Saturday, June 30, 2012


"Maolek-ña åguåguat påtgon ki ni åguåguat åmko'"
A stubborn child is easier than a stubborn senior.

A grandmother talked to me recently about leaving the States to come back here for a visit, leaving her husband (in his 70s) in the hands of her granddaughter (in her 20s).  She said, "I have to go back soon, because my husband isn't obeying my granddaughter about taking his medicines and avoiding foods that are bad for his cholesterol and blood pressure.  Maolek-ña åguåguat påtgon ki ni åguåguat åmko'!"

Friday, June 29, 2012


Today's last name is considered a truly indigenous Chamorro name.  It certainly isn't Spanish or Filipino.  Remember that these spellings come from the Spaniards who spelled it the way they heard the name and filtered what they heard through their ears.  Even the Spaniards spelled a name two or more ways : Fejeran, Fejaran, Fejarang, Fejerang.

As I often point out to help us understand why this is so, imagine if I asked you to start writing what you hear if I began speaking to you in French or Italian.  Chances are you will not spell it correctly, according to standard French or Italian (assuming you didn't take French or Italian classes).  The same thing goes for the Spaniards when hearing Chamorro.

Now, what does Fejeran mean?  The first thing that attracts my attention is the prefix "fe."  We see it in the name Fegurgur.  Knowing that Fegurgur was spelled many ways, including Fegotgot, we look up the word gotgot and find out it does have a meaning, "gossiper, story-teller, blabbermouth."

And what about "fe?"  No modern dictionary talks about it, and all Påle' Roman says is that it is a radical, meaning a root word, but gives us no meaning.  Is it possibly a variant of fa', which means "to change, make, pretend?"

Perhaps the "jeran/jaran/jerang/jarang" ending are all variations of hålang, since the Spaniards often confused, in Chamorro, the L and the R (think of Malesso' versus Merizo)  If so, then Fejeran/Fejaran/Fejarang/Fejerang might have something to do with a loss of heart, which is what hålang means.

Now, in 1897, there are many Fejerans, Fejarans, Fejerangs and Fejarangs living in Hagåtña proper.  But the good number of people with those last names in Asan and Piti (Tepungan) leads me to believe that those two villages are probably the ancestral homes of people with these names, and that in time some of them moved into the capital city, which at the beginning of the 1700s had few Chamorro male heads of households living in it but was home to all the newcomers with names like Leon Guerrero, Camacho, Pangelinan and so on.

Don't be confused by the multiple spellings.  They are all really one name and quite possibly descendants of the same ancestors, more than likely someone from Asan or Piti (Tepungan).

SAIPAN.  I do know that Fejerans from Guam went north, to Saipan for sure (I knew some of them) but perhaps also to Rota and Tinian.  Not sure.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


From the records of William Edwin Safford, the Secretary to the first American Governor of Guam, we read the following data for the year 1901 :

Can read and write
3,439 (46% )
Can read and sign name only
     70 (1%)
Can read only
2,440 (32.5%)
Can sign name only
     16 (.25%)
Cannot read or write
1,506 (20.25%)
Children younger than 7

Fully 20% of the population of Guam aged 7 years and up could neither read nor write.

In addition, the total number of people aged 7 and up who could not even write their own names in 1901 was 3,946 or about 52% of the population.

That's why, in document after document, many a Chamorro just put a cross (+) next to their name, wirtten for them by a clerk.

Although this Spanish-era document involves Carolinians, as well as Chamorros, it still gives you an idea how a clerk would write out the person's name, and the person who could not sign his own name would mark it with a cross (+).

On the left column, you will see three names of Carolinians who have a cross (+) after their names.  Three Carolinians, Bernardo Santamaria, Jose Ogumoro and Jose Taman, could sign their names, and so could all the Chamorros in this document.  But there are many other documents where some Chamorros, especially women, could not sign their names but simply etched a cross next to their names.

