Thursday, January 29, 2015


In 1912, the U.S. Naval Government of Guam decided to send island residents they deemed to have contracted Hansen's disease (usually called leprosy in those days) to an island in the Philippines called Culion, where facilities set up by the American Government in the Philippines would give them better care.

At first, conditions at Culion were horrible. But by 1922, with new administrators, Culion in time became one of the best, most well-equipped and modern treatment center in the world for patients suffering this malady. Culion took on the atmosphere of a normal town, with a band made up of patients entertaining the residents in a Spanish-style plaza on Saturday nights. There was also a church in Culion, cared for by Jesuit chaplains.

Chamorro patients in Culion
Antonio Unpingco Collection

But the Americans, who thought that Chamorros and Filipinos were similar enough to make for an easy transition, did not expect the tremendous emotional trauma the Chamorro patients underwent.

Even the Filipino patients suffered emotionally, unable to see loved ones and family. Patients from all the different provinces, many speaking only their own local language, were put together, increasing the sense of loss and unfamiliarity. Imagine what it felt like for the Chamorros if even the Filipinos felt they were in a strange land, an "Island of No Return," as they said of the place.

So in 1926, a group of Chamorro patients wrote this letter, in Chamorro, to the Governor of Guam, begging him to repatriate them. I will write it here in a more modern form of spelling.

Señor Maga'låhe :
(Sir Governor : )

I in sen gofli'e yan i in sen respeta na Gobietnon-måme giya Guam.
(Our very beloved and very respected Governor in Guam.)

Señor! In tatayuyut si Yu'us, yan man didimo ham gi me'nå-mo, man mangågågao ham mina'åse',
(Sir! We pray to God, and we kneel before you, asking mercy,)

na un konne' ham guine na tåno'.
(that you take us away from this land.)

Sa' demasiao in padedese triniste yan minahålang pot i familian-måme ni esta åpmam na tiempo
(Because we suffer too much sadness and homesickness for our families which for a long time now)

na ti in li'e matan-ñiha yan i tano' lokkue' annai man mafañågo ham.
(that we haven't seen their faces, or the land where we were born.)

Ti siña in maleffanñaihon ha'åne yan puenge in guiguife ha' siempre.
(We cannot forget day and night we will surely dream of them.)

Ma'åse' Señor nu este na inigong-måmåme nu hågo,
(Have mercy Sir on this our sighing towards you,)

ya un na' li'e ham ta'lo ni tano'-måme åntes de in fan måtai.
(and make us see our land again before we die.)

Sa' tåya' nai mås maolek i taotao na i tano'-ña.
(Because a person is nowhere better than in his own land.)

Ginen in hingok, Señor, ma sångan na para in fan ma konne' guine, para ennao iya Ipao.
(We have heard it said, Sir, that we will be taken from here, to there in Ipao.)

Pues in desesea na dångkulo yan man mannanangga ham siempre giya hågo
(So we greatly desire and are waiting from you)

kao håfa disposision-mo ya in tingo' hame guine todos ni manåtanges.
(what are your orders and all of us who are weeping will know.)

Unfortunately, the Government never changed its mind. The Chamorro patients were never taken back to Guam and they died there in Culion. They were not given individual and identified graves. All that remains is a mass grave for all of them.

Culion as it appears in recent years

Culion's location in the Philippines

Monday, January 26, 2015


Under Spain, if you were being pursued by the law, or indeed by anyone, you had the right to run to the church and be protected from your pursuer, at least for a while.

Since the sanctuary of the church was considered holy and inviolate, the civil authorities could not enter it and arrest you.

But the priest couldn't let you off the hook for murder, for example. The right of church refuge was a way of protecting innocent people from rash judgments or mob justice. If the priest saw that you were probably guilty, he had to surrender you to the law, but by that time (hopefully), there was more evidence and calmer minds so that you could undergo the judicial process fairly.

But, if the priest saw that you were innocent, he could tell the civil authorities that you were exempt. Then you could be released from the sanctuary with the guarantee that you would not be held accountable for something you didn't do.

The Chamorros had a term for this running to the church for refuge : malaiglesia or alaiglesia.

In Spanish "a la iglesia" means "to the church."

