Tuesday, January 31, 2012


YUTE'.  To throw away, drop down, dump, discard

Yute' hao påpa'!  Throw yourself down!

Ha yute' gue' gi tase.  She threw herself into the sea.

Yute' gi basula.  Throw it in the garbage.

Ha yute' i relihion-ña.  He gave up his religion.

Kao siña hu yute' este?  Can I throw this away?

Bai hu yute' i asaguå-ho.  I am going to divorce my spouse.

A'yute'.  To mutually throw away, drop down, discard.

Uma'yute' i dos.  The two of them separated, or divorced.

Manyute'.  To throw something away.

Båba manyute' salåppe'.  It's bad to throw money away.

Yinite'.  Abandonment, divorce, what is discarded.

Anyute'.  What is left over from being thrown away or discarded.

Fanyutian.  A place where things are thrown away.  A dump.  Fan + yute' + an.

For decades the people of Ordot were tired of being the site of the island's waste disposal landfill

Monday, January 30, 2012


No åfok, no buzz!

For many years already in the recent past, people chew pugua' without pupulu and without åfok.  But our mañaina could never have done so.  They chewed all three, and added when available amåska or chewing tabacco.  When pugua' was used as a gift, åfok was always included.

Åfok really provides the buzz in chewing mamåon - the whole package.  It brings out the bloody red juices in mamåon.

It's made from coral rocks!  But the rocks are baked for a long time over an intense, slow fire on a hotnon åfok (åfok oven or lime kiln).  Coconut logs are criss-crossed and stuffed with leaves.  The rocks are thrown on top and over time the fire makes the whole pile crumble.  The baked stone is extracted.

Lime wasn't just used for the pleasure of adding it to mamåon.  It was used in mortar to seal stones used in building or to caulk timbers, and åfok was also used in pottery and as a lye to soften corn and to make konsetba (candied papaya).

As a kid I heard that åfok contains quinine, which is used in the treatment of malaria.

Åfok really does make your pugua' chewing experience much more pleasant.  Especially after a meal, there's nothing quite like mamåon, complete with åfok, to rid the palate of the aftertaste of your lunch or dinner.


If you're able to find åfok and want to start adding it to your mamåon, be careful.

1. Åfok, for the novice, is pretty strong.  Use it sparingly as a beginner.  If your head starts to spin and you feel nauseous, the man åmko' taught me to drink some sugared water.  That should take care of it.

2. Since it's made of rock, åfok will slice up the inside of your mouth pretty good until it becomes accustomed to the lime.  The man åmko' say linassas; the inside of your mouth is skinned.  Again, use just a little when starting out.


Åfok is used all over the Pacific and Southeast Asia, in the same way we use it with mamåon.  And the word itself is Austronesian; it has nothing to do with Spanish.  The Tagalog word for åfok is apog.


When you leave the Marianas, the above items are essential to maintaining your sanity.  Pugua', pupulu, åfok, amåska, tiheras pugua' and låta.  Believe it or not, all the above are owned by a Chamorro person living in the U.S.

Tiheras Pugua'
Betelnut Scissors

In the old days, you got these from a local blacksmith, or from Dejima's on Guam and Esco's on Saipan.  Notice the åfok-stained tip.  That's because you can use the point of the tiheras to scoop out åfok from its container.

It used to be Sour Cream

Never throw anything away.  This plastic container makes a great depository of your to'la or spittle.  Just line it with a sandwich bag, as above, and discard the bag.

Pupulu thriving in a secret location far from the Marianas.

One day they're going to grow up to be nice pugua' trees and make some stateside Chamorros very, very happy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012



The word "pride" is sometimes very confusing in English.  Sometimes pride is a bad thing, sometimes it's a good thing.

We say that a certain man suffers from pride.  We tell people to swallow their pride.  Pride is one of the seven capital or deadly sins.  Satan fell from pride.

And yet....when someone behaves badly in public, we ask them, "Have you no pride?"  In that sense, pride is something good, something everyone should have.

In Chamorro, there is a big difference between two Spanish words we adopted.


