Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Chester Butler ran one of two movie theaters in Hagåtña before the war. His was called the Gaiety Theater.

Butler, who had married a Chamorro woman (Ignacia Pangelinan Bordallo), had two young Chamorro men run the projector. But all they could do, and wanted to do, was play the movie reels. Anything beyond that, especially if dealing with electricity, was not to their taste.

An American Navy man with the needed skills was hired by Butler to be the sound technician. He would lend a hand in other things when needed.

Gaiety in Hagåtña before the war

For example, one night there was a power overload which blew the main fuse, putting the entire auditorium, which was full of people, in complete darkness. The American man took out his flashlight, replaced the bad fuse and restored power. When the lights came on, not only was the theater empty but the two Chamorro projector boys were standing outside the theater in the middle of the street. They would have nothing to do with restoring power. They were deathly afraid of dealing with electricity.

The Navy man believed that the great fear of many Chamorros of electricity stemmed from the death of a young boy whose kite got stuck in the electrical lines in the early days of the city's power plant. Trying to retrieve his kite, the boy climbed the pole and touched the lines and got knocked down to the ground and died. Word quickly spread that electricity kills, and many Chamorros thereafter kept their distance from handling electrical issues.

The smoke stack of the Hagåtña power plant before the war

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Chamorros and Carolinians in Saipan, early 1900s

The photo above, showing Chamorro and Carolinian men of Saipan, reveals the big differences between the two races. The Chamorros had been under European rule for 230 years by the time this photo was taken. The Carolinians, on the other hand, had been under European rule in Saipan for 80 years, and, for much of those years, the European influence over them was negligible. The Spanish Government headquartered in Guam basically left the Carolinian community in Saipan to themselves in the early years. By the 1850s, Guam sent more Chamorros to Saipan as teachers and eventually a resident Spanish priest was also stationed there. Chamorro Padre Palomo also spent some time in Saipan.

By and by, the two races, Carolinian and Chamorro, learned to live together. In fact, a few began marrying someone from the other race. Today, we call people of both Chamorro and Carolinian heritage Chamolinians. The term did not appear until the 1970s in Saipan.


One thing that helped popularize the term Chamolinian were a few music albums put out by Saipan artists, like Candy Taman and Frank "Bokonggo" Pangelinan. Candy, I know for a fact, is himself part Carolinian (Taman) and Chamorro (Babauta).

Elias Parong Sablan

Another well-known Chamorro-Carolinian mestizo was the former Mayor of Saipan, Elias Parong Sablan. His mother was Carolinian and his father Chamorro.

Which race did these mixed-heritage people identify with? Which language did they speak?

In the old days, the most common answer was both. Most, if not all, spoke both languages and identified with both, though the story changes somewhat case by case.

It is said that if the mother was Carolinian, the child identified more with the Carolinian side and spoke better Carolinian. This is because, in both cultures, it is the mother who is the strongest influence over the child. In Carolinian culture, one's clan identity and even land ownership is carried through the mother. The Carolinian mother will make sure her child grows up with a lot of contact with her (Carolinian) side of the family.The child will still grow up identifying with his Chamorro father, but the "pull" will be strongest with the mother.


But who were the first children of Carolinian-Chamorro marriages?

Putting aside the possibility that there were the occasional Carolinian-Chamorro mixes long before records were kept, and putting aside also the mixed Chamorro-Carolinian babies born out of wedlock, we find in the Saipan records the following early Chamorro-Carolinian unions :


Although we don't hear the name often, there is a Fausto family of the Marianas. Two, it seems.

In the 1897 Guam Census there is a Fausto family of recent origin from the Philippines (recent, meaning arriving from around 1880 onwards) and an older one, already mixed with Chamorro blood by the 1830s. It is this older Fausto family which is involved with our topic.

One Manuel Fausto, born in Hagåtña of an unknown father and a mother named Rosalía Fausto, eventually moved to Saipan by the 1850s. There he married a Carolinian woman who was given the Christian name Maria Aurora. Apparently, she was not given a Spanish surname (as was sometimes done) nor did she carry her original Carolinian name as a surname (as was mostly done). In all the records, she is simply named Maria Aurora. The records say that her family was from Lamotrek.

This Manuel Fausto, though Chamorro, seems to have been an "honorary" Carolinian, almost an integral part of the Carolinian community. He often acted as godfather to many Carolinians being baptized. He taught them, as did his son Mariano Borja Fausto (son of a prior marriage) who taught the Carolinians living in Tamuning. It is almost certain that Manuel Fausto spoke Carolinian or at least had a very good grasp of it. Speaking Chamorro and almost assuredly some Spanish, he would have made an excellent go-between for the Spaniards and Chamorros in their dealings with the Carolinians, who, in the main, could not speak Spanish nor Chamorro. People relied on those who could speak all the main languages to do the interpreting.

It should be noted that sometimes the records spell the name Fajusto, and I have heard older Chamorros in Saipan pronounce the name Fajusto. That is, FA - HUS - TO. But 90% of the time, the records spell it Fausto and most people say FAUS - TO.

Here's the important thing.

