Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Different cultures view New Year's Day differently, and so customs differ throughout the world concerning the first day of the New Year.

Some cultures consider New Year's a time to ward off evil and encourage good fortune for the coming year. So fireworks, for them, chase away the bad and 12 (some say 13) round fruits on the dinner table on New Year's means 12 months of good fortune, all year round; the 13th for some people means even extra fortune.

Others, like Americans, regard New Year's as a time to begin anew. So, they make New Year's resolutions.

Chamorros, in the past, didn't seem that preoccupied about the coming year's fortunes, good or bad. Perhaps this is due to the average Chamorro's consistent pattern of having the basic necessities of life. There were few luxuries for most, but almost all had a roof over their head, land to till and the sea to fish in.

The attitudes Chamorros had about New Year's in the days before Americanization can be broken down into three main categories. Remember that not every Chamorro family had the same regard for New Year's and not everyone practiced these customs.


For some, New Years was the time to bury the hatchet. Or machete. To forget about past wrongs, end a family fight, or grievance with a neighbor or whomever. Two people who may not have spoken to each other due to a quarrel might start to speak to each other once again on New Year's or thereabouts.


Some families observed the custom of really giving the house a clean sweep. This was done a day or two before January 1, not on New Year's Day itself. Everything in the house, and sometimes around the house, was given a good cleaning. Perhaps some old and useless things were disposed of. The New Year was started, this way, with everything clean and in order.


Another custom, for some, was to wear nothing but new clothes and new shoes on New Year's. Again, it was the idea of starting the new year using nothing but new things. But, as one lady said, this was not a widespread custom before the war, because, before the war, "Puro ha' mamopble." "We were all poor."


The Germans have many interesting New Year's customs. In some parts of that country, a spoon full of melted lead is dropped in cold water and the resulting shape is supposed to give a clue as to the coming year.

The German Capuchins were in charge of the Catholic mission in Saipan and Tinian from 1907 to 1919. They used some German melodies to compose new hymns in Chamorro. These songs were not sung on Guam; only in Saipan and then Rota.

One of these songs, "Ta fan magof todos," is sung for the new year. It includes the lines :

Jesus Yu'us-måme / gi nuebo na såkkan
gai'ase' nu hame / apåtta i daño.
Nå'e nu i deskånso / i man gaige esta gi naftan
yan guåha sea kåso måtai na såkkan.

"Jesus, our God / in the new year
have mercy on us / remove what is harmful.
Give rest / to those already in the grave
and on those who may die this year."

In time, this idea of thinking of the dead developed into remembering the dead of the past year. In recent years (the last 20 or 30), this developed further into the practice of lighting candles in Mass, and presenting them to the altar or sanctuary, one candle for each deceased in the past year, at the New Year's Mass. This custom (and the song) also traveled south to Guam where it became the practice in some parishes.


In many families in the old days, New Year's was not celebrated with any special attention. Yes, it was the New Year, but so? Life was very different back then. A new year meant another year of pretty much the same thing; farming and fishing.

If any meaning was given to January 1 in those days it was a spiritual, or religious, commemoration.

For centuries, January 1 was, for Catholics, the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, since Old Testament Law ordered that Jewish baby boys be circumcised on the 8th day after birth. Since the Lord's birth was observed on December 25, His circumcision would be observed on January 1. The feast of the Lord's Circumcision meant several things. First, it showed how Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus obeyed the Old Testament Law. Second, on the 8th day, baby boys received their names. Our Lord's name, Jesus, means "God saves" and is indicative of His mission and identity. Third, when the Child Jesus was circumcised, He shed His first blood for our salvation. The fact that this feast fell on the first day of new civil year was secondary.

In 1960, Pope John XXIII changed the title of the Church feast of January 1 from the Circumcision of the Lord to "Octave of the Nativity," "octave" meaning "eighth day." The prayers of the Mass of that day still referred to the circumcision of the Lord. In 1969, the general reform of the Church Calendar shifted the observance to Mary, the Mother of God, though the current Gospel for that day does make reference to the circumcision of Jesus.

So Chamorro Catholics from the time of Sanvitores up to the changes in the Church calendar observed January 1 as a religious feast of the Circumcision, and thereafter the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. The change of a new secular, or civil, year was not seen as a religiously significant thing.

Now, of course, New Year's in the Marianas is often accompanied by fire crackers, gun shots and resolutions, under influences from abroad. Modern attitudes about hoping for a better new year, in terms of money, health and other things, have come into people's minds. But, under several centuries of Spanish influence, many Chamorros in older times did not give January 1 tremendous attention and not many customs developed except for the ones described above. January 6th, in fact, was more celebrated by Chamorros than January 1st.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


To most modern people, the rock on the left, off the shore of Hågat, looks like Aladdin's slipper or maybe a genie's lamp.

But to our ancestors, who had no idea who Aladdin was, the rock reminded them of a canoe.

A very old story is told about these two rocks came about.

Many centuries ago, before the time of the Spaniards, some Chamorro men in Hågat agreed to go out to sea to catch fish. They took with them fruits and the bark of the puting tree, which is narcotic, to use to catch fish.

The tide would soon go out and the fishermen needed to tie their nets to the breaks in the reef in order to catch the fish swimming out with the tide. In their haste, they chose a canoe that was leaky. As they rowed out, the boat began to leak. As they paddled back to land, they began to throw their things out of the boat so as to return to land faster. But the canoe was just leaking too much and they abandoned it to swim to shore.

When they looked back, they saw that the canoe had changed to a rock, which they called Palåye. The things they threw out of the canoe, such as the nets, the bark and fruits, formed a second rock.

