Thursday, June 30, 2011


Bokkongngo' along the cliffs in Hagåtña

BOKKONGNGO' = bomb shelter, air raid shelter.  It comes from the Japanese word bokugo meaning the same thing.

It's no surprise that the word is Japanese because Guam had no bokkongngo' until the Japanese built them in preparation for the American invasion in 1944.  Some Chamorros were also forced to dig the bokkongngo'.  Not too long ago you could go into some of them and find World War II relics : bottles, shell casings, uniform buttons.

The Chamorro word for "cave" is liyang.


FAISEN : to ask (a question, not a favor, nor to ask for something)

Faisen si tåta.  Ask dad.

Faisen si Maria.  Ask Maria.

Faisen i palao'an.  Ask the lady.

Hu fafaisen hao.  I am asking you.

Bai hu faisen gue'.  I will ask him/her.

Bai hu faisen hao.  I will ask you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Like the shivering chicken."

So we describe an emotionally cold or distant person.  Someone from whom we expected a friendly smile, or warm embrace, only to notice that person freeze upon seeing us, as if the person were a shivering chicken.

Rosa : Un li'e si Tomasa nigap?
Maria : Hu'u, lao ti malago' ha atan yo', kalan i mannok ni figo.

Kalan = Like
Månnok = Chicken
Fugo = Cold, chilling, freezing


East Agaña
also called Trinchera before the war


and you could actually park in front of the stores!

(click picture to enlarge)



Lest we forget :

GIMEN = to drink
Gumimen yo'.  I drank. (UM infix)
Gumigimen yo'.  I am drinking. (Duplication)

HÅNAO = go.
Humånao yo'.  I went. (UM infix)
Humåhånao yo'.  I am going. (Duplication)

For TODAY'S lesson : Using the UM infix with ACTOR-FOCUSED VERBS

In Chamorro, we can look at verbs from either the point of view of the act itself (ACTION-FOCUSED) or from the one doing the act (ACTOR-FOCUSED).

Examples of ACTOR-FOCUSED verbs :

WHO drank the coffee?  Håye gumimen i kafe?
JOHN drank the coffee.  Si Juan gumimen i kafe.

WHO took you here?  Håye kumonne' hao guine mågi?
HE took me here.  Guiya kumonne' yo' guine mågi.

WHO took the key?  Håye chumule' i yabe?
THEY took the key.  Siha chumule' i yabe.

WHO is watching the child?  Håye pumupulan i patgon?  (Notice the duplication)
ANA is watching the child.  Si Ana pumupulan i patgon.


Fåhan = to buy
Fa'tinas = to make
Lamasa = table
Tuge = write
Lepblo = book
Penta = to paint
Åtof = roof

Translate :

1. Who bought the titiyas?  Juan bought the titiyas.
2. Who made the table?  Jose made the table.
3. Who wrote the book?  Maria wrote the book.
4. Who is painting the roof?  Vicente is painting the roof. (Hint : duplication)

Answers tomorrow

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Two women in LUTO receiving military commendation for the wartime death of her son.
The younger lady could have been the deceased's widow or sister.

LUTO : the custom for women to wear black for one year, from the death of a significant relative until the first anniversary.  As one saina told me, "I luto i attilong na magågo desde ke måtai, yanggen dos umasagua, måtai uno, siempre un åño para u fan luluto ha'."

Only women wore the luto.  Mothers for their children; wives for their husbands.  Daughters for their parents.  This was de rigueur.  But sisters could wear the luto for their deceased siblings, if they wanted.  In-laws (yetna, kuñåda) could wear black skirts but white blouses.

In the old days, it was meaningless to ask for what occasions the women would wear the luto, because the women wouldn't go anywhere for that year of mourning, except to church.  They did not go to parties or picnics or movies or any functions at all, except church.  "Sakrifisio.  Hokkok ha' i para u falak i gima'yu'us."

When the first of my grandmother's siblings died, the surviving siblings wore black to church for one year.  But some were less strict about not going to social events, while one auntie was more strict about it, as she was more strict about everything!

I knew two elderly sisters in the 1970s and 80s, from the Tuncap family, who went to Mass everyday in black; one in a black mestisa, the other in a black modern dress, sitting next to each other at every Mass, every single day! They followed the custom of some widows who wore black for the rest of their lives!

The luto is not followed anymore.  Women still wear black many times today, but just for the funeral.  One lady told me that her elderly mother, many years ago, told them not to wear the luto when she died because "mangombibida."  That literally means "it invites," meaning wearing the black is asking for another death in the family.  But another lady told me, "Mandagi! Todo ennao ti bai hongge.  Si Yu'us ha' mangongonne'.  Si Yu'us tumungo' i oran i finatai taotao." (She's lying!  I won't believe any of that.  Only God takes people.  God knows the hour of a person's death.)

The custom of the luto is not indigenous.  It is not even necessarily Christian alone.  The wearing of black as a sign of mourning was practiced by different peoples and cultures, in different places at different points in history.  But there were exceptions, such as white, which was the color of mourning for some European royalty many years ago.

