Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HAGÅTÑA'S ELITE IN 1900, part 2

William E. Safford, USN

In 1900, Hagåtña's elite wrote a letter of farewell to Safford, who was Secretary to the Governor, functioning like a Lieutenant Governor.  Safford was well-loved.  Able to speak Spanish, of an academic background and personally interested in many aspects of island life, he was seen as a friend by many.

Part two of those principales or leading citizens of Hagåtña who signed the letter :

Vicente Roberto Herrero - former Treasurer and prominent merchant.  Grandson of former Spanish Governor Jose Ganga Herrero.

Joaquin Cruz Perez - former Governor of Guam during a confusing transition from Spanish to American administration in 1899.  Every few months, someone temporary was Governor until the first full-fledge American Governor of Guam (Leary) arrived.  Safford was Leary's secretary.

Luis Diaz Torres - Justice of the Peace.  Brother of Juan and Jose. His wife was Padre Palomo's niece.  He served in more than one government position over the years, and was a teacher under the Spanish regime.

Jose Diaz de Torres - Court Interpreter.  Brother of Juan and Luis.

Henry Millinchamp - Government Pilot.  Millinchamp was not Chamorro, but was married to a Chamorro woman from a prominent family (the Andersons).  Millinchamp, once called "Milinchango" by a Spaniard, was part English, part Tahitian and was born in the Bonin Islands (Boninas in Spanish and Chamorro).  He later moved to Guam, where he met and married his wife.  He served in the Spanish government in several ways, especially as government pilot, in charge of directing sea traffic from Apra Harbor to the landing dock at Punta Piti.

Jose de los Santos - prominent citizen

Antonio Cruz Perez - Teniente of Hagåtña.  The teniente was second-in-command to the gobernadorcillo or mayor.  Patriarch of the Boño clan.

Demetrio Quitugua - City Clerk



Eståba na kumuekuentos ham yan un palao'an ni esta gai edåt diddide'.
(I was speaking with a woman who was somewhat elderly already.)

"Håfa siña hu chuli'e hao agupa para na-ta an para ta a'bisita?" hu faisen gue'.
(What shall I bring you tomorrow to eat when we visit together?" I asked her.)

"Tåya', Påle'," ilek-ña i palao'an. "Si hagå-ho dumispopone yo' håfa siña hu kånno' yan håfa ti siña hu kånno'."
("Nothing, Father," the lady said.  "My daughter decides what I can and cannot eat.")

"Kulan mohon hågo i patgon yan guiya i nana!" hu sangåne gue'.
("It's as if you're the child and she's the mother!" I told her.")

"Hunggan adei.  Ha adopta yo'!"
("Yes indeed.  She adopted me!")

Monday, July 30, 2012


Graves of Gregorio Cruz Perez (Goyo)
and his wife Rosa Aguon Flores (Kabesa)

In 1900, William E. Safford, the beloved Secretary to the Naval Governor, was assigned to another duty station.  The leading citizens of Guam tried to pursuade the government to keep him on Guam, but, when that didn't come to pass, they wrote him a farewell letter full of praise.

They stated in this letter that they were the "principals" of the city of Hagåtña.  This was a direct translation of the Spanish term for leading citizens, or principales.  Who were they?

Gregorio Cruz Perez - he was the Gobernadorcillo, or mayor, of Hagåtña in 1900; patriarch of the Goyo clan

Jose Martinez Portusach - he was billed the "Principal Merchant of Guam" in the letter.  During the Spanish regime, he was part of a company that leased some of the northern islands like Pagan to raise copra and make money

Joaquin Garrido Diaz - Secretary of the Treasury

Juan Diaz de Torres - Treasurer of Guam

Vicente Palomo Camacho - Assistant Registar of Lands

Jose Torres Palomo - Priest (Curate) of Hagåtña; he was the only priest on Guam at the time, the Spanish priests having been expelled; and Palomo was elderly by now.  Poor guy.

