Wednesday, August 31, 2011

METGOT : strong

Metgot kannai-mo.  Your arm (or hand) is strong.

I metgogot-ho i agapa'.  My strength is on the right (hand).

Metgot manguåddok.  Tirelessly, vigorously, determinedly digging.

Minetgot.  Strength.

Asaina, nå'e yo' ni minetgot-ho!  Lord, give me strength!

Na' metgot.  Make strong.

Na' metgot hao macho'cho'.  Work hard.

My UOG English professor in 1981, Dr. Dianne Strong, later tutored DOC clients in English.
They christened her Doctor Metgot.
She continues to advocate strongly for client rights at DOC.
Metgot macho'cho'cho' si Doktora Metgot para i adelånton DOC.


Annai ta li'e este (when we see this)...
ta hahasso este (we think of this)...
When our mañaina wanted to describe someone with green or hazel eyes, they didn't use the word "betde" for "green."  They simply said "måtan kato," "cat eyes."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kuånto biåhe ha sangåne yo' si bihå-ho pat i tiå-ho siha : Imbilikero!

Naturåt, no, i famagu'on para u fan imbilikero?

I patgon : "Nåna, håfa ennao un tataitai?"
Si nåna : "Imbilikeru-mo!"

Imbilikero is an example of a Spanish word used in Chamorro that is hardly ever used by the Spaniards themselves. 

The root word in Spanish is embeleco, which can mean "fraud, delusion, imposition, humbug."  It can be used as a slang word for someone irritating.

Different Spanish-speaking countries use embelequero to mean different things.  In Chile and Puerto Rico, it means "frivolous, silly."

In other places, it can mean "overly emotional, fussy."

Somehow, our mañaina gave the word their own meaning : nosey, intrusively curious.

My great-grandmother (born 1874) could not speak English, except for a few words (yes, no, etc.) which included a response she gave her grand kids (who told me this story) when they were acting imbilikero.  She would snap back "Marrón bisnes!"  Which meant, "Mind your own business!"



To this day, there is a branch of the Torres family called the "Agilat" family.  "Agilat" is the Chamorro pronunciation of the Spanish surname Aguilar, which used to exist on Guam.

As far back as 1727, there was a Spanish soldier on Guam by the name of Bernardo Aguilar.  By the 1758 Census, this Bernardo, now thirty years older, was married to Ignacia Usuni.  Usuni is a Chamorro word, which means "to persevere," and it is safe to say Ignacia was Chamorro.  Their mestiso children (in 1758) were Juan Bonifacio, Jose, Francisca and Teresa : two boys and two girls.

By 1897, there was only one person on Guam with the last name Aguilar.  She was Ana Pangelinan Aguilar, aged 53 or thereabouts, married to Antonio Crisostomo de Leon Guerrero.  They lived in Hagåtña.

But prior to this, another lady named Aguilar had married a Torres.  The "Agilat" Torres family keeps alive the memory of this now-forgotten Chamorro Aguilar family by maintaining their clan nickname.


"Man" in Chamorro serves more than one function. 

One of them is to put some verbs into action, just as "um" puts some verbs into action.

Gimen = to drink
Gumimen yo' = I drank
Gumigimen yo' = I am drinking; I drink

But some verbs require "man."

Guife = to dream
Manguife yo' = I dreamt
Manguiguife yo' = I am dreaming

Låkse = to sew
Manlåkse yo' = I sewed
Manlålåkse yo' = I am sewing; I sew

Oppe = to answer
Manoppe yo' = I answered
Mano'oppe yo' = I am answering; I answer

Many of the verb forms using "man" refer to actions without a definite or specific object.  For example, if I wanted to say "I see the man" I would say "Hu li'e i taotao."  I am pointing out one, specific man. 

Or perhaps five specific men.  "Hu li'e i singko na taotao."  "I see the five men."

But if I wanted to say "I see a person."  No one specifically or definitely identified; just a person; I would say "Manli'e yo' taotao."

So...some other examples.

Manhåtsa yo' guma'.  I built a house.  (As opposed to : Hu håtsa i gima'.  I built the house.)

Manyute' yo' basula.  I threw away trash.  (As opposed to : Hu yute' i basula.  I threw away the trash.)

Monday, August 29, 2011


This car owner reveals to us his or her family nickname.

The Kadi family is a branch of the Manibusan clan.

