Tuesday, February 28, 2017


One of my favorite Saipan singers. Such a soothing, male voice from Alfred Saures, who wrote this song.


Kumåti i tilifon uno, dos, tres, kuåttro biåhe.
(The phone rang one, two, three, four times.)

Humallom yo' na taigue hao sa' tåya' man oppe.
(I figured you were gone because no one answered.)

Hu kana' hulo' i tilifon ya tumekkon yo' sen triste.
(I hung up the phone and bowed my head very sadly.)

Ai sa' tuhu påpa' i lago'-ho.
(Oh, my tears flowed down.)

Mantiene i dos påtman kanai-ho nene åntes de un hånao.
(Take hold of both palms of my hand, baby, before you go.)

Hagas mohon un sångan ti bai hu ågang hao guato.
(If only you said something before I wouldn't have called there to you.)

Ai sa' un diroga nene i kontråta.
(Oh, you changed the plan, baby.)

Ai sa' tuhu påpa' i lago'-ho.
(Oh, my tears flowed down.)

Håfa yo' bai cho'gue nene an ti ya-mo yo'?
(What shall I do, baby, if you don't like me?)

Po'lo diahlo ya bai hu sungon i piniti-ho.
(Let me just the same suffer my pain.)

Sa' i piniti-ho nene ti bai maleffa.
(Because I won't forget, baby, my pain.)

Ai sa' tuhu påpa' i lago'-ho.
(Oh, my tears flowed down.)


Kumåti. Really means "to cry out," and dilingding is "to ring." But, when switching to English, it sounds awkward to say that the phone "cried out." In Chamorro, one can also make the car cry out, as in "Hu na' kåti i karetå-ho," "I made my car cry out," meaning "I honked the horn."

Hallom. Is different from hålom. Hålom is "to enter." Hallom is "to perceive, to figure out, to suspect, to intuit."

Hagas mohon. A beautiful construction. Hagas means "in the past," and mohon means "if only." So hagas mohon means "if only in the past."

Diroga. "To cast aside, make void, change, nullify, cancel." We got it from the Spanish who got it from the Latin which is the root for the English word derogate, "to reduce, lessen, deviate from, depart from" and so on.

Kontråta. Sounds like the English word "contract" and both words are from the same root. Kontråta is a contract, or agreement, or understanding or a plan. In romance, it means the understanding the two lovers had about sharing a future together.

Diahlo. One of those almost untranslated expressionss. It sends the message "No thanks," or "Just the same" or maybe even the kind of "Whatever!" when said in sad resignation.

Monday, February 27, 2017


The short answer to the question, "Were the Marianas discovered?" is YES.


....by different people, at different times.

In its basic meaning, to discover (dis - cover, un - cover) is to come to know something you didn't know before.

"Discover" does NOT ALWAYS MEAN to be the FIRST person to know something.

We use the word "discover" like this all the time.

"Wow, I just discovered that new yogurt place in Mangilao and it's good!"

"I thought he was my friend until I discovered some things she was telling other people about me."

"Only yesterday I discovered who my biological father is!"

Now, other people had already discovered the new yogurt place; others already discovered that the friend was really a false one; and mama already knew who the biological dad was. And yet, those people can legitimately say that they discovered the new yogurt place, the false friend and the biological dad....for themselves.

So did Magellan discover Guam and the Marianas?

He did. For himself.

But that personal discovery (the personal discovery of the rest of his crew, specifically those who made it back to Spain) had lasting and enormous consequences for us. We were now known and made vulnerable before others.


Chamorro sakman in Anson's time in 1742

We don't know. For all we know, it could have been someone or a few people who intended to go from Taiwan to the Philippines and were blown off course and came here. Stayed a bit and moved on.

A lot of things could have happened, and we'll never know.

What we do know is that, in time, around 3500 or 4000 years ago, human beings started coming to the Marianas and staying. Even 1000 years is a long time and it seems unreasonable to think that only one group of people came over. Chances are that different groups of people came over, spread out over many years, and blending one with the other, formed what we call the Chamorro people. Archaeological evidence suggests that one wave of new settlers came around 1000 years ago, bringing with them the idea and technology of the latte stone.

So, different people, at different times, made their personal discovery of our islands. These ancient peoples had the biggest impact of all, because while Europeans and others had their impact and added their DNA, beliefs and vocabulary, they added these things to a people already here and whose DNA, beliefs and language continue to this day in some form.



