Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Benjamin Lizama Torres (1884-1968)
Chamorro Whaling Crew

We have heard for many years now about the Chamorro boys and men who joined the American and British whaling ships.

But we know the individual stories of very few of them.

Here's one of these precious few stories.

Benjamin was born in Saipan in 1884, according to his wedding certificate. Unfortunately, there is no Benjamin Lizama Torres in the Saipan baptismal records. Perhaps the priest at the time just overlooked recording his baptism. Perhaps the family moved temporarily to Guam and Ben was born there.

However, we do find the baptismal records in Saipan of two of Ben's sisters, and from those records, we see that Ben's father was Joaquin Camacho Torres, born on Guam, and his mother was Dolores Crisostomo Lizama, also born on Guam.

According to the family, Ben had no brothers but he did have five sisters. Evidently, something happened in the family. We're not sure what happened but it is possible that mom, dad or both mom and dad died and Ben was sent to live in different homes, possibly relatives but we're not sure of that.

The young Ben did not like his life situation and got the idea, with a friend in tow, to sneak on board a whaling ship visiting Saipan and leave the island forever. He was 14 or 15 years old.

Hiding on the ship, the two boys were discovered only when it was too late for the ship to turn back to Saipan and return the boys. The captain took Ben under his wing and someone else did the same with the other boy. The captain put Ben to work as an assistant to the ship's cook. Ben would later work as a cook himself.

Eventually the ship stopped at San Francisco, California and Ben quit the whaling ship. He settled in San Francisco, working in different jobs. He married and had children.

Sometime later he moved to Hawaii, where his wife passed away. He found himself a second wife, a woman who had also lost her spouse in death. More children were born from this marriage.

As Chamorros from Guam joined the US Navy and came to Hawaii, Ben opened his home to them, especially for dinner during the holidays. Ben never lost his Chamorro language and spoke Chamorro with the Guam Navy boys. In his last days before he died in 1968, Ben actually lost his English and spoke only in Chamorro, even to his younger children even though they did not understand Chamorro.

Interestingly, two of Ben's daughters married Chamorro Navy men from Guam whom they had met while the men were stationed in Hawaii. One of these Navy men brought his wife, Ben's daughter, to Guam and then to Saipan, where she met her dad's youngest sister.

If anyone from Saipan is a Lizama Torres, descended from Joaquin Camacho Torres and Dolores Lizama Torres, please contact me. You have relatives in the mainland who want to connect with you.

I learned about Ben's story from his son, living now in California.

Monday, May 30, 2016


The Chamorros of Southern California, for many years now, have taken the lead in keeping a tradition alive.

This tradition, of building temporary altars for the feast of Corpus Christi, is still observed by Catholics in many places, but it has also fallen into disuse in many other places in the last fifty years.

In the Marianas, these temporary altars are called lånchon Kotpus, and there are usually three of them in each village or parish.

Twenty years ago, a Chamorro woman, Rosario Meno Reyes (Mama Ling), put up her own lånchon Kotpus in her own home. She was friends with a priest at Mission San Luís Rey in Oceanside, California, a certain Father Vince. He heard about it, and he asked Mama Ling to build the låncho at the Old Mission the following year.

Then, other Chamorros joined in and they did it by villages. The Corpus Christi procession to all these låncho built by Chamorros is now a huge event. Some people travel from beyond California to help build their låncho and also to attend the procession.

Mama Ling
(passed away in 2001)

Mama Ling always reserved a spot for her own personal låncho, which was as far from the mission church as possible, so that there definitely would be a procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the church to her låncho.

Oceanside Corpus Christi Organization

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Yigo

Saint Jude Parish, Sinajaña

Saint Joseph Parish, Inarajan

Niño Perdido Parish, Asan

Mount Carmel Cathedral, Chalan Kanoa, Saipan

San Juan Bautista Parish, Ordot

Friday, May 27, 2016


Photo : Victor Consaga

"You are what you wear," goes the familiar expression.

