Friday, August 29, 2014


A sermon from 1963

Malago' yo' hu na' saonao sumångan guine una kosa. 
(I want to include saying here one thing.)

Ti maolek yanggen i lahe u dingo i familiån-ña pot para u kefañodda' che'cho'-ña gi otro na lugåt.
(It isn't good if the man leaves his family in order to try to find work in another place.)

Intension-ña si Yu'us na i lahe yan i palao'an ni umassagua debe de u dadanña' ha'.
(It is God's intention that the married man and woman should remain together.)

Yanggen i lahe ni gai asagua ha dingo i familiån-ña ya malak otro na lugåt para u o'salappe', ha po'lo i familiån-ña gi meggai na peligro.
(If the married man leaves his family and goes to another place to look for money, he puts his family in a lot of danger.)

Maulek-ña ha' para i lahe yanggen dumadanña' yan i familiå-ña ya ti guailaye u nina' låstima nu ayo na salåppe' i siña mohon ha gånna yanggen humånao gue'.
(It's better that the man be together with his family and it won't be necessary to waste that money which he might gain if he goes.)

I lahe ni dumingo i asaguå-ña yan familiån-ña pot para u fanaligao che'cho'-ña gi otro na lugåt, mama'titinas meggai na tentasion para guiya yan para i asaguå-ña.
(The man who leaves his wife and family to look for work in another place, creates a lot of temptation for him and for his wife.)

Ayo lugåt-ña i lahe annai gaige i asaguå-ña yan i familiån-ña.
(The man's place is where his wife and family are.)


O' : is a prefix that means "in search of" or "to be in motion towards completing an act." It can also be rendered E'

O' salappe' : to go in search of money

O' faisen : to go in search of answers, information.

E' panglao : to go in search of land crabs

E' gagao : to go with a request in mind

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Former Speaker Joe T. San Agustin

The last name San Agustin does not appear in any Spanish records in the Marianas till the 1800s.

By that time, contact with Mexico was gone, since the war for Mexican independence began in 1815. That was the year the last Acapulco galleon sailed for Manila.

After 1815, the bulk of all outside contact with the Marianas, save for the whalers, was through Manila, and more and more Filipinos settled on Guam.

The first San Agustin to move to Guam could have come from many places, but the Philippines would be a good guess.

It seems that he had five children. We can account for two sons, Vicente and Mariano, and they both had the middle name Tainatongo, believed to be an indigenous, Chamorro name.  Today, one thinks of Malesso' when they hear Tainatongo, but the family actually was from Hagåtña and some moved down to Malesso' years later.

Vicente Tainatongo San Agustin married Juana Crisostomo, the daughter of Maria Crisostomo. Her father seems to be unknown. They had a good number of children.

Mariano Tainatongo San Agustin married Maria del Espiritu Santo. I don't know Maria's parents. They, too, had a good number of children.

All the other San Agustins in the 1897 Census are women (three) so it seems that these two males, Vicente and Mariano, are the male ancestors of the San Agustins of Guam.

Though a small clan and of recent foundation, the San Agustins have made their impact on the island, producing civil servants, government heads, a laicized priest* and a teaching sister/principal.

* Laicized means a priest who no longer functions as a priest and returns to the lay state.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Ti pot i kantidå lao i fina'tinas.

(It's not the quantity, but the work.)

This is our version of the English adage, "Quality over quantity."

The Chamorro version is not quite exactly the same as the English, though essentially they say the same thing.

The Chamorro version speaks of the fina'tinas, the work itself.  The work, the end result, the product will speak for itself, whether it came out well or not.

Another interpretation is : it might have been a small thing, but a bad thing nonetheless!

For example :

~ Diåche si Juan sa' ha sakengguan yo' singko pesos!
(Gosh that Juan, he stole five dollars from me!)

~ Dalai hao, ti meggagai ennao i singko pesos!
(Oh please, five dollars isn't much!)

~ Ti pot i kantidå, lao i fina'tinas!
(It's not the quantity, but the deed itself!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Sept 22, 1902

One of the most significant earthquakes in recorded Guam history occurred in 1902 close to noon.

These were the days before earthquake intensities were registered, so we don't know just how strong it was in terms of a scale. But we know from the effects that it was extremely strong.