Manuel Fausto and his Carolinian wife Maria Aurora had many daughters who married Chamorro men. They married into the Camacho, Arriola, Palacios and Salas families (among others), which are big clans in Saipan. Being that these unions go back to the 1870s, there are a lot of Chamorros in Saipan today who have Carolinian blood in them, thanks to Maria Aurora.


Here is a very interesting story with a twist.

There are many Reyeses in Saipan whose "Reyes" ancestor was not born a Reyes. He was a Carolinian.

A Carolinian man on Saipan named TAROLIMANG, sometimes also called Igifer, was baptized and given the Christian name Juan (John). From then on, he should have been called Juan Tarolimang, and he was. But then the records changed and start calling him Juan de los Reyes. It couldn't be because it was later admitted that his biological father was someone named Reyes, because the records do tell us the names of his Carolinian and non-Christian parents. So, why did he soon get the last name Reyes?

It's because, in those days, people were very casual about names. And not just in the Marianas.

People easily dropped old names and adopted new ones all the time. My Irish grandfather, for example, in the 1910s, dropped his first name Patrick when he moved to the U.S. That name, he felt, marked him as an Irishman and the Irish were unwelcome by many people in the U.S. in those days, depending on what part of the country you were in. The point is that, in those days, people often changed names quite easily, without a lot of legal procedures. And so it was for Juan Tarolimang. Perhaps in an effort to assimilate more with the Spanish-Chamorro establishment, he took Reyes as a last name. It could be that he had a Chamorro godfather named Reyes, or perhaps a man named Reyes was his benefactor or employer.

So the Carolinian Juan de los Reyes married a Chamorro from Luta (Rota). Her name was Anacleta Matantaotao Orpus. Sometimes spelled Orpos and Oppos. Anacleta was born in Luta and so were her parents. Matantaotao is definitely a Chamorro name, but the jury is still out on Orpus. It could be an old Chamorro name, or it could be from somewhere else. Until we find records to say one way or another, we'll have to leave it at that.

Juan and Anacleta married a long time ago, in 1865 or so. They had many children, all carrying the name Reyes. Some of them married Chamorros and some of them married Carolinians. So, in Saipan, there are many Reyeses who are descendants of a Carolinian named Tarolimang who married the Chamorro Anacleta Matantaotao Orpus.


We just elected an Esteves to the Guam Legislature, and his roots go back to the Esteves from Saipan, which then spread out over the other islands of the Marianas.

Antonio Esteves was a Carolinian from Satawal, living in Saipan.

Because he is named Antonio, we know that he was eventually baptized Catholic. That's probably when he also acquired the last name Esteves, which is Spanish/Portuguese. Why did a Carolinian get a Spanish/Portuguese name? As mentioned above, people dropped and picked up names very casually in those days. Sometimes, a Carolinian would take on the full name or sometimes just the first or last name of their godfather. Whatever the reason, what we do know is that Antonio Esteves was a Carolinian.

He married a Chamorro lady from Hagåtña, Josefa Campos. Everyone in the Marianas named Esteves (barring recent arrivals who come from a different origin) is a descendant of the Carolinian-Chamorro union of Antonio and Josefa.


Another last name we don't hear about.

But, a Carolinian named Quitipung (spelled various ways at times), from the island of Sooc who then lived in Saipan, was baptized Catholic and married a Chamorro from Luta (Rota) named Maria Hocog Inos. After his baptism and marriage to Maria, he was known as Bernardo de Santa Maria.

The records sometimes say he was from Chuuk, and Sooc could be a shortcut of Pulusuk, an island in Chuuk.


In 1895, a Chamorro man named Jose Dueñas de la Cruz, from Hagåtña, now living in Saipan, married a Carolinian woman from Saipan named Ana Faibar. Her family was from Satawal.


Many people think Matagolay (Matagolai) is a Chamorro name, but coincidences do exist and it is a coincidence that måta (face/eyes) and gollai (vegetables) are also Chamorro words.

But a Carolinian man from Unoun (today's Ulul?) named Matagolay was baptized and became known as José Matagolay. He married a Chamorro woman, Carmen Cruz from Sumay, living in Saipan. From them, the Matagolay clan was born, being of both Carolinian and Chamorro blood.


One of the last Chamorro-Carolinian marriages in Saipan in the 1800s involved two people apparently from Guam who had moved to Saipan.

Even the Carolinian wife, Concepción Altariba, was apparently a Guam Carolinian (Tamuning). She married the Chamorro José San Nicolás from Hagåtña and moved to Saipan. Their daughter Rosa, a Chamolinian, married into the Chamorro Manahane family.

Altariba is not a Carolinian or Chamorro name. It is Spanish (spelled also Altarriba) and the name of a few places in Spain. For all we know, she got this name from a Spanish godparent or benefactor.


One of the last Chamorro-Carolinian unions in the 1800s was the marriage between the Chamorro Felix Reyes Sablan and Luisa Malug Parong (sometimes spelled Parung). They got married around the year 1895.

Felix was born in Luta (Rota), but both his parents, Mariano and Maria, were Chamorros from Hagåtña. Mariano was often a government clerk and moved where he was needed, such as Luta and then Saipan.