"Ma la iglesia" is a Chamorro-Spanish construct meaning "to go to the church" for refuge.

Or, malaiglesia could come from malak (Chamorro for "to go to") and iglesia (church).

There is at least one documented case of malaiglesia on Guam.

It happened in 1860, to a Filipino resident of Guam whose last name was Custodio. He was apparently working for an English carpenter who was rather rough on him. Custodio claimed he was being physically abused by this man, so he stabbed the Englishman in the rear, causing two large gashes.

Realizing what he had done, Custodio ran to the church in Hagåtña and hid behind the high altar.

The Spanish Governor stationed two guards at the church doors, in case Custodio exited. Meanwhile, negotiations began between the parish priest and the Governor. The end result was that the priest exonerated Custodio, since he was being physically abused by the man he stabbed.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Yanggen oga'an hao na sinedda'
ti un tinaka' talo'åne;
hahasso yo' bonitan måta
yanggen håfa hao hu sangåne.

If in the morning you are found
you won't reach midday;
think of me, pretty face
if I tell you something.

This verse is open to more than one interpretation.

Remember that, being a strict Catholic society in those days, lovers had to speak in code all the time.

"You won't reach midday." The lover, probably a male since it is unbecoming, in those days, for the female to be the pursuer, is telling his paramour that if he has the good fortune of seeing her in the morning, his love is so intent that it won't even be noontime when he does or says something.

"Think of me if I tell you something." If he sees her in the morning, he will tell her something that he hopes she won't forget. Perhaps he will ask her to meet him somewhere, and hopefully it will take place before noontime.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Chamorro Studies staff learn about the belembautuyan

The belembautuyan is considered a native musical instrument in the Marianas, but we can't be sure about its origins.

Not much documentation exists about it prior to World War II. We can't even be sure just how extensively used it was before the war.

After the war, a few people still played it. By the 1980s, Guam had just two men - Jesus Meno Crisostomo and Manuel Indalecio Quichocho - who were belembautuyan players. But Jesus, now deceased, did train Delores Taitano Quinata and the art is now being passed on by her to others.

The art involved is actually two skills : making the belembautuyan and then playing it.

The name of this instrument - a long wooden rod tied with string or wire - is actually a combination of two words.

Belembau is a Chamorro word meaning "to sway, to brandish, to totter, to wave, to swing." The general idea behind belembau is for something to move side to side.

Tuyan means the abdomen. This is because the gourd of the belembautuyan, which allows the vibration of the string or wire to be amplified, is placed on the tuyan of the player.

But we are torn between the theory that belembau is truly an indigenous term, and that it is a Chamorro version of the imported word berimbau.

Brazilian berimbau

Since Chamorros avoid the R and replace it with an L, one can see how it is possible that the berimbau of Brazil became the Chamorro belembau.

It's possible that the actual instrument came to the Marianas from abroad. When Chamorros were first introduced to it, they heard it being called a berimbau. In time, that was changed to belembau.

Chamorros then applied it to the harmonica, calling it the belembau påchot, as opposed to the belembau tuyan.

Brazil and Guam seem too far apart for this connection to have happened. But one should remember that Guam was often visited by people from South America. Some of the first governors of the Marianas were actually from South America. Whalers of every race and color visited Guam in the early 1800s. Anything could have happened!

From the musical instrument, then, Chamorros could have applied the word belembau then to anything that swayed side to side.

Jesus Meno Crisostomo of Inalåhan
Master Belembautuyan Player

How does the belembautuyan sound?

I once saw, when I was a kid in the 70s, Jesus Crisostomo riding on a parade float on Liberation Day, playing the belembautuyan.  Boing, boing, boing was the sound it made, but he could change the pitch, though there was not much variation in the sound it made, as far as I remember.

But, as you can hear from the video below of Quichocho playing the belembautuyan, it can actually give off a good array of sounds. Caution, however. The narrator's Chamorro pronunciation is not the best.

