Thursday, December 29, 2016


GI HOMHOM NA SÅGA is not one of the better-known Christmas carols, and, as far as I know, it is only sung on Guam. That could be because it is a fairly recent carol, composed in Chamorro by Påle' Román on Guam in the 1920s or 30s. In those days, Guam and Saipan were politically separated and the missions in both places were run by different priests. Travel and communication between Guam and Saipan were severely limited in the mid 1930s due to political tension.

The original melody is from a Spanish carol,apparently composed by Rafael Villaseca.

Here is a recording, featuring the Johnny Sablan singers :

Gi homhom na såga gi fi'on i ga'ga'
(In a dark place by the animals)

nai gaige i Kristo i Rai Israet.
(is Christ the King of Israel.)

Fan måtto pastores, tifi'e' gue' flores
(Come, shepherds, pick flowers for him)

adora si Yu'us gi liyang Belen.
(adore God in the cave of Bethlehem.)

Chorus : Jesus linangitan, Pastot Israet, Rai-måme yan Saina, Yu'us Emanuel.
(Heavenly Jesus, Shepherd of Israel, our King and Lord, God Emmanuel.)

Dimuye i Niño yan fa' Yu'os-miyo
(Kneel before the Child and make Him your God)

taiguihe i Bithen yan si San Jose.
(just as the Virgin and Saint Joseph have.)

Taotao i annok-ña lao i sanhalom-ña
(His appearance is human but what lies within)

magåhet na Yu'us, Yu'os-miyo gue'.
(is the true God, He is your God.)


Fa' Yu'os-miyo. Literally this means "make Him your God" but the meaning is for us to accept Him as our God, because we cannot make God God. He already is God, whether we accept Him or not.

Taotao i annok-ña. We cannot say that Jesus was human in appearance only (and not truly a man), and this is not what the carol intends to say. Rather, the divinity of Jesus is hidden by His outward appearance as a normal human being. But Jesus is both truly God and truly man at the same time. He was truly human and ate food, slept and bled; but with His human body He walked on water and calmed a storm with His human voice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


O PÅTGON BELEN is a Chamorro Christmas carol or hymn.

Depending on the island, village and even sometimes family, you might here little differences here and there in the song.

Refrain : O påtgon Belen, in na'e hao dias,
sa' hågo si Jesus, yan i Mesias.

(O Child of Bethlehem, we greet you,
for you are Jesus and the Messiah.)

1. I gai langet yan tåno' dumikkike' gue'; i tehnen i langet lumadafe gue'.
(He who owns both heaven and earth becomes small; the upholder of heaven becomes weaker..)

2. Måtfit yan flores rosa i dos fasu-ña; ma guaiya ma atan i atadok-ña.
(His two cheeks are ivory and roses; they love to look at His eyes.)

3. Hinilat ginefli'e' nu i taotao-ña; kumasao chumålek gi fanagong-ña.
(Overcome with love for His people; He cries smiling in His shelter.)


Dias. Literally, it means "days." "In na'e hao dias" literally means "we give you days." But if one remembers that the morning greeting is "buenas dias" ("good days") then one can see that "to give days" means "to greet, to congratulate, to wish well" and so on.

Fanagong. An old word no longer heard. It literally means a "shelter" from wind or rain, and in this context means the crib or manger.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Guma' Redondo, Chalan Kanoa, Saipan

Måtso dia 21 gi 1947 na såkkan.
(March 21, 1947)

Chalan Kanoa, Saipan.

Gi a las 7 gi painge i Atkåtde ha anunsia gi åtta bos na 50 na pasaheros man måfåtto ginen Luta.
(At 7 o'clock last night the Chief Commissioner announced loudly that 50 passengers were arriving from Rota.)

Gi halom 5 minutos despues de i anunsio, kåsi 1000 na taotao man etnon gi Gima' Redondo
(Within 5 minutes after the announcement, around 1000 people gathered at the Round House)

para u fan ali'e' yan i pasaheros.
(to meet the passengers.)

Siha man mannangga kåsi 2 oras, ya annai måtto i bås siha, man parientes yan atungo' siha
(They waited around 2 hours, and when the buses came, relatives and friends)

man agu'ot kånnai, man aatoktok yan man aachiko unos yan otros
(grasped hands, were hugging and kissing each other one and all)

na'manman yan na'magof na okasion annai i man amigo yan man parientes
(a wonderful and joyful occasion where friends and relatives)

ti man ali'e' meggai na såkkan siha.
(hadn't seen each other for many years.)


Luta was isolated and cut off from the rest of the world from June of 1944 until September of 1945. For more than a year, even though Saipan, Tinian and Guam were in US hands, Luta was by-passed by the American military. The US felt that it could ignore Luta for now and focus on continuing the advance towards Japan and end the war as quickly as possible. The Japanese military left on Luta, for the time being, were powerless to stand in the way of the US assault on Japan.

Even when the Americans got around to landing on Luta in September of 1945, to inform the Japanese there that the war was over, travel and communication between Luta and the rest of the Marianas were limited.

I personally knew a Saipan family that was living in Luta during the war to work for the Japanese agricultural companies. When the Americans by-passed Luta, this family was stranded on Luta. Like everyone else on that island, Japanese and Chamorro, food was scarce and they suffered.

So this landing in March of 1947 of friends and relatives from Luta was indeed a joyful event. The 50 passengers were probably a mixed group. Some were Saipan Chamorros who were either in Luta permanently or who were trying to get back to Saipan. Some were Luta Chamorros needing to visit Saipan for various reasons or who had family in Saipan.


ATKÅTDE. The civilian head of the Saipan community at the time was called the Chief Commissioner. But in Chamorro this title was Atkåtde, from the Spanish word alcalde, which means "mayor." In Luta, they soften the word and say atkåde.

ÅTTA BOS. From the Spanish phrase alta voz, meaning "high" or "loud voice." When someone says something in alta voz, it can even mean screaming. Here, it seems the meaning is that the Chief Commissioner went around shouting to the homes that the passengers were arriving.

ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE. For an island that had a population of nearly 5000 people, that's a significant percentage of the whole community.
GUMA' REDONDO. Literally "round house," it was a kiosk (and was also called kiosko) in the middle of Chalan Kanoa which was used as a gathering place for the people. Usually, in Chamorro, "round" is aredondo. It no longer exists in Chalan Kanoa.

BÅS. The Japanese adopted the English word bus so the Saipan Chamorros were already familiar with the word basu in Japanese. The Luta passengers probably landed at the dock by Puerto Rico, just north of Garapan and needed to board buses to take them down to Chalan Kanoa several miles away.

(Pregonero, March 25, 1947)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I only got to know this Chamorro Christmas carol through the Hofschneider brothers, Jude and Julian, from Tinian. They learned it from their mother. But no one knows the origin of the carol; who wrote the lyrics nor who composed the music or from where the melody was perhaps borrowed.

