Thursday, March 30, 2017


A short hymn to San José (Saint Joseph)

Såtbe José Patriåtka, magof na' li'e' ham
(Hail Patriarch Joseph, be pleased to show us)

nu i fina' patgon-mo ya u bendise ham.
(your adopted child and He will bless us.)

Hamyo yan si Maria, en tayuyute ham,
(You and Mary, pray for us.)

gågao si Jesukristo na u fa' maulek ham.
(ask Jesus Christ that He make us whole.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Guam, like most of the Marianas before World War II, was self-sustaining in food in most things. Once in a blue moon, pests or storms might damage the island's crops and emergency food supplies would have to come from Manila, as did happen during Spanish times.

The Naval Government's policy before the war was to encourage the people to farm and produce more. The government schools could help promote this idea and one way to do it was to have the students from the different schools compete with their agricultural produce.

In 1925, a Garden Competition was held among the schools and these were the results :



Jesus M. Chargualaf



Martin Barcinas



Gregorio Taitague



Jose S. Rivera



Jose H. Lujan



Gloria C. Borja



Jose Meno



Pedro Leon Guerrero

Intermediate (Hagåtña)


Martin Barcinas



Joaquin San Nicolas

Dorn Hall (Hagåtña)


Jose L. Babauta



Vicente Baleto



Juan Cruz Perez

Bilibic (Hagåtña)


Jesus Guerrero

Bilibic (Hagåtña)


Jose Gutierrez

Intermediate (Hagåtña)


Martin Barcinas



Jesus L. Tenorio

Bilibic (Hagåtña)

1st : Joaquin S. Inoue
2nd : Vicente P. Leon Guerrero


Juan M. Salas



Three Egg Plants. I can only guess that competitors could enter three egg plants to see whose trio was the best.

Kondot. There was no English name for this listed in the original but it can be called the wax gourd in English.

KW Beans. Stood for "Kentucky Wonder." I remember my grandmother (born 1899) using this term for those beans.

Chayote. Better spelled chaiote or chaioti in Chamorro. This was a variety of squash said to have been brought to Guam by James Underwood and given a Chamorro name using his last name!

Atmagoso. Bitter melon.

Villages. Among these 19 categories, Hagåtña schools took six prizes and Inalåhan took five.

Persons. The individual student who took the most prizes was from Malesso', one Martin C. Barcinas.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Chamorro hymn to San Jose (Saint Joseph)


REFRAIN : Sen mehnalom na adahen / i Såntos na Iglesia
(Most wise guardian / of the Holy Church)
na' mames hao ya un goggue / i gumuguaiya hao siha.
(sweeten your disposition and defend / those who love you.)

San Jose inayek Yu'us / fina' Tatan i Lahi-ña
(Saint Joseph, chosen by God / to be the foster father of His Son)
tayuyute ham sen fehman / på'go guennao gi me'nå-ña.
(pray for us fervently / there now before Him.)

Asaguan i nanan Yu'us / ya man hulat gi me'nå-ña
(Husband of the Mother of God / and powerful before Him)
Na' ma chuda' giya hame / sen misen i grasiå-ña.
(Shower on us / an overflowing of His grace.)

Må'gas i man tåta siha / na' apo' i talanga-mo
(Leader of fathers / bend your ear)
Atan ham ni man man nangga / guennao gi nina' siñå-mo.
(Look at us who are waiting / there for your power.)


Mehnalom. Comes from the prefix mi (abundant) and hinalom (inside, interior), To be full of interior wisdom. But many people say and spell it menhalom. This is a common occurrence in many languages; the switching places of letters to make it easier for people to say the word.

Na' mames hao. Literally means "make yourself sweet," but what is meant, of course, is that the person make himself positively disposed towards someone else.

Fina' Tata. The root is fa', which means "to make." But fina' can also mean "provisionally, artificially, imperfectly made." One example, fina' chalan means a temporary or provisional road. So, fina' tata means a man "considered, thought to be" a father, but really isn't a biological father of that child. Thus, a foster father. I suppose the sense here is that, he really isn't the father, but we make him to be (fa') the father.