Back in the early 1970s, Guam was full swing into the tourism craze. The Japanese were coming, bringing their money with them. What was once a relatively unknown island was now getting a lot of attention and we were proud. We wanted to show the world who we were.

But that begged the question : who are we?

Not everyone was sure of the answer.

Young people in grass skirts performed the stick dance, and some said, "That's not Chamorro."

Others put on the mestisa dress and sombrero hat to dance the båtso and some said, "That's not Chamorro."

Frank Rabon and others looked at early descriptions of pre-contact dance and created their dance routines and attire based on that, and still some said, "That's not Chamorro."

Bert Unpingco was at the forefront of the tourism promotion movement. As head of the Guam Visitors Bureau, he lived tourism promotion all day long. He pioneered the WAVE initiative (Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically) and I remember as a school kid being taught to wave to buses of Japanese tourists.

Bert knew, from archival photos, that the Chamorro men 120 years ago wore a very simple loose shirt, usually white, with a straight collar (also called a standing or a band collar) and long sleeves.

The dad in the picture above models that kind of shirt, worn by almost every man, adult or child, in the late 1800s and very early 1900s.

Bert was inspired to create a modern version of this "traditional" male attire, which you can see Bert model in the first picture above. Bert added the Guam seal on his breast pocket. Some of his shirts featured a floral-print collar.

Katherine Aguon included the concept when she collected different designs for Chamorro traditional attire. There were many different ideas for women's wear, and the "Bert Unpingco" shirt was one for the men.

You rarely saw Bert in public wearing anything but the shirt that became identified with him. With him, I say, because his idea never caught on with the general public. Whereas women might wear a kind of mestisa for performances or events, very few men would wear the "Bert Unpingco" shirt as their ordinary dress that day.

Bert, however, was never one to be deterred by public opinion. Bert continued to wear the distinctive shirt till he became too sickly to leave his home.

So I post this as a kind of tribute to Bert's resolve and unflagging enthusiasm, and to document his initiative to revive what was the standard male apparel of our islands in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife 

"We do not understand how that island was able to be inhabited...."

So said Marianas Governor Felipe de la Corte about Guguan in his 1876 book about our islands (Descriptive and Historical Report of the Mariana Islands).

Virtually unknown to most Chamorros on Guam, the island receives scant attention from other Chamorros living in the Northern Marianas.

Unlike Pagan, Alamagan, Agrigan and Anatahan, Guguan is one of those northern islands that has not had a stable human population since around the year 1695.

Located 287 miles north of Saipan, the island is tiny. Barely 2 miles long and a mile and half wide.

Unlike most of the northern islands, Guguan is not high. The highest point is only 942 feet, less than Guam's Mount Lamlam which rises to 1332 feet. Both are puny compared to Agrigan's highest point at 3166 feet, the highest in all of Micronesia, let alone the highest in the Marianas.

US Geological Survey

It seems even our pre-Spanish ancestors had little use for Guguan. There are no known latte stones on Guguan and none were noted in past descriptions of the island. No known archaeological artifacts have been discovered, either. All this suggests that, while people certainly did live on Guguan before the Spanish arrival, they were probably not large in number. They would have been forcibly moved to the southern Mariana islands by the Spaniards after 1695. Since then, the island has been uninhabited except for a few short periods involving a few individuals.


People may not have had much use for Guguan, but the birds certainly did and still do.

Because the island does support adequate vegetation to be a source of food and shelter for the birds; since the island lacks common predators such as snakes, wild pigs, monitor lizards (iguana), goats, dogs and cats, the bird population can thrive very well here. Fruit bats (fanihi) also find a comfortable home in the dense tropical forests in some parts of the island.

Rats abound on Guguan but apparently have not harmed the bird or bat population.

The only possible disturbance (besides a typhoon) would be the two volcanoes that are still alive on Guguan. The last known eruption was in 1883, but the volcanoes are not extinct. More eruptions can occur in the future.