The Hofschneider and Untalan (their mother) families were in Yap before the war, so perhaps it was composed there.

1. I niño mafañågo guihe na puenge
(The Child Jesus was born that night)

gi halom liyang gi sagan gå'ga' siha.
(inside a cave in a shelter for animals.)

Un påtgon mafañågo guine na puenge
(A child is born this night)

todos hit ta fan man adora.
(let us all adore.)

Chorus : Må'gas na påtgon i niño as Jesus
(The Child Jesus is a great child)

i rai i man rai siha.
(the King of kings.)

Popble na påtgon i niño as Jesus
(The Child Jesus is a poor child)

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

2. I ma'lak estreyas ayogue na annok
(The bright stars appear there)

para i attat guato gi i liyång-ña.
(towards the altar there in His cave.)

Ta onra yan ta tuna i lahen Yu'us
(Let us honor and praise the Son of God)

sa' guiya i lahen Yu'os-ta.
(because He is the Son of our God.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016



Hagåtña. 1930s

Annai på'go manhålom i Hapones* giya Guam
(When the Japanese first came to Guam**)

ma sodda' na siña si tatå-ho fumino' Hapones.
(they discovered that my father could speak Japanese.)

Ti gef mefno'*** gue' gi fino' Hapones lao 
(he wasn't very fluent in the Japanese language but)

hunggan maolek gue' fumino' Hapones.
(yes he was good in speaking Japanese.)

Kontodo i intetprete na Chamorro ni ginen Saipan
(even the Chamorro interpreter from Saipan)

ilek-ña as tatå-ho na maolek gue' gi fino' Hapones.
(told my father that he was good in the Japanese language.)

Taiguine estoriå-ña si tatå-ho.
(My dad's story goes like this.)

Popble familiå-na. Bula famagu'on. Ocho siha na mañe'lo.
(His family was poor. There were many children. There were eight siblings.)

Un dia, ilek-ña si tatan-ñiha, "Annai esta un kumple dosse åños,
(One day, their father said, "When you reach 12 years,

debe de un fanaligao che'cho'-mo."
(you should look for work.")

Pues pot i esta ha kumple dosse åños años-ña si tatå-ho,
(So, because my dad already reached the age of 12 years,)

ha a'atan maolek esta måno nai siña gue' mañodda' che'cho'-ña.
(he already looked well where he could find a job.)

Guaha un Hapones, na'ån-ña si Kurokawa, na såstre.
(There was a Japanese, his name was Kurokawa, who has a tailor.)

Ma bababa ha' i gimå'-ña ya ha fåfåna' i chalan 
(His house was open and it faced the street)

nai matå'chong si Kurokawa gi tatten i måkinan manlåkse.
(where Kurokawa sat behind the sewing machine.)

Pues katna kada dia tumotohge si tatå-ho guihe gi me'nan potta
(So almost every day my dad would stand there in front of the door)

ya sige ha' adumiddide' ha håtme i gima' Kurokawa ya umimbilikero gue'.
(and little by little he entered Kurokawa's house and nosily looked around.)

Ilek-ña si Kurokawa, "Håfa na sesso hao mågi para un atan todo håfa bidådå-ho?"
(Kurokawa said, "Why do you come here often to look at everything I am doing?")

Pues sinangåne as tatå-ho na ume'eche'cho'.****
(So my dad told him he was looking for work.)

Konfotme si Kurokawa fumanå'gue si tatå-ho manlåkse.
(Kurokawa was willing to teach my dad how to sew.)

Lao, fuera de ennao, ha hokka' si tatå-ho i fino' Hapones
(But, besides that, my dad picked up the Japanese language)

sa', masea siña si Kurokawa fumino' Chamorro,
(because, even though Kurokawa could speak Chamorro,)

lao ya-ña lokkue' kumuentos gi lengguahi-ña.
(but he also liked to speak in his own language.)

Genro Kurokawa's entry in the 1930 Guam Census
(It is mistakenly spelled Kurokaw)

The same 1930 Census showing Kurokawa to be from Japan and a tailor


* Hapones - this is the older Chamorro way of saying "Japanese," borrowed from the Spanish word japonés. Modern Chamorros say chapanis, a form of the English word "Japanese."

** She means when the Japanese troops first entered Guam, not when the first Japanese at all came to Guam. That happened long before the war when Japanese agricultural workers came to Guam in the 1800s and later Japanese settlers moved to Guam permanently.

*** Mefno'. It means "eloquent," but also "fluent." It comes from the Chamorro prefix mi (meaning "abundant") and fino' (meaning "word" or "speech"). Mi+fino' becomes mefno'.

**** Eche'cho'. The Chamorro prefix e means "in search of." Esalappe' means "in search of money." Eche'cho' means "in search of work.."

Kurokawa's ad in the Guam Recorder in 1925

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Jose Mesa Cruz, circled, aboard the USS Henderson in 1943 during WW2
There are other Chamorro Navy men in this group photo
(Picture courtesy of Jose Mesa Cruz)

Even before I knew much about Guam history, I already heard the name the USS Henderson from my older relatives talking at the dinner table when I was a kid.

It was the name of a ship and it visited Guam a lot. That's as far as I could gather at the time.

The Henderson was indeed a US Navy ship launched in 1916 to transport Marines wherever needed. In the 1920s and 30s, she sailed all over the Pacific, making stops in Japan, China, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and a few other places.

Since there were no private companies providing transportation to and from Guam for civilian passengers, the US Navy allowed civilians who could pay their way to sail on Navy ships, and the Henderson was one of them. Chamorros would take the Henderson to Manila, Honolulu, Shanghai and Tokyo, among other ports.

One of her most famous passengers was L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, who spent some of his childhood on Guam in the late 1920s because of his father's work on the island.


In the late 1930s, the US Navy allowed the recruitment of Chamorro men as mess attendants. A maximum number of recruits was set at 700 men. Just before war broke out in December of 1941, this cap was almost reached as the number of Chamorro mess attendants was well into the 600s.

One Chamorro mess attendant on the Henderson was Fructuoso San Miguel Aflague, better known by his boxing nickname Rocky.

Boxing bouts between the Henderson men, including the Chamorro Rocky Aflague
Matt1c means "Mess attendant 1st class"

The Henderson had just left Pearl Harbor when it was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. For the rest of the war, the Henderson transported troops all over the Pacific and then served as a hospital ship towards the very end of the war. Many Chamorro men served on the Henderson during this time. Many never returned to live on Guam but settled elsewhere instead.

Monday, December 5, 2016


South Vietnamese Pres Thieu, US Pres Johnson, South Vietnamese Prime Minister Ky
At the Guam International Airport, March 20, 1967

It didn't do much good, and has become a forgotten footnote in many history books, but Guam was the scene of a high-powered meeting between the United States President and the leadership of South Vietnam.