The Spaniards brought the custom of the luto to the Marianas, and the word luto is Spanish (from the Latin luctus, for "sorrow, affliction").

Queen Catherine de Medici in Mourning
Lumuluto si Rarainan Catalina


Rosa : Maria, kao esta un li'e i nuebo na pale'-ta?
Maria : Hunggan, ya ei na dinikkike'!  Lokå'-ña yo' ki ni guiya!  Håye na'ån-ña?
Rosa : Si Påle' Sixto.
Maria : Sixto?  Maolek-ña ta ågang gue' Påle' Five Two.

Monday, June 27, 2011





This family used palm fronds and sprayed them gold to form the sunburst backdrop of the statue of the Sacred Heart.




The Spanish colonial government periodically sent to Manila reports evaluating the work of the various civil officials in the Marianas.  The following summaries are about the Chamorros serving in the colonial government in 1871, specifically in the Chamorro Militia.

JOSE AGUILAR - He was the Captain of the Compañía de Dotación, which was the Chamorro militia.  There was an Aguilar family on Guam - Chamorros - some of whom at least were Pangelinans on their mother's side.  An Aguilar woman married a Torres and their descendants became known as the Agilåt Torreses, because of their mother's last name.  Jose Aguilar was described as someone who perfectly fulfilled his duties; possessing the firmness to fulfill them; was blindly obedient to his orders; had much love for Spain.

JUSTO DE LA CRUZ - Second-in-command of the Dotación (Militia).  Was described as lacking firmness but one who fulfills well what he is ordered to do.  He was of good conduct and was a lover of Spain ("amante de España").

JOSE RIVERA PEREZ - Second Lieutenant or Ensign of the Dotación.  Was described as lacking much talent, but who was very exact and obedient in fulfilling orders.  "Passionately loves" Spain and its government.  Was well-informed of all police matters and no one was better than him in providing these services, as he was a constant pursuer of criminal elements in the community.

ANDRES DE CASTRO - 1st Adjutant of the Dotación.  Lacked much education but who had sufficient practical knowledge; very punctual, possessed much will and did his job satisfactorily.  He was assiduous in his work.

JOSE HERRERO - 2nd Adjutant of the Dotación.  Had enough intelligence to fulfill his work with exactness, though without all the necessary firmness.  He had numerous children whom he loved with special affection, and he had a love for Spain.

VICENTE OLIVARES CALVO - Captain of the Port.  Son of Felix Noriega Calvo.  Though he had no Chamorro blood, he was a long-time resident of Guam and part of the Calvo clan that eventually married into Chamorro families (Anderson, Perez, etc).  Described as someone alert in the execution of his duties, who gets on very well with everyone and who is very esteemed in the island.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Do you remember, annai måtai i kandet, what did our grandma do when the power died?  She went and got the fållot, the kåndet pretoleo, the kinke'.

I loved the kerosene lamps.  Ours had a glass fuel tank, so you could see the wick (metcha) soaking inside.  Remember how, as kids, we wanted to play with the knob that raised the wick to create a bigger flame, only to raise it too high and create sooty smoke?   The kerosene lamp engaged the senses lovingly, compared to the fluorescent tubes that assault them.  With modern lights, one flip of the switch is all it takes.  The kerosene lamps had to be filled with fuel, the wick trimmed and adjusted, the vase put on right.  Modern lights involve no odors, but, with the lamps, you had to smell the kerosene.

Then there was the sense of sight.  The kerosene lamp produced a comforting, soothing and intimate feeling for me.  I remember the shadows and degrees of illumination it created in a dark room.  Much nicer than the bright electrical lights where everything was too visible in a less soothing, monotonous way.

Fållot = from the Spanish "farol," meaning "lantern, lamp"

Pretoleo (or petroleo) = from petroleum, though we used kerosene

Kinke' = from the Spanish "quinque," a lamp with a glass chimney.  Named after the Frenchman Antoine-Arnoult Quinquet, who designed one.



What are the Bonin Islands, you ask?

They are Japanese islands just north of the Marianas.  Chamorros call them the "Islas Boninas."

For hundreds of years, the Japanese considered them their own, but failed to occupy them.  That gave the British and American whalers and seamen, tired of their wandering life, a chance to settle there in the 1830s.

Being close to the Marianas, the Anglo-American settlers in the Bonins had much contact with Guam in the 19th century.  A Chamorro woman, Joaquina de la Cruz, left Guam in 1844 to escape her abusive husband, and ended in the arms of John Millinchamp, a British settler in the Bonins.  She brought along with her a niece, Maria Castro de los Santos.  We're not sure if Maria intended to leave or just say goodbye to auntie, and the ship set sail before she could get off! She was just a teenager at the time, we think 15 years old.

Maria first married Matteo Mazarro, an Italian but also a British subject and first British governor of the Bonin Islands (Japan was still uninvolved in the islands).  She had two children from him.  Mazarro soon died, and Maria then married an American settler in the Bonins, Nathaniel Savory from Massachusetts.  With Savory, Maria had a number of children; half-Chamorro, half-Caucasian.

