Thursday, June 29, 2017


Just two days after swearing in as US Navy mess attendants, the newest bunch of Chamorro recruits assembled that morning on the deck of the USS Barnes in Apra Harbor to receive their first assignments. It was early 1940.

The American officer looked at one of them and said, "You are now the Captain of the Head."

The other Chamorro men kept quiet, of course, but they were stunned. How could this Chamorro guy be promoted to captain in just two days, and the head of something? Maybe this guy was smarter than they first thought.

A few days later they finally understood when they saw this "captain" cleaning toilets on the ship.

Only then did they learn that "head" was Navy slang for the toilet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


What we call our village mayors today were our village commissioners in the 1950s and 60s.

In one of those village elections for commissioner in the late 1950s, a candidate in a southern village won by only three votes.

The daughter of the winning candidate tells me the story :

Påle', ginen Commissioner si tatå-ho. 
(Father, my father was once a Commissioner.)

I fine'nana na biåhe na mangånna, tres ha' na boto muna' fangånna si tatå-ho. 
(The first time he won, just three votes made my father win.)

Ilek-ña i kontrariu-ña despues de ma deklåra na si tatå-ho mangånna, 
(His opponent said, after my dad was declared the winner,)

"Hu tungo' håye siha i tres na boto ni muna' fangånna hao! 
("I know who those three votes were which made you win!)

I dos techan guma'yu'us yan si nanå-mo!" 
(The two church prayer leaders and your mother!")

Maolek ha' nai na ga' guma'yu'us si bihå-ho 
(Good that my grandmother was a church-goer)

ya ha kombensi i dos techa para u ma bota si tatå-ho!
(and she convinced those two prayer leaders to vote for my dad!)


Ga'. This prefix means "fond of, liking." Ga' kumuentos is someone who likes to talk. Ga' salåppe' is someone who likes money (avaricious). Ga' guma'yu'us is someone who likes church or religious events and things. A "churchy" type.

Techa. Prayer Leader. Usually a female, but can also be a male, in which case he is still the techa, not a techo. Techa is not borrowed from Spanish, which observes gender (masculine -o and feminine -a). Techa comes from the Chamorro verb tucha, which means to lead public prayers. The Chamorro language does not observe gender. A tall person is lokka', whether male or female. It isn't lokko' for a man and lokka' for a woman. There is no gender in the Chamorro language.

The techa is the one who leads the public recitation of the rosary before Mass every day at church. She also leads in novenas and other devotions at church. A techa also leads in prayers done at home. One becomes a techa simply by being recognized by others as being capable of leading the prayers. There are techa who lead prayers occasionally, such as for home devotions or a funeral now and then. And then there are techa who are "parish techa" who lead prayers on a daily basis at church. These parish techa are their own category and are considered something like "super Catholics" since they practically live in church.

It is this kind of techa who were credited with the victory of this political candidate! :)

The Power of the Techa

Monday, June 26, 2017


Frederick Vehling was something of a showman.

An immigrant from Germany to the U.S., he got some attention sailing his schooner, the Kussiloff, unaided, from Kodiak in Alaska to San Francisco. Then he decided to pursue an even more difficult long voyage, from San Francisco to Guam.

This time he brought along his whole family; a wife and seven children, including two boys, aged 14 and 12. And one black man, as well.

He also brought along items for trade once he arrived at Guam : two cases of clay pipes, one coil of rope, 24 pounds of tobacco, 5 barrels of flour and many other things.

He set sail from San Francisco on May 5, 1894. He made a brief stop at Honolulu after sailing for 28 days.

Vehling had been to Guam long before, during his seaman days, and dreamed of returning to settle on Guam permanently and grow coffee.

He was in Guam by the end of July or early August. The story of his voyage to Guam was carried in many newspapers all over the United States.

Despite a warm reception by the Spanish Governor, it seems Vehling did not stay long on Guam. He was never heard of again.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
November 5, 1894

Thursday, June 22, 2017


This song was recorded by Sonny Flores and Joe Norita of Saipan back in the 1980s.

It's a love song, as many Chamorro songs are, with that familiar touch of male insecurity! He promises her true and undying love; he is not totally sure where her heart stands.


Mamaisen yo' keridå-hu nene
kao magåhet na manguaiya hao nu guåho.
(I asked, my beloved baby,
if it is true that you love me.)