It was the height of the war in Vietnam and summits between both the American and South Vietnamese leadership had occurred before. This was to be third such summit and Guam was chosen as the venue, partly because it was a safe and convenient location not far from Vietnam, and because Guam was a showcase of American overseas military power, close to the scene in Asia.

Some scholars believe that the meeting did not result in any major benefits in either securing victory for the anti-communist South or ending the war. The war dragged on and was eventually lost in 1975 by the South Vietnamese government and its increasingly-withdrawing American backers. These scholars say that the "Guam Conference" was hastily put together and was short on specific plans.

For the Chamorros and other residents of Guam, the Guam Conference was a rare opportunity to see and even touch a U.S. President. People lined the sides of Marine (Corps) Drive to see the presidential motorcade and went up to the airport, as well. Some of those at the airport got to shake hands with LBJ.

The Vietnam War was not just some war "far away" for many Guam families. They had sons and daughters in the U.S. military. Many Guam soldiers died in Vietnam.

Reflecting the kind of US patriotism seen among Chamorros in those days, perhaps because so many of our sons were fighting in Vietnam, a Chamorro man held up a sign at the airport when LBJ arrived advocating the bombing of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, and other important cities. Since his family is still around and I am not sure how they would feel about it, I have covered the man's name.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Jose Mesa Cruz
grandson of José Sisto

He is 94 years old as of 2016 and he is cheerful, healthy and full of life. He was born in Hagåtña in 1922 but left Guam for good in 1940 when he joined the US Navy. In those days, Chamorro men who joined the US Navy could only serve as mess hall attendants. Other Chamorros teasingly called them marinon mantekiya, or "butter sailors" because, unlike the others, these Chamorro Navy men could buy butter at the Navy commissary.

His ship was out of Pearl Harbor for two days already, en route to San Francisco, when the Japanese bombed the American ships in Hawaii. His older brother Henry was on the USS Arizona and survived the bombing. Ping saw action in the South Pacific and then later settled in Southern California where he still lives today, surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As a youth in Guam, Ping attended the Guam Institute, the only private school on Guam in the 1920s and 30s. He remember the owner and principal, Nieves M. Flores, and his two sons Alejo and Sabino.

His father owned a bar and a pool hall on Hagåtña's main street.


Between June 22, 1898 and August 1, 1899, Guam was in a chaotic political situation. The Americans had removed the Spanish Government from Guam, but did not install a clear, stable American Government until the arrival of the first US Governor appointed by the US President, in August of 1899.

One claimant to authority over Guam was a man named Jose Sisto, whose full name was Jose Sisto Rodrigo Vallabriga. He had been the island treasurer, officially the Administrator of the Department of the "Hacienda Pública," or "Public Works." Unlike the other Spanish government officials, the US Navy did not remove Sisto and take him to Manila. Thus, Sisto claimed, he was still a government official and the highest one remaining, ensuring him, in his mind, control over the government.

Sisto was opposed by Padre Palomo, Francisco Portusach and other Chamorro leaders. They accused him of emptying the island treasury by paying himself his salary in advance. When stronger American control came to Guam, Sisto resigned office, was ordered to repay the island treasury and left for Manila.

All of this is well-known in the history books.

What wasn't well-known is that Sisto fathered children while he was on Guam. According to family lore, Rosa Cruz was a domestic worker at the Governor's Palåsyo, or palace. She became romantically involved with Sisto and became the mother of two sons of Sisto, Juan and Jose, who carried their mother's maiden name of Cruz. Juan and Jose were twins, so their descendants were known as the Dinga ("twins") family. Rosa later married into the Gåbit (Pereda) family and became known as Rosa'n Gåbit.

Jose, son of Sisto, married Andrea Mesa. In the picture below, Jose (son of Sisto), Andrea, Jose (or Ping) and his older brother Henry are identified.

                                                  (Courtesy of Carmelita Edwards)


Most of the literature in English speaks of José Sisto as a "Filipino Spaniard." That's not an exact phrase and can mean more than one thing. Was he a Spaniard who just happened to be born and raised in the Philippines? Or was he of mixed blood, Spanish and Filipino? In the 1800s, "Filipino" when said by Spaniards meant a Spaniard born in the Philippines.

But Sisto was brother to Francisco Sisto, a lifelong government official in Madrid. His family tree is documented, and that's how we know that José Sisto was a Spaniard. The Sisto family was a Målaga family of good social standing.

If the Americans deported all the Spanish government officials, that is, government officials who were Spanish by race and birth, why then did they leave José Sisto behind on Guam? The only possible explanation is that he was totally a civilian, not a member in any way of the Spanish military. Everyone else taken away was a member of the Spanish military, including the medical doctor because he was an actual member of the military. But Spanish civilians, like the Recollect priests, for example, were allowed to remain, as were the few Spaniards (Bordallo, Muñoz) married to Chamorro women.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


A retired Navy man who was stationed on Guam in the 1930s recalls how many pre-school Chamorro children went around completely or partially naked. By the time a child was maybe 5 or 6, then he or she was usually covered.

Behind his Navy installation in the outskirts of Hagåtña was the simple home of a Chamorro family. The area was mostly jungle brush and a few, small garden patches; ample play ground for the large brood of children in the family.

One of the younger boys in the family often played in the yard without pants and, on occasion, without a shirt.

Years later, he was told by a former Navy colleague that the naked little boy became none other than the Governor of Guam. The Navy man remembers the family name, and, indeed, this family did produce one of Guam's elected governors!

It was just the politician's way of showing that, even from childhood, he had nothing to hide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Language is so interesting. One word can have more than one meaning.

Take for example the Chamorro word pudos.

With the definite article, pudos becomes i pidos.

Pudos literally means the interior of the anus.  It is the rectum or anal canal. The exterior or the buttocks is the dågan.

We rarely ever hear people say the word pudos because almost everyone uses the word dågan instead.

I remember one older lady, who barely spoke English, talking about a lady she didn't get along with, and she asked me rhetorically,

"Dalai, håfa malago'-ña? Para bai nginge' i pidos-ña?"
("My goodness, what does she want? For me to smell her...?")

Not a pleasant thought. But she said it, and used that word.


But pudos can have a second, and seemingly unrelated, meaning.

It can refer to someone being overly attached to someone else, who always has to follow or be with someone else. From there, the word came to also mean a tag along.

"Kalan hao pudos nanå-mo!"
"You're always following your mother!"

Well I think this phrase above gives us a clue why pudos can mean either the rectum itself or someone who always has to follow someone else.

One can never move from here to there without also bringing along one's pudos.

It is invariably attached to you.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Hu hungok este ginen as Peter J. Santos, sa' ha na' tungo' yo' si Jeremy Cruz

Un puengen Damenggo ha faisen yo' si bihu-ho kao humånao yo' para Eskuelan Påle' guihe na oga'an, oga'an Damenggo.
(One Sunday night my grandfather asked me if I went to catechism that morning, Sunday morning.)

