Saturday, December 28, 2013


It's been almost seventy years since the people of Sumay were forcibly moved by the US Navy from their beloved town, with its fertile farm lands and rich marine life, to the rough, wooded hills of Santa Rita after World War II.  But the people of Sumay, even their descendants who never knew life there, remain very attached to their home town, now part of the US Naval Station.

These memories and fond affection for Sumay have given birth to a new book, written by James Perez Viernes, a descendant of a Sumay family and now on the faculty of the University of Guam.

The book has everything; many historic photographs, historical data, personal stories and anecdotes by pre-war residents, a map of Sumay showing the location of each family's lot, photos of the parish priests, music.

I was happy to help in Viernes' project by sharing some old photos and whatever insights I could share with him in conversation.  I also submitted a small write-up about the strong connection between the Capuchin priests and the people of Sumay/Santa Rita. A hundred and eight years' worth of connection!

The book is available for purchase at the Santa Rita Church.  Phone number 565-2160.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


In the 1930s in Hagåtña :

Ocho åños ha' yo' guihe na tiempo ya eståba na tumotohge yo' gi bentåna, hu a'atan todo i maloloffan gi sanhiyong.
(I was only eight years old at that time and I was standing at the window, watching all that was passing by outside.)

Måtto si tiå-ho, ni che'lon nanå-ho, i mas åmko' gi mañe'lo.
(My aunt came, my mother's sister, the oldest of the siblings.)

Ilek-ña, "Håye na låhe un a'atan!"
(She said, "What boy are you looking at!")

"Bai na' minagågon ganggotche hao ya bai kandålo i kuåtto!"
("I'm going to clothe you in gunny sack and lock the room!")

Dalai gue', ocho åños ha' yo'!  Håfa mohon tiningo'-ho pot låhe!
(The nerve of her, I was only eight!  What would I know about boys!)

Monday, December 23, 2013


From Luta (Rota) comes this charming Christmas carol which borrows from several Spanish melodies and combines them into this medley.

It's very possible that a German missionary in Luta, Capuchin Father Corbinian Madre, wrote much of these verses, because we do know that he composed other hymns in Chamorro for the people of Luta, using music already known in Europe.  But, as far as I know, we have no clear evidence that he is the author of these Chamorro verses.

Another clue that the author is perhaps a foreign missionary is the use of Spanish terms that were not in wide usage among Chamorros even at that time.  Many of the German Capuchins who were sent to the Northern Marianas, from 1907 till the Japanese expelled the last of them in 1919, spoke some Spanish and freely incorporated Spanish vocabulary into their Chamorro speech and writings, even if the majority of Chamorros didn't always understand some words.


I ångheles mangåkånta yan suåbe na kompås :
"Gloria as Yu'us gi langet yan para i taotao pås!"
Gloria para i taotao tåno' pås!
Gloria a Dios en las Alturas;
para i taotao tåno' pås!
Mafañågo i Mesias
giya Belen gi un pottåt.
Gloria para i taotao tåno' pas!
Ya u hongga i tembåt,
dåndån-ña u ma dånsa!
Pastores a pottåt,
fatoigue sin tåtdånsa!
Guihe, guihe, guihe ta sodda' si Jesus!
Guihe, guihe ta sodda' si Jesus!
Ta chule' i turrones yan miet
ya ta ofrese i Niño Manuel!  Manuel!
The angels are singing with a gentle rhythm :
"Glory to God in heaven and peace to mankind."
Glory, peace to mankind on earth!
Glory to God in the Highest,
peace to mankind on earth!
The Messiah has been born,
in Bethlehem, in a stable.
Glory, peace to mankind on earth!
May the sound of the drum be heard,
may they dance to its beat!
Shepherds, to the stable,
go without delay!
There, there, there we will find Jesus!
There, there we will find Jesus!
Let's take nougat and honey
and offer the child Emmanuel!  Emmanuel!
---The opening line, "I ångheles mangåkånta...." is the same line of a carol sung in Saipan.  It seems this Luta carol is a medley of several musical pieces.
---Notice the line "Gloria a Dios en las Alturas" is left completely untranslated.  It is kept in its original Spanish, perhaps to rhyme with pås.
---Tembåt.  The more familiar word for "drum" is tambot, from the Spanish tambor.  This is more than likely tambot but there is a change in vowel placement.  Perhaps a distinctive Rotanese version of tambot.  Conveniently, tembåt rhymes with pottåt, seen in the next lines.
---Dånsa.  Again, the usual word for "dance" is baila.  Both baila and dånsa are borrowed from the Spanish and they both are connected to the word "dance."
---Pottåt.  In Saipan and Luta, the word for "stable" is often pottåt, from the Spanish portal.  On Guam, the more usual word is liyang for "cave."  Depending on the Gospel, Jesus was born in a stable or in a cave.  So, on Guam, pottåt is rarely heard.
---Pastores a pottåt.  The phrase, though pronounced in a Chamorro way, is thoroughly Spanish.  The word "a" means "to," in Spanish.  "Shepherds, to the stable!"
---Tåtdånsa.  From the Spanish tardanza for "delay."  This is a word almost unknown among Chamorros, even very senior ones, today.  But perhaps in those days a few more people were familiar with it.
---Turrones.  A Spanish candy, like nougat.  The singers in this recording pronounce it "tarones."
---Miet.  Honey, and is borrowed from the Spanish miel.  The singers here pronounce it "muet."


