Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Many people know about the German ship that sank in Apra Harbor in 1917, the SMS Cormoran.

But fewer people know that, besides German sailors who made up the vast majority of the crew, there were also men from Papua New Guinea on board, working for the Germans.  PNG was a German colony at the time.

While the Cormoran was stranded on Guam when World War I broke out in 1914 (the U.S. and Germany were not at war yet until 1917), the Chamorros got to see German sailors and New Guinea islanders quite frequently.

In 1917, for the entertainment of the American and Chamorro population, two teams of New Guinea men put on a competition hurling spears.  I don't think at each other!

The story of the Cormoran, with a picture of the New Guinea workers, can be found at

Monday, November 26, 2012


Maulek-ña un kåti ya un laknos i piniti-mo pat binibu-mo
ke ni para un lalango.

(Better for you to cry and release your sadness or anger
than for you to collapse.)

There are two emotions here; sorrow and anger.

I think the rules apply differently for men and women.

Women are always allowed to express sorrow through wailing and weeping; men, however, should remain stoic.  Sons, I think, are given a little liberty to shed tears at their parent's funeral, and perhaps husbands over their dead wives.  But, even then, the men should not be loud and dramatic, as the women are allowed, even expected, to be.

Men, of course, are permitted to give vent to their anger, just as the women are.  Women often mix both anger and sorrow, crying and expressing their hurt as well as their anger.  The men, however, are always expected to be strong and admit emotional pain less.  Anger is "masculine," pain is "feminine," in the minds of many people.

So, in the midst of death, women are encouraged to let the weeping and wailing go full force.  It is bad to keep the sadness inside.  One can lose one's sanity that way, it is believed.  I have seen women in the family go mute at a funeral, only to have family members shake them, even gently slap them, for the dazed woman to "come to," being prodded to cry, scream and let it all out.

When Chamorro women do go at it at funerals, they are not told to shush.  Only when the mourner is about to do something physically harmful or exaggerated will someone step in; like climbing into the grave or throwing something across the room.

If a Chamorro woman sheds no tears at a funeral, there are only two possibilities.  One, she had little love for the deceased and two, she did not allow her grief to show, and she had better let it out sometime or else she will suffer mentally at some point.

As for anger, many people consider it advantageous for the person to vent all their anger verbally.  This may be enough, it is thought, to prevent something worse from happening.  But be wary of the offended party who keeps silence.  He or she is but a dormant volcano, quietly calculating the right time to strike and with even more deadly force than the loud complaints of an angry person letting loose.

Saturday, November 24, 2012



Fanhigåyan*.  August 29, 1874.  10AM

Vicente Camacho Garrido, 28 years old and already married, really thought himself something.  He was walking arm-in-arm with another woman, and, what was worse, she was already connected with another man, one Luis Mendiola Mendiola.

Vicente challenged Luis to a fight, and Luis declined.  Vicente called Luis a woman, and still Luis declined to fight.  Vicente took his machete and slashed Luis under his left floating rib, severing part of his intestines.  Luis was taken to Hagåtña where he hung on for a while, receiving both medical care and the Last Rites.  But he died shortly thereafter.

(P. Aniceto's Diary)

* Fanhigåyan is the correct name for a place we all call today Finegayan.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


PÅBO : turkey

There are no turkeys native to the Marianas. 

So the Spanish word for turkey was borrowed : pavo.

A little humor....HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

English Pilgrims
"We better start planting."

Chamorro Pilgrims
"Are there Chinese restaurants in Lourdes?"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


At one time, Guam had a Normal School.

Normal?  This was an old term used for a school that taught high school graduates how to be primary school teachers.  The idea was for school teachers to all use the same teaching norms, hence "normal."

Even during Spanish times, at least one Chamorro, Luis Diaz Torres, was sent to the Escuela Normal in Manila to get training as a teacher.  Torres returned to Guam and taught at the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, Hagåtña's highest school, and became headmaster of it at one point.

But teacher training was really limited on Guam in Spanish times.

The Americans tried a little harder.  They took their best pupils in their teens and trained them to be teachers.  My grandmother was one of them; she started teaching 6-year-olds when she herself was 16 or 17!

In 1917, the students at the Normal School in Hagåtña were tested.  Here are the top five who scored highest :

RITA P. DUARTE (1st) (Score of 98.6) - Rita was the daughter of a prominent Spanish civil servant, Pedro Duarte y Andújar.  Pedro served in both the Spanish colonial government of the Marianas as well as the American.  Rita maternal grandmother was Chamorro, Emilia Castro Anderson.  The Duartes eventually left Guam, for Manila and the U.S. mainland.

