åmot makers.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023




Imagine a young Chamorro man serving in the US Army during World War One in Europe.

But that's exactly what Vicente Muña Flores did, and it serves as a reminder that it was not totally impossible for Chamorros in the old days to leave our small islands and get a taste of the big world out there.

In fact, Flores did not join the US Army on Guam but rather in Sacramento, California; which shows that he was already in the big world away from Guam before he joined the Army.

He was in Sacramento working on a steamboat as a deck hand. His draft registration says he had previously been a mess attendant in the US Navy so maybe that's how he ended up in California. He had been born on Guam in 1891 so he was already 26 years old when he registered for the draft.


Flores fought in France in 1918. He was there at the Champagne-Marne campaign which was the Germans' last offensive. When the German push was repelled, the tide of the war went in the favor of the Allies. World War I was over in a few months.

Flores was honorably discharged but didn't return to Guam till 1922. Then he married Ana Blas Untalan and raised a family. He was described by both the 1930 and 1940 censuses as being a farmer. The young man who left the island to see the big world, going so far as to fight in Europe in World War One, came back to be like almost every other man on Guam; a tiller of the soil settled on his land.

But he, like few others, could sit with all those fellow Chamorros who had never left Guam and regale them with stories about France, California, the war and the high seas.


Tuesday, February 21, 2023



If you've ever heard of a man from Saipan named JOE ELEVEN, you're in your 50s and 60s if not older.

In the past, there were two JOE TENORIOS on Saipan. The older of the two was José Camacho Tenorio, who was Saipan's richest businessman. Everyone knew him as JOE TEN.

The younger Joe Tenorio, who chose a legal career, was known as JOE ELEVEN.

Joe Eleven showed his intellectual curiosity early in life, picking up English here and there from the few people in Saipan who knew some English.

That intellectual curiosity was enough to get him in trouble with the Japanese, who were so paranoid of American victory that even a tiny knowledge of English was enough to label you a possible American spy. Even if you were just eleven years old, as Joe Eleven was in 1944.

But the Japanese came looking for the young boy, going to his family farm. He tells the story :

"When the Japanese came looking for us, we fled and went into hiding. We offered up prayers to the Sacred Heart for protection against the Japanese and for protection against the bombs that were bursting all around us. And we were protected and weren't harmed."

Just based on his natural smarts and making the most of what limited education was possible in Saipan after the war, Joe Eleven got a job teaching at Saipan's elementary school.

In this capacity, he got to know Mrs. Paul Murphy, the American principal at the Navy dependents' school in Saipan. She recognized Joe Eleven's potential and reached out to a Minnesota priest named Monsignor Bernard Mangan. He, in turn, brought the matter to the attention of the De La Salle Brothers who ran Saint Mary's College in Winona, Minnesota. They agreed to take in Joe Eleven on scholarship.

After finishing college and studying law, Joe Eleven returned to Saipan. He got married and raised a family, passing away in 1989. U såga gi minahgong. Rest in peace.

If it weren't for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he may never have accomplished all that, all because he spoke a little English and that made the Japanese nervous about an eleven-year-old boy.


Thursday, February 9, 2023



In 1926, a woman named María owed attorney Tomás Anderson Calvo (grandfather of former Governor Paul M. Calvo), $15.72.

In today's value, that would be around $260.

No reason is ever stated in the court documents why she owed Calvo that much.

Having failed to get payment from María, Calvo sought justice from the court. María answered the summons and promised payment by a certain date. When that date came and went, and there was still no payment, the judge ordered the Commissioner of Hagåtña to search María's house for anything worthy of being auctioned, in order to obtain money to pay the debt.

The Commissioner reported that he found only one thing worthy of being auctioned. A gold rosary with red beads and a gold crucifix.

Well, that would have to do and the rosary was put up for auction. Only one person stepped forward to make a bid. He was Pancracio Rábago Palting, another lawyer, who bid $4 for the rosary, which today would mean $66. So, Palting won the rosary and the debt was now reduced by $4. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the debt.


The Catholic Church does not allow blessed items to be sold. Assuming María's rosary was blessed, her rosary lost its blessing the minute it was bought, even in auction.