At least one part of the Rota version is taken from this traditional Spanish villancico, or Christmas carol.

I find it charming that the Chamorro version runs quite parallel to the Spanish :

Allí, allí  (Guihe, guihe)
nos espera Jesús.  (Ta sodda' si Jesus)

Llevemos pues turrones y miel (Ta chule' i turrones yan miet)
para ofrecer al Niño Enmanuel. (ya ta ofrese i Niño Manuel.)

***Some Spanish versions just say Manuel rather than Enmanuel.  They both mean the same thing.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


In olden times, many parents lived by the philosophy "Spank first, then ask questions."

One lady recounts her story, which happened in the early 1960s on Guam :

Guaha maestro-ko ni gof na' bubu.
(I had a teacher who was very irritating.)

Ti ya-ña i na'ån-ho, ya pot ennao ti ha å'ågang yo' ni propio na'ån-ho.
(He didn't like my name, and because of that he didn't call me by my proper name.)

En lugåt, ha nå'e yo' ni otro na nå'an.
(Instead, he gave me another name.)

Pues, guåho hu sangåne gue', "Pues hågo si Mister Såtna."
(So, I told him, "So you are Mister Scabies.")

Lalålo' i taotao, ya ha dulalak yo' ginen i 'classroom.'
(The man got mad, and he kicked me out of the classroom.)

Ti hu tungo' na ha ågang si nanå-ho gi telefon.
(I didn't know that he called my mother on the phone.)

Ya ha hongang yo' si nanå-ho gigon måtto yo' gi gima',
(And my mother surprised me as soon as I got to the house,)

sa' ni sikiera ti humuhuyong un palåbra ginen i pachot-ho,
(because not even one word came out of my mouth,)

ha saolak yo' ni diruru åntes de ha faisen yo' håfa ma susede!
(she spanked me hard before she asked me what happened!)

Despues, hu sångane gue' håfa bidå-ña i maestro-ko,
(Later, I told her what my teacher did,)

ya ilek-ña si nanå-ho, "Achoka ha' lache bidå-ña i maestro-mo,
(and my mother said, "Even though your teacher did wrong,)

hågo lokkue' lache bidå-mo!"
(you, too, did wrong!")

Pues hu oppe si nanå-ho,
(So I answered my mother,)

"Un saolak yo' pot i lache na bidå-ho."
("You spanked me for my error.")

"Håye på'go para u sinaolak i maestro-ko pot i lache na bidå-ña?"
("Who now is going to spank my teacher for his error?")

Karamba sa' ha saolak yo' ta'lo si nanå-ho!
(My goodness, my mother spanked me again!)

