Monday, June 30, 2014


Guam 1960s

There is a wonderful freedom we enjoy when it comes to Christian prayer.

As long as it is said from the heart, with due adoration, respect and humility, it's a good prayer!  And so it is with any prayer of thanksgiving before eating a meal.

But here's a traditional Chamorro version that has been around for many years :

Asaina, bendise este siha na nengkanno' ni para in kanno'

ni man måfåtto ginen i gineftao i kannai-mo, gi na'an i Tata,

yan i Lahi-ña, yan i Espiritu Santo.  Amen.

Loosely translated, you will recognize the standard Catholic grace before meals in English :

Asaina, bendise este siha na nengkanno'
(Lord, bless this food)

ni para in kanno'
(which we are to eat)

ni man måfåtto
(which come)

ginen i gineftao i kannai-mo
(from the generosity of your hand)

gi na'an i Tata, yan i Lahi-ña, yan i Espiritu Santo.  Amen.
(in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.)


A standard comment one hears at many Chamorro gatherings is :

Fanohge para i ma bendisen i lamasa!
(Stand for the blessing of the table!)

To which someone invariably responds :

Ti i lamasa para u ma bendise, na i nengkanno'!
(It's not the table to be blessed, but the food!)


If there is a priest present, it is the norm to ask him to bless.

Of course, a bishop outranks the priest and he would be asked first, but the bishop could cede this to a priest if, for example, it's the priest's occasion.

If no clergy are present, the honor of leading grace before meals goes to one of the mañaina (elders and/or people of stature) such as the nåna (grandmother) or techa (prayer leader) or matlina (godmother).  Yes, women usually get the spot, but sometimes also men.


As you can see in the pic above, clergy go first.  Then it was pretty much whoever else, since the very elderly didn't line up at all but were rather catered to.  The elderly sat at their tables and someone else fixed a plate for them (ma na'yåne).

Today, as the culture wanes, it's everybody for himself, which means the energetic and agile kids get to the line first and Påle' has to go by the law of the survival of the fittest, on many occasions.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Seminarians at Fr Dueñas Minor Seminary

I mañaina siha debe u ha respeta i inayek-ñiha i famagu'on-ñiha na bokasion.
(Parents should respect the vocational choice of their children.)

Yanggen un påtgon låhe malago' man estudia para Påle' pat Etmåno,
(If a son wants to study for the priesthood or brotherhood,)

i saina ti debe na u estotba i patgon, pat u chomma i hinasson-ña.
(the parent should not bother the child or oppose his thinking.)

Yanggen un hagå-mo malago' humålom gi un konbenton Etmånas,
(If one of your daughters wants to enter a convent of Sisters,)

umisao hao dångkulo yanggen un chomma.
(you sin greatly if you oppose.)

Siña ha' despues de i patgon-mo man estudia unos kuåntos tiempo,
(It may be later after your child studies for a time,)

ha deside na ti inagang gue' as Yu'us pot este na bokasion,
(he decides that he isn't called by God for this vocation,)

este minalago' Yu'us.
(this is God's will.)

Yanggen i lahi-mo pat hagå-mo ti ha chage, nungka nai siña ha li'e kao hunggan pat åhe'
(If your son or daughter never tries, he will never be able to see if yes or no,)

ti man inagang siha as Yu'us para i relihioso na lina'la'.
(they are not called by God for the religious life.)

I mañaina debe u ha nå'e ånimo i famagu'on-ñiha para u ha chule' i ofision
(Parents should encourage their children to take up the position of)

maestro, enfetmera, mediko pat håfa otro na ofisio ni siña ha ayuda i pumalon taotao siha.
(teacher, nurse, doctor or whatever other work can help other people.)

Magåhet na guaha na biåhe nai ti dangkulo na suetdo man ma sosodda' guennao siha na ofisio
(It's true that there are times that big salaries are not found in those positions)

lao man maulek este siha na cho'cho' na todo i taotao siha man finaborerese.
(but these are good jobs where all the people benefit.)

Nå'e ånimo i famagu'on-miyo siha na u ha kontinua gi eskuela kuånto i siña na inapmam.
(Encourage your children to continue in school as long as possible.)

