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