Thursday, January 30, 2014


Again, not all the mañaina said this, but some people have told me they heard it growing up :

An duru i ichan, maolek, sa' pinino' i manglo'.
(When it rains hard, it's good, because it kills the wind.)

The idea was that the rain stopped the wind from picking up, thus preventing a typhoon, which nobody ever wants.

At the same time, other people told me a different version :

An duru i hilu, yan tettete i ichan, maolek, sa' pinino' i manglo'.
(When it thunders a lot, and the rain is light, it's good, because it kills the wind.)

It's up to you what you want to hold as true!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


The other day I met up with some mañaina, one of whom happened to grow up in Barrigada during the war.  My own family, who lived in Hagåtña before the war, spent the Japanese occupation at their ranch in Barrigada as well.  This woman knew my family, and was around the same age as my mother.

Barrigada was called Haruta Mura by the Japanese.

Haruta means "empty rice field" and mura is "village."  It would make sense that Barrigada was an empty rice field because they grew corn there, not rice!

There was one school house in Barrigada, across the San Roque chapel and near the bomban hånom (water pump) which was accessible to everyone.  This was in what is now called Radio Barrigada.

There were two teachers, both Chamorros who had been trained intensively in Hagåtña, where they lived in dormitories and were drilled in elementary Japanese so they could teach it to the children.  In Barrigada they were Juan Sanchez and Lucille Rosario (familian Chambambi').  They taught the kids in basic Japanese and in Chamorro.  English was forbidden.

Every morning the students would gather outside and sing the Japanese anthem, Kimigayo, facing north towards the Emperor in Japan.  They would also do calisthenics before heading into the school house.

There was no resident priest in Barrigada.  Påle' Oscar Calvo would periodically come say Mass, baptize, hear confessions, anoint the dying and so on.  People said their rosaries and prayers faithfully.

The woman remembered that my uncle Ben Reyes, married to my grandmother's sister, was soncho, or municipal leader in Barrigada.  The farmers there had to provide the Japanese with the food they harvested, and the soncho coordinated this.

The man said, "Ti man ñålang ham guihe na tiempo, sa' man bunmuchåcho i Chamorro siha gi tiempon gera."  "We were not hungry at that time, because the Chamorros were hard working during the war years."  Those in Barrigada were blessed with some of the best agricultural land on Guam and farmed everything they could and raised all the animals they could.

She also remembered that my mother was one of the quicker learners of Japanese.  Later in life, my mother hated to hear Japanese or see Japanese, but I would tease her and speak Japanese to her or turn the TV to the Japanese station.  She would scold me, but, once in a while, I would catch her in a willing mood to speak Japanese or listen to the Japanese station.  She even taught me a Japanese song she learned during the war.

This elderly couple and I also spoke of more sensitive material about those war years which I cannot share for many years to come!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


USS Goldstar
Guam was not so isolated as one might think before World War II and even further back in time.  Under the American Navy administration, Guam had frequent ocean transportation to almost all points.

Guam had American destinations on either side of the waters.  Go east and one lands in Honolulu.  Go west and one arrives in Manila, then under American jurisdiction.  There was also travel north to Saipan and Japan, and even a few ships headed for Hong Kong and China.

The USS Goldstar was an American naval ship sent to Guam in 1924.  She was used mainly to transport cargo but also passengers.  For the rest of the 20s and all of the 30s, the name Goldstar was on the lips of many Chamorros.

One needed the permission of the Governor to leave Guam, and, of course, the money to buy a ticket, but many Chamorros did succeed in obtaining both permission and funds.

Some went for business; others for pleasure.  A few even went for medical reasons.  Some also went to Manila for an education.  Except for this last one, pretty much the same reasons why Chamorro travel to Manila to this day!

In July of 1934, for example, the following Chamorros boarded the Goldstar for Manila :

Vicente B. Martinez and his daughter

Jose de la Cruz

Ricardo E. Salas

Francisco Leon Guerrero

and 55 members of the Guam Militia.  That's a lot of Chamorros.  On holiday, perhaps?  Or to participate in some ceremonial function in Manila?