Venancio Sablan Roberto - former Gobernadorcillo

Antonio Pangelinan Martinez - said to be the wealthiest planter on Guam at the time

Justo Sanchez de Leon Guerrero - former Gobernadorcillo

---Part II continues tomorrow---

Sunday, July 29, 2012



Not long after the war, some bars opened up on Guam featuring something unheard of before on island : taxi dancers.

They were not so-called because they danced on top of taxi cabs, as some think!  The name comes from the fact that, like taxis, they are hired for a certain length of time.  The longer the ride, the more you pay.  These women were paid dance partners, but the situation was rife with immoral opportunities.

The local Church was up in arms about these taxi dancer bars and it was the Christian Mothers (Nånan Kilisyåno) who put the pressure to have these bars close.

In the 1970s, when casino gambling was first considered on Guam, again it was the Christian Mothers who showed up at public hearings and called up senators to have it voted down in the Legislature.  At least one senator said, "What could I do?  These were my mom and aunties calling me up!"

Such was the might of the Christian Mothers and Chamorro mother power.

Their patron saint, Santa Ana (Saint Ann) had her feast yesterday in the Santa Ana area of Hågat.


One of the traditional Chamorro hymns to Santa Ana (Saint Ann) includes a few rarely heard words.

Sainan i Bithen Maria / si Jesus påtgon toyong-mo
(Parent of the Virgin Mary / Jesus is your grandchild)

Tayuyute ham as Yu'us ni Saina-mo yan nietu-mo.
(Pray for us to God your Lord and grandson.)

Man sen båba i Hudios / ayo i mañataotao-mo
(The Jews were very bad / those who were your own people)

ya i mampos na binaba / si Yu'us nina' lalålo'.
(and exceeding evil / angered God.)

På'go hågo giya hamyo / sinantusan hinanao-mo.
(Now you among you (Jews) / your way was holy.)

Linguistic Notes

  • Saina can mean several things, but in general it means someone higher in status than yourself.  It can mean parent, lord, master, elder. 
  • Påtgon toyung is an obsolete Chamorro word for grandchild.
  • Nieto is a word borrowed from the Spanish meaning grandson.  Nieta is granddaughter.
  • Mañataotao.  Comes from man+cha+taotao.  Cha means "equal, the same."  Chataotao means "the same people, race, nation."  But when one puts man in front of cha, it becomes maña-.

Theological Notes

  • The Incarnation of the Son of God introduced into the world and human history brand new relationships.  Jesus is the Son of Mary, and Mary is His mother.  But that is according to His human nature.  But Jesus is a divine person with a divine nature as well, so He is also God and Lord of His own mother.  That is why the refrain says to Saint Ann, "Pray for us to God, your Lord and grandson."
  • The Jews are called "bad" in this hymn because the majority of the Jews rejected Jesus as the messiah, even though Jesus, according to His human nature, was a Jew.  Saint Ann, though, was also a Jew, but she not only accepted Jesus; she was His grandmother.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Design of the Guam Flag and Seal approved by Governor Roy Smith on July 4, 1917

I have heard and read that the cliff line seen in this Seal is Two Lovers' Point.  Puntan Dos Amåntes.  I have my doubts.

The little river or brook that you see flowing out to sea by the lone coconut tree was in Hagåtña, so the cliff line in the background is what can be seen from Hagåtña.  One cannot see Two Lovers' Point from Hagåtña.  The Oka peninsula blocks Hagåtña's view of Two Lovers' Point.  Otherwise, we'd be able to see all the Tumon hotels from Hagåtña.

Oka Peninsula blocks Hagåtña's view of Two Lovers' Point

What can be seen from Hagåtña is the western cliff line of Guam, ending in Litekyan (Ritidian) Point.

From Hagåtña, the Oka Peninsula, with its condos, is visible, and less clear farther back is the western cliffline that ends in Litekyan (Ritidian).  Notice we cannot see Tumon or Two Lovers' Point.

Notice the difference in look between Litekyan (Ritidian), which is visible from Hagåtña, and Two Lovers' Point, which is blocked by Oka Point (where GMH is) in most of Hagåtña.

A modern version of the Seal whose cliff, due to its height in relation to the shore, looks more like Two Lovers' Point.

