Friday, December 28, 2012


Taijeron is an indigenous, Chamorro name, associated with Malesso'.

Almost any Chamorro name beginning with tai means "lacking in something."  So, we look at the word that follows tai, as in Taitano.  Tåno' means "land."  Taitano means "lacking land."

Now jeron is not a Chamorro word, as far as we know.  We think Chamorro lacked the R sound, with the Spanish often confusing it for the L sound (e.g. Inarajan/Inalåhan).  So perhaps the name is really Taijelon.

Tai also changes the pronunciation of the word that follows.  For example, huto means "lice."  To lack lice in one's hair is to be tai hito, which is how the last name Taijito came about.  Huto becomes hito when tai is placed before it.  So jelon could possibly be hulon, and there is a Chamorro word hulon, which means "judge, or leader."  Thus, Taijeron could really be taijilon, "without a leader, or without a judge."

Here is a court document from 1807 that shows that Taijeron was spelled, at one time, Tayjilon, supporting the idea that Taijeron comes from tai (without) and hulon (judge, leader).


Mariano Taijeron
+Dominga Tedpahago

Antonio Taijeron
+Luisa Aguon

Nicolas Fegurgur Taijeron
+Dolores Ugua Babauta

Vidal Taijeron
+Josefa Nasayaf

Jose Nasayof Taijeron

Dolores Nasayof Taijeron
---she had several children out of wedlock who carried on the Taijeron name

Josefa Dominga Nasayof Taijeron
---her illegitimate son Marcelino passed on the Taijeron name to his descendants


There were also a small number of Taijerons in Hagåtña and Piti, who seem to have older roots in Piti because one of the older ones was a Taijito Taijeron.  The Piti Taijerons could have started there or a Malesso' Taijeron could have moved to Piti and began a Piti, then Hagåtña, branch of the family.  These Taijerons moved out of Hagåtña to other villages in central Guam after the war.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


In 1970, the Church allowed the entire Mass to be said in the local language, whatever that might be.  Prior to that, the Mass had to be in Latin, the language of the Romans. 

We have forgotten that our Chamorro people had been singing in Latin for many years.  Even during Spanish times, the missionaries formed choirs that sang the Mass parts, like the Kyrie and Sanctus (Lord Have Mercy and Holy Holy Holy) in Latin.  Besides the Mass parts (called the "Ordinary"), the choirs sang Latin hymns.

If outsiders back in the pre-war days thought Chamorros, as a whole, were isolated and ignorant, they did not understand that many Chamorros had a living connection with a faith, a culture and a language that went back to ancient Rome, through the Roman Catholic religion.  Chamorros could sing in Latin, and sing music written by medieval monks and other composers.

This lady, who was in my choir years ago in Saipan, stil remembers a Latin Christmas hymn which she learned in the 1950s when she was a young girl, drafted into the choir by Tan Vicenta Lizama Evangelista.  Tan Vicenta was older; born in the pre-war days.  Tan Vicenta was taught by the Mercedarian Sisters from Spain who came to Saipan in 1928.

On Guam, Spanish priests in the 1920s were able to boast that the Hagåtña choir could sing half a dozen Masses, meaning the Mass parts sung to six or seven different musical scores; some Gregorian chant, some recent compositions.

Our mañaina (elders) knew more than we sometimes give them credit for.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Crew members of the German ship SMS Cormoran

From December 1914 till she blew up and sank in Apra Harbor on April 7, 1917, Guam was the home of the officers and crew of a German Navy ship, the Cormoran.

From 1914 till the U.S. declared war on Germany in April of 1917, the German sailors were more or less free to roam about the island.

Some of them were Catholic, and one of the blessings for the Catholic church on Guam was that these German Catholic sailors formed a choir and sang at the Agaña Cathedral for Christmas Mass.

The above photo shows some sailors of the Cormoran celebrating Christmas and New Year.  The man at the bottom in the middle is holding a sign that says "Prosit Neujahr," which is German for "Happy New Year."