Also on board were two Spanish Capuchin missionaries, Father Gil de Legaria and Brother José de Goñi.  The Capuchins at the time had a big friary in Intramuros, Manila.

One never hears of the Goldstar being attacked or sunk by the Japanese in Apra Harbor on December 8, 1941 because she happened to be in the Philippines at the time.  When war broke out, she left for Australia and was safe and sound for the rest of the war.  She never returned to Guam after that.

But anyone old enough to remember the 1930s on Guam instantly remembers the USS Goldstar when it is mentioned.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Påle' Bernabé
One of the pre-war Spanish Capuchin priests

Nowadays, we call the cops if there is a family dispute bordering on violence.

In the past, as one lady said, "Guse'-ña ma ågang si Påle' ke ni polisia!"  "They would call the priest quicker than calling the police."

From all my conversations with the elders about this topic, I would summarize the reasons for this as follows, in no particular order of importance :

1. A priest would keep the family trouble quiet; the police may arrest someone, file a report that makes the squabble public.

"Yanggen si Påle' ma ågang, u såga' ha' gi halom guma' i plaito."  "If Father is called, the fight will stay inside the home."

2. A priest was looked on as a person of wisdom - a spokesman for God - who could persuade and change hearts or minds; the policeman was seen as someone to be feared.

"Siempre ma respeta mås si Påle'.  Achok ha' taimano binibu-ña i palao'an pat i lahe pat todo i dos, an kumuentos si Påle', ma ekkungok." "They will surely respect Father more.  No matter how angry the woman or the man or both are, when Father speaks, they listen."

Some examples of priestly intervention were :

1. "Annai i dos saina på'go ma tungo' na mapotge' i hobensita åntes de umassagua.  Ai!  Sumen lalalo' i tata ya siña ta ålok na ha ke' puno' i hagå-ña.  Umentalo' i nana para u prinetehe i hagå-ña, pues i tata ha ke' dommo' lokkue' i asaguå-ña!  Pues ayo nai na ma ågang si Påle'!"

"When the two parents just found out that the teenage daughter was pregnant before marriage.  Oh my!  The father got so mad we could say he almost tried to kill his daughter.  So the mother intervened to protect her daughter, so the dad tried to punch his wife!  That's when they called Father!"

2. "Ai, Påle', sa' hu hasso annai måtto un puenge sen atrasao si tatå-ho.  Sen bulacho asta ke kumåkånta a'gagang gi chalan ya esta tatalo' puenge.  Ha na' sen mamåhlao si nanan-måme.  Gigon humålom si tatå-ho gi gima', inanña' si tatå-ho gi as nanå-ho.  Todo i siña ha go'te ha usa para u kastiga si tatå-ho.  I sapatos-ña, i siya, i sinturon....masea håfa siña ha gu'ot!  Ha tågo yo' si bihå-ho para u ågang guihe guato gi gima'-måme si Påle', achok ha' esta ges painge.  Magåhet na måtto si Påle'.  Ha kuentuse si nanå-ho ya magåhet na ha na' måpao.  Ha konne' si tatå-ho para u maigo' gi otro na guma'.  Sigiente dia, ha bira gue' si tatå-ho guato gi gima'-måme ya, asta ke måtai i dos, tåya' na kumuentos i dos saina-ho pot ayo na pupuenge."

"Oh, Father, I remember when my father came one night very late.  He was so drunk that he was even singing loudly in the streets and it was already midnight.  He made our mother so embarrassed.  The moment my father entered the home, he was beaten by my mother.  Everything she could hold she used to punish him.  Her shoes, the chair, the belt...whatever she could grab.  My grandmother told me to go call the priest over to our house even though it was very late.  Indeed, Father came.  He talked to my mother and really calmed her down.  He took my dad to sleep at another house.  The next day, my dad came back to our house and, till the day they both died, my two parents never talked about that night."

To be sure, not everyone called the priest, and there were times that one in the family, more so the father or a son, would turn against the priest rather than listen to him.

But, many priests were called in to intervene in a family fight, and at all hours of the day or night.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Today, if you happen to be on Guam, you can head down to the Guam Fishermen's Coop next to Chamorro Village in Hagåtña to celebrate the 6th Annual Chamorro Lunar Calendar Festival.