Kuånto mås meggai edukasion-ña i patgon-mo, yanggen åt mismo tiempo maulek gue' lokkue' na påtgon Yu'us,
(The more education your child has, if at the same time he is a good child of God,)

mås meggai inayudå-ña nu hågo i patgon-mo siña un li'e kontodo i pumalon taotao siha
(you can see the more your child is able to help you as well as the other people)

yanggen ha na' fonhåyan i umeskuelå-ña.
(if he finishes his schooling.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014


The modern village of Barrigada which we know today was not quite the same as it was before the war.

Indeed, in the late Spanish period (1800s), there really was no organized municipality called Barrigada. There definitely were farms; many farms!  All the areas and districts included in what we now call Barrigada were some of the best agricultural lands on the island.  Those who worked the farms, mostly men, spent the night at the ranch house during the week, but returned to Hagåtña for the weekend to attend Mass and be with their families.

But by the 1920s, people started to live permanently in the outlying villages of central and northern Guam. Slowly, the priests built chapels in these villages where Mass could be held periodically, but not everyday. These priests still lived in Hagåtña and had to drive cars to these chapels.  Eskuelan Påle' (catechism class or CCD as we know it today) was also held in these chapels.

The government also built a few schools in the central and northern villages.

The municipal lines for Barrigada before the war included what is now Toto and Mangilao.

In 1940, there were already 875 people living in this municipality.

The different barrios or districts in the municipality, with their populations in parentheses, were :

ADACAO (48) - on the present back road to Andersen.

ASMUYAO and SONGLAGO (30) - towards Mangilao and Chalan Pago

CAÑADA and LEYANG (29) - more or less the present locations

GUAE and SABANAN PÅGAT (29) - further north on the back road to Andersen, past Adacao

JALAGUAG and MAITE (103) - Jalaguag was just before Tiyan if you were heading northeast towards Tiyan from Hagåtña.

LALO and SAN ANTONIO (116) - San Antonio was where much of the village proper of Barrigada is today; Lalo was south of that.

MACHAUTI and TOTO (22) - just north of Cañada

MAGA (83) - south of Mangilao, going towards the coast (Pago Bay)


NALAO (110) - in the area of the present village proper of Barrigada

TIYAN (24) - now the airport!

UNGAGUAN (238) - in the vicinity of the Admiral Nimitz Golf Course, past PC Lujan school

There are many other barrios located in the old, prewar municipality but they are not singled out in the population figures but are most likely grouped with the others who are mentioned.

These other barrios included Aspengao, Luayao, Mochom and Pinate, to name a few.

The present village of Barrigada does a nice job memorializing these districts by naming many of the streets after them.

UNGAGUAN might come from the word ungak which means "to tip to one side" or  "to bend something down," as in tipping a bench to one side or grabbing the branch of a tree and bending it down.

The family name Ungacta most likely comes from the word ungak.

Though we don't have any clear proof where the name Ungaguan comes from, there are two possibilities.

The suffix -guan means "to do something unintentionally" as in pineddongguan (to let something fall unintentionally) or "to do something against the will of someone" as in chule'guan (to take something away from someone unwilling to give it).  Ungaguan could mean "unintentionally tilting or bending."

Or, the suffix - an could be in use in Ungaguan.  -An means "place of."  Ungaguan could mean the place of tipping or bending to one side.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


KASADULES : hunter

This word is so forgotten, it doesn't even make it into the latest Chamorro dictionary; a very extensive dictionary at that.

But it is found in Påle' Roman's Chamorro dictionary of 1932.

It's interesting because both peskadot and kasadules are derived from Spanish loan words.

Peskadot originally just meant "fisherman."  It comes from the Spanish words pescar, which means "to fish."

Chamorros also borrowed from that word and use peska to mean "to fish."

Pumepeska si Jose.  Jose is fishing.

One could also say pipeska. Someone who peska (the duplication of the first syllable means continuous or habitual activity). For example, kånta is "to sing." A kakanta is someone who habitually sings, i.e. a singer.

It all goes together nicely when one recalls that the Spanish word for "fish" is pez. That itself comes from the Laitn word for "fish," which is piscis, in the plural, pisces.  Yes, like the zodiac sign.

We have our own indigenous way of saying "to catch fish."  We use the root word konne', which means "to take" but is applied only to living or animate objects (or inanimate objects which represent living things, like the statue of a saint).

