Monday, April 30, 2012


The village of Sumay is gone.

But not its cemetery.

Most of the lápida (gravestones) are now nameless slabs of stone.  But a few remain, in Spanish, Chamorro and English, to the extent that we can come up with a list of the people buried here :

This list is long, but some names are missing, such as Concepcion Perez, whose Spanish lápida I saw for myself, lying on the ground in this cemetery.

The Sumay baptismal records survived the war, so even if the cemetery did not survive, or even if it survived but most lápida are unidentifiable at this time, those baptismal records provide us much valuable family information.

For us Hagåtña people, we lost both the baptismal records and our cemetery (Pigo') to American bombardment.  Ai ke lástima!


In the south of Guam, Chamorro is still used in campaigns.

"Un hinasso, un inetnon, un taotao."

"One mind, one community, one people."

Hasso = to think. 
Hinasso = thinking, thought.

Etnon = to come together
Inetnon = association, group, community


Stuck at work and need to munch?

Other people turn to chips or apples.  Some of us reach for the fried mañåhak.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Very early in the American administration, Chamorro women were recruited to be trained as nurses. 

When the Japanese occupied Guam in late 1941, these Chamorro nurses had to work under Japanese doctors and supervisors.  Local interpreters were provided, and occasionally a Saipanese interpreter came around.  One of the duties of these nurses was to treat Chamorros arrested and beaten by the Japanese.

In the photo, the Chamorro nurses are all in the three back rows; the two front rows are made up of Japanese and one Chamorro male.

Starting from the highest row in back, from left to right, are :

Josefina A. Meno, Magdalena San Nicolas, Cristina Lizama Parks, Rosa Farfan Mendiola, Soledad Demapan Tai, Petronila Materne Borja and Catalina Taitingfong Thomas .

In the 2nd row : Socorro Manalisay Rivera, Antonia L.G. Arceo, Maria Matanane Tuncap, Joaquina Siguenza, Ana S.N. Sanford, Rita Gogue James and Maria Flores.

In the 3rd row : Simplicia Salas Galinada, Rose Taitano, Maria Aguon Garcia, Catalina Santos Burger, Concepcion Santos Burger, Engracia Lujan Flores and Amanda Guzman Shelton.

(Identified by Amanda Shelton)


Today is the 3rd Sunday after Easter.  In traditional Guam, especially Hagåtña, that meant the finakpo' (conclusion) of the Nobenan Promesa - a novena prayed since 1835 against earthquakes.

Guam was rocked by a strong earthquake in 1825, and again in 1834, prompting the people to make a solemn pledge to pray to La Purisima (the Immaculate Conception of Mary) for protection.  This was a vow made by the whole city, not just the church or some of the faithful.  The Bishop of Cebu, responsible for the Marianas in those days, approved this promise in 1835. Even the civil government formally approved this vow in 1836.  The nobena was to begin on the Saturday before the 2nd Sunday after Easter, and end on the 3rd Sunday after Easter. The novena to the Immaculate Conception was used.

This promesa, or vow, was strongly observed but since the 1970s it has been kept by just a handful of old-timers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


This bridge....

.....NOT this one.

Tollai Åtcho or San Antonio Bridge

A Chamorro man (Juan) living in the States called up his påre (Jose) on Guam.

Jose : Pues, håfa påre un huhungok pot Guam? (So what påre are you hearing about Guam?)
Juan : Na man ma huchom todo i chalan siha giya Hagåtña.  (That they've closed all the streets in Hagåtña.)
Jose : Måno adai påre na un chule' ayo na infotmasion?  (Where påre did you get that information?)
Ayo ha' na chålan i ma huchom i gaige gi tellai. (Only the street at the bridge is closed.)
Juan : Desde i mafañagu-ho påre tåya' na hu hungok na guaha tollai giya Hagåtña. (Ever since I was born I have never heard of a bridge in Hagåtña.)
Jose : Ya håfa nai eye i Tellai Åtcho! (And what then is the Tollai Åtcho?)
Juan : Hu'u nai lao tåya kareta maloloffan guennao!  (Sure, but no car ever goes over it!)

