Friday, August 30, 2013


There are a good number of Chamorro words that sound like we borrowed them from the Spaniards, but we didn't.

We just made our own word sound a bit more Spanish.

Take the Chamorro word babarias.

There is no such word in Spanish.  The root of the word is purely Chamorro; båba.  It means "bad."  Someone whose head is bad is "båbaba i ilu-ña."

We attached the Spanish ending -rías to the Chamorro båba, to mean "foolishness, silliness."

There is a Spanish word bobo (or boba for women) which means a "fool, idiot or dunce."  But that's a stretch to go from bobo/boba to båba.  Anyway, in Spanish there is no word bobarías.

Far more likely is that Chamorros added the Spanish -rías to the Chamorro båba.  The -rías ending is seen in many Spanish words.  Tonto (or "stupid) becomes tonterías (nonsense, absurdities).  Puerco (pig) becomes porquerías (filth, junk, rubbish).

Some examples of the use of our word babarias :

Ti ya-ho!  Puro ha' babarias I don't like it!  It's all rubbish!

Babarias ha' kuentotos-ña.  S/he's only talking nonsense.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The Jesuits?  Many people know that Catholicism was brought to the Marianas by the Jesuits, lead by Sanvitores.  We're even called the Marianas because of the Jesuit Sanvitores.

The Capuchins?  Any Chamorro Catholic 50 years or older knows about them, as they are still around and were the missionaries who gave birth to the modern Archdiocese of Agaña.

But the Augustinian Recollects?  Only those with more than a passing interest in Marianas history have heard of them.  Yet this Order of missionaries was in charge of the Marianas the LONGEST.

Under Three Missionary Communities
1668 ~ 1769
1769 ~ 1899
·         The Recollects remained in the Northern Marianas till 1907
1901 ~ 1965
·         When the mission became a Diocese in 1965, the Capuchins were no longer responsible for administering the entire local Church
·         The Capuchins remain on Guam to this day but not as missionaries but rather as a permanent, indigenous community

Some notable things about the Recollects :
  • they re-established the Catholic mission in Saipan after many years of depopulation
  • when the population of Tinian grew with the arrival of Carolinians in the 1860s, in time the Recollects opened a short-lived mission there
  • it was a Recollect who groomed José Palomo y Torres, a Chamorro, for the priesthood
  • under Recollect influence, a barrio in Hagåtña was named after their province's patron saint, San Nicolás
  • some Recollect priests gave San Nicolás as the last name of illegitimate babies, thus adding a new surname in the Marianas
  • A Recollect, Father Aniceto Ibáñez, published a Spanish-Chamorro dictionary and other works in Chamorro (some of the earliest we have)
  • Father Ibáñez and a later Recollect, Father Francisco Resano, kept a chronicle of events in the 1800s which gives us a bit of Marianas history for that century
  • The Recollects founded in the Marianas an association membered mostly by women, the Cofradía de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación de la Correa.  Members wore a leather belt, or correa, which entered into Chamorro folk customs.  The koreas was used to spank a child under the spell of the duendes or jungle fairies.
It was a Recollect priest who built the Malesso' Konbento in 1856
the oldest residence in continual use on Guam

A Spanish Recollect Missionary
his thick leather belt, or correa, is a distinctive feature of the Augustinian habit
So, for 130 years, with the exception of Father Palomo and several Filipino diocesan priests working in the Marianas when Recollect priests were either few or not available at all, it was the Recollects who kept the Catholic faith going in the Marianas, building churches, baptizing, marrying, burying, teaching.  Our great-grandparents knew their names, those at the end of the 19th century : Fathers Resano, Cabanillas, Ortín, Cueva, Lambán and others.
But few people today know anything about them.
Religious orders, like the Recollects, are divided into provinces usually named after a saint.  The Recollects in charge of the Marianas for 130 years were from the Province of San Nicolás de Tolentino.  That is why the name San Nicolás shows up on Guam and the Marianas in more ways than one.