The two older men seated, Horace (left) and Benjamin (right) Santos Savory

Twice, the Spanish government in Guam sent passports to the Savories so that they could go to Guam to get a Catholic wedding, but they never did.  Savory eventually preceded Maria in death, and she married a German named William Allen.

Maria Castro de los Santos - perhaps the only Chamorro living on an island controlled by English and Americans; populated by a United Nations of peoples : Polynesians, Micronesians, various Europeans and people from Africa; with the Japanese eventually resuming control over the islands in 1875.  With whom could she speak Chamorro?  She probably spoke her own brand of English.

There was no Catholic church in the Bonins.  But, as a visiting Protestant missionary said of Maria, she never gave up her Catholic faith, never sewing on Sundays and always crossing herself and praying.

Maria had ten children with Nathaniel Savory.  They in turn married people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, and when the Japanese took control in 1875, many Japanese settlers married into the Savory family.  Today, traces of Chamorro blood run through their veins because of Maria Castro de los Santos.  Her bones are part of the soil up there now.

Daniel Webb Savory
1889 ~ 1948

Saturday, June 25, 2011



"Attempting to knock down, cut down"

Almost all authentic Chamorro surnames that begin with "Qui" are names that mean "attempting to," or "tending towards."  The actual Chamorro word is "ke." 

Ketungo' means "trying to know."
Kematai means "tending towards death."

So, in the surname Quitugua, one must find out what tugua' means.  It means "to fell, to cut down or throw down an object to the earth."  When one cuts down a tree to fall to the earth, that is tugua'.  When you play båtu and knock down the stick, that is tugua'.

Quitugua, or ketugua', therefore means "attempting to knock/cut down."

Our ancestors gave children curious names like that.  Taitano (no land), Terlaje (no son/male), Chargualaf (to hunt crab in the moonlight badly).  Naming babies with cute names like Ha'åne (day), Pution (star) or Tåse (ocean) was not something our ancestors did much.


In the 1897 Census, most of the Quituguas on Guam lived in Hagåtña.  You remember that in the 1700s, Hagåtña was where the newcomers lived, many of them married to Chamorro women and their children mestiso, carrying on most of the culture and language.  Very few Hagåtña residents in the 1700s had Chamorro last names; they mainly had Hispanic names (Cruz, Santos, Leon Guerrero, etc).

It was in the outlying villages (Mongmong, Asan, Tepungan, Sinajaña, Pago) where the more Chamorro-blooded and Chamorro-named people lived.  So the Quituguas were more than likely originally from one or more of these outer villages who, by 1897, moved in large part to Hagåtña.

From the 1897 Census :

JUAN QUITUGUA, a widower and 73 years old
his son Demetrio, still single at 44
Juan could have been the father of some of the people below, if only we had more complete records.

Joaquin Salas Quitugua (married to Soledad Campos de Leon Guerrero)
and possibly his brother
Jose Salas Quitugua (married to Juliana Quisalao Merfalen)

the children of Jose Quitugua and Maria Benavente

Justo Quitugua (married to Lorenza Quintanilla)
and his probable two sons :
Ramon Quintanilla Quitugua (married to Nicolasa Mangloña)
Joaquin Quintanilla Quitugua (married to Maria Camacho)

Juan Quitugua (married to Josefa Dueñas)

Jose Quitugua (married to Maria Santos)

Jose Quitugua (married to Vicenta Acosta)
their son Vicente Acosta Quitugua (married to Maria Manalisay Dueñas)

Juan Lizama Quitugua (married Maria Santos Diaz) They moved to Saipan


Seem to be the descendants of Tiburcio Quitugua, whose middle name may have been Rodriguez


Juan Quitugua, his wife Antonia Camacho and their children lived in Sumay

Friday, June 24, 2011


Mount Carmel Cemetery
Chalan Kanoa
As late as 1914, Chamorros were still writing some of the låpida (grave stones) in Spanish.  This one says :

Aquí llasen los restos mor-
tales de Leonardo Camach-
o y Muña que falleció el
día 28 de Julio de 1914, a los
47 años  y 1 mes de edad.
Dedica este recuerdo de
su esposa e hijos.  Rogar
por el eterno descanso
de su alma.

Rest in Peace.
Here lie the mortal remains of
Leonardo Muña Camacho,
who died on July 28, 1914 at the age of
47 years and one month.
This memorial is dedicated by
his wife and children.
Pray for the eternal repose
of his soul.
May he rest in peace.

The RIP is Latin for "Requiescat in Pace," meaning "Rest in Peace."  The QEPD is Spanish for "Que en paz descanse," or "May he rest in peace." "Llasen" should have been spelled "llacen."  The family re-painted the låpida, tracing the grooves left behind in the original, and, not being Spanish speakers, there are a few glitches.

By 1914, the Germans had been governing Saipan for 15 years, but the Spanish influence was still very strong (even to this day, to some extent,  in religious customs).