Because of the large bird population, Guguan did attract some attention in the early 1900s. As exotic bird feathers were commercially profitable in the use of women's hats in those days, the German Government ruling over the Northern Marianas allowed a private company, the Pagan Gesellschaft, to send workers (often Japanese) to Guguan to harvest bird feathers. Despite government conditions attempting to limit the harvesting of feathers in order to protect the bird population, a lack of government inspections lead to the decimation of the bird population. In short order, though, the Pagan Gesellschaft cut back on this enterprise, as it proved not to be the gold mine it was hoped to be, and the feather business eventually closed. The bird population recovered.

CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife
The abundant bird population of Guguan

So, to this day, Guguan is literally for the birds.

The CNMI Constitution forbids the human habitation of Guguan, along with three other islands in the CNMI. The island is dedicated to the preservation and protection of its present natural resources.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Papa' såtge. Under the floor.

The first house I ever lived in, from 1962 till 1971, was a wooden, tin-roofed house with a papa' såtge. I remember the cool air breezing through the cracks of the wooden floor.

Almost all houses built in the Marianas in the old days, unless one had a stone house (mampostería), were raised houses resting on haligi (pillars), creating an open under-space called the papa' sätge.

There were two main reasons for building raised homes.

1. To keep out unwanted things.

Animals, insects, flood waters!

2. To cool the house.

Air can travel below and around the house.

There is always the temptation to use the papa' såtge as a storage space. In old Hagåtña, far from the ranches where the Hagåtña people grew their food and raised their animals, some families did indeed fence in a hog or two, or chickens, goats and dogs, underneath the house. This practice fell out of favor under the American Navy and their concern for health and hygiene.

After the war, many homes were still built on haligi and the papa' såtge was often used for storing lumber or fishing gear and numerous other things. Concern over thievery was less in those days, but it happened once in a while that a fishing rod might go missing.

In the 1960s, for us kids, the papa' såtge was a place for us to be imbilikero (nosy), wondering what the adults were hiding down there, and to be píkaro (mischievous).

One of my first accidents happened in the papa' såtge. It happened at a neighbor's house where my two older brothers were playing with other guys from the neighborhood. Hiding in the papa' såtge, they made a cannon from bamboo poles (piao) and were firing empty soda and beer cans from them! They melted candles for some reason (perhaps to seal up holes?) and I, not wanting to be left out of the fun, went into the papa' såtge uninvited by the older boys. I was about 8. As the papa' såtge was dark, and as the boys were in the deeper part of it, I had a ways to walk, hunched over to avoid hitting the floor above. In my naked foot went (I was wearing zori, the Japanese rubber slipper) into a coffee can of melted wax. I felt my foot burning! As my oldest brother carried me out, the wax began to cool and harden, and I thought the whitish film appearing on my foot was actually my burnt skin breaking off into pieces. In the end, all was well.


Larger latte stones are believed to have served as pillars where the flooring of the homes of the higher status Chamorros were built.

In Spanish times, many homes were still being built above-ground. You can see what looks like a pig lurking around the papa' såtge here.

All the homes in this pic, it seems, are on haligi and have a papa' såtge during the early American period.

There still are a few homes, here and there on Guam, with a papa' såtge, many of them going back to the 1950s and 60s.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Åntes na tiempo, annai tåya' trabia taotao mañåsaga gi hilo' tano'-ta,
(In past times, when no humans yet lived on our land,)

man sen afa'maolek todo i ga'ga' siha gi tano',
(all the animals on earth got along very well,)

tånto ayo siha i mañåsaga gi tano' yan kontodo i paluma siha ni man gugupu gi aire.
(those who stay on land and the birds as well who are flying in the air.)

Un dia, mampos maipe i ha'åne; i semnak mampos metgot.
(One day, the day was too hot; the sunshine was too strong.)

Pues man gupu i fanihi siha para u fan man espia liheng-ñiha,
(So the fruit bats flew to find their shelter,)

yan para u eskapåye i minaipen somnak.
(and to escape the heat of the sunshine.)

Ma sodda' dångkulon liyang ya mañåga ha' guihe, man magof yan mangontento.
(They found a huge cave and they stayed there, happy and content.)

