Saturday, April 30, 2011


I count myself fortunate to have known Enrique Chaco Reyes (the older man on the right), now in eternal peace.  He was a devout Catholic, who lived across the street from the church in Agat.  He went to daily Mass and was up before dawn (as the old-time Chamorros prided themselves in doing) and opened the church doors. 

He was also a recognized master bull cart maker.  Here he is pictured with one in front of Agat church sometime in the 1950s or 60s.



Am I seeing double?

"Chålan" means "street."  No need for "street" when "chålan" is already part of the street name.  Same goes for "Road" or "Way."

Friday, April 29, 2011


We're so accustomed to thinking "Spain, Spain, Spain" that we don't realize the huge impact Mexico had on the Marianas.  For the first 150 years, Spain went to the Marianas by way of Mexico; specifically, the Acapulco-Manila galleon route.  Sanvitores, who established the first permanent Spanish presence in the Marianas, came by way of Mexico and brought with him Mexican lay missionaries and soldiers. 

The Mexicans who settled in the Marianas from 1668 on were themselves the products of racial mixture between the indigenous people of Mexico and Spanish settlers.  This mix can be seen in today's Mexican people, some of whom resemble more the indigenous peoples, and some of whom resemble more the European settlers. 

The soldiers of Mexico who were sent to Guam brought with them their Mexican culture.  But they didn't bring, for the most part, Mexican wives.  So they married Chamorro women.  God only knows how many of us have Aztec blood in us, as well as some Spanish, because many Mexicans settled on Guam.  At times, the only Spanish people on Guam were the four or five priests and the Governor.  Every other foreigner was either from Latin America or Asia.

This huge Mexican influence is seen primarily in Chamorro cooking.  This sets us apart from the Philippines, which does not seem to have as much Mexican influence in the kitchen there.  Take for example :

Chamorro Titiyas
Top : Titiyas Mai'es (Corn)
Bottom: Titiyas Arina (Flour)
Mexican Tortillas
Top : Flour
Bottom : Corn
"Titiyas" is the Chamorro pronunciation of "tortilla."  Chamorro titiyas is thicker than the Mexican variety.  Our titiyas arina also adds sugar and coconut milk.  Before World War II, Chamorros ate more titiyas than they did rice.  Corn was grown abundantly on Guam; at least two crops a year. 

In Spain, a tortilla is a round egg and potato omelette.
Spanish Tortilla

Tamåles Gisu : Chamorro!
Mexican Tamales
Tamales is so Mexican, even the word comes from Mexico and not Spain.  The original word (tamalli) is from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.  Chamorro and Mexican tamales are very similar.  Both are made with corn meal.  The Chamorro version wraps it in banana leaf, rather than corn husks, and it adds bacon and achote to half the tamales.  Chamorros also make a sweet tamale with tapioca (tamåles mendioka).


Chamorro Chalakilis
Mexican Chilaquiles

Chamorros got the word "chalakilis" from Mexican "chilaquiles" (another word from Nahuatl, not Spanish), but that's as far as the resemblance goes.  Mexican chilaquiles is made up of fried corn tortilla quarters, topped with salsa, or mole, eggs, chicken, cheese or sour cream, in a variety of styles.  Chamorro chalakilis is made with toasted rice, achote and chicken.

Chamorro rice porridge
From the Mexican (Nahuatl) atole

Elote is a Mexican (Nahuatl) term for
"corn on the cob"

From the Nahuatl achiotl.  A plant bearing seeds used for their red pigment.

From the Mexican (Nahuatl) word camote (sweet potato)

From the Mexican dish champurrado, which is atole with chocolate

Is the Chamorro form of the Mexican cacahuate, or peanut

Yes, you guessed it, it's from a Nahuatl word :  chocolatl

The Chamorro word for kite is from a Nahuatl word

The original word, tomatl, is from Nahuatl

From saka-tl, a Nahuatl word for weeds.

Is a Mexican turnip.  Grown in the Marianas.

The flat metal dish used to press titiyas.  It comes from the Nahuatl word comalli, with the same meaning.

A grinding stone.  Also from the Nahuatl language of Mexico.

Metåte from the Marianas
Chamorros learned to grow, cook and eat corn
and use the metåte
from the many Mexican soldiers who settled on Guam


Båsta di umuriyan guma' / sa' un gatcha i tinanom;
yanggen maolek hao na taotao / guåha potta para un hålom.

Stop hanging around outside the house / for you will step on the plants;
if you are a good person / there is a door you can enter.