Mangonne' guihan nigap si Jose.  Jose caught fish yesterday.

The prefix e'- means "to look for." E'che'cho' means "to look for work." E'guihan means "to look for fish." This is probably connected to higuihan, a word Påle' Román says (in 1932) means "fisherman."

Sipik is a word defined by de Freycinet as "fisherman." De Freycinet was a French explorer who visited Guam in 1819.

A talayero is someone who uses a talåya, a specific kind of throw net used for fishing. That word comes from a word used in Latin America for a throw net, atarraya. The -ero suffix should be a clue as to the Hispanic background of the word talayero. We see it in panadero (baker); pan (bread) plus -adero.


Påle' Román's 1932 dictionary

In past times, Chamorros also borrowed the Spanish word cazadores, which means "hunters."

The caza is the hunt, or the chase (connected to the word caza). Caza-dor is someone on the chase, who hunts.

Since we don't like the R sound, when Chamorros pronounced this word, the R was changed to L and it came out kasadules.

Compare the sticker above, with the deer and peskadot, and this sticker with a deer as well but with cazadores.  The word is used in the brand name of a kind of tequila.  Hunters' tequila!

In more recent times, more and more people stopped using kasadules.  But people still hunt, so they turned to peskadot to refer to hunters.

By the way, why is it kasadules, in the plural, even when talking about one hunter?

Because, for whatever reason, many words we borrowed from Spanish we keep in the plural, even if we refer to a single object.

Think of un espehos (one mirror), tres na espehos (three mirrors).

Un sapåtos (one shoe), sais na sapåtos (six shoes).

There's no logical reason for it.  It's just what we thought sounded better.

Sunday, June 22, 2014



Catholics around the world celebrate an annual feast called Corpus Christi, recalling the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

What Guam, the Marianas and many other places do, but which not all Catholics do, is erect outdoor temporary altars, or stations, to be used during the procession held on Corpus Christi.  Chamorros call these altars Lånchon Kotpus.  It literally means "Corpus ranch," and no one knows for sure why Chamorros a long time ago called them that.

Before the war, when Catholicism was extremely strong in our culture, the Corpus Christi procession was a grand affair, especially in Hagåtña.

The Låncho, as can be seen in the photo above, was exquisitely decorated with the best fabrics, lighting fixtures, religious statuary and plants.

The Låncho were built by lay people in one of the residential homes.  Usually, a whole family was committed to setting up the Låncho as an annual project.  Other people, too, would come and assist.

Looking at the elaborate design and all the details of the old photo, one can tell that people put a lot of time and effort into making the Låncho.

Early 1920s

The procession, too, easily involved thousands of people; perhaps 80% or more of the 10,000 people who made up the pre-war Hagåtña population.  Men and women marched separately.  The priest was assisted by two other priests as deacon and subdeacon in full vestments.  A canopy was held over the priest as he carried the Monstrance containing the Sacred Host. Men occupying high roles in the Church wore white suits and special sashes and escorted the clergy in the procession.

You can see in the photo of the procession how the women, dressed in mestisa, knelt on the bare earth when the Monstrance passed by.  Such was the faith of the people back then.



The 10,000 people originally from Hagåtña before the war were scattered all over central and northern Guam after the Liberation.  People were still recovering from the war and so, in the early post-war years, it's understandable that not all the material adornments could be had.

In time, the Låncho designs started to change from intricacy to simplicity.

A Låncho of the 1960s in Sinajaña shows how, even then, there was a turn towards more simplicity.

By the time I was old enough to serve Mass in the 1970s, one could already start to see the changes.  My first recollections of the Corpus Christi procession in the early 70s included :

  • the Låncho, three in number, were still at private homes
  • the procession was on Sunday afternoon; yes, it was hot
  • the route was long, since the homes where the Låncho were located were not always near each other
  • the number of participants was large, but not overwhelming

In Sinajaña, for example, we would process from the church to the first Låncho at one end of the baseball field; then clear across over to Bishop Baumgartner side where the second Låncho was at Ton Antonion Gas' house (San Nicolas).  The final and third Låncho was near the present-day Payless Market.  That was a long route, in the late afternoon heat.

By the 1980s, some parishes started to experiment having the procession at other times to avoid the heat. Some chose to have it after the earliest morning Mass.  Today, many have the procession after the Saturday late afternoon or evening Mass.