Ilek-ña, "Ilek-ho na ti humånao hao."
(He said, "I say you didn't go.")

Hu oppe gue' tåtte, "Hunggan, Pop, humånao yo' para i Eskuelan Påle' på'go na oga'an."
(I replied back to him, "Yes, Pop, I went to catechism this morning.)

Pues ha faisen yo', "Pues håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us?"
(Then he asked me, "So what is God's name?")

"Yu'us nai, Pop."
("God, Pop.")

"Åhe'. Yu'us gue' lao håye na'ån-ña?"
("No. He is God, but what's His name?")

Ilek-ho, "Jesukristo."
(I said, "Jesus Christ.")

Ilek-ña, "Åhe'. Lahi-ña ayo. Lao håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us?"
(He said, "No. That's His Son. But what's God's name?")

Ilek-ho, "Hekkua', Pop, ti hu tungo'."
(I said, "Beats me, Pop, I don't know.")

Ilek-ña, "Annok nai na ti humånao hao para Eskuelan Påle."
(He said, "It shows that you didn't go to catechism.")

"Sa' yanggen humånao hao ya un atituye si Påle', siempre un tungo' håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us."
("Because if you went and paid attention to Father, you would surely know what's God's name.")

Ilek-ho, "OK, Pop. Pues håye na'ån-ña si Yu'us?"
(I said, "OK, Pop. So what's God's name?")


Ilek-ho, "Howard? Haftaimano na Howard na'ån-ña?"
(I said, "Howard? How is Howard His name?")

Ilek-ña, "Ekkungok ha' si Påle'. Kada manaitai, ilek-ña, "Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name."
(He said, "Just listen to Father. Every time he prays, he says, "Our Father who art in heaven. Howard be thy name.")

Eskuelan Påle' is known as Doktrina (or Lottrina) in the Northern Marianas

Thursday, November 24, 2016


A story from the 1960s.

Annai kinse åños ha' yo', humame yan un amigu-ho ya malago' ham chumupa.
(When I was just 15 years old, I was with a friend and we wanted to smoke.)

Primet biåhe yo' para bai chagi chumupa.
(It was the first time for me to try to smoke.)

Lao måno nai siña ham chumupa sin ma gacha'?
(But where could we smoke without getting caught?)

Eståba nuebo na guma' påddet ni katna ha' kabåles ma håtsa-ña
(There was a new concrete house that almost completed)

lao trabia ti ma sagågåye.
(but was still not lived in.)

Era guennao kåsi gi a las kuåttro ya in pe'lo na maolek ennao na ora
(It was around 4 o'clock and we believed that was a good time)

sa' tåya' esta eskuela lao trabia ti man måfåtto i taotao siha ginen i che'cho'.
(because school was already out but the people from work hadn't come around yet.)

Humålom ham gi gima' ya matå'chong ham gi satge pot no in ma li'e'.
(We entered the house and sat down on the floor so as not to be seen.)

In sengge i chipa. Fana'an dos pat tres biåhe hu chagi lao sen ti ya-ho. Pues in dingu i lugåt.
(We lit the cigarette. Maybe 2 or 3 times I tried it but really didn't like it. Then we left the place.)

Lamme' sa' pine'lo-ko na tåya' ham lumi'e' lao ayo na Damenggo despues,
(Man, I thought no one saw us but that Sunday afterwards,)

matåtå'chong ha' yo' gi gima'yu'us ya hu li'e na på'go humåhålom si Påle'.
(I was just sitting down in church and I saw Father just coming in.)

Lamme' sa' ha fatoigue yo' si Påle' ya ha faisen yo',
(Oh boy, because Father came to me and asked me,)

"Håfa este hu hungok na inespipia hao ni polisia?"
("What is this I heard that the police are looking for you?")

Pues hu admite gi as Påle' na hunggan in hatme i gima' lao solo para in chagi chumupa.
(So I admitted to Father that indeed we went into the house but only to try smoking.)

Humuyong na guaha besino lumi'e' ham humålom ya pine'lo-ña i besino 
(It turned out that there was a neighbor who saw us enter and she thought)

na para in fañåkke pat guaha para in yamak pot minagof-måme ha'
(we were going to steal or break something out of fun)

ya ha ågang i polisia.
(and she called the police.)

Lao atrasao guato i polisia ya esta må'pos ham åntes de måtto.
(But the police were late to go there and we were gone before they came.)


These teenagers thought no one was around. They looked at the school across the street and school was out. Students, faculty and staff were gone.

They looked around the neighborhood and no one was around. Working husbands and wives were not back from work yet.

They went into a concrete house nearly built and thought they had found a safe place to smoke. They sat on the floor to avoid being seen through the windows.

But someone saw. It's what she did next that was interesting.

Thinking that theft or vandalism were involved, she called the police. People from other cultures would have done the same.

But then she called the parish priest! That's not something often done elsewhere, and it wasn't done all the time in Chamorro culture in the past, but the fact that she did it in Guam in the 1960s shows something about the thinking of the time. Why didn't she just call the parents?

Then the priest. He waits till Sunday when he knows he will see the boy at Mass. He walks up to the boy sitting in his pew and asks him to explain himself. The priest was satisfied with the boy's explanation and didn't take it further with the boy's parents. The boy was very thankful for that!

In those days, people knew whose kid you were. And they got involved when they saw kids misbehave.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


A story from the 1950s. The names have been changed.

Si Terry'n che'lu-ho gos bonita yan meggai nobiu-ña.
(My sister Terry was very beautiful and she had many boyfriends.)

Guaha uno ni na'ån-ña si Frankie ya gos ande'.
(There was one named Frankie and he was a showoff.)

Hekkua' måno na ha sodda' lao un dia kada biråda maloloffan si Frankie gi me'nan gima'-måme 
(I don't know where he found them but one day Frankie was always passing in front of our house)

lao kada biåhe na maloffan ti parehu karetå-ña.
(but each time he passed his car was different.)

Ti ya-ña si nanan-måme na u atungo' si Terry yan si Frankie
(Our mother didn't want Terry and Frankie to know each other)

sa' gai patgon....ha na' mapotge' un palao'an giya Hågat....
(because he had a child...he made a lady in Agat pregnant....)

ya ilek-ña si nanå-ho na an siña ha cho'gue un biåhe,
(and my mom said that if he can do it one time,)

siña ha cho'gue ta'lo an esta umassagua hamyo.
(he can do it again when you two are married.)

Pues ti sinedi si Terry as nåna para u a'sodda' yan si Frankie
(So mom didn't allow Terry to meet Frankie)

lao lini'e' gue' ni muchåchan-måme ni ilek-ña,
(but he was seen by our maid who said,"

"Terry! Eyigue'!" Pues in baba in kuttinan i bentåna
("Terry! There he is!" So we opened the window curtain)

ya kada maloffan si Frankie, otro ta'lo karetå-ña.
(and each time Frankie passed, he had a different car.)