Hulat. Means to overcome, to be victorious.

Monday, March 27, 2017


When I was young, Brodie meant "retarded."

Today, we don't even use the word "retarded" when referring to people who are less advanced in mental, physical or social development as is usual for their age. For many years now, the word "retarded" is considered offensive and is no longer used.

The reason why Brodie became Guam slang for the cognitively impaired is because a school named Brodie Memorial School was opened on Guam for just such students. If you went to Brodie, in those days, it meant you were a student with special needs.

By around the 1980s, the term Brodie was no longer in use. It died. I am glad it did.

Even the school named Brodie changed and, in 1994, it became a regular Department of Education elementary school as special needs students were placed in their own neighborhood or village schools and no longer at Brodie.

But, who was Brodie? Why was the school named after him?


By the late 1950s, a married couple who were public school teachers on Guam realized that there were no special services provided for students with special needs. The couple were referred to Cynthia Johnston Torres, a business woman, who might be able to provide a sewing machine, a typewriter and other things needed for students with special needs. Torres was inspired to pursue an education in California as a special education teacher. She later became a principal at Brodie.

Meanwhile, a group of women from Andersen Air Force Base organized to provide an education themselves to students with special needs. A lady named Ruth Paterson was selected to lead the cause. They secured a quonset hut from the government, located on Hospital Road (now Chalan San Antonio) in Tamuning. Since this was a private endeavor, everything had to be donated. The Marianas Association for Retarded Children was born.

The school's original quonset huts, damaged after Typhoon Karen in 1962


Hearing about the need for help to make the quonset hut a suitable building for the school, a Chief Petty Officer of the Navy's Construction Battalion (or Seabees), Clifford Brodie, got in on the action. He, and his Seabee volunteers, donated their time and skill to building the school.

Just as that project was underway, a disaster hit Guam on September 19, 1960. A DC-6 plane carrying military personnel and dependents crashed on Barrigada Hill just after take-off. Eighty passengers and crew died, and fourteen survived.

Chief Brodie and his Seabees went up to the crash site to help with rescue efforts. They didn't give up on the school project either, and went back to building the school after helping with the plane crash rescue.

Perhaps it was all too strenuous for Clifford Brodie. He died in his sleep that night, on September 20, of a heart attack.

Crash Site on Barrigada Hill

When the school was finally finished, it was decided to name the school after Brodie, who had worked so hard to build the school. The school was opened on October 29, 1960.

New Chief Brodie Memorial School 1960s


Clifford Brodie was born in 1911 in Arkansas. He enlisted in the US Navy in 1943. Prior to this, he had been a carpenter. It's no surprise, then, that he was placed in the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) or Seabees.

After his death, his body was flown to Arkansas for burial at the Fort Smith National Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Muriel and two children.

CPO Clifford Brodie, USN
1911 - 1960


In 1963, Brodie Memorial School became part of the Department of Education. In 1965, the land adjacent John F. Kennedy High School was designated for the school and modern, concrete classrooms were built. In 1971, additional classrooms were built.

In 1994, the philosophy about special needs students had changed. It was now deemed better for them to be integrated in their own neighborhood or village schools. Brodie thus ceased being a special needs school and transitioned into a regular elementary school.

Today, the school enrolls children mainly from the Harmon Industrial Park area, and has the highest per capita number of non-Chamorro students in the public school system. It is a very vibrant, proud school with great spirit. The Seabees continue their long association with the school, whose mascot is the Bees.

I am so glad to know that the school, whose name we once used as kids to tease other people, is named after a wonderful human being who gave of himself to help others. May Chief Brodie Memorial School thrive and shine!

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Luta. February 13, 1948

A stateside man by the name of Alvarez was in the mood for some fun while stationed on Luta. But he needed a car. Pretending to be on some official mission, he managed to get the keys of the jeep reserved for the use of Luta's teachers. Then the fun began.

