Thursday, April 27, 2017


For any years I had read about how some taotaomo'na (manifestations of the ancient spirits) appeared with gaping holes on the sides of their torso, but only recently did I come across a pre-war story giving one of them a name.

Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña.

Apparently, in pre-war days, everyone knew him by that name.

Songsong can mean "village" but it can also mean "to stuff, to fill in a hole."

Kalaguak means the left and right sides of the torso, from the rib cage down to the waist.

So Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña means "stuffed his side."

According to the description, this taotaomo'na had a gaping hole on his side and he stuffed it with banana leaves or coconut husks. Then he covered the entire hole with a banana leaf.

All the children of Guam knew him by name because mothers and grandmothers would warn them that Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña went after misbehaving kids and put them in his hole and covered the hole with the banana leaf and went back to the jungle with the child.

Perhaps some families kept the memory of his name but, after asking around, no one I asked had ever heard of the name Masongsong Kalaguåk-ña. More people had heard that some taotaomo'na had holes on their sides, stuffed with leaves. Fewer people told me they knew about one who stole bad children by putting them in the hole. But no one that I talked to knew his name.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


An elderly woman shares with me how her deceased husband (she thinks) was showing her signs that he was still around, at least for a while.

It's important to understand a few details before proceeding.

Her husband died young, just in his early 30s. He was not sick. He died of a work-related injury.

Annai måtai i asaguå-ho, lamme' maolek na bidå-ña, (1)
(When my husband died, boy did he do good,)

åmbre sa' hoben ha' annai måtai.
(well you see he was young when he died.)

Ayo na ilek-ña i man åmko' na eyi i ti malångo' na finatai. Bråbo nai.
(The older people talked about someone dying who was not sick. He was healthy.)

I asaguå-ho annai måtai, si nanå-ho ha nå'e yo' uno gi mane'lu-ho palao'an para u ayuyuda yo'
(When my husband died, my mother gave me one of my sisters to be helping me) (2)

sa' i famagu'on; kuåttro famagu'on-måme yan i asaguå-ho.
(because of the children; my husband and I had four children.)

Pues todo i dumalalak yo', i man sobrinå-ho yan i man primå-ho,
(So everyone who accompanied me, my nieces and cousins,)

gi gima' annai på'go måtai,
(in the house when he just died,)

ma siesiente sa', annai mamokkat gi tatten guma' ni cha'guan.
(were feeling his presence, when he walked behind the house on the grass,)

sa' fihu eyi a las dos gi chatanmak annai tåya', pues på'go komo ha hungok  i ga'-måme ga'lågo
(because he often did that at two in the morning when all was quiet, if he heard our dog)

na duru humaohao. Pues mamokkat gi cha'guan gi san tatte. (3)
(keep barking. Then he would walk on the grass in the back.)

Pues guaha guå'ot hulo' gi galeria pues in hingok ha' på'go i patås-ña.
(Then there were steps going up to the porch and we would hear his feet.)

Pues eyi i che'lu-ho, sa' hilo' tåpbla na mamaigo' pues hame yan i famagu'on gi kåttre.
(Then my sister, because she was sleeping on the floor while me and the kids were on the bed.)

Pues sige ha' på'go eyi i sabanas, ilek-ña, "Maria, Maria, eyigue' ta'lo." (4)
(Then the sheets, she said, "Maria, Maria, there he is again.")

Ya pues in hingok annai mamokkat gue' hålom gi gima', i sapatos-ña.
(And then we hear him when he walks into the house, his shoes.)

Pues eyi i pettan i kuåtto, an un baba chechekchek i kuetdas i petta,
(Then the door to the bedroom, the door springs squeak when you open the door,)

pues in hingok annai ha baba i petta.
(so we heard when he opened the door.)

Ya guaha siya gi halom kuåtto ya un li'e' ha' annai matå'chong gue' gi siya, i minakat-ña. (5)
(And there was a chair inside the bedroom and you see when he sits on the chair, his weight.)

Pues guaha na an chatanmak in hingok i båño, eyi i hanom, na ma bira 
(Then at times in the early morning we hear the bathroom, that the water is turned on)

ya duru de palåspas i hanom.
(and the water keeps splashing.)