On spanking, Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it was OK provided it was given

firm enough
often enough
and (most importantly?)
LOW enough!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


When Chamorros of Guam think of the Blessed Mother, they almost always think of Our Lady of Camarin.  When we think of the Marianas being the "Islands of Mary," she seems a natural first thought.

But she comes sometime after the Catholic mission started under Sanvitores in 1668. 

Few of us know that there was actually an earlier link between Chamorros and the Blessed Mother; one that pre-dates Sanvitores and goes beyond Guam's borders.

The year is 1638 and the place is Tinian.

That was the year the Spanish ship, the Concepción, broke apart off Agingan Point in southern Saipan.  Spanish accounts say that the famous chief ( maga'låhe ) in Tinian, Taga', saw the Blessed Virgin Mary appear.  She encouraged him to become a Christian and to help the survivors of the shipwreck in nearby Saipan.  Evidently he was convinced.

He was baptized by a survivor, Marcos Fernández, and given the surname Corcuera, then Governor General of the Philippines.  Taga' was also called Jose Taga' by some sources.

Taga' then arranged with the maga'låhe of Hagåtña, Quipuha, to have the survivors sent to Manila.

The Spanish accounts say that the family of Taga' remained supporters of Christianity and that their home, in southern Tinian, became a house for Christian instruction and conversion. 

When Sanvitores came to Guam in 1668, he named Tinian "Buenavista Mariana."  "Buena Vista" means, "Good View or Vision," referring to the apparition of Mary. 

Nonetheless, Tinian became the site of some opposition to the Spanish missionaries and the place where Jesuit priest Agustin Strobach was clubbed to death in 1684, 16 years into the history of the Catholic mission.

The documents do not give many details about the Tinian apparition.  Did Taga' see Mary in the sky?  In a dream?  On land?  What was she wearing?

The information provided creates more questions.  If the family of Taga' formed a kind of nascent Christian community, as the sources say, why is it that the later missionaries do not say anything about a small community of baptized and catechized Tinian Chamorros, formed independently of the Jesuits?

Still, the sinking of the Concepción was only thirty years before the arrival of Sanvitores.  People who were living in 1638 were still around in 1668.  It seems unlikely that the apparition story is a total fabrication, although one must leave some room for some embellishment, which people tend to do with any story, in any historical period, including our own.

So, the apparition of Mary to Taga' in Tinian in 1638 could very well be the first direct link between Mary and the islands which bear her name.

The Concepción

Sunday, December 1, 2013


The surname Rojas does not appear in the older Guam censuses of the 1700s.  So we can assume, then, that the first Rojas in Guam came in the last decades of the 1700s and perhaps in the early 1800s.  He could have come from Spain, Latin America or the Philippines or somewhere else.  Rojas is found mainly in southern Spain (Andalucia) where larger numbers of Spaniards left the mother country for the Spanish colonies overseas.

The surname is Spanish, though some Portuguese also have it.

The prevailing theory about the origin of the name is that it is toponymic, named after a geographical location. There are two towns in Spain named Rojas.  Or, a family could have been called Rojas because they lived near a place with red features (soil, terrain, etc.)  Rojas is related to the Spanish word rojo, meaning red. Rojas is the feminine plural form of rojo.

In the 1897 Census of Guam and Rota, we have the following male heads of families named Rojas.


Two men, possibly brothers, are Rojas with the middle name (maternal) Demapan.

Jose Demapan Rojas, born around 1830, was married to Narcisa Diaz.

Another Rojas, born around 1837, also has Demapan for a middle name : Cecilio Demapan Rojas, married to Josefa de los Reyes.

Then we have a younger Rojas, Antonio, born around 1867, who has the middle name Diaz.  It is possible, then, that Antonio is the son of Jose, whose wife was a Diaz.

Antonio, by the way, married Ana Cruz Atoigue.


Then we have a widower.  Mariano Rojas, born around 1841.  Unfortunately, we do not know (yet) his middle name.  However, his birth year of 1841 does make him a possible brother of Jose and Cecilio.  If he was, then he would have been a Demapan Rojas as well, and then we have the good possibility that one Rojas came to Guam in the 1820s and married a woman from the Demapan family.