Ayo mismo na ha'åne, man asangane i paluma siha.
(That very same day, the birds said to each other.)

"Kao ti en repåra na mås man dichoso hit ke ni pumalo siha na gå'ga'?" mamaisen un paluma.
("Do you not realize that we are more fortunate than the other animals?" one bird asked.)

"Man masåså'pet siha an mampos somnak i ha'åne, sa' ti siña siha man gupu, ti pareho yan hita."
("They suffer when the day is too sunny, because they cannot fly, not like us.")

Pues ma tutuhon i paluma siha ma butlea i ga'ga' siha gi tano'.
(So the birds began to ridicule the animals on the land.)

"Man metgot-ña ham ke hamyo na gå'ga' tåno'! Man malate'-ña ham ke hamyo!"
("We are stronger than you, the animals on land! We are smarter than you!")

Ya ennao mina' man mumu i paluma siha gi aire yan i ga'ga' siha gi tano'.
(And that is why the birds of the air and the animals on land fought.)

Gi mimun-ñiñiha, man gupu i paluma siha guato gi liyang nai man gaige i fanihi.
(In their fighting, the birds flew to the cave where the fruit bats were.)

"Hoi! Fan huyung hamyo na fanihi ya en ayuda ham man mumu yan i ga'ga' tåno'!"
("Hey! Come out you fruit bats and help us fight with the animals of the land!")

Ilek-ñiha i fanihi, "Ai lokkue'! Haftaimano para in fan mumu yan i ga'ga' tåno'?"
(The fruit bats said, "Oh dear! How are we to fight the animals of the land?")

"In na' gigimen i nenen-måme ni lechen-måme, pareho yan siha."
("We make our babies drink our milk, the same as them.")

Pues, gi linalålo'-ñiha nu i fanihi siha, ilek-ñiha i paluma, "Hamyo la'mon," ya man hånao.
(So, in their anger towards the fruit bats, the birds said, "Up to you," and they went.)

Diddide' despues, man finatoigue i fanihi siha nu i ga'ga' tåno' ya man finaisen,
(A little later, the fruit bats were visited by the animals of the land and were asked,)

"Kao man magof hamyo ya ta fan hita man mumu yan i paluma siha?"
("Would you be willing for us be together and fight the birds?")

"Ai lokkue'!" ilek-ñiha i fanihi. "Haftaimano para in fan mumu yan i paluma siha,
("Oh dear," said the fruit bats. "How are we going to fight the birds,)

yanggen man gugupu ham gi aire pareho yan siha?"
(if we fly in the air like they do?")

Man disgustao i ga'ga' tåno' siha mina' i ineppen-ñiha i fanihi ya ma sangåne i fanihi siha,
(The land animals were displeased because of the fruit bats' reply and they told the bats,)

"Hamyo la'mon, lao desde på'go para mo'na, tåya' esta entre hamyo yan hame."
("Up to you, but from now on, there is nothing between you and us.")

Ya desde ayo na ha'åne, tåya' atungo'-ñiha i fanihi.
(And since that day, the fruit bats have no friends.)

Man a'atok gi halom liyang an ha'åne,
(They hide inside caves when it is day,)

ya man huyung para u fan man espia na'-ñiha solo an puenge.
(and come out to look for their food only when it is night.)

Friday, May 20, 2016


In English, we know them as "sea cucumbers."

As a kid, I wondered if they could be eaten like regular cucumbers. I soon found out, when I stepped on one, and got covered in its sticky spaghetti-like innards, that they were nothing like regular cucumbers.

I learned later that they were once prized by many Asians as a source of food and medicine. Europeans and Americans came to our islands collecting (what they called) trepang or bêche-de-mer, to sell in Asian markets.

But what do we call these annoying sea slugs in Chamorro?

It depends.

On Guam, they're called balåti.

In Saipan, babalåti.

Maybe the Saipan Chamorros are on to something. I don't like sea cucumbers, so, yes, they are båba! Babalåti!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Spanish naval ship San Quintín

The year was 1885 and tension between Spain and Germany had already been at the boiling point for about a year.