Banidoso means "pride."  It comes from the root word vanidad (in Spanish) or banidá (in Chamorro).  Banidoso and banidá are related to the English word "vanity." As with English "pride," banidoso can be a bad thing or a good thing.

If a woman walks into a room full of airs, she is called banidosa (-a for the female) and that is a bad thing.

If we say we're proud of being Chamorro, we say "Banidoso yo' pot i raså-ho!"  "I am proud of my race."  That's a good thing.


Otguyoso is a different kind of pride and it's never a good thing.  It means "conceit."  Or "arrogance."  It is pride above healthy limits.  It comes from the Spanish orgulloso, and the root for that is orgullo.  But, in Spanish, orgullo can be a good thing, as in the case where a child is the pride of the family.  Es el orgullo de la familia.

You see how we borrow from Spanish (or anywhere else) and give it our own pronunciation, spelling and sometimes meaning.  You can never automatically tell what a Chamorro means if you just know the Spanish meaning of the word used.  You need to check it out first.  Otherwise you might be guilty of being otguyoso, or otguyosa!


Unlike the sun, which always stays the same, the moon waxes and wanes.  This is a great way for ancient peoples to mark time, according to the phases of the moon.  Is it any wonder, then, that the word "month" comes from the word "moon?"  Even in Chamorro, pulan means both "moon" and "month."

Our ancestors had a calendar made up of thirteen moons, or months.

Last January 24, we began a new annual cycle with the first glimmer of a new moon.  This first month is called Tumaiguine.  The root for this word is taiguine, which means "this way."  We're not exactly sure why our ancestors gave it this name, but maybe it had something to do with showing others how to plant or fish "this way" at this time of year.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


In the Chamorro mind, foods fall into two main categories : åggon and totche.

Åggon : a plant source of carbs to go along with....

Totche : an animal protein source


Hineksa, of course


Gollai Åppan Aga' (Saibok in Saipan)

Titiyas (Arina on the left, mai'es on the right)
Flour and Corn Tortillas


Kåtnen Guaka




(Thanks, China)

OK time to go eat.  Ñålang yo' lai!

Friday, January 27, 2012



Chamorro politics, whether on Guam or the Northern Marianas, was not for the weak-hearted.  It was often rough and heated.  Families would not speak to each other for years because of politics.

In Saipan, two political parties formed after World War II representing two different views about Marianas Reunification.  The Popular Party was all for reuniting with Guam; the Progressive Party was against it.  The majority of the Chamorros on Saipan supported reunification.

Among the many papers I have come across was this undated and anonymous letter, aimed at some unknown Progressive Party politician, written by an unknown supporter of reunification.  It is written in that heated and passionate style seen in Chamorro politicians at the time.

Guåho uno yo' gi takpapa na siudadånon Saipan ya tåya', mañe'lu-ho yan mañaina-ho, na hu hungok pat hu tataitai taiguine na inapplacha' propagånda i ma praktitika ni i Progressive Party, i pattido ni kumokontra i dinanña' i Islas Marianas siha. (I am one of the humble citizens of Saipan, and, brothers and elders, I have never heard or read this kind of filthy propaganda done by the Progressive Party, the party which opposes the union of the Mariana Islands.)

I nina' huyong i Progressive Party na propagånda ma insutta klåroro i Atkåtde-ta.  I Mayot mismo ti nina' kalentura nu este na åttilong påpet siha lao ha po'lo i hinengge-ña yan che'cho'-ña siha para i Tatå-ta gi langet u hinisga.  I Mayot ha tungo' na ti ha bebende i manunas na taotao Saipan, lao gof seguro yo' na hågo ni uminsusutta gue' ha bebende låla'la', sa' hågo mampos hao dañao yan mampos bineno para hame ni man na' mase' na taotao Saipan.  Rekohe todo ennao siha i produkto-mo ya un saosao gåsgagas yan lamlam åntes de un bende guato giya hame ni pupbliko. (The propaganda produced by the Progressive Party clearly insults our Mayor.  The Mayor himself is not fired up by this black literature but puts his faith and efforts in our Father in heaven to judge.  The Mayor knows that he isn't selling the righteous people of Saipan, but I am very sure that you who insult him are selling them alive, because you are very harmful and very poisonous for us the poor people of Saipan.  Gather all your wares and wipe them clean and shiny before you sell them to us, the public.)