Ti magof si nanan-måme ya ilek-ña,
(Our mom wasn't happy and said,)

"Terry, måno na mañañakke karetå-ña si Frankie?"
("Terry, where is Frankie stealing his cars?")

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


(A story from the 1930s. The names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.)

Many times in the old days, when a man and woman had a child out of wedlock, the secret was often safely guarded. Many children went to their graves never knowing who their biological father was. But, once in a while, there were clues. One of them was the following. When your family always included another family in enjoying good things from the farm or sea, and there was no obvious reason why this should be, one could always wonder if there was some prior romance involved. In those days, one could only wonder, because you were quickly shut down if you dared to ask.

Un tungo' si bihu-ho as Jose? Annai sottetero ha' trabia si bihu-ho, 
(You know my grandfather Jose? When my grandfather was still single,)

guaha patgon-ña påtgon sanhiyong ginen as Ana.
(he had a child out of wedlock with Ana.)

Lao hame ni famagu'on, tåya' håfa in tingo' pot este.
(But we kids didn't know anything about this.)

Despues, umassagua si Jose yan si bihå-ho as Dolores. Si Ana, tåya' na umassagua.
(Later, Jose married my grandmother Dolores. Ana never married.)

Lao kada mamuno' gå'ga' gi lanchon-måme, 
(But whenever he killed an animal in our ranch,)

siempre ha tågo' yo' si bihu-ho para in na'e si Tan Ana pietnan kåtne pat håfa.
(my grandfather would surely tell me to give Tan Ana a leg of meat or something.)

Ha na' manman yo' sa' tåya' na man a'bisita ham yan si Tan Ana, solo an guaha 
(It surprised me because we never visited Tan Ana, only when)

ma puno' gå'ga' ya ma tågo' uno gi famagu'on para u nå'e si Tan Ana.
(an animal was killed and one of the kids was sent to give Tan Ana.)

Pues hu faisen si bihu-ho, "Håfa tåta na ta nånå'e håfa hit na komo pumarientes hit?"
(So I asked my grandfather, "Why, grandpa, do we give whatever as if we were relatives?")

Ilek-ña, "Ti guailaye un kuentos pat un famaisen. Cho'gue ha' håfa ma tåtågo' hao.
(He said, "It isn't necessary for you to talk or ask. Just do what you're told to do.


Sunday, November 20, 2016


Take a good look at the picture above. That's the seal of the parish of Garapan in Saipan during Spanish times. This stamp is on a document from the late 1800s.

It says "Parish of San Isidro of Garapan." It doesn't say "Church of." The Spaniards had a custom of sometimes (not always) having one patron for the parish or town, and another patron of the church building.

That's why Hågat has two fiestas; Mt Carmel is patroness of the church building and Santa Rosa is patroness of the village. In Malesso', San Dimas is patron of the village and Our Lady of the Rosary is patroness of the church building. It's all but forgotten now but, in Hagåtña, Dulce Nombre de Maria is patroness of the church building and San Ignacio is patron of the city.

In Saipan, there was, for the longest time, only one town or village and that was Garapan. Tanapag was not settled as a village until the Carolinians from Tinian moved to Saipan around 1887 or so. Thus, from 1815, when human settlement of Saipan resumed, there was only one village on Saipan. The Spanish missionaries made San Isidro patron of Garapan and, since it was for many years the only village on island, San Isidro was also considered patron of the whole island. But, at least by 1865, the church building itself acquired its own patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

So why is Garapan known today as the parish of Kristo Rai, or Christ the King?

This is where knowledge of world events in 1925 help us answer that question.

Pius XI was the Pope at the time and he was seeing the world of his childhood quickly fall apart. World War I was over and the world would never be the same. By 1918, the German Kaiser was no more. The Russian Czar was no more. The Austrian Emperor was no more. Kings were losing their thrones left and right!

In the place of kings, some countries became democratic, but this was not a fruitful solution in all cases. In some of these democratic countries, economic crises lead to political chaos, with governments changing every 2 or 3 years in some cases.

In some countries, some were successful in installing dictatorships, as the communists did in Russia and the fascists in Italy. These dictatorships were outright atheist or, at least, unfriendly towards religion.


So Pope Pius XI created a new feast for the church calendar in 1925, the feast of Christ the King. It was his way of reminding everyone, at a time people were getting rid of kings, that there was one King they could not get rid of.

Christ the King became a rallying cry in the defense of the Church. In Mexico, where the government was anti-Catholic, "¡Viva Cristo Rey!" or "Long live Christ the King!" became the slogan of the Catholic forces and the last words, many times, of Catholics shot dead by the Mexican military.


In Saipan, as well as the entire Northern Marianas, a new government ruled over the Catholic Chamorros and Carolinians since 1914. The new rulers were not Christian. In the beginning, the Japanese government respected the Catholic missionaries in Saipan and Luta and allowed them to work unimpeded. The Japanese even allowed Spanish sisters, the Mercedarians, to begin work in Saipan in 1928, something not even the Christian American government would allow down in Guam.

But the Spanish Jesuits, who were in charge of the Catholic mission in the Northern Marianas, were ever so careful. They knew that there were always threats to the Catholic identity of the local people, whether those threats were manifest or not. The mere fact that the government was not Catholic and represented a world so vastly different from western Christianity was enough to cause the Spanish missionaries concern.

Well, the feast of Christ the King was a good way to reinforce the idea in the Catholic people of Saipan that they had only one true King, Christ the King, and not the Emperor of Japan.

Although the church in Garapan continued to be called Mount Carmel before the war, the devotion to Kristo Rai was strong there, promoted by the Spanish Jesuits in the 1930s, such that some older people remember the church being called Kristo Rai.

This need to reinforce among the Chamorros and Carolinians of Saipan that Christ was their true king, and not the Japanese Emperor, was expressed in the Chamorro hymn to Christ the King.


In the Chamorro hymn, composed in the 1920s to go along with the new feast, the message is clear. The people have but one, supreme allegiance and it is to Christ the King.

Here are a few lines that show it.

Siempre gi tano'-måme hågo un fan månda
(Always in our land You will rule)

Mungnga umotro dueño, mungnga mungnga!
(Don't fall under another owner/ruler/master, no no!)

Friday, November 18, 2016


Rev. & Mrs. Joaquin Flores Sablan sitting on comfy siyan gai kanai.

Long before the Europeans, our ancestors sat down. But not necessarily on chairs.

Tå'chong is the Chamorro word for "seat." We can sit on many things. The ground, a rock, a tree stump. Those can all be tå'chong.

When we sit, we make something our tå'chong, so "to sit" is fatå'chong. Fa' (to make) and tå'chong (seat). To make something a seat!