Palting, if he wanted a blessed rosary, had to have it blessed again after he had bought it in auction.

This little story shows how much many Chamorros prized their rosaries. It was sometimes put in the will who in the family would inherit it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023



Francisco Baza León Guerrero was a fighter.

He fought for American citizenship and for democracy for Guam's people, where the people would one day vote for a representative form of government and not be ruled by Naval Governors who were the entire government rolled into one man.

A little-known story shows how León Guerrero wasn't a doormat even in his younger days.

León Guerrero, who was a chicken farmer in his youth, helping to support his widowed mother, got a job working at the US Agricultural Experiment Station in Piti. As such, León Guerrero was an employee of the US Department of Agriculture, and not of the US Navy.

In 1926, while León Guerrero was working at the Piti Station as a specialist in poultry raising, the Naval Governor, Captain Henry B. Price, walked into the Station looking for long-time Station employee Peter Nelson. All but one of the employees stood up to greet the Governor. After Price had asked his questions and gotten answers, Price turned around as if to leave, so León Guerrero and his coworker Joaquín Guerrero sat back down again.

Then, Price turned back again and commanded León Guerrero to stand once more. This León Guerrero refused to do, taking Price's command as intending to humiliate León Guerrero, who said Price already had ill feelings for him, for reasons he did not state.


León Guerrero was charged in court with "Wanton Disrespect to the Governor."

Price's version of the event was that he met León Guerrero at the Station and asked for Nelson. León Guerrero told the Governor where Nelson was, but made no attempt to inform Nelson that the Governor was at the Station looking for him. Instead, León Guerrero sat down, tilting the swivel chair as far back as it could go, raising his arms and clasping his hands behind his head, looking at the Governor in what Price interpreted as a disrespectful stance.

Price told León Guerrero, "You are disrespectful." León Guerrero retorted that he was not. Price then ordered León Guerrero to stand up. He remained seated and Price was done waiting for him to stand, so Price left.

Guam's court found León Guerrero guilty as charged.


In an appeal made to a trio of appellate judges made up of a Navy officer, a Marine officer and a Chamorro judge (José Roberto), León Guerrero argued that he could not be guilty of breaking what was not a law. There was no law obliging him to rise when ordered by the Governor to do so.

Furthermore, León Guerrero could not be accused of insubordination to his superior because León Guerrero did not work for Price. He worked for the US Department of Agriculture, and not for the US Navy whose highest officer on Guam was Price.

Unsurprisingly, this court denied León Guerrero's appeal.

Still, León Guerrero did not lose his job at the Agricultural Station.

Friday, January 27, 2023



On January 10, 1942, the Japanese shipped off to Prisoner of War camps in Japan all the Americans they found on Guam after they invaded the island on December 10, 1941. Around 500 people, military and civilian.

Except for TWO people.

These two Americans stayed on Guam for the entire Japanese Occupation. They were never sent, like the other Americans, to prisoner of war camps in Japan.

Who were they? And why were they exempted?

They were LOUIS FURTADO and MARY MAGDALENE CRUZ, and they had two things in common. First, they were born in Hawaii. Second, they were both of Portuguese ancestry.

Why should those two things matter?

First, Furtado claimed that the Japanese told him that he would not be imprisoned because the Japanese considered Hawaii "conquered territory." Sure, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, but they never conquered Hawaii. Who knows why they would have said so.

Second, both Furtado and Cruz, whose maiden name was Vinhaça (sometimes spelled Vinhasa), were of Portuguese ancestry. Portugal was neutral in World War II, neither an enemy nor an ally of Japan. Still, Furtado and Cruz were both born in Hawaii and had American citizenship, even though their families had come over from Portugal. So it remains a mystery why the Japanese would have let these two go free, while all other Americans were shipped off to Japan.


