Monday, January 25, 2016


Apolinario Mabini outside his tent at Asan

On this day 115 years ago, the US Rosecrans arrived in Apra Harbor, Guam from Manila. It carried 34 Filipino political exiles and their male servants. But among the most famous of them was Apolinario Mabini, the "Brains of the Philippine Revolution." His deportation to Guam was justified by the American authorities based on Mabini's communication, even while inside an American jail in the Philippines, with Filipino fighters continuing the fight against American rule.

Mabini returned to Manila in February, 1903 after having sworn an oath of allegiance to the U.S.

Mabini's two year stay on Guam (along with his fellow exiled countrymen) is commemorated by a historical marker at Asan Point.

Another marker is just a few feet away. From this vantage point, you can see how close the camp site was to the capital city of Hagåtña.


Last year, yet another monument to Mabini was to be erected in Asan, in the center of the community and not at the seaside spot where Mabini's camp actually was.

This was not received well by a number of vocal village residents.

For half a century or more, the village residents never said a word about the two monuments at Asan Point (or the old Camp Asan). That was, in fact, where Mabini's camp was and the village itself was not located there.

But this intended monument was in the heart of the village, which is small enough that any marker or monument placed there would stand out. Planned to rest next to the mayor's office and community center, which is next to the parish church, perhaps villagers felt that this monument would be too defining a structure, coloring the Chamorro villagers with an association to a person who had no significant relationship with the village or villagers themselves over 100 years ago. Mabini happened to live a short while by a beach a mile or so distant from the community itself, and that was all, so to speak, in the eyes of the community.

My sources tell me that the monument was completed and dedicated. But Mother Nature had a quick and, at least for now, final word. A typhoon toppled a tree branch nearby and damaged the monument. Thus, only the foundation and base remain.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Naturally there is no snow in the Marianas, just as coconut trees do not grow in Alaska.

But there have been many women named Nieves among the people of the Marianas.

"Nieves" means "snows" in Spanish. Why would Chamorro mothers name their daughters "snows?"

Because of Catholic tradition.

In Rome is a basilica which was the first church in Western Europe named after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is called Saint Mary Major, "major" meaning "greater," as there are many churches named after Mary in Rome, but none as grand in size as Saint Mary Major.

How this church was built explains why it is also known as Our Lady of the Snows.

In ancient Rome, a Christian couple could not have children and were thinking what to do with their wealth once they died. As they were devoted to Our Lady, they vowed to use their wealth to do something in Our Lady's honor but didn't know exactly what to do. They asked Mary for a sign.

On August 5th, snow fell on the spot where the basilica now stands. Not only is it unheard of for snow to fall anywhere in Europe in August, even in winter it doesn't snow much in Rome at all. So everyone took this as Mary's sign to build a church in that spot. And so many people called the church Our Lady of the Snows and August 5th its feast day on the church calendar.

In Spain, "snows" is "nieves." So the custom began of naming some baby girls Nieves, especially those born on August 5th.

Nieves C. Aguon
3rd name from top
1920 Guam Census

Though typically a woman's name, the Spaniards were not hesitant to name their boys, once in a while, Nieves.

Case in point, our very own Hagåtña library is named after the Filipino Nieves M. Flores, a Guam educator before the war.

The Chamorro nickname for Nieves is Ebi' or Ebe'.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Our people, in general, like their food spicy hot.

And nature has given us the very thing to achieve that - the donne' pepper, of which there are many kinds.

When the donne' pepper is prepared (the Chamorro word fa', or "to make"), it becomes fina'denne'. Donne' that is prepared.

Usually, fina'denne' is donne'' swimming in soy sauce, or vinegar or lemon juice, often with onion slices added. People then dip their food into this sauce or spoon it over the food.

In Guam, when the donne'' is mashed (ma gulek) into a paste, usually with salt and maybe some vinegar added for flavor and preservation, it is called donne' dinanche. Dinanche means "correct."