Mungnga ma na' låstima i lago'-mo
sa' i tiempo-ko para hågo todo i ora.
(Don't waste your tears,
because my time for you is always.)

Bai hu sungon nene i kontråta,
puede ti manguaiya hao otro mås ke guåho.
(I will endure, baby, the agreement,
hopefully you don't love another more than me.)


Kerida. This is borrowed from the Spanish querida, from the verb querer (to love, to wish) and it means "beloved" but can also mean "darling, sweetheart" and every romantic epithet you can think of.

Tiempo-ko. Literally "my time" but he means that he is available to meet her needs at all times.

Todo i ora. Literally means "at all hours" but he means "always, at any and all times."

Sungon. It literally means "to endure" but here he means he will endure any hardship, make any sacrifice, to keep the understanding between him and her that they are a couple.

Kontråta. It sounds like "contract" and it can mean that, but also "agreement, understanding, plan."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Many families on Guam practice the following custom after a baby is baptized.

When the baptism is over and the baptismal party leaves the church and goes to the house where the christening party will be celebrated, the patlino (godfather) gathers in front of the people, with the children usually standing or squatting right in front of him, and yells out "Biba!" three times in honor of the newly-baptized baby. The people reply with their own "Biba!" each time the patlino yells "Biba!"

Then, the patlino breaks open rolls of quarters and scatters them all over the place. As much as $20 worth of quarters are thrown out, but the amount is up to the patlino.

Anyone can pick up the quarters, but it's usually the children who do. They can keep whatever they catch.

This custom is simply a way that the family and guests can express joy that a baby in the family has been baptized into God's Church.

Here is how Cathy Ogo explains the custom in Chamorro :

One person from Saipan told me that this isn't done on that island. That usually means it isn't done on Tinian or Luta either. But, if someone can share if this custom is practiced on these other islands, please leave a comment.

A godfather about to throw out the quarters at a christening party.

Younger and older picking up the quarters.

Monday, June 19, 2017


The CNMI's first Senators are sworn into office, January 1978

When the Northern Mariana Islands were made a Commonwealth of the United States in 1977, a bicameral (two house) legislature was created. The House was made up of representatives based on population. Thus, Saipan got the bulk of representatives while Tinian and Luta got one representative each. The House would be headed by a Speaker.

The Senate, on the other hand, gave each of the three main islands (Saipan, Tinian and Luta) three senators each. The islands north of Saipan (Pagan, Alamagan, etc.) would be included under Saipan. The Senate would be headed by a Senate President.

The first elections for the new CNMI government, executive and legislative branches, were held in December of 1977.

In those days, there was a Democratic Party in the CNMI, but not a Republican Party yet. The alternative party then was the Territorial Party. The Territorials proved victorious in the legislative race of 1977, while the Democratic candidates won the Governor and Lieutenant Governor positions.


Territorial (8)
Oscar Rasa (Speaker) - Saipan
Pedro Nakatsukasa - Saipan
Alonso Igisomar - Saipan
Miguel Kileleman - Saipan
Jose Lifoifoi - Saipan
Felicidad Ogumoro - Saipan
Placido Tagabuel - Saipan
Misael Ogo - Luta

Democrat (6)
Manases Borja - Saipan
Antonio Guerrero - Saipan
Jesus Guerrero - Saipan
Jesus Sonoda - Saipan
Joaquin Villanueva - Saipan
Serafina King - Tinian


Territorial (5)
Lorenzo Guerrero (President) - Saipan
Pedro Tenorio - Saipan
Julian Calvo - Luta
Joseph Inos - Luta
Benjamin Manglona - Luta

Democrat (4)
Serafin de la Cruz - Tinian
Hilario Diaz - Tinian
John Hofschneider - Tinian
Herman Guerrero - Saipan


  • The 1977 election gave the Carolinians a significant amount of representation in the House; 5 out of 14 seats (over a third). Because the Carolinians heavily voted Territorial, that boosted the Territorial Party's ability to capture the majority in the House.
  • Because 2/3 of the Senate was made up of the Luta and Tinian delegations, where there is no historical Carolinian community, Carolinian members of the Senate could be expected to be few.
  • Luta was strongly Territorial at the time; Tinian was strongly Democrat.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Hagåtña in the 1920s

Our mañaina really did it up in the past when it came to religious celebrations.