But, even then, one could count on only 80%, if that, of the crowd at Mass to participate in the procession. Attendance has gone down dramatically, even when the procession avoids the hottest time of the day.

Another difficulty that developed by the 1980s was finding places for the Låncho.  Some families gave up the tradition when the matriarch or patriarch in the family, who was committed to the Låncho, passed away. Sometimes pastors themselves looked for spots closer to the church in order to shorten the route, even if it meant that the Låncho would no longer be at a private residence.

Designs for the Låncho continued to become simpler and simpler.  Sometimes carports were turned into Lånchos, and then later pop-up tents or canopies were used. The ornate pre-war designs are seen no more. The huge crowds, the canopies used in the procession; the VIP men in their white suits and sashes; the veiled women kneeling on the ground...all a thing of the past.

In some parishes, all the Låncho are right there on church property, at different corners or even lined up in a row, making for a very short procession. Attendance at the procession is still focused on those who attend the preceding Mass, with perhaps a few others especially devoted to this feast participating.









So, the hallmarks of the tradition of the Lånchon Kotpus and procession today include the following :
  • simple but beautiful designs, set up by dedicated people still loyal to the tradition
  • proximity to the church for a shorter route
  • at an hour of the day which is cooler

Perhaps some parishes can consider keeping some of these accommodations to modern conditions, but also reviving some of the wise customs of the past that stirred up our faith through external signs.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Capuchin Bishop Miguel Angel Olano speaking to Fr Dueñas men - in Chamorro

Anthony J. Ramirez, one of our Chamorro cultural and historical fafana'gue (teachers), recently wrote about his experience seeing and hearing the last Spanish bishop of Guam, Bishop Miguel Angel Olano, visit Guam in the late 1960s, and speaking to the Father Dueñas students exclusively in Chamorro.

Olano lived on Guam from 1919 till 1942 when he was shipped off to Japan with all the other foreign Catholic missionaries.  He returned to Guam in early 1945, only to be replaced by the first and only American bishop of Guam, Apollinaris Baumgartner, in the fall of the same year.

Olano spoke English, but was more confident and at home with Chamorro.  I met him in 1970 when I was eight years old.  We were introduced by my grand uncle and aunt, who knew him well before the war.  He looked at me and I looked at him and that was all!  He and my older relatives continued to converse - in Chamorro.

Here is what Ramirez wrote.

In 1968, Bishop Leon Miguiel Angel Olano y Ortega visited Guam.  He
first arrived on Guam in 1919, one of several Spanish Capuchin
missionaries assigned to Guam..  In 1934, he was elevated and
consecrated bishop (Read the article by Pali' Eric Forbes / guampedia

During his 1968 visit, he came to FDMS . He wanted to meet the
students and address the student body and faculty. I was then a
freshman.  Prior to his presence on campus, I did not know who he was
other than a brief oral history account.

The only Spanish missionary I often heard off at home was Pali. Roman
de Vera.  He was almost venerated and a legend of his times.  He is
credited with the CHamoru translations of almost all the prewar WWII
"CHamoru Nobenas."  In addition, he wrote the CHamoru-Castellano
Dictionary. Through his translations, I learned at the age of nine (9)
how to read the "CHamoru Nobenan Ninu")

As the student body congregated in the cafeteria / waiting for Bishop
Olano / everyone assumed his address would be in Spanish or English.,
We were all wrong!  Bishop Olano addressed us in CHamoru. In those
years, it was unthinkable that such a person of such stature, a
non-CHamoru would have addressed us in our language.

I never forgot that day.  And I know that none of the students did!.
We were all awed and proud of his CHamoru address.  We listened and
heard him / a bishop / again a non-CHamoru / on campus addressing us
in our language. However, In those years at FDMS, almost all the
CHamoru students spoke CHamoru or if not at least understood the

FDMS was quite unique then in the educational system.  I was never
challenge by the "Only English" policy.  I spoke CHamoru at home and
in almost all social and religious ocassions in my time. Thus, I never
considered these issues of  "preferred language use" or "Language
Policies" / on the use of CHamoru language even at FDMS.
Collaborating my statements on CHamoru Language, Father Knute, OFMCap,
my FDMS principal for four (4) years and my Spanish instructor for two
(2) years often times used CHamoru both within or outside the
classroom.  In fact, Father Knute inspired me to learn more / read
more / and write more in CHamoru since 1967.