What seems nearly clear is that Jose, Cecilio and Mariano, if not brothers, could be cousins, grandchildren of a single Rojas male who came to Guam at the end of the 1700s or beginning of the 1800s.  I wish I could tell the family the native land of their ancestor.


In Manila there is the famous Roxas Boulevard that goes north-south alongside Manila Bay, passing the American Embassy down to Pasay City.

In times past, X and J had the same sound in Spanish.  Think of Mexico and Texas.  In Spanish, one says the X like our English H.

That Boulevard is named after former Philippine President Manuel Roxas.

Which leads us to this....


FB camp roxas

After WW2, when more labor was needed for the military build-up on Guam than the island was able to supply, the US military brought in many Filipino workers.  Camp Roxas in Agat was their home, and is a part of our island's history.  Visit

Monday, November 25, 2013


Culture is never static; there are always changes of one kind or another.  Changes in the material culture - what people do, the time they have or don't have, the resources they enjoy or lack - have an effect on other aspects of culture.

Here's a look at the way we used to pray the rosary for the dead, compared to now.  We're not looking here at the wake or the burial; just the rosary.


Rosaries for the dead held in a church is a recent thing, starting in the early 1970s.  There is a lot of convenience for the family having it in church.  The family does not need to find seating for the large numbers who usually attend.  Parking is usually not an issue.  Churches are air-conditioned.  As more and more families are foregoing serving any food at all, using the parish hall or putting up tents for refreshments (and borrowing the seating for that) becomes one less item to handle.  Don't forget garbage disposal.

But then one has to pay the parish. After all, electricity for all that air-conditioning isn't free for the church.  As more and more people die, there will be (and already have been) scheduling conflicts.  Only rarely have two separate families agreed to hold one rosary for two deceased people.  Having frequent rosaries in the church also adds to the wear and tear of the church building and grounds.  Rosaries at the church also have to fit around pre-scheduled parish events.  Some families choose to have the rosary at the home because there is a more personal feel to it; more of a connection to the deceased.

Before the early 70s, rosaries were held at the home.  Period.  An altar in the living room was set up just as soon as possible.  A techa (prayer leader) was contacted.  Folding chairs (before the war and right after) were not that easily borrowed so wooden benches were more often the seating.


Before the 1970s, people kept it simple.  Before the war, it was common for the family to pass out just mamå'on (pugua', pupulu and åfok; betel nut, pepper leaf and lime rock) to the guests to chew.  Other families would provide water and coffee and something along the line of bread and butter, broas (sponge cake), roskete.

On the final day of the public rosary, the ninth day, the family of the deceased would sometimes provide an actual meal but, again, the basics : åggon (staples) such as rice, titiyas, taro, yam, breadfruit (suni, dågo, lemmai); totche (viand) such as chicken, pork or beef prepared any number of ways; and one or two desserts.

Other families would keep a list of the families who attended.  Someone in the family would actually, in some cases, write down names in a notebook.  The deceased's family would kill a cow or pig on the ninth day, cook it and send portions of it to the families who had attended.

The techa  would be given a bigger share.  Sometimes the family would give her a paper bag full of pugas (uncooked rice), eggs and/or canned goods (laterias).  A techa would not be paid in cash.  That, actually, would have been considered an insult to most, if not all, techa.

By the 70s, full-on meals became more and more common.  All kinds of abuses accompanied this, though the intention of the family was good.  Whispers would roam the area about some people coming just to eat; different rosaries would be compared as to which served better food.  Up in Saipan, the bishop, in recent years, asked people to stop serving full meals when the rosary was held in church because of waste and the economic hardship on families who felt shame if they could not serve full meals each night for nine nights!

Sometimes, when a large clan is involved, the different branches can shoulder the burden and take one night each.  Other times, co-workers, or members of a club the deceased may have been in, will volunteer to sponsor a night.

What many younger Chamorros do not realize is that serving full meals each and every night is not part of the older tradition.  It is a new tradition that developed in the last 40 years, and is increasingly diminishing among many families who find it either a burden or unnecessary.