IGNACIA BORDALLO BUTLER (2nd) (93.5) - Daughter of the Spaniard Baltazar Bordallo and wife of the American Chester Butler.  Her mother was Chamorro, Rita Pangelinan of the Kotla clan.  A fuller biography of Ignacia can be found at

JUAN ROSARIO (3rd) (92.2)

AGUEDA IGLESIAS JOHNSTON (4th) (91.7) - Wife of William G. Johnston and future head of Guam's education department.  Her bio can be found at

MARIA ROSARIO (5th) (87.4) - I am unsure of her identity as she may have married later and is more known by her married name, but she was single when this test was taken.

Out of 26 students at the Normal School, my grandmother, Maria Torres Perez, placed 14th in the results with a score of 67.6.  She was a school teacher and principal for much of her life before WW2.

Monday, November 19, 2012


The Guam stonefish (nufo' in Chamorro) is very dangerous.  It looks like part of the rocks and stones you see in the water, but it's a living, venomous fish.  If you step on one, you may get pierced by one of its long needles, sharp enough to penetrate your sneakers.  The pain is instant and excruciating.  People who are unfortunate enough to get stung will definitely need medical attention.  While waiting for the meds to kick in, their foot and leg will swell, turn color, throb in indescribable pain and the patient will often suffer from nausea.  It takes a week or more to get over, after getting medication.

Frank Lizama composed this little poem about it :


Ti bunitu yo' na guihan
yan ti gof dångkolo yo' lokkue'.
I kulot-hu chukulåti
ya i tataotao-hu tituka'.

(I am not a pretty fish
and neither am I very big.
Brown is my color
and thorns are my body.)

Kalan despåsio yo' kumalamten
ayu na chaddek yo' makonne'.
Sumåsåga yo' gi acho'
ya nufo' i na'ån-hu.

