Monday, July 31, 2017


mentioned in this song

The Chamorrita is a style of singing in the Chamorro culture consisting of four lines. These verses were supposed to be composed extemporaneously, "in the moment," with one person answering back the first verse sung by another and continuing this "verse and response" interplay, competing, as it were, who could outwit the other.

In time, certain verses became well-known and standard, repeated in many singing sessions all from memory, such as most of the verses in this recording.

This recording was made of a group of singers in Saipan who had connections with the Northern Islands like Pågan, Agrigan and Alamågan. They add a verse mentioning two of the Northern Islands.


1. Buenas noches Ton Saina-ho.
(Good evening, my elder.)

Oppe yo' pot kilisyåno.
(Answer me because I am a Christian.)

"Håfa, iho, malago'-mo?"
("What is it you want, son?")

I tinalo na hagå-mo.
(Your middle daughter.)

2. I tinalo na hagå-ho
(My middle daughter)

esta guaha seguru-ña.
(already has someone sure.)

Ya ti ya-ña ma atborota
(And she doesn't like to be bothered)

sa' malilinek ilu-ña.
(because she has a headache.)

3. Ya hu faisen gi besino
(And I asked the neighbor)

håfa åmot malinek ulo.
(what is the medicine for headaches.)

Ya manoppe i besino
(And the neighbor answered)

na ma chiko ma na' duro.
(to kiss her vigorously.)

4. Desde Saipan asta Pågan
(From Saipan to Pågan)

Pågan asta Alamågan,
(from Pågan to Alamågan,)

ti manli'e' yo' gåtbon flores,
(I didn't see pretty flowers,)

solamente as Pakåkang.
(only the Pakåkang.)

5. Ai nåna atende
(Oh mother attend to)

Ai nåna i taotao.
(Oh mother, the person.)

Ai nåna, nåna konsidera
(Oh mother, mother consider)

sa' sumen chago' tano'-ña.
(that his land is far away.)


Ton Saina-ho. "Ton" is the general title of respect for older males or males with a higher status than the speaker. "Saina" means an elder, not necessarily due to age but also due to status or ranking within the family. Because the singer addresses the person with the male title of respect, asking for a daughter's hand, we know that this is a man seeking permission from a father to court his daughter.

Oppe yo' pot kilisyåno. "Kilisyåno" literally means "Christian," but Chamorros used it to refer to persons in general, since everyone was a baptized Christian in those days. The term implies a certain dignity, since the person is not just a mere human being but a baptized one, meaning he or she is an adopted child of the one true God. Thus, having this kind of dignity, he or she has certain rights and privileges. "Answer me," the man says, "because I have certain rights and privileges due to my Christian status. You, the father, are a Christian, and so am I. So let us treat each other as brother Christians."

Seguru-ña. "Seguro" means "sure" or "certain." The young lady already has a man she is sure of courting and perhaps marrying.

Malinek ulo. This headache was certainly an excuse for dismissing the suitor, and he knows it, because, with some sarcasm, he asks a neighbor what is the cure for headaches, and the answer (sarcastically) is vigorous kissing.

Pakåkang. This is the nickname for a family in Saipan named Cruz whose members also lived in the Northern Islands. This line may be a loving tease of that family. The singer traveled to three islands and didn't see any pretty flowers, only a member or members of the Pakåkang family!

Ai nåna. This verse speaks of the hospitality and compassion found among many Chamorros for strangers and travelers. The singer asks the mother to attend to the needs of the person, because he is far from home.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


How do you say "legend" in Chamorro?

Well, if you go to the spot where the legend of the Two Lovers supposedly happened, the people behind this marker state that "legend" in Chamorro is lihende. The marker announces "I Lihenden i Dos Umaguaiya." "The Legend of the Two Lovers."

No less than the Chamorro language people at the Department of Education, and esteemed Chamorro language teacher, the late Tona Castro, also use the word lihende for "legend." Here we see the "Legend of the Ifil Tree." "I Lihenden i Trongkon Ifit."