This is how some people explain the prevalence of the surname Cruz or de la Cruz in the Marianas and the Philippines.  "Cross" in Spanish is Cruz.  Since so many Filipinos and Chamorros couldn't sign their names and just put a cross where their names were written, they were called "of the cross," in Spanish, "de la Cruz."

I don't buy this explanation completely because baptismal records of adult converts and illegitimate babies do show that Spanish priests often gave them religious last names (de la Cruz/of the Cross; de los Reyes/of the Kings; de la Concepcion/of the Conception; and so on). 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Remains of a Pre-War Wall in Hagåtña

Drive all around Hagåtña (who walks?) and you will not see much that makes you think of the past.  The Plaza is pretty obvious.  The San Antonio Bridge, where Sirena is now, can easily be missed if you're not looking for it.  The Lujan House is very visible, but only if you happen to drive down that street.  And a few other places.

I wonder if anyone looks at this wall, for example, and remembers that it survived the bombing of World War II.

But will it survive two hard parents?  Father Time and Mother Nature?


Mamaisen i mediko, "Juan, kao un osge yo' nigap annai hu tågo' hao para un baba todo i dos bentanå-mo gi kuåtto-mo?"

"Hunggan, dok," ilek-ña si Juan, "lao guaha problema."

"Håfa?" mamaisen i mediko.

"Uno ha' na bentåna guaha gi kuåtto-ko." ilek-ña si Juan.  "Lao hu baba dos biåhe."

The doctor asked, "Juan, did you obey me yesterday when I told you to open both windows in your bedroom?"

"Yes, doc," Juan said, "but there was a problem."

"What?" the doctor asked.

"There's only one window in my bedroom," said  Juan, "but I opened it two times."

En Castellano

"Juan, me obedeciste ayer cuando te mandé que abrieras las dos ventanas de tu habitación?" le preguntó el médico a Juan.

"Sí, doctor," dijo Juan. "Pero había problema."

"Qué?" preguntó el médico.

"En mi cuarto una sola ventana hay," dijo Juan, "pero la abrí dos veces."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GUÅFE : fire

I guafe.  The fire.  (pronunciation changes from å to a with the addition of the definite article)

U ma songge gi guafe.  It will be burned in  the fire.

Ha songge i pappet gi guafe.  S/he burned the paper in the fire.

Taihinekkok i guafen sasalåguan.  Hell's fire is eternal.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Guyuria is a food we adopted from abroad.  We made it local by adding coconut milk and shaping it the way we do and cooking it till hard as a rock.

This young man makes the characteristic grooves on the guyuria using, of all things, a Japanese sushi roller!

No coconut milk

Made with bananas!  Cooked in sugarcane syrup.

The original Spanish word is


which means : exquisite food, delicacies

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I came across this photo of current sports idol Tim Tebow's rookie hazing haircut.  Veteran players put rookies in their place by giving them "unique haircuts."

Among Chamorros, this kind of a hair cut is called ma dåsai San Vicente.  San Vicente's haircut.  Why?  Take a look.
San Vicente Ferrer

Saint Vincent Ferrer was a Spanish saint and was well-known in the Marianas.  Many Chamorro homes had images of him, with his characteristic wings (his angelic life) and finger pointing to heaven.  And his monastic hair style stands out, too.

Apparently, the ma dåsai San Vicente can come in and out of fashion through the years.


20. Håf kumekeilek-ña na si Yu'us taihinekkok kinabales-ña?

Si Yu'us taihinekkok kinabales-ña kumekeilek-ña na si Yu'us taichii todo i kinabales-ña ni man siña.

21. Håf siha i mås man prinsipåt na kinabåles Yu'us?

I mås man prinsipåt na kinabåles Yu'us este siha : si Yu'us etetno, taihinekkok finayi-ña yan nina'siñå-ña, taihinekkok minaulek-ña yan yinease'-ña.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


It is better to ask than to be overlooked.

Perhaps it takes the swallowing of one's pride, which never tastes good, but if you want something really bad, sometimes all it takes is to ask for it.

