Wednesday, December 30, 2015


+Governor Eloy S. Inos

The Inos family hails from Luta (Rota)

And the interesting thing about the family is that, at one time, the entire family named Inos consisted of one person! Luckily for the name, it was a male who could have children and pass down the name.

His name was Patricio Inos, and he was the son of Rita Inos. Rita had Patricio out of wedlock, so Patricio carried the surname of his unwed mother Rita. According to the hand written notes of a former Luta pastor, the biological father of Patricio was one Juan Taisacan.

Patricio married Juana Masga in 1912 and the rest is history. From these solitary roots, a family continued which produced educators, judges and civil servants, including the first Governor of the Northern Marianas who was from Luta, the late Governor Eloy Songao Inos who passed away in 2015.


Like all Chamorro surnames, Inos actually means something.

Inos is an adjective that describes something that fits easily into something else - a hole, crack, gap, cut....any tight or restricted opening.

So, for example, in the Chamorro religious hymn, I Flechan Yu'us (The Arrow of God), it says

Guåho magåhet lånsan Longinos
kalåktos, inos flumecha hao.

I am truly the lance of Longinus,
sharp, fitting, which pierced you.

The verse is talking about the sinner being like the spear or lance of the Roman soldier Longinus at the crucifixion of Jesus; how it was sharp and fit easily into the side of Jesus' rib cage.

So a hand that is just small enough to pass through a tight squeeze is inos.

A rat which is just small enough to go in and out of a narrow break in the wall is inos.

A round peg perfectly fit to be inserted into a round opening is inos.


It's interesting because sometimes it's difficult to find one Chamorro word which is an equivalent of an English word, but, in this case, I cannot think of a single English word which is an equivalent to the Chamorro word inos.

In the hymn above, I used the word "fitting" for inos because something inos fits into a tight opening. But "fitting" is only an approximate translation.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015



To order for someone

We Chamorros borrow, but we usually change what we borrow!

Take, for example, the idea of ordering something.

Perhaps it's a new concept for us, since, in the past, you rarely ordered something. You either had it or it was easily accessible. Just go to the jungle and pick it. Go to the sea and fish it.

You didn't have to place an order to get it.

But, in the modern world, we place a lot of orders in order to buy things.

So, many Chamorros borrow the English word "order" even when speaking Chamorro.

"OK, bai fan order gi computer." "OK, I will order on the computer."

Of course, it would sound more like "fan oda gi kompiuta" but you get the message. Some people even spell it just as it sounds.

But, if you wanted to order for someone, how would you say that in Chamorro?

Well, in Chamorro, when an action is to be done for or at someone, we add an -e at the end of the word.

Dandan, "to play," becomes dandåne, "to play for." "Bai hu dandåne hao kantan Elvis." "I will play an Elvis song for you."

Tåyuyut, "to pray," becomes tayuyute, "to pray for." "Bai hu tayuyute hao." "I will pray for you."

But, sometimes,we need to add more than an -e to the word, to make it sound nicer to our Chamorro ears.

So, kånta, "to sing," becomes kantåye, "to sing for." "Bai hu kantåye hao." "I will sing for you."

If we go back to "order," in Chamorro, it sounds like "oda." So, "to order for" would therefore become "odåye."

And others prefer to say otdåye, keeping the R in "order" but changing the R to T, as we normally do in words where R appears. As in Carlos, which become Kåtlos, in Chamorro.

Odåye and otdåye.

To order for someone.

"Bai hu otdåye hao magagu-mo." "I will order clothes for you."

Monday, December 28, 2015


Parade at the Guam Fair in Hagåtña in 1932

History can be learned in many ways.

Through documents. The physical remains that survive. Stories passed down by elders.

But once in a while you learn something from photographs.

As far as I know, I have never seen anything written about this. Nor has any elder ever said anything to me about this.

But there it a photo. Undeniable evidence that it once existed on Guam.