Pues, ilek-ñiha i man åmko' na sesso man bisita i difunto sa' pot måtai hoben
(So the old people said that my deceased husband kept visiting because he died young)

yan chachathinasso gue' pot hame yan i famagu'on sa' ha dingu ham,
(and he was worried about me and the kids because he left us)

lao hu sangåne gue' gi un puenge,
(but I told him one night,)

"Båsta ham man ma bisita, sa' esta un li'e' na man mamamaolek ha' ham.
("Stop visiting us, because you see that we are well.)

Hånao ya un deskånsa på'go sa' tåya' chinatsagan-måme."
(Go and rest now because we have no troubles.")

Pues pumåra man bisita.
(And he stopped visiting.)


(1) She is being sarcastic. Her husband's hauntings were noticeable! If his intention was to be noticed, he succeeded. He did well!

(2) You can see here the family support system at work in Chamorro culture. The widow was young, with four young children to care for. So her other sent one of her other daughters, a younger one who was still single, to help the widow care for the children while the widow found a job and worked during the day. These were the days when most couples had many children, which meant there was no shortage of helpers. Even nieces and cousins would come and stay at the widow's house to help care for the children.

(3) The deceased would get up when he'd hear the dog bark at night, and the sound of his feet brushing against the grass behind the house where the dog was could be heard even after he had died, at the same time of night.

(4) She meant that her sister could feel or see someone pulling the sheets while they were sleeping.

(5) They could see someone's weight push down the cushion on the chair.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Humåtak in olden days

"Gi sengsong" is the name used at one time for everybody who didn't live in Hagåtña.

It literally means "people from the village." Hagåtña was "the city," "the capital."

Songsong means "village," and gi means "from" or "at."

There was a bit of deprecation implied in the term gi sengsong. People from the city were supposed to be "higher;" smarter, more sophisticated, more affluent. The gi sengsong were supposed to be slower, less affluent.

But the one thing the gi sengsong could say about themselves was that they had whatever was needed for life right at their finger tips. From the guålo' (farm) or tåsi (sea), they had what was needed for food and material.

The gi Hagåtña (people from Hagåtña) also farmed and fished, but their farms or ranches were located farther away from their homes. Many Hagåtña people farmed as far away as Yigo. This meant that a lot of city people had to sleep most of the week at their farms, coming into town only for the weekend. Southern people, though, lived closer to their farms. They didn't need to sleep at the farms since their farms were only a short distance from the village in most cases.

Secondly, many in the higher classes in Hagåtña didn't farm at all, but rather bought what they needed from those who did farm.

By the 1930s, more and more Hagåtña people were relying on store-bought items imported from the U.S., Japan and the Philippines, which meant that if the stores ran out of things, the customer had to wait for the next shipment. The gi sengsong, however, still relied mainly on their own resources, which, in most cases, never ran out.

Thus, an old lady originally from the south said,

Masea pånglao yan gåmson,
ti man fåtta i man gi sengsong.

Even if it's just crab and octopus,
the villagers are never lacking.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Ninety years before we on Guam started dealing with the rhino beetle, it was the Coconut Scale.

The Coconut Scale is a tiny insect that damaged our island's coconut trees in 1924. Its scientific name is the Aspidiotus Destructor. The scale feeds off the sap of coconut and other trees, causing damage to and often the death of the tree.

The insect can travel to new lands by wind or on birds. It was suspected that the ones on Guam were carried by birds coming from Saipan, where the scale had already been active for some time.

Upon discovering the presence of the insect, the government started identifying infected trees and then burned them to contain the spread of the insect.  Something worked to eradicate the plague because, before long, the trees bounced back and Guam continued to produce copra (dried coconut meat) for export.

Besides the revenue from copra sales, in those days, the people really relied a lot on the coconut tree for all the benefits it provided. The meat and juice provided food; the fibers made string and rope; the shell was used as cups and ladles. Almost everything from the tree was put to some use, and most people did not have money to buy substitutes in the stores.

Today, we hardly feel the loss of our coconut trees, due to the rhino beetle. We even buy imported coconut juice and imported shredded coconut for food. About the only time we feel the sting of the rhino beetle invasion is when we look for tuba and cannot find it.