Can you hear the mother of the young maiden telling this to the startled young man who didn't see mama looking through the window?  In those days, the sottero (single man) and the sottera (single lady) had a hard time finding the time and the place to even speak to each other.  Every move of the sottera was closely watched by nåna (the mother), and nånan biha (grandma) and the aunts if they could help it.  As soon as a girl came of child-bearing age, she was yanked out of school, as well, in many families.

So the young suitor resorted to loitering outside the house, hoping to speak to the girl undetected through the window.

But the mother is not all bad.  She just wants the young man to prove his worth and honor, and knock on the door and present himself in a forthright manner to the girl's family.


Capuchin Father Timothy and the members of the Sodality of Mary in Tamuning, 1950s.

Know anybody?

MAIPE : hot

It reached 93º F in Guam today, so it was maipe.  In a month or so, you'll be saying the same thing on the West Coast.

Maipe på'go na ha'åne.  It is hot today.

Kao para u maipe agupa'?  Will it be hot tomorrow?

Adahe sa' maipe i lauya.  Be careful, the pot is hot.

Minaipe.  Heat.  It can also mean "fervor."

Ti siña hu sungon este na klåsen minaipe.  I cannot endure this kind of heat.

Bai hu cho'gue yan todo i minaipen hinalom-ho.  I will do it with all the fervor I have in me.

Na' maipe.  To make hot.  It can also mean "to make angry."

Na' maipe i nengkanno'.  Heat up the food.

Bai hu na' maipe?  Shall I heat it up?

Ha na' maipe yo' magåhet!  S/he really enfuriated me.

Fanmaipian.  Time of heat.  Summer.  FAN+WORD+AN formula.  Means "place of" or "time of."

I have also heard of two other, interesting ways maipe has been used by the man åmko'.

1. When someone's word is powerful.  For example, if grandma warns the young grandson that his ways are bad and will bring him sorrow, and years later the grandson gets himself in trouble, people say of the grandma, "Maipe i fino'-ña."  Her word is hot.

2. To describe the child that replaces a prior child who died in infancy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Years ago, in Spain, I came across an undated, unidentified sheet of paper among many Spanish-era documents on Guam.  It was entitled, "Monthly Expenses of a European in the Islands."  It was part of the Marianas collection and, from the looks of the paper and penmanship, I would guess it was from the mid to late 1800s.

So I'd say the list gives us a good idea of the cost of living of a European on Guam in the late 1800s. 

We'll be talking pesos, which we can all pronounce and which we still use in Chamorro to describe even the American dollar!  And we'll be talking a little about the real, not the English word "real," but the Spanish word which is pronounced "reh - al."

Here's what the European paid on Guam each month in order to live :

Food 30 pesos

House Rent 4 pesos

Cook's salary 3 pesos

Servant's salary 2 pesos

Laundrywoman's salary 4 pesos

Linen 2 pesos

Lights 4 reales

So a total of 45 pesos and 4 reales was what a European needed to live on Guam sometime in the 1800s.

But what was the value of a peso?

Well, the difficulty is that there was more than one kind of peso circulating on Guam in the 1800s.  The Mexican Peso (as seen above) was very popular in the Marianas, the Philippines and Latin America.  From 1861 till 1897, the Philippines had its own peso, too.  They were based on silver and there was a terrible devaluation of silver in 1873 and the Mexican peso was worth about 50 cents (U.S.) at the end of the century.  The Philippine peso would have been around the same value.

A real was 1/8 of a peso.  Four reales was half a peso.

So, monthly expenses on Guam in the late 1800s would have been around US$22.75 for a European.

The anonymous writer of this list says, though, that this doesn't include doctor's visits, medicine, furniture, transportation, a horse....


I wish the good Lord had designed the lemmai to grow every month of the year, but alas it doesn't.  It is just beginning to mature on the tree, sagging its branches.  I've already eaten one that has matured this early in the year.

Lemmai is one of the foods our ancestors ate, long before the Europeans came.  Our ancestors baked them in earth ovens or chåhan, using heated rocks and large leaves to keep in the heat.  For the months when lemmai was lacking, lemmai chips were dried and preserved that way, although I wonder if our forebears also used the method employed by many other Pacific islanders, which was to ferment the lemmai and then later bake them, ridding it of its unpleasant odor due to fermentation. 

Mexican soldiers on Guam introduced the beehive oven (hotno) and our people started to bake lemmai that way, or deep fry them.  Lemmai can also be cooked "gollai appan" style, that is, with coconut milk.