Ha na' gof pinite yo' sa' achataotao-ho ha' hu kokontra, lao i dinanche todo i tiempo bai hu dalalake ya båsta yo' ma fa'gaga'.  Ti hu laknos este para bai hu propagånda pat para bai hu tulaika i minalago'-miyo, lao este ha' bai hu sangåne hamyo', "Adahe i ga'lågo siha giya Saipan ni kumeketucho' i pupbliko gi derecho yan pribilehion-ñiha."  (It really pains me because I am opposing my fellow man, but I will always follow the right thing and I am done being fooled.  I do not bring this out for propaganda or in order to change your will, but only this will I tell you, "Beware of the dogs in Saipan who try to devour the rights and privileges of the public.)

Yanggen malingo este na oppottunidåt i ma baba på'go pot i dinanña' i Islas Marianas, bai asegura hamyo na ni ngaian na u fåtto ta'lo mågi giya hita.  I direkto guato America imposipble. (If this opportunity is lost which is opening up now for the union of the Mariana Islands, I assure you that it will never come back to us again.  It is impossible to go directly to America.)

This anonymous writer was no prophet.  The exact opposite happened.  The Northern Marianas did negotiate directly with the U.S. and formed a Commonwealth separate from Guam, after Guam itself rejected unification in 1969.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


In today's society, everyone is afraid they'll get slapped with a lawsuit or even get arrested for disciplining a minor in any way.

That wasn't the case in traditional Chamorro culture.   As a matter of fact....

1. Any adult was expected to discipline a child, if they saw the child doing something wrong.  The adult didn't even have to know the child, much less be a relative, teacher or some other public authority.

2. When a stranger disciplined a child, the parents of the child thanked him or her for it.

3. If an adult saw a child misbehaving and didn't do anything about it, the parent scolded the adult for it!  "You saw my child doing something wrong, something that brought shame to our family, and you let it happen!"

4. If you were the child, and went home to complain to your parents that so-and-so disciplined you, you got disciplined again for having gotten into trouble in the first place!  So the thing to do, when a teacher, priest or even stranger disciplined you, was to keep quiet about it when you got home!

In olden times, everyone was a policeman!

Back then : What did my child do wrong this time?

Today : What did the teacher do wrong this time?

Ai adei!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012




I guess it's easier to get our pork chops from Payless, but the babuen hålom tåno' population on Guam has become a problem.

These wild pigs are damaging roads and property, crops and even the eggs laid by turtles on our beaches.

So a pig hunt is being organized for this coming April.  Maybe we'll see a lot more fritåda after Easter.


According to all the sources, no swine were found in the Marianas when the Europeans first came.  They were brought in later by the Spaniards when they settled our islands.  But...it's interesting that we didn't adopt the Spanish name for an animal brought in by Spaniards.  Cerdo or puerco would be "pig" or "swine" in Spanish.  Instead, our word is babue, which is similar to Tagalog baboy and Indonesian babi.  Many Pampangan soldiers settled on Guam in the early 1700s and married Chamorro women, and their word for "pig" is babi.


Eustace was out hunting deer and saw one, with a cross hovering between its antlers.  Eustace was converted to Christianity.  In Spanish, Saint Eustace is San Eustaquio.  The Eustaquios from Yoña might want to know that.  He is just one of the patron saints for hunting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


January 24, 1972

I was old enough to remember the day.  "They found a Japanese soldier in the jungle!"  we all told each other in the 4th grade at Saint Francis School, Yoña, even more excited that the straggler was found not far from us.

Not every Japanese soldier surrendered to the Americans when Guam was re-captured in 1944.  Some hid in the jungles even into the 1960s.  Some were eventually found; others died. 