Coconuts infected with the Coconut Scale insect

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


As in any other language, some Chamorro songs are more than just catchy or moving in sound; they also have a social or political message. Here is one such song, followed below by commentary :

by Tropicsette

Gi durånten i geran dos / i hinalom-ña i Amerikåno,
ha na' tacho' i banderå-ña / sa' ha gånna i Hapones.
Man mafanå'gue i famagu'on / fino' Englis gi eskuela,
ya an ma plånta i amotsa / "scrambled eggs" ginagao-ñiha.

REF : Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
sa' guiya i palåsyo / ma fa'tinas para hita.
Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
masea ta fan US / lao Marianas i tano'-ta.

Man ma emplea i natibo / ma abandona i fangualu'an,
man hotnalero i lancheros / ya man mendioka i bulacheros.
Mampos på'go i suetdo / lao abundånsia nengkanno',
sa' iya Marianas sumen riko / hilo' tåno' yan halom tåsi.

Mit nuebe sientos setentai ocho / gi estorian Marianas
ma establese i Commonwealth / i nuebo na gobietnamiento.
Meggai ginaddon gi entalo' / eksekutibo yan lehislatibo,
taotao Marianas ha' siha / lao maloffan man enemigo.

And now, for your convenience, an interlinear translation :

Gi durånten i geran dos / i hinalom-ña i Amerikåno,
(During World War Two / when the Americans came in,)
ha na' tacho' i banderå-ña / sa' ha gånna i Hapones.
(they raised up their flag / because they beat the Japanese.)
Man mafanå'gue i famagu'on / fino' Englis gi eskuela,
(They taught the children / English in school,)
ya an ma plånta i amotsa / "scrambled eggs" ginagao-ñiha.
(and when breakfast was served / they asked for scrambled eggs.)

REF : Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
(Brethren let's protect / the Mariana Islands)
sa' guiya i palåsyo / ma fa'tinas para hita.
(because it is the palace / made for us.)
Hafañe'los ta protehe / Islas Marianas
(Brethren let's protect / the Mariana Islands)
masea ta fan US / lao Marianas i tano'-ta.
(even if we become the US / but the Marianas is our land.)

Man ma emplea i natibo / ma abandona i fangualu'an,
(They employed the natives / the farms were abandoned,)
man hotnalero i lancheros / ya man mendioka i bulacheros.
(ranchers became day workers / and the drunkards became tapioca.)
Mampos på'go i suetdo / lao abundånsia nengkanno',
(Wages now are high / but there is an abundance of food,)
sa' iya Marianas sumen riko / hilo' tåno' yan halom tåsi.
(because the Marianas is very rich / on the land and in the sea.)

Mit nuebe sientos setentai ocho / gi estorian Marianas
(Nineteen hundred seventy-eight / in the history of the Marianas)
ma establese i Commonwealth / i nuebo na gobietnamiento.
(the Commonwealth was established / the new government.)
Meggai ginaddon gi entalo' / eksekutibo yan lehislatibo,
(Many became trapped within / the executive and legislative,)
taotao Marianas ha' siha / lao maloffan man enemigo.
(they are all people of the Marianas / but extreme enemies.)


It is very difficult to understand many things in a language if one goes just by a literal translation. Some things are just understood to native speakers, but these things need to be fleshed out to those who understand the language less or not at all.

The central message of this song is : Becoming Americans does not guarantee a perfect life. It also presents some problems. Be careful!

There is the danger of cultural loss or change. The kids now ask for "scrambled eggs" for breakfast. They are learning English in school, but the implied question is, "Are they forgetting their own language?" People have more jobs now and salaries are good, but people are forgetting how to farm and all this money might be allowing more people to spend on liquor and become alcoholics.

There is an implied critique of prosperity here, too. Mampos på'go i suetdo. How can money ever be mampos? Mampos means "excessive." Can one have too much money? The song seems to answer in the affirmative. When there is an excess of money, all kinds of vices can take root. Spending on bad things; making money the highest priority, to the point of suing one's own family over money or land (leading to fractured families).

There is the danger that politics will lead to community divisions. Self-government is now in the hands of the local people, but now they have turned against each other over political issues and, perhaps, over power plays. At the time this song was written, there was a huge fight in the CNMI between the first Governor (executive) and the first Speaker of the House (legislative) of the newly-established Commonwealth.