Monday, December 24, 2012


This Christmas carol is not very old in the Marianas, as it was taught to the Chamorros only in the 1900s by the Spanish Capuchins, who were only on Guam and not the other islands of the Marianas.  Thus our neighbors in Luta and Saipan don't sing it, just as we don't sing the carols taught to them by the German Capuchins, who didn't work on Guam.


Annai i Niño minida as Maria

(When Mary clothed the infant)

Ya nina’ åsson gi hilo’ ngåsan

(and made Him lie on the straw)

Kinantåye gue’ man mames na kånta

(She sang Him sweet songs)

Para u måffong gue’ gi maigo’-ña.

(to make Him sleep soundly.)


Kantåye gue’ sa’ kumekekasao

(Sing to Him, because He is about to cry)

Kantåye gue’ para u nina’ maigo’.

(Sing to Him, so that He can be put to sleep.)


Estague’ i Niño na mafañågo

(Here the Child is born)

ni i sinangan i anghet Gabriel

(as the angel Gabriel said)

Para u såtba hit todos gi isao

(to save us all from sin)

para u konne’ hit guato gi langet.

(and to take us over to heaven.)


Maila’ hao mågi ya hu toktok hao Niño

(Come here infant and I will embrace you)

Ya hu chiko todo i addeng-mo

(and I will kiss both your feet)

Sa’ un goggue i taotao siha gi isao

(because you save the people from sin)

Pot i dangkulun mina’ase’-mo.

(because of your great mercy.)


Ma’lak na estreyas gumigia guato

(Bright stars guide there)

I Tres Reyes ni manaotao kåttan

(the Three Kings, people from the east)

Para u ma adora i Niño Jesus

(to adore the Child Jesus)

Ya ma nå’e regålo-ña guaguan

(and give Him precious gifts.)


Ma’lak na oro, insensio yan mira

(Shiny gold, incense and myrrh)

I mana’i-ña i Niño Jesus

(are the Child Jesus’ gifts)

Guato guihe gi i liyang gå’ga’

(There in the animals’ cave)

Nai mafañågo i Låhen Yu’us.

(where the Son of God was born.)



Saturday, December 22, 2012


How did our mañaina celebrate Christmas before the Americans brought us Santa Claus and Christmas trees?

Short answer : Very religiously and without much fanfare.

People didn't string lights around the house (no electricity) or even hang paper lanterns (no need for electricity) as they do in the Philippines (called a farol).

There was nothing "American" about a Chamorro Christmas in the 1800s; no Santa Claus, Christmas trees, wreaths, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer.

Even many Spanish Christmas customs did not make it to the Marianas.  There was no gift-giving either; not even on Three Kings (Tres Reyes).

Very little can be gathered about Christmas in those days from the Spanish documents we have.

Basically, our mañaina went to Mass the nine mornings before Christmas.  All Masses were celebrated early in the morning in those days, since the fasting laws before receiving communion were very strict.  One had to fast from midnight if one were to receive communion that day, so Masses were held from 4AM on.

The Christmas novena (Nobenan Niño) may have been recited in church by a techa, in Spanish, while the people listened (few could speak Spanish; not all could read or write).  Chamorro novenas were few in those days; almost everything outside the official liturgy (in Latin) was said in Spanish.

Those early morning Masses before Christmas were called Misan Aginåtdo (Misa de Aguinaldo, in Spanish).  But they weren't held like the Filipinos hold them; with a sermon expected on all nine mornings, followed by food.

The Mass at midnight on Christmas Eve was called the Misan Gåyo (Misa de Gallo), or Rooster Mass, because it started at midnight and ended closer or even past 1AM, and roosters might be heard.  Anyway, if not literally, the name implied a very early morning Mass, as early as the sound of roosters getting up in the morning.

The mannginge' Niño (veneration of the Infant Jesus) happened in church, but taking it house-to-house was a recent development started just before the war.

Christmas lasted till January 6, Three Kings (Tres Reyes), with different families observing the end of their novenas then rather than on December 25 as other families did.

The belen (Nativity Scene) was probably much rarer in the homes than in the last hundred years of American rule.  Most families had no way of buying the statues needed, as they all had to be imported.  The better-off families, and those with family members and friends being able to travel to Manila, probably had a belen in their home.