Since then, Palåye Rock served the fishermen of Hågat by making loud noises as sea water rushed through holes in the rock, just as the canoe from which it was made had leaking holes. These loud noises warn the fishermen that big waves are on their way.

The other rock, formed by the nets, bark and fruit, has some vegetation. But on Palåye, made from a canoe, no plants grow. At least, as the story goes. But recently some vegetation has spring up on Palåye. Still, compared to the growth found on the rock on the right, one can see why that's how the story goes. I do remember seeing Palåye Rock completely barren of plants.


The puting tree is known, in English, as the fish-killer tree and as the barringtonia asiatica among scientists. Its poison stupefies fish, making them easy to catch in their dazed state.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Mr. Kaneaki Sawada, a Japanese merchant, was living a comfortable life on Guam since around 1908. Though a long-time Guam resident, he never fully entered into local society besides selling his wares and having friendly business relations with other merchants. His wife, Nao, was Japanese. Unlike other Japanese men who became Catholic because they married Chamorro women, he and his family did not convert.

Sawada took a trip to his native country, specifically to Tokyo, in March of 1933. This was less than a month after Japan withdrew completely from the League of Nations, which pointed to Japan as the cause of the problems in Manchuria. Japan's growing isolation from world diplomacy created in many the impression that Japan were the "bad boys" of the global scene.

On Guam, Sawada said, this negative feeling towards Japanese could be felt. Sawada's comments were reported in more than one Japanese newspaper. He said there was a desire on the part of some on Guam to drive the Japanese out, at least those who had not married into local society. In fact, seven such Japanese males left Guam permanently that March.

The Japanese on Guam, numbering around forty persons, worked as merchants, tailors, barbers, fishermen, carpenters, blacksmiths, cooks and farmers, making more money than Chamorros doing the same work. This, also, did not help Japanese-Chamorro relations.

The interesting thing, Sawada said, was that some of the children of these Japanese, being half Chamorro, supported the idea of forcibly repatriating some of the Japanese residents of Guam.

Sawada did not live long enough to see the ultimate result of Japan's diplomatic divorce from the rest of the world. He died before World War II began. His widow, Nao, lived long enough to gloat when the Japanese flag flew over Guam, and she made life difficult for some locals during the war. Mysteriously, she disappeared when the Americans invaded Guam.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Headstone at Tinian's Catholic Cemetery

Ignacio Arceo and Manuel San Nicolas Aquiningoc were Chamorros who moved to Yap sometime around or before 1920.

The Japanese were running all of Micronesia by then, except for Guam.

Ignacio was born in Agat, Guam, the son of Joaquin and Vicenta Arceo Aquiningoc. He first married a Welsh-Chamorro woman with the last name Lewis. She was the daughter of Evan Lewis, a Welshman from England, who went from island to island doing a variety of work, till he settled in Yap and married a Chamorro woman with the last name Cruz.

Ignacio had a good number of children, born in Yap. Living for twenty or more years in Yap, I am sure that Ignacio, as head of the household, was able to speak some Japanese and maybe even some Yapese. Manuela, minding more domestic duties, probably had less interaction with the Japanese and Yapese but could still have learned something of those languages.

The children, especially the older ones, would have had more exposure to the Japanese and Yapese languages. The couple continued to have children right into the war. Those younger ones would have been still very young when the family, as well as all the Yap Chamorros, were forcibly moved off of Yap by the U.S. government at the request of the Yapese.

Like most of the Yap Chamorros, the Aquiningocs moved to Tinian after the war, where there was plenty of good land and no native population to cultivate it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


This carol includes some Chamorro words using older and forgotten meanings. Please read the notes below for an explanation.

Linangitan Niño, boi hu faisen hao :
håye u tane'-ho, yanggen triste hao?
(Heavenly Child, I will ask you :
who will cheer me up, if you are sad?)

Misen i lago'-mo pinedongguan hao
annai si Maria mina' onno' hao;
ayo ha' i Bithen sinangåne hao
"håye u tane'-ho yanggen triste hao?"
(Many tears fell from your eyes
when Mary wrapped you up;
the Virgin only said to you
"who will cheer me up, if you are sad?")

Meggai na pastores fumatoigue hao
para un ma nginge', hulon i taotao;
ilek-ñiha a'gang yan ma li'e hao
"håye u tane'-ho yanggen triste hao?"
(Many shepherds came to you
to kiss you, Lord of the people:
loudly they say when they see you
"who will cheer me up, if you are sad?")


1. The intent of this sentimental song is to cheer up the Baby Jesus, who comes into this world of suffering sharing in our sad condition. The Baby is not born in comfort. He is born in a cave or stable, among animals, as there is no room in the inn. Mary and Saint Joseph are not in their home town. They are far from home and its usual comforts, yet Mary has to give birth in these conditions. In time, the Infant will be hunted down by King Herod to be killed. So, Our Lady and the others try to cheer Him up by asking, "If you are sad, who will make us happy?" Then the Baby Jesus will remember that He has to be happy, because He is the joy of His mother and the whole human race. This carol is sentimental, and not strictly theological.

2. Påle' Roman, the composer of the Chamorro lyrics, used the word tåne' to bring across this idea. In the older, original meaning, tåne' is anything that occupies your time. It is the opposite of idleness, boredom or inactivity. Thus, it can take on multiple meanings. If someone or something delays you, it is taking up your time, so tåne' can mean a delay or a distraction. But something entertaining also takes up your time in a happy way, so tåne' can mean entertainment or fun. When you see someone bored, which is usually something that drags us down, you can say, "Espia håfa para tane'-ña." "Look for something to occupy his time," which implies making him happy and no longer bored.

3. Påle' Roman also uses the older form boi, from the Spanish voy, which means "I go." It was adopted by the Chamorros to express a future action. "Boi hu kånta," "I go to sing," or "I will sing." But Chamorros really don't favor the OI sound and change it to AI. So Jimmy Dee sings the modern and usual version of the word, bai.