Meeting again in Hawaii in 1946

Furtado, a married man with children, was sent to Guam in 1941 to work for the US Navy. When the Japanese bombed Guam on December 8, 1941, Furtado was asked by Governor McMillin to supervise the destruction of fuel on Cabras Island so as not to fall into enemy hands. He then fled into the jungle trying to avoid the Japanese. But he finally turned himself in when the island was firmly in Japanese hands. When they found out he was from Hawaii, the Japanese demanded he tell them what he knew about Pearl Harbor and American defenses in Hawaii. When he refused to, they beat him up.

He was told by the Japanese that they'd let him stay on Guam, but they kept an eye on him and punished him now and then for singing God Bless America, teaching Chamorro children to sing it and for other minor infractions. He also kept a radio, illegal under the Japanese, but got away with it till the very end. Generally, he was left unmolested, and he tried to be invisible as much as he could, farming on borrowed land. He is also credited for composing the Uncle Sam song, along with Pedro "Seboyas" Rosario.

He was ordered by the Japanese to work on the defense projects of Japanese. He hated the idea. First, he did not want to aid the Japanese war effort. Second, he had heard that the Japanese had killed entire work crews after the job was done. So he had someone pour boiling water on him so he could claim injury and be unfit to work. He was supposed to scald only his hand, but the water scaled much of his upper body, leaving scars. He was hospitalized for ten days.

When he was caught with the radio, he fled into the jungle. That was hard, due to the lack of food. Luckily this was right before the American return and he finally met up with some Marines and he was brought inside American lines.

Word was sent to his wife and children, father and siblings that he had made it through the Japanese Occupation with his life intact. In due time he returned to Hawaii, and lived to the ripe old age of 96, dying in 2002 in Hawaii.


The next Hawaiian-born person left alone by the Japanese on Guam lead a quieter life than Furtado's, being the wife of Antonio Ignacio Cruz, familian Fånggo, a school teacher in Piti in 1940.

Mary Magdalene Vinhaça (sometimes spelled Vinhasa) was born in Kona, Hawaii. Her parents were of Portuguese background. 

Antonio Cruz was a teacher and somehow was in Hawaii in the late 1920s. He and Mary met and got married. Their oldest child was born in Hawaii, but they soon moved to Guam, where the rest of the children were born.

Antonio died in 1970 and Mary lived the remainder of her life in Hawaii. All of her children also moved away from Guam. Mary died in 1980 in Hawaii.

May they rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023



There is disagreement going on right now about renaming Upi Elementary School.

Some want to rename it after the late master ifit carver Robert S. Taitano, who, besides his significance as a cultural arts practitioner, didn't live far from the school.

But others, especially those connected to the school, want to keep the current name of the school.

Having no connection whatsoever to the school, it is not my purpose to weigh in on the matter. But I do want to clarify some statements made by some people that need it. As I didn't hear these people make these statements, and am relying on media quotes, one has to ask if they were quoted accurately.

Nonetheless, someone is reported to have said that Upi is "simply a street name that stands for Northwest Field." This is not accurate. Long before there was a small Upi Street in Yigo (not even where Upi Elementary School is), there was a district of northeastern Guam called Upi. And Upi is not in the northwest of Guam but in the northeast, nowhere near Northwest Field.

This map based on a 1902 Guam map shows the traditional location of the area called Upi. It is exactly where Andersen Air Force Base sits today.

Thus, the second alleged statement by another individual, that "Upi was actually named after a cluster of homes in the Tarague area" is also in need of clarification. Upi is an area just south of Tarague, but it is its own area, distinct from Tarague. 


FROM 1989

Many people associated with Upi Elementary School today want to keep the name as is, but how interesting to find out that, in 1989, the people associated with the school back then actually opposed the name Upi Elementary School.

Prior to 1989, it was Andersen Elementary School. Then the Guam Board of Education voted to change the name to Upi Elementary School. Over 600 people connected to the school opposed it, signing their names to a petition. They preferred the school be called Mount Santa Rosa Elementary School.

Late 1960s

Those opposing the name Mount Santa Rosa said that the school was not on Mount Santa Rosa, which is south of the school, though not very far.

Those opposing the name Upi Elementary School did so for a number of reasons. Some said no one knew where Upi was nor even how to pronounce it; some pronouncing it YOO-pee. Others said there was no connection between the school and some place they had never heard of.