A news article in the Guam News Letter from June, 1915 talks about the Corpus Christi procession that year.

"The feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated on June 6, 1915 by a solemn procession which was attended by a very large number of people. The Blessed Sacrament was borne by His Lordship the Right Reverend Bishop of Guam, preceded by (the) volunteer Band, who played hymns which were sung by all the people. The houses on both sides of the streets through which the procession passed were adorned with embroideries and colored curtains; and lighted candles were placed in the windows and on the varandahs."

"Along the route of the procession, there were erected four pretty little chapels, constructed of bamboo and palms, and adorned with flowers and religious images. At each of these chapels, the Bishop stopped and the people knelt down while the Blessed Sacrament was incensed."

"The good order of the procession and the fervor with which the Church Hymns were sung, were especially noticeable. This was a source of pleasure and satisfaction to the Very Rev. Bishop, who after the procession expressed his appreciation of this religious enthusiasm."

Pre-War Lånchon Kotpus

Some things to take note of....
  • a marching band accompanied the procession
  • people sang the hymns from memory (there were no printed hymnals for wide public distribution yet)
  • the people sang with fervor
  • the houses along the route were decorated, not just the lånchon kotpus (little chapels)
  • the people knelt (on the bare earth; streets were not paved yet)
  • look at the lånchon kotpus above. No K Mart, no Home Depot. Yet look how elaborately decorated it is.
Our mañaina really had faith back then and knew how to express it. Puts us to shame.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Tubero, or tuba seller

In 1807, Elías Topasña was killed. He was stabbed by a tubero named Francisco Quitaoji.

A tubero is a maker and/or seller of tuba, an alcoholic drink made from coconut sap.

On October 5th, the body of a dead man was discovered in the Fuña area of Hågat. There was a stab wound below the left nipple. The blade went into the body in the direction of the heart. The body was soon identified as that of Elías Topasña, a bilånggo of Hågat. A bilånggo was a peace officer or constable.

A search party was organized, looking for the knife. It was found by Javier Quidagua and Domingo Laguaña on the roadside. Two knife experts, Mariano Luján and Vicente Muña, studied both the knife and the wound and declared that the knife was the instrument of death.

The next step was identifying the owner of the knife. Very quickly, fingers were pointed at a certain Francisco Quitaoji, also of the Fuña area of Hågat. The knife was used by Quitaoji for cutting tuba.

When questioned, Quitaoji admitted he had stabbed Topasña during a struggle when Topasña met Quitaoji on the road and attempted to confront Quitaoji with a garrote. A garrote was a strangling device, often made of cord or rope. This is where Chamorro gets the word galute.

Despite his apparent justification based on self-defense, Quitaoji was found guilty and imprisoned at the jail in Hagåtña.

Prior to this incident, Quitaoji had been punished by the government for having fled to the mountains.


The location of a place in the Hågat area called Fuña is a mystery to me, so far. The reason for this is because I have yet to find a map showing us where a village called Fuña lies.

There are old maps which show an ISLAND named Fuña (the map above is from 1752(, but the old accounts seem pretty clear there was also a place on Guam itself called Fuña. Could it be that the area on shore facing Fuña Island was also called Fuña?

A village by that name is mentioned as far back as 1682, the year García's book on Sanvitores was published, just ten years after Sanvitores' death. The vague descriptions of Fuña point to an area north of Humåtak and south of Hagåtña, on the western side of the island, but nothing more precise can be ascertained.


To make things even more mysterious, there are those who say Fuña is really Fu'uña, the female who, with her brother Puntan, created the world. She threw her body to the earth and it became a rock, and some believe that this rock is Fouha Rock, just north of Humåtak. Because of the conflation of Fu'uña and Fouha Rock, some people think Fuña or Fu'uña is Fouha Rock. But the old maps tell a different story.

This list of Guam place names used by the US Navy in 1946 shows this belief that Funna (Fu'uña) is the same place as Fouha Point.

Here is Fouha Rock, far from the scene of Topasña's murder in Fuña, under the jurisdiction of Hågat. Hågat village officials were involved in handling Topasña's murder, whereas Fouha Rock was, and is, under Humåtak's jurisdiction.