I wondered about the history of this word lihende. Can we find it in the pre-war Chamorro literature?

Apparently we can't.

Looking as far back as Ibáñez's 1865 Spanish-Chamorro dictionary, words used to denote a legend or myth would be fábula (fable) or kuentos tumåtnon. Tåtnon means "to entertain, to please" as in with some diversion. Kuentos means "speech," so kuentos tumåtnon means a story meant to entertain. The story isn't literally true. Its value is in its pleasant diversion.

A myth or legend can also be something instructive or educational, so the word ehemplo (example) can also be used.

A legend is a tale, so even estoria (story) can be used to denote a legend.

Valenzuela's 1967 dictionary even includes imbensión (invention) to point out the fictional character of myths and legends.

All these terms (fábula or fábulas, ehemplo, estoria, kuentos tumåtnon) can be found in Chamorro dictionaries prior to 1970.

Then comes lihende. It appears after 1970. Probably, I suspect, from Chamorro language teachers. How did they come about this word?

Well, it's no surprise to notice that lihende looks very much like the English word "legend."

Just change the G to an H, as we do with the English word "gigantic" which becomes Chamorro higånte (borrowed from the Spanish). Then add a vowel, in this case an -E, to the end of an English word which ends with a consonant, and it becomes Chamorro, right?

The morphing of the English word "legend" to a Chamorro-sounding word lihende looks like this :



What I'd really like to know is why the people who came up with lihende thought it was necessary, or desirable, to come up with a new word for "legend," when there were several options historically available.

Languages all over the world are always in a state of flux. Old words drop out of usage, and new ones are added. The difference today is that we can almost point to an actual person and time when new words are added whereas, in the past, much of that was never documented in any way. They remain mysteries.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Street scene in Luta during Japanese times

Reinhold Atalig Mangloña, as his first name suggests, was born in Luta (Rota) when there was still a German priest there. He was baptized Reinhold, a German name, but Chamorros also Hispanicized it to Rainaldo.

But the Japanese had just come to the Northern Marianas and the Japanese language and culture were about to influence the Chamorros of Luta and Saipan in a very big way.

Reinhold went to school and learned the following story from his Japanese teacher, a woman. It was shared with me by his son Richie Mangloña and the text is Richie's own spelling and wording. The English translation is mine.

The moral of the story : respect the elderly as sources of wisdom.

Gi tiempon antigo giya Hapon, eståba ti man ma gef polu' i manåmko'-ñiha
(In ancient times in Japan, they did not really consider their elderly)

komu man gai båli osino man malåte'.
(as having any worth or else as being intelligent.)

I manaotao Hapones sesso man ma fa'tinåsi kuåtto i manåmko'-ñiha
(Japanese people often made rooms for their elderly)

gi santåtten guma' pat gi la chågu' ginen i gima'-ñiha
(in the rear of the house or farther away from their houses)

putno u fan ma atendin maolek sa' ma po'lu na esta meggai-ña
(so as not to attend to them well because they considered that they were more)

estotbun-ñiñiha ki todu i prubechu.
(of a bother rather than a benefit.)

Pues guaha un familia mañåsaga Hokkaido'.
(So there was a family living in Hokkaido.)

I tåta as Mitsuro, i nåna as Mikki, i hagan-ñiha as Eiko yan si nånan-biha as Mio.
(Mitsuro was the father, Mikki the mother, Eiko their daughter and Mio the grandmother.)

Ma na' såsaga si nånan-biha gi dikiki' na kuåtto gi tatten-guma'.
(They housed grandmother in a small room behind the house.)

Un dia sigi umesalao i taotao i Impiradot na para u guaha kumpitensia
(One day the Emperor's people kept shouting that there was to be a contest)

para todu i famagu'on eskuela ya i håyi gumånna
(for all the school children and whoever won)

para u ma nå'i dångkulu na premiun salåpe'!
(would be given a large prize of money!)