Both countries were claiming control over the Caroline Islands (Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Ponape, Kosrae). Spain asserted that these islands had been Spanish since the old days of discovery. Germany countered, saying that Spain had ignored them for all those hundreds of years and were therefore "up for grabs."

The conflict was headed for military resolution and Spain began her preparations. Spanish naval ships had to head for Yap, the focus of the controversy.

It seems that Chamorro men were part of the preparations.

Francisco Olive García, the Spanish Governor of the Marianas, relates in his 1887 book on the Marianas (Islas Marianas : Lijeros Apuntes),  that he heard good things about the Chamorros who were "volunteers to serve on our war ships in the year 1884."

He might be referring to any one of three Spanish ships that went to Yap in 1885. The Velasco came in February. But that ship was not a war ship and its purpose was to gather information about the island, and then leave.

In August, however, two military ships, the San Quintín and the Carriedo (also known as the Manila), arrived at Yap with the intention of establishing a Spanish presence there. Two Spanish priests came to build a church there. One of these two priests, Father Aniceto Ibáñez, had previously been the priest of Hagåtña for many years, and was embraced at Yap by some Chamorros who had moved there. Knowing he would be going to an island where some Chamorros already lived, it's plausible that Ibáñez suggested (or at least concurred) that some Chamorro volunteers be part of the expedition to Yap.

I would not be surprised, therefore, if our Chamorro volunteers assisting the Spanish cause in Yap had been on the same ship that brought Ibáñez to Yap, the San Quintín.

In any case, they didn't stay long. The Germans arrived a few days later with their own war ship and the Spaniards departed Yap.

I haven't found any other details about these Chamorro volunteers. How many were there? Did they indeed go to Yap? From Guam or from Manila? How many were they? What were their names? Where did they go when all was done?

All I know, from Olive's remark, is that there were Chamorro volunteers on ships in the service of Spain in 1884.

Monday, May 16, 2016


When I moved to Saipan in 1991 to live for three years, I was assigned to the northern-most parish, San Roque.

San Roque is only a mile or two away from the village of Tanapag, and many people now living in San Roque used to live in Tanapag in former times.

Tanapag was originally founded by a group of Carolinian islanders from a different area of the Chuukese region, speaking a different dialect of Carolinian from the kind spoken by Saipan Carolinians who live elsewhere, in Garapan, Chalan Kanoa and Oleai.  Over time, Chamorros also moved to Tanapag and there were many intermarriages between the Carolinians there and the Chamorros.

One of the unique expressions found in Tanapag is the word "Wets!"

One says "Wets!" when one is surprised, or to react with disbelief when someone says something unusual or incredible.

You walk into the kitchen and discover that someone has eaten all the food you put aside for later. "Wets!"

Someone tells you that you're being blamed for something you didn't do. "Wets!"

Someone you never expected to show up walks right into the room. "Wets!"

You think it's just 10AM and you glance at the clock and it's really 11AM. "Wets!"

And numerous other examples abound.

The two villages being so close to each other, and some families having once lived in Tanapag, I heard "Wets!" frequently in San Roque.

Moderns, whose spelling is highly influenced by English, a language they often know better than their native tongue, and who spell more in English than in their own language, often spell it "wettz."


Native speakers are spreading the information that the word has an original meaning, and its meaning makes the word taboo. Traditional culture would prohibit its public use.

It means "semen."

One person says that the original word is "wet," and that, in time, it changed to "wets."

But the meaning, they all say, is "semen," and thus the word was prohibited from public use in the past.

The debate will not be about its original meaning. That seems clear, as told us by native speakers.

The debate will be whether one should refrain from using the word, or if circumstances have changed now and the word has become just an expression, without literal meaning (for the majority of people using the word as an expression).

That, I believe, is where people will differ in opinion.

What is clear, from just listening to people, is that "wets" is used by a whole lot of people who do not intend to mean "semen" when they say it.

Friday, May 13, 2016


A newspaper in San Francisco, California at the end of 1898 relates the arrival of 414 "more or less desirable" immigrants to the United States.