My friend Mike has a Chamorro dad, which makes Mike a Chamorro. But Mike grew up in the States, not knowing much about his Chamorro homeland or culture. Last year he came to Guam for what was supposed to be a temporary visit. He is still here almost a year later. Why? Because he is discovering new things about his culture and language for the first time.

Lifelong Guam residents continue to make personal discoveries about their island, history, culture and language. Only recently did they discover that there had been a village at Pago Bay until 1856. Only the other day did they discover that the word mesngon comes from sungon. And only last night over dinner did two people discover that there are no rivers in the north of Guam because of the limestone terrain.

A group of high school students who live in Barrigada went down to Humåtak over the weekend and discovered a village they knew little about and had rarely visited before.

Hopefully, someone who never before cared at all about his or her Chamorro identity, language and culture discovers the importance of these things.

So, yes. People are discovering things all the time. Even old-timers and experts learn new things.


So I, for one, don't mind calling it Discovery Day.

Even if we mean it's the day that Magellan discovered, for himself, islands that saved him from starvation. That event had lasting impact on us. We are who we are today, in part, because Magellan's discovery allowed history to continue the way it did.

We could call it Discovery Day as a day to remember when all people discovered our islands for themselves, including our ancestors who came here long before Magellan.

For me, it's Discovery Day because, by recalling our history, and looking at our present situation, people are discovering things about their culture.

So let's keep observing Discovery Day, even if you give it another name, with all these different meanings.

Because a Discovery Day is better than a Recovery Day.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Luta (Rota) has its own version of the White Lady story. Here it is, written by Rich Mangloña. I have kept it as he wrote it, using his orthography. The English translation is mine.

Un tiempo gi manmaloffan, gi un songsong gi islan Luta,
(One time in the past, in a village on the island of Luta)

guaha un sen å'paka' yan bunita na påtgon palao'an mafañågu.
(there was born a very white and beautiful infant girl.)

Mafa'na'an Sosambra nai mañaina-ña.
(She was named Sosambra by her parents.)

Sigi mo'na i tiempo ya mientras mås gai idåt, mås umanåkko' i gapotilu-ña
(As time went on and as she grew older, her hair became longer)

ya mås atanon yan freska fasu-ña.
(and she became more attractive and her face more pleasing.)

Fuera ki i bunita-ña, kalålang yan suåbe lokkue' kumånta kulan un chuchurikan ånde'!
(Besides her beauty, she sang so gracefully like a kalålang bird or showy chuchurika.)

Pues annai echu sumottera, tai parehu buninita-ña giya Luta
(So when she became a young maiden, her beauty was without equal in Luta)

ya taya' na palao'an gi sengsong ti umeggu' yangin mamamaila'
(and not a single woman in the village wouldn't be jealous when she would come)

sa' ma lipåra na i man asagua yan nobiun-ñiha man gof ande'
(because they noticed that their husbands and boyfriends became show-offs)

yangin umuriya este na å'paka' hobensita!
(when this white young lady came around.)

Kada dia ma tågo' si Sosambra as nanå-ña para u hånao ya u krusa i sengsong
(Every day Sosambra was sent by her mother to and go and cross the village)

ya u fan lupok gi tupu' hånom giya Senhanom gi puntan songsong.
(to fetch water from the water well at Senhanom at the end of the village.)

Kada maloffan gi me'nan guma' siha, sigi kumånta mo'na ya i bos-ña tatfoi i kariñosa-ña,
(Every time she passed in front of the houses, she kept singing on and such was the sweetness of her voice)

ni i ga'lågu tampoku ti u fan håohåo!
(that not even the dogs would bark!)

Ma gef tungo' nai lalåhin i sengsong hafa na ora nai malolofan tenga si Sosambra
(The village men knew well what hour Sosambra often passed by)

ya ma nanangga ha' gi halom tano' gi fi'on i tipu' para u ma egga' yangin man lulupok.
(and waited in the jungle beside the well to watch when she would fetch water.)

Uttimo-ña, ti ma sungun esta nai famalao'an i sengsong ya man assoda' ya ma disidi
(In the end, the village women couldn't bear this anymore and they met and decided)

para uma puno' esti na palao'an i muna' fan atburutatao i asagua yan nobiu siha.
(to kill this woman who disturbed the husbands and boyfriends.)