But the piece of furniture we call a "chair" probably did not exist here until the Europeans brought them to, or made them on, our islands. And thus our word for "chair" is borrowed from the Spanish word for "chair" - silla, which becomes our Chamorro siya.

Once again we see a link to the Latin language of Rome, because Spanish silla comes from Latin sedes or sedis by way of Italian sedia. Think of the word sedentary. Someone who sits down all day long is a sedentary person. From sedes/sedis, Latin for "chair."

Well, an arm chair is a chair that has arms. So, for us, it's a siyan gai kanai.

Kånnai is the hand but also the whole arm. The word gai ("has") changes the pronunciation of kånnai. The stress is on gai, the å becomes an a and the extended N in kånnai is eliminated.

As an aside, the first ordained Chamorro Baptist minister, Joaquin Flores Sablan, is sitting next to a Spanish Capuchin friar, at this public event. The friar could be Påle' Gil but that pith helmet makes him harder to identify.

In any event, you can bet that the minister and the priest weren't saying much to each other. That was the way it was back then.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Måtso dia 19 gi 1947 na såkkan.
(March 19, 1947)

Chalan Kanoa, Saipan.

I famagu'on i Chalan Kanoa School ma na' fan etnon gi plåsa gi despues de talo'ånen Bietnes
(The children of Chalan Kanoa School were gathered in the park Friday afternoon)

ya despues de kaddada' na seremonias, fuera de salåppe' ni ginen i Pacific Coast Club,
(and after brief ceremonies, besides money from the Pacific Coast Club,)

pot medio de i Komandånten i Isla para i man ma konne' chå'ka 
(through the Island Commander for the catching of rats)

gi durånte i acha ikak mangonne' chå'ka,
(during the rat catching competition.)

man ma nå'e i famagu'on nu i mås man mi kinenne' chå'ka.
(children with the most rats caught were rewarded.)

Tåya' espesiåt na premio para i famagu'on ni man mangonne' chå'ka 
(There was no special prize for the children who caught rats)

lao man ma nå'e salåppe' ya nina' man sen magof.
(but they were given money and they were made very happy.)

Un totåt de 3990 na chå'ka siha man ma konne' nu i famagu'on durånte i Nobiembre yan Disiembre,
(A total of 3990 rats were caught by the children during November and December)

i patgon ni mås meggai kinene'-ña si Ramón Muña ni ha konne' 364,
(the child who had the biggest catch was Ramón Muña who caught 364,)

ya ma nå'e espesiåt premio un bola, un panak yan $7.28.
(and he was given a special prize of a ball, a bat and $7.28.)

(Pregonero, March 25 1947)


Acha ikak. Competition. Ikkak is to do something ahead of someone else; to beat someone to it. Acha is the prefix meaning "the same" or "equally." Acha ikak is to try and beat each other. When acha is added before ikkak, ikkak no longer has that sustained K sound so I remove the second K. Just my preference. The stress, by the way, is on the second syllable in the prefix acha, so it sounds like a - CHA. This is where an acute accent ( ' ) over the A would be good, to show that stress. Achá. But, these are things we still need to sort out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


If you want an example of our changing Chamorro culture that you can sink your teeth into, one of them is tinaktak.

For the traditionalist, tinaktak is a dish made of beef, coconut milk, green beans, cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. That's the bottom line, though some add a little this or that, like eggplant or lemon juice.

None of those "bottom line" things except the coconut milk and salt would have been available to our ancestors who lived before the Spaniards came. Even the Chamorro words we have for the remaining ingredients are taken from the Spanish : kåtnen guaka, friholes, tomåtes, seboyas, åhos and pimienta.

But, safe to say, tinaktak has been around for a long time and part of our culinary culture for a couple hundred years or more.

The theory is that the name of this dish comes from the sound made when the beef was pounded on by a knife. Tak tak tak!

But there is a word taktak, and another form of it, talaktak, which means the sound of a bang or clap, as when something falls to the floor. That would correspond to the sound of a knife hitting a piece of beef lying on a cutting board or table.

So, tak tak tak went the cook until the meat was broken down into crumbly bits, like the ground beef you buy to make burgers or meat loaf.

Since our people didn't slaughter cattle a whole lot but rather for special occasions, tinaktak would not be a frequent meal served on a weekly basis.


Nowadays, you can have tinaktak without the taktak.

There are cooks who do not pound the beef but slice it instead. Everything else in the recipe remains the same, but you bite into beef strips instead of ground beef.

Some people also use ground chicken or ground turkey. Salmon. Tofu. Octopus. Fake beef (vegan). I can't wait to see what else they will make tinaktak with.

Tofu Tinaktak
with Sriracha sauce by the way

You don't even need to eat tinaktak with rice anymore. You can now have a Tinaktak Burger.

People will be experimenting with new and creative ways to make tinaktak.

So, with all these changes, can you call anything tinaktak? How much change is needed so that it's no longer tinaktak? How does tinaktak remain tinaktak?

I suppose most people would agree that as long as the protein source is (1) ground or at least in small, bit-sized pieces, and (2) it is cooked in coconut milk, it qualifies as some version of tinaktak.

Even with the Tinaktak Burger, the meat is cooked in coconut milk but the liquid is cooked down till nearly gone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Chamorro ladies with American military men at a social gathering right after the war

A "war bride" was, in its most general meaning, a woman who married a man while he was still in active service in wartime.

The term is more often applied specifically to foreign women who married American servicemen during or right after a war.

To the extent that Chamorro women were not American citizens right after the American return to Guam in 1944, it might be argued that these Chamorro ladies were "foreign" to the American men, just as much as the American men were "foreign" to the Chamorro ladies!

In any case, I'll use the term "war bride" in its broadest meaning.

One American missionary, writing about life right after the war, said that so many Chamorro ladies were marrying American soldiers and, were so in a hurry to do it, that they didn't bother to see the priest. They went straight to a civil official and, ten minutes later, they were married. No mamaisen saina (the old ritual of asking for the lady's hand), no fandånggo or komplimento, no religious observance at all, not even the belo or wedding veil covering both bride and groom. In particularly devout families, these civil weddings were often attended by the bare minimum of family members, since in very Catholic families marriage outside of church was a source of family shame.

Even among the not-so devout, the absence of all the usual wedding customs was a cause for sadness, or at least disappointment. Someone remarked how these quick weddings with American servicemen lacked the usual and drawn-out festivities and joy. The Chamorro brides were often shipped off-island with their military husbands as quickly as they were married, as soon as the groom received new marching orders in many cases. Many of these brides never came back to Guam.

One American missionary said that, if the first Chamorro-American couple who married civilly right after the war took off after the ceremony in a jeep and crashed and got injured or died, that would have put a complete halt on all future civil weddings involving a Chamorro bride. It's not that the missionary wished this would happen. He meant that some people in those days saw random events as evidence of cause-and-effect. The other Chamorro brides would have been too afraid to follow in the footsteps of the couple who crashed.