The sanctuary of San Dionisio Church in Humåtak, sometime after the War.  It seems to me, RIGHT after the War.  The reason?  There isn't even a tabernacle, the sacred receptacle of the Blessed Sacrament.  No sanctuary lamp.  Most unusual for a Catholic church.

If this had been a simple chapel, what is known elsewhere as a chapel of ease, meaning a place where Mass could be said occasionally, this is would make sense.

But San Dionisio was a de facto parish since the 1680s.  A tabernacle would be expected here.

During the War, I would not be surprised at all if the tabernacle had been removed by the priest himself. 

Father Marcian Pellett, an American Capuchin, was pastor of Malesso' and Humåtak in 1941 and actually hid in the hills when he heard that the Japanese had attacked Guam.  Then he realized he had better turn himself in and went back to his konbento (rectory).  He may have had time to remove the Blessed Sacrament for fear of desecration by the Japanese, in both of his churches. 

If it had not been Father Marcian, perhaps it was Father Dueñas, the pastor of Inalåhan, who divided Guam into two sectors - north and south - with him responsible for the south and Father Calvo the north.  Since he was severely restricted in his ministry by the Japanese, he may have removed the Blessed Sacrament in Humåtak and Malesso'.


The rectangular windows are now gothic and transparent, adding natural light to the sanctuary.  For many years after the war, these windows were filled in and became niches for statues.

The wooden altar rail (komutgatorio) has been removed since the period after Vatican II.  The roof, too, which flew off almost every big typhoon, has been replaced by a permanent one.  The floor has been re-tiled.  Very handsome church.

The roof of this church blew off twice when I was acting pastor once then pastor in Humåtak.  The first was in December of 1990 (Typhoon Russ) and the second in December of 1997 (Paka).  It's true that the tin roof was easily blown away, but it was also easily replaced by a new tin roof at a cost of about $5000 with free labor if the parishioners did the work.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Today, a Chamorrita verse from our neighboring island of Luta (Rota)....

Ti sangånon minames-mo yan i mafñot kariñu-mo;
hu buettåye entero Luta, lao ti hu sodda' parehu-mo.
Your sweetness is unspeakable, nor your intense affection;
I scoured the entire breadth of Rota, but I didn't find anyone equal to you.

Sangånon - made up of the word sångan, which means "to say, to speak" and the suffix -on.  Think of Chamorro -on as English -able.  Sangånon thus means "speakable."  Ti is the negation, so ti sangånon means "unspeakable."

Mafñot - means "tight."  So this is an idiomatic phrase, not literal.  How can affection be "tight" unless this is figurative for intensity or affection that is physically close.

Buettåye - from the Spanish vuelta, which means "a lap, turn or revolution."  The Chamorro suffix -e means the action is done to or for something.  Buettåye means "to make a lap or tour around a place."

Monday, August 26, 2013


Chamorros shopping in Manila has been a long tradition on Guam, at least since the early 1900s.  In the 1800s, some Chamorros did venture off to Manila for travel, study or commerce, but the scale wasn't large as the Marianas did not have much of a market economy back then.
Sometimes, after a typhoon or drought, for example, relief goods would come to Guam from Manila during Spanish times.
But when both Guam and the Philippines were under American rule at the same time, travel between Guam and Manila was very possible for those Chamorros who had the money to pay the fare.
Jose M. Flores, better-known-as "Josen Anga," was a successful businessman on Guam who kept up frequent commercial contacts with Manila to meet the growing demands on Guam as more Chamorros earned salaries from government and the nascent private sector.
You'll see in his advertisement in the Guam Recorder that many of his wares came from Manila.
Josen Anga's store in pre-war Hagåtña
In the district of San Ignacio

Friday, August 23, 2013


Alupat Island.  Saturday.  January 22, 1910

What is today called Alupang Island was also called Alupat Island.

And the waters around it look placid enough; no one would fear jet skiing in this area.

But we locals know that these waters can get very choppy in the early months of the year and as early as December, when the winds pick up and give that time of year the pleasant coolness but also more dangerous sea conditions.