Ma nangga un dia gi lemlem taotao ya ma chonnek i palao'an påpa' gi tipu'.
(They waited one day at twilight and pushed the woman down into the well.)

Sigi man achatgi sa' på'go nai ti u fan ma dingu nai lalahi
(They kept on laughing among themselves because now the men wouldn't leave them)

sa' taigue esta i å'paka' na palao'an.
(because the white lady is now gone.)

Gi sigente dia yan kada dia ma lipara nai famalao'an i sengsong
(The next day and every next day the village women noticed)

na kada måtto ayu na ora annai sesso maloffan i palao'an,
(that each time the hour came when the lady would often pass by)

man impirarao i lalåhin-ñiha ya pues man malingo ha' gi gima'.
(their men would get agitated and they would vanish from their houses.)

Man danña' ta'lo ya disidi para u ma ngelo' håfa bidan-ñiñiha i lalåhi.
(They gathered together again and decided to peep on what the men were doing.)

Annai ma rastreha i chalan, man ma sodda' i lalahi
(When they traced the road, they found the men)

na ma a'atan guato i tipu' ya gaigi un bunitata, å'paka', yan anåkoko' gapotilu-ña na palao'an
(looking at the well where there was a very beautiful, white and long-haired lady)

na ha tata'pang gue' ya sigi kumanta!
(washing herself and singing!)

Man lalangu todu i famalao'an sa' ma tungo' na espiritu ayu i ma li'e'
(The women became faint because they knew that what they were seeing was a spirit)

ya taya' siña esta ma cho'gue sa' ha atgimat esta todu i lalahin i sengsong!
(and that there was nothing else to do because she had bewitched all the village men!)

Alas uttimo ma fa'na'an si Sosambra palao'an man eggu'
(In the end the jealous women changed Sosambra's name)

utimo-ña ma tulaika para PALAO'AN MANEGGU'!
(finally to JEALOUS WOMAN!)

Gi prisente, gaigi esti na tupu' na ma haffot gi fi'on i guma' ridondo gi Songsong Village.
(At the moment, this well is buried next to the Round House in Songsong Village.)

Ma sasangan na yangin lemlem taotao, guaha nai ma li'e' buttun a'paka' na palao'an
(They say that at twilight one can see the figure of a white lady)

na sigi lumikuku guihi na lugåt sa' ha espipiha i tipu'-ña!
(who continuously goes around that area because she is looking for her well!)

The current Guma' Redondo (Round House) in Luta for public gatherings


Atanon. When you add the suffix -on to a word, it means "capable of." Atan means "to look" so someone or something atanon is capable of being looked at, that is, pleasant to look at. Kanu'on means something edible (able for you to kånno'); tufungon means something countable (tufong) and so on.

Chuchurika. The more known word for this bird is chichirika, but in every language there are differences, depending on the place.

Echu. Rarely heard nowadays. It comes from the Spanish word hecho, meaning "made." Sometimes you can see on something you buy from a store, Hecho en México. Made in Mexico. In Chamorro, echu means something ready to be, ready to become, just become or has become.

Lipåra. I believe most Chamorro speakers say repåra or ripåra, using the R because the original Spanish word is repara. But many Chamorros don't like the R sound and change it to L.

Krusa. Also rarely heard. Borrowed from Spanish. It means to cross, as in "cross the road."

Tatfoi. Rarely heard and such a pity because it's such a nice word. It means "such that" or "so much so that." It comes from the Spanish tal fué, meaning "it was such that." Tatfoi i minalate'-ña na ni håyeye malago' kumontra gue'. Her intelligence was such that no one wanted to oppose her.

Tampoku (tampoko). Another Spanish loan word. It means "not even." Tampoko yo' ti ya-ho hao. Not even I like you.

Lemlem taotao. Means "dusk, twilight, sunset." But the word lemlem itself means "to be surprised or confused at first" by a change in the thing's appearance, as when you don't recognize someone you know at first because he has grown taller since you last saw him.

Rastreha (rastrea). From the Spanish. Spanish rastro and Chamorro låstro are the traces or marks left behind, like footprints or stains. Rastrea is to follow signs left by these marks.

Atgimat. To bewitch as in to make someone fall in love with you or someone else. It sounds suspiciously like a Spanish derivative but I have been unable to find the Spanish original.

Lumikuku. Most say lumiliku. Liliku means "to wander about" or "go around."