San Juan Bautista
It's important not just for Ordot



When Blessed Diego arrived in the Marianas on June 16, 1668, the feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist was right around the corner - June 24.  He named St. John the Baptist the patron saint of Guam.  In many Spanish documents, the island isn't even called Guam at times, but the island of San Juan.


When the maga'låhe of Hagåtña, Kepuha, was baptized, Sanvitores gave him the name of the patron saint of Guam.  He was then known as Juan Kepuha.


In early 1669, Sanvitores established a colegio or school on Guam.  He named it San Juan de Letrán, after the Pope's Cathedral in Rome which is called Saint John Lateran (where the Spaniards got Letrán).  The basilica of Saint John Lateran is so-called because the building itself once belonged to the Laterani family of Rome before it became a church.  Sanvitores made Saint John the Baptist the patron saint of the Colegio in Hagåtña, and a painting of San Juan Bautista hung in the Colegio till the very end, when it was closed when the Americans took over Guam.

Si San Juan i Tatakpånge / tåya' taotao achaiguå-ña;
ta na' hulo' i Bautista / nu i mames na inagang.

(Saint John the Baptist / no one is his equal;
let us exalt the Baptist / with sweet cries.)

Juan : Jose, håfa na'ån-ña eyi "stand" nai ma pepega i paki?
Jose : Paki - stand.

Juan : Ya håfa ta ålok yanggen todo esta ånglo' i pintura?
Jose : Penta - gone.



The Cat of the Land
Land Cat

Hmmmmm.....?????  Or, as we say here, "Haaaaaa......?????"

Not sure where this is going.  Is there a "Familian Kato" I've never heard of before?

Is the owner purr-ty much into cats?  Paw-ssibly.

Any which way, another example of Automotive Chamorro.


When the Spaniards colonized the Marianas, a new system of naming individuals was introduced to our people.  First of all, one was given a Christian name at one's baptism - Jose, Maria, Juan, Rosa.

Now, as to the father's last name and the mother's last name.  The Spanish system was followed.  Which means :  FATHER'S NAME FIRST, MOTHER'S NAME NEXT.

So when Jose Cruz and Rosa Santos had a baby girl Maria, she was called MARIA CRUZ SANTOS.

Or, just plain Maria Cruz.  If the mother's name needed to be initialized, she was called Maria Cruz S.

Sometimes, the Spanish put the word "y" in between the two last names. "Y" means "and."  It is pronounced like an "ee" in English.  Maria Cruz y Santos.

In a Spanish document, if you see someone named Manuel Flores Diaz, you would know that his father was the Flores and his mother was the Diaz.

Women did not adopt the last name of their husbands when they got married.  They kept their names.

All this is important to know when you research your family tree and are using Spanish documents.

It took 20 years of American administration for them to change this system, adopting the American system in 1920 of MOTHER'S NAME FIRST, THEN THE FATHER'S NAME.

In the Northern Marianas, the Spanish system continued under the Germans and Japanese until the end of World War II.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


A Chamorro in Yap

We had mentioned in an earlier post that several hundred Chamorros lived in Yap until 1947.  They had started to move there during Spanish times, from about the 1880s on.  But the first Chamorro who moved there, that we know of, was the lady pictured above - Bartola Garrido.

She presents something of a mystery.  First of all, in the records, she goes by different last names.  But the vast majority of citations call her Garrido, or Garrido y Taisague (meaning her mother's last name was Taisague).  But in other citations she is called Bartola Taisipic y Delgado.  We'll just call her Bartola Garrido.  At least that's how she signed her name, as can be seen in some Spanish documents.
Bartola's signature acknowledging payment for her services as government interpreter in Yap.  She was paid 600 pesos a year.  She spoke Spanish, English, Yapese and, of course, Chamorro.

The reason for her move to Yap is tied up with her male suitor, the American Crayton Philo Holcomb.  Holcomb was one of those entrepreneurs with a boat who tried every which way to make money in the Pacific.  Holcomb knew practically every island in the Pacific where money could be made, from Tahiti to Borneo.  Bartola was on a ship that got lost, only to be rescued by Holcomb, who persuaded her to move with him to Yap in 1875.  Holcomb named a schooner of his after his sweetheart.

listed as a passenger out of Honolulu in 1872

Yap was not yet under Spanish (or any other foreign) colonial rule, but the Germans and the Spaniards were soon to compete over that issue.  Bartola and Holcomb supported Spanish rule and wrote declarations of that support.  Bartola did her part to try and convince the Yapese chiefs to also support Spanish rule.  It is said that when the Germans raised their flag on Yap, Bartola raised the Spanish flag.

When the Spaniards finally did set up a colonial government in Yap in 1886, Bartola's loyalty to Spain was rewarded.  For the next 13 years or so, she was the government interpreter and was paid handsomely for that service; 600 pesos a year (a government clerk in Yap was paid just 150 pesos a year).  It is said that Bartola helped recruit Chamorros to come to Yap in the 1880s and 90s to teach and to otherwise settle on the island.  Her house was used in the early days of Spanish rule as a school.