The "Agaña Bridge" they are working on now is so small that many people don't even realize they are driving over a bridge!  It blends in with the road.



In the 1897 Census, there are two women, both widows, with the last name Quisalao.  They are both from Aniguak.  Quisalao is a native Chamorro name, formed by Qui (Ke) like Quichocho and Quitugua.  Salao is a word whose meaning is lost to history, unless we unearth something that tells us what it means.

Maria Quisalao had married a Merfalen.

Natalia Quisalao, possibly her sister, had married a Santos.


At a confirmation party (of three brothers, singing in this clip), I was reminded of a custom in some families to give the singers money while they are performing.

Friday, April 27, 2012


The Spanish always recruited native Chamorros to be a part of the island military and police force.  In 1848, the following were the officers and some other positions of the Chamorro force :

José Joaquín de la Cruz - Captain (Capitán)

José Martínez - Lieutenant (Teniente)

José Flores - 2nd Lieutenant (Subteniente)

Bernardino Lizama - 1st Sergeant (Sargento Primero)

Felipe Lizama - 2nd Sergeant (Sargento Segundo)

José Aguilar - 2nd Sergeant (Sargento Segundo)

José Aguon - 2nd Sergeant (Sargento Segundo)

José de León Guerrero - Drummer (tambor)

Mariano San Nicolás - another drummer (otro)

Ramón Borja - Corporal (Cabo)

Alejandro de León Guerrero - Corporal (Cabo)

Rosauro Cruz - Corporal (Cabo)

Don José de Torres - Corporal Cadet 2nd Lieutenant (Cabo Cadete Subteniente)

Don Vicente Martínez - Corporal Cadet 2nd Lieutenant (Cabo Cadete Subteniente)

Don Vicente de Torres - Distinguished Soldier (Soldado Distinguido)

Although there were no real wars going on in the Marianas in the 19th century, don't forget that the Marianas were often used as a place of exile for criminal and political convicts.  Sometimes their numbers were few, sometimes their numbers rose to the hundreds.  Guards were needed to keep an eye on them, supervise their labor and even run after them when a few would escape into the bushes or hills.


For all our locals who are now battling traffic on the 405 in LA.....look what you gave up!

Just teasing....

Thursday, April 26, 2012


An insect or bug or animal (gå'ga')....

....can be used as a name for something else.

Jose : Mångge i karetå-mo, Juan?  (Where is your car, Juan?)

Juan : Gaige gi shop.  Ti malago' macho'cho' i ga'ga'. (In the shop.  It doesn't want to work.)

At the office....

Rose : Terry, fa'tinåse yo' fan xerox copy. (Terry, please make me a xerox copy.)

Terry : Lao haftaimano ma na' on i ga'ga'? (But how do you turn it on?)


Banyan Tree and Coral Rocks!

Either one by itself would be feared by many as being sågan taotaomo'na, but to find both in the same spot?  Falågo!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Spanish Map of Micronesia
showing all the islands under the Spanish Flag

According to a Spanish book of geography in 1892, the Marianas were comprised of the following islands :

GUAJAN : the southernmost and principal island of the Marianas. 

SAIPAN : the next in importance.

ROTA, TINIAN, SARIGUAN, PAGAN and AGRIGAN are the next in importance, the latter being the northernmost of these five. 

The total population of the Marianas was 9,790 people, all Catholic.

AGAÑA had 6,379 residents, or 2/3 of the entire population.

AGAT came next with 1,089 villagers.

SAIPAN was third with 800 souls.  Saipan was counted as one village.  It actually had just two villages, but the second one, Tanapag, was a very recent settlement of Carolinians transferred from Tinian, and was considered a satellite of Garapan, the older and principal village.  Chamorros and Carolinians lived in separate sections of Garapan.

(Baranera, Francisco X. Compendio de Geografía de las Islas Filipinas, Marianas, Joló y Carolinas.  Manila : 1892)


Last week I wrote about the PLIGHT of the Plaza.

In today's PDN, we read that the Government has a PLAN for the Plaza.  GovGuam is now taking bids on a project to rehabilitate this precious treasure of history, battered by war and the forces of nature.|newswell|text|Frontpage|p

An OpEd in the PDN rightly states that maintenance is key.  Without good maintenance, the whole thing will be a waste of money.