Lemmai Gollai Appan
About as indigenous as you can get
No ingredients have to be imported

As a kid, I wasn't very fond of man åmko' food (dågo, suni and titiyas mai'es, for example).  I went for the rice, meat and potato salad.  But even in my childhood I always appreciated the fragrance of lemmai and now, in my lifestyle of eating as naturally and as organically as possible, I eat lemmai with relish, especially the Palau variety.  I simply steam it and moisten it with low-fat spreads.  With a normal serving of lemmai, you get 48% of your daily Vitamin C requirement, 20% of your daily fiber requirement, a bit of potassium and not a whole lot of calories, unless you fry it or add coconut milk.


It's a nice place to walk, fly kites and sit watching the blue sea, but Camp Asan is very quiet today compared to what it used to be in times past.

Late in Spanish times it was used as a leper colony.  Early in the American Navy period, it was used as a camp for Filipino political exiles.  Many people don't realize that when the Spaniards and Americans were peacefully and quietly deciding who owned Guam (without involving us), many Filipinos were fighting for independence from both countries.

The American forces beat these Filipino nationalists in battle, but many of their political and military leaders refused to acknowledge the new American administration.  So, off to prison in Guam many of them were sent by the Americans, in order to achieve in Manila some of that political serenity that Guam could claim.

Exiled to Asan, Guam
Perhaps the most famous of all these exiles was Apolinario Mabini, often called the "Brains of the Philippine Revolution."  American General Arthur MacArthur (father of the more famous Douglas) had nothing but praise for Mabini's intelligence and talent.  From Mabini's letters written from Camp Asan, we learn that the Americans served a lot of canned food, which Mabini and the others did not take to.  Mabini was able to get others to purchase for him fresh fruits and vegetables in Hagåtña, which was within walking distance.  The boredom and monotony of prison isolation on quiet Guam were not easy for him.  He was on Guam from 1901 till 1903.

Mabini Memorial
Camp Asan

Later, the U.S. Marines used the site but this was closed in the 1930s.  The American invasion of Japanese-held Guam occured at nearby Asan Beach on July 21, 1944.  In reconstructing the island, the Seabees were based at Camp Asan.  Then it became a Navy Civil Service facility and then a hospital annex during the Vietnam War.  When Saigon fell to the communists in 1975, thousands of Vietnamese refugees were housed at Camp Asan during Operation New Life.  In 1976, Typhoon Pamela destroyed the camp, by then vacant.  It is now a park run by the National Park Service.

I remember the thousands of Vietnamese crowded at Camp Asan.  Riding in the car with my dad in 1975, I remember seeing them holding on to the chain link fence, looking at the cars pass by.  I felt sorry for their cramped conditions and the longing for normal life seen on their faces.  Hard to imagine when I look out and see the quiet green fields of Camp Asan today.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Presenting the GLOTA ( ' )!  This little apostrophe makes a lot of difference in Chamorro.  For example, take the word "gaga."  Put in the appropriate glota, and it becomes ga'ga', which means "animal."  Without the glota, it becomes the "better-known-as" for a branch of the Cruz family, i Familian Gaga.  Please don't call them "i Familian Ga'ga'."  They're my relatives, too!

Or, chocho (no glota) means "to eat."  Cho'cho' (with glota) means "work."

The glota tells us when we need to close the back of our throats and make a glottal stop.  We make that sound even in English, but without writing the glota.  Try to say the English exclamation "Oh oh!"  That split-second closing of the back of the throat in between the two "oh's" is the glottal stop.

As important as it is in our language, it's actually a recent addition to written Chamorro.  Older writers such as Pale' Roman did indeed use certain accent marks, but not the glota.  In the 1970s, Chamorro language specialists introduced the glota to the public and the people took to it with fervor.

But the PROBLEM now is that the glota is used where IT IS NOT NEEDED.  Take, for example, the street sign above.  The "t" in "chotda" makes it impossible to make a glottal stop after the "t."  A glottal stop can only be made after a vowel, not a consonant.  The glota is so Chamorro, people think, "Let's make this word or sentence more Chamorro and sprinkle glotas all over the place, even where it's not needed."

It's like powdering latiya with cinnamon.  More is better.  Maybe with cinnamon, but not with the glota.  We need to use it only when necessary.  If your throat doesn't squeeze and tighten way in the back, don't put a glota there.

This road is named after local oranges, kåhet.  The back of the throat does not tighten after "ka."  It smoothly moves on to conclude with "het."  No glota is needed.  In your best Chamorro accent, say Yoña, then say Yigo.  Do you hear the difference?  A glota really ought to be put in Yo'ña, but not in Yigo.