And the song asks the question, in so many words, "Why be so enamored with the U.S. when our islands are already a palace supplying everything we really need?" Happiness, the song argues, between the lines, is already ours. It does not lie somewhere else, in a country far away.

The song also seems to imply, what I think is really what many people think, that we are Americans only to a point. We are our own people. We might be American citizens, but "the Marianas is our country."

More than that, the song says we have to protect ourselves against the very Americans we are becoming part of. The refrain urges the people to "protect the Marianas." Protect the Marianas from whom? From what? Too much American influence at the expense of our culture, language and social unity? The Chamorros of the Northern Marianas had to protect themselves against the Japanese, and now against the Americans as well! Now there are many in the Northern Marianas who feel the need to protect the land against the U.S., specifically the use of some islands for military purposes.


Geran Dos. This literally means "War Two" or "the Second War." For Chamorros, there is really only one gera (war); the one fought between 1941 and 1944 because that war was the only war, in modern times, where Chamorros suffered the effects of war. So Chamorros normally don't say "World War Two" in Chamorro. It's just the gera.

Haponés. Notice how the singers do not say Chapanis. Chamorros from all the Marianas say Chapanis nowadays, but the older Chamorros, mostly all gone now, used to say Haponés, which is the Spanish way of saying "Japanese." But the Spanish influence on our language is disappearing and English influence ("Chapanis" as our version of  "Japanese") has taken over.

Plånta. Literally means "to place on or to set the table." But, originally, it meant "to set up, establish, lay the foundation of." So one can plånta i låso (set the trap) or plånta i tereno (plant the field).

Scrambled Eggs. This is interesting because the "complaint" of the song is that the kids are becoming Americanized, and one example of that is their desire for scrambled eggs. Didn't Chamorros eat scrambled eggs long before the Americans came? Inafliton chåda'? Well, in the mind of the composer of this song, scrambled egg is a symbol of Americanization.

Hotnalero. From the Spanish jornalero, meaning "day laborer." These were people who were hired on a daily basis and paid day to day, as well. The Latin word diurnalis (daily) is the root word for derivatives in many languages such as Spanish jornalero, Italian giorno (day), French jour (day) and English journal (daily newspaper). The song uses hotnalero in the sense of an employee (someone paid by the hour). Before the war, most Chamorros were farmers. Farmers are not employees, nor are the paid by the hour. Farmers work for themselves and live off their produce or the income they get from selling them.

Man mendioka i bulacheros. I will have to ask Candy Taman one day what the real joke is here. Mendioka is tapioca. This is obviously a joke aimed at drunkards (bulacheros).

Establese. NOT establisa. Establisa shows that the American influence ("establish") has really made a dent when some people want to find a Chamorro equivalent. Long before the Americans came, the Spaniards made their dent on our language for 200 years. In Spanish, "establish" is establece, or estabese in Chamorro.

Maloffan. Means "to pass" or "to pass by." It can also mean to "go beyond", to be "extreme." Maloffan lalålo' means "extremely angry." Something has "passed" beyond the normal way of being angry or what have you.

Monday, April 17, 2017


What is a "hose" in Chamorro?

It depends.

In Guam, tilipas.

In the CNMI, hos.

Why the difference?

The difference comes from who influenced them first. It is possible that rubber hoses were used on Guam during the late Spanish period. Hoses have been around for a long time, the later ones being made of stitched leather. By the 1870s, hoses were made of rubber. Had they been used in the Marianas then, the Spanish word manguera for "rubber hose" would have also been used by the Chamorros.

But, rubber hoses wouldn't have been used much in the Marianas till the 1900s. By then, Spain was no longer ruling over the Marianas and the Spanish language would now have no strong influence over the Chamorros. Manguera never entered permanently into our Chamorro speech, if at all.

By the time a real system of water pipes was put in place in Guam and Saipan in the early 1900s, the Americans on Guam and the Japanese in Saipan were changing things up for the Chamorro people.


So, assuming our people had no word for what they probably didn't see or use much, or at all, they had to come up with their own word for the hose once it became a common item.

So some imaginative person on Guam looked at a hose and said, "Kalan tilipas este!" "This looks like intestines!" Well, I don't know that for sure, but that's the word that stuck on Guam, probably because a hose resembles intestines.