The Philippines realized the importance of Intramuros, the old colonial, Spanish section of Manila.  When that country celebrated the centennial of its first but short taste of independence in 1898, it began to pay more attention to Intramuros, the old Walled City.  Precious little remains there, like our own Palåsyo, due to World War II bombardment.  What does remain, like the church of San Agustin, is visited frequently by tourists and locals alike.

Here are some suggestions for the revitalization of the Plaza and Palåsyo site.

1. A Gallery.  Perhaps the much-hoped-for Guam Museum cannot be housed at the Palåsyo, as it once was many years ago.  But we could open a Gallery there, in the same small building where the museum was once housed.  Rotate the theme and displays showcased at this Gallery.  They don't all have to be items owned by the Guam Museum.  Open it up to private art collections, or school art work and so on.  This will bring people to the Plaza/Palåsyo.  Keep it affordable (local/tourist/student rates, etc), but charge admission to generate income.  The Gallery could double as a souvenir shop.

2. A Cafe or Restaurant.  One thing that attracts people to Intramuros are the restaurants; certainly not a huge number of them, but a few of them that blend with the colonial theme of the Walled City.  Even if you have to build a new structure, in the same architectural style, to house a Cafe or Restaurant, it will help bring people to the Plaza/Palåsyo.  Bid it out and there's a source of revenue to help pay for the maintenance.  Have the Cafe/Restaurant keep the colonial theme.  Chocolate!  Spanish/Chamorro foods.  It could be Empanåda Heaven.

3. Costumed Guards.  Intramuros does this.  Great for tourists.  Have guards represent the old Chamorro Compañia de Dotación (militia).  But in reality, these are real guards keeping an eye out for vandalism. 

4. Kalesa.  We couldn't have horse-drawn carriages all over Hagåtna.  But perhaps one to take tourists on a short stroll around the Plaza and Palåsyo complex.

Just a few ideas.

The Palåsyo in its clean, pre-war condition.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Uno dos tres yan un tres sais (One, two, three and a three six)
dos na kuåttro ocho yan un ocho diesisais (two fours, eight and an eight sixteen)
yan un ocho bentikuåttro yan un ocho trentaidos (and an eight twenty-four and an eight thirty-two)
gi si Baza yan si Nena y'an humihita na dos. (at Baza and Nena when the two of us are together.)

Mångge si Daling? (Where is Daling?)
Amånu nai gaige gue'? (Where could she be?)
Sa' esta yo' gof mahålang (Because I am already missing a lot)
sa' åpmam ti hu lie. (it's been a while since I've seen her.)
Pinite i korason-ho (My heart is aching)
sa' guiya hu hahasso. (because I think of her.)
Yanggen un lie si Daling (If you should ever see Daling)
tågo' fan ya u fåfåtto. (tell her please to come by.)

Chamorro ditties can be whimsical and nonsensical.  It's not so much the meaning of the words, as it is the sound of the words, whether they mean anything when put together or not.

I remember in Saipan in the early 90s putting a song together which I thought was pretty funny.  But the audience laughed the most at the refrain, which was just a filler that went "tiru liru li, tiru liru la."

The second song is one of romance and love forlorn.  Also quite prominent in Chamorro music.


3.  Håfa i fine'nana na u ta fa'tinas para u ta tungo' yan ta setbe si Yu'us?

I fine'nana na u ta fa'tinas para ta tungo' yan ta setbe si Yu'us guiya i u ta hongge sen metton todo i ha na' ma tungo' si Yu'us.

4. Håfa na debe u ta hongge sen metton todo i ha na' ma tungo' si Yu'us?

Debe u ta hongge sen metton todo i ha na' ma tungo' si Yu'us sa' si Yu'us taihinekkok tiningo'-ña yan minagahet-ña, ti siña dinage ni u dage hit.


They are still gada' (unripe, green) but it seems in a month or so Guam will have a bumper crop of mangos.  They're coming out in great numbers all over the island in this hot and dry time of year.

Those who like them this green are already picking them and pickling them.

You can expect Agat to have their Mango Festival pretty soon.