(I move about slowly
which is why I am quickly caught.
I live among the rocks
and nufo' is my name.)

~~~Frank Lizama, 1975, DOE Chamorro Studies
(English version mine)


Ana : Maria, håfa na atrasao hao mågi?

Maria : Ai adei Ana.  Malak Hågat yo' pot para bai famåhan pugua', pues gi biradå-ho tåtte, båba i traffic, pues malak i bangko yo'.....puro ha' miscellaneous.

Friday, November 16, 2012


NIGAP : yesterday

Ti mafañågo yo' nigap!  I wasn't born yesterday!

Hu li'e gue' nigap.  I saw him/her yesterday.

Nigap-ña.  The day before yesterday.

Gi nigap-ña na ma susede.  It happened the day before yesterday.

Nigap na puenge.  The night before last night.

("Last night" has its own word in Chamorro, but we'll leave that for another post.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Mafnas is a Chamorro name.

It's also a word, as are all indigenous Chamorro names, though many of them have meanings lost to us at this time.

But måfnas is still a word used by modern Chamorros.  It means "erased, wiped away."  It comes from the root word funas, which means "to erase or wipe away."  The Chamorro language likes to make shortcuts, so "ma funas" is shortened to måfnas.

Although it is a Chamorro name, it is rooted in Hagåtña, which is interesting because most indigenous names are rooted in the southern villages where less foreigners settled.  Hagåtña at one time became an almost foreign colony, made up of Spanish, Latin American and Filipino soldiers, many with Chamorro wives.  The surrounding villages such as Mongmong, Sinajaña, Asan, Aniguak and others was where the more pure Chamorros lived.  I suspect, therefore, that the Mafnases came from these outlying villages considered part of Hagåtña and gradually moved to the capital city.  One of the village officials in Pago in the year 1842, for example, was Luis Mafnas.

Today, of course, there are Mafnases all over Guam and one branch also moved to Saipan over 100 years ago.

One thing's for sure, ti u måfnas i Mafnas giya Marianas.  The Mafnases will never disappear in the Marianas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


U.S.S. Supply

"Island fever" is a condition related to "cabin fever," depending on your geographical circumstances.  Chamorros have been great travelers for many years, long before they were racking up huge numbers on their OnePass accounts.

Back in the day, of course, it was all by boat.  In 1916, this meant travel to Manila by way of the U.S.S. Supply, an iron steamship built in 1873.  The Supply was for a time the station ship of the Guam naval base, making sure there was reliable transportation between Guam and Manila for cargo, mail and passengers.

On one voyage in 1916, the two brothers Francisco (Paco) and Jose (Pepe) de la Cruz returned to Guam from Manila on the Supply.  The De la Cruz brothers were sons of Eulogio Castro de la Cruz, who had links with Manila.  Paco later went on to live and work in Manila, where he married Carmen (Melin) Romualdez, a relative of Imelda Marcos.  De la Cruz returned to Guam and with Melin founded the Guam Academy of Music and Arts (GAMA) and other business ventures.

Also returning to Guam after a trip to Manila were Ursula Delgado, Felisa Garcia, Angel Cristobal, Justo Dungca, Soledad Dungca, Leon Flores, Felicitas Dungca Flores, Magdalena Herrero, Carmen Herrero, Dolores Herrero, Emilia Martinez, Joaquin Guerrero and Jose Salas.

A few private ships also provided Guam residents with passage to other shores.  The Mariana Maru was a Japanese schooner taking people and cargo to and from Yokohama.  In July of 1916, it brought back to Guam Atanacio Taitano Perez, Juan Torres, Jesus Flores and Japanese Guam-residents J. Yamanaka and S. Akiyama.  Then it picked up the following Guam residents for a trip to Japan : Guam postmaster James Underwood (married to the former Ana Pangelinan Martinez) and his daughter Essie and son John; Japanese J.K. Shimizu and his Chamorro wife Carmen and sons Jesus and Joaquin.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Governor Joseph F. Flores

The first war that the United States was involved in wherein Chamorros could be involved as active-duty servicemen was World War I. 

Joseph Flores was just in his teens when the U.S. entered the war in 1917.  Flores enlisted in the U.S. Navy. 

Although he never saw combat, he served in the Navy both during and after the war.  He lived for many years in California before World War II.

After that war, he returned to Guam to run many businesses and, most notably, became Governor of Guam in 1960, appointed (as they were in those days) by the U.S. President.  That year was a presidential election year, and when John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, was elected President, Flores, a Republican, turned in his courtesy resignation.

Flores passed away in 1981.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Satawal canoe arriving in Saipan

From an article written in a 1938 Guam Recorder issue, we get the story of "Yapese" coming to Guam during Spanish times looking for a certain kind of rock for use as money (åcho' Yap).   The famous stone money in Yap, we know, was actually obtained in Palau.  But there is speculation that some of it could have come from the Marianas.

Antonio Crisostomo Suarez, a mestizo Chamorro of the late 1800s and early 1900s, who had spent some time in the Northern Marianas, then talks about natives from Satawal and Lamotrek making the voyages up to the Marianas in the same breath.

So I wonder about this, since people from Satawal and Lamotrek are part of the State of Yap, but are not ethnically Yapese.  Their language and culture are part of the extended Chuukese group, though they have some affinities with Yapese customs, such as betel nut chewing.