For more, go to


Manuel Quichocho playing the belembautuyan :

Jesus Crisostomo and Manuel Quichocho show how to make a belembautuyan :

Tuesday, January 20, 2015



There was a saying applied to the Chamorro men who left the Marianas to serve on the whaling ships, most of them not returning back to the islands. Mina'lak i chalan, hinemhom i gima'. These men often did so well wherever they went, they were the mina'lak i chalan (the brightness of the street). But one sometimes wondered why they weren't so stellar when they had been on the island. Here, in our islands, they were sometimes the hinemhom i gima' (the darkness of the home).

The Chamorro seamen had the reputation of being good workers. Docile, obedient, dedicated. Settling in various parts of the world, some of them became managers, farmers, clerks, property owners.

But a few stayed in the dark (hinemhom).

Antonio Luján was sadly one of them.

Born around 1864 or 1866, he is said to have arrived in the U.S. in 1881 at age 17 or so. It seems he basically lived around the San Francisco Bay Area. He is described as a laborer and a wood chopper.


Antonio's first brush with the law occurred in 1890.

On Sunday, August 24 of that year, Vicente Pangelinan and Antonio Luján were drinking with a woman at the Mailliard Ranch in San Gerónimo, California, about 8 miles distant from Novato. A newspaper account of the time says that both men had an interest in the lady.

Well, apparently, the drink got to at least Luján, who struck the woman. Pangelinan rose to her defense, and Luján stabbed Pangelinan in the abdomen with his pocket knife. Six inches deep. Pangelinan died as a result of this stabbing two days later, on Tuesday.

Realizing what he did, Luján fled. Inebriated and panicking, Luján didn't know what to do.  He went first to his cabin and changed clothes (perhaps there was blood on them). Then he wandered all over the rural areas in Marin County for weeks, sleeping in the woods. Several times he came upon people, but he avoided detection. It was hunger that finally brought him out of the woods. He had only been eating wild berries and whatever fruit he could steal whenever he found a chance. For three days he didn't eat much at all. Not knowing he had actually killed Pangelinan, he decided to turn himself in for stabbing the man.

He wandered into San Rafael and asked where the sheriff's office was. He went to the second floor and sat down. The District Attorney's office was on the second floor, and when District Attorney Angellotti saw Luján just hanging around, he asked Luján what his business was. Luján said he had been involved in a stabbing incident. Angellotti asked Luján his name, and when Luján gave it, Angellotti called the sheriff and had Luján arrested. It was then that Luján found out that Pangelinan died from his stabbing wounds. Luján said he remembered very little of the incident, and that he was very drunk at the time. Luján was so hungry in jail that guards had to feed him more than the usual fare. The police, who had been searching for Luján all this time, were told to call off the search.

In February of 1891, Luján was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to imprisonment for eight years. Here is his intake document at Folsom State Prison, just north of Sacramento. His last name is misspelled "Lujar," which would continue to be made in some documents and newspaper articles.


In 1898, Luján was charged a second time, this time for assault with a deadly weapon in San Mateo. He was sentenced to seven years, but was released early from San Quentin in 1903.

What became of Luján, I do not know. May he rest in peace. Let us pray for his troubled soul. Perhaps, before his death, he remembered to say the Act of Contrition his nåna taaught him to say.

Luján appears in the 1900 US Census as an inmate at San Quentin State Prison


The records about Antonio Luján are full of inconsistencies and errors.

But, we must keep in mind that, in the 1890s, few Americans ever heard of Guam, or the Marianas, or the Ladrones as they were still called by some. American clerks and reporters spelled names as it sounded to them, not having any background in names foreign to them. Many Chamorros went along with their misspelled names, or changed their names anyway to fit in more with their new surroundings. I wouldn't be surprised if Antonio called himself Anton just like everybody else was calling him.

Luján and Pangelinan are misidentified as Portuguese, in the first newspaper accounts of the stabbing in 1891.

The victim is first called Vicente, but then in subsequent reports he is called by numerous variations : Anselta, Enneseto and Ansanetta among them. The last ones, Enneseto and Ansanetta, suggests Aniceto. So, "Vicente" could have been something else, but I'll stick with Vicente as the first name reported.

Vicente's last name was spelled in many ways. Pankalina. Pangalini, Pangalian. All of which suggest Pangelinan, which I am confident was his surname.