And that is the papier maché giants that are part of festivals, carnivals and parades in Spain and other parts of Europe. Besides the skeleton that formed a frame, the giants were clothed and costumed. These playful figures often represented historic characters, mythical persons or stereotypes of the location, such as the peasant, the clergy or other social classes. Someone underneath the figure carried it, hidden below.

In Spain, they are called los gigantes (the giants). I don't know what Chamorros called them. As our elders often used Spanish terms, perhaps they themselves called them gigantes or higånte.  The G before I or E in Spanish is sounded like an H.

Gigantes in Spain

So here we see in the pic above a parade during the "Guam Fair" held in Hagåtña in 1932. Clearly walking in front of a float is a - higånte.

I assume that higåntes were once part of our local scene during a feria or carnival or during some holiday festivity, thanks to our Spanish heritage.

Higantes (as they are called there) are also found in the Philippines, where they are prominent features of specific festivals in a few places. One of the more famous ones is in Angono, Rizal.

Higantes in the Philippines

Why older people didn't speak (in my experience) about this is interesting to me, and perhaps suggests that the higånte was not so prominent a feature of pre-war Guam festivities that it made such an impression on their memory as to recall them years later. But that is just speculation. What we do know, from the pic, is that they did exist. How far back in time and to what extent is what we don't know, unless someone out there in reader land knows from their parents or grandparents.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


I really like this song.


1. Famagu’on, atiende måno ha’ eskuelan-miyo
(Children, attend to whatever school you may be)

sa’ i lina’la’ mampos makkat gi tano’-ta.
(because life is too hard in our land.)

Ekkungok ya en fan man osge gi sainan-miyo
(Listen and obey your authorities)

gi maestra yan i maestro.
(the teacher, female and male.)

Chorus :

I kutturå-ta gof impottånte mo’na siha gi tiempo,   
(Our culture is very important in the times ahead,)
i lengguahi-ta mungnga ma na’ falingo.
(do not lose our language.)

Protehe todo mo’na famagu’on i tano’.
(Protect the land in the future, children.)

Ya ta sångan todo : Fanohge Chamorro!
(And we'll all say : Stand up, Chamorros!)

2. Pinasensia todos hit na klåsen taotao.
(We are all a patient kind of people.)

Direcho-ta eyo ha’ ta gågågao.
(We are only asking for our rights.)

Famagu’on na’ fitme mo’na hinenggen-miyo
(Children, make firm ahead your faith)

sa’ i kutturå-ta ta onra todo i tiempo. 
(because we honor our culture at all times.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015


This Christmas carol is based on a carol found in a Baptist Hymnal probably in English, but which also appeared in German in a German hymanl! Thanks to Lawrence Borja for tracing this. Then it was most likely rewritten in Chamorro by Påle' Román Maria de Vera, OFM Cap.

He put it in his Lepblon Kånta, but comprised of only one verse. The second verse is found in the Saipan hymnal or Lepblon Kånta. It is possible, therefore, that Påle' Román composed only one verse, which some thought too short of a song. Even with a second verse, the song is less than a minute in duration. We don't know who composed the second verse, but it could have been someone in Saipan.

Here it is recorded by the female singers of Johnny Sablan's singing group and found in one of his albums.

The lyrics are :

Gåtbon påtgon, må'gas påtgon
(Beautiful child, great child)

dikkike' Niño Jesus.
(little Christ Child.)

Atan ham todos na in adora hao,
(Look at all of us adoring you,)

komo i magåhet na Låhen Yu'us.
(as the true Son of God.)

In tingo' todos na i finatto-mo
(We all know that your coming)

para un libre i famagu'on-mo.
(was to free your children.)

Ayo na påtgon regålon-måme
(That Child is a gift to us)

gi korason yan i anten-måme.
(in our hearts and in our souls.)

The German Version
based on a Baptist Original

Påle' Román

Friday, December 18, 2015



(The person's child)

I rarely hear the expression nowadays, but I used to hear it in the past. 

Another Chamorro way of referring to a person. Påtgon taotao. Someone's child. Literally, "the person's child" or "child of a human being."