This was just a few months after the American occupation of Guam, and the Treaty of Paris which made Guam a U.S. possession had not even been signed yet, but that was just a formality by then.

Yet 25 people from Guam are mentioned in this latest batch of immigrants. About 72% of all these immigrants were men, and we can expect that most, if not all, the Guam immigrants were men. It was almost always men who left Guam, usually on whaling ships.

The fact is that young men from Guam had been leaving the island for elsewhere for many, many years already. There were already Chamorro men living in the Bay Area long before 1898.

One sad fact is that the largest number of illiterate immigrants in this group were the ones from Guam; 9 out of the 25, or 36% of the Guam settlers could not read or write, not even in their own language.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Joaquin Aguon and George Flores (himself wounded) visit the wounded Vicente Borja
(MARC photo)

Everyone knows the date July 21, 1944 - the day Guam was freed from Japanese control. But this isn't quite true.

On August 8, the Americans took over Mount Santa Rosa in Yigo from the Japanese. On August 10, the last battle between the Americans and Japanese occurred at Matåguak, also in Yigo. That same day, Lt. Gen. Roy Geiger declared the island secured.

Not really.

Japanese soldiers fled into the jungle and grasslands of Guam, hiding for many months. Still armed, they were dangerous to soldier and civilian alike. Three American Marines were killed by Japanese holdouts on December 8, 1944. And this is just one example of the dangers that still lurked in Guam's hidden terrains from Japanese snipers.

American soldiers were constantly on the move looking for Japanese hideouts, assisted by Chamorro scouts. But something more organized in terms of Chamorro participation was desired.

And so, in November of 1944, the military government on Guam ordered the formation of armed scouts made up of local Chamorro civilians.  One source states that the group was called the Enemy Jap Patrol, but that later they were called the Guam Combat Patrol. An initial fourteen men were recruited and then an additional fourteen men from the police force joined them.

Their job was not merely to respond to reported attacks; their job was to go out in pursuit of the hiding Japanese. When the Japanese were discovered, not all of them welcomed it! Being in the Combat Patrol meant risking your life.

Two members of the Combat Patrol were killed while on patrol. Several members were wounded. In the photo above, we see two of the wounded. George Flores and Vicente Borja were injured when a Japanese threw a grenade at them in the Talofofo area.

The Combat Patrol was disbanded in November of 1948 (other sources give different dates). But in the four years they hunted Japanese in Guam's jungles, the Chamorro scouts killed 117 Japanese holdouts and captured five.


Juan U. Aguon (head)
Joaquin S. Aguon
Vicente L. Borja
Jose S. Bukikosa
Francisco J. Cruz
George G. Flores
Roman N. Ignacio
Antonio P. Manibusan
Agapito S. Perez
Pedro A. Perez
Ignacio R. Rivera
Jose P. Salas
Pedro R. San Nicolas
Jose S. Tenorio
Felix C. Wusstig


Edward G. Aflague
Joaquin M. Camacho
Felix T. Cruz
Jose D. Cruz
Mariano C. Cruz
Vicente Q. Dueñas
Francisco C. Leon Guerrero
David L. Lujan
Juan L. Lujan
Charles H. McDonald
Antonio C. Perez
Juan A. Quinata
Pedro C. Santos
Henry F. Taitano

NB : There are other individuals who made the claim they served in the Guam Combat Patrol who do not appear in these lists. These men could have been those who served as scouts before the formation of the Combat Patrol (from August to November, 1944) or who served after the original group were recruited.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


San Antonio Bridge (Tollai Åcho)

We have very few left on the island, but the bridges of Guam built during Spanish times were made for their times, meaning, they were very narrow.

Traffic was light to begin with and the only vehicles were bull (or karabao) carts. A few elite people, like military officers, might ride a horse.

So when motor cars made their appearance on Guam in the early 1900s, there was trouble when two cars going opposite directions wanted to use the same narrow bridge at the same time.

A rule was agreed on : cars heading towards the center of Hagåtña had the right of way.