4. Hulon is not a word usually used nowadays. It has the general meaning of a leader or official, like a judge, or head of a community or family.

5. Pinedongguan means "to fall on its own," meaning not something deliberately thrown down. The Chamorro words do not specifically say the tears fell from His eyes, but I translated it that way because it's implied and it sounds nicer that way.


Påle' Román, a Spanish Capuchin, was Basque. The Basques have their own language and customs. He relied a lot on another Spanish Basque Capuchin, Father José Antonio de Donostia, a composer, for songs to translate into Chamorro. Linangitan Niño was one of them.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Father José Tardio, the Jesuit missionary in Saipan (pictured above in black), kept up a regular correspondence with his fellow Spanish missionaries on Guam.

In January of 1933, he wrote to a Spanish Capuchin on Guam to wish him a Happy New Year, to send him some extra calendars and to share some information about the religious condition of the Saipanese, both Chamorro and Carolinian.

Here's what he says. This is my translation of the Spanish original :

"Over here, everything goes as normal. This year has been one of blessings in terms of the deaths among the natives. Only 85 have died during the year. Among them, 80 were completely prepared and five deaths were doubtful. Three were lost at sea and could not receive the sacraments. Two were given the Last Rites at the last hour under condition; both were drunkards and were somewhat sluggish when they called on the priest. Baptisms were 151; confirmations 181; marriages 36; 25,846 confessions heard by me; 66,007 communions distributed.  Thanks be to God, faith and piety reign among the majority of these faithful."

An explanation is in order concerning his information on the deaths.

Traditional Catholicism is very concerned about a person's spiritual state at death since, the very worst can repent and the very best can lose faith, up to the last moment of one's life. So, spiritually preparing for death was a great concern.

Priests tried their very best to assist the dying with the sacraments. To die without the consolation of the Last Rites was something to avoid. Thus, Father Tardio speaks about 80 out of 85 deaths that were "complete," meaning "completely prepared." These 80 dying people had the Last Rites. The three lost at sea obviously could not be reached by a priest.

The two drunkards (Father Tardio actually uses the Chamorro word bulachero) were given the Last Rites under condition because of the sluggish state they were in when they called the priest. Not being in full awareness or consciousness, or in full grasp of their free will, there is some uncertainty about their true spiritual condition. Still, they were anointed, presuming that, had they been completely sober, they would have sincerely wanted to repent and make their peace with God.

Father Tardio closes by saying how faith and piety reign on Saipan among the majority. This was certainly the reputation of Saipan's Chamorros. Even after the war, when the American Capuchins came in to take over the work, they remarked how devoutly Catholic the majority of Saipanese were.

One statistic alone makes this clear. If one priest (Tardio) heard 25,846 confessions in one year, or 365 days, that means he heard, on average, 70 confessions a day. Of course, right before Easter or Christmas there would have been many more than 70 confessions those days, and less on other days throughout the year. But that is quite a number, compared to today.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Yanggen chumocho gåmson i ga'lågo, siempre nina' dåkngas.

(If a dog eats octopus, it will lose its hair.)

Ilek-ña i amko', "Ti debe de u chochocho sa' måppla' siempre i pilu-ña." "It shouldn't eat it because its hair will fall out"

I heard this when I was a kid.

Not that I have ever seen it. Fifty years and I have not once seen anyone offer octopus to a dog.

So I asked the elder, "Lao håftaimano i ga'lågo para u fañodda' gåmson para na'-ña?" "How would a dog find an octopus for food?"

"Yanggen mañochocho gåmson i familia ya guaha sopbla, siña ha' nina' chocho gue' nu i gamson." "If the family is eating octopus and there are leftovers, the family might make the dog eat the octopus."

Neither is there, as far as I can find out, any scientific basis for the folk belief.

The only caveat I read about is to avoid the toxic blue-ringed octopus. Its venom is powerful enough to kill humans.

"Don't eat me! I'm poisonous!"

But I'd never myself offer a dog even a regular octopus. Just in case.

This seems to be more than just a Chamorro concern, as the link below will show. Others have also asked the question if eating octopus will make a dog lose its hair.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Sermon from the 1950s

Komo påle'-miyo, guaha obligasion-ho na hu na' fanmanhasso hamyo pot i moråt na obligasion-miyo yanggen manmanbota hamyo.
(As your priest, I have an obligation to bring to your mind your moral obligation if you are voters.) (1)

Nesesita en bota ayo na petsona i en pepe'lo gi korason-miyo na guiya i mås maolek para ayo na ofisio.
(You must vote for that person whom you consider in your hearts to be the best person for that position.)

Yanggen manbota hao ha' sin fotmalidåt pat yanggen on bota håye na taotao ni taigue gi korason-mo na guiya i mås maolek na taotao para ayo na ofisio, siempre on komete un isao kontra i tininas.
(If you vote without seriousness or if you vote for someone who isn't in your heart as the best one for that position, you surely commit a sin against justice.)

I obligasion para manbota, un serioso na obligasion.
(The obligation to vote is a serious obligation.)

Petmitido hao manbota sa' guaha libettåt-mo.
(You are permitted to vote because you have freedom.)

Fanhasso maolek åntes de on fa'tinas i botu-mo.
(Think well before you make your vote.)

Faisen maisa hao : Håye siha i mås man maolek na lalåhe (2) para u ha ma'gåse (3) i sengsong-ho (4).
(Ask yourself : Who are the best men to lead my community.)

Nesesita hågo mismo on fa'tinas i desision-mo.
(You yourself must make your decision.)