Friday, December 21, 2012


A sweet Christmas carol from Saipan.  The German Capuchins were in Saipan from 1907 till 1919 and taught the people there recent compositions set to German melodies, which is why we don't know these carols on Guam.

Taotao ni man ma dingo / na' fan magof hamyo todos
(People who have been left behind / rejoice all of you)
mafañågo para hamyo / på'go nai i Satbadot!
(for born for you / today is the Savior!)
Ta fan dimo gi me'nå-ña / u ma kånta ni minagof
(Let us kneel before Him / let gladness be sung)
u ma onra, u ma onra / i Saina-ta!
(let our Lord be honored!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012



What's the Chamorro word used for expressing the idea of "support?"  To go along with, agree with, promote, endorse, back, stand behind and so on?

Some Chamorros say supotta, others say supotte.

Whenever a Chamorro word sounds suspiciously close to an English word, chances are the Chamorro borrowed from the Spanish, since both Spanish and English have many words that come from a Latin original.  "Support" comes from the Latin sub (under) and portare (to carry).

But the Spanish word soportar does not mean "support" in the way we usually mean; that is, to back, to endorse, to assist and so on.

Instead, soportar means "to bear, to endure, to withstand" and so on.

My opinion is that the idea to "support" someone or something in the sense we usually have today is a recent development, when we started to have elections and the idea of supporting candidates came about.  We didn't have popular elections till the 1950s.

So we had to come up with a Chamorro-sounding equivalent to the English word "support."  So we invented supotta or supotte.  We didn't truly borrow the word from the Spaniards, since we gave it a new meaning not found in Spanish.  We just made English "support" sound more Chamorro by making it sound more Spanish.  Think about the underlying message there!

This also explains why some Chamorros say supotta and others say supotte.  We took English "support" and some made it sound more Spanish by saying supotta while others thought supotte sounds just as Spanish as supotta.

I always go with supotta since, if we're trying to mimic Spanish, then their word soportar would be conjugated soporta (in the third person singular).

So far I've been talking about the verb form; the act of supporting.  What about the noun?  The idea of supporting.

In Chamorro, we turn verbs into nouns by adding the infix -in.

Guaiya, "to love," is a verb.  Guinaiya is the noun "love."

So one could turn supotta/supotte into sinipotta/sinipotte.

But I prefer another option, which is totally a Chamorro invention though it sounds Spanish, and that is supottasion.

I think it's cool how inventive we can be, taking words from other languages and giving them our own form and even our own meanings.

Kao un supopotta yo' guine?


Long before we came up with supotta/supotte, we did have two words that express the idea of "support."

Apoyo means "support" and is borrowed straight from the Spanish apoyar, which means "support" in the sense of rendering assistance.  Tohne is truly Chamorro and it means "to support, reinforce, sustain, hold up."  I suppose it could be applied to political support, but I think supotta/supotte is here to stay while the Chamorro language lasts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


As an altar boy all my youth, we were in charge many years of going with some of the older servers and male church volunteers to pick lumut for the church belen.

We'd always head up to NCS.  I remember parking along-side the military fence and entering the jungle through an open area along the road.  I was always wondering if the military police would come looking for us.

We tried to do this as early as possible in the morning, to avoid being suffocated by the noonday heat deep inside a musty, insulated forest.  There were always mosquitoes and spiders to contend with; sprained ankles from slipping on the rocky terrain and getting jabbed by protruding branches.

But what pride we had later when we saw the grand lumut in the church.  We got the lumut!


We don't grow Douglas firs or build snow men, but in the islands we do have lumut!

Which means we can build awesome belens, or nativity scenes, which I would suggest have more to do with Christmas than reindeer and the North Pole.

Lumut is a moss that grows wild in the dark, moist and rocky interior of what's left of Guam's forests.  The shade that the trees provide encourages its growth. 
A lumut-covered landscape can look charmingly other-worldy, as if elves are about to run from their jungle hiding places.