Holcomb was already dead in 1885, killed by islanders in the New Ireland area of Papua New Guinea.  But Bartola remained in Yap till her death, well into the 20th century.  She had her own estate in Yap, as can be seen on the map below.  Her grave site today is unknown.

Spanish map of their settlement in Yap, called Colonia.  On the bottom right of the map, the island of Topalau is described as the place where "Doña Bartola resides."
To this day in Yap there is a place called "Chamorro Bay."

MUTUNG : stinky

Mutung i kemmon.  The toilet stinks.

Kao mutung i magagu-ho?  Do my clothes stink?

Minitung.  Stench.

Ei na minitung!  Oh what stench!

I minitung i isao-ña siha.  The stench of his sins.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011











Some words may be a little tricky when trying to insert the UM infix.  Like :

Åsson (to lie down).  Since the word starts with a vowel, the UM comes before the word. Umåsson.

To duplicate, åsson become å'åsson

Putting the UM in å'åsson becomes umå'åsson.

Let's try another word.  Åguåguåt.  (To be stubborn, obstinate in misbehaving.)

Again, UM comes at the beginning of the word.  Umåguåguåt.

In duplicating, it becomes å'åguåguåt.  Thus - umå'åguåguåt.

Umåsson yo'.  I lied down.  Umå'åsson yo'.  I am lying down.

Umåguåguåt gue'.  She was/became stubborn.  Umå'åguåguåt gue'.  She is being stubborn.

Try now, on your own, with....

Ekungok (to listen)
O'son (to become weary of)
O'mak (to shower or bathe)
Ugong (to moan, groan)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

PAOPAO : fragrant; also perfume or cologne

Paopao.  It smells good.

Paopao i gapot ilu-mo!  Your hair smells good!

Ti ya-ho sa' ti paopao.  I don't like it because it doesn't smell nice.

Pinaopao.  Fragrance.

Ei na pinaopao!  My what fragrance!

Na' paopao.  To make fragrant.

Na' paopao i kuåtto.  Make the room smell nice.

Paopågue.  To spread a fragrance.

Ha paopågue i gima'.  S/he spread a fragrance in the house. 

Si Påle' ha paopågue insensio.  The priest made it smell of incense.

Ha nå'ye gue' paopao.  S/he put perfume/cologne on her/him.

Mångge i paopao?  Where's the cologne/perfume?


Don't be fooled by the bottle; it was borrowed, emptied and filled with local moonshine or agi', made during the Japanese occupation.

I visited a lady the other day and got to talking about the war.  She told me how her father made agi' on the ranch during the war.  Almost everybody during the war lived on their ranches, in order to grow food and eat.  Her father had to hide it from the Japanese.

As the note on the bottle says, "Flammable Chamorro Whiskey."  Perhaps for this reason, the man's son-in-law, who inherited the bottle, melted candles and sealed the bottle with wax.  Take a look in the next pic :

But the lady I visited told me it was sealed because, otherwise, the liquor would evaporate.  High alcohol content.  Strong stuff.

Agi' demanded a decent price during the war.  People made good money making it secretly on the ranch and selling it quietly to locals and Japanese alike.  Someone in my family did just the thing during the war.

Monday, June 20, 2011


A venerable, old Chamorro custom rarely seen today.

After using up all the canned Real Fresh milk, or any tin can but preferably with a gold interior, keep your cold water in it and place it in the kåhon ais (fridge).  The låtan dudu.

Låta is "can"; dudu means something that can be used to hold liquid.  A coconut shell can be used as a dudu.

Gold interior ones rusted slower.  My grandma's cousin, born in 1900, always had to drink from her låtan dudu when she would stay (for weeks) at our house with grandma.  No other water would do.  Sometimes she would cover it with a napkin or folded paper towel.

It was a convenient way of always having cold water on hand, without the hassle of getting a glass, as one would have to do with a pitcher of water.  You drank straight out of the låtan dudu.  Sometimes, when no one was around, I'd take a swipe from her låtan dudu myself.  I will never forget the metallic taste of the water.


False Friend
A word that appears to be the same in two languages, but means two different things

A few examples in English and Spanish would be :

EMBARRASSED : we're tempted to say "embarazada" in Spanish, but "embarazada" means "pregnant" in Spanish, not embarrassed!  What an embarrassing mistake that would be!

CAMP : we're tempted to say "campo," but in Spanish that means "field."

CARPET : shall we say "carpeta?"  But that means "file" or "brief case" in Spanish.

If we are tempted even in English to think the Spanish word for the same thing sounds the same, how much more will we be tempted in Chamorro, which has so much Spanish in it, to do the same.  Yet, we must be careful.  There are a few false friends in Chamorro and Spanish.  Like :


We got that from the Spanish word "querida."  It means "loved one," from the verb "querer," which is "to want, to love."