The percentage of Spanish loanwords in CHamoru is remarkably high.
Thus in my first quarter of Spanish, my vocabulary increased by the
hundreds in a few weeks.  All, I did was de-CHamorozie the Spanish

Father Knute required each student to read then Bishop Felixberto
Camacho's Umatuna Si Yu'us Ma'asi' article / a Sunday newspaper.  I
had to underline each CHamoru word that is a Spanish derivative,  I
did this every week and submit my assignment on Mondays.  I was often
amazed that nearly underlined 2/3 of the words used by Bishop Flores.
In retrospect, Fr, Knute developed the first trilingual program /
Spanish and CHamoru and English as a reference.

Today, if Bishop Olano addressed the student body at FDMS, the
students would not understated him. Perhaps a few!  They may even
assume he is speaking a foreign language.  Within just a little over
one (1) generation, the CHamoru language diminished!  Need I write

Bishop Olano, with Capuchin Father Peter McCall, at Fr Dueñas Memorial School

My own impression, reading this, is just how Chamorro the mindset of those Spanish missionaries was. These Spaniards had no connection with America or English.  They saw themselves as the spiritual leaders of the Chamorro people and, in order to connect with the Chamorro people, they had to speak their language. How interesting Olano was speaking to Chamorros in the 60s when some among them did not feel the same way.  By the late 60s, there were already some Chamorro youth who were losing fluency in their language by simply letting go of it.  A new mindset was in motion.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The crooked mosquito?

O Maria Nana'magof is one of our well-known Chamorro Catholic hymns.

It includes the following line :

Goggue yo' yan chachalåne / tunanas gi echongñå-mo.

That line contains a word that most Chamorros today have no clue what it means.  Echongña.

People get confused because they know that echong means "crooked."  The possessive suffix -ña means "his, her or its."  Echong-ña means "his/her/its crooked?"  It doesn't make sense.

The suffix -ña can also mean "more."  Again, "more crooked" doesn't make sense.

Not knowing what echongña means, people come up with various theories, the funniest one being that it means "echong ñåmo," or the "crooked mosquito."

But the word echongña means "side."  Echongñå-mo means "your side."

The word echong (crooked) and echongña (side) are two different words.  But echongña is an old word modern Chamorros don't use and don't understand anymore.

So let's translate that whole line and see if it becomes clearer for us.

Goggue yo' yan chachalåne (Defend me and guide me)

tunanas gi echongñå-mo (straight alongside you).

We are asking Mary to defend us and guide us with her at our side and we at hers.

An aside (pun intended)

Echong and echongña are two different words with two different meanings, but consider that they may be derived from the same idea, because to be crooked (echong) means to lean towards one side (echongña) more than another side.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


The other day an elderly man told me that I was a bit saragåte.

I had never heard the word before.

He said it meant "naughty, mischievous."

So I started doing research.  Katherine Aguon's dictionary has it as "mischievous" and "naughty."

Påle' Roman's Chamorro-Spanish dictionary also has it.

For those wanting to know how to use the word, one could say :

Mampos saragåte este na påtgon!  This child is overly mischievous!


But what's interesting is that the original Spanish word, zaragate, is really an Americanism, meaning it's from the Spanish spoken in South or Latin America.  Some sources specifically say Mexico.

In South or Latin America, Z and S sound the same.  So zaragate will sound like saragåte.

We are beginning to appreciate more and more Mexico's influence on Chamorro culture.  We can look at any fiesta table and see more Mexican-based dishes (titiyas, chalakiles) than European Spanish dishes.

Saragåte is evidence of Mexican influence on our language.

Spain ruled the Marianas through Mexico, and Mexicans (as well as other Latin Americans) came to Guam as soldiers and religious workers.

Monday, June 16, 2014


You hear the name Chaco and you instantly think of Hågat.  And with good reason.  In the 1897 Census of Guam and Luta, all the Chacos reside in Hågat.

It seems all the Chacos of the Marianas today are descendants of one man : José Chaco.  Unfortunately, I know nothing else about him, other than that he is the common ancestor of all the Chacos recorded in the Hågat baptismal register during the 1800s.

