Thursday, February 28, 2013


"Åmbres i idu na taotao, komo un na' bubu, klålåro gue' kumuentos!"

"Even the mute, if you anger him, speaks clearly!"

Enough said.  Nahong ha' esta.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Atalig is a Chamorro name from Luta.  Many Guam Chamorros mispronounce it and say a-TA-lik, whereas the correct pronunciation is AT-talik.

"A" before a word in Chamorro means "each other."  Aguaiya means "to love each other."

But we're not sure what talik or talek means.  Unfortunately, many Chamorro words were lost before their meanings could be recorded.

Two Atalig men were civic leaders in Luta and were given the honorary title "Don" or "Sir."

Gerónimo Atalig of Luta married Maria Sablan Borja of Guam and his descendants were many. Gerónimo is the Spanish form of the name Jerome.

Benito Atalig married Brigida Mangloña Masga.

There are also half a dozen other Ataligs in Luta in 1897 but their connection with these others is unknown.

Kevin Atalig is a well-known Chamorro singer from Luta with a unique style.  Chamorro rock.

Here's one of Kevin's earlier compositions, about his Cadillac

I remember people laughing at his opening words : KWAT - TRO, KWAT - TRO REDA-ÑA!

(Kuåttro, kuåttro rueda-ña; it has four, four wheels.)

People were saying : "Ofcourse his car has four wheels!" All in good fun.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


MÅPAO : cool down

Måpao i binibu-ña.  His/her anger is cooled down.

Måpao i hanom.  The water is cool/tepid.

Na' måpao i kafe.  Let the coffee cool down.

I have even heard some people say, "Bai hu fan nangga asta ke måpao i traffic."  (I will wait till the traffic cools down.)

Monday, February 25, 2013


Born in Hawaii in 1899, this Joaquin Zablan is the son of a Chamorro whaler also named Joaquin Zablan

Doing some research recently with Hawaii records, I came across some Chamorro settlers in Hawaii long before the islands became American territory.  These Chamorros arrived in Hawaii as crew members of the whaling ships.  Some of these Chamorros I already knew about; some I didn't.

Many of these Chamorro whalers, or bayinero as we say in Chamorro, settled in the Kohala district of the Big Island.

The Kohala area was an active center of sugar plantations.  There, Chamorro settlers met and married local women, either born in Hawaii or settlers as they were.  Some were Hawaiian, others Portuguese or Puerto Rican.

I came across records on Joaquin Zablan and Sylvester (Silvestre) Zablan, whom I have written about it an earlier post on this blog.

Also on a Ben Pangelinan, who died on the Big Island in 1903 at the assumed age of 68 years old.  I say "assumed" because Chamorros, as well as many other people who didn't come from a very literary culture, were quite casual about such details as birth dates and ages.  Some didn't even bother informing church or government who their parents were.  They had left home for good.

There was a new name for me among the records : Luis Guzman, who died in the Kohala area as early as 1884. He is described as a "Spaniard from the Mariana Islands." But naturally this just meant he fell under Spanish jurisdiction, since Guam was part of Spain at the time. He was believed to be 45 years old when he died, so perhaps born in 1839. 

Most of these Chamorro settlers remained attached to the Catholic Church, which in Hawaii at the time meant contact with the Sacred Hearts Fathers, the same group as that of Saint Damien of Molokai.  Many of these priests were French and Belgian; indeed, some notes in the church records are written in French.  We see in the records that many of the Chamorros were married in the Church and acted as godparents.  One Joaquin Pangelinan was a godfather to a good number of baptisms in the Kohala area for Portuguese and Spanish families.

Half-Chamorro Ben Zablan, born and raised in Hawaii, is standing on the far left.

These Chamorro and their half-caste descendants were very mobile, moving here and there in Hawaii.  The children of these Chamorro identified very much with the local culture, and the Chamorro language was probably not passed down even to the second generation.  Today, the descendants of these Chamorro whalers from over 100 years ago are a diverse group of people of many different racial mixtures and religions.  Some of them know their roots are in Guam, but some don't know much at all about Guam.  Quite understandably, their first identity is as Hawaiians.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


The pupulu, or pepper leaf, is traditionally an indispensable part of chewing pugua' (betel nut).