You don't always get it, and then you're stuck with wounded pride.

But if you don't ask, you may just lose what you could have gotten.




When : June 22, 2012
Time : 6PM
Where : George Washington High School
(In the middle of the football field)

Friday, June 22, 2012


Segun un åmko' ni ginen tumanores gue' guihe na tiempo, eståba gue' na mañeñetbe gi Misa ni ha tataitai si Påle' Dueñas gi tiempon Hapones gi Gima'yu'us Inalåhan.

Gi durånten i Misa, humålom un Hapones na sendålo ya sige de ha lalåtde si Påle' yan i tanores, lao ti ma komprende håfa ilelek-ña i Hapones.  Si Påle' Dueñas ni sikiera ti ha atan i sendålo, lao pumåranñaihon si Påle' tumaitai i Misa.  Nahong ha' si Påle' i ha na' tekkon i ilu-ña ya bumendito gue'.

I sendålo ha señas na u ma puno' i dos dånges ni ma sosongge gi hilo' i attat.  Ayo na ma komprende na muna' lalålo' i sendålo i siña i Amerikåno na batkonaire ma li'e i ininan i dos dånges gi halom Guma'yu'us, sa' hohomhom ha' trabia guihe na ora.  Ya magåhet na i tanores ha osge i Hapones ya ha puno' i dos dånges.

Lao annai må'pos i Hapones, kontento yan satisfecho, tåya' singko minutos despues ma songge ta'lo i danges ya si Påle' ha na' fonhayan i Misa.

According to an elderly man who was an altar boy at the time, he was serving Mass said by Father Dueñas during the Japanese time at Inarajan Church.

During the Mass, a Japanese soldier came in and kept scolding Father and the altar boys, but they didn't understand what the Japanese was saying.  Father Dueñas didn't even look at the soldier, but he paused saying the Mass.  All Father did was bow his head and fold his hands.

The soldier gestured that they kill the two candles that were lit on the altar.  That's when they understood that the soldier was angry because the American planes could possibly see the light of the two candles inside the church, as it was still dark at that hour.  And an altar boy did indeed obey the Japanese and killed the two candles.

But when the Japanese left, content and satisfied, it wasn't five minutes later they lit the candles and Father finished the Mass.


Påle' Gil Street
in Santa Rita

This street is named after one of the old Spanish Capuchin priests of Sumay in the 1920s and 30s by the name of Father Gil de Legaria.  Here's a photo :

Chamorros could not pronounce final L, so they called him Påle' HIT.  The G in Spanish, when it comes before I or E, is pronounced like an H. 

Capuchin tradition is we don't use our family surnames; we are known by the town of our birth.  So Påle' Gil was from a town in Spain called Legaria.  So he was Påle' Gil de Legaria.

He was a very short priest, but very lively.  He was always on-the-go and very talkative; a real extrovert.  He was always getting something going.  I guess a live-wire.

Besides being priest of Sumay, he was at one time the priest of Malesso' and Humåtak.  When I was priest there, I used to give communion every Friday to an elderly lady in Malesso' in her 90s.  She was totally blind by then, and when her family would stir her from her bed because I had arrived to give her communion, she would ask "Påle' Hit!  Påle' Hit!"  I would pretend to be Påle' Gil and speak to her in Chamorro to assure her.  It was easier to do that than to explain to her that she was no longer in the 1930s.

Thursday, June 21, 2012



The mangoes have been so plentiful this year, people are paying you to take them.  It seems we also have more than enough avocados to go around this year as well.  We've been getting bags and bags of them.

The Chamorro word for avocado is alageta.  I have often wondered about that because we know it is native to Central America and so it had to have been brought to the Marianas.  There was no indigenous name for it.  But in Spanish it is called aguacate.  The Filipinos call it abukado.  But alageta? Where did we come up with that?

For years it did strike me that alageta sounds like a Chamorro pronunciation of alligator.  Sure enough, "alligator pear" is another English name for avocado.