It also seems inconceivable that all these Hågat people involved in the murder walked all the way down to a place just north of Humåtak to enact a murder.

Topasña is thought of as primarily a Humåtak name, but the documents are clear that Elías Topasña was born in Hågat. Three hundred years ago, Chamorro surnames we think are limited to one village were found in more places all around the islands.

Fuña Rock, or Island, over by Hågat, looks very much in the same location of Turtle Rock. But that is a topic for another discussion.

Monday, June 12, 2017


Mappot ma pångon i kadu' mamaigo'.

It's difficult to wake up someone pretending to be asleep.

I kadu' mamaigo' ti siña ma pångon sa' åhe' ti mamaigo'. Esta makmåta.
(The person pretending to sleep cannot be awoken because he isn't asleep. He is already awake.)

Some people choose to be ignorant. There is no educating them. Their ears and minds are closed by choice.

They are like those who pretend to be asleep. They cannot be awakened, because they already are. They are just pretending to be asleep. By their own choice, they can go on and on and on as if they were asleep.

Friday, June 9, 2017


Pablo Pérez was the Spanish Governor of the Marianas for a little less than seven years, from 1848 till 1855. He was a controversial figure, often at odds with the Spanish missionary priests in the Marianas.

In 1854, for example, Pérez took issue with Father Vicente Acosta. Acosta has erected a chapel at the beach in Tomhom (Tumon) where tradition says Father Sanvitores was martyred in 1672. The location was pointed out by some very old people who kept the memory of the site as they had learned from their parents.

The shrine had an altar, a large cross and a painting of Sanvitores.

Acosta then sang Mass at the chapel on May 3, 1854. Two principal ladies involved in this Mass were Matilde de Campos and her sister Luisa. Matilde had a strong devotion to Sanvitores and Father Acosta asked her to take care of decorating the altar. Her sister Luisa assisted her.

The Governor was very displeased with the priest's actions. Pérez maintained that Acosta needed the Governor's permission to build a chapel. He also took issue with the priest's omission of not even informing the Governor of the chapel nor of the Mass.

Pérez started official proceedings against Acosta, gathering oral testimony from witnesses. He sent all of these to the higher authority in Manila, which received these reports in early 1855.

The reports went nowhere as Manila had decided it was time for Pérez to be replaced as Governor of the Marianas. In May of 1855, a new Governor arrived on Guam and Pérez was put on board to leave island.

Acosta and Pérez
No love lost between them

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


My favorite beach in all the Marianas

I came across a Chamorro phrase the other day that I never heard of before.

Chopchop unai.

When I first saw it, I already knew what both words meant separately. But I didn't know what those two words were doing together.

Chopchop means "to suck, to absorb." As when you suck on an orange, or when the sponge sucks up (absorbs) whatever liquid has spilled.

Unai means "sand."

So I learned that chopchop unai means "beach."

Some say chopchop i inai. And if one started by saying "the beach" then it would be "i chepchop i inai" or "i chepchop unai."

I wonder how our ancestors came up with this phrase. A beach is covered in sand. Is it chopchop unai because it's as if the land soaked up (chopchop) the sand (unai).  

What other reason might there be?

A reader mentioned that it can be observed at times that the water filters through the sand. It is as if the sand is sucking up or absorbing the water. Thus, the name. 

The more common way of saying "beach" in Chamorro is kånton tåsi, meaning "sea side."

Some readers say that chopchop unai refers specifically to the area where the sea water reaches the sand, not the dry sand area.

You see how language is not just a long list of words for this or that. It shows the way a group of people (who speak that language) see the world.

Just make sure that you don't say the Chamorro word chopchop the same way you say the English word "chop." The Chamorro O is different at times from the English O, which has more than one sound. Have a listen :

Monday, June 5, 2017


The area we call nowadays "East Agaña" obviously wasn't always called that.

Believe it or not, there was a time when English was not spoken on Guam! 😊

When I asked an old auntie of mine (born in 1900) what that area was called before the war, she said "Trinchera." I immediately thought of the word "trench," and "trinchera" is, in fact, a Spanish word meaning "trench" or "ditch."

I was actually driving this aunt of mine through the area, so I knew she understood precisely what area I was referring to.