I suppose the name came about because people had the idea that donne'' that is prepared this way is donne' that is prepared "just right" or "correctly," meaning "most pleasing to the palate."

It should be remembered that the Chamorro verb danche can also mean "to hit a target" or "hit the mark." So, donne' dinanche is to "get it just right."

Purists will say that donne' dinanche is just the donne' paste with some salt and vinegar. But many others add a wide variety of extra ingredients which differ from home to home. Some add string beans, onions, garlic, coconut crab meat, imitation crab meat, coconut milk, lemon juice, finely chopped pumpkin tips and even mayonnaise. I think the variations will continue to evolve into the future.

In the Northern Marianas, which has more Japanese influence, some add miso paste.

But the purists will say that such donne' dinanche is not dinanche!

In Saipan, no one called it donne' dinanche. Recently, a few in Saipan have started to call it so, because of Guam's influence.

Otherwise, the Chamorros of Saipan just called it donne' or fina'denne'.

But in Saipan there is another name for it : donne' chosen.

Chosen (some pronounce it Chosing) is an old Japanese way of naming Koreans. Koreans do not appreciate the name and it should not be used among them.

Guam Chamorros are unfamiliar with the term Chosen because we on Guam did not have a Korean community on our island before the war, unlike the thousands of Korean workers brought into the Saipan in the 1920s and 30s by the Japanese. Japan ruled Korea before World War II.

The Saipan Chamorros, observing the Koreans (or Chosen) and their love for the chili pepper in their food, started to call donne' paste after the Koreans.

I asked someone from Saipan what he thought of the Guam term donne' dinanche.

He chuckled and said, "Todo donne' dinanche."

"All donne' is correct."

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Our islands abound in papaya. They grow wild all over the place.

But we don't see this Chamorro sweet treat much. It's called konsetba, and in English we might call it "candied papaya."


Konsetba are papaya slices that are :


The result is sweet, gummy papaya slices with some stiffness.

BRINING means soaking the papaya slices in water and åfok, which is lime (not the fruit) made from baking coral or clam shells. Brining stiffens the papaya slices so that they can survive cooking and not fall apart, and it also helps preserve the papaya. Konsetba does not have to be refrigerated, though it can be, especially if you want to take time finishing your supply.

Then sugar and some water are added to a pan and allowed to caramelize. Then the papaya slices are added and cooked in the caramel. Once done, it is now konsetba and the slices are cooled and allowed to drip any excess.

Here is a link to a recipe for konsetbaKONSETBA RECIPE


Why is it called  konsetba? To some, it sounds close to the English word "conserve." Is there a connection?

There is a Spanish word conservar. Indeed, it can mean "to conserve," as in, "to keep something from being lost." A synonym would be "preserve."

And foods en conserva in Spanish means preserved foods, such as canned or potted foods.

Because the brining of the candied papaya makes it harder for bacteria to breed and spoil the papaya, it was rightly called konsetba, from the Spanish en conserva.....preserved papaya.

But don't think konsetba can also be used to mean, in Chamorro, "to conserve or preserve." Konsetba, in Chamorro, only means candied papaya.


Today, and for a couple of centuries already, we have been using the Spanish word mantiene to express the idea of holding on to something, not allowing something to be lost, weakened, deteriorated and so on.

"Preserve our culture." "Mantiene i kutturå-ta."

To "conserve" as in "not to waste," there is the Chamorro term chomma', which means to reduce usage or abstain (as well as "to block, forbid, prevent").

But in the 1865 Spanish-Chamorro dictionary by Father Ibáñez, nå'na' is another word for "conserve."

This comes as a surprise to people fluent in Chamorro, because nå'na' means "to hide." But it makes sense. If you want to preserve or conserve something, you often need to hide it, or at least store it away.

Påle' Román's 1932 dictionary confirms that nå'na' did indeed mean "to save, keep, safeguard" because one often hides what one keeps safe for the future.