The lumut has to be carefully pulled from the coral rocks so as to tear them up in as large a piece as possible.  This way, a large piece of lumut can lie almost like a single carpet on the floor of the belen.

Twigs, leaves, insects and the like all have to be taken out of the lumut.  When stored in a plastic bag, the lumut should be folded in, with the brown underside exposed, to keep the moisture in and the lumut green.

A lumut-covered belen.  Much better, I think, than store-bought green carpets, papier-mache or fabric.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Si Jose yan si Maria, estaguennao man maså'pet
(Joseph and Mary, there they are suffering)
O Yu'us na pelegrino, sugo' mågi giya hame.
(O pilgrim God, stop and stay with us.)

Taitutuhon na Tiningo', taihinekkok na Finaye, takkilon-ña i ta'chong-mo, ke i sagan mapagåhes.
(Wisdom without beginning, Knowledge without end, your seat is higher than the clouds.)
Håfa na un dingo på'go i ginefsagan i langet?
(Why now do you leave the comforts of heaven?)

Interpretive Notes

1. Joseph and Mary suffer - the trip from Nazareth, their home, to Bethlehem, Joseph's ancestral home, as required by the Roman Emperor for the purpose of registering with the census.  Mary is pregnant.  They find no place to stay in Bethlehem.

2. God is a Pilgrim God - the Son of God comes down from heaven into the womb of Mary; He makes the earth His home.  Inside the womb of His mother, He, too, travels from Nazareth to Bethlehem. 

3. The Divine Condescension - would we, in our right mind, leave a perfect place, free of all pain, to be born in a place of sorrow and suffering?  If we were the Creator and Ruler, would we take on the nature of the creature and the subject?  Yet this is what Almighty God did in the person of the Son.  He leaves the palace to "hit the road" as a pilgrim to a sorrowful earth to share in and redeem us from our miseries.


Don't mess with Chamorro grandmas.

The other day a group of elderly Franciscan Third Order members (tetsiåria) gathered at a Chinese restaurant for their annual Christmas social.

They even brought their own buñuelos dågo straight from their home kitchen.

Then, despite the noise from other patrons, loud waiters and waitresses and the clanging of glasses and dishes, the man åmko' tetsiåria started singing traditional Chamorro Christmas carols.  For a good fifteen minutes, the place was theirs!
The clip includes just snippets of the songs, but here's most of what you hear :

Ilek-ña i anghet nu i pastot siha estague' i Kristo giya Belen
(The angel told the shepherds : Christ is here in Bethlehem)
gi sagan gå'ga' chatsaga taigima'.
(in a place for animals, poor, homeless.)
Ta nginge', ta Jesús.
(Let us kiss, let us adore....Jesus.)

O Yu'us na pelegrino sugo' mågi giya hame.
(O pilgrim God stop and stay with us.)

Ta falåggue sahyao i patgon Belen, ta li'e' i Bithen yan si San José.
(Let us run quickly to the child of Bethlehem, let us see the Virgin and Saint Joseph.)
Faisine ham Nåna haftaimano gue', kao yanggen tumo'a u ma'gåse hit?
(Ask for us, Mother, how is He, when He grows up will He rule over us?)
Sangåne ham lokkue' kao i dikkike' guiya i ma sångan na Låhen David?
(Tell us also if the small one is the foretold Son of David?)

Kantåye gue', sa kumekekasao
(Sing to Him, because He is about to cry)
para u nina' maigo'.
(so that He will be put to sleep.)

Friday, December 14, 2012


The late Adrian Cristobal, better known as Nito, was a long-time fixture in Guam politics and society.  His father moved to Guam from the Philippines at the urging of earlier Filipino migrants, and he found good employment with the naval government, among other positions.

Nito started off working for the government and then became a senator, re-elected time and time again, many times as one of the highest vote-getters.

Besides this, he was very active in his parish in Barrigada.

But I knew him personally and he embodied for me some of the best traits of the Chamorro gentleman.  Un kabayero.