Monday, April 23, 2012



Today called the Santa Cruz Branch

I remember the first mobile-home structure that housed the infant Bank of Guam in the early 1970s.  When the corporate headquarters moved to its present high-rise building on the east side of town, the former headquarters pictured above became the Santa Cruz branch.  Santa Cruz was the name of the pre-war barrio or district of Hagåtña where this building is located.

By the way, the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of this building looked like this....

Look at the floral prints!

And the telephone numbers that began with 777.

Some of the faces I can identify are (beginning on the left) : Felino Amistad, Julie and father Tim Certeza, who owned the land before the Bank bought it, Judge Joaquin Perez, Speaker Florencio Ramirez, Jose Untalan, Bishop (at the time) Felixberto Flores, Msgr. Jose Leon Guerrero, John Kerr, Lt. Gov. Kurt Moylan, Francisco Leon Guerrero, Bank President Jesus Leon Guerrero and Joe Carlos (contractor).


In old Guam, if you were walking along and got hungry or thirsty, you could climb any coconut tree and pick a coconut to drink its water or eat its soft meat (månha), without needing to ask anybody's permission.

But you were not allowed to pick up a fallen coconut to eat.  Fallen coconuts were ripe and the meat inside was firm, firm enough to dry and make into copra, which was a source of income for many families.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Chiquita bananas just don't do it for me, compared to local bananas.

Every April, the Talofofo people host a Banana Festival.  This year I met Ben Meno, who explained to me some of the many varieties of bananas to be found on island.

If it's unripe banana, it's called chotda.

Aga' if it's ripe.

Some are for cooking; some for eating raw.

I buy local bananas usually once a week.  My favorite is the macau, because it keeps longer than manila, which I do like as well.  I also buy the cooking bananas and just steam them.  They're delicious just like that.

Other varieties are chotdan long, dåma, tanduki, galayan, and påhong among others.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Nice to see Chamorro in some signage around island.

This one in a mom and pop store that serves a little buffet.

Chagi fan.  Siempre yamu!  Try it.  You'll like it!



Åntes means "before" (in time or sequence, not in geographic location).

Guåntes means "gloves," borrowed from the Spanish.

When you want to say, "That was before," and be funny about it, you say "Åntes guåntes!"

CHO'GUE : to do

Bai hu cho'gue.  I will do it.

Ti guåho chumo'gue.  I didn't do it.

Ti siña en che'gue.  You (plural) cannot do it.

Håfa un chocho'gue?  What are you doing?

Hånao ya un cho'gue!  Go and do it!

Håye chumo'gue?  Who did it?

Ma cho'gue nigap.  It was done yesterday.

Cho'guiye.  To do for someone or something.

Kao siña hu cho'guiye hao?  Can I do it for you?

Friday, April 20, 2012


An un hasso yo' yumute' / yute' yo' gi oran las ocho;
sa' ti u dadåndån las nuebe / esta yo' mañodda' otro.

A wonderful example of the sassy Chamorro comeback.

If you are thinking of dumping me, do it at eight o'clock.
The clock won't chime nine, and I will have already found your replacement.

So there!


These kids reminded me of something we enjoyed as kids in the 1960s.

The karetan kåhon.

A kåhon was any old wooden crate that you found lying around.  It didn't cost any money to find.

You put wheels on it and handle bars, and you had a karetan kåhon to take kids for rides around the neighborhood.

We rarely bought toys from the few stores we had back then.  Our toys were the pieces of junk we found lying around the yard or the jungle.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Our neighbors to the north went looking for a hymn or anthem for their new Commonwealth.  Two brothers, Jose and Joaquin Pangelinan, are credited with composing the Chamorro lyrics, and David Peter, better known as Taulamwar, with the Carolinian lyrics.

But where does the melody come from?  There's the surprise.  Or maybe not.

Here's how Goro' sings the CNMI Anthem :

Even as a teenager, I always thought the melody sounded suspiciously European and possibly German.  If the Carolinian-influenced bands like Rematau sang it, complete with ukulele, it could pass for something locally made.  But it still made one wonder.

Well, the melody is most certainly German - as the next video shows.  This clip combines both the CNMI Anthem in the first half, followed by the German melody which it borrowed in the second part.

