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.