Gågao si Yu'us ya on inayuda fuma'tinas i dinanche na desision.
(Ask God to help you make the right decision.)


1. This line strays from a literal translation. The Chamorro literally says "to make you think" and also "if you vote." But I have given a dynamic translation to give more of the sense intended.

2. Lalåhe = men. This sentence dates this sermon to the days when it was assumed that only males were political candidates.

3. Ma'gåse = to be superior, the head. Må'gas can mean the superior or great.

4. Songsong = town, village or community.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Nuebo na rai, nuebo na lai.

A new king, a new law.

I've heard this said only by one person, in his mid or late 80s, and that was ten or more years ago.

Am sure he learned it as a kid, so perhaps in the 1930s.

The idea is that it's a whole new ball game whenever a new guy takes over.

This was especially true when Guam and the Marianas were truly ruled more by man and less by rule.

Both Spanish and American military governors had wide powers. On paper, there were limits and these were observed to an extent. But some governors exceeded them and got away with it many times.

To be accurate, even some Spanish governors were denounced (fairly or otherwise) and had to appear before higher authority. Some American Naval governors also faced fire from the public and were then scrutinized by Washington.

Because of this, I am sure our mañaina certainly related to the proverb : Nuebo na rai, nuebo na lai. One didn't know what to expect with each new governor.

Even today, when we say we are under a government of laws, not men, each ruler's personal likes and dislikes, style and emphasis color his or her administration and affect people's lives to some extent.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Chamorros in Hawaii were not as low-profile as one might imagine a hundred years ago.

For example, a Chamorro from Guam named Joe (born Jose) Castro was a bit of a boxing celebrity in Hawaii at one time.

We don't know who he was, other than that he was originally from Guam. In fact, he billed himself as the "Guam Wonder" in the ring. Castro didn't box just in Hawaii. In the early 1900s, he was in Stockton, California, and did so well he was able to come back to Hawaii with money in his pocket.

He had a bit of bad luck, though, in the Aloha State.

His wife sent a small boy to a Chinese eatery to buy ten cent's worth of poi. But the missus didn't give the boy the necessary dime, and the Chinese owner wouldn't part with his poi.

Mrs. Castro then went personally to see the Chinese owner, and a verbal exchange took place. That's when The Guam Wonder came in and used his boxer's fists to do the talking. He, and his wife, were arrested. Eventually, both the Chinese owner and Castro coughed up the money to pay the court fees and end the case.

Turned out to be very expensive poi.

(made from taro)

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Well, before Charmin came along, what DID our mañaina use?

Some say this....

....or whatever leaf (non-irritating) was handy.

I am old enough to remember we often used this, especially in the outhouses :

But when actual toilet paper became commercially available, Guam and Saipan (and Luta) diverged because, when that time came, we were under two different colonial powers.

On American Guam, our people decided to forego trying to pronounce the English "toilet paper" and coined the Chamorro phrase "påppet etgue," which literally means "paper for wiping."  Not just wiping, as in wiping anything. But I don't want to get more specific. You get the idea.

While on Japanese Saipan and Luta (modern Tinian had no Chamorro community before WW2), the Chamorros borrowed the Japanese word for tissue chirigami.

The Japanese word chirigami comes from two words. Kami means "paper" (it also means "god"). Chiri means "dust" or also "rubbish."  Rubbish paper. The word did not only mean "toilet paper." Inexpensive wrapping paper was also called chirigami.  Or, chirigami could also mean a coarse, rough kind of paper. In fact, today in Japan, many people no longer call toilet paper chirigami. Many call it tisshu (tissue) or even toiretto pepa (toilet paper).  But, just as it happens in other places, Saipan and Luta preserve an old usage less employed in the original country!

On Guam, as well, there is a standard joke that we use "paper toilet" in the restroom.

Whatever you call it, make sure you know your Guam term, and your Saipan/Luta (and now Tinian) term, so you get what you need when you're in a jam.

Monday, December 1, 2014


1. Gi hilo' tåno' annai muma' taotao i Saina
(On earth when the Lord became man)

Ha padese minappot pot i bidå-ta
(He suffered difficulties on account of our deeds)

Ha kåtga un makkat kilu'us pot i isao-ta
(He carried a heavy cross on account of our sins)

Mumåtai yan lumå'la' pot i satbasion-ta.
(He died and rose again for our salvation.)


Esta på'go ha baba i pottan* i langet
(He has already opened the gate of heaven)

sa' yanggen måtai yo' siempre ha pipet yo'
(because when I die He will surely lead me)

Pues ta fan manåyuyut pot i isao-ta
(so let us pray over our sins)

Ya puede tunas i anti-ta para i Saina.
(so that our souls may go straight to the Lord.)

2. Sumen bonito este bidå-ña i Satbadot-ta
(Our Savior's deed is most beautiful)

Ha na' annok ha' dångkulo guinaiya-ña
(He revealed His great love)

Ola mohon ya taiguihe i korason-ho
(May my heart be that way)

Bai sakrifisio ya bai suhåye i tentasion.
(I will make sacrifice and avoid temptation.)

* Usually the definite article i ("the") will change potta to petta.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Garapan, GUAM???

We've all heard of Garapan in Saipan. But on Guam?

Yes. But ever since nearly everyone moved out of war-devastated Hagåtña after World War II, people forgot that there was a small section of the city that was called Garapan.

It was located east of the Protestant, or Baptist, cemetery, formally known as the Custino Cemetery. This cemetery is unknown by many, as it lays mostly hidden from view. It is across the street from the better-seen Naval Cemetery.