What's interesting is that some of the first hoses in ancient history were indeed made of intestines! Just as they were historically used as casings for sausages, the intestines of animals were cleaned and then used as water channels.

The Chamorro word tilipas comes from the Spanish word tripa, or tripas in the plural. Tripa refers to the innards or guts of an animal, including the intestine. It is related to the English word "tripe."

In older Chamorro, people sometimes had to say "tilipas goma" or "rubber intestines" to differentiate a hose from an animal's intestines. Even more clear, to avoid confusion, was "tilipas goma para hånom," or "rubber intestine for water."

Today, the context is enough to tell people which tilipas is being used, the hose or the body part.

Ma puno' i babue ya ma laknos i tilipås-ña. They killed the pig and took out its intestines.

Chule' i tilipas ya un rega i tinanom. Get the hose and water the plants.


Now up in Saipan, the Japanese ruled from 1914 till 1944, and their influence added to the Chamorro language spoken there.

The Japanese had a word for "hose," and, if we were to spell it in Roman letters, it would be spelled hōsu. That word itself comes from the Dutch word hoos, which sounds like our English "hose" and means just that - a hose. The Japanese got the word from the Dutch, who did a lot of trading with the Japanese. There are, in fact, a good number of Dutch words that came into the Japanese language.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


This song was written by Benjie Santiago and recorded by San Dimas Voices in Faith, under the direction of Vince Reyes.


Refrain : Si Yu'os ha gigiha i galaide.
(God is guiding the boat.)

1. Ha håtsa hulo' i galaide-ho ya hu patcha i kanai-ña;
(He lifted up my boat and I touched His hand;)

ha nå'i yu' ni bendision-ña, ha na' magof yu'.
(He gave me His blessing, He made me happy.)

2. Masea håfa pinadesi-mu, faisen gui', faisen gui';
(Whatever is your suffering, ask Him, ask Him;)

ya siempre ha nå'i hao ni i ineppe.
(and He will surely give you the answer.)

3. Si Yu'os Tåta i guinaiya, 
(God the Father is love,)

si Yu'os Tåta i Asaina.
(God the Father is the Lord.)

Monday, April 10, 2017


The Catholic Church in Luta (Rota) sometime between 1915 and 1920
San Francisco de Borja Church, Songsong

The Catholic mission on Luta, which was made up of one solitary church staffed by one solitary priest, was under the German Capuchins from 1908 until 1919. In fact, Luta had the same priest, a German Capuchin friar, all those years. His name was Father Corbinian. The Chamorros called him Påle' Corbiniano.

For ten years, Påle' Corbiniano loved being on Luta. He made a big impact on the people there. He was the only European on the island for some of the time, and ran the only school. The German Government never opened one on Luta.

When the Japanese took the Northern Marianas over from the Germans in 1914, they let the German Capuchins continue to work in Saipan and Luta (Tinian had no Chamorro population yet) for awhile. But by 1918, when World War I was ended and Japan had the secure possession of the Northern Marianas (as well as the rest of Micronesia, except Guam), the Japanese Government told the German Capuchins they had to leave.

The problem was that the Catholic Church didn't know who to send to Saipan and Luta to replace the departing German Capuchins. Ideally, Japanese priests would have come but Japan had few Japanese priests and what few there existed were needed in Japan.

So when Påle' Corbiniano packed his things to leave Luta for the rest of his life, he needed to appoint someone or some people to have official responsibility to make sure that the church of San Francisco de Borja, any other chapels, the priest's house and all church property were maintained and not totally abandoned. Not only would total abandonment lead to the decay of those buildings, the Japanese government may be tempted to use those buildings (or let others do so) in the absence of the missionaries.

So Påle' Corbiniano appointed a committee of leading Luta men to be responsible for church property until the Vatican finally decided what missionaries would be sent to Saipan and Luta.

The committee members appointed by Påle' Corbiniano were :

Pedro Mangloña
José Taitano
Juan Taisacan
Vicente Mangloña
Francisco Mendiola
Juan Ayuyu
José Atalig
Elías Atalig
Baldomero Mendiola
José Taitano II
José Songsong
Sixto Taimañao
José Mangloña

Interestingly, this group makes 13 members; the 12 Apostles and Jesus! An odd number, so there'd never be a tie if something needed to be voted on.