Eggu'. Eggu' is not generalized jealousy but specifically the romantic or sexual kind.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


BUENAS NOCHES MARIKITA is a Johnny Sablan original.

I grew up listening to this song since the early 70s.

1. Buenas noches Marikita / kao siña yo' un na' hålom
(Good evening Marikita / can you let me inside)

ya ta hihita man rega nu / i man fresko siha na hånom.
(and water together  / with fresh water.)

REFRAIN : Kao mungnga hao? Kao mungnga hao? Sa' hunggan yo', nene.
(Will you not? Will you not? Because I am willing, baby.)

2. Ti ya-mo åttilong na taotao / lao gof ya-mo i fanihi
(You don't like dark-skinned people / but you like the fruit bat)

ya hu desesea kerida na / un guaiya yo' taiguine.
(and I desire sweetheart that / you love me in the same way.)

3. Åttilong yo' nai na taotao / åttilong ti ma guaiya
(I am a dark-skinned person / dark-skinned persons aren't loved)

lao gef atan nu i dos matå-mo / sa' un dia un fina' baba.
(but look well at your two eyes / for one day they will deceive you.)

4. Ti pinite yo' as nåna / komo hågo yo' kumonne'
(I won't feel bad for mama / if you are the one to take me)

komo humihita chumochocho / ai masea linemmok donne'.
(if we eat together / oh, even if it's just crushed chili pepper.)

5. I famalau'an ni man dudus / man gof andi' i lalåhe
(The flirtatious women / the show-off guys)

an un pala'i labios-mo libistik / siempre ha' un ma essitane.
(if you smear your lips with lipstick / you will surely be mocked.)

6. Ti guåho na klåsen taotao / para hu tohge gi flores-mo
(I'm not the kind of person / to stand on your flowers)

lao måtto yo' para hu konsuela hao / annai hu hungok i tanges-mo.
(but I came to comfort you / when I heard your weeping.)


This is a wooing song. A man, who seems unlikely to win this girl's heart, is doing his best to convince her to take him as her sweetheart. The refrain shows the difference between the two. He knows who he wants ("Sa' hunggan yo'.) but he is not sure yet where she stands ("Kao mungnga hao?").

In verse 1, he uses the analogy of watering flowers, or plants, which makes them bloom and blossom. He asks her to do the same, with love and romance, to make their feelings grow.

In verse 2, he points out her contradiction. She doesn't like him because his skin is dark, but she loves fruit bat, which is black. If she can love to eat fanihi, why can't she love him, too?

In verse 3, again defending himself against his dark skin, he points out that his color is just skin deep. There is more to a man than the color of his appearance. Those deeper things escape the eyes, and her eyes can deceive (fina' baba) her, thinking that a light skinned man is a good man when in fact he is not, or that a dark skinned man is bad, when in fact he may just be a wonderful person.

In verse 4, he shifts gear and suggests that, if she accepts him, their romance will be wonderful. So wonderful that he will not even pity his mother, who sorrows that she lost her son to such a woman. So wonderful, that even if all they have to eat is crushed chili pepper, it will be great as long as they eat together.

In verse 5, he teases her, maybe to shame her, but not in a horrible way. He warns her in order to shake her up and bring her back to modesty. Lipstick was new and strange to Chamorros when it first came out in general use among the Chamorros. Women painting their lips and faces seemed ridiculous to some, and Chamorros mock what they find ridiculous. Lipstick and make-up were associated with affluent, westernized women, and even with loose women. Since the woman he loves values appearances, to the extent that a dark man won't do for her, he warns her that her made-up appearance, with lipstick, only opens her up to ridicule. Better, he implies, that she not make such a big thing of appearances, hers or his.

In verse 6, an allusion is made to a well-known Chamorrita verse which goes, "Båsta umuriyan guma', sa' un gatcha i tinanom. Yanggen maolek hao na taotao, guaha potta para un hålom." "Stop coming around, because you're stepping on the plants/flowers. If you're a decent person, there is a door you can enter."

Romantic liaisons were strictly regulated in traditional Chamorro culture. It wasn't easy for a man to interact with a lady whenever he wanted. So, men were tempted to sneak around the house at night and get as close as possible to the sweetheart's bedroom window. That meant he would often stomp on the plants and flowers around the house. The Chamorrita verse says that if the man is a decent one, he'd have no hesitation approaching the house through the main door, where he would have to pass through mom and dad first.