Still, it interested me to find out, from Suarez, that when the Carolinians (the term used for the Outer Islanders in Yap State) sailed for the Marianas, they had an easy source of protein : the fish they caught on the way.  For carbs, they soaked green breadfruit in salt water (unpalatable to others) or baked and pounded it and mixed it with coconut milk.  Other roots were brought along as food.  Fresh water was stored in bamboo tubes, and replenished with rain water.

It makes one wonder if there were any similarities between this and the way the first peoples of the Marianas brought food with them from their original lands to their new home in our chain of islands.

The Carolinians were so much a part of Saipan's history and community that the Chamorros could say Sataguåt (for Satawal) and Oleai (for Woleai).


Close to 200 people, mostly Chamorros and some family and friends of Chamorros, attended a Chamorro cultural workshop presented by Pale' Eric in San Diego, California.

From 9AM till 4PM, Pale' walked the participants down the same roads the people of the Marianas walked from the first physical signs of human habitation, down to the present situation and the challenges we face as a people.

With the help of many graphics and recordings of interviews, all aspects were touched on : history, language, beliefs, religion, family origins, customs, song, dance.

Friday, November 9, 2012


A woman remembers perhaps her first sin.  The year?  1938 or so.

"I was around 4 years old and I saw my mother making the batter to bake cookies.  From the moment I saw her making the batter, I wanted to eat those cookies so badly.  But then my mother put them in a ceramic bowl and hid them at the top of the cupboard.  She said no one is to eat them; they were for that night's dessert.

Our maid told all of us brothers and sisters to take our nap after lunch.  When everyone was sleeping, I climbed up and got one cookie.  Just as soon as I put the cookie to my mouth, I felt so terrible.  I knew I was doing wrong, and the cookie tasted awful to me because of my guilty conscience.  But I already put it to my mouth, so I ate it, but without any delight.

That night, my mother took down the cookies and while everyone was eating them, she said, 'One of the cookies is missing.'  I couldn't believe she knew how many cookies there were!  She looked at my oldest sister and accused her.  My older sister started to cry and told my mom she didn't take the cookie.  So my mom accused the maid, and from then on, my mother never trusted the maid.

I was only four years old, and I already committed five sins.  First, I disobeyed God, who told me to obey my parents.  Second, I disobeyed my mother.  Third, I took a cookie I wasn't supposed to take.  Fourth, I lied and pretended to be innocent.  Fifth, I let an innocent woman suffer a false accusation."

"Kuåttro åños ha' yo' guihe na tiempo, annai hu li'e si nanå-ho na ha båbåtti i arina para u fama'tinas cookies.  Gigon hu li'e ennao, ha na' sen malago' yo' chumocho cookies.  Lao despues, si nanå-ho ha sahguan i cookies gi halom i ceramic na tason ya ha nå'na' gi hilo' i tapblita.  Ha sangåne ham todos na ti siña in kanno'; na para ta kånno' gi despues de sena ayo na puenge.

Pues i muchåchan-måme ha tågo' ham todos, hame yan i mañe'lu-ho siha, para in fan maigo' annai esta monhåyan ham mañocho gi talo'ane.  Annai esta hu tungo' na manmamaigo' todos i pumalo, kahulo' yo' gi tapblita ya hu chule' uno na cookie.  Lao gigon hu po'lo i cookie gi halom pachot-ho, båba i siniente-ko.  Hu tungo' na isao i bidå-ho, ya ha na' ti månnge' para guåho i cookie sa' pot i piniti-ho na umisao yo'.  Lao pot i esta hu po'lo gi halom pachot-ho, hu kånno' ha', masea ti hu gogosa.

Ayo na pupuenge, ha chule' påpa' si nanå-ho i cookies ya mientras mañochocho todos, ilek-ña si nanå-ho, 'Håye chumule' uno na cookie?'  Ti hu hongge na ha repåra si nanå-ho kuånto na cookies guaha!  Ha atan i mas åmko' na che'lu-ho palao'an ya a sokne gue' na guiya chumule'.  Duro kumåte i che'lu-ho ya ha sangåne si nanå-ho na åhe' ti guiya chumule'.  Pues si nanå-ho ha sokne i muchåcha na guiya chumule', ya desde ennao para mo'na, esta si nanå-ho ti siña ha angoko i muchåcha.

Kuåttro åños ha' yo', lao esta singko na isao hu komete.  Finena'na, hu isague si Yu'us sa' ha tågo yo' si Yu'us na para bai osge si tatå-ho yan si nanå-ho.  Segundo, hu isague si nanå-ho sa' ti hu osge gue'.  Tetset, hu chule' i ti debe di hu chule'.  Kuåtto, mandagi yo' ya hu fa' si inosenta yo'.  Kinto, mamatkilo ha' yo' annai ma sokne i muchåcha ni tåya' håfa båba bidå-ña."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


On Saturday, November 3, about 100 Chamorros and friends and family of Chamorros, gathered in Torrance, California (LA area) for a workshop on Chamorro culture given by Pale' Eric Forbes.

Starting with the first signs of human settlement in the Marianas 3700 years ago to the present, the history, language and culture of the Chamorros, in all their major phases was covered, with pictorial and audiovisual aids.

The workshop closed with a description of the present cultural situation and different people's responses to the issues and questions of the day concerning the future of the Chamorro people.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Red Ginger

The Japanese ruled the Northern Marianas from 1914 till 1944.  Thirty years.  Not only that; the Japanese population in Saipan was ten times bigger than the local Chamorro/Carolinian population; over 50,000 Japanese versus 5,000 Chamorros and Carolinians.  The locals were SWAMPED.

Besides Japanese, there were Okinawans and Koreans in the Northern Marianas to boot.