HÅNAO : to go, leave, depart

Bai hu hånao esta.  I'm already going to leave.

Kao para un hånao?  Are you going to leave?

Humåhanao.  S/he is leaving (going).

Manhånao para i tenda.  They left for the store.

Hånao fañule' hånom.  Go look for water.

Hahanao.  Someone who goes (around) frequently.

Ti hahanao si Ana.  Ana doesn't go around much.

Hanågue (sometimes hanaogue).  To send to, to go to.

Kao guåha para un hanågue?  Do you have to go somewhere?

Hu na' hanågue hao kostat pugas.  I sent you a bag of rice.

Hinanao.  Journey, voyage, departure, manner of going about.

Ti ya-ho hinanao-ña.  I don't like his conduct.

Tunas hinanao-ña.  S/he is a righteous person.  (Literally, his/her conduct is correct.)

Na' hånao.  To send.

Hu na' hånao si Jose para i tenda.  I sent Jose to the store.

From a Chamorro song :

"Pues hånao nene gi karera-mo, sa' enao på'go minalago'-mo, lao hahasso un fino'-ho, na tåya' håfa bida-ho."  (So go, darling, on your way, for that is your wish today, but remember my one word, that I have done nothing wrong.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011


Santa Barbara Church in Dededo, reflecting the influence of its large Filipino community, includes many sacred images representing Biblical figures of the Passion (Saint Mary Magdalene, Veronica, etc.), just as was done by the Chamorros before the war.

In this video, a woman is profoundly stirred and weeps when she kneels before the Sånto Entiero, the representation of Christ in repose.


"Sånto Entiero" is a phrase taken from the Spanish which means "Holy Burial."  A "Misan Entiero," for example, means a "funeral Mass."  The centerpiece of traditional Chamorro Good Friday devotions after the official liturgy is the Santo Entiero, a statue depicting the deceased Christ lying in repose.

My grandmother's sister, Ana Torres Reyes, was the caretaker of the Sånto Entiero in Sinajaña.  No expense was spared every year to clothe it in the best and even to procure a wig made of real human hair.  It is a fine statue, with excellent, life-like details.

This has to be one of the finest, most human-like representations of the dead Christ we have on Guam.

Notice the excellent detail of the hands.

Venerating the Sånto Entiero in Agaña Heights.

In Dededo, Santa Barbara parish has a larger than life-sized Sånto Entiero.


Good Friday Procession

Lukao Bietnes Sånto

Hagåtña, Guam


GOOD FRIDAY PROCESSION : Eyewitness Account in 1937

Hagåtña, 1920s

Agaña, Guam
U.S. Naval Station
May 1, 1937

"On Good Friday we have the grandest procession here in Agaña.  The natives like processions, of course, and used to have many more before the Americans came to the island.  It took just two hours.  In this Good Friday procession they carried the statues of Saint Peter, Saint John, Mary Magdalene, Jesus under the Cross, Jesus on the Cross, the Sorrowful Mother, Jesus in the Tomb and the Lonely Mother.  There must have been 3,000 people in the procession.

Father Alban, OFM Cap"

Father Alban Hammel was an American Capuchin priest from the Pennsylvania Province who was on Guam from 1936 till 1939.  This is a portion of a letter he wrote to the Capuchins in Pennsylvania.

He mentions two images of Mary : the Sorrowful Mother (La Dolorosa) and the Lonely Mother (La Soledad).  These two statues are hard to tell apart.

This one is La Dolorosa.  The 7 swords represent the prophecy of Simeon to Mary when she brought the Child Jesus to the Temple.  "And a sword shall pierce your heart so that the thoughts of many may be revealed."  Perhaps the best way to distinguish La Dolorosa from other images is for sculptors to put the 7 swords.

This, however, is La Soledad.  "Soledad" means "solitude."  This image calls to mind how Our Lady felt the loss of her Son from Good Friday till Easter morning.  Thus the title "Soledad, Solitude."  Perhaps what helps us differentiate her from La Dolorosa is the handkerchief often included in her statue.

Still, both statues can look so similar, almost identical, that it's often hard to tell them apart.


Here, the Lukao Bietnes Sånto (Good Friday Procession) is just starting in Hagåtña, leaving the front doors of the Cathedral.  Notice that the statue is not the Sånto Entiero, or the dead Christ, in repose.  This statue is of Jesús Nazareno, Jesus the Nazarene, carrying His cross.  The Lukao Bietnes Sånto in Hagåtña before the war had half a dozen or so statues in the procession, not just the Sånto Entiero.  Some of these statues were owned or stored by private citizens and then brought out once a year for the procession.