Before there was any movement, people heard a deep murmuring under the ground. Then - three big jolts, followed by a lighter one. Then, for two and a half minutes (go ahead, time it and feel how long it was), the whole island felt like a ship rolling on huge sea waves.

The earthquake was felt as far north as Saipan, but, of course, not as strongly and with no significant damage there.

When the earthquake was over, here's what people saw :

1. All the stone homes and buildings showed some damage; many were damaged beyond repair. As someone said, the typhoon of 1897 hurt the poor, who lived in wooden and thatched homes easily blown away, and in the earthquake of 1902 it was the turn of the rich, who lived in stone homes, to feel the pain.

These houses of masonry were cracked, sagging and distorted. One sank 2 feet into the ground. The clay tiles that covered the roofs of most of them fell off and cracked.

And this was not just in Hagåtña. Humåtak's small stone church was damaged completely.

2. Bridges fell in many places, impeding travel between villages separated by rivers. The one linking Hagåtña with Piti, where the government warehouse was located, was one such bridge that fell.

3. The ground opened up in many places. Salt water would gush forth from some of these fissures. Some of them emitted gaseous vapors.

4. There were landslides, too, in some places.

5. Telephone poles swayed to and fro, and some collapsed, disrupting telephone service, which, all the same, mainly serviced the military, government and a few private citizens.

6. Because of damage to schools, classes were interrupted for up to two years in some places.

7. Was the island raised? Chamorro boatmen noticed after the earthquake that the channels at low tide were lower than usual. They reported this observation to Governor Schroeder. After sending people out to investigate other points along the coast, they all reported that the water was shallower a full six inches. Some speculated that the earthquake was caused by volcanic activity under the ocean and lifted the island.

8. Thankfully, there was only one fatality, when falling debris, after the earthquake subsided, fell on someone and killed him or her. There were a number of injuries.

There were many after shocks after the earthquake, nearly every day for weeks, up to March of 1903. It's hard to tell if the tremors felt that late were aftershocks or new seismic incidents.

Some suspected that earthquakes in the Philippines in August of 1902 may have triggered Guam's in September.

Hagåtña's church (not a Cathedral yet) suffered major damage in 1902. Major repairs would take more than ten years to complete.

(Yes, that's a big pile of rubble from the parts of the stone church that fell in the earthquake)

Monday, August 25, 2014


What was the traditional Chamorro attitude towards illegitimate children?

It's an interesting question because there was a high frequency of illegitimate births among Chamorros even when religion pervaded the atmosphere a hundred years ago.  Almost every family had an occurrence of illegitimate births somewhere along the way.

But it was normally considered something scandalous.  Let's hear what one of our mañaina in the clip has to say.

First, I ask her what is the Chamorro custom concerning illegitimate children.  She says,

"I sinanganen-ña si nanå-ho annai kokkokolo' yo' ilek-ña, este i patgon sanhiyong ma nåna'na'.  Anggen på'go ma fa'tinas, ma nåna'na' i nana, sa' ma å'ålok eyo na kalan desgustao gi familia, man a'abak, pues ilek-ña ma nåna'na' sa' na' mamahlao gi familia, dångkulo na eye i kalan isao na cho'cho' gi familia ni ma sedi ayo na påtgon para u mafañågo.  An mafañågo ayo na påtgon, matakpånge ha', lao kalan ma nåna'na'."  (My mother's saying when I was growing up was that the illegitimate child was hidden.  When the child is born, the mother hides it, because they said it was like a dishonor in the family, they went astray, so she said they hid the child because it was shameful for the family, it was like a sinful thing for the family to let that child be born illegitimate.  When the child was born, it was baptized, but it was like they hid the child.)

I then told her that I had heard that some fathers who had illegitimate children did take care of them, even making them heirs of his property.  She said,

"I para u ma erensia i patgon baståtdo?  Ennague ma såsångan na anggen gai tano' ya sopbla lao man mofo'na i famagu'on propio ni i famagu'on sakramento."  (To make heirs of the illegitimate child?  That's what they say when the person has land and has extra land, but his proper children from the sacrament of matrimony come first.")

So, to sum up the traditional Chamorro attitudes :

1. Though it happened quite a lot, illegitimate births were not something to be proud of, much less think normal.  It was considered a moral failure, and to be hid as much as possible.

2. One way they did this was not to throw christening parties for the child.  The child was baptized, but quietly.

3. Rarely were illegitimate children told who their biological fathers were.  It was not a topic for open discussion.  Sometimes the child was lucky to hear from someone outside the immediate family who the father was.