Since we have the Luta Census of 1897, we can speculate who some of these men are. In 1919, teenagers and young adults wouldn't have been chosen to be on the committee, so the members would appear in the 1897 Census. So it's just a matter of finding the same names in that Census.

There are three problems, though, The three Mangloñas in the committee all have common names (Pedro, Vicente and José) and there are more than one of all three names in the 1897 Census, so it is not clear which one it is, so I will leave these three names alone.

José Borja Atalig, married to María de León Guerrero Taimañao

Elías Masga Atalig, son of Benito Atalig and Brigida Masga. Married Ana Hocog.

Juan Matantaotao Ayuyu. Married to Isabel Atalig Songao.

Baldomero Mangloña Mendiola. Son of Felix Mendiola and Ana Mangloña. Married to Maria Cruz Camacho.

Francisco Mendiola. Son of Felix Mendiola and Ana Mangloña.

Vicente Mangloña. Married to Carmen Taimañao Mendiola.

Sixto Arriola Taimañao. Son of Francisco Taimañao and Maria Arriola.

José Hocog Songsong. Son of Carmelo Songsong and Rita Hocog.

Juan Masaii Taisacan. Married to María Masga. He was the sacristan (saklestan). His middle name is spelled in various ways and that family has died out.

José Mangloña Taitano. Son of Pedro Taitano and Joaquina Mangloña. Teacher. Known as "Maestron Taitano."

His son, José Taitano II.


In just two years, in 1921, a Spanish Jesuit priest was allowed by the Japanese Government to live and work in Luta, just as they allowed in Saipan.

Thursday, April 6, 2017



Although the first war between Germany and the United States was fought thousands of miles away in Europe, Guam had a historic role in it. The first shots fired by an American against the Germans in that war were fired on Guam. And, a German ship was scuttled in Apra Harbor, the first German naval loss in the war with America.

                                                                The SMS Cormoran


In 1914, World War One broke out. The United States was not involved in the war yet. But Japan was, and Japan joined the allies in fighting Germany. Germany owned all of Micronesia, except Guam, and the Japanese were out to take Micronesia over from the Germans.

A German ship, the Cormoran, was sailing in our part of the Pacific, trying to avoid meeting up with Japanese ships. But she was running low on coal, the fuel source enabling the ship to sail. Hiding out near Lamotrek in the Carolines, the captain of the Cormoran, Adalbert Zuckschwerdt, sent a small boat to Guam asking for coal. The Americans interned the Germans. The U.S. was not involved in the war and didn't want to give the Japanese a reason to accuse them of aiding the Germans.

When the small boat did not return to the Cormoran, the Cormoran itself sailed for Guam, arriving in December. The Americans refused to give the Germans coal and gave them one day to leave Guam or be interned. When the ship was still in Apra Harbor the next day, the Cormoran was interned. For more than two years, the Cormoran sat idle in Apra Harbor. During that time, the crew generally was able to come ashore and spend time on the island, at designated places and at designated times. Depending on the governor, the Germans actually became part of the social life of Guam, attending dinners and parties. A German crew member and an American nurse actually fell in love and married on Guam.

German crew members of the Cormoran and a Chamorro boy


By 1917, relations between the U.S. and Germany had gotten so bad that the U.S. was more willing to enter into the war.

On April 7, 1917, the Governor of Guam at the time, Roy Smith, got word from Washington, DC that the U.S. was now at war with Germany. Smith sent a lieutenant to inform Captain Zuckschwerdt of the Cormoran of the fact and that he was being ordered by Smith to turn the ship over to U.S. hands.

Zuckschwerdt refused. As the American party was sailing back to Piti to inform Governor Smith of the German refusal to surrender the ship, the Cormoran exploded. Zuckschwerdt had decided to blow up his own ship rather than let it fall in American hands. A bomb which he had successfully hidden from American inspection (by disassembling it) was used to blow a hole in the hull of the ship. The sick crew members and those who couldn't swim had been let down moments before in the ship's one and only life boat. The rest dove into the water. Seven crew members did not survive.