In Chamorro, it is being billed as the : GUPOT FANHA'ANIYAN PULAN CHAMORU

When an elderly Chamorro man who speaks fluent Chamorro came up to me with the flyer for this event and asked me what fanha'aniyan meant, I knew I had better blog about it.

In Chamorro, we have a wonderful device called the FAN+WORD+AN construction.

Put any word, noun or verb, in the middle and out comes : PLACE OF or TIME OF.

Remember that the suffix -AN usually means, in Chamorro, PLACE or TIME of.

So, if we look at the middle term in fanha'aniyan, we find ha'åni, sometimes spelled ha'åne.

Ha'åni means "day" or "life."

So, fanha'aniyan means "place of days."  In other words, calendar!

If you notice, a Y has been added to -AN because it just sounds nicer to Chamorro ears to say fanha'aniyan rather than fanha'anian.


Just as an aside, pulan itself has multiple meanings.

It means the "moon."

Since the moon watches over us at night, it can also mean "to watch over."

Since each new moon begins a new lunar cycle, pulan has a third meaning : month.

Påle' Román, a Basque Spaniard and Capuchin missionary, can be credited for promoting the use of the indigenous word pulan for "month" and fanha'aniyan for "calendar" (instead of the Spanish-based words mes and kalendårio) because he used these indigenous terms in his many Chamorro books and pamphlets.

Personally, I like using all these terms.  Know the indigenous, but also know what generations of our mañaina have been using for three hundreds years, as well.  Otherwise, we miss out of three centuries of custom.

By the way, the indigenous word for "year" is såkkan, which also means "harvest.  But three centuries of Chamorros also used the Spanish word año.  Thousands of Chamorros for many years were equally adept at using either or both words for the same thing.


Before the Spaniards came and gave us the Western calendar, our ancestors went by the moon.  They had a lunar calendar, since it is easy to mark the different phases of the moon.  The Chamorro lunar calendar was made up of thirteen moons, or months.

It's no wonder that this event is being held at the Fisherman's Coop, because traditional fishermen also use the phases of the moon to guide their fishing activities.

To learn more about this, go to :

Friday, January 24, 2014



The RIOS families of the Marianas have a Spanish surname that means RIVERS.

In fact, the family crest in Spain looks like this. You can see the watery image of rivers is included in the design.

Just as many English family names come from places (Mr. Hill, Mr. Church, Mr. Woods), some Spanish names also come from places : Señor Palacios (palaces), Señor Torres (towers) and Señor Iglesias (churches). In English, there even are families called Rivers, which is Rios in Spanish.


There were Rioses on Guam from very early on, as early as 1727.

In the 1727 Census, there are Rioses listed as soldiers in the Spanish regiment. This does not automatically mean they were born in Spain. They could have been from Mexico, South America or the Philippines but of Spanish, or part Spanish, blood. 

There was Francisco de los Rios, who married a Chamorro woman named Rosa Taihimas.  Their children at the time of the census were Basilio, Manuela, Lorenza and Manuela Josefa.

There was also Juan Antonio de los Rios, who married Josefa de la Cruz.  Their children were Francisco, Pablo, Antonio, Jose and Pascuala.

Lastly there was Miguel de los Rios, who married Marcela de la Cruz.  They had three children by 1727 : Ignacio, Maria and Teodora.

We do not know if these three men named Rios were related.


By the next census we have, 1758, we see how these three Rios families developed :

Antonio Cruz de los Rios, who is seen above in the 1727 census as the son of Juan Antonio and Josefa, married Maria Francisca Montufar.  They had a daughter Antonia.  They could have had more children after the census was taken.

Miguel de los Rios, shown in the earlier census, is still alive in 1758, and still married to Marcela.

Pablo Cruz de los Rios, also in the earlier census and son of Juan Antonio and Josefa, married Rosa de Leon Guerrero.  Their children were Esteban Ambrosio, Maria and Josefa Anastasia.

Besides these men, there were two women named Rios who were married.