Friday, January 16, 2015


The Spaniards ran schools in the Marianas. The first and the best was founded by Sanvitores in Hagåtña, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán. "Colegio" did not mean "college" in the American sense - a school of higher learning beyond high school. In Spain, then as well as now, "colegio" meant a secondary school, the level after primary or elementary education.

Education was free, but limited. It was meant to groom leaders among the Chamorros. Primarily men who would be Catholic and obedient to the Spanish government. The Jesuits, who started schools in the Marianas, also trained the select students at the Colegio in music, farming and other skills.

Thus, even in Hagåtña, an education was given mainly to the most promising youth. Hundreds more children did not go to school. It was believed, even up to American times, that youngsters who would eventually become farmers and fishermen wouldn't need a western education except in how to write their names and (for the Spanish) in the catechism. Even the catechism was as basic as can be, and most often passed down orally and retained by memory, not by books.

But, what books did the select students actually use?

In the records of the 1800s, the most prominent book mentioned was the catón.

The catón was a primer, the fundamental and basic reading book first given to little children to use in school.

Although the catón I am using in this post as an illustration was printed in 1919, it would have been very similar in content to the catón used in the Marianas in the late 1800s.

The language of the catón was Spanish. This is how the brightest children would learn to speak basic Spanish. Some Chamorros learned excellent Spanish, as well.

As you can see, the catón taught the alphabet and basic readings skills; on this page, how to pronounce syllables. Some of these Spanish words would have been easily recognizable to the students, as these had been passed over into the Chamorro spoken at home. Dåño for "wound," såla for "hall" or "large room," siya for "chair," tåsa for "cup," båla" for "bullet" are just some of the many Spanish loan words in the text above that entered Chamorro speech. Of course, when necessary, we changed the Spanish pronunciation to our own and used Spanish words according to our grammatical rules.

The catón would also cover basic math skills; adding, subtracting and multiplying. Above we see an additions table.

The catón was also a kind of catch-all book. It included whatever the educators thought would be necessary for the fundamental formation of the child on all levels, including the moral and the religious. On this page, we see the Roman numerals as well as proverbs and refrains meant to enlighten the child in moral lessons about general life.  One such proverb above says, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." And, "He who wants it all, loses it all."

Under Spain, at the time, religion was not separate from education. So, the catón also included, if not emphasized heavily, the Catholic religion. Religion is spread throughout the catón, no matter the subject. On this page, we see the enemies of the soul (the world, the devil and the flesh); the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity); the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) but also the five corporal senses (to see, hear, smell, taste and touch)! All older Chamorros know from memory that the three enemies of the soul are : i tano', i anite yan i sensen.

On other pages of the catón, there are the Ten Commandments, the Seven Sacraments, a guide how to hear Mass in Latin and many other religious teachings.

Agueda Johnston, Guam's foremost educator under the early American administration first went to school under the Spanish system, more than likely using a catón.  In one of her written recollections, she complains how limited and rudimentary her schooling during Spanish times was. She said, words to the effect, that it was too basic and then became repetitive.  Agueda was meant for much more in life than just the basics.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Pakin Atoll, Pohnpei

Pakin Atoll lies northwest of Pohnpei.

During the Japanese administration of Micronesia, government policy was to isolate islanders suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy) on remote atolls. Pakin was one of them.

At least three Chamorros were sent by the Japanese to Pakin before World War II.

One was from Luta (Rota), named Jesus. His last name was not recorded.

The two others were from Saipan. Jose de los Santos and Maria de los Santos. Their relationship is not documented. They could be spouses, siblings, cousins or have no close relationship at all.

After the war, Pakin was no longer used for this purpose. The final outcome of these three Chamorros on Pakin is something I have yet to discover. After World War II, Tinian was used as the site of a facility for patients of Hansen's Disease from all over Micronesia, including Chamorros. It's possible these three were sent there.

Friday, January 9, 2015


Today, one finds many people wanting to strip the Chamorro language of any foreign influence.

Interestingly, this is a new attitude, and individuals are certainly free to have it. I wonder where it comes from. It certainly doesn't come from our mañaina, who borrowed left and right!

They borrowed musical tunes as well as vocabulary, without feeling that they were any less Chamorro for doing so.