The Germans ruled the Northern Marianas for a short fifteen years, from 1899 till 1914.  But even for that short span, they were more or less liked by the people, for all their strictness, and for many, many years, older people in Saipan and Luta told stories about German times, taught their kids a few words in German and sang a few German songs.

Judge Ignacio Benavente of Saipan, for example, still said his prayers in German forty and fifty years after the Germans had left.  But the German Capuchins taught him those prayers when he was a child and they stuck.

The German original is the song Im Schoensten Wiesengrund (In the Most Beautiful Valley) composed by Wilhelm Ganzhorn.  It is no coincidence that the original song talks about "home," and saluting home a "thousand times."  The German song talks about leaving home and the desire to die and be buried in one's homeland.  Just switch from valley to island, and you have the CNMI Anthem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



The katupat is a rice pouch made from the blades of coconut tree fronds.  The rice is boiled inside the katupat.  Thus, we have a ready-made container, in an amount sufficient for one person's meal, without the need or hassle of finding a means of taking rice with you to the fields or farm. 


...when I was walking down the street in a town in Indonesia, and saw men selling katupat in their little lunch wagons on the sidewalk.  I pointed to the katupat and asked them what it was, and guess what the Indonesian said?  Katupat!  Sometimes it is spelled ketupatPareho ha'.

As I've pointed out numerous times on this blog, our roots seem to go back to Indonesia or Malaysia.  So many of our words are nearly identical to their languages.

And just to point out the linguistic connections we have across the seas, in Ilocano it is called patupat, as well as in Pampanga, it seems.  Because there are many Ilocano speakers in Pangasinan, it is found there as well.  In the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, banana and other leaves can be used to wrap the rice, not just coconut fronds.



There's always a lot of talk about Chamorro culture; what it means to be Chamorro.  And a lot of it, I think, misses the point.

It's not just, or even mainly, about necklaces and dances and chants, which are sometimes our own creations based partly on limited historic descriptions written by foreigners, and partly on our own imagination.

It's mainly, I suggest, about values and ways of thinking.

Take, for example, the elderly Chamorro man I visited last night in one of our southern villages.  We talked about his declining health, and he told me that some years ago, both he and another man from the same village, sharing the same first name, last name and middle initial, were both getting medical attention at GMH.  They had the same middle initial, but for two different names.

GMH sent this man the medical bills for both him and the other man!  The other man's bill, by the way, amounted to $3,000.

What did this man do?  He PAYED THE OTHER MAN'S BILL.

I asked him why, when he had his own bill to pay.

"Hu konsidera, Påle', na mås diddide' salape'-ña i kilisyåno ki ni guaho."  "I considered, Father, that the man had less money than me."

More than that, Chamorros of this man's generation, Catholic and Chamorro to the core, don't even think twice about doing something munificent like that.  They don't struggle and weigh the pros and cons.  They just do it; naturally, spontaneously.  They trust that God will make all things turn out alright.

THAT - to my mind - is Chamorro culture; at least what I saw in my grandmother and her generation, spiritually and psychologically formed at a time some people consider less pristine.

If only our "recovery" of the Chamorro culture today would include a recovery of such values.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


One branch of the Rosario family is well-known as the Familian Ngånga'.

Ngånga' means "duck," as in the animal.

But I have heard of some of the Santos family, originating in Piti, also being called the Familian Ngånga', and I cannot find any connection between them and the Rosarios. 

There may be no connection, as it is entirely possible that two unconnected families share the same nickname.  One example of this is the Pepero nickname, which is used by some of the Dueñas family on Guam, but by some of the Sablan family in Saipan.



I bumped into former senator and funeral director Ben Ada a few days ago. 

He said, "Påle', come over to the funeral home one of these days.  We just got a new priest's casket."

I'm sure he didn't mean it this way, but I just had to make a joke out of it, and replied, "And you want me to be the first occupant?"

Monday, April 16, 2012


Precious little remains of what once was the Palåsyo, the Governor's Palace and its adjunct structures which border the Plaza de España.  Built by the Spaniards, it was used even by the American governors and then by the Japanese till most of it was destroyed by American bombardment in 1944.