In 1876, the Gobernadorcillo (mayor) of Malesso' (Merizo), Luis Sablan, resigned due to poor health.  A successor was needed and three names were proposed for the Governor's selection.

Arcadio de los Santos, a Filipino but Guam resident, married to a Chamorro, received the most votes from Malesso's political elite, the principalia, made up of former and current village officials.

In second place came Pedro de Guzman, born in Hagåtña and immigrant to Malesso'.

In last place came someone with original roots in Malesso', Domingo Babauta.

The Governor of the Marianas, Manuel Brabo, chose Guzman over Santos because at the time there were many Filipino convicts deported to Guam and many of them would escape into the hills.  Village officials, like a gobernadorcillo, would be tasked at times to help in the search.  Brabo may have thought that Santos, a Filipino, would go soft on his fellow countrymen turned fugitives.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


"Cocos" comes from "coco," as in "coconut."  It has nothing at all to do with the Chamorro language.  What others call coconuts, we call niyok

So what is the original, Chamorro name for what is called Cocos Island?  Dåno'.

When I was priest in Malesso', no one ever said to me "Cocos Island" if they talked to me in Chamorro.  Even the Malesso' people who worked at Cocos Island told me that they worked on Dåno'.

In an old Chamorro hymn telling the story of Our Lady of Camarin, whose image was found in Malesso' Lagoon, it says :

Gi tase giya Malesso' / yan hihot giya Dåno'
(In the sea by Malesso' /  and close by Dåno')

hagas un bendise sesso / i yan-mame na tåno'.
(all the while you often bless / our beloved land.)

That's a nice piece of Chamorro poetry, by the way.  Malesso'/sesso; Dåno'/tåno'.

Before the true name for this little isle is no longer used, let's resolve to call it Dåno'.  When someone says, "Ha?" we can enlighten them.

This map of Guam from the 1700s shows Dåno' off the coast of the island. The I stands either for Isla in Spanish or Île in French, both meaning "island," since sometimes the map was put out by a Spaniard or a Frenchman.

The map is not completely accurate. Dåno' (Cocos Island) is not right outside Humatak, spelled Umatag in the map, with Malesso' just below (spelled Merico). But in 1700 they didn't have what we have now to make more accurate maps.


In 1797, a married woman, Rosa, from Hågat, was found to be having an adulterous liaison with Rafael Achuga of Sinajaña.  Rosa's aggrieved husband took the matter to the parish priest of Hagåtña.  The civil government took over the case. 

The result?

Rosa was sent to live with Ignacio Javier de Castro and his wife.  The couple were to supervise her.

The man, Rafael Achuga, was sentenced to work at the government farm, San Pedro de Dandan.  Gaspar Pangelinan was overseer of that farm.  So down in Dandan, not far from Malojlo, the Spanish Crown once owned farm land.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Åntes di gera, giya Hagåtña, eståba un taotao ni ma gof tungo' komo inosente na taotao.  Esta gai edåt este na taotao, lao kulan mohon iyon påtgon ha' i hinasosso-ña.

Un dia, ma aresta este na taotao ni polisia sa' tuminane' gue' gi kanton chålan ha' gi f'i'on un luga.

Finaisen gue' ni Señot Hues, "Señot, håfa na me'me' hao kontra i lai?"

Manoppe i inosente, "Åhe', Señot Hues.  Ti me'me' yo' kontra i lai.  Me'me' yo' kontra i liga."

Even in 1873, we were taking each other to court to recover financial losses.  Here were that year's lawsuits :

Vicente Calvo versus Heirs of Petrona Tuason

Luis de Torres versus Jose Perez

Joaquin Portusach versus Froilan Blanco

Andres Castro versus Ricardo Millinchamp

Father Aniceto Ibáñez versus Heirs of Rita Acosta

PA Schaefer and Company (Honolulu) versus Joaquin Portusach
The case between Andres Castro and Ricardo Millinchamp was over the rescued cargo of a sunken boat.

Friday, August 26, 2011


My grandmother's sister taught me to say this prayer, in Spanish, every time the earth shook (linao).  She learned it from her mother, born in Hagåtña in 1874.

Aplaca, Señor, tu ira, 
por tu justicia y tu rigor;
dulce nombre de María; 
¡misericordia, Señor!
Jesús, José y María, 
Joaquín y Ana,
no me desamparen, 
ni de noche, ni de día.