A U.S. Marine, a Major Ethelbert Talbot, had shot his rifle at the Germans in the midst of all this commotion; the first shot fired by an American at a German target in World War One.


The Cormoran sank and remains to this day under water in Apra Harbor. Twenty-seven years later, another ship sank in Apra Harbor and came to rest just above the Cormoran. This time it was a Japanese ship, the Tokai Maru, sank by American attack in World War II.

This is another Guam first and only. Only in Apra Harbor can one find a naval casualty of both world wars resting in the same exact location.


The German casualties of the Cormoran explosion were buried in the Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña. A marker was made by the Germans themselves, with a German inscription : The dead of the SMS Cormoran. It can still be seen in the Naval Cemetery, 100 years after the event.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


What is the Chamorro word for "treasurer?"

Languages change because the people who speak languages change.

Today, people are far, far removed from the Spanish influence that molded the generation of our grandparents. English now has a greater opportunity to influence people.

The above example shows the influence of English on modern-day Chamorros. The temptation is to take an English word like "treasurer" and give it a Spanish-sounding end, like ending it with "-årio."

Like kalendårio (calendar), or miyonårio (millionaire) or nesesårio (necessary).

Treasurer + årio = Trisurårio

Treasurer. Trisurårio.

Trisurårio shows the influence of BOTH languages, Spanish (the ending -årio) and English (the word treaurer).

It shows how we turn to Spanish influence when we want to make something English sound Chamorro.


But, two generations ago, our mañaina did not have the English language to infuence them. Their outside influence was the Spanish language.

The Spanish word for "treasurer" is TESORERO and this is what our mañaina used for the word "treasurer."

Here are a few examples from early dictionaries :

Von Preissig's 1918 English to Chamorro dictionary gives tesorero as the Chamorro word for "treasurer."

Påle' Román's 1932 Chamorro to Spanish dictionary gives tesorero as the Chamorro word for "treasurer," also.

It comes from the Spanish word for "treasure," which is tesoro. A tesorero is the one in charge of the tesoro.

The word tesorero did not get passed down to modern generations of Chamorro speakers. It wasn't used enough in ordinary, daily speech because only rarely do we ever deal with treasurers. So, tesorero was lost on many Chamorro speakers.

So, when heavily Americanized Chamorro speakers asked themselves the question, "How to say 'treasurer' in Chamorro?" they turned to the English word "treasurer" and tried to make it sound Chamorro by adding the Spanish ending -årio. "Treasurer" became "Trisurårio."


Påle Román suggested a possibly purely Chamorro word for "treasurer," not borrowing from Spanish at all.

Mangugu'ot salåppe'.

Gu'ot means "to hold on to." Salåppe' is "money."

The one who holds on to the money. Treasurer. Mangugu'ot Salåppe'.

It just remains an open question whether salåppe' is indigenous or whether it was borrowed from Filipino salapi (money). A question for another day.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Someone asked me the other day for the Chamorro version of the bedtime prayer "Now I Lay me down to Sleep."

I told them I had never heard of one because that prayer comes from American custom. Our Chamorro devotions are from the Spanish culture. So, I decided, with help from Påle' José Villagomez who reviewed my translation, to come up with a Chamorro version.


Here is a Chamorro version for the original form of the prayer. First, the original in English, followed by the Chamorro, and audio to help those needing to hear the pronunciation.

Monday, April 3, 2017


In Guam in the 1930s, modern women went to Margaret's Beauty Shop to have their hair done.

In Chamorro, they were "ma Margaret."

Margaret, on left, and her mother, Agueda Iglesias Johnston

The Margaret in question was Margaret Johnston, the daughter of William and Agueda Johnston. Sometime in the early 1930s, Margaret went off to Manila to take beauty classes at the Aguinaldo Institute of Hair Science, which was part of the huge and posh Aguinaldo Department Store.

The Aguinaldo Department Store in Manila

Then she took more classes at the American School of Beauty Culture and worked as a hair dresser at the Real Art Beauty Shop on Dewey Avenue (now Roxas Boulevard), near the Army and Navy Club.

Dewey Avenue in Manila when Margaret was studying there in the 1930s

Returning to Guam, she opened her beauty shop on July 2, 1934 in the refurbished quarters of the old Scorpion's Club House, west of the Officers' Club in Hagåtña.