He picked up some booze and a young lady, whose name I will omit in the event that she is still alive, or her family comes after me for telling the story!

Off they went of a joy ride. The "joy" was aided by the ample amounts of liquor that now filled and inebriated said driver Alvarez. The Chamorro lady told police later that Alvarez would even let go of the steering wheel at full speed.

Well, as would happen on Luta in 1948, Alvarez suddenly came upon a bull cart. He had no time to react safely. Swerving in order to miss the bull and cart, Alvarez went off the road and into a ditch head first. The front of the jeep was badly damaged, up to the springs behind the front wheels. The jeep was unable to operate after that.

More than that, the young Chamorro lady went flying into the air when the jeep fell into the ditch. She, too, was badly injured when she came down from the air. Alvarez, it seems, was not seriously hurt.

In time, both jeep and young lady were repaired.

Source : Pregonero

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


To understand this hymn, we need to be familiar with the Seven Sorrows and Joys of Saint Joseph because the verses of this hymn juxtapose one sorrow of Saint Joseph with the corresponding joy. Our earthly life is a mixture of sorrow and joy! The stories for each sorrow or joy come to us partly from the Bible and partly from ancient tradition.


1. Joseph is distraught when he finds out that the Virgin he is to marry is pregnant and he knows he is not the father.

1. Joseph rejoices when the Angel tells him that the Virgin has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

2. Joseph is distraught seeing the Child born in such poverty in a cave and stable for animals.

2. Joseph rejoices when he sees the angels sing the praises of the Infant.

3. Joseph is distraught seeing blood flow from the Child at his circumcision.

3. Joseph rejoices when hearing the name of the Child, Jesus, which means "God saves."

4. Joseph is distraught hearing the prophecy of Simeon about the future suffering of the Child.

4. Joseph rejoices when he hears how the Child will save many souls through His suffering.

5. Joseph is distraught having to take the family and flee to Egypt, a foreign land.

5. Joseph rejoices seeing the false idols of Egypt fall and break in pieces before the Child.

6. Joseph is distraught being told to return home, fearing the anger of King Archelaus.

6. Joseph rejoices when he is warned in a dream and settles in Galilee.

7. Joseph is distraught when Jesus is lost in the temple.

7. Joseph rejoices when Jesus is found in the temple.

Now the hymn....


1. Ha na' gos pinite hao i un li'e' na ma potge' i Bithen ginefli'e';
(It pained you greatly when you saw the beloved Virgin pregnant;)
lao i ñinangon i anghet nu hågo ånte yan korason-mo ha na' magof :
(but the inspiration to you by the angel made you happy in soul and heart :)

Gef adahe, San Jose, i bidå-ho, på'go yan i oran i finatai-ho.
(Watch over my life, Saint Joseph, now and at the hour of my death.)

2. Si Jose tumåtanges kalan tåta annai numiño Yu'us i Saina-ta;
(Saint Joseph wept like a father when God our Lord became a child;)
lao mina'magof nu i anghet siha yan i man mames na tininan-ñiha.
(but he rejoiced at the angels and their sweet praises.)

3. Nina' kasao si Jose nu i haga' ni ma chuda' gi liyan sagan gå'ga';
(Saint Joseph cried at the blood which spilled in the cave and animal shelter;)
lao an ha sångan Jesus i pachot-ña nina' inekte nu i minagof-ña.
(but when his mouth said Jesus he was filled with joy.)

4. Ti sangånon yuhe i pinadese annai si Jesus påtgon ma ofrese;
(That sorrow was unspeakable when the Child Jesus was offered;)
i asaguå-mo as Santa Maria inadotgåne se'se' yan masia.
(your spouse, the Virgin Mary, was pierced with a knife.)

5. Må'pos hao ma dulalak gi tano'-mo ya ma chiget i såntos korason-mo;
(You fled exiled from your land and your holy heart was crushed;
lao meggai guihe gi man gi Ehipto ha guaiya hamyo yan si Jesukristo.
(but many Egyptians loved you and Christ.)