I found the parishioners of Saint Joseph Church, Inalåhan, still before the Monumento close to 10PM on Holy Thursday night, singing "Were You There."


The man åmko' were pleased tonight to hear the youth of Sinajaña, Saint Jude Parish, pray the Rosary in Chamorro.  Maolek bidan-miyo!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


In the Marianas on Huebes Sånto (Holy Thursday), the Blessed Sacrament is placed in a tabernacle on a side altar, called the monumento.  For as long as the church remains open, altar servers and people adore God before the monumento, making up for the Apostles who slept while Jesus prayed during His agony in the garden this night almost 2,000 years ago.  Many people go around the island on Huebes Sånto evening, visiting the different churches and praying before the monumento.

Chamorro Catholics sing this hymn to the Blessed Sacrament :

Umatuna i Sen Såntos Sakramenton i attat;
yan i Bithen na tailåmen mamapotgenñaihon-ña!

It is taken from the original Spanish, which you can hear in the above video, which goes :

Alabado sea el Santísimo Sacramento del altar;
y la Virgen concebida sin pecado original.

In English : Praised be the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar, and the Virgin conceived without original sin.

Today is Huebes Sånto (Holy Thursday) and the liturgy today includes the washing of the feet, in imitation of Christ at the Last Supper.  How do you say "feet" in Chamorro?

On Guam, we all say påtas.  In the Northern Marianas, the word is addeng.  Why the difference?

In the oldest Chamorro dictionary we have (Ibáñez, 1865), before the political separation of Guam and the Northern Marianas, and long before the Chamorros on Saipan (mostly Guam-born settlers) were numerous, and thus before any dialectical differences could arise, the word for "foot" is addeng (in the dictionary, spelled adeng).

Even Pale' Roman's much later dictionary (1932) says it's addeng.

In an old Chamorro hymn, Adios Rainan i Langet, we ask Our Lady to grant us the favor of kissing her feet : Hu gågagao hao Nåna, humitde na fabot, na' nginge' yo' an magof, i dos na addeng-mo.  That song is in the Guam hymnal.

Påtas is taken from the Spanish word pata, which means the "foot of an animal."  Cats have patas, dogs have patas.  But a human being, in Spanish, has a pie.  That's pronounced pee-eh, not as in "apple pie."

Addeng is indigenous Chamorro; påtas is Spanish in origin.

In fact, one Spanish author of the 17th century wrote that the pre-Spanish Chamorros showed respect by bowing to a saina (elder) and asking "Ati arin-mo" or "Allow me to kiss your feet."  "Arin" must be addeng, spelled the way it sounded to the non-Chamorro ear.

In time, the Chamorros on Guam must have adopted påtas as a slang word even for the human foot, while the Chamorros north of us retained the distinction : påtas for animals, addeng for humans.

This shouldn't surprise us, for even today we see how one person can start to use a word in slang, and before you know it, everyone uses it and the word becomes part of normal speech --- right bro?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Guam Courthouse, Agaña
Built during Spanish Administration
When I was driving an old aunt (born in 1900) around Hagåtña sometime in the 1980s, I practiced my Chamorro and asked her what this and that place was in the city.  When I pointed to the modern-day courthouse and asked her, "Håfa ayo na guma'?",  she responded, "I Tribunåt."  She was referring to the one she knew as a child, built under the Spanish flag, north of the Plaza de España (where Skinner Plaza is now).  In Spanish, the word is "tribunal," which, as you guessed, is "tribunal" in English!

When the Americans took over Guam in 1898 and truly set up shop the following year, they kept much of the Spanish government system and laws in place.  Slowly, things changed to a more American style administration.

In 1908, the highest court on Guam was the Court of Appeals.  It was headed by Pedro M. Duarte.  He was a Spaniard and former official under that administration.  But he had married a Chamorro mestiza, Maria Victoria Anderson Millinchamp, so he remained on Guam under the U.S. flag and served in several government capacities.

Assisting him in the Court of Appeals were Chamorro manakkilo' (elite) who had also served in the Spanish colonial government.  The Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals were Gregorio Perez and Jose Torres.  Two more were "Supplementary Associate Justices," Joaquin Perez and Jose Taitano.

The clerk of courts was Manuel Sablan. 

The Island Court was headed by a Filipino, Pancracio Palting, exiled to Guam in 1901 from Ilocos Norte as a Filipino nationalist.