Was he Chamorro?  Or not?

Let's look at all the possibilities, without any means of proving any of them!

1. Chamorro

Almost always, an indigenous, Chamorro name is taken from actual words.  Mafnas (erased), Taitano (no land), Gogue (to protect/defend).  But we have lost the meaning of many of these words, and hence the meaning also of names. For example, we don't know what Taisipic means, although it probably meant someone didn't have a supik or sipik, whatever that was.*

There are Chamorro words that end in -ko/-co.  Think of angokko (to depend).  And lo and behold there is an Angoco family.  So Chaco may be a truly Chamorro word, whose meaning we have lost, and the Chaco name comes from that word.

If Chaco, or chåkko, is a Chamorro word and name, it could very well show up in the 1728 and 1758 censuses of Guam and Luta.  In those censuses, the indigenous Chamorros are entered in a list separate from the mestizos, foreign settlers and their Chamorro wives.

Lo and behold, there is man in the 1728 Census from Aniguåk named Pedro Chaco.  What does this prove?

Only that Chaco was used as a surname, of a Chamorro, and is more than likely a Chamorro word, whose meaning, unfortunately, we have lost.

There is also, in that same Census, a young boy from Pågo named José Chaco.  Further evidence that the Chaco name, and word, existed among Chamorros and which is, more than likely, indigenous.

These findings don't tell us much else, because back in those days, including the 1758 Census, indigenous Chamorros were not passing on surnames to their children.  If a man had five children, each of the five had not only a different Spanish Christian first name, but also their own, individual indigenous name.

Notice that neither of the two Chacos in the 1728 Census live in Hågat.  In the 1758 Census, there are no Chacos at all, anywhere.  It doesn't matter.  As I mentioned, Chamorro newborns were given two names, one Spanish/Christian and secondly an indigenous one.  A baby could have been born later, after the 1758 Census, who was given the name Chaco as a second name.

So my guess is that Chaco is indeed a true, Chamorro name.  I just can't tell you where José Chaco, the ancestor of the Hågat Chacos came from.  Was he originally from Hågat?  Another village?  I don't know. But he was, in all probability, Chamorro.

Still, let's look as some other possibilities, though less likely, in my opinion.

2. Spanish or, at least, Hispanic (Latin American)

We normally look to a Spanish source if the name is not indigenous.  Today, in Spain, there are but a tiny handful of people with the last name Chaco, and they seem to be immigrants from South America, where there are plenty more Chacos from various countries in that continent.

There is a geographic region covering several countries in South America called the Chaco, a semi-arid, inland terrain.  The name comes from the Quechua word chaku, or "hunting land."  The Chacos of South America could have gotten their name from this, and may even have been indigenous people, many of them intermarrying with Europeans and others.

Given that Guam was settled by some soldiers from South America during Spanish times, it is possible that the first Chaco on Guam was South American.  But, he doesn't show up at all in the 1728 and 1758 censuses.  Still, he could have come after those censuses were taken, but, if he did, he probably came on his own rather than with a group of imported soldiers.

3. Filipino

Many Filipino soldiers, and later prisoners and adventurers, came to the Marianas.  Many of them had Spanish surnames and others had indigenous Filipino names.  Chaco is not a surname found among Filipinos today.  But, there could have been Filipino Chacos in the past and the name died out in the Philippines.

4. Chinese

This is what a lot of people, even Chacos, think.  Why?  Because a lot of Chinese surnames on Guam do end in -co : Unpingco, Tydingco, Tyquiengco and so on.

But not all names ending in -co are Chinese.  As we've seen, there's Angoco (Chamorro), but also Francisco (Portuguese/Spanish) and Blanco (Spanish).

No Chaco appears on the list of Chinese residents of Guam in the 1850s to 1890s.  It's true that a Chinese Chaco could have come to Guam earlier than that, though.  But he'd be one of the very few, if not rare, Chinese who did not come to Guam with the others in the 1850s and 60s.  No Chinese shows up in the Marianas records prior to the 1850s, so I am highly doubtful the first Chaco here was Chinese.

Another reason why many people think Chaco is Chinese is because it sounds very similar to the famous, or infamous, Chinese adversary of Sanvitores, Choco.  But this is just a coincidence that the two names sound almost the same, with the difference of one vowel.  Even just one vowel makes a big difference between words.