6. Ma sangåne hao Jose gi maigo'-mo na on ta'lo hao guato gi tano'-mo;
(You were told, Joseph, in your sleep to return to your country;)
i na minagof i humuyong ayo annai man måtto i tres giya hamyo.
(what joy came about there when the three arrived there.)

7. Katna måtai hao Jose, Sainan Yu'us, annai ha' man adingo yan si Jesus;
(You almost died, Joseph, parent of God, when you and Jesus parted;)
Jose Patriatka hame un gagågue; yan si Maria hamyo ham in sague.
(Patriarch Joseph, pray for us; you and Mary, protect us.)


Gos. Another form of the word gof.

Ñangon. Discreet communication, such as whispering. Thus it can also mean inspiration, such as privately comes to one person.

Okte. To be filled with.

Yuhe. There.

Adotgan. To pierce.

Masia. Mystery word! Not found in any dictionary I can find.

Chiget. Literally means to be pinched in.

On. Another form of the pronoun un.


Påle' Román translated this hymn into Chamorro from the original Basque hymn. The Basques are an ethnic group in north-central Spain (and southwest France) with their own language. Påle' Román was Basque.

The original Basque hymn
"Jose Deunaren atsekabe-atsegiñak"

GRATEFUL THANKS to Lawrence Borja for playing the hymn and for background information.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


In Guam history, there are two Gådaos. And both were chiefs. Of the same village.

One we cannot be entirely sure existed (but that doesn't matter to me), and one we can be completely sure existed.

Even if he did not exist, the first Gådao exists in the history of Guam's legends and stories. The story may not be informational about the life of a historical figure, but the story does give us insight into the way our people thought, what they esteemed and how they composed stories.

The second Gådao is the subject of this post. He was nicknamed on account of the first Gådao, known for his physical strength and size.

Joaquin San Nicolas Diego was, like the first Gådao, a son of Inalåhan and eventually its maga'låhe or "chief." In those days, that was called the village Commissioner. Now, we call them Mayors. In olden times, the villages had maga'låhe. The må'gas låhe, or "Great Man or Son." Well, Kin Diego was truly a great son of Inalåhan, or so the people thought, because he was elected numerous times to serve as Commissioner, a total of 28 years, from 1944 until 1972.

Kin was born in the village on May 11, 1914, according to the Social Security Administration. His father, Romualdo Chargualaf Diego, was himself Commissioner of Inalåhan from 1919 till around 1928. Kin's mother was Dolores Leon Guerrero San Nicolas.

Like Father, Like Son
Kin is on the far right, and his father Romualdo is on the far left
A photo of all the Inalåhan Commissioners, past and current

Before he became a political leader, Kin Diego had been a school teacher. According to the 1940 Census, he had completed 9 years of schooling, the maximum possible for students in Kin's day. A high school, guaranteeing 12 years of education, would not open on Guam until the year 1936 when Kin was already in his 20s and teaching elementary school.

Kin taught at Maxwell School (Sumay), Salisbury School (Sinajaña) and Potts School (Inarajan). He was also a member of the pre-war Guam Militia.

While Gådao was teaching, his wife, Rosa Leon Guerrero Diego, was more involved working for a store as well as running her own businesses.

During the war, food production was a high priority, not only for the Chamorros but also for the Japanese who lived off the work of the local farmers. Kin was a kumicho, or team leader in rice production. The couple were successful in hiding enough food from the Japanese that they were able to feed their children as well as help others without being detected.

One thing Kin was not successful in avoiding was being forced by the Japanese to witness the torture and beating of Father Jesús Dueñas in the San Nicolas home in Inalåhan. Kin was one of the men rounded up by the Japanese and compelled to watch.