One who managed to go undetected for almost 28 years was Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi.  It is a tribute to his survival skills; two of his companions, who lived on their own, died of apparent starvation. Yokoi was by trade a tailor, which came in handy as he fashioned clothing out of natural fibers he found in the jungle.  In the jungle of Talofofo, he survived on coconuts, papaya, breadfruit, rats, frogs, snails, shrimp and eel from the river.

Yokoi's Handmade Coat

On the evening of January 24, two Chamorro men, Jesus Dueñas and Manuel De Gracia, were in the jungles of Talofofo checking their shrimp traps by a river.  They stumbled upon a surprised Yokoi who tried to evade them, but they overpowered him and brought him out of the jungle.  He had been well-taught to despise surrender and to prefer death.

His attitude towards capture softened as he was treated with kindness.  He was checked by doctors, met the Governor and Japanese Consul and given all the necessities he had lacked for almost three decades.

Yokoi meets Governor Carlos Camacho
soon after his capture

Upon his arrival in Japan, he apologized to his Emperor and country for not returning to Japan as a victor.  "It is with much embarrassment," he said, "but I have returned," a phrase which became a popular saying in Japan at the time because of Yokoi's remark.

Later, I was told by Father Timothy Kavanagh, the Capuchin pastor of Talofofo at the time of Yokoi's discovery, that one of the first people contacted after the event was a Talofofo resident named Manuel Borja Kosaka.  Kosaka was half-Chamorro, half-Japanese and was perhaps the first person to speak to the captured Yokoi in his native language. 

A visitor at what is called Yokoi's Cave.
Tours are given there now.

Monday, January 23, 2012

20,000+ HITS

visitors in less than a year

In a few months, we'll be celebrating our first anniversary blogging.  And we have alreadry crossed the 20,000 hits mark.

Top Ten

United States








Northern Marianas



A false friend is a word that looks the same in two languages, but means two different things.

Buen probecho is Chamorro for "you're welcome."

But it is borrowed from the Spanish phrase buen provecho, which means "good appetite!"

I would have loved to be there the moment one of our ancestors decided that "good appetite" would become "you're welcome" in Chamorro!

As none of this is documented, we'll never know how this got to be.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


GREGORIO SABLAN, better known as Kilili', was born on Guam in the late 1800s but went as a child with his mother to Saipan at the end of the Spanish regime.  He was a strong Catholic and lead the church community for several years when there were no priests on Saipan.

He visited Guam in 1921 and shared some things with the Spanish priests on Guam :

  • the Japanese respected the missionaries on Saipan when they first arrived in 1914; but by 1921, there was less respect for them
  • the Japanese were nervous, perhaps intimidated, by the intense loyalty the Chamorros had to their religion.  Chamorros bowed and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, whereas the Japanese felt only their emperor was deserving of these outward marks of reverence.  Chamorros obeyed their priests; the Japanese saw this as competing with their authority.
  • Chamorros who can write have to use Japanese script even when writing in Chamorro
  • so Gregorio Sablan spelled his name (in katakana) Gu - re - go - ryo Sa - bu - ran.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Some man åmko' believe that a father must avoid immediate contact with his infant child when he returns home after work.  After spending all day at the office, work site or farm, he has the heat, the stress and the energy of that place and he is bringing it home with him.

He must stay in the kitchen, living room or even outside in the garage or patio, and allow that energy to dissipate before seeing the child, who would get sick if that energy were taken inside.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Nåna lao na gåtbon nene / i gumuhu gi bentåna;
ya bunecho ya u gåtbo / sa' inadora as nanå-ña.

My what a cute baby / the one looking out the window;
and it's all very well that she's a cute baby / because her mother adores her.

All cultures, I believe, adore their children, albeit in different ways.  In our culture, we always have to hold, hug, pinch, pet and play with our babies, trying to make them laugh.

Nåna lao = literally, the two words separately mean "mother" and "but," but this phrase is used to express surprise, disapproval or even dismay, or some reaction.

Gåtbo = from the Spanish garbo, meaning "beautiful."  Greta Garbo was, indeed, beautiful.

Guhu = to look out a window.

Bunecho = from the Spanish "buen hecho," though the more correct Spanish form is "bien hecho," "well done."  But Chamorros use the phrase sarcastically, as when a child is warned to stop running around and then falls and scratches a knee.  The parent will say, "Bunecho!"  "Very good!  I told you so!" 