(Placate, Lord, your anger, because of your justice and rigor;
sweet name of Mary; mercy, Lord!
Jesus, Joseph and Mary, Joachim and Anne,
do not abandon me, neither by night nor by day.)
My mañaina (elders) only said that prayer when the earth started to rumble, but in other families it was said before a typhoon or some other natural calamity or threat.

Esta oración me enseñó la hermana de mi abuelita para rezar cuando haya terremoto.


Torrey Smith runs when the earth starts to shake

LINAO : earthquake

With the (for us on Guam) average-strength earthquake recently hitting the Eastern coast of the U.S., linao might be a relevant word to learn today.

I feel sorry for all the people we're going to ridicule now for reacting on video so frantically to the earthquake, as in the case of athlete Torrey Smith.  People like him are going to be all over the internet now, while millions laugh and chuckle.  As someone pointed out, Smith was probably in the safest place to be in an earthquake : an open field where trees, power lines and buildings cannot topple on him.  Where was he running off to?  Into a building?

We get linao all the time on Guam, but most of the time so lightly that they go unnoticed.  But we sit in a very active and potentially dangerous seismic zone, so we better pray hard and learn the right things to do annai ma yengyong i tano'

For safety tips :

I was talking with a lady about the recent downpours and how one road was so flooded that I had to drive on the opposite side.  I was telling her that the water formed a lake on one side of the road and she said, "Mamaigo' i hanom."  The water was sleeping.  This idiomatic expression is used for any stagnant or unmoving fluids.  It is used also, for example, for thickened or coagulated blood.  I haga' ni mamaigo'.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


You can see the rain moving from east to west, from Tamuning/Barrigada towards Hagåtña.

CHATTA-AN : a rainy, stormy day

It's a gloomy, dark and rainy day on Guam today.  What better word to learn than the word describing the day.

I know the linguistic powers spell it chata'an or something nearly identical to that.  But I'd like to invite them to consider the suggestion that there are two t's there.  We don't say cha - ta - an.  We say chat - ta - an.  Notice how we pause at the t to give it that good strong emphasis.  And, try as I might, I don't feel the back of my throat close in between the two a's.  They are two, distinct a's to be sure; but the back of my throat feels fine.  It's the dilemma of Chamorro orthography yet to be resolved.  It appears in other words, like li'e.  We put a glottal stop there because we need to separate the i and the e when we say the word.  But do we really say li' + e?  Or do we simply say li + e?  Or the word to'a.  Is the glottal stop really there in the pronouncing of the word?  We might want to consider the usefulness of a dash (-).  Well, enough quibbling.

Chatta-an or chata'an comes from two root words : chat and ha'åne.

Ha'åne means "day." It can also mean "life."  In chatta-an, the first meaning is referenced.

Chat is a prefix meaning "imperfect, badly, inadequately."  For example, guiya means "him" or "her" or "it."  Chatguiya means "he's not himself," as in, "he's not feeling well."

Chatta-an thus literally means "an imperfect day" but is used to describe a day of inclement weather.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Mientras mås prima, mås arima.
The more a cousin, the closer one gets.

The saying actually uses Spanish words, but our mañaina understood them perfectly well.  The proverb cautions against the assumption that, just because the boy and girl are relatives, the two of them will never develop feelings for each other.  Close blood lines do not always prevent romance.  So, the proverb teaches, keep your eyes on them!  Danger, danger!

In English, the phrase is "kissing cousins."  Generally speaking, people of many cultures frown on first cousins becoming romantically linked.  It's just too close for comfort.  Then there is the belief that the children of parents who are first cousins have a greater chance of suffering mental deficiencies.

The Bible (Leviticus) talks about avoiding relations with close relatives.  But this has generally been interpreted as forbidding marriage between siblings.  Isaac and Rebecca are a well-known biblical example of marriage between first cousins once-removed.

In Catholic Church law, first cousins cannot marry unless the permission of the local bishop is first obtained.  So there is no absolute restriction in the Church against cousin marriages, and some of our mañaina did marry their first cousins, but it was always looked on with some discomfort by most people.

In the United States, it depends on what state you live in.  In Massachusetts, you can marry your first cousin.  Drive a few miles into neighboring New Hampshire, and you cannot.  In some states, you can marry your first cousin but only if you are too old to bear children or otherwise cannot have them.  All states allow the marriage of second cousins.