Kin "Gådao" Diego at a meeting of Guam and Northern Marianas political leaders in the late 1960s
To the left of Kin is Rota civic leader Melchor Mendiola


After the war, Kin turned his attention to politics and became Commissioner of Inalåhan.  In those early years, with the island just recovering from the war, Kin oversaw the building of a slaughterhouse, laundry and toilet facilities for public use, since these were not available in many private homes.

Gådao oversaw a lot of developments in Inalåhan during the 28 years he spent as Commissioner. During that period, modern schools were built, the Southern Health Center was opened, and the Inarajan Pool was developed as a recreational site.

He pushed to make Inalåhan appreciated for its historic significance. He organized many festivals that brought people down to the village from all over the island.

Then, just as today, Malojloj was part of Inalåhan and Gådao helped in the surveying of land in Malojloj for people interested in moving out of Inalåhan into Malojloj. Government land in Malojloj was made available to new homeowners by lottery system.

Gådao was known for his booming voice, when he needed to project. "He had a built-in microphone," someone said, not needing a manufactured one.

in Inalåhan right after the war

"Everything was the village," one daughter said of her dad while he was Commissioner. He promoted agriculture, worked to get power, water and telephone service to the village, kept up good relations with the U.S. military who lent a hand now and then, especially after typhoons. He encouraged athletic programs for the young and participated in the launching of Lånchon Antigu, a replica village of olden times, which inspired the present Gef Pa'go Village.

"An påkyo guaha na ti in lili'e' i tatan-måme," she said. "When there was a typhoon, there were times we didn't see our father." He was supervising the typhoon shelter or typhoon preparations or the clean-up and restoration work afterwards.

When the cemetery proved to be too small for the growing number of burials, Kin Diego donated his own land to expand the present cemetery for the needs of the community.

Due to his long tenure and the respect he gained from the villagers, Gådao had influence over the way voters in Inalåhan swung. In one election, an island-wide candidate who would not have normally done well in Inalåhan, carried the village on election day because Gådao supported that candidate and campaigned for him.

Kin, Rosa and their 12 children


According to older people from Inalåhan, Kin was nicknamed Gådao because, like the legendary chief, he was physically big. Tall, big boned and, as we say in Chamorro, loddo' (big framed). One person remembers how huge his hands were.

But they also remember, as already mentioned, how strong and booming his voice could be.

"Tåya' mås maolek ke guiya yanggen ma nesesita man ma ågang todo i komunidåt para u fan etnon."

"No one was better than him if the whole community was needed to be called to gather together."

And, like the Gådao of old, this more recent Gådao will be remembered and his story recounted many years from now.

He passed away in 1993.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Photo credits : (L) Dave Lotz; (R) Angelo Villagomez

The northern islands in the Northern Marianas have served as convenient hideaways for people for hundreds of years!

As late as 1906, with these islands now under German control, several whaling men trying to escape intolerably harsh conditions on their ship, the Gotama, hid for many months on both Pagan and Agrigan.

It seems that the captain of the Gotama, named James Wing, fancied himself a tough guy, calling himself "Scar Face Jim" and a "Tiger Fighter." Wing was accused even of lacking mercy for sick crew members, dragging one sick teenage crewman out of bed with a rope! Though the ship made $30,000 one season from the whales they caught, the crew members were given $1 each for the entire period they worked. The deserters also claimed that the ship leaked, and that water wet their beds, making even sleep miserable for them. They had had enough.

So when the Gotama stopped at Pagan on April 29, 1906, they planned an escape. One of the deserters, named Gravenport, was taken ashore with Captain Wing, who wanted to deal with the islanders a bit. When he saw the chance, Gravenport ran away and hid in the brush.

Meanwhile, four others, named Halberson, Fowles, McCaffrey and Chambers, swam from the Gotama while Wing was on shore and also hid in the brush. They all waited till the Gotama sailed away. Then they came out and met the islanders.