Just to mix it up even more...

a modern version of the Seal whose jagged hilltops don't look anything at all like the straight cliff lines of western Guam.

But this is another story...

But did you know that there is something historically wrong with the canoe in the Seal?

Thursday, July 26, 2012



The Luta Chamorros are known for their sing-song accent.

In Saipan, a lady from Luta (Rota) was working in a government office.  Another worker saw her approaching his side of the building and he called out to everyone, "Enaogue' mågi si flauta!"  "Here comes 'flute'!"


You can drive down a street and pick up a carabao if you feel so inclined.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Back in the 60s and early 70s, a car salesman and politician also had a talent show on KUAM TV.  Allen Sekt was something of a colorful character, whose commercial ads for his auto business always included the slogan "If you don't buy from us, we both lose."

When he ran in elections, this changed to "If you don't vote for me, we both lose."



A Democrat, he served in the Guam Legislature a short while.  Did you know that there is a Senator Allen A. Sekt Endowed Chair in Law at Creighton University?  Sekt graduated from there in 1936 with a law degree in his hand.  He felt he had to pay back the University for his subsequent good fortune.

I appeared as a 5-year-old on the Allen Sekt Talent Show on KUAM; well, me and 20 other kids from Sinajaña Elementary School.  I don't even remember what we sang.  All I remember is that the studio was cold (air conditioned).  Very few people had air conditioning in their homes in 1967.  We didn't.

In 1970, the Allen Sekt Show on KUAM started at 830PM, right after M Squad and right before Peyton Place.

SEKT IN 1968
He was an avid golfer

Tuesday, July 24, 2012



Eståba si Sister yan i famagu'on gi eskuela, ma e'egga' i estorian Moises gi video.

Ma repåra na annai kahulo' si Moises gi Ekso' Sinai, umå'paka' i gaputilu-ña.

Finaisen si Sister ni un påtgon, "Sister!  Sa' håfa na umå'paka' i gaputilu-ña si Moises?"

"Sa' ha li'e i matan Yu'us, iho," ilek-ña si Sister.

"Ya hågo, Sister, kuånto biåhe un li'e i matan Yu'us?" mamaisen i patgon.



1921 in Hagåtña.

Maria Leon Guerrero, a kantora (singer) in the Cathedral and daughter of the techa Vicenta, went to the hospital complaining of abdominal pains.  The American doctor ordered an x-ray done.  Maria refused.

Why?  According to Maria, disrobing for an x-ray would "injure her modesty."

She finally consented to the x-ray on the condition that her husband remain at her side.  The x-ray revealed she had kidney stones.

Monday, July 23, 2012


US BUMED Library and Archives
Chamorro Nursing Graduates

In traditional Chamorro culture, an invisible fence surrounded every Chamorro woman.  This fence meant that she could not go out on dates unless chaperoned by an aunt and such.  She was taken out of school when adolescence set in.  Parents did not jump at opportunities offered to their daughters.

One woman told me how, right after the war, she was approached by a Chamorro nurse who was recruiting young women to enroll in a nurses' training program.  This woman, just 16 at the time, was very excited about becoming a nurse.  As she and the recruiter were finishing their conversation, the father came home from work.  He asked what was the reason for the lady's visit.

When told the answer, the father looked at his daughter and said, "Yanggen para un enfetmera, hånao ya un chule' i balutån-mo.  Lao adahe na un bira hao mågi, sa' ti un gatcha ni un eskaleran guåot para un li'e ta'lo si nanå-mo."  ("If you're going to be a nurse, go and get your things.  But be careful that you don't come back, because you won't even set foot on the first step of the stairs to see your mother again.")

The idea of never seeing her mother again was intolerable, so the recruitment died right then and there.  Her mother hugged her and, crying as well, told her daughetr, "Osge si tatå-mo, hagå-ho, sa' i osgon na påtgon siempre binendise gue' as Yu'us." ("Obey your father, my daughter, because the obedient child is surely blessed by God.")