For us, kerida (female) or kerido (male) is our favored one, the one we love the most, among a group of people.  It is most often used for the favorite child, but it can also be used in a slangy way for the kerido/kerida in the office (the boss' favorite), the parish (the pastor's favorite) or the classroom (the teacher's pet).

But don't tell a Mexican or Spanish friend that so-and-so is somebody's kerida.  To them, it means "mistress."

You can use querido/querida as an adjective.  "Querida Sally," "Dear Sally."  But, in Spanish, never as a noun, unless you do in fact want to call somebody a mistress.

Sunday, June 19, 2011



As we have seen, kånta simply means the verb "sing" or the noun "song."

It can be used as an imperative, an order, a command to one or two people, "Kånta!"

Putting the infix UM inside the word gives it motion, but in the past tense.

Kumånta yo'.  I sang.

To give it motion in the present, we have to DUPLICATE a syllable, usually the first syllable.

KåntaKå-kånta.  Duplicating tells us that the action is happening NOW.

Try this now with : BAILA, HÅNAO, CHOCHO.  (Dance, go, eat)

Ba-baila.  Hå-hånao. Cho-chocho.

Notice that in baila, we drop the "i" when we duplicate the first syllable.  Two vowels in a row are called a diphthong.  In duplication, one usually drops the second vowel.

For example, saosao (to wipe) becomes så-sao-sao.

Now try this on your own with : TOHGE, PESKA. (Stand, fish)

Just as we dopped the "n" in kånta to make it kåkånta, guess what you needed to do with the "h" in tohge when you duplicated?

Now that you know how to duplicate, let's add the UM infix.

Kumåkånta.  Bumabaila.  Humåhånao.   Someone is singing/dancing/going NOW.

Kumåkånta yo'.  I sing.  I am singing.
Humåhånao gue'.  She goes.  She is going.
Humåhånao hao.  You go.  You are going.

Two people ONLY :

Tumotohge hamyo.  You (two) stand/are standing.
Bumabaila siha.  They (two) dance/are dancing.

Three or more people : another lesson!

Practice now with : GIMEN (to drink) and CHÅLEK (to laugh)

The Marianas, especially Guam, were used by the Spaniards as a presidio, or prison, for convicts from the Philippines and Spain.  To feed these deportados (deported convicts), the government had to send supplies by ship from Manila to Guam.  The cargo had to be moved from the large ship anchored in Apra Harbor (San Juan de Apra) by smaller boats to Punta Piti (Piti Point) where a påntalån (pier) like the one above could receive them.  From Piti, the supplies made their way to Hagåtña by cart.

The following Chamorro boat owners and the men they hired hauled cargo for the Spaniards in March of 1876.  They were duly paid by the government for doing so.  The owner got 50 centavos a day for the work; the workmen 25 centavos.

Andres de los Santos - owner
Joaquin Mafnas, Luis de Leon Guerrero, Juan Blas, Pedro Gumataotao.

Jose Quintanilla - owner
Antonio Finoña, Vicente Ada, Cenen de los Santos, Lucas de los Santos

Jose de la Concepcion - owner
Pedro de los Santos, Ignacio Peredo, Pedro Baza, Jesus Muña

Pedro Taitano - owner
Juan Arceo, Jose de Salas, Mariano Garcia, Jose Lizama

Always four men and an owner.

(Source : Philippines National Archives)

In honor of the upcoming procession (lukao) on Corpus Christi, here's a Chamorrita verse about what to do when you see a lukao.

An gumupo si paluma / ya tumohge gi un trongkon paipai,
y'an un li'e mågi i likao / dimu påpa' ya un fanaitai.

When the bird flies / and lands on the paipai tree,
when you see a procession coming / kneel down and pray.
Single lance leaves of the paipai tree

The paipai tree is considered endemic to Guam, though it is found on other islands in the Marianas.  Its scientifc name is Guamia mariannae to reflect that.  The wood of this tree was used for the frames of roofs of houses, as well as for the handles of the fusiños or thrust hoe.  It is not resistent to termites.


Jesusa's mother won this statue of Santa Rosa de Lima in a raffle at the Agat Fiesta sometime before World War II.  It survived the war and Jesusa inherited it.

Jesusa takes good care of it and keeps her yearly promesa to continue her mother's devotion to Santa Rosa.

I will be posting more on the custom of the promesa.

For more about the life of Saint Rose of Lima, check

Saturday, June 18, 2011


(Saint John Chrysostom)

The Crisostomo family takes its surname from a saint.  In Greece, back in the 400s AD, the Archbishop of Constantinople, John, was such a gifted speaker and preacher that he was nicknamed "Chrysostomos," which means "golden mouthed."  In Spanish, his name is "San Juan Crisostomo."

When the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, many of the Filipinos took on religious last names, and some of these were the names of saints.  Thus, in the Philippines, Crisostomo is not an unusual last name.