By the time we jump all the way to the 1897 census, we don't have large numbers of people named Rios.  One would think that, with three fathers named Rios in 1727, the name would have gotten much bigger, but it didn't. We don't know why. It could have been that people in the family died prematurely from various epidemics. It could have been that more girls were born than boys, and when the girls became women and married, the Rios surname was lost to the father's surname.

What we can say is that there seems to be only two lines of Rioses in Guam in the mid 1800s.


One of the Rios clans was founded by Benigno Rios, who is sometimes named Benigno Castro Rios.

Benigno married twice. The first wife was a Filipina named Asunción (sometimes called Ascensión) Ayuban. This begs the question; how did Benigno, a man from Guam, at a time when travel between Guam and anywhere else was not so frequent, with most islanders not having the means to pay for travel, get to meet a Filipina woman? It's easier for a man to get up and go across the ocean; much harder for a woman, especially an unaccompanied woman, in those olden days.

I'm sure it will be very hard, if not impossible, to find out how they met, since documents are so unavailable. Perhaps Benigno went to Manila. That seems the more possible option. Many Chamorro youth joined the whaling ships and went all over the Pacific and beyond.

A smaller chance is that Asunción came to Guam. Perhaps she came with a family member, or working as a domestic servant to someone who came to Guam, such as a Spanish official. Again, these are all just possible reasons, but not definitive answers.

Benigno and Asunción had a handful of children.

One son was BRIGIDO AYUBAN RIOS. He married Josefa Garrido de León Guerrero, of the Sombrero clan. Josefa's parents were José and Mariana.

Their sons were José, Vicente and Enrique. Their daughters were Asunción and María.

One grandson of Brigido's, José León Guerrero Rios, the son of the older José, was one of Guam's leading educators. He was not just a teacher but administrator and vice principal in many schools both before and after the war, earning him the title of "Mr. Education." He served in these capacities for 51 years. No wonder the present José LG Rios Middle School in Piti is named after him. José was one of several promising young men sent to Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1919 for further education at the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College.


Brigido's three sons had many children spreading the Rios last name. His two daughters also married.

One of Brigido's sisters, Dolores, married Don Vicente de la Rosa Mesa, one of the Cabeza de Barangay (neighborhood leader) in Hagåtña.  Their son Tomás Rios Mesa was sent to Manila for schooling and there he fell in love with María Lukban and they married, returning to Guam. Sometime before the war, Tomás went back to Manila to study dentistry and was away when the Japanese invaded Guam. María was abused by the Japanese and died in the Tinta Cave massacre. Tomás returned after the war and practiced dentistry.


Two siblings of Brigido, Concepción and Fulgencio, never married nor had children, but two other siblings, Rosa and Antonia did have children outside of marriage. Rosa gave up her children to adoption. Antonia moved to Saipan for a while during German times and had some children there but they seem to have moved back to Guam or died in youth.

Benigno married a second wife, Gregoria Campos de León Guerrero. They only had daughters.

Another Rios, Benigno Castro Rios, was the husband of Gregoria Campos de Leon Guerrero.  Their children were Fulgencio, Casiano, Antonia and Rosa.  But in another document, Casiano is identified as Casiano Ayuban Rios.  This leads me to suspect that Benigno had two wives.  The first was a Filipina by the last name of Ayuban, who was the mother of Brigido and Casiano, and thus also of Fulgencio, who is older than Casiano, and possibly of Antonia and Rosa.  Gregoria could have been the second wife, after the Ayuban wife died.

Then there's a Vicente Rios, married to Josefa Cepeda and their children Mariano and Maria.

So it seems that, with the exception of Vicente and his children, the other Rioses are of the Ayuban-Rios clan.


One descendant of the Ayuban-Rios clan was Jose Leon Guerrero Rios, son of Brigido and Josefa.  He was born in 1898 so he does not appear in the 1897 Census and probably, then, was the first child of the recently-married parents.

He got an early start in life as an educator and was sent by the pre-war Naval Government to study at Oklahoma A&M College.  He wrote articles for local publications and had a brief stint as a judge in the local courts.  He was a teacher and principal before and after the war, passing away in 1983.