The islanders, at the time, were both Chamorros and Carolinians, making a living mainly from copra, the dried meat of the coconut, which was then in demand. The five deserters were welcomed by the islanders, who were gracious and hospitable, according to the five. The five men got to working alongside the islanders in all aspects of island life. By the time their clothes had worn out (they had only the clothes they wore when they jumped ship), the five Caucasians were down to loin cloths, like some of the islanders!

When a Japanese schooner came by, the five decided to hitch a ride up to Agrigan, where they continued to live side-by-side with the people living up there. When the schooner came by again, with Japan as its destination, the five deserters left the Marianas for good. From Japan, they returned to San Francisco, California (one actually got off at and remained in Honolulu when the ship made a stop there).

A San Francisco newspaper announces the arrival of the Gotama, under Captain Wing, after a voyage of 29 days from the Okhotsk Sea (Russia, near Japan) in 1906

The really interesting question is : for nine months, these bachelor whaling men lived in Pagan and Agrigan, among Chamorro and Carolinian islanders.

Are there any Chamorros and Carolinians who are descendants of Gravenport, Halberson, Fowles, McCaffrey and Chambers?

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Local dignitaries greet a Japan Air Lines flight to Guam in the early days of tourism
Early 1970s

It isn't a nice anecdote, but it did happened, so am told. And it shows just how hard feelings still were just 30 years after the start of World War II on Guam.

Even the unpleasant truths should not be lost, for they are part of the story of our human experiences, good and bad.

I was speaking on the phone with a woman in her 70s who remembers when the Japanese tour buses started going down South on Guam, touring the island.

"Kao un hongge, Påle', na ma åcho' i bås nai man ma u'udai i Chapanis tourists?"

"Would you believe, Father, that they threw rocks at the Japanese tour bus?"

Mind you, this lady is from the village where it happened, and she saw it.

It wasn't as if the whole village came out in organized fashion to throw rocks. People, perhaps younger guys, randomly threw rocks. If people too young to have even been born before the war did it, it shows how the war stories being told at the kitchen table by the elders affected the younger ones.

The lady told me how the Japanese would confiscate the food of families, or rough up a few villagers, just to intimidate them. Of course, worse things happened (rape, severe beatings and death) but the lady didn't even get into that.

"Nuebo na un chagi humungok este, Påle'?"

"Is this new for you hearing this, Father?"

I told her that I had never heard of Chamorro villagers throwing rocks at Japanese tour buses in the early 70s when tourism went into high gear on Guam.

I am glad we're beyond that now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Many Anglo-Americans came to Guam in the 1800s, on whaling ships and on other business, as well. Many of them stayed and married Chamorro women. One of them was named Watkins.

The name was spelled in a variety of ways by the Spaniards : Warquin, Walkins, Varquin and a few others.

In an 1831 document (a list of foreigners living in the Marianas), the name Guillermo (William) Watkins appears.

He is listed as being English, having resided on Guam for 7 years. Thus, he would have arrived around 1824. He is married with 2 children, but his wife is not mentioned. He could have had more children after this list was composed.

So, until we find more documents, we cannot say much about the connection of the people named Watkins later in the century and William; whether they are children or grandchildren of William Watkins.

For example, take Juan Pangelinan Watkins. He is listed as being 56 years old in 1897. That would mean he was born around 1841. Knowing how notoriously bad people were in stating their age back then, he could have been older or younger and, in either case, Juan could very well be a son or a grandson of the original Mr. Watkins. In any case, Juan himself did not have any children.

Juan Watkins' signature, spelled Warquin

There was also a Benedicto V. Watkins from Guam who ended up in a sanatorium for tubercular seamen in New Mexico in 1910! According to the 1910 New Mexico census, he was 42 years old in 1910, so born around 1868, so more than likely a grandson of William. He left Guam around 1883 and was a cook on merchant ships. Apparently he, too, had no children. He died in San Francisco and was buried in the Italian cemetery in Colma, California, just south of San Francisco, in 1913.