Words are important, not only because of their direct meaning, but often because of the mentality or psychology these words reveal about those who use them.

First of all, it seems our older Chamorro mentality was to sometimes prefer the indirect way of referring to specific people.

Instead of talking about Juan or Maria, we wouldn't call them by name but instead refer to them in a roundabout way.

And påtgon taotao is just one of many examples of how Chamorros did just that. I'll have to save the other examples for later so I can have more topics for the blog!

Secondly, it seems unusual, from our Americanized frame of mind, to refer to someone as "a person's child."

But I am immediately reminded of this saying in English about the enemies we shoot and kill in war.

"Every soldier killed is some mother's child."

The point here is that, whereas the relationship between two enemy soldiers is one thing, one should keep in mind that there is another, more weighty relationship going on between that enemy soldier and his or her mother.

I think that when a Chamorro speaks of another as "i patgon taotao," we are keeping the conversation mindful of that person's connection to others, and thus, that person's high value in life.

That person may just be a customer to you and me, but s/he is something far more important to his/her mother and father.

Thus, I have heard one clerk tell another clerk in a government office, "Atiende fan i patgon taotao." "Attend to the person's child." That person waiting in line at that office is not just someone demanding your time and service. S/he is someone's child.

Another example.

A teenage guy is waiting in a store for his mother to finish shopping. Bored, he starts to do things other people find irritating. Someone starts to make a move to scold the teen, and someone sitting next to the irritated person reminds him or her, "Pasiesiåye, sa' påtgon taotao." "Be patient, because s/he is someone's child."

This expression can also be a way of reminding people (yes, sometimes we need to be reminded) that the person is a human being - påtgon taotao - and therefore someone to be treated with dignity, even if they are a nuisance or difficult.

I have even heard adults be called påtgon taotao, but not seniors. Other people, though, may have heard even seniors be called påtgon taotao. I am not sure.

Man more examples abound, but I believe one major reason for this kind of thinking, and this kind of addressing people, is to be mindful of that person's special connection with others not visible at the moment; to be aware that a person has a special place in the world to some people. It's a call for us to treat people in a more caring way. That other person may not be so special to you and me, but they are påtgon taotao, someone else's special someone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

YOU KNOW YOU'RE CHAMORRO WHEN... ear means 365 days.

Many of our grandmas used to say, "Ears and ears ago, when I was in first grade......"


It's because different languages have different sounds, and also lack other sounds.

Statesiders often have a hard time, for example, saying the Chamorro NG sound as in "Mangilao." When a statesider tries to say "Mangilao," it often comes out as "Manilao."

Many Filipinos struggle with the F sound, which is lacking in most of their native languages.

Russians don't have the H sound. For them, Hitler was Gitler.

And we Chamorros don't have the western Y sound. In our own alphabet, Y makes the DZ sound, as in Yigo and Yoña.

When we have to use a foreign word that has the Y sound, we have two ways of handling that difficulty. The first way is to change the foreign Y sound to our own Y (DZ) sound.

So the Spanish word ya, which means "now" or "already" sounds like DZA when said in Chamorro. We see this in the Chamorro (borrowed from Spanish) expression yå ke, meaning "since that, given that." Yå ke un tungo' håfa ma tago'-mo, hånao ya un kumple ennao! (Now that you know what your task is, go do it!)

The Spanish letter LL is sounded like a Y by nearly all Spanish speakers. So the Spanish word llave sounds like yabe. But in Chamorro it sounds like DZABE.

And the same is true for Spanish mantequilla (butter) which becomes Chamorro mantekiya.

Even Chamorro names, spelled by Spaniards, use the LL but is sounded like DZ in names such as Acfalle, Tajalle and Aflleje.


But the second way we deal with that unpronounceable foreign Y sound is to just ignore it.

So year becomes ear.

As we are now well into an era where almost all of us are English speakers from the day we are born, we are losing our distinct Chamorro way of speaking English.

So I am documenting this way of speaking English, the way our grandparents spoke it, many ears ago.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


In Chamorro, we say kamalen.  The stress is on the first syllable. KA - ma - len.