For his life-long dedication to the island's schools, a Middle School was named after him in Piti.

One of his students, Judge Vicente Camacho Reyes, was my confirmation godfather and grand uncle through his marriage to my grandmother's sister Ana Perez Torres.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Being mostly Catholic, one would expect Chamorros would be OK with second cousins marrying, because the Church allows second cousins to marry, without any need to get special permission to do so.  The Church, however, will not allow first cousins to marry - unless they get permission from the local bishop.

But for many of our mañaina, not even third or fourth cousins should marry.

I asked one elderly Chamorro why our culture frowns upon even third or fourth cousins marrying.

"Mampos hihot i haga'!" the woman exclaimed immediately and vehemently.

"The blood is too close!"

"Siempre gai defekto i patgon-ñiha!"  "Their child will have some defect."

Then she started to tell me about her own relatives who were first cousins and got married.  Their children were fine, but, she said, the two spouses were always fighting.

"Demasiao hihot!"  "Too close," she said.

I told her then it must be hard in some places to find a future husband or wife. 

"Espia nai gi san lago pat gi Filipinas!"  "Look," she said, "in the States or the Philippines!"

Whenever first cousins married on Guam, it was duly noted and spoken about (quietly) by other people.  It was as if people were just waiting to see some mishap or misfortune befall the couple or their children, and credit it all on the fact that they were first cousins.

My brother, too, had married a distant relative.  Since we're not too clear about the family tree once we get back to the 1870s, we think he and his wife are 5th cousins or even further back.  Despite this distance, our two clans consider each other "close."  I was told as a child to fan nginge' (reverence the hand) of any elders in this clan whenever I met them.

Sometime after they were married, my sister-in-law introduced my brother to her grandmother.  When she asked, "Håye familia-mo?"  "Who is your family?" and found out, she had a look of concern on her face!  And these two were 5th cousins or even further back!

For more, check

Thursday, January 16, 2014


People often don't realize what a "happening place" Saipan was before World War II.  Thanks to the Japanese, business was in full swing in that island, dominated by the sugar industry.  The island population swelled in the 1930s as Japanese, Okinawan and Korean laborers and civil workers came to farm sugar, open stores and man the government offices.  The pre-war population of Saipan exceeded that of Guam, thanks to the huge numbers of transplants from Japan.

Japanese merchant ships traveled from Japan to Saipan, often making stops on Guam until the political climate chilled as war drew near.  Not only was trade necessary, people also traveled by ship between Guam and Saipan.

From a passenger list on the Japanese schooner, the Chomei Maru, in 1936 we get an idea.  It carried 140 tons of freight and 9 bags of mail.  On board traveling to Guam from Saipan were :

CHAMORROS, some of whom had relatives in Saipan, probably returning from a family visit and some who went on holiday; as well as Saipan Chamorros doing the same on Guam :

Adas.  Jose T and Maria T Ada, as well as Lydia, Delia, Elvira, Luise.

Ataos.  Natividad SN, Pedro SN, Carmen SN and Isabel SN Atao.

Ana C. Blas
Ismael T. Calvo
Concepcion M. Camacho
Pedro L. and Joaquina M. Cepeda
Jose P. and Francisca T. De Leon
Jose C., Constancia C. and Felicita C. Dungca
Alejo C., Ana C. and the future Archbishop Felixberto C. Flores
Francisco B., Lagrimas P. and Maria P. Leon Guerrero
Ignacio Q. and Isabel C. Sanchez
Ana M., Guadalupe M. and Jose M. Reyes
Maria LG and Miguel LG Salas
Ana D. San Nicolas
Joaquin and Constancia Camacho
Federico M. Lizama
Jose P., Maria SN and Luise P.Wilson
Gertrudes de la Concepcion


Ambrosio T. Shimizu
Dolores SN Takano


T. Shinohara, married to a Chamorro
S. Sudo, married to a Chamorro
and others with no Chamorro connections

ON THE WAY BACK TO SAIPAN we see more Chamorros living on Saipan returning there after a visit to Guam, to see relatives or perhaps to do some business or enjoy a change of scenery :

Agultos.  They were originally from Sumay and moved to Saipan.