Then I checked Safford, an American Naval officer who was secretary to the Governor in the very first years of the U.S. occupation of Guam.  Safford was interested in everything; language, plants, history, you name it.  And he wrote a lot of it down.

According to Safford, he introduced avocados to Guam.  So there we have it.  No wonder we don't even call avocados by their Spanish name, as we often do with fruits and vegetables introduced by the Spaniards.  This was brought in by an American, and another English name for avocado is "alligator pear," or, as we would pronounce it with our accent - alageta!
William E. Safford

Next time you eat a local alageta, you have him to thank for it

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


How lucky I am to know Tan Estefania, age 91 years and still as sharp as a tack.

Born in Palau, one of the small colony of Chamorro immigrants there.

But in 1946 she married and remained in Saipan till now.  That's where the parachute, and her wedding gown, come in.

This was right after the war.  Things were hard to come by.  And people had the ingenuity to make things from what was available, including military surplus.

Tan Estefania holds a photo of her and her late husband on their wedding day in 1946.

Brides wore THREE different dresses.  One for the wedding Mass, which was early in the morning (5AM or so).  Next, a gown for the lunch, which had fewer people, mainly immediate family.  A third frock for the evening fandånggo where many people were in attendance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


KUKARÅCHA : unfortunately, the roach we see everyday, everywhere

Taken from the Spanish word cucaracha.  Which leads me to believe they didn't exist in the Marianas until they came on the ships.

Before there was Raid

Traditional Chamorro Roach Control Apparatus



(Rolled Up)

(This one looks like it survived Typhoons Karen, Pamela and Pongsona)

Monday, June 18, 2012


"I Kapiya" is a song that goes back a long time.  This recording was made by the Four Winds, a singing group in Saipan in 1971 which included Guam's own Gordon Tydingco, who was in Saipan at the time, I believe as a teacher.  There was a Carolinian member, Luis Limes, and two stateside members, Howard Kerstetter and Fred Ekman.

Johnny Sablan has his own version of this song with minor differences in the lyrics.

I kapiya, i kapiya
(the chapel, the chapel)
gi kañådan guinife
(in the valley of dreams)
annai atmonio dumadådandan guihe.
(where the organ plays.)
Guaha un kantora yan si påle'
(There is a singer and the priest)
na sumåsaga guihe
(who stay there)
gi kapiya gi kañådan guinife.
(in the chapel in the valley of dreams.)

Bobongbong i korason-ho
(My heart was beating)
annai ma dådandan i kampåna
(when the bells were ringing)
dumimo yo' gi me'nan i attat
(I knelt before the altar)
annai para ta asagua.
(when we were to be wed.)

Ya iyo-mo yo' ya iyo-ko hao
(And I am yours and you are mine)
sa' man hula' hit guihe
(because we made our vows there)
gi kapiya gi kañådan guinife.
(in the chapel in the valley of dreams.)

Tydingco (far left) and Limes (far right)
Kerstetter and Ekman in center


From the outer islands of Yap, whose islanders always had historic connections with the Marianas, comes this interesting tale that involves Guam and Saipan.

Back in Spanish times, the Chamorros of Guam and Saipan grew their own tobacco.  It was a luxury item for the islanders south of us.  Islands like Ifaluk, Satawal, Woleai and the others who knew the sea routes to the Marianas and who used to trade with the Marianas.

One night, a husband overheard his wife sing a song that said that "her man" was going to Saipan to bring her back tobacco.

The man knew she couldn't have meant him, because they had never discussed this.  So, he figured, she must be talking about another man - a lover besides him.  So the man gets his male relatives and says, "Get out the canoe.  We're leaving island."

"Where?" the relatives ask. 

"You'll find out," the man says.

The man and his relatives sailed straight to Guam and traded for tobacco, beating his wife's lover who sailed farther north to Saipan for the tobacco.  Returning home first, he gave his wife the tobacco and said, "Here's your tobacco.  Tomorrow, wait for your boyfriend.  You and I are finished!"