Tony LG Ramirez confirmed this for me some time ago, but this elderly man, who lived in San Antonio as a child, the barrio where Garapan was located, also confirmed it for me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Uno na monha (1) nina' li'e as Jesukristo i momento annai måtai un taotao ni i isao,
(Jesus Christ allowed a nun to see the moment a sinner died,)

ya ha hungok i sentensian Jesukristo ni i yinegguan (2) uhe (3) na ånte na måtai yan må'gas na isao.
(and she heard the sentence of Jesus Christ of condemnation of that soul which died in mortal sin.)

Annai ha li'e i monha na uhe na desgrasiao na ånte kinenne' ni i anite ensegida iya sasalåguan,
(When the nun saw that unfortunate soul was taken immediately to hell by the demon,)

ha tutuhon i monha umugong ya kumasao dururo.
(the nun began to groan and cry intensely.)

Ayo nai finaisen gue' as Jesukristo, "Håf mina' umugong hao, ya kumakasao hao taiguennao?"
( Then Jesus asked her, "Why do you groan and weep like that?")

Ya ineppe nu i monha, "Håftaimano, Asaina Jesukristo, håftaimano ti hu ugong ya ti hu kasao,
(And the nun answered Him, "How, Lord Jesus Christ, how would I not moan and weep)

hu lili'e uhe i desgrasiao na ånte ma yoggua para siempre ha',
(to see that unfortunate soul condemned forever,)

ya tåya' håf na remedio para guiya, sa' hågo mismo un sangåne,
(and there is no remedy for him, because You yourself said,)

na tåya' håf na nina' libre giya sasalåguan?"
(that there is no escape from hell?")

Ayo nai ilek-ña si Jesukristo, "Ennao na ånte ma yoggua muna' malago'-ña ha'.
(Then Jesus said to her, "That soul is condemned through its own will.)

Guåho, ni i Yu'us yo', sen hu tutungo' na i taotao iningak (4) ni i tinailaye desde i pinatgon-ña,
(I, who am God, know very well that man is inclined to evil from his childhood,)

ya muna' ennao na tiningo'-ho hu po'lo gi iyo-ko iglesia
(and because of that knowledge, I instituted in my Church)

i sakramenton kumonfesat para u ma na' funas todo i isao siha.
(the sacrament of confession for the wiping away of all sin.)

Ennao na sakramento eståtaba gi disposision-ña, annai låla'la' ennao na ånte gi hilo' tåno',
(That sacrament was at his disposal, when that soul was alive on earth,)

ti ha aprobecha i tiempo ni i hu nå'e gue' para u dingo i chat (5) na bidå-ña ya u gef konfesat;
(he didn't take advantage of the time I gave him to forsake his evil ways and confess well;)

måtai på'go ya hu na' ma yoggua muna' i deskuidå-ña (6) yan i ma abandonå-ña."
(he has died now and I condemned him because of his carelessness and forsakenness.")


(1) Monha = from the Spanish word monja or "nun." Nuns are different than sisters in that nuns are cloisetered; they do not leave the convent. We are more used to sisters here in the Marianas, who teach and do other works. For us, a religious sister is etmåna, from the Spanish hermana meaning "sister."

(2) From the root word yoggua, which means to be condemned.

(3) Uhe = an old word for "that," no longer used.

(4) From the root word ungak, which is "to tilt or lean to one side."  The last name Ungacta also comes from this word.

(5) Chat means "defective."

(6) Deskuida is borrowed from the Spanish. Today, most Chamorros would say deskuido, rather than deskuida.

Friday, November 14, 2014


The Villagomez family has been around for a long time now.

At least since 1727, when they appear in the Guam Census.

In that Census, there is but one Villagomez, and his name is Cristóbal (Spanish for "Christopher").

Cristóbal is listed under the "Spanish"soldiers, which can mean either a Spaniard from Spain, or a Spaniard but born and raised in Latin America, or a Latin American of mixed blood (Spanish and one of the local native races in Latin America).

Cristóbal is married to Francisca Ana. Now therein lies the enticing mystery.

Ana is not a Spanish last name it is a first name). It doesn't sound Filipino, either. One must usually suspect a Chamorro wife, unless a Spanish or Filipino surname suggests otherwise.

There is a Chamorro anña, which means "to attack or injure some physically." The question is if the N in the original manuscript shows the ñ or not. All I've seen so far is a typewritten copy. I'll ask to see a photocopy of the original manuscript. If that has an ñ, then we're in business. If it doesn't, it is still possible that the name Ana is really anña, but the scribe didn't use the ñ for whatever reason.

Our ancestors had names that were often words of actual things, actions or conditions, so anña would be a possible name, like Naputi.

Cristóbal and Francisca had the following children :

Juan Jose

Five boys! And there could have been more children after the Census was taken. Two boys had the same name, Manuel.

In the 1758 Census, only the three oldest boys appear. The two Manuels do not.

Juan Jose married Dominga Manfaisen. Manfaisen is a Chamorro name. It is a contraction of "ma fafaisen." Faisen is "to ask."

Jose married Maria Francisca de la Vega. There is only one de la Vega family in the Marianas at this time that appears in records, and that is the family of "Spanish" soldier Manuel de la Vega and his wife Maria Egui. Again, Egui is not Spanish so we can assume she was Chamorro. Although there is no child named Maria Francisca in the 1727 Census, we can speculate she may have been born just after the Census was taken.

If this is accurate, we can see how outside blood was marrying into Chamorro families. The children most certainly grew up speaking Chamorro, as well as perhaps some Spanish in some cases at least.

Lastly, Francisco married Dorotea Ramirez. Dorotea appears in the 1727 Census as a daughter of the "Spanish" soldier Antonio Ramirez and his wife Antonia de la Cruz. We have no idea who Antonia was or her race.


On Guam, the Villagomez name survived mainly because of one Francisco Dueñas Villagomez who, by 1897, had almost a dozen children with his wife Mariana Cruz.