But it's not just the leaf that's good.  The long stigma in the middle is also very nice.  According to some, chewing it keeps the whole wad of mamå'on (betel nut, leaf and lime rock) compact and held together.

In Chamorro, this stigma is called the kalili'.  Stress on the first syllable : KA - li - li'.

Personally, I even chew on the stems.  Makes it all more pika (peppery).

Saturday, February 23, 2013


"Knock it off you two!"

A lady was telling me how she, the oldest of the daughters in a family of eight siblings, was always sent by the mother to run to the store at a moment's notice when they suddenly needed something for the kitchen.

But never alone.

One of the brothers had to go with her whenever she left the house.  But a brother wasn't always available.  And whatever they were out of in the kitchen didn't get bought.

So, in her words, "Yanggen tåya' asukat, tododos mangigimen kafe sin asukat!"

"If we had no sugar, everybody drank coffee without sugar."

That's how our grandparents grew up.  Single women never left the house unaccompanied.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I visited a lady who was talking to me about her teenage grandson, very good in computer skills.

She said, "Ti ilun i'e' ilu-ña."  (He doesn't have the head of an i'e' fish.)

I said, "Ha?"  "Haftaimano i ilu-ña i i'e'?"  (What? How's an i'e' head?)

She said, "Tåya' sanhalom-ña." (There's nothing inside.)

In other words, the young man has smarts.

The i'e' fish, called "juvenile jacks" in English, is a small fish that can be eaten whole and entire, either fried or in kelaguen style (like a ceviche; lemon, onions, salt, chili peppers).

Thursday, February 21, 2013


The toad is a common sight on Guam.  But did you know it is a relatively new immigrant to the island?

It was introduced by the Naval government in 1937.  Apparently it was thought that the toad, venomous to many critters, would help eliminate slugs, centipedes and worms.

But it also helped reduce the iguana (hilitai) population, because the hilitai would bite toads or carry them in their mouth, exposing themselves therefore with its venom.

In Guam, Chamorros used the Spanish word råna for toad.

In Saipan, Chamorros used the Japanese word kaeru

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


In 1938, Jorge Gumataotao was a young man from Sumay who decided to join the Navy and see the world.  In his case, it did come true.  Although Chamorro sailors could only serve as mess attendants at the time (cooking and serving meals), Jorge's duty ships took him to Europe, South America and the U.S.  His family was thrilled when, every so often, they'd receive packages of souvenirs from Jorge from all over the world.

More than anyone, Natividad Blas, was waiting for the chance to re-unite with her nobio Jorge in the States and marry him.

But World War II broke out in Europe in 1939 and, although the U.S. stayed out of that war at first, it impeded much travel for the American sailors.

But then, still out in far-flung Europe, Jorge developed pneumonia and rheumatic fever, and died.

It took a while, but the body of Jorge was shipped back to Guam where Capuchin Fathers Xavier, Adelbert and Marcian gave him his funeral rites.  A wake held all night in the Gumataotao home was followed by the priests coming at 9:30AM to escort the body to the church in Sumay where a Requiem Mass was celebrated.  Jorge was then buried in Sumay cemetery, right in front of the cemetery cross.  Pall bearers were other Chamorro enlisted men.  The traditional 21-gun salute and taps were rendered.

Natividad never got to marry him.  Na'masi, no?

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Toktok mågi sintura-ho, ya un kariño yo' ni mames;
an humånu'ao ti bai måtai, an hu dingu'ao siempre un tånges.

Hold me here at my waist, and be sweetly affectionate with me;
if you leave, I won't die; if I leave you, you will surely cry.

In other words....

I want your love, but if you reject me, it will be you who suffer.

What a mixture of indigenous words and Spanish loan words!

Indigenous : toktok (hug/embrace), mågi (here), mames (sweet), hånao (to go, leave), måtai (die), dingu (leave), tånges (cry/weep).

Spanish loan words : sintura (waist), kariño (affection), siempre (in Spanish it means "always," in Chamorro "surely").

Still, if you (or a Spaniard) didn't know the indigenous words, you wouldn't understand what this was all about.  Only something about a waist, and affection.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I was telling a lady that her closet was full of old tv's, broken toasters and unusable microwave ovens and that they were just taking up space.

She replied, "Ei, ti mangågågao na'-ña."

