Thursday, March 26, 2015


In recent years, there has been a greater interest among many people to revert to or continue to use Chamorro words, even though they are used in an English context.

But we are often unaware just how much we are a product of our times, and the overwhelming English-language environment many of us grew up in. We are so immersed in that linguistic sea that we hardly realize how wet we are!

Take, for example, the word saina. It's Chamorro for anyone who is senior or higher in status than you. It could be a parent, older relative, older people in general and people of civic and religious standing. It can even be applied to God. Yet, a twenty-year-old is still saina to his or her five-year-old nephew or niece. It is a very elastic word in our language, but the essential meaning is clear. The saina is above, I am below.

As we engage more with our elders, we hear people speaking publicly about their - sainas. "We welcome all our sainas to today's event."

It sounds very supportive of the Chamorro language revival, but the word sainas is subjecting a Chamorro word to English grammatical rules.

In Chamorro, we do not denote something in the plural by adding an -S at the end of the word.

The exception to this rule is with some Spanish loan words.  I senadot. The senator. I senadores. The senators. Señot. Sir. Señores. Sirs.


1. Add the prefix MAN before the word

ETMÅNA (religious sister)
MAN ETMÅNA (religious sisters)

MÅ'GAS (the great, the superior, the powerful, etc)
MAN MÅ'GAS (the great ones, superior ones, powerful ones, etc)

2. Keep in mind that MAN can undergo a change if the following word begins with K, P, S, T or CH


Kilisyåno = Mangilisyåno (Christians)
Katoliko = Mangatoliko (Catholics)


Påle' = Mamåle' (priests)
Popble = Mamopble (the poor people)


Sottera = Mañottera (single women, teenage girls)


Tomtom = Manomtom (the wise people)
Tunas = Manunas (the righteous people)


Che'lu = Mañe'lu (the siblings)

3. Be careful, though; there are often exceptions

Man + parientes remains manparientes (the relatives).

Man + sendålo remains mansendålo (the soldiers).

Man + chunge' remains manchunge' (the gray/white haired ones).

Sometimes, there is a change and sometimes there isn't.

Some people say Mañamorro and others say Manchamorro.

4. Adding the prefix MAN is not the only way to make something plural. Often, one simply adds the word SIHA after the word. SIHA denotes plural.

I Tagålo siha. The Filipinos. No one says "I man Tagålo," although that is still grammatically correct.

I chetda siha. The bananas. No one says, "I man chotda."

I gima' siha. The houses. No one says, "I man guma'."

Sometimes, one can use MAN and still use SIHA. That makes it very clear the subject is plural.

I man sendålo siha. The soldiers.

I man gefsaga siha. The wealthy people.










GUMAS (often heard nowadays for houses of dance groups)


FAFANA’GUES (often heard now for “teacher” in lieu of maestro/maestra)


It would be wonderful to hear an MC say from now on.....

"We would like to welcome our MAÑAINA today," instead of

"We would like to welcome our SAINAS today."

If we're going to speak English sprinkled with a little bit of Chamorro, let's keep the Chamorro word as intact as possible in its Chamorro form.

Otherwise, we will be promoting but an Anglicized version of the Chamorro term.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Fe Untalán Cristóbal was the daughter of Adriano María Cristóbal, Ilocano, and Carmen Untalán, Chamorro. She was born in 1915 in Hagåtña, Guam.

As her father was himself an educated man who valued higher learning, he sent his daughter Fe to be educated in Manila at the Philippine Women's University.

All was well, as she graduated in 1941.


As she prepared to return to her native Guam, Fe packed the following items to be shipped to Guam ahead of her : pianos, sewing machines, beauty parlor equipment and musical instruments for her brother Adriano (Nito). Her plan was to open a private school to teach music and sewing to her fellow Chamorros.

Her own voyage to Guam was to be by air, flying on the Pan American clipper, due to land on Guam on December 10, 1941.

But two days prior, on December 8, the Japanese attacked Guam. War was declared. Fe was stuck in the Philippines.

Later she found out that the ship's captain ordered all non-essential cargo to be dumped in the sea as soon as it was learned that the Japanese had attacked Guam. Fe's response was, "Man proposes, but God disposes."

And God certainly disposed that, while she waited the war out in Manila, she would meet her future husband, Alberto Tominez Lamorena, an attorney and an Ilocano like her father.