Cars leaving the center of Hagåtña had to move to the side and give way to the other one.

Man's laws are never perfect. The question remains : When inside Hagåtña, and two cars want to use the same bridge, like the one above, who goes first?

Monday, May 9, 2016


In 1886, a book was published in Spain entitled "History of the Mariana Islands, the Carolines and Palau" by the former Governor of the Marianas, Luís de Ibáñez.

Towards the end of his book, the author includes a made-up conversation between a recently-arrived Spaniard and a Chamorro boatman. Of course, the dialogue is based on reality. Ships anchored in Apra Harbor but, to get to Hagåtña, you had to pay for a ride on a small boat to Punta Piti (Piti Point) and from there rent a carriage pulled by a horse (fastest), cow (slower) or carabao (slowest).

What's neat about this, though, is that it gives us yet another sample of the way Chamorro was spoken in 1886. It also shows how different the two languages were and are (Chamorro and Spanish) even though Chamorro borrows a lot of words from Spanish. You can compare the two languages in the picture above.

I will add here the Chamorro dialogue, in my own style of spelling, and provide the English translation.

Ei! Taotao lao! Håye gai bote ennao?
Hey there man! Whose boat is that?
Boti-ho, señot.
It's my boat, sir.
Siña yo' hu ma udai guennao gi boti-mo?
Can I ride there in your boat?
Hunggan, señot.
Yes, sir.
Kuånto nai hu apåse hao?
How much shall I pay you?
Kuåttro riåles, señot.
Four reales, sir.
Maulek. Chule' maletå-ho.
Fine. Take my luggage.
Fatå'chong guine, señot.
Sit here, sir.
Hu sodda' nai kabåyo pat koche gi Puntan Piti asta Hagåtña?
Will I find a horse or carriage at Piti Point that goes to Hagåtña?
Hunggan, señot.
Yes, sir.
Kuånto ma apåpåse?
How much is he paid?
Pot i kabåyo, un peso. Pot i koche, bente riåles.
For the horse, one peso. For the carriage, 20 reales.
Kuånto chago'-ña desde Piti asta Hagåtña?
How far is it from Piti to Hagåtña?
Katna dos oras, señot.
Around two hours, sir.
Håye na'ån-ña si Maga'låhe?
What is the name of the Governor?
Si Don Luís Ibáñez, señot.
Sir Luís Ibáñez, sir.
Håfa taimano si Maga'låhe?
How is the Governor?
Maolek ha', señot.
Fine, sir.
Pues hu na' tungo' hao na guiya abok-ho yan parientes-ho.
Well I am letting you know that he is my friend and relative.
Magof yo', señot.
I'm glad, sir.


1. Señot. Notice how often the Chamorro ends his sentences calling the Spaniard "sir." When I was small, my grandmother and aunties told me never to answer someone older with a simple "yes" or "no" but to always add "señot" or "señora."

2. Riåles.  This was an old Spanish coin that was later replaced by coins with other names, but in the Marianas the Chamorros continued to call some coins riåles or riåt, right into the early American and German times.

Spanish real

3. Distances were measured by travel time, not by land measurements (miles, kilometers, etc.).

4. Don. This was a respectful way of addressing any man of status. Women of status were called Doña. An English equivalent would be Sir and Madam. Certain Chamorros, especially those who were in government service, were called Don. Even when someone left office, they were still called Don.

5. The question concerning the Governor was a tricky one. The question may have been about the Governor's overall condition (e.g. health). But it could have also been a way of find out the Governor's reputation among the people. Was he popular or not? A decent man, or an ogre? Thus the Chamorro man's safe reply.

6. The remark indicating that the Spaniard is a friend and relative of the Governor was also pregnant with meaning. Did he mean that the Chamorro boatman better treat him well? The Chamorro man's response was also safe. He probably could have cared less who this Spaniard was. Was the Spaniard bluffing, hoping to get better treatment by making such a claim? How close of a relative to the Governor? How close of a friend? Or no friend at all? So the Chamorro boatman safely said, "I am happy for you!"