So the man in this song says he's not an indecent type of fellow to sneak around the house and step on the plants. But, he has heard his darling's tears, so he goes to comfort her. Another reason why she should take him as her sweetheart.


Marikita. Spelled Mariquita if using the Spanish style. It comes from the Spanish way of adding -ita or -illa to feminine names or words to make it more affectionate or to emphasize smallness. Maria is Mary and Mariquita is "little Mary" or "darling Mary." 

Lipstick. Chamorros had a hard time with the P, S and T all together so they added an I in between the P and S and said lipistik or libistik. Remember that, in the old days, Chamorros were like Spaniards who had a hard time saying an initial S followed by a consonant. School is es-kool and student is es-tudient. The stick in lipstick becomes istik.

Essitane. To mock or ridicule someone or something. It comes from the word o'sitan or e'sitan, which means to joke. But many Chamorros shorten essitane to estane as you can hear in the song when Johnny sings it.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Påle' Román's 1932 Chamorro-Spanish dictionary
"Manana si Yu'us" means "it has already dawned; it is already daytime."

We live in a time now in Chamorro history where there are less and less fluent speakers of Chamorro, and yet there are now greater differences among Chamorro speakers than before, and a bit of confusion and even irritation.

There have always been differences among Chamorro speakers in the past. These differences have occurred between the islands and even between villages. When I was pastor of both Malesso' and Humåtak at the same time, I noticed a few differences in the words and manner of speech used by both villages, and these two villages were just a mile apart!

But these differences of the past were differences between communities.

Now, individuals are taking it upon themselves to introduce innovations and novelties in the language, under the claim of being more proper.

Not everyone agrees.

Some years ago, since around the 1990s, some people stopped saying "Buenas dias" as a morning greeting. From what I heard, they did this to eliminate from the language a Spanish greeting. Before we go any further, I'd like to point out that it may be a Spanish greeting in origin, but we Chamorros already changed it! In Spanish, the phrase is buenos días. Buenos, with an O.

Chamorros don't say buenos días. They say buenas dias, or buenas for short. We changed it. If a Chamorro said "buenas dias" in Madrid, he or she would be corrected.

Second, not everyone agrees that we should eliminate every Spanish-origin word in our language. Those borrowed words did not bother our grandparents 70 years ago and they don't bother a whole bunch of Chamorros to this day. No identity crisis need arise from the borrowing of foreign words, which happens across the globe to nobody's great anxiety.

Third, coming up with an indigenous replacement does not necessarily mean we have revived an ancient usage. I have never seen in the early accounts what our ancestors said to greet each other in the morning. Maybe they didn't even have a specific morning greeting. Not every race or community does.

So, what phrase was chosen by those people wishing to replace the Spanish-origin phrase buenas dias.

They chose manana si Yu'us.

Manana si Yu'us is not a new phrase. Our grandparents and their grandparents have been saying it for at least a couple of centuries, at least since early Christian times when the concept of Yu'us was adopted by Chamorros. Thus, that phrase has had an established meaning for some 200 or more years, held by an entire community and not just individuals. It means "daylight."

The word manana itself means "clear, visible, obvious, evident, certain."

Ti ya-ña yo' si påle'. The priest doesn't like me.
Mananana ha'. That's clear. That's obvious.

Yu'us means God and is the Chamorro pronunciation and form of the Spanish word Dios, meaning God. When Sanvitores translated some prayers into Chamorro, he still used the word Dios even when writing in Chamorro, because, at the time, Chamorro had no word for God (the idea of God in the Judeo-Christian sense did not exist among our ancestors). Sanvitores had no choice but to use the Spanish word Dios. Since Dios was a new word among the Chamorros, it took a while for the people's modification of it to come down in written form.

(As an aside, in the Philippines, the concept of God was named Diyos (sometimes Dios) in their languages, taken from the Spanish word Dios, and in Chuuk, where American missionaries worked long before Catholic missionaries came, their word for God is Kot, taken from English "God.")

Even the Spanish word adios (farewell) was changed by Chamorros to ayu'us; further indication that Yu'us comes from the Spanish Dios. Thus, if we dropped buenas dias because we don't like Spanish, then we've got to somehow take care of that Spanish derivative Yu'us, too.