4. Sometimes the illegitimate child was acknowledged by the biological father and taken cared of by him, usually from a distance because he normally had his own wife and children from her, whom he had to care for up close.

The common Chamorro term for a child born out of wedlock was påtgon sanhiyong. It means, "Child from the outside," meaning "outside marriage" or "outside the union of husband and wife."

A harsher word, usually avoided and not told to the illegitimate child directly, was baståtdo, meaning "bastard," borrowed from the Spanish language.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Joaquin Pangelinan Zablan, a Chamorro from Guam, left his island home for another, Hawaii.

Usually young Chamorro men left Guam in those days aboard the whaling ships, with hardly a peso to their name.

It seems life was eventually good to Joaquin because by 1880 he was able to buy a cattle ranch on the Big Island.  Cattle rustling may have been a problem, as he thought it necessary to take out an ad in a Hawaii newspaper to warn people and their animals to stay off his property.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Some Chamorro hymns can be confusing because some of the words in those hymns are no longer understood by modern-day speakers.

For example, I've already written about the word echongñå-mo, which has nothing to do with echong (crooked) or ñåmo (mosquito).

Here are two more examples.


In the hymn, Sångan Ånte, the line goes, "Sångan ånte i tagåhlo na misterion i attat."

Some people think the word tagåhlo means Tagalog.

"Kada måtai i Tagålo, estague' para kantån-ña."

"Every time a Filipino dies, this will be his hymn."

But the word comes from the union of the prefix tak, which means "very," and hulo', which means "high."

Tak is softened to tag, and hulo' is modified to åhlo.

So, tagåhlo means "exalted, very high, superior, lofty" and so on.

Our ancestors also used the tak + hulo' combination to form the word takhilo', which also means "very high."

We see tak used in other words, like

takpapa' = very low

taklalo' = easily angered

takkalom = deep in the inside, interior (tak + hålom)

So the hymn is saying, "Say, my soul, of the exalted mystery of the altar."


This word is used in the hymn Ma'lak na Puti'on Tåse (Bright Star of the Sea), a hymn to Mary.

The line goes, "chachalåne i batko-ko su'on mo'na gi tano'-ho ya u fåtto lalakse'."

Some people think it refers to a seamstress or tailor.

The word låkse means "to sew."  Someone who sews is a lalakse.

So someone said, "Yanggen man måtto hit gi langet, para ta fan man lålåkse ha'."

"When we get to heaven, we will just be sewing."

But the word used in this hymn is not lalakse but lalakse'.

Notice the use of the glota ( ' ) at the end.

It comes from the word guse', which means "fast, quick."

The prefix la in Chamorro means "more."

So la + tåftåf becomes lataftaf  which means "earlier."

La + chågo' bcomes lachago' which means "farther."

La + guse' becomes laguse', but this can also be shortened to lakse', both of which mean "faster."

The duplication of la (from la to lala) indicates an intensifier.  Lalakse' means "very fast."

So the line in the hymn means, "guide my boat pushing it forward to my land and it will arrive swiftly."

It's poetic language meaning, "guide my soul to heaven and I will get to heaven swiftly."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Father Marcian at Fr Marcian Cave
A recent article in the Marianas Variety reminds us of the existence of ancient Chamorro petroglyphs in Tinian, and the American Capuchin missionary who helped bring them to light.

Archaeologists are working at the moment to photograph and catalog a wide range of cultural treasures unearthed in Tinian for many years.  Tinian had, at one time, a thriving and prominent Chamorro population. The latte stones at the House of Taga, though all but one are toppled, are the tallest in the Marianas, at least that we know about.

In the 1950s, Father Marcian Pellett, a Capuchin priest who came to Guam in 1940 before WW2, was the one and only missionary on Tinian. Among the many things he did, he looked all over Tinian for historic sites and artifacts. He discovered ancient pictures marked on the walls of a cave.  They are very similar to other Chamorro petroglyphs found on Guam and Saipan.

That cave is still called "Father Marcian Cave." He also found, there and in other sites, pottery remains, shell pendants, beads, sinkers and stones possibly used as adzes or knives. Together with archaeologist Alexander Spoehr of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, he wrote an article about these findings that was published in a scholarly journal in 1961.