Father Ibáñez, in his chronicle dated 1872, says Trinchera is the place east of Hagåtña.

I wondered why people, perhaps beginning with the Spaniards, would give this stretch of narrow land between the ocean and the cliffs such a name. Were there trenches in this area at one time?

I thought the name Trinchera was lost to modern generations but the name is still used by some. For example, the beach in Trinchera is called by some maps "Trinchera Beach."

The building where Crust Pizzeria is located is called Trinchera Plaza, after the name of the area.


I just came across something that might explain why this area was called Trinchera.

The Jesuit Father Francisco García, in his book about Sanvitores and the early Jesuit missionaries, written just ten years after the death of Sanvitores, based on missionary letters and reports, while many of the missionaries were still alive, speaks about trenches (trinchera) and a wall built by the Chamorro enemies of the missionaries.

García says that the opponents did this about half a mile from Hagåtña on roads leading to the villages, in order to prevent the missionaries from traveling to the villages. García doesn't say in what direction from Hagåtña this was, but his description of the area gives us clues. He says that the Chamorros dug these trenches and built the wall across the trail, taking advantage of the tight space between the ocean and the cliffs. This description fits well with East Agaña.

From García's own words,

"The indios....built a wall and trench (trinchera) on the beach to block the way to their villages. The wall was made of coral and rocks from the sea, where it was protected by a rocky hillside, at a distance of an eighth of a league from Agadña." "Indio" is a word that Spaniards used back then to describe natives of the American and Asian/Pacific island places they went to.

I can just imagine a trench (trinchera) and a wall across this narrow stretch of land between the water and the cliff

The cliffs of Trinchera (East Agaña) match the description of the terrain in García's book

This land document in 1901 shows the name of the place, Trinchera, then describes that the property registered here is bordered on the east by the trinchera (or ditch), on the west by the owner's other property, on the north by the ocean and on the south by the cliff. A perfect description of Trinchera or East Agaña.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


In the village of Santa Rita lies a street named after the late Blas dela Cruz.

Most people are surprised that a man's first name is Blas, since Blas is a well-known family surname in the Marianas. But what is known in the Marianas as a last name is actually a first name. "Blas" is the Spanish version of the name Blaise. There was a saint by that name, and that is how his name got spread all over the Christian world. The saint was Armenian, and his Armenian name was Vlasi. Vlasi became Greek Vlasios and then Latin Blasius. After that, Latin Blasius became Spanish Blas.

Just as first names like Francisco, Pablo, Ignacio and Jesús became family, or last, names, so did Blas.

The Blas we are concerned with, for whom this street is named, was born in Hågat in 1895, the son of Antonio Hocog de la Cruz and Ana Aquiningoc.

Somehow, he enlisted in the US Navy and served during World War I, something that was not done by many Chamorro men at the time. While he was in the service, in California, he was naturalized a US citizen in 1919. Thus, Blas could claim, with only a tiny handful of other Chamorros, that he was made a US citizen long before the Organic Act made all the other Guam Chamorros US citizens in 1950.

Blas de la Cruz's headstone, along with his wife, at Agat Cemetery. It proudly states that he served in the US Navy in World War I.

Blas de la Cruz's petition for US Naturalization, showing his nationality as "Guam." 

Blas was still in the US Navy as the new decade dawned in 1920. He is missing from the Guam Census in 1920. He is also seen on a list of servicemen sailing on the USS Logan with Guam as its destination in 1921. At some point in the 1920s, Blas left the Navy and settled in Sumay, marrying a lady living in Hågat, Natividad Barcinas Reyes, around 1923 or so. Blas and Natividad had four children, two sons and two daughters. When Sumay was closed and the residents transferred by the Navy to Santa Rita, Blas and family moved with the others to the new village. Since his house was on this street, the street was named in time after him.

One thing that Blas did, when he returned to Guam in the early 1920s, was he kept the original Spanish version of his last name de la Cruz. Almost all other de la Cruzes on Guam dropped the "de la" and became known simply as Cruz.

Blas dela Cruz, and wife Natividad

On a personal note, I met Blas once or twice at Guam Memorial Hospital in the 1980s. I was visiting the sick and walked into his room and saw him in bed as a patient with his daughter Ana attending at his side.

He passed away in 1987. RIP