Years later, the father got ill with old age and the wife was not able to handle all of his physical needs.  So the daughter, now a mother herself, came one day to do for the father what her mother could not do.  When all was done, the mother marveled at her daughter's skill and said, "Ai hagå-ho, sa' un gef tungo' todo håfa para un cho'gue."  ("Oh, my daughter, you really know all you are to do.")

The daughter looked at her father and said, "Atan ha'!  Isao-mo nai!  Sa' depotsi para bai enfetmera!  Ayo ha' tetehnan i para bai hu dulok hao!"  ("Look!  It's your fault!  I was supposed to be a nurse!  The only thing I haven't done yet is poke you with a needle!")

The reality is that, besides the fear many parents had that their daughters would be lead astray if they were not under their supervision, this woman in particular was the oldest daughter on whom her parents could rely.


Chamorros can be great teasers, even though we can also be very sensitive.

I first heard this type of song about fifteen years ago.  You can throw in any village or island you want, the jabs remain the same.  I even asked him to take a stab at my home village, Sinajaña.

One of his verses goes,

Bula guaka bula toro (Plenty cows, plenty bulls)
Dededo i man modoro. (Dededo the not-so-bright).


Bula titiyas bula fadang (Plenty tortillas, plenty federico nut)
Sinajaña man pao sadang. (Sinajaña, well, smells like...to be as inoffensive as possible...the bathroom).

Another verse goes like this (not sung here, but from the first time I heard it sung)

Puro ha' suni yan chandiha (it's all taro and watermelon)
i famalao'an man pao biha. (the ladies smell like old women).

Yes, great kidders....



MAMES : sweet

Kao mames?  Is it sweet?

Hunggan, mames.  Yes, it's sweet.

Mames na nåna.  Sweet mother.

Minames.  Sweetness.

Kao nahong minames-ña?  Is it sweet enough? (Literally, "Is its sweetness sufficient?")

Ei na minames!  My but how sweet!

Sa' pot i minames-mo.  Because of your sweetness.

Hågo minames-ho.  You are my sweetness.

Pinat mames.  Overly sweet.

Na' mames.  To make sweet.

Na' mames i kuentos-mo.  Make your speech sweet.

Fina' mames.  Dessert.

Mamise.  To be sweet towards someone or something.

Ya-ña manmamise taotao.  S/he likes to be sweet towards people.

Na' mamise.  To make sweet for another.

Na' mamise yo' ni kafe.  Make my coffee sweet. (Literally, "Make sweet for me the coffee.")

Sunday, July 22, 2012


The man åmko' are notorious for keeping the family skeletons in the closet; not only the closet but maybe even under the floor board or above the ceiling inside the closet.
A young man was sitting watching the Liberation Day parade on TV with his mother.  Out of the blue, the mother says, "Oh yeah, nåna has a half-sister, you know?"
After years of it never being thoroughly discussed, she shares the fact that her grandfather had sired a child in his bachelor days before marriage.  The young man got up to get more of the 411 from the grandma next door.
Now what that had to do with the Liberation Day parade is beyond me. But don't question. Thank God she brought up this hidden fact at all!


Sånta Marian Kåmalen had a prominent place in this year's Liberation Day parade.  She was on more than one float.  I don't remember her being this prominent in parades many years ago.

On the beauty queens' float, the earthly queens on the left, the heavenly Queen on the right.

Enough time has passed so that the idea has gotten stronger that Sånta Marian Kåmalen, who has survived a war, several major typhoons and thefts, is our mother who accompanies us through the ups and downs of life, just as she has gone through them. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


The famous song that some Chamorros sang during the Japanese Occupation to keep their spirits up that the Americans would return.

Eight of December, 1941
people went crazy right here in Guam
Oh Uncle Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam
won't you please come back to Guam.

"Went crazy?"  This describes the panic that emptied the city of Hagåtña within hours of the Japanese bombardment of Sumay that morning.

I am so fortunate to have known the two people in this short clip.

Ton Pete Rosario (Seboyas) used to sing at many man åmko' events when I was working as a teenager at the Guam Legislature in the 1970s.  I will never forget his rendition of the song "Angelina Kolasa sen palak palak."  I hope there is a recording of it somewhere.