His door was always open to visits.  With grace and refinement, he would slowly open all kitchen doors and cabinets and, one by one, bring out the next best thing.  He never laid out his treasures all at once.  He did so piecemeal, as if to extend your visit even longer by enticing you with the next surprise.  He never made one feel that one was intruding on his time or space.  Quite the opposite; that your visit was what he was hoping for all day.  I am sure that, at least at times, this was really not the case!

On top of that, he was perfectly sociable.  Engaging in his discourse, yet always allowing you to have your say.  He seemed to enjoy my historical questions, and he was very free in answering them, not holding back.  I still have my notes written of our conversations, dated 1984, 1985 and so on.  I learned a few secrets of Guam history of the late 1930s till the 1980s that I couldn't reveal, as the families involved are still with us.  I believe he trusted me with my discretion.

And he had a great laugh, strong and hearty.  If you were sad, which I wasn't, his laugh would have made you forget your sadness.

I miss my visits to him.  I regret I was not wiser to ask more important questions, but I was just in my early twenties at the time.  And I regret that his generation of Chamorro men, and the way they lived, is passing away.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Not surprsing, to me, that the DNA brings us back to eastern Indonesia and that there seems to be a later new strain around the time latte stones appear in the Marianas.

The genetic indicators seem consistent with archaeological and linguistic evidence.

This oldest strain goes back around 4000 years, consistent with the evidence found, to date, of human habitation in the Marianas, which goes back at least 3700 years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Santa Rita

Long before there was a post-war village we call Santa Rita, with Our Lady of Guadalupe as its patroness, this originally Mexican veneration was brought to Guam with Blessed Diego in 1668.

Marianas history always has to keep in mind its long connection with Mexico.  The Spanish government ruled the Marianas through Mexico for many years, and priests, soldiers and others came to the Marianas via Mexico on the galleons that sailed from Acapulco to Manila.

The Acapulco-Manila Galleon Route conveniently stopped by the Marianas almost every year

As a matter of fact, Sanvitores came to Guam via Mexico both times; the first, in 1662 when he first saw the Ladrones, as they were called then, and then in 1668 when he came back to live and die here, changing the name of the islands to the Marianas.

It was in Mexico that Sanvitores also raised some more money for the Marianas mission and recruited priests and soldiers to protect them.

He brought the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Marianas from the very start, and a church in northern Guam, now extinct, called Ayraan or Ayran (could that actually be Hila'an?) was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe from the days of Sanvitores.  Besides that, there was a church in Sungharon, Tinian built under the same patroness, and a chapel at the Jesuit school in Hagåtña, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, had a chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Many Mexican soldiers and mission helpers came to the Marianas and it was only smart of Sanvitores to keep the Guadalupe veneration prominent in a mission with so many Mexicans.

Later, the village of Pago had a church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  When that village was abandoned after earthquakes and the 1856 smallpox epidemic, Sumay inherited that patroness.  When Sumay was closed by the U.S. Navy as a civilian settlement, the people moved to Santa Rita and kept their original patroness.

You know you're Chamorro when....

You say Guat - da - lu - pe for Guadalupe.

Chamorro nicknames for women with this name are Lupe and Pupe.

The Oktåba

A few years prior to the reforms of Vatican II, the Church had many octaves (octava in Spanish, oktåba in Chamorro).  These were periods of eight days (thus octo, the Latin word for "eight") during which an important church feast was celebrated for an extended time. The Church's new calendar still has octaves, but fewer than in the past.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8 used to have its own oktåba in the old calendar.  The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, falls within that period, so Sumay/Santa Rita people refer to their patronal feast as the Oktåba.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


You would be surprised that American Jewish culture had any influence at all on our's, but it did.

When I was growing up, long before the Napa Valley wines were known of on Guam, there was only one wine our Chamorro elders knew of, and that was Mogen David.

To this day, many older Chamorros will not sip any wine at all unless it is super sweet, like the Mogen David wine we know as kids.  If at dinner, an older Chamorro tells me to drink a certain wine being served because it is good, I know that he or she means it is sweet.

Which is why priests cannot use just any ole wine they may happen to find at Payless.  Altar wine has to be pure wine, with no extra ingredients like sugar or brandy to make it sweeter. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


Biringhenas - Eggplant

Before the war, at least for a time in the public schools, agriculture was part of the curriculum in the elementary grades.  Students were encouraged to learn how to grow their own food and raise their own livestock.  Prizes were awarded yearly for the best crops and best livestock.