We also find a mysterious man in California who went by the name Ben Joseph, born on Guam in 1887, but who also went by the name Watkins (spelled in various ways). Some documents state that his father was John Watkins and his mother was María Borja. We do find a Juan Watkins married to a Maria Borja living in Malesso' in 1897. The problem is that they had no children. But there is a young man named Vicente Borja living with them. Ben Joseph is this Vicente Borja, who was being raised by Juan and María, María probably being his Borja relative.

There was also a Joaquin Watkins Luján, who must have been a Watkins on his mother's side. But the Watkins, of course, would be hidden in time and only the Luján name continued among his descendants. We have no information yet who his parents were. Some mention a mother's name, but until I find some documentation I am hesitant to make the claim.

Then we are left with women named Watkins, who marry, and thus the Watkins name disappears in time.

There was a Rosa Watkins, daughter of Dolores Watkins, and Dolores was the daughter of Rita Watkins. Rosa married Miguel Camacho Quintanilla of Sumay.

A María Watkins married Joaquín Dim, and thus we find a lady named Ana Watkins Dim, who stayed in Guam and had a few children out of wedlock, and another lady named Josefa Watkins Dim who married in Luta. In the 1920 Guam Census, the Dim surname had disappeared.

And then there was Rita Aguon Watkins, who married Calistro Torres Taitano. Their granddaughter was Rita Mateo Taitano, who became Sister Roberta of the Mercy Sisters.

Sister Roberta was the granddaughter of Rita Aguon Watkins and a descendant of the British settler William Watkins

The Sister Roberta Center at Mercy Heights Nursery is named after her

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Manuel Ibasco Guerrero and his wife, the former Maria Feja

Fa' amigu-mo i besinu-mo, sa' siña na hihot-ña i besino ke ni familiå-mo.

Make friends with your neighbor, because it may be that the neighbor is closer than your family.

When in a jam, we call on family.

But the wisdom of the older people reminded us that, if the house is on fire, and our nearest relative is two miles away, the neighbor takes precedence over family! Suppose we are away from the house when the fire breaks out? The neighbor can see the smoke quicker than our relative living two miles away.

As we are taking things out of the house to save them from burning, or as we are filling buckets of water to put out a small fire, the neighbor can lend a hand quicker than our relative two miles away.

Thus the saying : Make friends with your neighbors, for at times they are closer than the family.


Manuel Guerrero and his son Vicente, better known as Benny

It must have been the morning of March 9 or just a few days later in 1969. I was just about to turn 7 years old. It was unusual, if not entirely rare, for us to have a visitor at the crack of dawn. But that morning we did.

I remember waking up hearing an unusual voice, and my grandmother and aunties talking in an unusual way, much more than usual.

At the kitchen table was our neighbor, Manuel Guerrero. He was sitting at the head of the table, with his back to the kitchen door which lead across to his house. The sun was just peeking through the purple skies. One still needed the kitchen lights on to see. He had a cup of coffee in his hands which one of the older ladies served him. I am sure they offered him something to eat, but he wasn't eating and you'll understand why in a minute.

Tears were not flowing but his eyes were watery. He spoke gently, and to no one in particular, as if addressing all the three old ladies attending to him; my grandmother and her two spinster sisters. They were all speaking in Chamorro, so I didn't understand a word, but I knew that something bad must've happened, and he was at my house seeking comfort. And comfort was what the old ladies gave him.

I think I remember seeing one of the old ladies put her arms on his shoulders, while standing next to him seated at the table, but I could be wrong. I didn't understand their words, but the sympathy in their voices was undeniable, whatever the language. Eventually, he got up and went back home, but I think he felt a little better.

I was told soon after in English by either my grandma or her sister that his son Benny was just killed in Vietnam. He was only 19 years old.

Army records say that Benny was killed on March 8, 1969. Depending on what time of day that happened, Manuel Guerrero could have been informed as early as March 9 but maybe later. I don't know how he first heard, whether by phone call, telegram or home visit by someone in the military.