(Hey, it isn't asking for food.)

Language isn't just vocabulary.  It's also a mentality; an attitude; a perspective on life.

Friday, February 15, 2013


JK Shimizu was a long-time Japanese businessman who settled down on Guam and married a Chamorro.  One of his several experiments was to get a commercial fishing industry started on Guam.  For this purpose, he brought down four Okinawan fishermen from Saipan to work for him on Guam in 1926.

His boat would leave Piti at sunset and the Okinawans would fish till dawn.  In one night, they caught 900 pounds of fish : tuna, barracuda, red snapper, tarakito, bonito, parrot fish and sharks.

These he sold as fresh fish the morning they came in, or he dried and salted them.  The sharks he dried and sent to China.  Certain types of fish were dried and pounded into flakes to be used in Japanese cooking.  Whatever was unsellable was given to the pigs to eat.

Guam, however, never did create a commercial fishing industry.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


GUAIYA : to love, to like

It is one of two words in Chamorro that mean "to love."  The other is "gofli'e."

Hu guaiya hao.  I love you.

Manguaiya yo' nu hågo.  I love you.  (We'll need another post to explain these two forms)

Ti hu guaiya i hagas na nobiå-ho.  I do not love my former girlfriend.

Guaiya na che'lu-ho.  My beloved brother (or sister).

Ma guaiya ayo na taotao.  That person is loved, appreciated, liked.

Aguaiya.  To love one another.

Fan aguaiya, uno yan otro!  Love one another, one and all!

Manguaiya.  To have love.

Puengen i Manguaguaiya.  Lovers' Night (at a restaurant, perhaps, or Valentine's Ball)

Guaiyayon.  Lovable.

Sen guaiyayon na påtgon.  A very lovable child.

Guinaiya.  Love.

Metgot i guinaiya.  Love is strong.

Håfa, guinaiya-ko, malago'-mo?  What, my beloved, would you like?

Ti guinaiya gue' nu i famagu'on-ña.  S/he is not loved by his (her) children.

Måno guine guinaiya-mo?  Which one here is your favorite (at the dessert table, for example)?

It is not GUIYAGuiya means "he, she, it" in Chamorro.

But many people spell Chamorro with English in their minds.

They think I in Chamorro sounds like I in English, as in "Me, myself and I."

Are they going to start calling the village of Piti : Pee - tigh?

Saina (lord, master, elder) become Sina?

Taitano becomes Tightano?

Please, keep English spelling OUT OF CHAMORRO!  Si Yu'us Ma'åse'!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Frank Wells

Our ancestors were some of the most skilled fishermen ever found by Western explorers.  The variety of fishing techniques and equipment, and the facility with which fish were successfully caught, impressed these foreigners.

The haguet, or fish hook, came in different shapes.  The V shaped and the L shaped hooks were very common, especially the latter, and are almost always found in ancient Chamorro archaeological sites.  These hooks were made with a type of oyster shell.  They would be attached to a string.  Bait, such as coconut meat or fish meat, would be attached to the hook.  A fish would have to swallow the bait and hook with its entire mouth in order for the hook to lodge in the interior of the fish's mouth or throat.  Then the fisherman could pull up the string with fish in tow.

Frank Wells

Fish could be eaten raw, and others were roasted on an open fire.  Since the Marianas did not have land mammals yet, fish was an important source of protein for our ancestors.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


To understand the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes in Yigo, one has to understand the Spanish Capuchins who worked on Guam from 1901 till 1941.

The majority of these friars were from Navarra in the north of Spain.  Some of them came from towns not a day's journey to the French border.  The area in France where Lourdes is was, at one time, part of the Kingdom of Navarra.  So you can understand why these Spanish Capuchins from Navarra identified strongly with Lourdes.

Before the Spanish Capuchins came to Guam in 1901, they had already been in Manila since 1886.  There, in the old part of Manila called Intramuros, they built a chapel and a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes.  This shrine became very popular among the people.

The Pre-War Capuchin Church and Shrine of Lourdes 
Intramuros, Manila

When the famous Capuchin Påle' Román de Vera came to Guam in 1915, he had already spent some years in Manila.  By the early 1920s, Yigo was expanding in population as more Hagåtña people moved up there to ranch.  A chapel was needed there for monthly Masses.  It was given Our Lady of Lourdes for its patron, a devotion strongly held by the Capuchins of Navarra like Påle' Román.  He composed a Chamorro hymn to her, using a Spanish melody.