In 1926, for example, Jesus Muña from Hagåtña won 1st prize for the best seed corn.  Felix C. Carbullido in Hågat won 1st prize for the largest corn stalk.

Dolores R. Acfalle down in Malesso' won 1st prize for the largest sugar cane, while Joaquin Cepeda from Hagåtña won top honors for the best sugar cane syrup.

Another Malesso' gal, Carmen G. Gogue won 1st prize for the best coffee.  Tito C. Baza from Yoña won the highest prize for the best root crops, such as taro or sweet potato.

Other prizes were given for best mangoes, eggplants or avocados; best poultry or hogs.

Self-sufficiency was the name of the game at the time.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


When I was growing up, and even more so in the generation before me growing up in the 50s and 60s, we were told that we were taught English only because, they said, people who speak more than one language won't speak any language well.

So, the rule of the day was monolingualism : one (monos) language (lingua).

There are holes in the theory, because there are scores of people who speak English and a second or third language and speak all of them well.  And then there are those who can only speak English, and, well....they certainly could speak it better! 

So, I suspect, it isn't limiting oneself to one language that ensures that you speak it well.  Instead, it is being schooled well in any language that ensures that you speak it well.

The Carolinians of Saipan have always impressed me because the majority of them have to learn how to speak at least three languages.  Firstly, their mother tongue, then Chamorro and then finally English.  The older ones born in the 1920s also learned a little Japanese before WW2, and then, after the war, a little English.

Mr. Lino Olopai, a well-known Carolinian historian and cultural expert, is one such polyglot.  Recently, he spoke on Guam at a conference on Chamorro herbal medicine.  He spoke in beautiful and perfect Chamorro about the need to preserve this folk medicine tradition and to unite as a people to work together towards this preservation.  Unfortunately, I was able to tape only a tiny fraction of his short speech.

The clip is so short that I couldn't fit all the transcription notes onto the clip.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


FACHE' : mud

Poddong gue' gi fache'.  S/he fell into the mud.

Bula fache'.  A lot of mud.

Kafache'.  Covered with mud.

Kafache' i sapatos-mo.  Your shoes are covered in mud.

Fanfachian.  Bog, quagmire.

Måtto hit gi fanfachian.  We came upon a muddy area (bog, quagmire).

Other Meanings

Fache' can also be used to describe something that is too wet, as in rice that was cooked in too much water. 

Fache' i hinkesa.  The rice is watery.

Na' fache' ennao.  Dilute that; make it more watery.

Fache' can also refer to something made of clay (muddy soil).

Båson fache'.  Clay glass or cup.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Around 250 San Francisco Bay Area Chamorros (and friends and family of Chamorros) braved the rainy weather to attend the Chamorro Cultural Workshop presented by Pale' Eric Forbes, OFM Cap.  A large committee of Bay Area Chamorros have been organizing this workshop for many months.

The Bishop of Reno, Nevada is Chamorro.  Bishop Randy Calvo graced us with his presence the whole day.

Buñuelos Aga'
(Banana Fritters)

Pugua' Basket

Saturday, December 1, 2012


From where I'm sitting, it may as well be the rainy days of Noah and the ark.

Among the several ways we can describe, in Chamorro, heavy rain, one is måtmos na uchan, literally "drowning rain."

We know that, sadly, people can and have drowned in heavy rain and the flooding it causes.  Sandy on the East Coast of the U.S.  A few months ago in the Philippines.

In the Marianas, we are blessed to be spared deaths from heavy rains and flooding.  But in our past history, some people did die when trying to cross rivers, for example, during heavy downpours.

Måtmos na uchan was one valid reason, priests told the people, for missing Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

Speaking of Noah, that would be Noe in Chamorro, borrowed from the Spanish.  It is pronounced No - Way.

And the flood would be i dilubio, again a Spanish loan word.  To describe a flooded landscape, one would say dilubio i tano'.