In the 1758 Census of Guam, there is a widow by the name of Luisa Ago living with her three sons, who are all surnamed Crisostomo.  It seems clear, then, that their deceased father was a man surnamed Crisostomo.  They are listed under the Pampanga (Filipino) soliders.  It is probable, then, that the deceased father had been a Pampanga soldier.  Luisa's last name, Ago, could be the Chamorro word "ago'," which means "to change."  It is possible, then, that the Crisostomo-Ago family was a mixed (mestiso) Pampanga-Chamorro family.

Luisa's three boys meant that the Crisostomo name would have endured for some time.  Indeed, by the 1897 Census, the Crisostomos were spread all over Guam.

One of the biggest branches of the Crisostomos are the descendants of Juana Crisostomo who lived in the 1800s.  By at least the 1830s, she had half a dozen or so children as a single woman, so they carried the last name of their mother - Crisostomo.  Many of her children started or married into leading families. 

There were small groups of Crisostomos in Asan, Sinajaña, Sumay and Inarajan by 1900, and a few years later a Crisostomo moved to Saipan (under the Germans) and started a family there.  Some of them spell it "Crisostimo."


Flies. Lålo'.  We just have to accept their existence in the tropics.

We love to ask rhetorically at parties, "Who invited the flies?"

But we have the bohao.  It's anything that can be used as a fan to shew away the flies.

Palm fronds (as seen above).
Styrofoam plates.
Old copies of the daily news.
Program booklets from that evening's event.

Many things can be used ad hoc as a bohao.  Getting volunteers to bohågue (fan) is sometimes the problem.


We continue looking at the function of the infix UM.

BAILA (to dance)
Bumaila yo'.  I danced.
Bumaila hao.  You danced.
Bumaila gue'.  He/she/it danced.

Dumångkulo yo'.  I grew big.
Dumångkulo hao.  You grew big.
Dumångkulo gue'.  He/she/it grew big.

GIMEN (to drink)
Gumimen yo'.  I drank.
Gumimen hao.  You drank.
Gumimen gue'.  He/she/it drank.

Now you try it on your own with the following words...

TOHGE (to stand up)
HÅNAO (to go)
CHÅLEK (to laugh)

Friday, June 17, 2011



June 26 is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body (and Blood) of Christ. 

Corpus = Body (in Latin)
Christi = of Christ

The Catholic custom is to take the Blessed Sacrament around the parish in solemn procession.  At certain points during the lukao (procession), the priest and people stop at temporary altars for prayer.  In the Marianas, these altars are called låncho

Låncho means "ranch."  But I think the reason the altars are so-called is because the people erected shelters or canopies, sometimes quite elaborate, that reminded them of the huts they had on the ranch, although on a smaller scale.  Or, perhaps, because the old custom was to decorate the shelters with abundant produce from the ranch : fruits, vegetables, flora.

The first picture above shows that Spanish influence was still present as late as 1950, as the sign says, in Spanish, "Viva Jesus Sacramentado," meaning,  "Long Live Jesus in the Sacrament."

Most parishes have three låncho.  In the past, they were usually at private residences, the family being committed every year to erecting the låncho.  Recently, some parishes have some or all låncho on parish grounds.



RED : 2 more cars

YELLOW : hurry up!

GREEN : watch out for the last 2 cars

Para ta fañålek ha'!
Osge i lai gi sinigon-mimiyo!



"Um" is a crucial element in the Chamorro language.  It takes a word that isn't going anywhere and makes it go somewhere.

Take, for example, the word "kånta."  It can mean "song" and it can also refer to the act of singing.

If you are telling one or two people to sing, you say "Kånta!"  It's an order, or a request.  But nobody is singing yet.  You're hoping they will start to sing, sometime in the immediate future.  No action has occurred yet.

But if you want to describe how someone is singing, or was singing, you need the "um."

"Um" is an infix.  We know that a prefix goes before the word, and a suffix comes after the word.  An infix goes inside a word.

So, kånta becomes kumånta.  Now an action has taken place.  It went somewhere.  Now we need to know who did the act.

If you were the one who sang, you'd say, "Kumånta yo'."  "I sang."

If you're telling someone that s/he sang, you'd say, "Kumånta hao."

If someone else sang, you'd say, "Kumånta gue'."

Notice that we've only been talking, so far, about individual people.  The "um" works only for one or two people.

So, if you're telling two people that they sang, you'd say, "Kumånta hamyo."

Or, about two other people who sang, "Kumånta siha."

But talk about three or more people, you don't use "um."  You use something else we'll talk about in another post.

Notice also we haven't been speaking about action that is going on now, as we speak : "I am singing."  We'll look at that later.

AND.....make sure you pronounce "um" in OOOM and not UHM.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The informal way we call on people at their homes is to cry out "HOI'!"

I stress the word informal.  Calling out "Hoi'!" can be considered rude, depending on whom you are calling.

The more polite way to call on a home is to say "Åbe Maria purisima."  (Hail, Mary most pure.)  If there are people home, they will respond, "Sin pekådo konsebida." (Conceived without sin.)

But it is perfectly acceptable to say "Hoi'!" if you are calling on someone you know well who is at least not higher than you in status.