The Island Attorney, in charge of prosecuting cases on behalf of the government, was Tomas Anderson Calvo, the great-grandfather of the present Governor of Guam, Eddie B. Calvo.

There was also a Circuit Judge, Luis Torres, and his secretary Nicolas Lazaro, who were responsible for going into the rural villages to hear cases.

¡Once visitas dentro de dos días!  Por curiosidad, ¿por qué tanto interés?

Eleven hits from Peru in two days.

One of the village schools in 1910

In recent times, we've debated the extent of the Governor's authority over the Department of Education.  In 1908, the Governor WAS the Director of DOE.  His name was Capt. Edward John Dorn, United States Navy.

The man who took care of the schools on a daily basis was the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Albert Percy Manley.  Manley was a Marine stationed on Guam around 1904.  He married a local lady from the Rosendo family.  Not surprising, then, that he left the Marines (honorable discharge) in 1907 to stay on Guam and raise his family.

Manley's clerk was Jose Roberto.  I wouldn't be surprised if Manley, new to the island, needed a Chamorro clerk like Roberto to help him with communication in Chamorro with parents, students and perhaps even a teacher here or there not used to advanced English.

The teachers of DOE in 1908 were :


Concepcion Martinez
Rufina Castro
Jose Cruz Valenzuela
Jose Tejada
Jose Kamminga
Agueda Iglesias
Pedro Martinez
Antonio Perez
Gregorio Perez
G. L. Costenoble
H.W. Elliott - Night School
E.B. Peck
Rosie C. Kraber
Francisco Taitano

Asan : F.T. Brown

Piti : A.W. Jackson and Vicente White

Sumay : F.A. Northrup

Agat : W.L. Vaughan and Rosa Sablan

Umatac : Jose Charfauros

Merizo : J.C. English, F.E. Rushing and Prudencio Gogue

Inarajan : W.R. Rhodes and F.B. Snedecker

Dededo : J. Schnabel and J. James

Some observations :
  • Tejada was Latin American; arrived in the early years of the American administration; I believe the family ran a store.
  • The Kamminga family descended from a Dutch settler during Spanish times, Galo Bouma Kamminga.
  • Agueda Iglesias later married William G. Johnston and became head of DOE for many years.
  • Pedro Martinez soon left for the US for a college education; returning to Guam he became one of the leading businessmen on the island.
  • I suspect that Antonio Perez is "Boñao" and Gregorio Perez is "Goyo," but I'll confirm this.
  • G.L. Costenoble is almost surely Gertrude Costenoble, wife of a German settler and entrepreneur, Hermann, who ran stores on Guam and formerly in Saipan.  They had a daughter named Gertrude who married Hans Hornbostel and moved off-island some years later.  She spoke good Chamorro and helped with some cultural studies on Guam before the war.
  • Elliott is Hiram W. Elliott, who married into the Martinez clan.
  • Rosie C. Kraber is Rosie Custino, married to Kraber.  Rosie's father Luis was originally surnamed Castro (familian Kaban) but changed his name, as did his brother Jose, to Custino when they left Guam in the late 1800s.  Both brothers became Protestants and moved back to Guam for a while under the American administration to help with the Protestant mission.
  • Francisco Taitano might very well be Francisco S.N. Taitano, son of Jose Mendiola Taitano (familian Kueto), one of the earliest Protestant converts.  In some of the few documents we have, Francisco is praised for his command of English, so this may in fact be him.
  • Some of the stateside names are familiar, as they married into Chamorro families (Jackson, James, Vaughan).
  • Schnabel is Jacques Schnabel, a Belgian if I remember correctly, who married one of the Calvos (Concepcion Anderson Calvo).
  • The "Native Band" fell under DOE at the time.  While the members may have been mainly Chamorros and local Filipinos, the band was lead by two recent Italian settlers, Marcello Sgambelluri and G. Saccomani.  Sgambelluri married a Chamorro, Joaquina Camacho, and raised a family on Guam.
  • With quite a number of Chamorro Protestant and American non-Catholic teachers having daily contact with the children, one can understand why some Spanish Catholic missionaries were anxious about this situation!
  • You can see from the list that the majority of the island's population lived in Hagåtña.
  • Public education did not go up to the 12th grade yet.
  • There were 2 schools in Hagåtña in 1908, a No. 1 probably for the youngest children, and a No. 2 with only 3 teachers, for older students (I suspect no older than the 6th grade).
  • My grandmother (born 1899) said she only went as far as the 6th grade.  She would have been a student of one of these teachers listed above.  Although reaching only the 6th grade, my grandmother was herself made a teacher and later on a school principal.  If you had a knack for picking up English, you could get a job as a teacher if you wanted one, end of story.
  • There was a Night School, most likely for gifted adults and potential school teachers.
Agaña School No. 1
Early 1900s

Source : Governor's Report 1908, Governor of Guam, National Archives, Washington, DC

CHAMORRO RELIGIOUS POETRY : I Estasion - #13 and #14

13. Adda' guåha gi tano'-ta piniti kalan ini;
 i Nanan i Satbadot-ta sumasade gue' guine.

(Could there be in our land any sorrow like this;
the Mother of our Savior holds Him in her lap.)