Ylanos.  Also spelled Ilano.

Palacios, Blanco, Bermudes, Concepcion, Evangelista, Toves, Quitano, Santos and de Leon Guerrero....all of whom had relations on Guam.

And some Guam Chamorros going up to Saipan for a visit: Emiliana F. and Juan F. Perez, Tomasa A. and John A. Perez.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


In Chamorro culture, blue or green eyes are called MÅTAN KATO, "cat eyes." You can see why from the picture above.

The term also applies to other shades. Anything other than black or brown eyes. The more the shade heads towards light and translucent, the greater the chance it will be called måtan kato.

Måtan kato is esteemed among Chamorros. They are considered beautiful.

They are often associated with Caucasian blood, but not necessarily. You often hear older people describe their father or grandfather being part Spanish or some other kind of Caucasian and, as if to bolster the claim, they will say he had måtan kato


A lady in Saipan told the story how she and her family hid in a cave during the American invasion of the island in 1944. People in Saipan didn't see many Caucasians during Japanese rule, although the Catholic missionaries at the time were Spanish.

So on the day she and her family were rescued from battle, she was peering through a hole in the cave when she thought she heard people moving about outside. As she looked, another eye was peeping through the same hole right back at her.

She turned around and told her family in the cave, "Måtan kato!"

It was an American soldier, accompanied by other American soldiers, and they were moving in the area looking for the enemy, or to get civilians out of harm's way. The soldier put this family on a truck to take them to the civilian refugee camp.


Chamorro folk beliefs and superstitions are not always universal.  Sometimes, they can be found only among some families or certain individuals.

Recently only did I learn that one such belief is that, if you're grating coconut and want to increase the yield of coconut meat, you have to look into the eyes of a cat.

Yanggen mangåkåmyo i taotao, debe de u atan i matan kato para u misen.

Monday, January 13, 2014


First, I'd like to affirm a few things about the person who wrote this sign in Chamorro.

1. He even thought to write in Chamorro, when he didn't have to.

2. I like the way he spelled "kemmon."  The double M reflects the way we actually say the word.

3. Kommon is one of those words we modify when preceded by the definite article "i" or "the."  Kommon becomes i kemmon.


....a correction is needed here, and I suggest it only as a way of helping people get better in the language.  There is a difference between mayamak and mayulang.


....means something is broken apart.  The physical integrity of the object is broken, smashed, demolished.

This is a toilet that is mayamak (actually several toilets)...


....means that something isn't functioning.  The physical parts are all there and not destroyed, but the parts are not working properly.  The toilet is intact; it isn't mayamak.  But it's leaking, or it doesn't flush properly.  It's mayulang.

Other ways of understanding the distinction :

If someone destroys your trust, ha yamak i hinengge-ko nu guiya.  "He or she demolished my faith in him or her."

A watch that was run over by a car and was broken into a hundred bits and pieces is un mayamak na relos (a broken watch).

But a watch that is intact but the gears don't work properly and the hands no longer tick the time is un mayulang na relos (a broken watch).

A broken heart, meaning one that is in such great emotional pain as to feel shattered, is mayamak.

A heart that has a physiological malfunction (it doesn't drain or beat properly) is mayulang.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Tamuning. 1970s

Eståba yo' Tamuning sa' guaha para bai fåhan gi tenda.
(I was in Tamuning because there was something I was going to buy at the store.)

Lao esta yo' ma empong ya ti siña hu sustiene.
(But I was already needing to urinate and I couldn't hold it.)

Hu li'e na tåya' taotao gi tatten i tenda.
(I saw that there was no one behind the store.)

Pot i ti halom tåno' yan bula guma', ti ma'å'ñao yo' tuminane' guihe na lugåt.
(Because it wasn't jungle and there were many buildings, I wasn't afraid to urinate in that place.)

Lao ai lokkue' ayo na pupuenge!  Pokpok i addeng-ho yan sen puti.
(But oh that night! My foot was swollen and it was very painful.)

Esta tatalo'puenge ya ti siña hu sungon.
(It was already midnight and I couldn't bear it.)