7. Abok. The Chamorro word for "friend," now almost nearly replaced by the Spanish loan word "amigo" or "amiga." But a few people still use the word abok today.

So, in the end, we see that the Chamorro we speak today was already the form of Chamorro spoken in 1886. A hundred years earlier, the few examples we have of written Chamorro shows how much the language was the same and yet also somewhat different.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


José Camacho Farfán
Commissioner of Mongmong-Toto-Maite 1961-1973


There are not huge numbers of Chamorros with the surname Farfán, but the family has been on Guam since the early 1800s.

The name is absent on the earlier Guam censuses of 1727 and 1758. So the first Farfán to come to Guam must have arrived after 1758.

The name is Spanish, but this does not mean that the first Farfán to come to Guam had to have been a Spaniard from Spain. He could have been that, but he could have also been a Spaniard from Latin America or from the Philippines. It is also possible that he was of mixed blood from Latin America or a Filipino. Until we find more documents, that's as far as we can say.

But in the 1897 Census of Guam, we find people named Farfán who were born in the early 1800s. These must have been the 2nd or even 3rd generations of people named Farfán on Guam. The family was already part of the Chamorro community, therefore, since the early 1800s, regardless what race the first Farfán on Guam was.

1897 Census

In this census, we find three adult Farfáns living together with the family of Vicente de la Cruz and his wife Maria Ignacio de la Cruz. Maria's maiden name was Cruz. Following the Spanish custom, Chamorro women kept their original surnames even when they married.

The Farfáns living with the Cruzes had Cruz as a middle name. My guess is that the Farfáns were nephew and nieces of either Vicente or Maria. Perhaps the Farfáns (who were in their 20s and teens) had lost both mother and father, and moved in with an aunt and/or uncle.

The three are Ana, Vicente and Rita.

Vicente married Joaquina Sablan Camacho (the daughter of Roque Camacho) and these were the parents of Jose (pictured above), the former Commissioner (now called Mayor) of Mongmong-Toto-Maite, Ignacio (who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 while serving on the USS Oklahoma), Jesús and one daughter, Rosa.



Besides these three siblings, there is also an old widow, María Farfán, born in the 1830s.

There is finally another woman, Josefa Borja Farfán, born in the 1840s, who married Mariano Palomo Blas.

María and Josefa could have been sisters and, if they were, then María would have been a Borja Farfán.


The name is found in Spain, but its meaning has been lost.

Sevilla, in the south of Spain, seems to be the birthplace of the family, but it has since spread to many places. Only 1,300 people in all of Spain has this last name, found mainly in the south and in the capital city of Madrid.

Extension of the name Farfán in Spain. The darker the color, the more numerous the residents having the last name Farfán.

Keep in mind that the Spanish and Chamorro pronunciation of this last name stresses the second (and last) syllable : Far - FAN. Americanized speakers will probably stress the first syllable and say FAR - fan.


Go to this link at Dr Michael Bevacqua's blog about the writing of former Commissioner José Farfán. The man wrote critical notes about the American administration of Guam right after their return in 1944.


Thursday, May 5, 2016



Altar boy's salary

Meaning nothing or next to nothing

An elderly lady was telling me the following,

Ai Påle'. Annai på'go umassagua i lahi-ho yan i asaguå-ña, hu laknos i salape'-ho, masea suetdon tanores, ya hu hatsåye siha kuåtton-ñiha gi fi'on i gimå'-ho.

Oh Father. When my son first got married to his wife, I took out my money, even though it was very little, and I built their room next to my house.

Tanores, or altar boys, were never really paid a salary. That would have been unthinkable to the Chamorros of yesteryear. It was expected that people would donate cheerfully their time and service to their church.

Priests might give them little trinkets or gifts now and then, as at Christmas time. On rare occasions, a priest might give a tanores a few coins for them to go get some treats at the mom and pop store. But, other than that, tanores were never paid.

Thus the saying, suetdon tanores. No money, or next to nothing.


Suetdo. From the Spanish sueldo or "salary."

Tanores. For the origin of this term, go to this link