14. Si Maria machule'guan nu i tataotao Jesus;
na'ma'ase' na palao'an enao i Nanan Yu'us.

(Mary is deprived of the body of Jesus;
how pitiable is that woman, the Mother of God.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In my childhood home, raised by a grandmother born in 1899, Lent meant abstinence even for a child of 5.  When I think of Lent, I think of Gollai Monggos - Mongo or Mung beans, Chamorro style.

My mañaina were not gourmet Chamorro cooks.  They were the Chamorro version of "meat and potatoes," meaning "meat and rice."  Perhaps they were Zen Chamorros; simplicity and practicality over sensuality and indulgence.

So for Lent, we had Gollai Monggos every Friday.  It was somewhat deceptive.  It looked and tasted like ordinary Gollai Monggos, except that the Lenten version lacked ham hock.  I think the only things that went into the pot were sautéed onions and garlic, coconut milk, salt and pepper and maybe a touch of vinegar.  My mañaina liked vinegar and the trait passed down to me.

When I cook it now, I do the same, except that I definitely put in some vinegar, especially the sugar cane kind, and ginger.  And cayenne pepper.

MAIGO'.   Sleep.  To sleep.

Ti siña yo' maigo'.  I cannot/could not sleep.

Mamaigo' si tåta.   Dad is sleeping.

Manmamaigo' i famagu'on.   The children are sleeping.

Ke ora para un maigo'?   What time will you sleep?

Na' maigo'.  To make sleep.

Na' maigo' i patgon.   Make the child sleep.

Nana'maigo'.  Somnolent.  Sleep-inducing.

Nana'maigo' ayo na dåndan.   That music makes one fall asleep.

Fanmaigu'an.   Place of sleep.  Dormitory.  Remember the FAN+WORD+AN construct?

Fanmaigu'an månnok.   Chicken coop.

Our language has some interesting expressions using the word maigo'.

Ti mamaigo' si Yu'us.  Literally "God is not asleep."  What we're saying here is that you better watch out; you may get away with it now, but one day it will be pay-back, for the whole time, God was not asleep and saw exactly what you did.

Malingo maigo'-ho.  Literally "My sleep was lost."  It means to sleep involuntarily. 

Joaquin : Håfa na atrasao hao mågi?  (Why are you late in coming here?)
Jesus : Ai!  Malingo maigo'-ho!  (Ai!  I fell asleep unexpectedly!)

To describe thickened or coagulated blood, the manamko' would say "I haga' ni i mamaigo'."  Coagulated blood is "sleeping."  I wonder if this has something to do with the condition of blood or other bodily fluids once a person has died.  They follow the pull of gravity, settle at the lowest point and just sit there, sleeping.

I will never forget someone years ago saying that he was waiting in his car, and he started to "maigo' paluluma."  "Bird sleep."  Like the little birds perched on the tree branch who slip into sleep for a few seconds then awake with the slightest noise or movement.

CHAMORRO RELIGIOUS POETRY : I Estasion - #11 and #12

11. Manai'ase' ha atåne ni tres lulok si Jesus;
i kannai-ho muna'håne enao para si Yu'us.

(They cruelly nailed Jesus with three nails;
my hands did that to God.)

12. Malaknos gi tataotao-ña i Yinius Anti-ña;
gi makat na hinanao-ña guåho ha' piniti-ña.

(His divine soul left His body;
on His arduous journey I alone was His suffering.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Basically, if you're an Aguon, your roots are either Hagåtña or Humåtak.  In the 1897 Census of Guam, almost all Aguons come from both places, with a trinkle of Aguons in other places, most likely coming from either of the two main Aguon homelands.

Although spelled "Aguon," it is pronounced "ågun" or "ågon," meaning "food staple" or "starchy food."  Rice, suni, dågo, lemmai, kamuti, mendioka and bread are all ågon.  In the Spanish records, Aguon is thus sometimes spelled Agon or Agun.