Thursday, January 19, 2012



In Colombia, there is the Cócora Valley.

A branch of the Cepeda family is better-known-as the familian Kókora.

The word is Spanish, cócora, and it means "an irritating, annoying or fussy person."

Chamorros love to tease, and pick on a particular trait, physical or personal, of another person.  It's possible an ancestor in this family had this trait, or was just humorously picked on and tagged with this label.  It certainly does not describe the whole clan, any more than everyone smells of onions in the Seboyas family or everyone is blind in the Båtchet family.

We have to allow also for other possible origins of this nickname. 

Cócora is also a slang word in some parts of Mexico. Also in Portugal and Brazil.

There is also a valley in Colombia named Cócora.

Is it possible that Cócora is Chamorro, and not borrowed from Spanish or Portuguese? It's possible, but unlikely in my opinion since Chamorro seems to lack the R sound (at least our language usually changes the R to an L). Our language usually stresses the penultimate (next-to-the-last) syllable, not the first as in Cócora. And, since there are numerous examples of Cócora appearing in other languages, there's a better chance, I think, that the word is from these other languages.


PO'LO : to place, to put, to leave in its place, to set, to arrange, to establish

Po'lo ya guåho.  Leave it to me.

Po'lo guennao. Put it there.

Måno un po'lo?  Where did you put it?

Kao hågo pumo'lo?  Are you the one who put it?

Po'lo!  Leave it be!  Never mind!

Po'lo ya u hånao.  Let him go.

Po'lo gi lista.  Put it on the list.

Siña ma po'lo na ti malago' yo'.  It's possible they will think (literally place) that I don't want to.

Mamo'lo.  Man + po'lo = mamo'lo.

Mamo'lo yo' salåppe' gi lamasa.  I put money on the table.

Hu po'lo i salåppe' gi lamasa.  I put the money on the table.

Pine'lo.  The thing placed, put, set.

Pine'lo-ko na hågo.  I thought (literally placed) that it was you.

Po'lonñaihon.  To put aside for a while.

Båsta ya ta po'lonñaihon ennao.  Enough and let's put that aside for now.

Po'luye.  To put aside for.

Bai hu po'luye hao na'-mo?  Shall I put food aside for you?

In the Tåtan-mame (Our Father)

Ya cha'-mo ham pumopo'lo na in fan basnak gi tentasion.

Literally :
And do not dare to place us that we fall into temptation.

Or :
And do not lead us into temptation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Listen to the lyrics and you'll see it's actually a tribute to them!

Boka, video, maigo' / tiningo'-ñiha i fireman
(Eating, video, sleeping / is what the firemen know)
uno gi halom kommon / i otro mulannannan
(one is in the bathroom / the other is snoring)
otro gi lamasa / i otro gi telefon
(another is at the table / the other on the phone)
ya gaige nai i ma'gas-måme na humugågåndo ping pong.
(and our boss is playing ping pong.)

Gi masea måno guato / na ahensian gobietno
(In whatsoever / government agency)
ti siña na un na' fangontento este siha i pupbliko
(you cannot please the public)
ai man machocho ham tolanoche yan retiråda gi sigiente dia
(we work the whole night and don't get off till the next day)
ya boka, video, maigo' i fireman masangån-ña.
(and eating, video and sleeping is what people say about the fireman.)

Mañaina-ho yan mañe'lu-ho / ekkungok yan komprende
(My elders and my brethren / listen and understand)
na masea håfa na desgråsia siempre este siha u fan gaige
(that in whatever calamity these men will be there)
kimason pat aksidente / måtmos pat minalångo
(in fire or accident / drowning or sickness)
para asegura hamyo todos na man gaige mangilisyåno.
(for your safety these people are there.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012



It's MLK Day and today's holiday got me thinking about people of African descent in the Marianas.

We can't exclude the possibility that people of African descent made it to the Marianas before the Europeans came, but we don't know about it as things weren't written down back then.