Nearly all the other Villagomezes on Guam in 1897 were women.

Two Villagomez men, born on Guam, moved to Saipan in the late 1800s.

One, Joaquin, married Rita Castro, and became the patriarch for the largest Villagomez branch in Saipan.

He had two sons. Manuel married a Carolinian woman, Antonia Parong Seman. His son Manuel became better-known-as Kiyu.

The other son, Rafael, married Romana Campos Pangelinan. Chamorros have a hard time pronouncing R, So Rafael was better-known-as Laffet and his descendants became a large clan in Saipan.

Another Villagomez from Guam, Jose, moved to Yap with his wife Maria Mendiola Cruz. The Yap Chamorros later left that island after World War II and returned to the various islands of the Marianas.


There are numerous surnames in Spain that are a combination of the word villa and something else. Villa means "house," as in an estate, larger than just the normal structure called a casa.

So Villanueva means "new house."

Villaverde means "green house."

Villalobos means "wolf house."

Villagomez means "town of Gómez." Gómez is a last name and is found everywhere in Spain and means "son of Gomo." "Gomo" is an old word that could mean "man" or "path."

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Antonio Maria Regidor
Filipino Nationalist Deported to Guam

In January of 1872, Filipino soldiers rose up against the Spanish at Fort San Felipe in Cavite. The mutiny was squashed and the Spaniards began their retribution by executing or exiling the rebels, but the Spaniards also targeted many people accused of anti-Spanish ideas or activities, though not directly involved in the revolt.

Many of these arrested for nationalistic aspirations were exiled to Guam, where they were housed with some of the island's elite.

Among the Spaniards of Guam, Vicente Guilló housed the best-known of the Filipino deportados, or deportees - Antonio Maria Regidor y Jurado.

The Spanish priest of Hagåtña, Father Aniceto Ibáñez, OAR, housed Jose Baza y Enrique and Jose Maria Baza y San Agustin.

Vicente Calvo y Olivares, a Spanish mestizo with Filipino blood, who was more or less a permanent resident of Guam, housed some rather big names in the Philippines nationalist cause at the time. They were Ramon Maurente y Luciano (allegedly a financier of revolutionary causes), Maximo Paterno y Yanson (father of the more famous Pedro Paterno), Pedro Carrillo y Flores, Jose Mauricio de Leon y Jacoba and the Filipino priests Pedro Dandan y Masancay (he stayed on in Guam for several years, exercising the ministry. He was something of a celebrity in the Philippines upon his return there in 1876 and died mysteriously during the Revolution of 1896.), Agustin Mendoza y Casimiro and Miguel Lasa y Berraches (also stayed on Guam for a while, exercising priestly ministry).

A Filipino, but a permanent resident of Guam and married into a Chamorro family, Tiburcio Arriola, housed two fellow Filipinos, both of them priests found guilty of nationalist sympathies, Feliciano Gomez y de Jesus and Justo Guanson y Vasquez.

Our own Chamorro priest, Jose Palomo y Torres, housed some Filipino deportados, all of them priests - Jose Maria Guevara y Reyes, Anacleto Desiderio y Bautista, Toribio del Pilar y Gatmaitan and Mariano Sevilla y Villena.

Several Spanish officials living on Guam also housed a few, individual deportados.

These deportados were not simple soldiers, much less common rabble-rousers from the streets. They were men of some education. Some were well-educated (Regidor) and wealthy (Paterno). Many were seminary-educated priests. So political ideas were certainly shared among them and their Guam hosts. One can just imagine Father Palomo discussing politics with them.

Further insight showing us that Guam was not quite the isolated, back-water island it was thought to be.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


(Micronesian Kingfisher - Halcyon cinnamomina cinnamomina)

Ilek-ñiha i man åmko',
(The old people say,)

yanggen gaige hao gi halom tåno',
(if you are in the jungle,)

cha'-mo tattittiye i sihek yanggen chineflåflågue hao,
(don't follow the sihek if it whistles to you,)

sa' nina' abak hao,
(because it will make you get lost,)

kinenne' hao mås hålom gi taddung gi halom tåno'.
(it will take you further into the deep of the jungle.)


Chefla = to whistle

Cheflåggue = to whistle to someone

Wednesday, October 29, 2014



One clan named Santos is better-known-as the Bali Tres family.

According to an 80-year-old member of that family, the nickname came from his grandmother, Andrea Santos, who was so industrious that her work was worth the work of three people.

He told me, "An man macho’cho’, åntes gi gualo', un taotao ha cho’gue bålen tres na taotao chumocho’gue che’cho’-ña."

"When they worked, in the past on the farm, one person did the work of three people doing her work."

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Spanish uniforms in the Philippines in the late 1700s

In 1786, the list of soldiers on Guam was still described as the Compañía de Infantería Española y de la Pampanga; the Spanish Infantry Company and that of Pampanga, a province in the Philippines.

But the soldiers who made up these two companies were, for the most part, not born in Spain or the Philippines. They were born on Guam, specifically Hagåtña, of ancestors who had come from Spain, Latin America and the Philippines and who had (again, in large part but not necessarily all) married Chamorro women. Even those who had just a little pre-contact Chamorro blood were Chamorro by culture and language if they were born and grew up on Guam. Of course, it was a culture and language strongly influenced by both Spanish and Catholic cultures. Still, this new culture and the language spoken in the home was not Spanish nor Filipino.

There are a few indigenous surnames (Taitano, Achuga, Anungui, Materne). Some are Filipino in origin (Manibusan, Pangelinan, Demapan). We see that San Nicolas is already a surname here. The Augustinian missionaries arrived 17 years prior to this list and were probably the ones who began naming some babies San Nicolas, as evidenced by baptismal records as late as the 1850s and 60s.