Luisa's father was from Unani and her mother was from Ilato (Elato) in the Carolines.

From this union came Elias, the future Mayor of Saipan, and his siblings.

Elias was such a prominent figure in civil affairs in Saipan, especially right after World War II when the Americans tried to get Saipan back on its feet after the war. Elias could wield influence over the two Saipan communities, the Chamorro and Carolinian. Who better to unite the two races as mayor than someone whose blood included both races! It could be said that Elias enjoyed even more influence over the Carolinian community because he had also married a Carolinian, Carmen, from the Mangarero family.


Many other Chamorros married Carolinians after 1900, but I have mentioned only the ones I know who married before 1900. Many of these Chamolians from after 1900 are prominent to this day in business, politics and the professions.


Although neither of these two spouses were Chamorro, their children eventually did marry Chamorros and also became part of the Chamolinian mix.

A Filipino named Agatón Celis moved from Guam to Saipan and married a Carolinian lady named Enriqueta Antonia. Records give two places for her origin. Some say she was from Aurupec (probably today's Eauripik) and some say Lamotrek. Either way, both islands are from the same region of the Carolines.

Enriqueta Antonia is her Christian name, the female forms of the names Enrique (Henry) and Antonio (Anthony). She had a prior Carolinian name that was soon dropped, at least in official records.

So, their children were not Chamolinian but rather Fililinian (Filipino-Carolinian). But some of their children eventually married Chamorros and the grandchildren became Chamolinian (with Filipino, too).

Agatón was in Saipan at least by 1857, the year he married Enriqueta. He was a native of Malate, now a section of Manila, and he had been married before. His first wife had died already when he married Enriqueta.


Harry Boyer, from the United States, made it out to Saipan in the 1880s and met a Carolinian lady by the name of María Taman. Her father was from Oleai and her mother was from Satawal, in the Carolines. They had a son Juan, who was therefore an American-Carolinian mix. Juan married Nieves Fausto Palacios in 1913. Now Nieves herself had Carolinian blood, being the granddaughter of the Carolinian María Aurora, who had married the Chamorro Manuel Fausto. Nieves' mother Tomasa, a Chamolinian, married a Chamorro, Vicente Cruz Palacios, born in Hagåtña, Guam. So, with the Boyers, there are two Carolinian lines : one from María Taman and the other from María Aurora. This was then added to a Chamorro line, the Palacios.

This is a committee formed some time ago to organize an event concerning the renowned Carolinian chief Aghurubw.

But, among these people are some named Deleon Guerrero, Taitano and Barcinas. A clear example of Chamolinian.

Monday, January 23, 2017


American universities usually have two main semesters, a fall and a spring semester, and the University of Guam follows this system.

If you wanted to translate "fall" and "spring" into Chamorro, you run into a challenge. Our language lacks terms for the SEASONS "fall" and "spring" because we lack those seasons.

But, given the great urge many people have today to promote the language and translate as much as possible into Chamorro, someone, perhaps, went ahead and looked up "spring" in a dictionary, or asked around for the word or maybe already knew of the word. Perhaps it was only for this one class offered above. I am told that others at UOG go with Fanuchånan (Rainy Season) for Fall and Fañomnagan (Sunny Season) for Spring.

What is "spring" in Chamorro?

The next thing someone should have asked is, "What kind of spring are you talking about?"

1. Water. There is, first of all, the water source called a "spring" or "fountain." The Chamorro word for that kind of spring is måtan hånom. Literally it means "face of water" and I can picture that. Just as the eyes (måta) cry tears, the earth opens its "eyes" and "cries" water (in a natural spring). There is also the word bo'bo', but that I believe refers more specifically to any burst of water from the ground, whereas måtan hånom refers to the source of water which becomes a body of water like a pool, lake or stream. Along the shore, one can often see bo'bo', fresh water leaking up through the sand and running to the sea close by.

2. Season. Second, there is the season after winter called spring. We don't have a Chamorro word for that because we don't have a season after winter, nor do we have a winter. We have twelve months of temperatures changing between 75 and 95 degrees, with many exceptions exceeding 95. If we had to talk about a season called spring, we might say primabera (if we went with the Spanish primavera) or we might use the English word "spring."  Older Chamorro dictionaries, written by people closer to the period when Spanish greatly influenced Chamorro life, include the word primabera for the season "spring."

3. Action. Then there is the verb "to spring," as in to quickly move or leap up. Chamorro has more than one word to describe that action, but ta'yok is the best word to describe a sudden leaping or springing. "To spring" can also mean to "originate," as "it sprang into being," Dokko' could be used poetically for that.

4. Object. Then there is the object "spring," as in the springs of a watch or a car. Kuetdas can be used for that (a cord wound up into a spring). Another word for the object "spring" is mueye. Both words are borrowed from Spanish.


Using måtan hånom ("spring" as in water source or fountain) to describe the season of Spring (which we don't have) would be like using the word Poddong or Tomba for the season of Fall.