A boat carrying six persons, including one woman, was traveling back to Hagåtña from the ranch of Mr. Herrero.  As they passed Alupat Island, the boat was swamped by the heavy seas.  The news article isn't clear if the passengers ended up in the water.  What is clear is that the boat was no longer able to sustain the lives of the passengers.

One Vicente Castro, a powerful swimmer and respected man, who had already saved others before from the perils of the sea, started to swim to the shore to call for help, but was instead swept out to the open sea.

The passengers were eventually saved, but Castro's body was never found.  The Governor had sent two boats to look for his remains, but the search was unsuccessful.

It is worthy of note that these ranch hands were returning to Hagåtña on a Saturday.  Many people lived in the ranches during the week, but returned to the capital in time for Sunday Mass.

(Guam News Letter)

Thursday, August 22, 2013


MALÅTE' : smart, intelligent

Kao malåte' si Pedro?  Is Pedro smart?

Malåte' na påtgon!  A smart child!

Hokkok malate'-ña!  He is super smart!  (Literally : His intelligence is to the furthest degree possible.)

Eståba gof mudoro lao despues mumalåte'.  S/he was once dull-witted but later became smart.

Falak i kolehio ya un na' malåte' hao!  Go to college and make yourself smart!

Na' fan malåte', pot fabot, i famagu'on-ho!  Please make my children smart!

Minalåte'.  Intelligence.

Nå'e yo', Asaina, ni minalate'-ho.  Grant me, Lord, intelligence.  (Literally : my intelligence.)

I man minalåte'.  The intellectuals.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Guam civic leaders were all concerned in October of 1926 when news came to the island that a Philippine politician, Eduardo Mercaido of Masbate, had introduced a resolution in the Philippine Legislature advocating the annexation of Guam by the Philippines, which was, at the time, a kind of territory of the U.S. with limited self-government.

One of Mercaido's arguments in favor of annexation was the prior historical and cultural links between Filipinos and Chamorros.

When Mexico became independent in the early 1800s, the Marianas became a province of the Philippines.  Look at any list of provinces of the Philippines in the latter part of the 1800s and the Marianas is one of them.

Now all this was strongly opposed by Guam's leading citizens.  The reason was because Chamorros knew that the Filipinos, in general, wanted independence and were patiently waiting for the right circumstances to obtain it.  Earlier that same year, in July, the Philippines legislature had actually asked the U.S. to hold a plebiscite on independence in the Philippines. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune added that people on Guam believed that the Philippines did have the means to govern Guam and that the island would fall into the hands of the Japanese, which ruled all the islands around Guam in 1926.

Had Guam been annexed to the Philippines while it was under the U.S. flag, Guam might lose its connection to the U.S. and remain part of an independent Philippines.  Chamorros did not want to become part of an independent Philippines.

Enough older people were still alive in 1926 to have known and seen the Filipino political prisoners who were sent to Guam both during Spanish and American regimes.  These "insurrectos" and "deportados," as they were called, did not get in trouble for simply making speeches, but for leading armed revolt against either the Spaniards or the Americans.  Chamorros saw the Filipinos as strongly headed towards becoming an independent nation one day.

Chamorros contrasted themselves, on the other hand, as docile and loyal to the U.S., grateful for the blessings of American rule which they did not want to lose by being made a part of the Philippines.

The Guam Recorder offered prizes for essays against annexation.  The first prize went to Agueda Iglesias, who later became Agueda Johnston.  The second went to Veronica San Agustin, who later married a Perez; the mother of Gerry Perez of GVB and GEDA fame.

Veronica's essay included the following, "Our President, who art in the United States, hallowed be thy name; thy judgment come; grant us this time our citizenship and protect us from falling into the hands of any other nation.  Amen."  This gives you a sense just how attached many Chamorros, at the time, were to American rule, even with its imperfections.

For all their blood ties (some of these Chamorro opponents of Philippine annexation had Filipino grandfathers) and historic connections to the Philippines, Chamorros at the time saw themselves as a separate people and did not want to lose the benefits they enjoyed under American rule.  It wasn't perfect; many Chamorros quietly resented some injustices under the Naval Government.  But it was better than being on one's own, they believed, or being under another flag.