When war was over, she brought back to Guam, not sewing machines and pianos, but a husband, a daughter and a son. In time, she would have four sons in all (besides her one daughter), whom she all named Alberto, with a different middle name to distinguish them.

She never did open a school but raised her family. She was active in church and civic affairs, however, and was a founding member of the Filipino Ladies Association of Guam. She honored both her Chamorro and Filipino lineages.


As the war dragged on and there was no communication between civilians in Manila and in Guam, Fe's family assumed she must have died. So they began praying her novena of rosaries for her soul.

This was when the Americans were about to return and the family was huddled in a shelter for protection from American bombs. As they were praying the rosary, a white butterfly flew in. The family took this as a sign that Fe was alive and not dead.

Friday, March 13, 2015


Camacho, Pete Tenorio, de Leon Guerrero, Froilan Tenorio

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is a young jurisdiction. It was established in 1978, or 37 years ago. Prior to the Commonwealth, the Northern Marianas were a district of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, along with the rest of Micronesia. There was no Governor of the Northern Marianas before 1978.


The first Governor of the CNMI shared the same first and last names as the first elected Governor of Guam. The CNMI Governor was Carlos Sablan Camacho, while Guam's was Carlos Garcia Camacho. Both also had careers in the health care field; Saipan's Carlos was a medical doctor and Guam's Carlos was a dentist.

PEDRO PANGELINAN TENORIO (1982-1986, 1986-1990, 1998-2002)

Universally known as "Teno," Tenorio has the distinction of being elected Governor three times. I remember him as being very popular among the people.


He is the first CNMI Governor to pass away, which he did in 2006.


During his term, the controversies concerning the CNMI's labor and immigration conditions became prime news.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


José María Tuason
Wealthy Chinese-Filipino of the 1800s

Pre-war Chamorros on Guam had a saying.

"An måtto si Tuason." "When Tuason comes."


Too bad the generation that started this saying is dead, so they could tell us what they meant by this saying. They didn't write these things down, either.

But, their children and grandchildren, many of whom are still alive and remember this saying, tell me that Tuason was some rich Filipino. The idea was that, when Tuason comes to Guam, he brings lots of money and, humorously, none of us have anything to worry about when he comes. We will all have the money to take care of anything.

So, if someone wanted to buy something, but it was expensive, they could say, "Po'lo para an måtto si Tuason." "Leave it for when Tuason comes (to Guam)."

If someone wanted to give someone else a tip or some money, but didn't have it, he or she could say, "Nangga asta ke måtto si Tuason." "Wait till Tuason comes." When Tuason comes, I'll then be able to tip you, or give you some money.

Or, if someone looked rich or dressed in fine clothing, he or she could be told, "Kalan hao si Tuason." "You're like Tuason."


But why should Chamorros know anything about a rich Filipino during Spanish times? As far as I know, no rich Filipino named Tuason came to Guam. And why would he? What possible incentive would there be for a rich Filipino to come to Guam in the 1800s? In those days, there was little to no money to be made here, and very little to spend money on even if you had it.

But it is possible that Chamorros who had connections in the Philippines came back with knowledge of a fabulously rich Filipino named Tuason.


The Chamorro saying is based on actual fact. There was an immensely wealthy man in the Philippines named Tuason; Antonio Tuason, to be exact. He was so rich, he was made a Spanish noble by the King of Spain, as a reward for his loyalty to Spain against the English and the Moros. His descendants inherited his enviable land holdings in the greater Manila area. José María, pictured above, was one such descendant.

But how did Chamorros 1500 miles away know anything about him?


Some Chamorros in the 1800s did spend time in Manila. The Calvos of the Marianas actually have their origin in Manila first (after Spain) before they came to Guam and married into Chamorro families.

Interestingly, a Tuason lady married a Calvo. I'm not sure if this Calvo is connected to our Chamorro Calvos, but it is entirely possible.

Furthermore, two men, a Calvo and a Tuason, both worked in the same government office in Manila in the 1800s.

To make things more interesting, here on Guam, in 1873, Vicente Calvo sued the heirs of Petrona Tuason, a member of the rich Tuason family. But what the issue was exactly is unknown.


Even stronger and more probable, in my opinion, is the Barcinas-Tuason connection.

The Barcinas clan of the Marianas are descendants of the Filipino Barcinases who moved to Guam. They were all descendants of Eustaquia María Tuason, daughter of Antonio, founder of the wealthy Tuason family.