If people want to invent new words or give new meanings to old words, no one can stop them. It happens all the time in languages all throughout history. But, given the state of the Chamorro language today, is it in our interest to keep things in constant flux? A Renaissance that has no brakes?

Friday, January 20, 2017


This is a song about a man communicating with his sweetheart by the light of the moon under her bedroom window. It's obviously a scene from our islands long ago when we had homes like that, where a girl's bedroom window was raised on haligi (pillars) or on the bodega (basement). I can think of no better village to represent that kind of old, island living than Inalåhan, which preserves many pre-war homes.

The tune is borrowed from the World War II song "Lili Marlene," popular among both Allied and Axis forces! It was originally a German song and speaks about a young woman under the lantern, she being the love of a lonely soldier in the battle field.

The Chamorro version keeps much of that imagery.


1. Gi papa' i kandet gi kanton guma' annai hu nanangga i guinaiya-ko.
(Under the light by the side of the house where I am waiting for my love.)

Kao ti un hungok nai chumefla yo' gi kanton i bentanå-mo?
(Didn't you hear when I whistled by the edge of your window?)

Sa' hågo ha' guinaiya-ko keridå-ho nene.
(Because you alone are my love, my beloved baby.)

2. Sikiera i anineng-mo kerida korason u fåtto giya guåho ya hu konsuelan maisa yo'.
(Would at least your shadow, beloved sweetheart, come to me so I can comfort myself.)

Papa' i ma'lak i pilan gi kanton i bentanå-mo.
(Under the brightness of the moon at the edge of your window.)

Sa' hågo ha' guinaiya-ko kerida mia korason.
(Because you alone are my love, my beloved sweetheart.)


Kånto. A word which means "edge, side, bank." It is borrowed from the Spanish word canto, meaning "edge."

Chefla. To whistle. So as not to get caught by the girl's parents or family, he whistles to signal her that he is waiting just outside her window.

Sikiera. "At least." From the Spanish siquiera, meaning the same.

Kerida mia. Taken exactly from the Spanish "my beloved."

Korason. Means "heart" but is the equivalent of the English term "sweetheart." Sometimes people say "mames korason," literally meaning "sweet heart."


Here's how the original song sounds like in English

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Our mañaina were great believers in corporal punishment, and many still are to this day, though the punishment has become much more mild and today's parents turn a blind eye to so much nowadays.

But what were the normal infractions that would merit corporal punishment?

I recently came across the childhood reminiscences of a man who grew up in a southern village of Guam in the 1930s. Here are some examples from his life :

Skipping school. The man and his siblings, including some cousins living in the same house, lived several miles from the school house. In those days, one walked to school. So, during the rainy season, you ducked under huge trees like the lemmai (breadfruit) tree and tried to stay as dry as possible. Sometimes there was no choice but to get drenched.

One day it was raining so bad that the oldest cousin suggested they skip school that day. But rather than return home, he said they should pretend they had gone to school and play in that isolated area instead. And that they did. They were so contented that their scheme worked that they tried doing it several more times in the weeks that followed, till the school teacher (there was only one, for all grades) paid a visit to the family home to inquire why the kids had missed several days of school.

For that, their backs were whipped and sore for about four days.

Theft. Not far from the village school were some garden patches owned by the neighbors. During recess or right after school, it was usual for the kids to play in the area next to these gardens. One favorite game was hide and seek. Well, how convenient that sugar cane stalks grew in the garden and served as excellent cover while playing hide and seek?

Hiding among the stalks, one boy decided to break off a cane ready for the eating and began tearing off the outer skin with his teeth and started chomping away. Just a few steps away, and hid again by the sugar cane, were watermelons. He took out his pocket knife and started carving away, his mouth dripping with watermelon juice.

He was so proud of his achievement that he told his friends about it and, soon after, the boys devised a way that they could all take turns hiding in the garden patch, helping themselves to the sugar cane and watermelon, while the other boys created a diversion with their loud screaming so that the owners paid no attention.

However, the rascal boys were careless with their leftovers and the owner soon one day discovered watermelon rinds and sugar cane strips which the boys forgot to collect. The owner also saw foot prints left on some vines and grass and put two and two together. The owner waited for the next day and hid among the sugar cane right before school let out. There he caught two boys chomping on sugar cane red handed.

That evening, he was generously whipped by his grandmother to screams of "Taimamahlao! Aniti!" (Shameless! Devil!)

A few days later, the boy had to go back to the garden patch owner with a big basket of lemons that his grandmother grew as partial repayment of the sugar cane and watermelon eaten illicitly.

Peeping Tom. Near the school was a stream and a wooden bridge that enabled one to pass over the stream. The kids that lived on that side of the village had to cross that wooden bridge no less than twice a day to go to school. The bridge was made of wooden beams about 2 inches apart. Every now and then, the kids would stop in the middle of the bridge and look through those 2 inch gaps to see if the stream had any shrimp or fish to catch.

The boy started to reason to himself, "If one can look down in between those gaps, one can also look up." So he and two other boys would wait under the bridge very quietly and wait for the girls to cross the bridge. All was well till another boy, who had not been included in this conspiracy, tattled on the boys.