Tan Maria Garrido lived just behind Bishop Baumgartner School.  I was her paper boy when I was younger, and then later in my 20s I would visit her and listen to her stories.  Though just a little younger than my grandmother, she would only speak to me in English, as she had been a school teacher and was one of that generation that tried to master English, which, in her case, she did.  She spoke very good English.


My family moved from their original home in San Ignacio district in Hagåtña, to Sinajaña.

The house would have been to the left of this photo of Pedro's Plaza, or what is now the Attorney General's Office building.  That would put it on the street, hardly ever used, that runs in between Pedro's Plaza and the Agaña Precinct of GPD.  Before the war, our house was on Zaragoza Street.  It was a two-storey, concrete house.  But the American bombardment of Guam in July 1944 destroyed this house.  Even property lines were in a state of confusion when new streets were laid out that did not conform to the pre-war property lines.

After the war

My family moved to Sinajaña and lived in a temporary house of thatched roofing until a wooden and tin-roof house was built.  That lasted till the early 1970s when, thanks to Urban Renewal, my grandmother moved to our present location and built a concrete house, next to my parents who lived in a two-storey home my grandmother had built.

Because of the American Liberation, the bombing that took place in order to achieve it, and the post-war re-settlement patterns, Hagåtña people became Sinajaña people, in my case. 

But every time I pass that street in between the Agaña Precinct and Pedro's Plaza, I glance at what once was Zaragoza Street and my ancestor's home.

Friday, July 20, 2012


One of the better homes in Hagåtña

Here's a description of one of the homes of the Chamorro elite in Hagåtña at the turn of the 20th century.  It is taken from William Safford's "A Year on the Island of Guam."

"Called on Don Juan de Torres, Auditor of the Treasury.  He lives in a large house of masonry not far from the beach; met his wife Doña Juliana Perez.  The rooms of Don Juan's house are very large; the floors of polished Afzelia wood; some of the furniture is of island manufacture and the rest brought from Manila by some former governor; a piano of good tone and in remarkably good tune (Don Juan's brother is an accomplished musician); a good library, including the various codes - criminal, commercial and civil - of the Spanish colonies..."

In the garden, many plants and fragrant shrubs.

  • During Spanish times, there were a good number of Chamorros who were quite educated and cultured in things European.  Some of this was due to the mixed blood of some of these Chamorros; some had the opportunity to go abroad; some had close contacts with Spaniards, Americans and other Europeans who lived on Guam
  • The better homes were made of mamposteria masonry and tile roofing.  There was always a bodega or basement.
  • The "polished floors" that Safford describes reminds me of the way one of my aunties kept her ifit floor shiny, using a cut coconut husk as a brush.  She would move this husk in a circular way just using her naked foot.



Flores rosa ni bonito
lamlam yan agaga';
hånao yan este na kattå-ko
guato gi todo i guinaiya-ko.

Pretty rose flower
shiny and red;
go with this my letter
there to all my love.

Gupu duro fan
yan i gråsia siha.
Chule' i minagof-ho
yan i fottunå-ho.

Fly intensely please
with all graces.
Take my happiness
and my fortune.

Written by Frank Lizama, 1975
DOE Chamorro Studies

The writer sends his loved one his happiness and good fortune through a rose which he sends enclosed in the letter.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


People used to put on a lot more plays in the past, compared to now.

Village fiestas used to feature plays, skits and musical numbers on stage after the religious ceremonies.

A lot of the dialogue was still in Chamorro, too.




First comes the sin, then the regret.

Fo'na, mo'na = ahead, before

Isao = sin, fault, misdeed

Tåtte = behind, following

Sotsot = to regret, repent

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


According to one of the mañaina in this family, the Kådi' are descendants of Jose Cepeda Manibusan (born around 1857) and his wife Maria Pangelinan.  Apparently they had a lot of children, the majority of them boys, so the Manibusan name enjoyed much security of staying around.