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Chamorro Family in Yap
Early 1900s

In honor of the Chamorro community that lived in Yap from the 1880s until 1948, which was the theme for this year's Homecoming Festival in Yap this past weekend, here are some photos of the grave sites of some of these Yap Chamorros who later moved to and died in Tinian.





Chamorro and Yapese Boys in front of the Catholic Church

The Chamorro boys in shirts and pants

Saturday, June 16, 2012



The Umatac Church (San Dionisio) around 1830.  The boys in the bottom right-hand corner march in procession, all dressed in identical white shirts, under the watchful eye of probably the village maestro or teacher.  Teachers taught religion and the boys would have learned how to serve and sing at Mass.


The Same Spot Today

When the old church was ruined beyond repair in an earthquake in the 1800s, the priests stopped re-building the church and instead built a new one at its present location further inside the village.

Counter to one's expectations, the Spanish missionaries tended to build the churches at the extreme end of the village, not right smack in the middle of the village.  Even in Hagåtña, in Spanish times there was hardly anything east of the present-day Cathedral, where the PDN building is now.  That was all jungle.  In Inalåhan, we see the same thing.  That church was built at the far end of the village.  The same with Humåtak.

The idea may have been to avoid homes and the noise and business of everyday domestic affairs happening right around the church.

The ruins of the old church lie next to what used to be F.Q. Sanchez Elementary School.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Meet Gyani Maiya Sen.  She has nothing to do with Chamorro.  But maybe she does.

She's the last speaker of the language, Kusunda, in Nepal

Like many extinct or endangered languages, a group of people learn a second language, more politically, socially and economically beneficial than their native tongue.  That's the bilingual generation.  Their children understand the native tongue, but use the acquired language more.  Then their children, the third generation, neither speak nor understand much the native tongue, speaking and understanding only the acquired language.


According to one idea :

 A LANGUAGE IS...                                              WHEN......


No speakers left


Small number of speakers, mostly very old


Youngest good speakers are older than 50


Few children learning, youngest good speakers are adult


Beginning to lose child speakers; socially and economically disadvantanged; losing ground to more powerful language


Speakers number 1,000+ but strong community, or isolated and identity tied to language


Large and thriving number of speakers of all ages

In my estimation, we on Guam qualify as Seriously Endangered.  I am 50, and I don't count myself a good speaker, and few of my classmates speak it better than me.  The best speakers of Chamorro, in my experience, are over 70 years.  And very few children are learning it, and those children who do speak it speak a basic form of it.  I have seen some who were taught Chamorro as children and who spoke a basic form of Chamorro as children more or less abandon it by the time they reach adolescence when peer approval becomes king.   It might seem to a child to be useful to speak basic Chamorro at home when mommy and daddy are constantly encouraging it and speaking Chamorro to the child.  But when the child enters adolescence and the language is no longer the tool for interacting with peers, the language holds less value for them.

Many young people are catching some Chamorro, but at a very rudimentary level and I don't hear them use Chamorro as the norm among themselves in ordinary situations like when they eat out or go to the movies.

On Saipan, the situation may be less dire, and could be at the Endangered level.  The children are certainly no longer learning it and speaking it, from my interaction with them.  Those in their 20s are less proficient; those 30 and up are better in Chamorro.

I suppose the situation might be better in Rota and Tinian but I don't know, except for isolated visits there recently where I detected that the children were no longer speaking Chamorro, but the 20-something were, though mixing a lot of English in it, too.


The linguists and ethnologists are all running to Gyani Maiya Sen to record her and write down as much as they can about the language.  But when she dies, and all we're left with is a book or tapes, the soul will be gone.  The body (words) may be recorded, but languages are living things.  Imagine you learning all your Russian from a book, with not a single other person to speak with in Russian.  After mastering the book, and meeting a Russian, you and the Russian will still have some communication issues, compared to two people who learned the language from a lived context.