So a good many of these men would have been born and baptized during the Jesuit era. We can see Jesuit names of saints, such as Juan (John) Regis, a Jesuit saint, and many Ignacios (Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits).

Most of the surnames we see in this list of soldiers are recognizable. Some never took root here or vanished after a while for lack of male descendants.

Many names on the list were unintelligible due to ink smudges and/or tears in the paper. I have also given them the modern, recognizable spelling though some names were spelled in old, obsolete ways.

ACHUGA, Rafael

ANUNGUI, Francisco

ARCEO, Félix

BAZA, Remigio

BORJA, Enrique de


CAMACHO, Francisco

CÁRDENAS, (first name unintelligible)

CASTRO, Ignacio
CASTRO, Nicolás de


CRUZ, Félix de la
CRUZ, Francisco de la

DEMAPÁN, Ignacio (some of the Demapan family later moved to Saipan where they grew in number, whereas the Demapan on Guam grew smaller)

DÍAZ, Pedro

DUEÑAS, (first name unintelligible)
DUEÑAS, Feliciano

FLORES, Juan Crisóstomo (Crisóstomo here is not a last name, but the full name of John Chrysostom, a saint)
FLORES, Rosario (yes, Rosario could be used as a man's name, though not as often as a woman's. The name simply refers to the Rosary.)

FRÁNQUEZ, Florentino

GARRIDO, Manuel Tiburcio (he became a government clerk whose name appears in a good number of Spanish era documents)

LEÓN, Luís de

LIMA, Joaquín de (some people on Guam in the 1800s had, as their middle name, de Lima)

LIZAMA, Nicolás




PABLO, Juan Regis (again, the complete name of John Regis, a Jesuit saint)

PALOMO, Antonio


PASCUAL, Andrés (there was still a Pascual family on Guam in the 1800s)
PASCUAL, Francisco


RIVERA, Marcos de


ROSA, Domingo de la

ROSARIO, Remigio del

SABLÁN, Agustin Roque (interesting, because Sablan does not appear in the 1759 Census. So this Sablan may be of the first generation of Sablans on Guam since this list is from 1786.)

SAN NICOLÁS, Dámaso de

SANTOS, Antonio de los
SANTOS, Mariano de los




TELLO JIMÉNEZ, Andrés (the Tello family lasted on Guam into the late 1800s)

VEGA, Antonio de la

Thursday, October 23, 2014



Someone who is buskaplaito is the kind of person who goes looking for a fight.

He or she starts trouble.

It's as if they enjoy conflict.

They see peace and quiet, and don't like it.

So they'll pick on someone, hoping to start a fight.

They'll make a problem where none exists.

Sometimes, it's not for the mere enjoyment of it. Sometimes there's a real gain. For example, making two people who don't have a fight start fighting, so one can gain the advantage over both of them.

~ Håfa na ti ya-mo si Maria? (Why don't you like Maria?)
~ Buskaplaito na taotao! (She's a trouble maker!)

~ Suhåye i buskaplaito na taotao. (Avoid the trouble maker.)

The word comes from Spanish buscapleito.

It can be broken down into two words :

Busca, which means "he or she looks for," and

pleito, which means "quarrel or argument."

But we don't like the ei sound, and we change it to ai.

Like Spanish reina (queen) becomes Chamorro raina.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


For a short time on Guam, it was a crime to whistle in the vicinity of Hagåtña.

One could, apparently, whistle all one wanted in Talofofo or Yigo. But not in the capital.

You see, whistling got on the nerves of one man. But that one man was the Naval Governor, and that's all that mattered.

Governor Gilmer said, "Whistling is an entirely unnecessary and irritating noise that must be discontinued."

If you were caught whistling, you had to cough up five dollars.

Governor Gilmer

Well, Gilmer's edict did not ring right in the ears of many, including those in Washington. Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, removed Gilmer as Govenror of Guam in 1920. Daniels said the whistling prohibition had nothing to do with it. One has to wonder.

With the removal of Gilmer, the ban on whistling disappeared. Under the Navy, the Governor was the law.

It was this sort of thing that got Chamorros, and some Americans, moving on making the change towards a government by, of and for the people. It is a process many think is still incomplete.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Gotgot i deffe'.

A toothless person is loose-lipped.

Someone who is gotgot says more than s/he should. S/he can't keep secrets. The gotgot person is very free with his or her information. S/he will tell on you and get you in trouble. Gotgot people make good informants.


But why should someone missing a tooth, someone doffe', be necessarily gotgot?

The reasoning of the elders is :

"Yanggen guaha fåtta gi kellat, man malågo ha' siempre todo i ga'ga'."

"If there is an opening in the fence, all the animals will surely run off."

Therefore, if there is an opening in the teeth, words will surely escape!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


A branch of the Garrido family is better-known-as Pindan.

I ran into an older member of the family and asked her where the name comes from.

She said it comes from an ancestor (she doesn't know who) who was at a party and asked for some meat, saying, "Pendan fan guennao diddide' kåtne ya bai chagi." "Cut a little meat there and I will try it."

There is no such word pendan, either in Chamorro nor Spanish. People took it to mean the guy was asking that a piece of meat be cut for him to eat. Because the word was unheard of, people thought it was cute and used it to label the man himself, except that pendan became pindan.

The word pendan does exist in Spanish, but as a conjugation of the verb pender, which means "to hang, to be pending." Was the man asking for meat misusing the verb?

Many family nicknames are explained by family stories passed from generation to generation. Some of these stories have no basis in history. Sometimes the same family can have more than one story explaining the origin of their family nickname. So there could be other theories how this group of Garridos got the nickname Pindan.