Guaha palao'an; åhe' ti suruhåna gue' lao guaha tiningo'-ña pot este siha na sinisede.
(There was a woman; she wasn't a medicine woman but she knew something about these things.)

Pues hu ågang gue' ya ha tågo' yo' para bai fangågao i me'me' i mås påtgon na sobrinu-ho.
(So I called her and she told me to ask for the urine of my youngest nephew.)

Pues hu ågang i kiñadå-ho, achok ha' esta a las dos gi chatanmak.
(So I called up my sister-in-law, even though it was two in the morning.)

Ilek-ña, "Dalai na ora este i para un ågang yo'!"
(She said, "My what an hour for you to call me!")

Lao annai hu sangåne gue' håfa presisu-ho, ha pångon i lahi-ña, i mås påtgon na sobrinu-ho.
(But when I told her what I needed, she woke up her son, my youngest nephew.)

Hinengang i patgon ya ilek-ña, "Ha?  Håfa malago'-ña si tiu-ho?"
(The boy was shocked and said, "What?  What does my uncle want?")

Kololo'-ña annai tinago' gue' gi as nanå-ña, "U.  Chule' este na båso ya un na' bula ni meme'-mo."
(Especially when his mother told him, "Here.  Take this glass and fill it with your urine.")

Lao konfotme i sobrinu-ho ya ha cho'gue.
(But my nephew agreed and did it.)

Hu nå'ye gi addeng-ho ya sigiente dia hu bira yo' para ayo na lugåt nai tuminane' yo' ya mangågao yo' dispensasion.
(I put it on my foot and the next day I returned to the place where I relieved myself and ask for forgiveness.)

Una ora despues mumågong i pokpok i addeng-ho ya sigiente dia må'pos kabåles todo i puti-ho.
(One hour later the swelling of my foot eased up and the next day all my pain completely went away.)

I me'me' i mås påtgon na sobrinu-ho fuma'maolek yo'.
(The urine of my youngest nephew fixed me.)


~ Ma empong.  Some Chamorros say "ma empon."

~ Addeng.  On Guam, Chamorros say patas, but originally that referred only to the feet or animals, and is borrowed from Spanish.  The original word for the human foot is addeng.  This is still the word used in the Northern Marianas.

~ Tuminane'.  The root word is tåne', which means to "be busy, occupied, entertained."  It's a euphemism for urinating; a polite way of talking about this call of nature.

~ The man thought that since Tamuning is developed and commercial, he'd have no worries concerning spirits.

~ Don't forget there is a difference between mågong (healing, relief, easing) and måhgong (peace).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Many old-time Chamorros resisted amputations.  They flatly told the doctor, "You're not cutting it off."

Reasons differed, but one frequent Chamorro explanation was this :

"Annai ha na' huyong yo' si Yu'us, todo kabåles.  Mungnga yo' na bai hu fåna' si Yu'us 'nai måtai yo'  ya u fåtta uno gi dos addeng-ho."  "When God made me, all was complete.  I don't want to face God when I die and be lacking one of my two feet."


"Kabåles ha fa'tinas yo' si Yu'us, kabåles bai hu na' na'lo."  "God made me complete, complete I will give it back."

Even when told that by letting one foot remain, s/he would die and lose both feet and his entire body, he or she would say, "Gao-ko hu fåna' si Yu'us yan entero i tataotao-ho, ke ni para bai hu fåna' Gue' ya guaha fåfåtta gi tataotao-ho."  "I prefer to face God with all of my body, than to face Him and something be missing of my body."

Either they weren't catechized enough about the resurrection of the body (whole and entire) or they were using this as a convenient excuse to forego surgery.  Even if a man's body were blown to bits in war, dissected by several hungry sharks or burned to ashes in a house fire, God will have no trouble re-assembling all the bits and pieces on the day of resurrection.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Hagåtña.  1930s

Told to me by a woman in her eighties.

Annai dikkike' yo', guaha un palao'an giya Hagåtña ni mampos eskurosa.
(When I was little, there was a woman in Hagåtña who was overly squeamish.)