Albert Einstein married his first cousin, and so did Queen Victoria of England.  Charles Darwin married his first cousin, too.

As for traditional Chamorros, it doesn't matter that such illustrious people married their first cousins.  For many of our mañaina, even marrying a 2nd or 3rd cousin is taboo.

For this reason, in the past, grandparents always asked the new girlfriend or new boyfriend, "Håye tatå-mo?  Håye nanå-mo?"  "Who is your dad?  Your mom?"  just to make sure they weren't 2nd or 3rd cousins.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Spanish, "palomo" means a male dove or pigeon.  Thus the bird in the coat-of-arms above.  There are around 16,000 people in Spain who carry this surname, mainly in the south : Sevilla and Malaga.

The Palomos don't show up in a Guam census until the 1758 census, and under one man - Bernardo Ignacio Palomo, who is listed as a Spanish soldier.  Whether he was from Spain, Latin America or the Philippines is unknown.  But people with Spanish blood, whether they were "pure" Spaniards from Spain, or either "pure" or mixed blooded from Latin America or the Philippines, would have been listed as "Spaniards."

Bernardo married Maria Teresa Tenorio.  There are three Tenorios listed in the 1727 census, all in the Spanish list.  One of them married a Chamorro by the last name Taimaktos (meaning "unending") and the other two married a Cardenas and a Benavente.  We don't know which of these is Maria Teresa's family.

I wouldn't be surprised if the famous Padre Palomo was the grandson or great-grandson of Bernardo Ignacio, because Padre Palomo's full name was Jose Bernardo.

By 1897, there were three big clans of Palomos :


Silvestre Inocencio Rodriguez Palomo (the father of Padre Palomo)
and his wife Rita Cruz Torres

Juan Rodriguez Palomo
and his wife Florentina de Leon

some of their descendants married into the Sablan family (Sablan-Palomo clan)


Luis Dueñas Palomo
and his wife Dolores Blas

they had many children, especially daughters


Luis Quintanilla Palomo
and his wife Rosa Duenas Palomo (relatives!)

Vicente Quintanilla Palomo
and his wife Ana Ramirez Roberto

two of their daughters married into the Perez (Boñao) family
another daughter, Maria, married Pedro Ada
a son, Jose, was the first Chamorro to obtain a PhD

There were other Palomos in the 1897 census, but I cannot identify yet their inter-connections.

Former senator and historian/author
Former senator, GHURA director, civil servant
and brother of Antonio

Pianist Extraordinaire
composer and recording artist

First Chamorro Catholic Priest

Monday, August 22, 2011


No - it's not just the food that makes me like my island.  It's the fact that our people support each other with great generosity.  We had a death anniversary in our religious family and, each night of the rosary, people came forward with overwhelming abundance in supplying the refreshments after the rosary :

Biringhenas - Salad - Gollai Hågon Suni - Corn Soup in pastry cups - Potato Salad - Fruits - Buñuelos - Madoya - Cookies - Poto - Latiya - Donuts - Cakes - Lumpia - Tamåles Gisu - Pancit - Kelaguen Månnok - Ham Hocks and Monggos - Corn on the Cob - Fried Chicken - Kåddun Ham Hocks - BBQ ribs - Bread - Titiyas Arina - Titiyas Mai'es - Vegetable Soup - Hineksa - Hineksa Agaga' (Balensiåna) - Åhu

We have in our blood this drive to go all out when people need to be fed. 


A common mistake is made mixing up the words sin and sen.

Sin is borrowed from the Spanish and means "without."  It is equivalent to the indigenous Chamorro word tai.

Humånao hao sin adios.  You went without a goodbye.
Mamomokkat gue' sin sapåtos.  She is walking around without shoes.

There is a traditional song that uses it in its opening lines :

I puenge sin pulan / i ha'åne sin somnak; (The night without the moon / the day without sunshine)
i batkonaire sin piloto / i dos ni mayamak. (The plane without a pilot / two people who have broken apart).

But many people pronounce it sen.  I puenge sen pulan...

But, in Chamorro, sen means "very."  Sen maolek!  Very good!

In the Guam Hymn (Fanohge Chamorro), we are told to "exalt her praises forever more" - "abiba i isla sin paråt!"  Sin paråt - without ceasing.  Not sen paråt; that would mean "really ceasing."