So does manana si Yu'us mean that God is clear? Obvious? Evident? As if God were hidden at night?

I don't think so. That would be bad catechesis.

Instead, I believe the Chamorro sense is that, once it is daylight, the things that God made, creation, is now visible. That's why the man in the video looks around the area he is at and says "while it is daylight, we are in the pasture and the farm working," because God has made daylight reveal the things of earth with which we work.

Perhaps, "manana i nina'huyung Yu'us," "the things made by God are seen."

This is why older Chamorros chuckle or shake their heads when younger people greet them with manana si Yu'us. That phrase is a statement of fact, not a greeting. It means that daylight has come. One can imagine a younger person meeting an older person, saying :

Younger : Manana si Yu'us. (It's daylight.)
Older : Mananana ha'. (That's obvious).

At a time in our history when we could be uniting more closely as we face linguistic and cultural loss, we are introducing new ways of speaking that create greater divergence among us. By introducing these neologisms, Chamorros are becoming less able to understand each other when we speak to each other.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Around 1900

In 1895, just three years before the Americans took possession of Guam, the elite of Hagåtña met to cast their consultative votes for the appointment of city officials. The Chamorro elite (principalía) meant former and standing city officials, whose vote was merely a recommendation. The Spanish authority made the actual decision, and the priest of the city or village added his voice to the process as well. In a few cases, non-Chamorros were also among the elite as, for example, long-time Filipino residents, especially those married to Chamorros.

The highest office for Hagåtña was the Gobernadorcillo, literally the "little Governor." Other positions were of the teniente (assistant), juez de sementera (superintendent of fields), alguacil (sheriff) and the juez de ganado (superintendent of farm animals), among others. The city was divided into barangays  (neighborhoods) and these were headed by a cabeza (head).

The 15 electors were as follows :

Juan de Castro
Manuel Aflague
Remigio Martínez
Justo Dungca
José Wilson
Miguel de Borja
Eulogio de la Cruz
José Laguaña
Juan Santos
Juan Aguon
Juan Torres
José Quenga
Joaquín Pérez
Justo de León Guerrero
Venancio Roberto

Nominated for the position of Gobernadorcillo of Hagåtña were :

Remigio Pangelinan Martínez
Joaquín Cruz Pérez
Justo Sánchez de León Guerrero

In the voting, Martínez received 5 votes, Pérez 4 and de León Guerrero 6, for a total of 15 votes.

So these results were sent to the Spanish Governor.

The report of the parish priest, Father Francisco Resano, also was submitted to the Governor. This is what he had to say about the three candidates. I will not name them, since the descendants of these candidates could very well be alive today.

About one of them, Fr Resano said that he was apathetic, of little activity and lacking any interest or enthusiasm.

About another, Fr Resano said he was somewhat good, but not very good.

About the third and final candidate, Fr Resano said that he had "very beautiful manners" (de bellísimas costumbres) but was not a strong character (de poco carácter), meaning he was not someone who took command of his responsibilities and duties.

In the end, the Spaniards chose Justo Sánchez de León Guerrero to be Gobernadorcillo of Hagátña.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


According to an American missionary writing right after the war, one of the customs some Chamorros observed concerning weddings was the lamenting of the marriage. Rather than parents and other elders in the family rejoicing over the newlyweds, they would weep and bewail the wedding as something horrible!

Other writers have stated that the bride's family generally bewailed the loss of the daughter to the groom's family. The wedding breakfast hosted by the bride's family, for example, was without music, because the bride's family saw nothing joyful about losing their daughter that morning to the groom and his family. The wedding breakfast had a somber tone to it, and was finished as soon as possible. Nobody wanted such a serious and formal meal to be prolonged more than necessary.

But the American missionary adds this. Female relatives on both sides of the family went through the motions of regretting the wedding. It's important to understand that this regret may not have been real; both families may have indeed been very happy over the marriage. But custom dictated that older relatives display some displeasure that their son or daughter was, in some sense, leaving the nest.

It was the custom that neither set of parents attended the actual wedding in church. Godparents and other relatives would attend. So, after the wedding, the couple would go to the bride's parents first and kneel before them. The mother of the bride would begin to cry and wail, "Ai hagå-ho! Gof na' masi' na hagå-ho!" "Oh my daughter! My most pitiable daughter!" The mother would continue to state that the groom would be a bad provider, that he is lazy, that he will be a drinker, that she will have a miserable life with him and so on.