This time it was the teacher who executed the punishment. First, she had the three boys stand on one foot for half an hour. Then she made them switch feet. Then she hit their fingers stretched out on their desks with a ruler. Finally, she made them lie on the classroom floor and gave them ten lashes each. She said she would have done worse than that if she could.

Public Nuisance. In the village was a public area where water pipes were available to anyone needing municipal water. Almost no one in those days had piped water inside the home. There were latrine sheds, with men and women latrines separated, and also showers (again separated by gender) and a large sink for anyone needing to do hand-washed laundry.

In the middle of this small complex was a large pole with a single light bulb on top. That light was for the safety and benefit of the people who might use those public water services at night or early morning. This boy noticed that, now and then, the light would die then turn on again on its own. By observing this several nights, he discovered that the light would die every time there was a strong breeze or gust of wind. The bulb is loose in its socket!

One night, for his own merriment, he waited till some people were inside the sheds using the water, and he started to pull on the heavy wire that helped hold the pole in place. Back and forth the pole swung and, of course, the loose light bulb flickered on and off. Other electrical wires feeding power to some homes were connected to the pole, and with every swing these electrical wires would bounce off the tin roofs of those houses, making a racket.

People, especially the women, some with wet hair, came out of the sheds very upset at the noise, disoriented by the flickering light in the darkness. Some people in the homes came out shouting "What's going on!" The boy fled.

But someone must've recognized him because, the following morning, a messenger went to his house several miles outside the village, requesting that the boy report to the village commissioner's house at 7 o'clock that evening. The commissioner had him lie on his stomach on a bench. His buttocks received six lashes, with a warning that if he ever did that or anything similar again, he'd receive twelve next time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


For a little more than three years, Guam was home to 28 or so prisoners of war from German New Guinea. Not surprisingly, accounts of that time tell us how fascinated and entertained the Chamorro people were with these men from such an exotic place. Their physical appearance, clothing and rumored cannibalism fed the imagination of our people, always in the mood for something new and different.

The idea that they were man-eaters apparently came from one (or more) of the New Guineans. We can't discount the possibility that whoever said that said it in jest, having fun scaring the Chamorros. But we can't exclude the possibility either that some of the New Guinean POWs had practiced cannibalism at one time, since cannibalism was not unknown in their part of the world.

When a camp was set up on Guam for New Guinea POWS, it was nicknamed "Cannibal Town." Americans would have probably coined that name and used it, rather than Chamorros, who wouldn't have had that kind of grasp or use of English that early in the century.


Just north of Australia and not too far south of Micronesia lies the island of New Guinea. At the time period we are talking about (around 1915), the island was divided between the Dutch who ran the western side of the island; the British, who ran the southeastern portion; and the Germans who owned the northeastern part of the island.

In addition, the Germans ruled over many islands to the east of New Guinea, then called the Bismarck Islands, and today called New Britain. They also owned the island of Bougainville, which is part of the Solomons.

Written accounts of the time have conflicting information about where specifically these New Guinean men came from and how they became connected with the ship. It is possible that they didn't come from just one area of German New Guinea. I'll send the list of their names to someone from Papua New Guinea or New Britain and see if we can tell, just from the names, where these men were likely from.

The New Guineans were part of the crew of the German ship the SMS Cormoran which hid in Apra Harbor in 1915, fleeing the Japanese with whom they were at war. In 1917, the US declared war on Germany and the Germans scuttled their own ship. Most of the crew survived and were made prisoners of war. The New Guineans were employed by the US Navy on various public works projects.

In 1919, with the war over, the New Guineans were sent back home, though one of them reportedly died on Guam before war's end and could have taken up residence with a Chamorro woman. Whether they had a kid or more is anybody's guess at this point.

From the Guam Recorder in 1925

For more : http://www.guampedia.com/sms-cormoran-ii-non-german-crew-members/

Friday, January 13, 2017


Chamorro Naval mess attendants undergoing training on the USS Barnes

Sometime in the late 1930s, the US Navy allowed the enlistment of younger Chamorro men from Guam into the Navy but only as mess attendants. These men were basically waiters, especially for the officers at meals.

If you were accepted as a Navy mess attendant from Guam, you were trained on the USS Robert L. Barnes, a Navy oil tanker that sat in Apra Harbor since 1920. For twenty-one years the Barnes was a floating oil barrel for the US Navy, leaving Guam only once in a blue moon. Sometimes the ship would stay anchored at Apra for four or five years without ever leaving the island. When Chamorros were allowed to enlist as mess attendants, the ship was then also used for their training.

But how did one get accepted into the US Navy as a mess attendant?

According to the recollections of one Chamorro man from Sumay who did pass the test in 1940 :

1. Mental Exam - this seems to have been the easy part. The examiners didn't focus a lot on this. It consisted in part of fill-in-the-blank questions. It tested for basic comprehension.

2. Physical Exam - this was performed by the Navy doctor. It was basic. Blood pressure, eyesight, hearing, weight, height, physical disabilities and the like.

This is where quite a number of young men were turned away. A crooked finger, a limp, high or low blood pressure, flat feet and you were told to go home and forget the Navy.