A page from Fr Marcian's article detailing some of his findings


Pastor of Tinian (1949-1958; 1968-1970)
Amateur archaeologist and artist

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


EKKIS : the letter X; also, to cross out something or mark something with an X

Ekkis måno malago'-mo para ineppe-mo.  Put an X on what you want for your answer.

Pot i ti siña ha fitma, ha ekkis ha' i pappet.  Because she couldn't sign it, she just marked the paper with an X.

Yanggen un na' bubu yo' bai ekkis na'ån-mo gi lista!  If you make me angry, I'll cross your name off the list!

Esta yo' ma ekkis.  I've already been marked with an X.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Territorial Party Candidates in Saipan

"Popular" and "Territorial" were political labels, not only on Guam, but also in Saipan, once upon a time.

On Guam, the Popular Party morphed into the Democratic Party in 1960, while the Territorials struggled on a few more years, disappearing by 1968 when most (not all) of its members became Republicans.

In Saipan, the differences between the Populars and the Territorials also centered on whether to reunify with Guam or to seek its own political arrangement directly with the U.S.

Many of Saipan's business leaders opposed reunification and thus were Territorials. Saipan's Carolinian community felt they would be more of a minority among even more Chamorros if Saipan merged politically with Guam and they, too, supported the Territorials. Rota and Tinian, already overshadowed by Saipan, feared being minimized even further by uniting with Guam and thus the majority there also supported the Territorials.

Here's what Tan Esco had to say about it :

~ Gi un tiempo eståba dos na pattida giya Saipan, i Territorial yan i Popular. Håfa na diferensia?
~ At one time there were two parties on Saipan, the Territorial and the Popular. What was the difference?

~ Ilek-ñiha na i Popular mamopble ha' na inetnon yan i Territorial i inetnon i man riko.
~ They said that the Popular were only the poor group and the Territorial was the group of the rich.

~ Ennaogue' siha. Pues hame man Popular ham.
~ That was it. Well we were Popular.

~ Ya muna' diferensiao lokkue' todo i dos i uno ya-ña eyi i reunification.
~ And what also made both of them different was that one wanted reunification.

~ Hami ni Popular.
~ We the Populars.

~ Yan-miyo.
~ You wanted it.

~ Lao i Territorial åhe' sa' para u direct. Eyi ilek-ña na para u direct U.S.
~ But the Territorials didn't because they wanted it direct. What they called direct U.S.

~ Ennaogue' siha fina' cho'cho'-ñiha.
~ That's what they were doing.

So Tan Esco, though a business woman herself, supported reunification with Guam and was a Popular Party member. The Populars felt that merging with Guam offered the best political and economic advantages for the northern Marianas; in general, towards becoming part of the American family.

The Populars really had the advantage for many years, obtaining majorities in Saipan's political bodies. Twice the people of Saipan voted for reunification (in 1957 and 1963). But, on Guam, in 1969, reunification was voted down. But the voter turn-out was low (32%).

Imagine if reunification had been achieved in the early 1970s.

Learn more about the issue in :

Friday, August 15, 2014


Nina' fan li'e hao nu i semnak lao siña lokkue' sinengge hao.

The sunlight enables you to see, but it can also burn you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


October 4, 1848

The British ship Canton sailed peacefully out of Sydney, Australia in September, with China as her destination.

All was well till the early morning hours of October 4th when it was caught in a terrible storm.  Under these circumstances, the ship could not avoid hitting the reef off of Tinian. It is not known why the ship would have been in the Marianas in the first place, if they were indeed heading for China.

The ship lost 20 men, buried in the waters off Tinian.  Its 507 tons of cargo were also lost, including over a dozen horses.

Five members managed to get into a lifeboat and escape before the ship went down : William Foxal, Thomas Avent, William Thompson, and two unnamed others, a seaman and a boy.

These five survivors were well-received by the small group of Chamorro laborers living on Tinian at the time. These laborers, all from Guam, worked on Tinian's cattle ranches for two or three years at a time, providing beef for Guam. Sometimes Filipino convicts also lived on Tinian for brief periods, doing the same work. Carolinians would sail their boats up and down the Marianas sent on errands by the Spanish government.

After nine days on Tinian, the five survivors were sent to Guam. After some time there, they were sent to Manila where eventually they found passage to their homelands.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


An old Chamorro tale.