Then the couple would go to the groom's parents' house and the routine would be repeated. This time, the groom's mother would say that her son would never be fed right by the new wife, that his clothes will never be clean or repaired, that the house would always be filthy and so on.


My great grandmother was an only child. She had six children but never married. Elders in my family explained that her parents would never consent to her getting married because, as the one and only child, and especially being a woman, her parents would have lost her to the groom's family, thus leaving mother and father alone with no one to care for them in their old age.

It's not that brides abandoned their parents entirely. But the bride would definitely be unable to give her parents unlimited attention as a married woman, since she now lived with her husband, with her own children to raise. Men had more opportunity and freedom to attend to their parents.

Of course, as in almost all things, not everyone observed this. Not every single Chamorro family lived by one code.

Monday, February 13, 2017


These two streets in Santa Rita are named after two Spanish Capuchin missionaries of the 1930s.

Santa Rita, as you know, was established after World War II for the former residents of Sumay. The people of Sumay had a reputation for being very religious. That trait carried over into post-war Santa Rita and is shown in the way that village named many of its streets after priests.

The first street is named after Påle' Eugenio. Håya is a direction, which many consider the equivalent of "east," but which, in reality, is the direction away from the sea.

Påle' Eugenio de Legaria, OFM Cap

Påle' Eugenio had been the priest of Sumay (and also of Hågat, and sometimes both places at the same time) for a few years in the 1930s. When the Spanish Capuchins were slowly replaced by American Capuchins, on orders of the US Navy in the late 1930s, he left the island.

Påle' Román María de Vera, OFM Cap

The second street is named after Påle' Román María de Vera.

This is interesting because Påle' Román was never the pastor of Sumay. However, he would have been known to the people of Sumay, as he was known by almost everyone on the entire island. He not only would assist now and then in every parish, he was frequently called on to preach at the village fiestas, because he was by far the best speaker of Chamorro among the Spanish missionaries.

Påle' Román just made it his business to go around and be with the people. This was not always on pleasant business! He would sometimes try to woo people back to the Church who had become Protestant. Or, he would try to influence someone not to marry someone from outside the island community. So, he was at times a controversial figure. But, for most people, he was a very influential priest who was consulted by many. He translated numerous religious books into Chamorro that were used by many people. Even though he was never pastor of Sumay, such was his stature that Santa Rita named a street after him. He was one of the last Spanish missionaries to leave Guam, just three months before war broke out in 1941.

Friday, February 10, 2017


At least one priest is still calling it a konbento , and this is a young priest, at that.

When I was growing up, even the stateside priests called it the konbento.

In Chamorro, the konbento is the priest's house at the parish. Many people now just call it the rectory, and, at the Cathedral, the pastoral center.

In English, there are half a dozen names for the residence of the clergy at a church or parish. In Ireland, one can immediately tell if one is referring to a Protestant church or to a Catholic church simply by how one calls the clergy residence. In Ireland of long ago, one went to a Catholic presbytery and to a Protestant rectory.

The word konbento comes from the Spanish convento. That itself is taken from the Latin conventus, from convenire, to "come together," an "assembly." It was applied to a religious house, where religious persons came to live together under one roof. Monks in their house, priests in theirs, nuns in theirs and so on. This is where we get the English word convent, which in English means a house for women religious (nuns or sisters).

But the Spanish word convento was applied to more than just houses for women religious. A home for friars was also called a convento, as was the priest's house in a parish. This is how konbento entered the Chamorro language, and with only one meaning - the priest's house in a parish - since our islands did not have friaries for men nor convents for women until well into the American era.

Spanish records sometimes called the priest's house the casa parroquial, the parish house. But, among Chamorros, only one word was used for that - the konbento.

When we finally had a friary in our islands as well as sisters' convents, we reverted to the English names for these place (friary, convent), even though, in Spanish, convento can mean a friary or a sisters' convent. Sadly, not in Chamorro. If we said in Chamorro that sister lived in a konbento, people would be scandalized. Our historical lack of friaries and sisters' convents till after the war means that the meaning of konbento was frozen into one meaning alone.

In Spain, this friary can be called a convento. But not in the Marianas.

It's funny how convent and konbento should mean the same thing, but not in Chamorro. A sisters' convent could never be called a konbento in Chamorro.