Take, for example, the Mexican folk song, "Allá en el rancho grande."  The tune is borrowed and, in this Chamorro version, English words are incorporated to make for a humorous song.

The chorus remains the same, in Spanish :

Allá en el rancho grande, allá donde vivía;
había una rancherita, que alegre me decía, que alegre me decía.

Then the Chamorro verses go :

Bai fa'tinåse hao lancho-mo, lånchon lanchero;
bai fa'tinåse hao dega-mo, degan kuero.
(I will make for you a ranch, a rancher's ranch;
I will make for you slippers, leather slippers.)

Allá en el rancho grande.....

Bai fa'tinåse hao talayå-mo, talåyan "wire;"
bai fa'tinåse hao karetå-mo, humåhånao sin "tire."
(I will make for you a net, a wire net;
I will make for you a car, which runs without tires.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015


In Spanish times, Chamorros were not used to writing their names. They had little need to. They were farmers and fishermen and paper work was few and far between.

In fact, many Chamorros couldn't write their names. Those who couldn't would mark an X or a + where their name would be written by a clerk on a document.

The first American Naval Governor of Guam, Richard Leary, didn't like this. So, he issued General Order No. 13, dated January 23, 1900, instructing all adults on the island to learn to sign their names by July 1st of that year.

This list above of signatures by island residents was drawn up in the 1920s. Some of them may have been young adults born during the American administration, but some more than likely were older and born under the Spanish flag.

In those days, people were less concerned about uniformity. Take Pangelinan, for example. The first Pangelinan spells it clearly with an E, the second Pangelinan could be spelling it with an I. It's not so clear which.

Garrido is a Spanish surname and is spelled with two R's, but Manuel is happy with just one R. It wouldn't have bothered anyone at the time. If a clerk preferred two R's, he'd have listed Manuel as Garrido and not Garido, and Manuel wouldn't have cared either.

Joaquin Rivera had some trouble writing. He spells it Joaqien, and adds a second R at the end. We know his last name today as Rivera, which is how Spaniards spell it. But, V and B sound the same in Chamorro (and Spanish) so many spelled it with a B in those days.

Spanish influence is very clear here, even 21 years after the Spaniards left. It is seen in the style and form of the letters, and in the name Atoigue. The last Atoigue, Vicente, adds two dots above his U. Atoigüe. This is because, in Spanish, GUE or GUI will not make the GWE or GWI sound unless there are two dots above the U. Without those two dots, GUE sounds like GE, like Guerrero; and GUI sounds like GI as in Aguigui.

You will also notice a family name we don't hear about today. Julian Cabo. In the 1897 Census, there is a Cabo family on Guam. The father, Leoncio, is probably Filipino or some other non-native. But he married a Chamorro, Manuela Guerrero Dueñas. They had a good number of children - five, including Julian. Four of those five were boys, so it's interesting that there are no more Cabos on island, at least descendants of Leoncio.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


If you are an Angoco, you have the good fortune of coming from a small family, which means you can be very sure of your lineage at least as far back as the mid 1800s.

It's an indigenous name, based on a Chamorro word : angokko.

Angokko means "to depend on, rely on, trust."

The family comes from Aniguak, which, in the 1700s, was overwhelmingly populated by the more purely Chamorro, while Hagåtna was peopled by the Spanish, Latin American and Filipino soldiers who intermarried with Chamorros.

Presiding over the Aniguak Angocos in 1897 was one Joaquin Angoco, married to Susana Taitano (another indigenous name). Listed with them are over a dozen single adults, young adults, teens and children. It is possible that the older ones are their children, and the younger ones their grandchildren.

Living apart from them is a Don Pedro Angoco, who is identified in government documents around the same time as Pedro Taitano Angoco. Thus it seems pretty clear that Pedro is the son of Joaquin and Susana. The "Don" means that Pedro served once as a municipal official, probably the head (cabeza) of the barangay (district) of Aniguak at one time.

But there is also a Dimas Angoco, a little younger than Pedro, and his middle name is Cruz. He is the son of Francisco Angoco and Nieves Cruz (apparently both deceased by 1897). It's possible that Pedro and Dimas are brothers. Not sure. Dimas also lives in Aniguak, apart from Joaquin and Pedro.