If someone visited these islands in the 1930s, they would think they moved to tropical Japan.  Everything was in Japanese.  Ninety percent of the people you bumped in to on the street were Japanese, Okinawan or Korean.  Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines everywhere.  In Tinian, there was no native Chamorro or Carolinian population.  The few Chamorros and Carolinians who lived on Tinian were originally from either Saipan or Luta and went over there for work.

Chamorro kids went to Japanese schools; limited, of course.  The Japanese didn't want all the Chamorros that educated.  But enough to speak basic Japanese in order to comply with orders.  These Chamorro kids all sang the Japanese national anthem and bowed to the Emperor.  Certain people were selected for advanced education and training; sometimes being sent to Japan or another Japanese-controlled island.

So, Japanese influence on the Chamorro (and Carolinian) culture was tremendous, in more than the food department.


As pictured above, Saipan Chamorros sometimes put red ginger even in kelaguen and other Chamorro foods which we on Guam would never think of doing.

Saipanese Chamorros also eat ampan, a bean-filled bread, and manju..  They make it themselves.

Sushi shows up a lot more in Saipanese parties than on Guam.  Though, I'd say, Guam Chamorros serve sashimi almost just as much as Saipan Chamorros do.


Some Chamorros who lived during Japanese times even had full Japanese names given to them by the government.  But, in Saipan, there were (and some still exist) women with Japanese nicknames like Mariko and Arinko.  These Chamorro and Carolinian women have Christian names, but no one ever calls them anything but their Japanese nicknames.


A whole book could be written on the Japanese words that made it into the Chamorro speech of Saipan and Luta Chamorros, but I'll point out some of the more prominent ones, used frequently.

Nangasi.  Sink, as in where you wash dishes.  In Japanese, nagashi.  But Chamorros have a hard time with the SH sound. In Guam, we retain the Spanish labadot (lavador, from lavar, "to wash.")

Namaiki.  Fresh-mouthed, sassy, cheeky.  Same as in Japanese.  Of course, Chamorros turn it into their own word and say "Namaikeke-mo!

Chirigami.  Toilet paper.  Guam : Påppet etgue (paper for wiping).

Denki.  Light, flashlight.  But Saipan and Luta Chamorros also use kåndet, as on Guam; from the Spanish candil, an instrument of lighting or illumination.

Shoganai.  An expression of resignation meaning, "Well, what can we do?  What can be done? It can't be helped."  From the Japanese shouganai.

Debu'.  Fat.  Chamorros add the glota at the end of the word.

Soko'.   Pantry, food storage.  From the Japanese shoko (library or book storage).  Again, Chamorros change SH to S, and add a glota at the end.  Chamorros on Saipan probably heard Japanese talking about storing books and files in a shoko, and used the word to mean a storage for anything, particularly food.

Kakko'.  Looks, appearance.  Again, Chamorros add a glota.

Omake'.  Extra, freebie, bonus.  Don't forget to add a glota!  When you order 10 apigigi, and the seller throws in an extra one or two, that's omake'.

Hos.  Japanese hosu, which they got from the Dutch word hoos, pronounced hos.  In Guam, when rubber hoses first made an appearance with the Americans, it reminded Guam Chamorros of intestines, so they called a hose tilipas (intestines), which itself is a word borrowed from the Spanish word for intestines, tripas.

Denden.  Snail.  From the Japanese dendemmushi.  In Guam, the Chamorros say akaleha.

Kairu.  Frog.  From Japanese kaeru.  On Guam, we stick to the Spanish word for "frog," råna.

There are many other words, related to modern tools, baseball and automobiles.  Many of these Japanese words are fading away from Saipan speech.  For example, old-timers may still use dengua' (Japanese denwa) for phone, but most Saipanese use tilifon, as we do on Guam.  Other Japanese words used are kori (when a store is packed with customers), gobugari (bald haircut).

Friday, November 2, 2012


MÅTAI : dead, to die

Måtai gue'.  S/he died.  S/he is dead.

Måtai må'ho yo'!  I am dying of thirst!

Måtai ñålang yo'!  I am dying of hunger.

Måtai ginefli'e' gue'.  S/he died of love.

Ai, ya bai hu måtai magof!  Oh, and I will die happily!

Todos hit para ta fan måtai un dia.  All of us will die one day.

Måtai kanai-ña.  His hand is paralyzed.

Måtai gotpe.  To die suddenly.

Måtai derepente.  To die suddenly.

Poddong måtai.  To drop dead.

Måtai siniente-ko.  My feelings are dead.

Kalan hao måtai!  You're acting as if you're already dead!

Mamatai.  Dying.  Capable of dying.

Ti mamatai i guinaiya-ko nu hågo.  My love for you is undying.

Kematai.  Dying; on the way to dying.

Tayuyute i mangekematai.  Pray for the dying.

Finatai.  Death.

Asta i finatai-ho.  Until my death.  Until I die.


Our word for "die" and "death" clearly shows our Austronesian roots and connections with other peoples of Southeast Asia and the Pacific who come from the same ancient roots.

Here is the word "to die, dead" in five different Austronesian languages spanning a large territory :

BASAY (Taiwan)
BAJO (Indonesia)

Thursday, November 1, 2012


When I was a kid in the 60s, some of the older kids prepared for Halloween a week in advance by taking eggs from the fridge and putting them aside to rot.

They became chåda' guero, rotten eggs.

These rascal boys would go around the neighborhood singing, "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat."

If they threw a chåda' guero on someone's front door or car, the smell of rotten eggs would stick around for a while, unless the owners gave a good soapy washing.

Some of those boys liked Halloween, not for the candy, but for the chance to throw chåda' guero around.