Manuel's wife, by the way, was already deceased, having passed away just the year before. So Manuel lost his wife and son within a year's time. They later named a street in Sinajaña after Benny, the street passing in front of Manuel's house and, oddly enough, over the lot that used to be our house.

Cpl Vicente (Benny) Feja Guerrero

The families in our neighborhood were friendly neighbors. All the kids on the same street played together and got in trouble together. Our neighbors would call on grandma or the aunties if we ever got hurt during games. Some of the older ladies in the neighborhood were closer to my grandma and aunties in that they visited more often or sent food over more often (and received as well). We were related to some of them, too. My grandma, who ran a post office, hired some of them and they drove my grandma, who couldn't drive. And am sure a lot more went on between my grandma and aunties and the neighbors than I, at that young age, could notice.

But this story of Manuel coming over to a house of old ladies for a cup of coffee and comfort when he found out his son was killed during military duty made an impression on me in many ways.

It certainly does illustrate the truth of the saying that our neighbors are sometimes able to help us more quickly than family because they live right next door to us, while relatives could be living farther away.

* Thanks to Manuel's daughter Annie for the pictures.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Maolek-ña un echong na bareta ke un taotao ni malåte' båba.

(Better a crooked crossbar than someone smart in bad things.)

A bareta (barreta in Spanish) is a crowbar, or a metal rod.

Its usefulness lies in its being straight. A crooked or bent one is less useful.

Yet even that is better than someone who is smart in doing evil things.

Perhaps someone is like a bent crowbar. Defective in some sense. Not someone you want to entrust with a job.

But he or she is better than the intelligent one who uses that intelligence to do evil.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Chamorro Eskabeche

I must admit that, when I was a kid, eskabeche was not one of my favorites and I think most kids feel the same. But, as I grew older, I began to appreciate it more, especially for the veggies.

Chamorro Eskabeche is made from ingredients that can be found locally. Our mañaina were making it long before Payless was opened after World War II.

But some of the ingredients, such as the biringhenas (eggplant) and friholes (beans) and even the repoyo (cabbage) had been brought to Guam by the outside settlers, either from Mexico or the Philippines or both. Thus they all have foreign names and eskabeche, as well, is a foreign name.


Escabeche started in the Mediterranean countries of Europe where they cooked the protein (fish, fowl, pork and even rabbit) in some acid, usually vinegar, and saffron, which gives it the yellow color.

Spaniards brought this recipe wherever they went, but ingredients had to change, depending on the resources of the country.

Apparently, the Moors who ruled over most of Spain from the year 711AD, gradually beaten back by the Spaniards until 1492, brought the recipe to the Spaniards. The original name was al-sikbaj, which morphed into escabeche when said by Spaniards.


Wherever the escabeche recipe changed, one thing stayed the same : there was always some vinegar included in the recipe.

In fact, in Spain, one can get a kind of escabeche in a jar, made up entirely of pickled vegetables. Below is an American brand of vegetable escabeche .

And here are examples of escabeche in other countries :

There are many Chamorro recipe resources on the internet. Here's one that cooks eskabeche in a somewhat different way :

Enjoy! Especially for Lent!


I wish I knew who was the composer. I heard it was originally sung in Tinian. But the San Dimas Voices in Faith choir (Malesso') recorded it and made it known more widely.



Asaina ti hu tungo', 
håfa bai hu sångan.
Lao hågu ha' solo, solo para guåhu.
Gaige hao gi sanhalom-hu,
Magof yu' bai tungo'
Na patgon-mu yu',  unu gi patgon Yu'us.

Ya bai onra håo,  Yu'us bai onra håo.
Ya bai adora håo, todu i tiempo.
Ya bai onra håo,  Yu'us bai onra håo.
Ya bai adora håo,  para taihinekkok.

English :

Lord I do not know,
what to say.
But you alone, you alone are for me.
You are within me,
I am happy to know
that I am your child, a child of God.

And I will honor you, God, I will honor you.
And I will adore you, at all times.
And I will honor you, God, I will honor you,
And I will adore you, forever.