When the Spaniards made contact with the Marianas, it wasn't unusual to have people of African descent among them on board, some slave, some free.  A Franciscan friar who hung around the Marianas long before colonization began, Juan Pobre de Zamora, wrote about blacks who were living in the Marianas, having once been members of the crew of a Spanish vessel. Zamora's observation comes from his stay in the Marianas in 1602. Yes, that long ago.


A Mexican of African descent

In the 1727 Census of Guam, there are three men described as "negros de la costa," "negroes of the coast."  What coast?

Along the shore of the Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca is a strip of land, facing the Pacific Ocean, called "La Costa Chica," "the Little Coast." Here, many black Africans were settled during Spanish colonial times. Their descendants remain to this very day and it is common for them to say "Somos negros de la costa." "We are blacks from the coast."

The great port city of Acapulco also lies in the state of Guerrero, not far from "la Costa Chica." It's not hard to imagine black Mexicans from Guerrero and Oaxaca joining the Acapulco galleons, sailing to the Marianas and settling there.

The shaded area is the Costa Chica, home to many Black Mexicans, close to Acapulco


In the same Guam census of 1727 there is a man described as a "negro of Sanbal."  "Sanbal" is more than likely a clerical error in the transcription and should be Sambal, modern-day Zambales province in the Philippines, where there are aetas, an ancient and dark-skinned people of that country.  Short, black-skinned people were called negritos by the Spanish, and the word means "small black people."

Negritos share a lot of genetic traits with the Austonesian people among they have lived for thousands of years, but it is possible that they descend from a very ancient migration from Africa eastward towards Southeast Asia.

An aeta family from Zambales, Philippines


Some seventy years later, in censuses towards the end of the 1700s, some residents of Guam are listed as "moreno."  "Moreno" can mean several things in Spanish but, in colonial Latin America, it also meant a "free black man," meaning "not a slave."

In 1797, for example, there were 10 morenos in Hagåtña; 5 in Humåtak and 13 in Pågo.

Even if only half of these black men had children with Chamorro women, that would be 14 men! That's a lot of black blood entering the Chamorro blood stream!

A Spanish colonial census showing the use of the word "moreno"
Spanish censuses separated people according to race


White Street
in Mangilao

Finally, there is consistent oral tradition that a certain family, many of whom live today in Mangilao, are descendants of a black man who came to Guam in the 1800s aboard one of the whaling ships. His name was Henry (Enrique, in Spanish) White and he was from the United States. When he settled permanently in Guam around 1860, he married the Chamorro María Dueñas Palomo and had a good number of children with her, whose descendants live today, many in the Mangilao area. Henry White died on Guam in 1896.

Jose White and wife Ana
Grandson of African American Henry White

So, yes, there were people of black African heritage living in the Marianas for at least the last 300 years and some Chamorros today are their descendants.  Many more Chamorros have African blood in them now since Chamorros have spread all over the globe.

In quite a number of Chamorros doing their DNA analysis, genetic connections with Africa are showing up and surprising them. Hopefully, after reading this blog post, they won't be so surprised when they understand more the history of our connections with Latin America and their connection with Africa.


Knowing now that black people have been visiting the Marianas for hundreds of years, with some of them staying in the Marianas and marrying Chamorro women, it shouldn't surprise us then that Chamorros have a nickname for black people - bakuku.

But where did the word bakuku come from?  If you think it came from a Spanish source, we find the word in the Caribbean and in Brazil (Portuguese) where it can mean a black mollusk or clam; or a word of African origin meaning "banana."  A Caribbean boogey man named baku (short and black) probably got its name from Africa and is probably linked with "banana" or bakuku, since the baku was supposed to live on bananas.

At the end of the day, we'll probably never know where Chamorros got the word bakuku to describe black-skinned people, but my guess is that they picked it up from slang they learned from the foreigners who visited our shores in Spanish times.


Now mulato was a word the Spaniards used to describe a person of mixed black and white ancestry.  Usually, black features would be apparent in a mulato.  In Chamorro, mulåto means frizzy or very curled hair.  It's almost certain Chamorros used this word because of its connection with people of African descent.