Sin can also mean "tin" but it is borrowed from the Spanish word for zinc, which can be either "zinc" or "cinc."  We had a hard time pronouncing the "k" sound at the end of "zinc" so our word for it is sin.  By the end of the 1800s, the Spanish were using zinc sheets for the roofing of some important buildings, including the church in Hagåtña.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


My Grandma's Kaohao

Not too long ago, many homes had a family chest - a kaohao.  My grandma's was store-bought after the war.  Before the war, most kaohao were locally made by carpenters.  Those who could afford it got theirs from Manila, where Chinese-made chests were sold.  One thing one looked for, if one could afford it, was to get kaohao made of scented wood, so that the fragrance of the wood could get on what you put inside the kaohao.

The purpose of the kaohao was to safeguard things you didn't want damaged by exposure to the elements.  Some things would be :
  • magågon nobia (bride's gown)
  • påppet tåno' (documents proving land ownership)
  • alåhas (special jewelry you wouldn't ordinarily use)
  • rekuetdo (family heirlooms)
  • expensive fabric to be made into clothing for some future occasion
My auntie Ana showed me once one of her special kaohao.  Inside were the clothes she sewed for her husband Uncle Ben during the war.  She showed them to me in the early 1980s, forty years after the war.  The clothes were fragile and falling apart.  My biggest regret - after she passed, I did not go looking for the kaohao and to this day I don't know what happened to it and its contents.

From a song :

Nene asta på'go / i prenda-mo nu guåho (Darling up to now / your gift to me)
gagaige ha' / gi fondon kaohao-ho. (still remains / at the bottom of my kaohao).

Yan i litratu-ta na dos / ni hu pega gi liga (And the photo of the two of us / which I put on the wall)
para hu atan nai nene / anai suspiros yo' (for me to look at darling / whenever I sigh)

kulan mohon magåhet nene / na gaige hao gi fi'on-ho (it's as if darling / you truly are next to me)
sa' hu totoktok maolek alunan-ho (because I really hug my pillow).

Saturday, August 20, 2011


The people of Saipan sing many of the same church songs we do on Guam.  And they have their own songs which we don't sing, since they started to have their own priests, separate from Guam, in 1899.  Some of their songs were brought over by the German Capuchins who worked there from 1907 till 1919.

And they play the ukulele a whole lot more in Saipan than on Guam.  More of an island flavor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

BÅSTA : enough

One of the first Chamorro words I learned as a kid, because the manaiña were always saying it to us!

Båsta!  Enough!

Can be said when someone is misbehaving, or pouring you a drink, or dishing you food, or whatever action you want stopped.

Kao båsta hao chumocho?  Are you done eating?

Båsta hit!  Slang, meaning "Are you kidding?"  Sometimes, just saying "båsta" conveys the same message.

Båsta can also mean "never mind."
Kao para ta fan malak i tenda?  (Are we going to the store?)
Båsta.  Atrasao esta.  (Never mind.  It's too late.)

Båsta de...  Enough + verb
Båsta de tumånges, nåna!  Stop crying, mom!
Båsta de umåguaguat!  Stop being unruly!

Båsta yo'!   I'm done!  (as in, I'm done eating)
Depending on the tone, "Båsta yo'!" can also mean "I've had it!  I'm outta here!"

Båsta ke...  It's enough that....

Jose : Kao un tungo' na måtai si Juan, asaguan Lole'?  (Did you know that Juan died, Lole's husband?)
Maria : Båsta ke meggai famagu'on-ña i palao'an.  (It's enough that she has a lot of children.)
Meaning : On top of him dying, she has all those kids to look after. 

Påle' : Ana, dispensa yo' sa' ti siña yo' matto ta'lo agupa'. (Ana, forgive me as I can't come again tomorrow).
Ana : Tåya' guåha, Påle', båsta ke måtto hao på'go na ha'åne. (That's OK, Father, it's enough that you came today).

Båsta ya!  Enough already!

Luis : Miguel, ina'agang hao ta'lo as Kiko. (Miguel, Kiko is calling you again.)
Miguel : Båsta ya! (Enough already!)
Meaning : Can't he leave me alone?!? a transition in a conversation.  For example, at the end of a joke or a story, one can transition away from that to a new topic by saying "Båsta ya!" in a cheerful way.

From the Spanish word "basta" which means "enough."