The Chamorro Hymn to Our Lady of Lourdes

Matuna hao O Bithen de Lutdes / inangokon i taotao-mo
(You are blessed, O Virgin of Lourdes / the hope of your people)
i umågang hao guse' un po'lo / gi mames na korason-mo.
(quickly place those who call on you / within your sweet heart.)

Tayuyute ham gi me'nan Jesus / i un guaiya na patgon-mo
(Pray to us before Jesus / your beloved child)
Nåna lao! Nåna! Cha'-mo didingo / ini i famagu'on-mo.
(Oh my!  Mother! Dare not abandon / these your children.)

Ayo as Bernadita Subiru / i lumi'e i lago'-mo
(She, Bernadette Soubirous / who saw your tears)
ya ha hungok nina' sen pinite / i na' tanges na fino'-mo.
(and who heard most sorrowfully / your tearful words.)

Saturday, February 9, 2013


The Late Senator Antonio Reyes Unpingco
Descendant of the Chinese Rosauro Unpingco

Limtiaco, Tyquiengco, Unpingco.......these are names of Chamorro families we often hear.

They are also all descendants of Chinese men who moved to Guam during Spanish times in the 1850s and 60s.

That would have been during the administration of Governor Felipe de la Corte, at a time when Guam's small population (not helped by the smallpox epidemic of 1856) was at one of its lowest in years.  There was always talk about bringing in new settlers to increase the numbers on Guam and the Marianas.


Though the records show that these Chinese men who moved to Guam were born in China, more than likely they came to Guam through the Philippines.  There was no regular transportation between Guam and China, but there was between Manila and Guam.  The Philippines had a large population of Chinese; both those born in China and those born in the Philippines.


The records also show that the majority of the Chinese who moved to Guam (and for that matter even to the Philippines) were from Fujian, a province in China.  Fujian Chinese had their own language, different from Mandarin (in the north) and Cantonese (in the south).  Sometimes older or alternate spellings are used for Fujian : Fukien or Hokkien.

(in yellow)
You can see on the map it's not far from the Philippines

The circled city of Nan'an, also called Lamua, was the birthplace of many Chinese who moved to Guam, including the ancestors of the Unpingcos and Tyquiengcos.


Have you noticed that many Chinese Chamorro family names end in -co?  Unpingco, Limtiaco, Tydingco, Champaco, Tyquiengco.

Here's the reason.

The Chinese usually have three names : the family name first, then the generational name and finally the personal name.  The generational name indicates to others what generation of that family you belong to.

Xia Zhoujin
1st child
Xia Hanzheng
2nd child
Xia Hanli
3rd child
Xia Hanyong

But the Fujian Chinese had a peculiar custom.  They would often drop the generational name, and add -co to their names.  "Co" in Fujian Chinese means "elder brother" and was simply a mark of respect to call a fellow countryman "elder brother."

Corazon COJUANGCO Aquino
Former President of the Philippines

Her ancestor also came from Fujian, China, with a surname ending in -co.  Aquino was her married name.


Not all the Chamorro Chinese on Guam trace their ancestors back to Spanish times.  Some, like the Won Pats and the Quans, came during American times.

And not all the Chinese who moved to Guam in Spanish times had names ending in -co.  Think of the Quengas, who have a Chinese ancestor.


Many people think this is Chinese.  But it's Chamorro.  It just sounds like it could be Chinese.

Friday, February 8, 2013


I remember when you could drive right up to the edge of Two Lovers Point.....FREE OF CHARGE

There was no fence surrounding this hole.  Back then, if you wanted to, you could tie a rope and rappel on down.

No tour buses.  No tourists!

A Capuchin priest, Father George Maddock, who was always an avid outdoorsman, used to spend the night at Two Lovers Point, sleeping right on the edge of the cliff.  There was no fence there either.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Are any of these your grandparents?  Great-grandparents?



Jose Flores
Manuel Blas Perez
Ana G. Reyes




Baltazar B. Leon Guerrero

Juan M. Salas






Concepcion Mafnas
Jesus G. Cruz




Jesus L. Bautista