In the past, a rosary was said immediately after someone died.  This is still often the case.  But the big difference is that, today, families most often have the rosary just once at night.  In the past, while the deceased was not yet buried, the idea was to have as many rosaries as possible.

For example, if someone died in the morning, a rosary would be said immediately.  Then at 12 noon, then some families would say it again around 4PM.  The 8PM rosary was de rigueur.  That was the main rosary, and it was started at 8PM, not 745, nor 815.  Then again at 12 midnight - if the deceased was not yet buried.

Remember that, in the past, burial was as soon as possible, there being no morgue and no family members in the mainland or Hawaii that could just hop on a plane.  Thus, this round-the-clock rosary, more or less, was a matter of just a day or two at the most.

You can see why no huge meals could be served either in the old days.  The person might even be buried the afternoon of the day of death, if he or she had died in the wee hours of the morning.  There was no time to cook for 200 people, and few stores to run to, and little cash to buy with.

Today, people just understand that there is a rosary once a night, and the hour can differ, depending on the church schedule.  On the day of burial, the rosary is usually held during the viewing and not at night.  In fact, many people aim to have the funeral on the ninth day and be done with the whole process on the same day.


The old tradition is to pray two sets of rosaries of nine nights each.

The first round is for the public; the extended family, relatives and friends.  This is called the Lisåyon LinahyanLinahyan means "the multitude" but is meant here as the general public.

The second round is called the Lisåyon Guma'.   It literally means "the rosary of the house" and is meant for just the immediate family, especially those just living in the home of the deceased.   No refreshments were served in this rosary, and it was just once a day, at the 8PM hour.

The Lisåyon Guma' has all but disappeared now.

And even the rosary for the dead itself is disappearing, with some families wanting just nine nights of Mass intentions.  A pity, from my point of view.  But that is material for another post some day.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may want to check out a movie documenting the illness known as Lytico-Bodig and the way it specifically affected our island, and perhaps a focus on Umatac, pictured above in the 1950s.

From the San Francisco Film Society website :

Local filmmaker Berry Minott takes us on an epic journey to find the cause—and perhaps the cure—of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and other neurological disorders. Her investigation begins on the Pacific island of Guam, where following the end of WWII, the indigenous Chamorro people were afflicted with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms from a disease called Lytico-Bodig. For years renowned scientists descended on this small village to detect the source of this mysterious illness—was it hereditary, environmental or dietary? This engaging and edifying documentary features rare archival footage and candid interviews with author/neurologist Oliver Sacks, New Yorker columnist Jonathan Weiner and many other noted scientists.

For more info, go to

Monday, November 18, 2013


The fiesta of Sånta Barbara, patroness of Dededo, Guam is coming up soon (December 4).

It's always good to record her hymn for the benefit of all, but a plea from some Chamorros living in the U.S. mainland prompted this recording on this blog.  They are praying her novena, but are not familiar with the hymn.  Here it is!

TUNA SONGSONG i tagåhlo na patrona yan gogue-mo :

Sånta Barbara bendita, nå'e ham ni ginegue-mo.

Annai på'go mafañågo kalan ånghet mali'e'-mo,
chaot-mo i taotao tåno', si Jesus ginefli'e'-mo.

Guma'yu'us i gimå'-mo, tres bentåna i tore-mo,
tres ya uno ha' na Yu'us, ennao ha' i hinengge-mo.

Gos habubo i tatå-mo, maolek hao yan pinat mesngon,
ya matåga i ilu-mo, ma'pos hulo' gi langet-mo.

Yagin hulo, yagin påkyo, pulan i man ginegue-mo,
yagin sago, yagin linao, fåta i mina'ase'-mo.


People, praise your exalted patroness and defender :

Oh blessed Saint Barbara, give us your protection.

When you were just born you looked angelic,
you refused an earthly man, Jesus was your beloved.

Your home was like a church, three windows had your tower,
three persons in one God, that was your faith.

Your father was ill-tempered, you were good and greatly patient,
and they cut off your head, you went up to your heaven.