But what does the nickname mean? According to the story told by the mañaina, Jose liked to go the extra yard when entertaining guests.  Serving guests more fancy food and so on.   According to the story, "kådi'" means to show off, to be "ande'."  But a search of that word in the dictionaries turns up nothing.  So, it remains a puzzle.


Judge V.C. Reyes

Hagåtña.  Late 1930s.

My mother's oldest brother Pedro is the son of Joaquin Aflague Limtiaco, the founder of Limtiaco's auto repair.  Joaquin also ran a taxi business and other allied enterprises.

So Uncle Pete got his own car at an early age; the envy of the neighborhood boys, I am sure.  And like an eager young man, had a bit too much bravado in Hagåtña's narrow streets.  He got pinched by a police officer for some infraction and had to appear in court.

Though he was not a judge at the time but the Island Attorney, for some reason the "judge" sitting behind the gavel that day was his mother's brother-in-law, Vicente Camacho Reyes.  Maybe he had to fill in on cases of minor violations that day.

Uncle Pete was shaking in his pants when he saw that the judge was his own uncle.  He was even more frightened by the possibility that his uncle would inform his mother that he was in court.  But Uncle Ben never looked up from the bench.  He just kept glancing at the papers in front of him and said, "Mister Limtiaco; don't ever appear in my court again."

Uncle Pete said, "Yes, sir," and that was it.  I have forgotten whether Uncle Pete ever had to pay a fine or not.

But I think Uncle Ben probably didn't look up in order to keep from laughing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



A few weeks after Liberation Day.  1944.

Thousands of Chamorros were in temporary refugee camps.  American guards watched the perimeter of these camps because some Japanese soldiers were still on the loose, only too happy to take shots at Chamorro civilians and American soldiers alike.

Out of the blue, an American guard heard a rustle.  Looking in the sound's direction, he sees the figure of a man in the distance, but cannot make out who he is; friend or foe.

The guard shouts out to the man to identify himself.  Silence.  He calls out a second time.  Again, silence.  Finally a third time.  This time, no silence, but instead, the blast of the American guard's gun.  The man in the distance falls.  Now, silence - dead silence.

The guard carefully goes up to see who he has just killed.  The dead man is not Japanese.  He is Chamorro.  Why he never responded to the guard's shouts, no one knows.



TÅFTÅF : early

Tåftåf hao mågi.  You are here early.  Come here early.

Tåftåf gi ega'an.  Early in the morning.

Tatåftåf.  Someone habitually early.  Early-riser.

Tåftåf demasiao!  Too early!

Taftåfgue.  To do something before the expected time.

Ha taftåfgue man apåse.  He made an early payment.

Early Bird Special

I Taftaf na Paluma na Espesiåt

Monday, July 16, 2012



There was a time when one of the worst things you could be called on Guam or Saipan was a komunista (communist).

Now there weren't any real Chamorro communists at the time, in any organized or formal way.  But conservative Chamorros, some priests and pious lay people, looked on political "radicals" as komunista.

Take for example this letter, written in 1964, by a very religious woman to someone off-island :

"Kulan meggai na atboroto ni para i ma elihe bentiuno na Kongresista, kada dos åños.  Ya guaha dos na pattida." (There is perhaps a lot of commotion with the election of twenty-one congressmen*, every two years.  And there are two parties.)

The  she goes on to say about one of the parties :

"Ti maolek bidan-ñiñiha para i pupbliko.  Komo Komunista."  (Their actions aren't good for the public.  They are like communists.)

Up in Saipan, when political status talks were hot and heavy in the late 60s and early 70s, a few activists made some priests and active Catholics nervous when they made contact with Russia.  Keep in mind that Saipan was not part of the U.S. at the time, and the Cold War was still on.  These Saipan activists were branded komunista by one or two priests and by some lay people.

And one man told me of his experience in the 50s, when he and other members of a parish organization disagreed with the pastor.  The pastor labeled them bolsheviki (Bolsheviks, a term for Lenin's branch of Russian communists), even though they were all practicing and active parishioners.

*In the 50s and 60s, our senators in the Guam Legislature were called congressmen; kongresista in Chamorro.