There is a saying, when someone was physically there but never bothered to make verbal contact with you.

Jose : Kao måtto si Kiko? (Did Kiko come?)
Juan : Måtto, lao ni hoi ni goi. (He came, but didn't say a word.)

(Chamorro villagers, ca 1830)
(Source : Philippines National Archives)

Stored at the Philippines National Archives in Manila are many records of the Marianas in Spanish times.  This is a list of the village leaders in the Marianas in the year 1839.  I make a few observations at the end of this list. 

To avoid useless repetition, the three names for the officials of each village are always in this order : the Gobernadorcillo of the village (he was like the village mayor); the Teniente (or substitute/assistant) and the Alguacil (a kind of peace officer).

The names of villages and people are spelled as they appear in the original document.

Lucas de Castro
Domingo Camacho
Juan de San Nicolas

Domingo Quinata
Jose Aguon
Juan Cheguiña

Jose Jocog
Jose Pinaula
Manuel de San Nicolas

Ignacio Quicanay (2)
Manuel Angoco
Eubagrio Jocog

Claudio Materne
Balentin Gumataotao
Jose Quitugua

Clemente Megofña
Felipe Taitano
Alexandro Taytano (3)

Jose Sagualage (5)
Mariano Taigito (6)
Luis Chargualaf

Mariano Naputi
Juan de San Nicolas
Jose Achaygua (7)

Juan Ninaysen (8)
Manuel Quiguma (9)
Ildefonso Asuda (10)

Isidro Atoygui (11)
Vidal Mafnas
Francisco Quichuchu (12)

Justo Taimanglo
Jose Nalujo y Quitonguico (13)
Jose Cheguiña

Francisco Espinosa
Jose Quidagua (14)
Macedonio Fegurgur


1. Notice how different the last names are between the Agaña officials and everbody else.  Generally, the Chamorros of Agaña were more mixed than the Chamorros of the outlying villages, since the majority of the Spanish (Latin American) and Filipino (Pampanga) soldiers lived in Agaña.  Notice how the overwhelming majority of village leaders in all the other villages have Chamorro surnames, while the Agaña officials have Spanish last names.  "San Nicolas," however, is not a Spanish last name but a religious last name which missionaries gave some infants.  This is why there are many San Nicolases spread out over Guam who have no blood ties since priests gave this name to babies unrelated to each other.

2. Probably from "kannai," or "hand."

3. Even in the same document and the same village, the clerk spelled the same last name in two ways; Taitano-Taytano.  But they both come out sounding the same.  People weren't that hung up on these things in those days.

4. Tepungan was just north of Piti.  The houses later inched closer to Piti and the official name of the village was changed to reflect that move.

5. "Sagua'" means "channel" as in the sea.  "Lage" is "lahe," "son/male."  The name died out on Guam.

6. Or Taijito.

7. Or Achaigua.

8. Or Ninaisen.

9. From "guma'," "house."

10. Probably "Asodda'," meaning "someone you encounter."

11. Or Atoigue.

12. Or Quichocho.

13. Both names, Nalujo and Quitonguico, have died out. 

14.  Not Quitugua, as many think, but Quidagua.  "Daggua" means "sunburned." The name survived in Merizo until the 1900s but is no more.

15. There are no officials for Saipan or Tinian.  On Saipan, no permanent Chamorros or their families lived there yet.  It had been abandoned in the 1700s and Carolinians moved there in the beginning of the 1800s.  On Tinian, small numbers of Chamorros, and later with the Carolinians, ran the farms there that sent produce and meat to Guam (and later Saipan).  In 1839, only Guam and Rota had permanent Chamorro communities where village leaders were needed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Pacific Daily News today talks about the effectiveness of the Education Suruhanu's position.

Suruhåno, as you may know, refers to a male (suruhåna for female) herbal practitioner or specialist.  He knows what herbs will help alleviate your pain or condition.  Some suruhåno specialize in therapeutic massage techniques, too.

But some suruhåno (I stress some) also claimed intermediary powers with the spirit world.  He was the one who interceded for you when you got in trouble with the spirits.  So it was in that sense that the Legislature, back in the late 70s, created the Office of the Suruhanu, or Ombudsman, to enable individual citizens to go to a government official named Suruhanu who would act as an intermediary, an intercessor, a political patron saint, if you will, on behalf of the individual.

We were smart-alecky high school juniors/seniors when we heard that there was a new government office called the Suruhanu.  We joked about going down to his office with complaints of headaches, nausea and the like.  Or, if you had a problem with a government agency, that the Suruhanu would go to the Department headquarters and sprinkle salt or burn old clothing around the building.  Real smart-alecks.

The concept of suruhåno as a government intermediary is a modern addition to the traditional meaning of the word.  But languages evolve.  We'll see whether the idea sticks, since the office itself may or may not.  As funny as the additional definition may be to some, what is certain is that our children's education is no laughing matter.

The word, by the way, is taken from the Spanish "cirujano," which means "surgeon."