But the original Spanish word is camarín. The stress is on the last syllable. Ca - ma - RIN. You can see the Spanish word in the street sign above. It says, "Street of the Camarin of Our Lady of Mount Carmel."

Kamalen, or Camarin, is the name given to the famous statue of Our Lady, found, it is said, in the waters off Malesso' many years ago during Spanish times.

Unfortunately, we have found no documentation about this statue that go back to the very early history of this statue.

But this post focuses on the name of the image. Why was she named Our Lady of Camarin? Who named her this?


In Spanish, the word camarín can mean several things. But all these meanings point to a special place.

A Religious Camarín

It can mean, for example, a niche or alcove where a special religious statue, often of the Blessed Mother, is placed. In big churches, there is often a circular wall behind the main altar which forms an alcove, or camarín. In this camarín, a special statue of the Virgin or another saint was often placed.

camarín did not always have to be an alcove behind the main altar. A camarín could also simply be a niche for the statue, positioned anywhere convenient. Sometimes it was located at or around the main altar. In Guam's case, the niche for Our Lady of Camarin was mainly* placed directly above the tabernacle, right in the center of the sanctuary.

The niche (or camarín) of Our Lady of Camarin
in the Agaña Cathedral before the war

Sometimes, a camarín was a room used to store religious statues that were not used all year long in a church. When that statue's feast was approaching, the church would take the statue out of the camarín and prepare it for the feast.

Or, a camarín was a room used all year round for the veneration of an important statue. Sometimes the camarín for a special statue wasn't a room at all, but rather an entire building, such as a chapel. This is what, I think, the Camarín of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is which is indicated in the street sign above.

A Storage Room, Shed or Barn

As mentioned, camarín could mean a room where religious statues were stored for future use.

From there, the word expanded to mean a storage space for other things and not just religious images.

In the Philippines, two provinces, North and South, are called Camarines, after the agricultural storage sheds prominent in that area. Camarines is the plural of camarín.

In Chamorro, kamalen can likewise mean a barn or storage room.

Thatched sheds on the beach to shelter canoes were also called kamalen

Ok, so now what?

According to tradition, the statue of Our Lady of Camarin was found in Malesso', in the lagoon really that surrounds the waters off the village. Dåno (Cocos Island) is part of the reef that forms the lagoon.

Either very quickly or not long after, the statue was taken to Hagåtña. In the capital city, it was placed, at least during one chapter of the statue's life, in the soldier's barracks. Some people say, it is from the barracks that the name Camarin arose.

The thing is, though, that camarín does not mean barracks. The barracks were called the cuartel in Spanish.

Another version says that the statue was placed in a tool shed belonging to the barracks. Why? The cuartel or barracks was being built at the time and not finished yet. So, off to the tool shed she went. A tool shed could have been called a camarín (storage room), but I don't think the Spaniards would have allowed her to stand there with axes and saws and nails. If they really did put her in a tool shed, it was cleared out of the tools so that the structure itself could become the camarín of the statue.

But how then do we account for the stories that when the soldiers got drunk, the statue would turns its back on the drunken men? Were they all sleeping in a tool shed? Unlikely.

So, perhaps, she eventually made it into the barracks with the soldiers when the barracks were finally built.

It's also possible that there was a camarín in the barracks; a camarín in the religious sense. A niche, alcove or room in the barracks that was a camarín for the statue.

Maybe the church itself?

In time, the statue was then put in the Hagåtña church itself.

Since, in Spanish, a  camarícan be a niche where statues are placed, it could also be that the camarín in her name refers to the niche where she was placed above the tabernacle or somewhere in the sanctuary.

Unfortunately, almost nothing was written down in those days about the statue, at least that we know about today. So we cannot come to any definite conclusions about why this statue is named Our Lady of Camarin and who named her this.

But, at least, we only have several possible answers to keep in mind, and not 100 possible explanations.

1. The tool shed could have been called a camarín and she may have been there for some time.

2. The soldiers barracks (cuartel) could have had a camarín inside or attached to it, and she could have been placed there for a time.