3. Dental Exam - another risky test for the men. Any cavities meant a delay in enlistment. The men were told to find a civilian dentist and get any dental work done and then come back.

4. Police Clearance - to make sure you had never been to jail.

5. Bank Clearance - the Navy didn't want anyone running away from debt.

If one passed all this, he was accepted. In 1941, the US Navy was admitting as many as 15 Chamorro men a month until war broke out in December.

Many of these Chamorro mess attendants were already away from Guam when the war began on December 8, 1941. Many of them never returned to Guam to live.

The USS Barnes lying in Apra Harbor with Orote Point visible in the back

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Some in the Artero clan have revived an old family devotion and are continuing it in the Spanish language.

As most people know, the family patriarch was a Spaniard named Pascual Sáez Artero, who was from the town of Mojácar in the province of Almería in Andalucía in southern Spain. He was born there in 1875, joined the Spanish military, was stationed on Yap where he met his Chamorro wife and then moved to Guam at the turn of the century. He died on Guam in 1956.

His children, half Spanish and half Chamorro, spoke both Spanish and Chamorro fluently, and on top of that, English as well.

Their mother was Asunción (or Ascensión) Martínez Cruz. Most sources state her first name as Asunción, but some of the older ones in the family say that her name was Ascensión.

In any case, she came down with some skin condition that even affected her hair and she could find no relief from medical treatment. She began a novena to the Santo Niño de Cebú, using a prayer book written in Spanish. After completing this novena, her condition improved and the problem eventually disappeared entirely. She made it her promesa (promise) to observe this novena every year in January.

Now that her grand children and great grand children are observing it, they decided to say it in Spanish, just as Asunción (Ascensión) began it many years ago (if not even 100 years ago!).

Long after the Spanish flag was no longer flying over the Marianas, many Chamorros continued to pray in Spanish and, now, the Artero family does the same.

Asunción (Ascensión) Martínez Cruz (circled above), wife of Pascual Artero


Acabo de asistir a una novena rezada en Guam en español.

La familia que la rezó son descendientes de un andaluz de Mojácar, Almería llamado Pascual Artero Sáez (1875 ~ 1956).

Aunque la familia ya es de la tercera generación y no hablan castellano para nada, insisten que la novena se reze en castellano porque su abuela la inició en castellano hace muchos años. Por cierto, la rezan con acento chamorro (guameño) pero toda en castellano incluso los cantos al terminar la novena.

Don Pascual Artero Sáez, su mujer Ascensión Cruz e hijos

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Åntes de gera, annai hohoben ha' yo' trabia,
(Before the war, when I was still young)

humånao hame yan un primu-ho para in e'fanihi giya Fadi'an na lugåt.
(one of my cousins and I went in search of fruit bat at Fadi'an.)

Era despues de talo'åne ya ti in repåra i ora na esta para u homhom.
(It was after noontime and we didn't realize the time that it would soon be dark.)

Magåhet na esta atrasao para in bira ham tåtte gi chalan para i lancho.
(Truly it was already late for us to go back to the road going to the ranch.)

Guihe na lugåt, meggai liyang.
(In that area, there are a lot of caves.)

Pues humålom ham gi uno ya sumåga ham para in maigo' guihe asta ke manana.
(So we entered one and stayed to sleep there till the daylight.)

Lao tatalo'puenge, makmåta ham sa' guaha buruka!
(But in the middle of the night, we woke up because there was a noise!)

Guaha kumalalamten gi hiyong i liyang!
(Something was moving around outside the cave!)

Ti in tingo' kao gå'ga' pat taotao! 
(We didn't know if it were an animal or person!)

Sen ma'åñao ham ya in hatme mås i fondon i liyang sa' ti gef dångkulo.
(We were really afraid and we went further into the back of the cave as it wasn't very big.)

Pumåra i buruka lao sa' pot gualåfon na puenge, in li'e' dos na dångkulon påtas
(The noise stopped, but because that night was a full moon, we saw two huge feet)

na tumotohge gi pachot i liyang!
(standing at the mouth of the cave!)

Ti in tingo' kao påtas gå'ga' pat iyon taotao,
(We didn't know if they were animal feet or belonging to a man,)

lao dångkulo yan loddo', kulan mohon trongkon håyo.
(but they were big and thick, as if they were tree trunks.)

Esta hu gogo'te maolek i macheti-ho!
(I was already holding tightly onto my machete!)

Lao ti åpmam må'pos i dos påtas sin håfa.
(But soon the two feet left without anything more.)

Maigo' ham na dos ta'lo, lao bai sangåne hao na ti gos maolek i maigo'-måme.
(The two of us slept again, but I will tell you that we didn't sleep very well.)


* If this is a taotaomo'na story, then the large feet and legs would fit into the typical description of taotaomo'na . At other times, taotaomo'na are described as sometimes being headless, or having huge, gaping holes in their abdomen or side, sometimes stuffed with leaves. But big is almost always descriptive of taotaomo'na. A taotaomo'na is a spirit manifestation of a pre-Spanish ancestor.