So, the Guam Angocos seem to come from two possible origins. A Joaquin and a Francisco.

At one time, there was a Manuel Angoco. He seems to have moved to Luta (Rota) in the mid or late 1800s where he married an Ayuyu. He is the ancestor of the Luta Angocos. His relation to the other Angocos is currently unknown, but there must be a connection as the entire clan seems to be small and limited to Aniguak.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Yes....if the wishes of a few Spanish governors had been granted.

The idea of transferring the capital of the Marianas to Hågat was put in more than one report written by the Spanish governor to his superiors in Manila.

Remember that Guam was not politically separate, as it is now, from the rest of the Marianas. Until 1898, all the Marianas were one political unit.

Don't forget, either, that Hagåtña was overshadowed at times by Humåtak, where the Spanish governor would often reside. The fact is that the disadvantages of Hagåtña, and the advantages of other places, sometimes meant that the official capital city of the Marianas was in question.

What were these disadvantages and advantages?


1. Lack of Anchorage

Hagåtña is bordered by a coral reef that acts like a wall or barrier. Ships could anchor outside Hagåtña in the deep, but to get from the ship to the shore, passengers would have to get in small boats and take their chances going through small breaks in the reef.

It is for this reason that Humåtak became such a desirable place for the Governor, who controlled the importation of goods. Ships could more easily anchor in Humåtak Bay without a reef to deal with. Later, Apra Harbor became the port of choice. From Sumay, the town which developed at Apra, it was a short ride to Hågat.

2. Lack of Good Drinking Water

Although a small river ran through Hagåtña, beginning at its source in the ciénega or swamp to the east of the city, people did not drink from it. The water was cloudy and brackish so they used it for washing and bathing instead.

For drinking water, people in Hagåtña dug wells on their property. But the soil is chalky, and the water, though drinkable, was not pleasant enough for the Europeans and perhaps even some Chamorros. Those who would not drink the water from the Hagåtña wells would have water from the Asan River hauled over to the city. This took time and, for some, money.


1. Port at Apra

As mentioned, some thought that by moving the capital to Hågat, it wouldn't be that much of a distance from Hågat to the port at Apra where ships were anchoring. The road between Hågat and Sumay was easily traveled by carriage.

2. Abundant, Good Water

The mountains behind Hågat produced good streams and rivers which could easily provide a new capital city with drinking water.

Although not stated, as far as I know, in Spanish reports, I believe another factor that made Hågat more desirable than Hagåtña was its spacious landscape compared to HagåtñaHagåtña was hemmed in by the reefed shoreline in front and by the sheer cliffs that rise behind the capital city, where Agana Heights is now located.  The disatnce beteen the cliffs and the beach in Hagåtña sometimes leaves the tightest of spaces to build.

Hågat, on the other hand, had a broader space, from the beach slowly rising into the highlands behind it. This would allow for the expansion of houses. Hagåtña, in contrast, was growing ever more crowded due to space limitations.


hemmed in by both reef (north) and cliffs (south)


more spacious and well-watered

If Governors Francisco Villalobos (1831-1837) and Francisco Olive (1884-1887) had their way, Hågat would have become the capital of the Marianas.

But it was not to be.

Spanish inattention of the Marianas doomed such a large project from the beginning. A great deal of effort, and some money, would need to be spent in order to transfer the government to Hågat from Hagåtña.

Some factors also favored the retention of Hagåtña as capital of the Marianas.

First, the majority of Hagåtña's population would have stayed there, rather than move to Hågat. This majority had their interests in northern lands, where their farms, and livelihood were located. Some Hagåtña families owned land in and around Hågat, but most had their lands up north. That would have kept them tied to Hagåtña and closer to the farms they tilled so they could eat.

Secondly, the Church would more than likely have remained headquartered in Hagåtña, sanctified, as it were, by the spirit of Sanvitores, who chose Hagåtña as his center of activities and his residence. If ordered by the government to make Hågat the seat of the mission, the missionaries could be expected to put up a fight against such an order.

Hågat was not the only place proposed as a possible new site for the islands' capital. In the end, none of the suggested villages ever replaced Hagåtña.