The Malesso Konbento

In the Marianas, the konbento was not just the house for the priest working in that parish. Of course it was also his office, basically a place to store the sacramental records (baptisms, weddings, etc.). But, as we can see in the picture of the Malesso' Konbento, it had a large bodega or basement, which was used to store supplies but also to shelter families from typhoons. Poor families living in weaker homes found shelter in the bodega at the Malesso' Konbento even as late as Typhoon Karen in 1962.

In some places in the Marianas, the konbento was the only structure in the village built of mampostería (stone and mortar mix) which gave better protection against storms than wooden and thatched structures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


House of Taga in 1818
Jacques Arago, artist

Sometime around 1850 or so, an American sea captain, Alfred K. Fisher, visited Tinian. Not surprisingly, the focus of his subsequent tale, published in American newspapers, was the House of Taga and its mighty latte stones, and the story of its builder, Chief Taga.

But there was also a description of dwarves by one Juan Taitano, a Chamorro of Hagåtña who knew much about Tinian and the story of Taga. Fisher was advised to go and interview Taitano, who shared stories about dwarves on Tinian. These drarves can be none other than the duendes.

But Taitano shared some things about these duendes that differ somewhat from what is said about them today. Keep in mind that Taitano's story is from 1852 and that folklore changes over time in some aspects. Also keep in mind that the story is not directly from Taitano himself, but rather from an American newspaper writer who could be 2 or 3 persons distant from Taitano, the original source. Things can change between the original source and the third person quoting that source!

Benevolent. One of the first differences between our modern idea about the duendes and Taitano's version is that the duendes were kind, rather than mischievous, as we believe them to be today. Rather than kidnap children, the duendes found lost children in the jungle and returned them to the parents.

Secondly, when the duendes saw how the giant spirits (perhaps what we call taotaomo'na today) punished people with sickness, the duendes came day or night to heal the stricken. Indeed, the duendes healed any poor person who was sick, no matter the occasion.

Reclusive. This is not so different from our modern idea of the duendes, but Taitano says that the duendes do not speak at all. This differs from what some older people say about the duendes, whom, they say, have been heard to speak in an unintelligible language.

Descendants of Taga. According to Taitano, the duendes were the children of the daughter of Taga, who had married a giant. Though small, the duendes were powerful.

Eyewitness Description. Taitano claims to have seen a duendes himself. It happened one night when he was sleeping in the jungle. He awoke in the middle of the night to see one dwarf looking intently at him. The duendes had big blue eyes and was staring at Taitano with a mild and gentle look. The duendes vanished quickly, as soon as Taitano awoke and looked at the duendes briefly.

For more about the duendes :


Monday, February 6, 2017


A story from the 1950s

Guaha baila gi pupuenge ya manhånao hame ni man amigan eskuela para in fan baila.
(There was a dance in the evening and us school girlfriends went to dance.)

Man eståba lokkue' i man ma'estra yan man ma'estro na man mamumulan.
(The teachers were also there who were watching over us.)

Magåhet na gof ya-ho este na låhe ya duro ham kumuentos yan chumålek.
(It's true that I really liked this boy and we kept talking and laughing.)

Kalan ti in atiende i baila sa' duro ham kumuentos.
(It's like we didn't pay attention to the dance because we kept on talking.)

Lao mampos ga' kumuentos este na 'boy' ya esta ha na' o'son yo' umekkungok.
(But this boy was way too talkative and he already made me tire of listening.)

Sige sige de ha sångan taiguine an taiguennao.
(He kept saying this and that.)

Esta måtto gi hinaso-ko, "Haftaimano siña hu na' påra gue' kumuentos?"
(It already came to my mind, "How can I stop him from talking?")

Pues hu hålla gue' mågi giya guåho, hu toktok ya hu chiku.
(So I pulled him to me, I hugged him and I kissed him.)

An monhåyan hu chiku, må'pos ha' gue' sa' ti ha hongge håfa bidå-ho!
(After I finished kissing him, he just went away because he couldn't believe what I did.)

Despues, ha lalåtde yo' si nanå-ho sa' sinangåne gue' ni ma'estra håfa bidå-ho.
(Later, my mother scolded me because she was told by a teacher what I had done.)

"Håfa na un chiku?!?" 
("Why did you kiss him?!?")

"Mamá, pot para bai na' påkkaka' gue' na hu chiku!"
("Mom, it was to shut him up that I kissed him!")