* The northeast coast of Guam, where Fadi'an is, once housed many fanihi or fruit bat. Many of the last fanihi surviving on Guam today are in the northernmost corner of the eastern coast, by Pati Point.

* The northeast coast also has few beaches and is known to have many caves in the coral cliffs that make up most of the coast. To this day, few people venture to that part of the island compared to the rest of Guam.

Monday, January 9, 2017


My dramatization of a story taken from the annals of history.

A Spanish galleon stopped by Guam, as they often did, needing fresh water and food. On board was a young, teenage boy who was part of the crew. As the galleon had departed Acapulco, this young man was probably Mexican himself.

Enticed by the island's vegetation and scenery, after having seen nothing but blue ocean for many weeks, he walked off on his own into the brush, leaving the main party. Perhaps he could find some bananas to eat.

He stopped dead in his tracks when, all of a sudden, a young, teenage Chamorro male appeared before him. This Chamorro boy was naked, but also unarmed, which put the young Mexican a little at ease. Calming him even more, the Chamorro boy smiled and came up to the Mexican, putting his hand on his chest in a gesture of friendliness.

As if suggesting that fresh fruits hanging off trees were just a little ways ahead, the Chamorro boy took hold of the Mexican gently by the shoulder, to lead him in the direction of that food. The more they advanced into the foliage, the more the Chamorro boy put his arms around the Mexican. In short time, the Chamorro boy had a tight hold on the Mexican boy's neck. What seemed playful at first started to feel quite uncomfortable for the Mexican, who started to wonder, with a little anxiety, that he was being lead by this Chamorro boy to a bigger gang of Chamorro boys or men, to be killed.

Right at the moment anxiety was going to turn into panic for the Mexican boy, a rustling in the forest was heard. Chamorros? Or Spaniards?

Four or five armed men from the galleon, holding their arquebuses, appeared. They took aim at the Chamorro boy, who fled in an instant. The Mexican boy was escorted back to the ship, not without a good deal of scolding. Off to Manila they sailed, where the Mexican was added to the company of lay assistants helping the missionary friars working in Manila.

Two or three years later, another Spanish ship anchored off Guam in search of provisions. This time, the Spanish captain decided to kidnap one Chamorro youth and bring him to Manila, where he would be educated and baptized. In time, the captain reasoned, if and when Spain colonized these Ladrone islands, the captured Chamorro boy can return as a Christian, Spanish-speaking man and help with the colonization.

And so they did. A Chamorro youth, aged 16 or 17, was captured and taken aboard. He made it to Manila, where he was placed in a convent of friars. The Chamorro boy noticed other young men living in the friary, assisting in the work of the church. There was one Mexican youth who got his attention. Yes! After a little time observing, the Chamorro boy remembered that this was the Mexican boy he tried to kidnap, and the Mexican boy finally remembered this Chamorro boy as the one who tried to kidnap him!

The Chamorro boy admitted that his intention was to kill the Mexican boy. The Spanish chronicler adds, and to eat the Mexican boy and use his bodily remains for whatever he could make out of them. True? Or the exaggerations of a story-teller? Said in jest by the Chamorro boy just to scare the Mexican? Who knows?

Saturday, January 7, 2017


At a funeral on Saipan recently, I saw something that I had never seen before.

Mind you, I have been going to funerals on Saipan since the 1980s. I served as a priest there for three years from 1991 till 1994 and presided at many funerals. And I have continued going to funerals on Saipan ever since. And I had never seen this done before.

The pall bearers, all males, took off their white button-down shirts and buried them in the grave with the casket of the deceased. Here is the video :

After the services, I quietly asked around the origin of this.

People told me that it is a Carolinian custom. The deceased and her entire family are Chamorro, but this village is next to another village with a large Carolinian community. Even on the entire island of Saipan, many Chamorros live in close quarters with the Carolinian community, and the Carolinians have influenced the whole island in many ways.

But keep in mind that a hundred years ago or so, not even the Carolinians wore shirts. So, if this is a Carolinian custom, it is a new one.

Culture is always in a state of change. Some of the old things die, and some new things are begun.

Different cultures exist side-by-side and will influence each other.

I began to wonder where this custom originated in the minds of the people. I believe we can see clues by observing funerals of Chamorros and Carolinians alike.

Our people are, by nature, very tactile with their loved ones. We love to hold, and smell, and kiss and hug babies. It's only when a child nears his or her teens that the physical affection tapers down, but does not entirely disappear in some cases.

With our dead, Chamorros and Carolinians do not have a "hands off" attitude towards the dead, unlike other cultures where touching the bodies of the dead is avoided. We touch the bodies of our dead, kiss them, photograph them. The Carolinians go even further, placing the body on the floor, with the close relatives sitting all around the body crying, praying, singing and touching. We even speak to the dead bodies as if the deceased were still alive.

I think this is the point. We want to keep some physical contact between us and our deceased as much as possible.

This means we tie our black ribbons around the casket just before it descends into the grave. It means we place a flower stem on the casket, too. It means we touch the casket one last time as it falls deeper into the grave. In some cases, our people have been known to want to jump into the grave with the casket. True!