Un taotao matåtå'chong gi pettan iya siha,
(A man was sitting at the door of their place,)

ya ha li'e mågi i asaguå-ña na ginen umo'mak.
(and he saw his wife coming who had bathed.)

Ya ma sosotta i gapunilu-ña* ya ma såsådda' i lipes-ña.
(And her hair was hanging down and her skirt lifted up.)

Nina' bubu i taotao ya ilek-ña :
(The man got angry and said :)

"Tai mamahlao!  Håfa na un bebende hao!"
("Shameless! Why are you selling yourself!")

Ya ha hakot i gapunilu-ña ya ha utot todo ni macheti-ña,
(and he grabbed her hair and cut it all off with his machete,)

ya ayo na machette tåt nai ha nesesita ma guåssa' desde ayo.
(and that machete never had to be sharpened since then.)

* Variations for hair are gapunulo, gaputulo, gaputilo.  The last word is ulo or head.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


James Waddell

Confederate Navy Lt. James Waddell, from North Carolina, had only one mission : make life hell for Union merchant ships wherever he found them.  Mind you; these merchant ships were not warships and were unarmed.  But war is war and the Confederacy wanted to hamper Union commercial activity and weaken the enemy in every way.

His ship, the CSS Shenandoah, was bought in Britain so it sailed first in the Atlantic. Then Waddell sailed to Australia and Singapore, which were under the British. Afterwards, towards the end of 1864, he sailed up to the Marianas, then under Spain.

From the Marianas, he went east towards Ponape. Ponape was in frequent contact with Hawaii in those days. Protestant missionaries, usually from New England, worked in Hawaii and also in the Marshalls, Kosrae and Ponape.  Hawaii was an independent monarchy in 1864, but many Americans, usually from Union states, worked for the Hawaiian government.

In Ponape, Waddell found a ship flying the Hawaiian flag. But, as predicted, the ship's officers were Americans from Union states. The crew was made up mostly of Hawaiian natives.

Waddell insisted that the commander of that Hawaiian ship surrender to him. Under protest, but unable to fight militarily, the commander agreed and vacated the ship. Waddell proceeded to board that ship, take what he wanted and then burned it down. Leaving Ponape, Waddell went on to destroy a dozen or so Union merchant ships in the North Pacific.

Waddell's ship
CSS Shenandoah

The American officers and the Hawaiian crew lived on Ponape, supported by those islanders. During this time, they repaired an abandoned whale boat and, when ready, set sail for Guam. From there they hoped to meet more seafaring traffic.

They arrived on Guam in July of 1865 and had to wait for six months before they could get a ride elsewhere. For those six months, they were well-received by the Spanish authorities on Guam. When a British ship touched at Guam, the Spanish Governor agreed to pay half the price of the transportation for these stranded Americans/Hawaiians, the other half to be paid by the American and Hawaiian consulates where they should land. Eventually, the Spanish Governor was reimbursed.

For six months, a few American seamen and a larger crew of Hawaiians, lived on Guam. Chamorros saw them on a daily basis. In Spanish times, a Chamorro knew who a kanaka was. It was a common term, not intended to be derogatory at the time, for Hawaiian natives.

Waddell, by the way, later surrendered the Shenandoah to a British officer at the end of the Civil War; the last Confederate vessel to take down its "bars and stars" flag. Waddell returned to the U.S. some time later, but stayed far away from Hawaii, where he was liable to be arrested for piracy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Yanggen meggai na kapitan, ma fondo i batko.

(When there are many captains, the boat sinks.)

Ti u fanmangånna i un bånda yanggen puro ha' kapitan lao diddide' sendålo.
(The one side won't win, if they are all captains but have few soldiers.)

Guse'-ña i taotao manågo', ke ni ma tågo'.
(People are faster to order, rather than be ordered.)

Man inkibukao i taotao siha yanggen meggai na må'gas ni ti man a'aya.
(The people will be confused if there are many leaders who do not agree with each other.)

Friday, August 1, 2014


PEKAS : freckles, spots, specks, splotches, mildew stains

Borrowed from the Spanish peca, with pretty much the same meanings

Bula pekås-ña i magågo sa' ginen fotgon. The clothes have many mildew stains because they were wet.

Gai pekas matå-ña i Amerikåna. The American lady's face has freckles.

Na' fañuha i pekas gi lemmai.  Take away the spots from the breadfruit.