I can just hear the dialogue :

~ Un hungok håfa ma susede annai umasaguan kotte si Maria yan eyi Amerikåno?
~ Did you hear what happened when Maria and that American married in court?

~ Aksidente i karetan-ñiha ya måtai i dos.
~ Their car got into an accident and they both died.

To this day I hear some people think this way. They almost drowned on a Tuesday so from then on they never get near a beach on a Tuesday.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


Ladrones (thieves; in this case pirates) visit the Ladrones

When the great European nations ended their Wars of Religion by the year 1650, they could turn their energy and attention once again to building up their countries, especially by exploiting their overseas colonies with more vigor. Money was to be made in European colonies in the New World as well as in Asia.

Much of that wealth was transported on ships. Piracy was an important part of the competition between European empires over the wealth of the rest of the world.

Rather than fight another expensive war between states, England, for example, could allow British pirates to raid Spanish ships, bringing that captured wealth into British circulation.

William Ambrosia Cowley was the navigator of one of these British pirate ships, the Nicholas, commanded by John Eaton. Headed for Manila and then China, the Nicholas stopped by Guam in March of 1685. To our good fortune, Cowley wrote about his experiences at Guam.


The Guam Cowley saw in 1685 was still not yet totally surrendered to Spanish domination.

The Chamorros these Englishmen met were still, in part, in rebellion against the Spaniards and living life as they knew it before the Spaniards arrived. They walked about completely naked, still used spears and slings as their weapons and still mastered their canoes on the open sea. The lances were tipped with the sharpened bones of the dead.  Even then, the Chamorros prized the iron of the Europeans, bartering for whatever pieces of iron, such as old nails, the British were willing to give up. Amazingly, the Chamorro men were still equally at home in the sea as they were on land. Even with their hands tied behind their backs, the English saw Chamorro men they had captured jump overboard and swim long distances to safety while being shot at.

The Chamorros were treated with suspicion by the pirates. They would approach the British for trade in one instance, then turn and attack the British in the next. The Chamorros also asked the British if they could team up and wage mutual battle against the Spaniards. The pirates turned down the suggestion.


Cowley's account is interesting to me because it confirms some things we otherwise would not be sure of. From his writing, we can see that the Spaniards introduced new foods to our islands rather quickly. By 1685, Guam already had lemons, oranges and hogs, all introduced from abroad.

The Europeans also learned from the people and the environment of the islands they conquered. A Jesuit priest went on board the pirate ship and taught the British how to make coconut milk from squeezing the grated coconut meat after some water had been added.

We also see that the military strength of the Spaniards on Guam in 1685 was just 600 soldiers, a figure that many scholars agree on as the average number.


The British buccaneers made out very well for themselves on Guam. They benefited from the island's food and water and from gifts brought to them by the Spanish governor, and from what they traded with the Chamorros.

The Spanish governor, too, received gifts from the British.

Some Chamorros probably got the iron they coveted but not much else. And some Chamorros died, being shot at by the British when they lifted their hands against those pirates. They also failed to get the help they wanted from the British to end Spanish rule in their islands.

From Cowley's book, including his visit to the Ladrones (encircled)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


The 8th Guam Legislature being sworn in 
January 1965

Gi 1964 na såkkan, humånao hame yan un amigu-ho para in ekkungok i campaign siha,
(In the year 1964, my friend and I went to listen to the campaigns,)

tånto i Democrat yan i Territorial na pattida.
(both the Democrat and the Territorial parties.)

Gi Democrat na rally, kahulo' un senadot ya duro de ha sångan un Territorial na kandidåto.
(At the Democratic rally, a senator got up and kept talking about a Territorial candidate.)

Ilek-ña, "Mungnga ma bota! Bulachero na taotao! Måtto bulacheru-ña na tolot dia
(He said, "Don't for (for him)! He's a drunkard! His drunkenness is such that all day long)

ti ha tungo' måno i akkague na kanai-ña yan måno i agapa' na kanai-ña!"
(he doesn't know which is his left hand and which is his right hand!"

Duro duro de taiguennao sinangångån-ña, ya mañålek i linahyan.
(He kept talking like that, and the crowd laughed.)

Pues humånao hame para i Territorial na dinanña' gi otro lugåt.
(Then we went to the Territorial gathering in another place.)

Eyi na kandidåto ni ma butlea ni Democrat na senadot,
(That candidate who was mocked by the Democratic senator,)

guiya på'go kahulo' ya duro de ha sångan ayo na Democrat.
(he now got up and kept talking about that Democrat.)

Ilek-ña, "Taimamahlao ayo na Senadot. Adotterio! Na' ma'se' asaguå-ña yan famagu'on-ña!"
(He said, "He is a shameless senator. Adulterer! How pitiable are his wife and children!")

Ya sige de ha sångan i Democrat gi taiguennao na manera.
(And he kept talking about the Democrat in that way.)

Annai todo monhåyan, humånao ham para in sena gi restaurant
(When all was done, we went to eat dinner at a restaurant)

na guaha salón pat sagan gumimen gi un bånda.
(where there was a bar or drinking area on one side.)

Ya håye mohon in sedda' gi sagan gumimen na eyi dos na kandidåto,
(And who do you think we found at the drinking place but those two candidates,)

i Democrat yan i Territorial ni umachatge siha gi meeting!
(the Democrat and the Territorial who ridiculed each other at the meeting!)

Duro i dos gumimen yan chumålek asta ke bumulåcho i dos.
(The two kept drinking and laughing till the two got drunk.)

Katna para bai ågang i ambulance para u konne' i dos tåtte gi gima'-ñiha.
(I was almost going to call an ambulance to take them back to their homes.)

The sense that I got from this story is that, in those days, political campaigns had (as they still do today) an entertainment value. Crowds appreciated humorous attacks from one party for the opposing party. At least many people found them to be humorous.

It seems to imply that some of the attacks were fabrications or at least exaggerations, meant primarily to incite laughter. Such that these two opponents could put it all aside when the rallies were over and get drunk together.

Of course, there were real attacks on each other in those days, too. Some questioned the actual mental state of an opponent. It could get quite dirty, actually, dragging in family members or talking about a candidate's private life.

Monday, November 7, 2016


Life after the Japanese Occupation, needing shoes.

A story told to me by an elderly lady about the value of shoes during the war :

Annai på'go man hålom i Chapanis ya ma håtme Guam,
(When the Japanese first came and entered Guam,)

onse åños ha' yo' edåt-ho.
(I was just eleven years old.)

In chile' todo i siña ya man hånao ham para i lanchon-måme giya Leyang.
(We took all that we could and went to our ranch in Leyang.)