But since our generation has lost the other meanings of nå'na', if we said "Nå'na' i kutturå-ta" hoping to mean "Preserve our culture," fluent speakers of the modern age would interpret the statement to mean "hide our culture."

So, ironically, the indigenous term "to preserve" has not been preserved up to our times. We would generally use the word we borrowed from Spanish, "mantiene."

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


(The story teller preferred not to appear on the video)


In 1944, the Americans by-passed Luta (Rota) while invading the other three main islands of the Marianas : Saipan, Tinian and Guam.

Luta was cut off from supply ships and food was scarce. The Japanese made the Chamorros farm for them in the fields, and American planes would sometimes fly in and attack military and Japanese targets, but Chamorros were also vulnerable to these attacks.

The story teller recounts an incident told to her by her mother about one such strike from an American plane while farming the fields of Luta when she was a baby, carried on her mother's back.

In 1945, the Japanese were given the opportunity to surrender, without an American invasion, when the war ended.

Gi liyang annai man gaige todo i taotao.
(In the cave where everyone was.)

Kada dia debe i famalao'an de u fan hånao para i gualo'
(Every day the women must go to the farm)

para u fan macho'cho' ya u fanånom para i Chapanis.
(to work and plant for the Japanese.)

Pues guåho nai "cry baby" yo' ya ti siña yo' ma po'lo
(Well I was a cry baby and I couldn't be left alone)

sa' siempre yanggen duro yo' kumåti lalålo' i Chapanis.
(because the Japanese will be angry if I keep crying.)

Pues ha kokonne' yo' si nanå-ho, ha o'ombo' yo' gi tatalo'-ña
(So my mother would take me, carrying me on her back)

ya humåhånao yo' lokkue' para i gualo'.
(and I would also go to the farm.)

Uchan yan somnak gaige yo' gi tatalo'-ña.
(Rain and shine I was on her back.)

Pues un dia annai man mamaila' i aeroplåno,
(So one day when the airplanes were coming,)

tåya' chansan-ñiha para u fan malågo ya u fan attok.
(they had no chance to run and hide.)

Pues manohge kalan eståka "or" måtai trongkon håyo ya mangeto.
(So they stood there like poles or dead trees and stayed still.)

Pot fin, mamaki i aeroplåno ya uno na båla poddong
(At last, the plane fired and one bullet fell)

gi me'nan i damagas adeng-ña si nanå-ho.
(in front of my mother's big toe.)

Ya despues ilek-ña, "Nihi ya ta fan malågo ya ta fan attok sa' siempre ha bira gue'."
(Later she said, "Let's go and run and hide because surely he will return.)

Magåhet na ha bira gue' i aeroplåno ya mamaki.
(Sure enough the plane returned and fired.)

Annai humånao i aeroplåno yan man huyong siha,
(When the plane left and the people came out)

duro ma sångan i sinienten-ñiha annai duro mamaki i aeroplåno.
(they kept expressing their feelings when the plane was shooting.)

Si nanå-ho ilek-ña, "Poddong un båla gi me'nan i damagas adeng-ña lao ti påkpak."
(My mother said, "A bullet fell in front of (her) big toe but it didn't explode.") *

Pues ilek-ñiha i famalao'an, "Ai Luisa. Ennao ha' i Sånto Anghet-ña i patgon
(Then the ladies said, "Ay Luisa. It was only the Guardian Angel of that child)

gi tatalo'-mo muna' fan såfo'," sa' todos siha magåhet man såfo',
(on your back who protected us, because they were all surely safe,)

kontodo guåho.
(including me.)

* The story teller switched back to the third person while speaking in the first person, quoting her mother.


~ She uses another word for airplane, aeroplåno, borrowed from the Spanish. The more usual word we use is båtkon aire, both words borrowed from Spanish but according to Chamorro usage. It means "air ship."

~ She uses the original Chamorro word for the human foot, addeng, preserved by the Chamorros of the Northern Marianas. Guam Chamorros switched to using påtas, originally meant for animal feet only.