Then we have to be open to all kinds of other possibilities.  The first Chaco on Guam could have been someone from Timbuktu who happened to be on a ship passing through and decided to stay.

At the end of the day, we have no proof (thus far) for anything to explain the origin of the Chaco family on Guam, but my hunch is that the first Chaco is a Chamorro from Hågat.  But I could be wrong.

Here's what we DO know.  There was in Hågat, at least since the 1860s or 70s, two brothers named Chaco, the sons of

JOSÉ CHACO, of unknown origin, who married

Now Salomé we can say more about.  There have been Cepedas on Guam at least since the 1720s because two Cepedas, Domingo and José, show up in the 1728 Census of Guam as "Spanish" soldiers.  This can mean that they were either Spaniards from Spain; pure or part Spaniards from South America or pure or part Spaniards from the Philippines.

Both Cepedas married Chamorro women, one who was a Guadogña (guåddok, to dig) and the other was a Mansangan (meaning, "it is said").  So all the Cepedas of the Marianas are from this Spanish (Hispanic)/Chamorro mestizo blend originating in Hagåtna. There was, at this time, no Cepedas in Hågat, so Salomé probably came from Hagåtña.

José and Salomé had three children :

José Cepeda Chaco, whose birthplace is unknown.  José married Maria San Nicolas possibly of Hågat. These two had a large number of children.

Juan Cepeda Chaco, whose birthplace is also unknown.  He married Margarita San Nicolas possibly of Hågat, sister of Maria, wife of his brother Jose.  So, two brothers married two sisters.  It happens!

Juan and Margarita also had a whole slew of children!  And these we know were (for the most part) born in Hågat.  I say "for the most part" because the older children were born before the oldest baptismal records we have found.  There's a good chance even these older children were born in Hågat, but until we find the records, we can't say this with 100% certainty.

Finally, there is a sister : Micaela.  She married Agapito Pinaula.  They, too, were in Hågat.  So the whole Chaco clan on Guam in the late 1800s were living in Hågat.

So there we have it.

All Chamorro Chacos are descendants of either José Cepeda Chaco and Maria San Nicolas; or of Juan Cepeda Chaco and Margarita San Nicolas.  And both lines are descendants of José Chaco, from where is anybody's guess, and Salomé Cepeda, probably from Hagåtña, who was most certainly a mestiza Chamorro.

* An aside.  Taisipic actually means "no sipik," because there was also the Chamorro name Sipicña.  So sipik (and not supik) is the root word.  Sadly, we no longer know what it means.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Bishop Olaiz with Chamorro faithful.  Åtkos behind, in front of the thatched-roof structure.
Possibly Sumay , between 1915 and 1920.

The custom of erecting arches, or åtkos, at festive occasions undoubtedly has connections with the Catholic missionaries, but this may also be a case of happy coincidence.

Early Spanish descriptions of pre-contact Chamorro culture tell us that our ancestors also built "triumphant arches," according to Father García, but he tells us that these arches were put up in connection with funerals. He also doesn't provide us with a detailed description of these "arches," but he wouldn't have called them such unless they had the general form of an arch.  He also says the Chamorros decorated the streets with garlands of palms.  So I don't think it is far-fetched to assume that our ancestors had something similar to our Spanish-influenced arches; "triumphant" and most likely adorned with palms and other local materials.

The åtkos used to be a prominent feature of any community celebration in the Marianas.  In recent decades, we see them less and less.  About the only time we see them today is at parish fiestas.

But, as the photographic record shows, the åtkos was not just for religious events. Even when a village observed Clean-Up Week, the people put up an åtkos.

Or when a new bridge was inaugurated, an åtkos was part of the happy affair.

The idea was that the åtkos was a way of welcoming visitors from outside the community, such as this arch in Spain welcoming the King and his wife to the town of Ampuero.

Or this one, in the Philippines, welcoming the local bishop to a parish's confirmation.  "Viva Señor Obispo," it says.  "Long live the Lord Bishop."

The åtkos was made from local materials, easily obtained from the jungle.  Bamboo was often used for the frame, and local fruits and vegetables hung to decorate the frame.

This arch in the Philippines shows the same idea, with the added use of modern, store-bought decorative adornments.