In fact, four members of the Chamorro Barcinas clan  - Tomás Cruz Barcinas, Benita Cruz Barcinas, Tomás Reyes Barcinas and María Barcinas Manibusan - sold all their rights to the Tuason holdings in the Philippines in 1894 for the sum of 5000 pesos.

In some correspondence of that era, someone discussing a possible enterprise but needing capital is remembered to have said, "Let's use the Barcinas money," to fund the project. The "Barcinas money" spoken of was probably this income from their Tuason shares. Thanks to Carlos Madrid for reminding me of this.


Popular sayings like "An måtto si Tuason" usually have no provable origin.

Whatever the case, we'd all be a lot better off when Tuason finally arrives on Guam.

We're still waiting.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Visitors to the Marianas don't always like all of our food.

But the one dish that seems to be a hit with almost all visitors is kelaguen, especially kelaguen månnok.

Where did this dish originate?

I wish I knew. Three hundred years ago, only Europeans were writing down things about Chamorro culture and none of them talk about kelaguen.

But coincidences between us and others sometimes leads us to some pretty good guesses. And, between us and the Filipinos, there are two coincidences dealing with kelaguen.

The first coincidence is the dish itself. Both the Filipino and Chamorro versions of kelaguen deal with marinating mainly raw foods in some kind of acid. Chamorros exclusively use lemon (or lime) juice, while the Filipino version is open to vinegar and other fruit juices as well as lemon/lime.

The second coincidence is the name. Chamorros call it kelaguen; in the Philippines it is kilawin, although regional variations on the word exist. The root word seems to be hilaw, or "raw."

Since lemons and limes did not grow in our islands before the Spaniards came, it's more than likely that the basic recipe for kelaguen came from Filipino settlers in the Marianas, although the Latin American settlers could have also had a hand in it, since they have a similar dish called ceviche.

But the word kelaguen is so close to kilawin that I would guess that we borrowed kilawin and pronounced it our way. Remember that Chamorro does not have an independent W souind. The W sound exists in Chamorro when combined with G, for example, as in guiya, guennao, pugua'.

In fact, when foreign names starting with a W came to us, Chamorros pronounced the W in other ways, as in Bisle for Wesley and Guait for White.

Chamorro Kelaguen Uhang (Shrimp)

It's not kelaguen unless it has lemon juice, salt and onions. Green onions will also do.

Purists will say kelaguen also has to have chili peppers (donne') but some people forego that because some people can't stand the heat.

Some kelaguen includes grated coconut, and some do not. Some will not add coconut when the dish will be out on the table a long time, for fear of quick spoilage. Others just don't think grated coconut goes well with raw meat, such as benådo (deer), beef or fish. Some seafood kelaguen, however, will add a bit of coconut milk into the mix.

In a few kelaguen recipes, sliced cherry tomatoes will be added.


The Filipinos, however, are a lot more permissive with what they add to their kilawin. Ginger, garlic, black pepper, sugar and a longer list of veggies than ours can be found in different types of kilawin.

In terms of style, the Chamorros will mash up more what the Filipinos will allow as whole or larger-cut pieces. In the picture above, the Filipinos serve their shrimp whole while the Chamorro recipe would mince the shrimp into a kind of mash.

Also :

Saturday, March 7, 2015


There used to be a time when Chamorros looked towards Manila when they needed something our islands could not give them

Sort of what we do now when it comes to Saint Luke's Hospital at Global City.

But 100 years ago, when it came to commerce and education, we cast our gaze westwards to Manila.

So it happened to a young boy in Dededo named José Roberto Palomo.

Courtesy of Dolores Palomo

José's father and mother lived on their ranch in Dededo, mainly growing corn, among other things. But an uncle, on his father's side, had been a sailing man for many years. After seeing a lot of the world, this uncle settled in the Binondo district of Manila. The uncle wrote to José's father, suggesting that he send the young José to live with him in Manila and enroll in a school there that could provide an education unavailable in Guam at the time.

In 1912, José entered the Liceo de Manila, a private school recently opened by highly educated Filipinos, like Leon Ma. Guerrero, an academic and Philippine nationalist. Most of the education imparted at the Liceo was in Spanish, still the language of prestige in the Philippines even after the Americans arrived.

Courtesy of Dolores Palomo
José Palomo in the uniform of the Liceo's military-training battalion. One can see the initials "L.M." on the collar.