As for the fear that Upi would be called YOOPEE by others, let it be a lesson. While it is good to anticipate possible problems, they all don't actually become problems. Almost everyone today pronounces Upi the right way, as far as I know.

The question is : is Upi Elementary School in Upi?


As seen in the 1902 map, Upi is way at the northeast corner of Guam. Looking at the areas near it, one sees that Late Point is adjacent to Upi. It is definitely north of Anao Point. Upi, properly speaking, is exactly where the air fields of Andersen Air Force Base are.

Upi Elementary School is located well south of that. The school is adjacent to Anao Point.

So Upi Elementary School sits in between Upi and another area called Lupog, just north of Mount Santa Rosa. 

So a better case might be made that Upi Elementary School resides in Lupog, as the map indicates that the school is much closer to Lupog than it is to the air fields of Andersen Air Force Base, which is definitely Upi.


Who says a building or institution has to sit in the geographical location it is named for?

After all, there are many bakeries called Paris Bakery, and grocery stores called Manila Food Store, that are neither in Paris nor in Manila.

Buildings and institutions can be named after places, people and events that mean something to those who use the building or are part of the institution.

And, in the end perhaps, it is they, the users and participants, who ought to decide, since it is they who will have to live each day under that name.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023



One rarely hears of witches in Chamorro folklore. It's all about taotaomo'na on Guam; birak in the Northern Marianas.

But, in the old days, Chamorros also feared witches, the BRUHA.

Bruha is borrowed from the Spanish word bruja, which means "witch."

FROM 1907

In 1907, an American lady living on Guam wrote about the bruha as she learned about it from Chamorro friends.

Unlike the taotaomo'na, the bruha was never seen.

But she was still able to do much harm.

She was not seen, but could be heard.

One night, a man was eating dinner all by himself when he heard "click, click, click." He knew that sound was from the bruha.

He told the bruha, "Come eat with me. I'm not afraid of you."

All of a sudden, the candle on the table where he was eating blew out. Dishes leapt from the table and smashed against the wall or the floor. The man himself was attacked by an unseen force and his face was covered in blood and his torn hair was all over the room.

The man was only able to chase away the invisible bruha by repeating, "Jesús, María, José." "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."

Tuesday, January 3, 2023




The I'e' fish became a Tarakito fish

This is a saying applied when a story starts when one person tells it to another person, but by the time the story reaches the 20th person, the story has grown way bigger than it really is.

The i'e' is a small fish. It's actually the name for a kind of fish when it is still in its baby stage.

When the i'e' matures and grows, it is then called tarakito.

So let's say Juan tells Manuel that he was bit by a dog.

Manuel tells Francisco and Francisco tells Lorenzo that Juan was bit by two dogs.

Lorenzo tells Ramón that Juan and his wife were bit by a pack of dogs.

Ramón tells Pedro that Juan and his wife were bit by a pack of dogs when Juan and his wife were picking mangoes from Antonio's tree without permission.

You get the idea.

The tiny fish became a big fish.

It could also be applied, I believe, to embellish a story. After all, who would be impressed if you caught a small fish? But if you single-handedly caught a marlon as big as yourself, people saw "Wow."

I i'e' humuyong tarakito.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022



Ma faisen si Juan gi eskuela, "Kao hihot-ña i pilan kontra Guam pat hihot-ña Manila?"
(Juan was asked in school, "Is the moon closer to Guam or is Manila closer?")

Ilek-ña si Juan, "I pilan."
(Juan said, "The moon.")

Ilek-ña i ma'estra, "Bai faisen hao ta'lo."
(The teacher said, "I will ask you again.")

Pues ilek-ña si Juan, "Ya pareho ha' bai oppe hao."
(Then Juan said, "And I'll tell you the same thing.")

Mamaisen i ma'estra, "Kao hihot-ña i pilan pat Manila?"
(The teacher asked, "Is the moon closer or Manila?")

Manoppe si Juan, "Esta hu sangåne hao na hihot-ña i pilan."
(Juan replied, "I already told you that the moon is closer.")