When thunder, when stormy, watch over those you defend,
when sickness, when earthquake, show forth your mercy.


Barbara converted to Christianity when she was young and when Christianity was not yet legal in the Roman Empire.  Her father was still pagan and opposed her conversion to Christianity.

She refused marriage with a man, wanting Christ alone.

She lived in a tower, and, in a house built for her, she had three windows made to represent the Trinity.

They tried every way to harm her, but her wounds healed by the next day each time.  Finally, her father had her beheaded and he was struck by lightning as punishment.  That is why she is patroness in times of thunderstorm and lightning.

My English translation is not literal, because sometimes the words are used in a poetic way.

Tuna songsong literally means "Praise, village."  The meaning is "let the people of the community praise."

Chaot-mo i taotao tåno' literally means "Your aversion was the man of the earth," but what is meant is that she rejected a man interested in marrying her.  Chaot actually can also mean "allergy!"  Taotao tåno' can also mean "person of the land" or "native."

Sago literally means "the flu," but what is meant is any illness with flu-like symptoms, like the influenza epidemic, with fevers, body aches and cold sweats.


Tower - where she lived

Lightning - which struck her father dead in punishment.  She is also our protector in times of storm and lightning.

Sword - by which her head was cut off.

Cannon - she is the patroness of artillerymen (as she is of those working in dangerous professions)

Chalice and Host - by which she remembered the sufferings of Jesus, which enabled her to undergo her own sufferings and martyrdom.

Friday, November 1, 2013


(In this short clip of just 22 seconds, several cultural values are manifested.  The matriarch shows herself a) the boss, commanding her grandkids to b) reverence the hand of the priest the Chamorro way, putting the hand to the nose.  Finally, she shows approval for someone by calling them "månnge'" or "delicious.")

The Chamorro community lost an important cultural icon in the passing of Escolastica Tudela Cabrera of Saipan, better known as Tan Esco.

She was a great resource for my blog and I have less to offer you now because she is no longer here for me to interview.

Esco was truly an icon of the Chamorro culture that those of us old enough to know first-hand ruled the land for the last 250 years or more.  Agrarian, Catholic, family-centered.

She spoke the language beautifully.  She was matriarch; strong-willed and not shy about expressing herself.  There were times I had to edit my recordings of her because she named names.

She was born into the Tudela and Borja clans in Saipan.  Her parents and grandparents came from that generation of Chamorros influenced by the Spaniards.  She knew some Spanish words and phrases and recalled how her elders could say prayers in Spanish.  She had some early training under the Spanish Mercedarian sisters.

She also spoke very good Japanese, having gone to Japanese school when Saipan was under the Japanese flag.


Tan Esco was not born rich, and she did not die rich either.  But all her adult life she and her late husband, Gregorio Cabrera, worked very hard to raise their many children.  Esco was the type of person to see an opportunity and take advantage of it.  She learned skills so that she could do any number of things.  Whatever was near at hand, she put her hand to it.

She would wake up at 2AM to start her work.  Making food she would sell.  Baking.  Opening up businesses.  Many of the foods she made came from the grounds and trees surrounding her home.


Esco was unabashedly Catholic.  Fully dedicated to all things Catholic and, if you were not, she would preach to you to become one.

She was a prayer warrior.  Every hour, on the hour.  The type to wake up in the middle of the night and reach for her rosary.  Her home was strewn with mail from every traditional Catholic organization soliciting donations and sending her devotional leaflets.

She had a chapel or oratory built on her property next to her home.

As does happen with many strong personalities, some people shied away from her.  But I will miss her stories, her truly Chamorro way of thinking and speaking, her complete loyalty to her religion and her knowledge of a level of our culture, tied to the land and all the land's resources, that is disappearing as we speak.

U såga gi minahgong.
Find out more about her life at :

Saturday, October 12, 2013


...finding out who your relatives are.

Sometimes very close relatives!  Ahem.