José's stay at the Liceo was nothing short of successful. He did outstanding work there, winning many honors. It was just the beginning of an academic career that brought him to become the first Chamorro to earn a Doctorate many years later.

Palomo spent the rest of his life mainly in the United States, in both academia and in business. He passed away in the U.S. in 1995.

JOSÉ IN 1918


In 1950, Palomo was called back home to Guam to become the Director of Education. Back on Guam, he envisioned founding a teacher training program. In due time, this became the Territorial College of Guam, which also in time became the University of Guam.

In the early 50s, some stateside parents advocated for segregated schools, with the mainland students separate from the local students. The rationale, they claimed, was that the stateside children were being slowed down in academic progress by the local students. Palomo opposed this move towards segregated schools and the idea disappeared.

Courtesy of Dolores Palomo

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Maolek-ña mangågao ke mañåkke.

It is better to ask than to steal.

Many people are afraid to ask for something, when they are in need.

But the elderly advise us, "If you do not ask for what you need, you will be tempted to get what you need by stealing, or by some other unethical means."

So don't be afraid to ask. There is no shame in that.

The shame is in stealing.

Monday, March 2, 2015


What was one of the largest schools on Guam in the 1950s and 60s?

Saint Francis School in Yoña.

At one time, the student population at Saint Francis was 1500 students. For some years, one could get an education at Saint Francis up to the 10th grade.

The school was so huge that there was no public elementary school in Yoña for some time because there would have been insufficient students to justify its existence! Imagine the Department of Education telling people, "We have no public school in Yoña. The parochial school has all the children!"


One word (name) is sufficient to explain why a Catholic school in the south of Guam was once the island's biggest private school. Father Alvin.

Father Alvin LaFeir was a one-man typhoon. Except that he used his power in order to build, not to destroy.

A missionary who came to Guam before World War II and who spent the war in POW camp in Japan, some people said Father Alvin would have been Mayor of Detroit had he not become a priest. He was (in the good sense) a wheeler-dealer. Someone who slept very little because he was always working to get things done. The sky was the limit for him. He dreamt of building something huge, even if he had no money or resources.

In another sense, he had everything he needed to make those dreams come true because he had his biggest asset : himself. He was blessed with the natural ability to make strong friendships. People, of all races and creeds, found it impossible to say "no" to him. He got help from Protestants and Catholics alike. Money came in from his numerous contacts back in his native Detroit. The military on Guam came to his rescue numerous times.

So Father Alvin dreamt big. Others came before him in Yoña. but he wanted to expand ten-fold what the prior missionaries did. On the large tract of land belonging to the Catholic Church in Yoña, he wanted to build a complete parish complex : a church, a school and a sisters' convent. The school would have a large auditorium which the parish could also use as a hall. For his own office and residence (or konbento), the old church built by the Spanish Capuchins before the war would suffice. His needs came last. He often ate right out of a can, since he was too busy to cook.

More than once, but especially in 1962 with Typhoon Karen, Father Alvin had to rebuild what was torn apart by Guam's typhoons. From the quonset hut school Father Cyril Langheim, OFM Cap built in 1949, the complete parish complex was finished in the early 1960s.

It's not a surprise, really, that Father Alvin died in 1966 at the age of  60 years. He had burnt himself out.


Of course Father Alvin couldn't make his dreams come true without the help of the Yoña parishioners. They all pitched in undertaking numerous fundraising and construction projects. In return, all children of parishioners went to the school tuition-free. Non-parishioners (like my family) paid a small fee. I remember in the late 60s, my tuition was $35 a month.

Other non-parishioners came in large numbers from as far north as Andersen Air Force Base. That was Father Alvin's military connections at work.


The foundation of the success of Saint Francis School was, of course, the heroic work of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

People had faith in their teaching credentials. Americanization (which meant fluency in English, the key to success, parents believed) was the program of the day and the first Sisters were Americans.

They also taught for close to nothing. Father Alvin and the parishioners paid for their needs, but the sisters received no salaries per se until many years later. This was the reason why parishioners did not pay tuition. When lay teachers were needed to make up for the insufficient numbers of teaching sisters, salaries were needed and thus tuition became mandatory for everyone, and at increasing levels as the years went by. As other factors emerged and combined, the student population of Saint Francis decreased.

But, at one time, Saint Francis School was king.