The elderly lady who shared this story is the daughter of Jose Mendiola Garrido, the son of Juan Garrido and Dolores Mendiola. Juan and Dolores would have been young adults by the 1880s.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Corpus Christi in 1894 was not observed with full solemnity.

The Governor, Emilio Galisteo, was erecting a new building for the principal school in all the Marianas, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, founded by Sanvitores more than 200 years before.

In order to get the building project done, the people of Hagåtña were tasked with providing the manual labor. In those days, Chamorros had to put in a certain number of days working on public projects in place of paying taxes. But, because this was happening very close to the feast of Corpus Christi, when Chamorros build Lånchon Kotpus (outdoor altars) for the Corpus Christi procession, the people could not attend to that religious project. Corpus Christi came, but no låncho. For us, it would be like Christmas without a tree, or New Year's without fireworks - but worse! A Christmas tree and annual fireworks are not obligations to God, but a låncho on Kotpus is!

Perhaps due to the rush job, the lime used for the walls of the new colegio was improperly made and, when an earthquake and heavy rains afterwards combined to put pressure on those walls, they came tumbling down.

The Chamorros saw it as an act of divine retribution for the failure to observe the feast of Corpus Christi with the complete attention it deserved.

What's also interesting is that some anonymous critic wrote words to that effect and posted it on the front door of the Hagåtña church.

Friday, October 3, 2014


A most scandalous incident, leading to a bitter divorce, involved a Chamorro mestizo by the name of V. E. (Ben) Pangelinan and his wife Amy.

Ben was probably the son of Vicente Pangelinan, also known as Ben, who left Guam and settled in the Big Island. Ben senior died in 1903.

Ben junior worked for the inter-island transport the W. G. Hall.  This work took Ben away from his home, where his wife Amy was quite alone. Or so he thought.

Between 10 and 11 o'clock on the night of September 30, 1896, Ben came home, much to the surprise of Amy and her male friend, sleeping in the spot where Ben should have been.

Finding the door of the bedroom locked, Ben kicked it open. Ben had had his suspicions for some time, and planned this unexpected return for just this purpose.

Jumping out of bed, without a stitch of clothing on him, the man, later to be identified as one Arthur Jones, a clerk at a shoe store, tried to escape through the bedroom door. But Ben punched him hard enough to stun him into immobility. Ben then put Jones in a neck hold and proceeded to beat his head till it was bloody. Ben then forced Jones to sit, as naked as the day he was born, on a chair till the police came.

Jones was charged with unlawful entry onto private property. His hearing the next day had to be postponed, as he entered the court room with one eye covered with a leather patch.

Amy was also arrested, back in the day when one could get arrested for something called adultery.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Our mañaina who lived under the Spanish incorporated numerous Spanish sayings and expressions into their Chamorro speech; expressions that were never translated to Chamorro as they borrowed them. Our mañaina didn't need to translate them because, for the most part, they understood what the Spanish expression meant.

But we, today, lost our familiarity with Spanish quite awhile ago. I would say that mañaina born after 1910 or so probably did not understand the literal meaning of these Spanish expressions, though they used these phrases a lot. Growing up with mañaina born from 1899 to 1917, I heard these expressions all the time. I mean that. ALL the time.

Our mañaina didn't change the Spanish words, but they did, when necessary, change the pronunciation to fit Chamorro sounds.

In this post, I will focus just on the Spanish expressions referring to God (Dios).


The expression means "GOD FREE US." It can also mean "God save us," as in Saint Teresa's quote, "God save us from gloomy saints."  So it doesn't mean "God free us" as in we're enslaved and need that kind of freedom, but rather freedom from harm.

Sometimes people would change it to "Dios te libre," meaning "God free you."

Rarely, I have heard older people say, "Dios nos libre de todo måt," in Spanish it's "de todo mal." It means, "God save us from all evil."  In Chamorro, we have the L sound, but not at the end of a syllable. So Spanish mal becomes Chamorro måt.


The Spanish say "Dios nos guarde," but, in Chamorro, we don't have the R sound. It changes to an L (guitarra becomes gitåla) or a T when at the end of a syllable (tambor becomes tåmbot and guarde becomes guåtde).

The phrase means, "God keep us," as in "keep you safe and sound."

Again, the expression can be changed to "Dios te guåtde," "God keep you."


The phrase means "God protect you."

It can also be changed to "Dios nos ampåre," but I can't recall ever hearing that.

It's interesting because for every rule there is an exception, and this is one. We don't like the R and we changed it to an L or a T, but not in this case.

Dios te ayude

All this should remind us of a Spanish expression we hear frequently, which is the response given to someone who fannginge' the elder or the saina : Dios te ayude.

Dios te ayude is also Spanish, meaning "God help/assist you."

We pronounce the Y in ayude the Chamorro way, as in Yigo or Yoña.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


The tale of a strong boy jumping from the northern tip of Guam to Luta is one of the better-known Guam legends.  It can be found at

But I find it doubly rewarding to know the story in one Chamorro-language version :

Un taotao gai patgon un låhe.
(A man had a male child.)

På'go annai lumamoddong esta,
(Now when he was grown already,)

metgot-ña yan matatngå-ña ke si tatå-ña.
(he was stronger and braver than his father.)

Annai ha li'e na metgot-ña ke guiya,
(When he saw that he was stronger than he,)

dinilalak asta i puntan i tano',
(he chased him away till the end of the land,)

ya man goppe desde ayo na punta asta Luta.
(and he jumped from that point over to Rota.)

Tånto ke man råstro guihe na punta yan Luta gi acho,
(Such that there was left a foot print at that point and in Luta on the rock,)

ya ma fa'na'an Puntan Påtgon desde ayo.
(and it was named Child's Point since then.)