3. She is called Our Lady of Camarin because, when she was finally placed in the church itself, she was placed in her own special nice, or camarín.

Since the statue had no name, it would have been a natural thing when someone asked, "Which statue?" for someone to answer, "Our Lady over there in the niche, or the tool shed...."

To make it easier :


TOOL SHED connected to soldiers’ barracks

Can a tool shed be called a camarín? YES

NICHE or ROOM inside/attached to soldiers’ barracks

Can a niche or room be called a camarín? YES

NICHE connected to the main altar inside Hagatna Church

Can a niche in church be called a camarín? YES


In the present Cathedral-Basilica, built in 1959, Our Lady of Camarin sits in a - camarín! In a niche in the center of the sanctuary.

Truly, she is Our Lady of Camarin....of the Niche.

* I say mainly above the tabernacle in the Hagåtña Church because there is some photographic evidence that the statue was not always above the tabernacle. Perhaps, the statue's position to the side of the altar was temporary, due to some liturgical observance or maybe maintenance/improvement of the altar.

In the photo below of the sanctuary of the Hagåtña Cathedral in the 1930s, Our Lady is not in the niche above the tabernacle. She seems to be on the left. I wonder if that image is actually a substitute, and the reason why she is not in her usual spot is because she was being repaired.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015



These figures, almost certainly representing turtles (haggan), are found in a cave in Luta called Chugai.

Getting to Chugai is not an easy thing to do. You need to drive on a rocky, single-vehicle trail through dense brush, with tångantångan brushing against your car, until you get to the end of the trail where you park.

You will then see that you have come to the top of a cliff, some 500 feet above the beautiful sea.

Then, it's a ten-minute walk on sharp, coral terrain until you get to the mouth of the cave.

And at the mouth of the cave, you are greeted with a padlocked gate!

Gated entrance to the cave

I am glad that the gate is padlocked. Vandals have no chance of defacing artwork done by our ancestors. However, you can call the Rota Historic Preservation Office and they will guide you into the cave and make sure you don't do any harm to it or yourself.

Once inside, you will discover that the cave is very deep. Before long, the sunlight will become useless as you become surrounded by darkness.

It is only with a portable light source that you can see what's inside. According to one source, there are 90 different drawings. The drawings were made with a black substance; charcoal or ash are suspected as being the material used to draw these images. Dating cannot be done unless one tampers with the images, so we don't know for sure how old they are.

The turtles seem instantly recognizable, but most of the others are not so easy to identify. This, for example, could be a bat (probably fanihi but I wouldn't rule out the payesyes).

Other figures seem to be birds and fishes. But others do not seem to represent either human or animal. Many are simple, geometric shapes. Could some of these images represent spiritual or religious ideas? Could the makåhna (spirit intermediaries) have been the ones behind these images?

Here are a few others. People will be debating what they represent for years to come :

Whoever drew these images must have brought in many torches and lamps.


The Chamorros were not the only ones who left things behind. So did the Japanese.

Towards the entrance of the cave, where there is more natural light, one can find many broken Japanese bottles, sake cups, glasses, jars.

One can also observe a lot of broken pieces of wood strewn about.

I was told that the Japanese used the cave as a "hospital" during the war.

While I won't discount this, I wonder if this "hospital" were simply a kind of medical station. The place (dusty and humid) may not have been the healthiest environment for wounded people risking infection.

Luta never had the full-on battles of Saipan, Tinian and Guam. There would not have been huge numbers of wounded. But the Americans did strafe Luta now and then, as well as bomb it. There were various people - soldier and civilian, Japanese and Chamorro - who were killed and wounded.

I think some Japanese (the cave is too small for large numbers) used the cave for shelter against the American strafing and to care in remedial ways for some of the wounded.

The US waited for the war to end (September 1945) before landing troops on Luta to round up the surrendering Japanese. For over a year, the nearly 3000 Japanese troops on Luta hid in caves just like Chugai.

And now, it's video time....

Para mås infotmasion :