So I think that this burying of the shirt is one more way the pall bearers can say that they are somehow with the deceased in the grave. Although one can no longer see or touch the deceased, that shirt is in the same grave. It is a point of contact between the living and the dead. Those pall bearers only wore that shirt for one reason - because they were pall bearers at that funeral.

Closeness to the dead. It's a Chamorro (and Carolinian) thing. Look at pre-colonial accounts of our ancestors. You'll see the same thing, but just expressed differently.

Thus we can say that, while the act of burying the white shirt is new and borrowed, the underlying value (closeness to the dead) goes back hundreds if not thousands of years.

Some things change, some things stay the same.

Friday, January 6, 2017


That there is an area of Yoña called Tres Reyes, we can firmly say.

But there's not much more we can say about it!

Even maps indicating its location do not jive with the common understanding of the older generation.

The name itself, Tres Reyes, means "Three Kings." These are the Wise Men, or Magi, talked about in the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, who were from the East (probably Persia) and who visited the child Jesus, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their feast is January 6.


One map of Yoña, made after the war, shows that Tres Reyes is located just south of Yoña proper and south of MU Lujan School.

The difficulty here is that residents of Yoña today do not consider this area circled above to be Tres Reyes. They call it Camp Witek.

The older people of Yoña I have talked to consider Tres Reyes to be further inland from the main road, as indicated in the satellite photo of Yoña seen at the top of this post.


According to some people living in the area called Tres Reyes, the name comes from the three hills that are seen in that area. One of the older women of the area took me outside her home in Tres Reyes to show me two of the three hills. One of them is pictured above.


Why, then, does a Guam map show Tres Reyes to be located in an area that today's residents say is not called Tres Reyes? None of the pre-war maps I have found so far mention Tres Reyes.

Could it be that Tres Reyes once included the area now known as Camp Witek? And, over time, people stopped regarding that area as part of Tres Reyes?

Or did the map makers make a mistake when they called that area Tres Reyes?

One final note. On the village marker, which includes the names of the various districts within the municipality, Tres Reyes is not mentioned at all.

No Tres Reyes

The Three Kings had a star to help them find their destination.

We might need a star to help us find the historic area called Tres Reyes.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


We don't need to fly to Israel anymore.

Kidding. But there is a place in Inalåhan called Belen.

Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem.

The original name of the area is Se'se', and that old name is retained for a part of the area. But the lower part, closer to the main road, is called Belen and the street name leading to that area is called Belen Avenue.

The back story is that this name is relatively new. It was only after World War II that someone decided to start calling this area Belen. If you look at any pre-war map of Guam, you won't find any place called Belen.

Juan Meno Paulino moved to this area from the main village with his parents and siblings after the war. He was young and fun-loving. It was Christmas time and he saw all the trees and bushes in the area and suggested to his father that they call the area Belen, after the manger scenes which people did not build just for the inside of the home, but many times also the outside of the home on the lawn.

These outdoor belens were often huge, needing leaves and wood from the surrounding jungle.

So they did in fact build an outdoor belen in, well, Belen. They prayed the nobena there and on the final day they had a big feast.

Here is Juan's brother Bill telling the story in Chamorro :

Life is never at a standstill; we are in constant motion.

So it is with culture. What we think is an old name for a place may well be something new.

The road leading up to Belen

You can see in this map from 1913 that the area was called Se'se'.
The name Belen came later. I added it to this map.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


María Borja Cruz
"Tan Maria'n Misen"

She's an older lady I remember well from Yoña.

I am from Sinajaña, but I went to Saint Francis School in Yoña for six years and I went to the parish church many times, since its pastors have all been Capuchins like me.

Besides that, my aunt who raised me worked for Urban Renewal and had an office in Yoña for some years. After school, I would go to her office till it was time to go home in Sinajaña and we would often go to Tan Maria's house where her sister Gloria Cruz Mesa ran a bakery. What memories of freshly baked Chamorro bread rolls! But that has to be a post on its own!

Tan Maria was a familiar face in church. In the old days, she would start walking to church at 5AM to tucha or start the public recitation of the rosary and other devotions.

Her family were deeply rooted in Yoña, living there since before the war. Her father, Santiago L.G. Cruz, was from the huge Tanaguan clan. Her mother was the former Josefa Borja. Maria was one of the older of many children, born in 1906.

For whatever reason, she was nicknamed Tan Maria'n Misen. Misen in Chamorro means an abundance of liquid, such as water, tears and milk. But so far no one seems sure about the reason for the nickname.

One theory is that the Cruz family owned a lot of land in an area of Yoña called As Misen. Thus, Tan Maria and her family may have been called the Misen family because they were the Cruzes from As Misen.

Tan Maria never married but stayed at home as the cook and housekeeper. She also raised (poksai) some nieces. Besides the home, Tan Maria could be found next at church, always dressed in a mestisa, never in modern dress.

I remember her as being a quiet, gentle lady leading prayers from her pew. Informants tell me she was indeed patient and gentle. If she was hurt or offended, she'd keep quiet about it.

She passed away in 1995. U såga gi minahgong.