Dos ha' sapatos-ho gi tutuhon. I sapatos-ho ni hu na' sesetbe para i eskuela
(I had only two (pairs of) shoes in the beginning. The shoes I used for school)

yan i zore'-ho, zorin goma.
(and my zori, rubber zori.)

I finene'na problemå-ho hu susede annai diddide' åntes de man måtto ta'lo i Amerikåno.
(My first problem that I experienced was a little before the Americans came back.)

Esta yo' katotse åños ya i patås-ho esta ti siña ha håtme i sapatos-ho sa' dumångkulo yo'
(I was already fourteen years old and my feet couldn't fit my shoes because I had grown.)

Hu sungon ha' i dinikkike' i sapatos-ho para un tiempo lao en fin esta ti siña hu sungon
(I endured the smallness of my shoes for a time but at last I couldn't endure)

i minafñot i sapatos-ho. Puti puti magåhet i patås-ho.
(the tightness of my shoes. My feet were really really hurting.)

Hu nå'e ha' i mås påtgon na che'lu-ho ni sapatos-ho lao tåya' otro para guåho.
(I just gave my youngest sibling my shoes but there were no other (shoes) for me.)

Tåya' nai tienda. Pues i zore'-ho ha' siña hu na' setbe.
(There were no stores, you see. So I could only use my zori.)

Un dia, fana'an Hunio na mes este, uchan na ha'åne ayo, desde i ega'an asta i pupuenge.
(One day, perhaps in the month of June, it was a rainy day from morning till night.)

Ha tågo' yo' si tatå-ho para bai espia si ti'an-måme ni sotteran biha ni eståba na sumåsaga
(My dad told me to check on our auntie who was a spinster who was living)

guiya ha' na maisa gi lancho-ña. Fache' todo i lugåt nai maloffan yo' ya sulon yo' gi fina' hoyo
(by herself at her ranch. It was all muddy where I was going and I slipped in something like a ditch)

sa' duro duro i ichan. Malingo i zore'-ho gi halom fache' ya sige de hu espia lao ti hu sodda'.
(because the rain was so hard. I lost my zori in the mud and I kept looking but could not find it.)

Ai, sa' desde ayo tåya' håfa sapatos-ho. Ti påyon yo' sumin dodoga ya puti ta'lo i patås-ho
(Oh, because from then on I had no shoes at all. I wasn't used to wearing no footwear and my feet hurt again)

kololo'-ña yanggen mi acho' i lugåt pat chålan.
(especially if the place or road was full of rocks.)

Despues, annai man eståba ham Pigo' na "camp," må'pos si tatå-ho ya ha bira gue'
(Later, when we were at Pigo' camp, my dad left and came back)

yan un påt sapåtos para guåho. Ti hu tungo' måno na ha sodda', ya ti hu faisen.
(with a pair of shoes for me. I don't know where he found them, and I didn't ask him.)

Komo gagaige ha' mohon si tatå-ho på'go bai sangåne gue' na hu sen agradese na ha soda'e yo' sapatos-ho.
(If my dad were only here now I would tell him that I really appreciate that he found me shoes.)


Japan's gift to the Chamorros
Good for the tropics, but treacherous in the mud

Friday, November 4, 2016


Not all the old people believe this, but some do.

Do not take the photo of just three people.

Mungnga na tres ha' na taotao gi litråto.

Either one or two, four or more...but never just three.

The belief is that, if just three people appear in the picture, something bad (even death) will happen to someone among the three. Many Asian people believe it will be the one in the middle; he or she will die.

So, people who follow this belief will always call for someone else to join the group to make it four people, or ask one of the three to leave and make it two.

The interesting question is : where did many Chamorros get this idea?

When did Chamorros first get photographed?

The first photographing of Chamorros, as far as we know (see *** note below), started in 1876 with the arrival of the German ship Hertha, whose paymaster, Gustav Riemer, took photos of Guam scenes, including one of a ranch where five or six Chamorros appear. Photos of Chamorros are sparse from that time on until the Americans get to Guam and the Germans to Saipan at the turn of the century.

In the early 1900s, Chamorros were photographed by Americans, Germans and other foreigners to be viewed by foreigners, especially in magazine and newspaper articles. Missionaries also took many photos of Chamorros to be shared with their missionary agencies abroad.

But when did Chamorros start to take pictures of themselves, for their own personal and family use?

We have photos of elite Chamorro families on Guam and Saipan in the early 1900s, taken by American or German photographers, who gave copies to these families. A wedding picture, for example, of Pedro Martinez and his wife, Maria Torres, was taken in the early 1900s. Photos start to abound by the 1920s of affluent Chamorros, traveling to Manila, for example, or of young Chamorro belles all dressed up. Copies of these photos were given to those in the picture, and the ones of Chamorros traveling off-island were taken specifically for the people traveling.

Thomas Mayhew was well-known in pre-war Guam as a photographer, at first working for the Navy and later opening his own studio. By the 1930s, many middle-class Chamorros were getting their picture taken by Mayhew. Saipan Chamorros were also getting personal and family portraits done by Japanese photographers.

So, if many elderly have this belief that three people in a photo is a bad thing, this belief could have only started in the 1900s, possibly as late as the 1920s or 30s when photography became more known among Chamorros. So. Where did they get the idea?

The Japanese

As already mentioned, many Asians had the belief that three people in a photo is a bad thing. One of those Asian countries is Japan. In the early days of photography, the technology of the time allowed the camera to focus only on the person in the middle, with the other two appearing less clear. People believed that the camera stole your soul, so the middle person's soul was grabbed by the camera most of all, the middle person being the clearest in the picture. Thus, the middle person photographed was doomed to die.

With so many Japanese moving to Guam and marrying Chamorro wives in the early 1900s, perhaps some Chamorros got this idea from them. There were also many Japanese marrying Chamorro wives in Saipan, as well.

It's one of those things people didn't document in the past, so we will probably never know for sure where this idea came from. But a few good guesses are helpful, at least to wonder about.

Not all Chamorros believe in this rule against three. Many threesomes have appeared in photos and all of them lived very long lives afterwards! Some Chamorros think it is a sinful superstition. I, too, have chided people who really believe someone will die in a group of three.


***Although the oldest photos of Chamorros that I know of are the Riemer photos of 1876, more than likely there were even older photographs of Chamorros that we just don't know about or which have been lost through time.

Chamorros ended up on whaling ships since the early 1800s and could have been part of a group of whalers photographed on the ship or in places they landed.

Chamorros ended up living elsewhere in the mid 1800s; Hawaii, California, Alaska and other places and could have been photographed there.

A few Chamorros moved to Manila in the mid 1800s, temporarily and permanently as well. They could have been photographed in Manila studios before Riemer's photos were taken.

Besides all that, there could have been foreigners before 1876 who stopped by Guam and the other Mariana islands and took photos.

We just don't know about their existence.