Ti ya-ña ma bisita gi gima' sa' ti ya-ña taotao.
(She didn't like to be visited at home because she didn't like people.)

Yanggen ma dilingding i kampåna gi pettån-ña, siempre ha saosao i batunes sa' guaha taotao pumacha.
(If someone rang the doorbell, she would definitely wipe the button because someone touched it.)

Yanggen ma nå'e gue' nengkanno', siempre ha chåhlao pot no u nina'pinite i munå'e gue', lao an må'pos i taotao, siempre ti u kånno', sa' kånnai otro na taotao fuma'tinas.
(If she was given food, she would accept it not to hurt the feelings of the one who gave it, but when the person left, she wouldn't eat it because someone else's hands prepared it.)

Todo i un pacha seguro na u saosao, ya ti u fan nangga asta ke må'pos hao pot no un li'e, lao ha chocho'gue gi me'nå-mo!
(Everything you touched she would wipe, and she wouldn't wait till you left so you wouldn't see her do that, but she would do it right in front of you!)

Sa' pot i sumåsåga este na palao'an gi entalo' i gimå'-ho yan i gima' i bihå-ho, sesso yo' maloffan gi me'nan i gimå'-ña.
(Because this lady lived in between my house and my grandmother's house, I often passed in front of her house.)

Hekkua' ti hu tungo' pot håfa na rason lao ya-ña yo' este na palao'an ya kada ha li'e na maloloffan yo' gi chalan gi me'nan i gimå'-na, siempre ha kombida yo' para in gimen chokolåte. 
(I don't know for what reason but this woman liked me and every time she sees me on the street going past the front of her house, she would invite me to drink chocolate with her.)

Pues fiho ha faisen yo' kao malago' yo' maigo' gi gimå'-ña lao ma'åñao yo' sa' ni håfåfa ya-ho pumacha gi halom gumå'-ña sa' siempre ha saosao.
(Then she often asked me if I wanted to sleep at her house but I was afraid because I didn't want to touch anything at all inside her house because then she'd wipe it.)

Pues hu oppe gue' na mungnga yo' maigo' gi gimå'-ña sa' esta guaha kattre-ko gi gimå'-ho.
(So I answered her that I didn't want to sleep at her house because I already had my own bed at my house.)

Buente pot i kasao este na palao'an lao ti siña gue' gumaipatgon na ya-ña yo' ya ha espipia yo' todo i tiempo.
(Perhaps, because this lady was married but couldn't have a child, she liked me and was always looking for me.)

Man manman i mañe'lu-ho yan amigu-ho siha na ha kombida yo' hålom gi gimå'-ña este na palao'an para in gimen chokolåte sa' siha na famagu'on ni ngai'an u fan kinembida para u fan hålom gi gimå'-ña ayo na eskurosan biha.
(My siblings and friends were astonished that this lady invited me into her house to drink chocolate with her, because those kids would never be invited to enter the home of that finicky old lady.)


Eskurosa.  The word is borrowed from the Spanish asqueroso, which means "disgusting, yucky, loathsome, repulsive" and so on.  So, in Chamorro, we've given the word a new twist, because for us it means someone who is easily disgusted; in other words, someone squeamish or finicky.

Chamorros also pronounced it their own way, askuroso/askurosa at first, but now most people will say eskuroso/eskurosa, the first way for a male and the second for a female.

Chocolate.  The lady didn't ask the girl to come in and eat chocolate, nor to drink hot cocoa.  The old lady was following an old Spanish tradition of drinking actual melted chocolate.  Bars of chocolate were put to the fire and drunk hot.  The Chocolate House in the present-day Plaza de España area was so-called, supposedly, because it was where the wife of the Spanish Governor served chocolate drinks to visitors or among the Governor's family and associates.


This amusing story is based on a real lady who lived in the capital city before the war.

I know her identity, but since her extended family is still around, I won't identify her.

My informant, now an elderly lady herself, told me that this lady's story ended on a sad note.  By the time of the war, the lady was by herself, her husband was out of the picture and she had no children.

During the march to Mañenggon right before the fierce battle to take Guam back from the Japanese, the lady died somehow.  Being alone, people don't really know under what circumstances she died.