Mamaisen i ma'estra, "Håfa taimano?"
(The teacher asked, "How is that?")

Manoppe si Juan, "Gaige yo' Guam ya hu lili'e' ha' i pilan lao ti hu lili'e' Manila."
(Juan replied, "I'm on Guam and I can see the moon but I can't see Manila.")

Wednesday, December 21, 2022


Mariana Maru

We all know that Guam and the Northern Marianas form two separate governments. Still, both are under the American flag and observe all applicable US Federal laws.

But think about the advantages some people could have had when the two island governments were under separate flags; Guam under the US and the Northern Marianas under Japan.

When that was the case, between 1914 and 1941, the Japanese in Saipan did not have to honor American requests from Guam, and vice-versa, when it came to judicial proceedings.

In 1926, a complaint was filed in Guam's court against a man named Ignacio for illegally possessing a house which rightfully belonged to another.

When he received the summons to appear in court, Ignacio seems to have had other plans : sail to Saipan on JK Shimizu's schooner, the Mariana Maru. There, in Saipan under the Japanese, Ignacio may be able to avoid going to the American court on Guam and face punitive measures.

The plaintiff in the case reported this plan of Ignacio's possible escape to the Court. The Court, in turn, asked the Governor to prevent the schooner from taking Ignacio to Saipan.


Instead, the Governor solved the whole situation by allowing Ignacio to sail to Saipan, but in the nature of being DEPORTED.

That was a brilliant stroke of legal manoeuvre. Instead of fleeing, Ignacio was being deported. If he was deported, he could not expect to ever come back. Whatever house he was illegally possessing on Guam was now vacant, and the legal owner could move back in.


Wednesday, December 14, 2022




Josefina LG Martínez, a young mother in her 20s, was peacefully frying bananas in her home in Sinajaña one day in 1955. It was 1:30 in the afternoon and she was all alone in the house.

Out of the blue, the frightful appearance of an almost-naked, bearded man startled her when he pushed open the kitchen door.

His beard went down to his chest and his hair down to his shoulders. He held a gun and a saber hung from a rope around his waist. It had to have been a Japanese straggler.

The Japanese motioned with his fingers for her to keep silent, and nudged his gun against her ribs.

Thankfully, the menacing man only grabbed some bananas, both the ripe and also the fried bananas (madoya), saying "beru, beru." which must have been "taberu," Japanese for "to eat." Then he dashed back into the jungle near the house. On his way out he dropped two madoya!


Josefina contacted the police, however, and the Police Chief tasked Juan Unpingco Aguon and José Salas Bukikosa, two police officers who had previously been members of the Guam Combat Patrol that hunted Japanese runaway soldiers after the war, to track down this latest straggler.

But he was never to be seen again. His bones probably lie somewhere in the dense vegetation of the island.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022



Jesús Villagómez Santos (1905-1968) had a very pronounced limp, and it wasn't temporary.

It was such a noticeable limp that people would talk about his LIMPING openly.

But people started to play around with the English word "limping" and changed it to LINCOLN.

So, Jesús became known as JESÚS LINCOLN.

"Lincoln," of course, when said, sounds like LINGKON.

To show he took no offense and was a good sport about it, when Jesús and his wife Rosario had their first baby boy, they named him ABRAHAM. In all seriousness, this child could truly be called, in Chamorro fashion, Abraham Lincoln.

better known as Jesús Lincoln

Jesús was from that branch of Santoses who already had a family nickname, BÅLI TRES. So we see how new nicknames can be applied to individuals and then their children and grandchildren could go by a new nickname.


Jesús Lincoln's nickname shows two things about Chamorro culture.

1. We single-out a prominent physical trait or condition of people and it becomes their nickname.

We're not the only culture that does that. Think of all the men nicknamed SLIM or LEFTY in the US.

But God help you if you stand out in any way in the Marianas. Chances are it will become your nickname.

2. We play around with English.

We know the English word and how to say it. But we like to play around with it. "Might as well" becomes MINUS WHALE. "Toilet paper" becomes PAPER TOILET.  LIMPING became LINCOLN for Tun Jesús. And the list goes on.