The data all show that our tourists are interested in our history and culture and express disappointment how little they see of these things when they are here.  The Plaza is always on our maps, and tourists visit it, but what the tourist maps don't show is how embarrassingly and deplorably abandoned and dilapidated the site is.  What a shock it all must be to them!

But what a shame it should be to all of us, as the Palåsyo and Plaza are ours - no one else's.  Where's the pride?  And the sense of responsibility?  The Palåsyo and Plaza sit on public land and belong to the government, so our government has first responsibility for them.  But the solution is not just with the politicians, but also with businesses, especially those connected with tourism and who benefit from it, civic organizations and private citizens.  If our political leaders take the initiative and rally these separate groups of people, we can do something about this.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Yesterday we had Mass in Sumay.

Sumay was the second biggest village on Guam, after Hagåtña, before the war.  Its vitality was linked to its location on Orote peninsula and Apra Harbor.  The Marines and Navy had their installations; the Trans-Pacific Cable Company and Pan American Airlines had their commercial presence as well.  When you first arrived on Guam, whether on a military or commercial transport, Sumay was the first place you touched ground.

If an ancient village once existed, we know next to nothing about it.  By the time the whalers were coming to Guam in significant numbers in the early 1800s, a village seems to have been created in Sumay by Hagåtña transplants.  For years dependent on nearby Hågat for religious services, it was given its own parish, named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been the patron of the now-defunct village of Pågo, abandoned after the smallpox epidemic of 1856.

When the Americans took Guam from the Japanese in 1944, they did not allow the Sumay people to return.  This was the first large-scale military build-up in Guam history.  The entire peninsula was made a naval base.  The Sumay people were relocated to Santa Rita.

But the hearts of many Sumay people remain in their original village.  Several times a year, the Navy allows them to return and have Mass, visit the cemetery and have lunch.


For about twenty years, beginning in the 1860's, from December till February, Guam was infested with wasps from about noon till five o'clock on hot, still days.  The bees were believed to have originated on a boat which crashed on shore and broke up.  The sting from these wasps was sharp and burning.

Chamorros bathed in water with tobacco leaves or vinegar to treat the sting.  The Spanish priest used camphorated oil and experienced immediate relief.

(P. Aniceto's Chronicle)


How good is your Chamorro?  I'll be posting short excerpts from an old Chamorro catechism without an English translation.

1. Håye muna' fanhuyong hit yan pumo'lo hit gi tano'?

Si Yu'us Saina-ta ha na' fanhuyong hit yan pumo'lo hit gi tano'.

2. Para håfa na ha na' fanhuyong hit?

Ha na' fanhuyong hit para ta tungo', ta gofli'e yan ta setbe si Yu'us guine gi tano' ya taiguine ta konsige i langet.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Not the biggest latte stones, but the largest number

At the very north of Luta is Mochong, which stands out as having the largest number of latte stones in the Marianas - about 50 of them.

Another Unique Feature here .... STONE WALLS....built by our ancestors

Perhaps the only place where walls built by our pre-Spanish ancestors can be found.

The latte stones here aren't very large, and, thanks to our frequent earthquakes, most if not all the capstones (tåsa) have fallen off the pillars (haligi), as is seen above.


I went to Mochong with a Rotanese friend.  As we drove into the dirt trail, he told me that a Chamorro dance group from Guam came up to Mochong and did their dances all around the latte stone site.  By the next day, most of the dance group, he says, were sick.

As I got down from the car to survey the area and take photos, I noticed that my Rotanese friend stayed by the car, not approaching the latte stone site.  I said a prayer to my Guardian Angel to protect me from any spirits wishing to do me harm, and nothing unpleasant happened to me.


What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

What happens on Guam, is heard in Vegas, and LA, and San Jose, and Seattle, and....

So a family decided to hold a surprise birthday party for a member of the family.  Invitations were sent to many people, with the words SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY prominently and unmistakably printed at the top.

One woman got her invitation in the mail, and, seeing the date of the party, felt so bad that it was the same time as a prior commitment.

She felt so bad....she called the birthday boy and said...."So sorry I cannot make it to your surprise birthday party tomorrow!"