This modern-day åtkos in Hågat shows a streamlined design but still incorporating local flora for decoration.

When Felixberto Flores was ordained the first Chamorro bishop in 1970, the Plaza de España was surrounded by modern-style, wooden åtkos, each one representing one of the islands then under the Diocese of Agaña.  There were åtkos for all the inhabited islands of the Northern Marianas, as well as Wake Island.  The one in the photo above is Guam's åtkos.

When St Pope John Paul II visited Guam in February, 1981, a number of åtkos were built around the island, mainly in Hagåtña.  Again, the planners decided on a more modern look for them, but used local materials as much as possible.

Even Guam Memorial Hospital put up an åtkos when the Pope went to visit the patients there.  The signage says, "Bendise ham Santo Papa." "Bless us Holy Father."

A recent revival of the åtkos tradition.  This åtkos was not for a religious event, but rather to welcome visitors to Government House during Chamorro Month.  The åtkos is mainly made of local material : påtma dråba (wood), pugua', påhong, tupu, papåya, aga', niyok.

Let's remind people to build an åtkos for any big, festive event, whether civic or religious, to welcome our visitors and guests to the occasion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Ana Taitano Gay

When one reads the early records of the Chamorro Protestant community on Guam, one is struck by the repeated references to Ana Taitano Gay.  She was a pillar of the fledgling community, a haligin Protestånte, at a time when Chamorro Protestants received a cold shoulder, alternating with heated condemnation, from some of their Catholic neighbors, relatives and all.

Ana was the daughter of Jose Mendiola Taitano (Kueto) and his wife, Juana Perez San Nicolas.  Born in 1877 during Spanish times, she was baptized a Catholic, as were all her siblings.  She had a twin sister, Maria, who later married Tomas Cruz Gutierrez.

But in 1899, her father, who had been exposed to Protestantism during his years as a whaler, formally left Catholicism to publicly embrace Protestantism when the Custino (Castro) brothers came back to Guam from Hawaii to begin a Protestant church in their native land.  The American flag flying over Guam guaranteed their freedom to do so.

Ana embraced Protestantism with great enthusiasm.  She was a constant presence in the mission.  Eventually, she became the backbone of the Day School established by the Protestant mission.  The Day School, separate from the Sunday School which only taught religion, focused on English language classes, with an average enrollment of around 20 students, some of them Catholic.  Ana herself learned much of her English from Rosa Custino, daughter of Luis, one of the two Custino brothers.  Rosa had been born and educated in Hawaii.

At the time, the Protestant mission on Guam was affiliated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and had a Congregationalist orientation in theology, worship and practice.  They baptized infants, for example, unlike the Baptists.

Another important member of the Protestant mission on Guam was Elmer Lee Gay, a Congregationalist deacon originally from Illinois.  He was, at the time, a clerk in the paymaster's office of the Naval Government on Guam.  At times, when the mission lacked an ordained minister to run things, Elmer shared temporary administrative powers with another American member of the Protestant community, a Mr. Sanderson, also working in the paymaster's office.  Ana, the mission school teacher and deaconess, married Elmer in those early years.  They eventually had nine children.

The following quote is attributed by Reverend Francis M. Price, the American Protestant missionary, to Ana Taitano, concerning the social isolation Chamorro Protestants experienced in those early years, "But what need I care?  I have my Bible and I have Jesus."

Ana Gay eventually became a teacher in the public schools run by the Naval Government.  In 1910, the American Board decided to withdraw from Guam.  By 1911, the General Baptists took over the Protestant mission on Guam.

Beginning under Congregationalist tutelage, continuing under the Baptists, Tan Ana would, many years later, move to a third form of Protestantism - the Seventh Day Adventists.  The Adventists did not establish a presence on Guam until right after World War II, but Tan Ana was one of their earliest and strongest converts.  She donated the land where the SDA church sits today in Agaña Heights.

SDA Church in Agaña Heights

Elmer, by the way, even in his old age, had to endure POW camp in Japan from 1942 till 1945.  Upon his release at war's end, he returned to Guam.

Gay Drive in Agaña Heights, right across from the SDA Church, serves as a reminder of the presence of the family in that location.

From the personal collection of Susan Gay Kirk
Tan Ana, with her husband Elmer, in their senior years.  Elmer passed away in 1953 and Tan Ana in 1959.