Grandma says one day,

"Fan minagago hamyo!  På'go gi alas nuebe guaha bela gi gima'yu'us ya debi de en fan man asiste sa' parientes-miyo i matai."
"Put on clothes!  Today at nine o'clock there's a wake at the church and you have to attend because the deceased is your relative."

Says one child, "Haftaimano?"  "How?"

Grandma says, "Tåtan-miyo i matai!  Famatkilo ya na' fan listo hamyo!"
"He's your father.  Keep quiet and get ready!"

The child asks, "Lao håfa para in che'gue gi gima'yu'us?"
"But what are we going to do at church?"

Says grandma, "Fan matå'chong ha' ya mungnga manguentos solo man kuinentuse hamyo!"
"Just sit down and do not talk unless you are spoken to!"

"Ai adei nåna," says the child, "håfa na solo an esta måtai na in tingo' na tåtan-måme?"
"Oh my gosh grandma, why is it only when there's a death that we know who our father is?"

"Ti siña ma kuentuse esta!"
"He can't be spoken to already!"

As one person said in English, "At a funeral you hear the unheard."

Illegitimate births were considered very shameful in traditional Chamorro culture.  One never ever asked who one's father was.  Asking that could get you a slap or a spanking.

But the moment a father or grandparent died, sometimes the truth would come out and the children were sent to the rosary or funeral. 

Sometimes the illegitimate child/children were acknowledged and brought into the circle of mourners.

Other times, the illegitimate child/children were not acknowledged and sat there quietly, while people spoke about their presence under the breath.

It would be considered brazen for the illegitimate child to dress as a mourner without the permission of the legitimate children or widow.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


I heard recently about an old custom of making åfok, the slaked lime that is added to pugua' (betel nut) and pupulu (pepper leaf), from hima, the giant clam shell.

Like the limestone obtained from coral rock, the hima is baked in a hotno (oven) to a high degree.  When it is fully baked and cools, one just has to touch it and the shell falls apart like powder.

But you still had to sift (ma kula) the powder in a kolladot (wire strainer) to remove dirt, grass and other impurities.  Then you had åfok.  You added water, according to one's taste, to make it a paste if you wanted.  I was told that åfok hima was rather strong.

(apog or apug in various Philippine languages)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


In our culture, be careful what and how you do, say and dress.  Because all is fair game when it comes to getting stuck with a nickname.

Our people were putting on plays a whole lot more back in the days before TV and the internet.  One church decided to put on a play during Lent about the betrayal of Jesus.  A lady tells me the story.

Guaha un taotao ni ma ayek na para guiya si Hudas.
(There was a man chosen for him to be Judas.)

Despues, annai esta monhåyan i play, humåhnanao ha' ma ågang gue' Hudas.
(Later, when the play was over, they kept calling him Judas.)

Åños yan åños despues, gigon ma li'e na mamamaila', ilek-ñiñiha i taotao, "Ei!  Atan sa' estague' si Hudas!"
(Years and years later, as soon as they that he is coming, the people were saying, "Hey!  Look because here is Judas!")

Yan magåhet, ti inestototba i taotao na ma å'ågang gue' Hudas.
(And it's true, that he wasn't disturbed that he was being called Judas.)

Lao annai sige mandångkulo i famagu'on-ña, ti yan-ñiha i famagu'on-ña na u ma ågang si tatan-ñiha Hudas.
(But when his children grew up, his children didn't like their father to be called Judas.)

Pues ha sangåne i parientes-ña yan atungo'-ña siha, "Båsta yo' ma ågang Hudas, sa' man pininite i famagu'on-ho."
(So he told his relatives and acquaintances, "Stop calling me Judas, because my children are hurt.")

Pues magåhet na mamåra i taotao ma ågang gue' Hudas gi me'nå-ña pat gi me'nan i pupbliko, lao entre hame ha' hunggan sige de in agang gue' Hudas!
(So it's true that the people stopped calling him Judas in front of him or in public, but among ourselves, yes, we kept calling him Judas!)

This remind me of the time, in my own parish, I had a religious play and chose a teenager to play the part of Jesus as he had nice, long hair already.  For years he was called "Jesus" by his peers.