But the Spanish records also present this puzzle.  Although absent from the 1727 Census, there are three adult males named Aguon in the 1758 Census, all three listed as soldiers in the Pampanga regiment.  The fact that there are three Aguons, when thirty years prior there were none, seems funny to me.  Connect this with the fact that children of Pampanga-Chamorro couples were often, if not always, classified at the time as Pampangos.  Although there are Filipinos families with the Agon surname, it isn't widespread and it doesn't seem particularly connected to Pampanga.  Could it be that these three Aguons who suddenly appear on the Census in 1758 are brothers, sons of a Chamorro named Aguon who had married a mestiza Chamorro-Pampanga who gave the three sons their Pampanga classification?

Then there is the Humåtak factor.  Not only is Aguon present in Humåtak, it is there as one of the top two surnames of that village; a village that retained much indigenous blood.  This may weigh heavily in favor of Aguon being an indigenous surname, and that the Hagåtña Aguons descended from a Chamorro named Aguon who had married a Chamorro-Pampanga mestiza.

The three Aguons in the Pampanga regiment married (individually) one Angela Demapan (a name included in the Pampanga list), one Manuela Ramirez (from the Spanish list) and one Francisca Javiera de Leon Guerrero (also from the Spanish list).  We can see how by the mid-1700's there was a lot of ethnic mixing; Spaniards (which included Mexicans, Peruvians, etc.), Pampangan Filipinos and indigenous Chamorros.  In time the labels "Spaniard" and "Pampango" didn't matter as the descendants of these intermarriages all spoke Chamorro (now heavily influenced by the Spanish language) with various strains of blood running through them.  This mix became the new Chamorro.

Fast-forward to 1897, near the end of the Spanish administration.  The Hagåtña Aguons were so widespread and varied that it is nearly impossible to identify their connections with each other.  What we can say is that, while Hagåtña abounded in Spanish last names, Aguon was a (probable) indigenous surname which many in Hagåtña bore.

Some married into prestigious families.  One Juliana Aguon, born around the beginning of the 1800s, gave birth to the son of a Spanish governor named Jose Ganga Herrero.  The Herreros today can count Juliana as an ancestor.  Another of Juliana's children, a daughter, married a Flores, of the Kabesa clan.

The Aguons in Humåtak were there from at least as early as the year 1800 and became, with the Quinatas, one of the two most numerous families.

A few Aguons from Guam moved to Saipan and the smaller islands north of it, and from there to Palau when Germany and Japan possessed both the Northern Marianas and the Caroline Islands.

My Aguon Relatives

One of the Hagåtña Aguons married a Torres, the aunt of my great-great grandfather, Pedro Rodriguez Torres.  These Torres-Aguons are my relatives.  One of them, Ignacio Torres Aguon, my great-great grandfather's cousin, sold him the land in Hagåtña where my family lived before the war (on the street in between the Agaña GPD precinct and Pedro's Plaza).

Ignacio's son Juan married an Unpingco.  Juan's daughter Josefa (Pai Sauro) and her descendants are my relatives.

Juan's son Juan was the father of Edward LG Aguon, the late husband of Dr. Katherine B. Aguon.


Former Senator Frank B. Aguon, Jr

Julian Aguon
Attorney, Chamorro activist and author


Dinetiene si Fulåno ni polisia sa' ti pumåra gue' kabåles gi chalan annai måtto gue' gi "stop sign."

Polisia : "Half a stop" ha' un fa'tinas, lai.

Fulåno : Pues kao siña un nå'e yo' ni "half a ticket?"


A new trend on Guam is to hold festivals celebrating a specific fruit.  Agat, for example, has its Mango Festival.  Today the Banana Festival was held in Ipan, Talofofo. 

Ben Meno was kind enough to explain to me all the different kinds of bananas grown on Guam : chotdan tanduki, chotdan long, aga' Manila, aga' Macau and many others. 

 There were a good 200 people there when I went.

And carabao rides to boot.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

CHAMORRO RELIGIOUS POETRY : I Estasion - #9 and #10

9. Katna måtai i Saina-ta, ya poddong guine ta'lo;
sa' i baba na bidå-ta, fuma'baba i palo.

(Our Lord, almost dead, falls again,
because our evils deeds corrupted others.)

10. Ma na' kesnuda i Saina, Bithen Låhen Maria;
 i baba na fina'tinas muna' mamåhlao siha.

(The Lord was stripped, son of the Virgin Mary;
our wicked deeds brought them shame.)