Further reading :

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Even up to the 1920s, Chamorros were writing some things in Spanish, including cemetery headstones.  This one is in Saipan.

Aquí yacen los restos mortales de Rodrigo de Castro que falleció 18 de enero de 1913 a los 62 años de edad.  Su desconsolada esposa y familia dedican este recuerdo como prueba del acendrado cariño y amor que le profesan.  RIP

"Here lies the mortal remains of Rodrigo de Castro who passed on the 18th of January in 1913 at the age of 62 years.  His inconsolable wife and family dedicate this memorial as a sign of their sincere affection and love which they have for him.  Rest in peace."

Friday, August 16, 2013


Back when Mass was always said in Latin, the priest said the "I confess," or the Confiteor by himself, and the altar boy followed him by saying his own Confiteor.

At the part where we say "through my fault," the priest said in Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, " or "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," striking his breast three times.

Altar boys are boys, and, as they say, boys will be boys - always trying to get a laugh out of anything.

Back when all boys on Guam spoke Chamorro, the altar boys had a joke (never said during Mass, of course), twisting the "mea culpas" of the Confiteor.

Mea culpa, mea culpa - båsta Påle' chumupa!

"Through my fault, through my fault - stop smoking, Father!"

Frihonådas!  Silliness!

Which reminds me of the way the Spanish priests and brothers would lovingly scold the altar boys.

One would knock the head of an altar boy with his knuckle, if the boy did something foolish, and say in Spanish, "Tonto!"  "Fool!"

Another used to scold them in Chamorro, "Lassas aniti!" "The devil's skin!"  I never quite understood that one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


One of the first Chamorro words I learned as a kid; NOT because my grandma called me this, either!

But we kids used to call each other this when at play.  We all spoke English, but always had some Chamorro words sprinkled in; usually stuff like this.

The word is borrowed from the Spanish.

Caduco in Spanish can mean "expired" or "lapsed," as in expired medicine, or food that has gone beyond it's labeled shelf life.  It can refer to an expired license or contract.

It can even refer to things that have fallen in use, such as fashions that are out of date.

But here's where it got transformed into our Chamorro kaduko.  Spanish caduco can also mean "mentally lapsed" or "deficient," as when an elderly person has failing mental capacity.

"Tu abuelo está un poco caduco," means "Your grandfather is a bit off."

And in Portuguese, caduco can actually mean "crazy."  A few Portuguese settled on Guam in Spanish times, but not enough, I would think, to make a dent in Guam slang.

When applied to a woman, it becomes kaduka.

All of this is based on the Latin word cadere, which means "to fall."  Think of the English musical term cadence and even cadaver - both coming from Latin cadere.


Spanish language comic strip named Caduco

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


When you hear the name Baleto, think Sumay / Santa Rita.

Baleto will be a mystery for sometime, if not forever.  It is not a Spanish name, nor Portuguese (there were some Portuguese who settled on Guam, especially during the whaling days of the 1800s).

There are people with the surname Baleto in the Philippines, though not numerous.

The first Baleto we know about on Guam is Ramón Baleto.  We just know his name, not his origins.  My guess would be Filipino, since I don't find any other people with that surname in other countries.

He married Feliciana Dueñas, obviously from Guam, though Dueñas is a fairly common Spanish name.

Their son José Dueñas Baleto married Ana Ulloa.  Their son Vicente Ulloa Baleto married María Concepción.

Ramón and Feliciana also had a daughter Inés.  Inés had been married, but lost her husband.  As a widow, she had several children, one of whom, Sebastián by name, married Josefa Martínez and moved to Saipan for a while where his son Remigio, also known as Romeo, remained and started his own family while Sebastián returned to Guam. Remigio's (or Romeo's) wife was Dolores Palacios Torres, daughter of León Lizama Torres and Dolores de la Cruz Palacios.

Though a small family rooted in Sumay, in all the world, the majority of people having Baleto as a surname are Chamorros.  If Ramón Baleto was indeed Filipino, his Baleto relatives back home were small in number.