Magahet si Mitsuro sumen popble ya ha tåtanga na puedde u gånna
(Truly Mitsuro was very poor and he wished that perhaps)

i hagå-ña i premiu komu ha na' saonao gi kumpitensia!
(his daughter would win the prize if he made her participate in the contest!)

Infin humalom i påtgon Mitsuro gi kumpitensia ya man ma na'i hafa para u ma cho'gue.
(At last Mitsuro's child entered the contest and they were given what they were to do.)

I kuestion nai man ma presenta i famagu'on ilek-ña, "Haftaimanu nai siña
(The question which was presented to the children said, "How can

en na'halom i hilun man laksi gi esti i gai maddok na alamli nai
(you put the sewing thread into the hole of this wire which)

ma chaflilik gi todu direksion ya para un na'huyong gi otro banda?"
(twists in all directions so that you make it come out on the other side?")

Ha chagi i påtgon todu i tiningo'-ña lao ti siña ha na' adotgan
(The child tried with all her knowledge but could not run through)

i hilu ginen i un måddok esta i otro.
(the thread from one hole to the other.)

Ni si Mitsuro yan i asagua-ña ti ma tungo' taimanu para u ma cho'gue este na chagi.
(Not even Mitsura and his wife knew how to do this attempt.)

Esta ma po'lu na imposipble esti para u ma cho'gue ya man triste i familia
(They already figured that this was impossible to do and the family was sad)

sa' ma hasso na ti siña ma gånna i premiu.
(because they thought that they couldn't win the prize.)

Pues annai man matata'chong gi kusina mañochocho un oga'an, ha lipåra si Eiko
(So when they sat down eating in the kitchen one morning, Eiko noticed)

na man guaguasan si nånan biha gi hiyong i kuatto-ña gi lachago' na distansia.
(that grandmother was trimming outside her room at a far distance.)

Ilek-ña, "Nangga ya bai faisen si nanan-biha kao ha tungo' taimanu nai siña
(She said, "Wait and I will ask grandmother if she knows how it is possible)

ta na' adotgan esti i hilu guini na alamli".
(for us to push the thread through the wire.")

Man oppe ha' si Mitsuro, "Esta ennao i biha maleffa, hafa gue' ennao tiningo'-ña!".
(Mitsuro answered, "The old lady already forgot that, what does she know about that!")

Ti man osgi si Eiko, ha bisita guato si bihå-ña ya ha faisen. Ilek-ña si Mio, 
(Eiko didn't obey, she visited her grandmother and asked her. Mio said,)

"Ai iha na linibiåno ennao i finaisesen-mu. Fan aligao oddot agaga' ya
("Oh daughter what you are asking is so easy. Look for red ants and)

un godde i tataotao-ña nai hilun man laksi.
(tie its body with the sewing thread.)

Na' hålom gi halom i måddok pues po'luyi asukat i otro banda
(Put it through the hole then put sugar for it on the other side)

sa' siempre ha tatiyi i pao asukat ya humuyong gi otro bånda!"
(because for sure it will follow the smell of sugar and go out the other side!")

Ha cho'gue si Eiko i tinago' i biha ya magahet macho'cho'!
(Eiko did grandmother's instruction and it truly worked!)

Ha håla magahet i oddot i hilu ginen i un båndan i alamli esta i otro banda!
(The ant really pulled the thread from one side of the wire to the other side!)

Sumen magof si Eiko!
(Eiko was really happy!)

Måtto i ha'ane para u ma presenta i famagu'on håfa ineppen-ñiha guato gi Impiradot!
(The day came for the children to present their answer to the Emperor!)

Meggai chumagi man man na'i ineppe lao ti kumfotmi i Imperadot.
(Many tried to give an answer but the Emperor didn't agree.)

Annai måtto tarea-ña si Eiko, ha fa'nu'i i Imperadot taimanu ma cho'gue-ña.
(When it came to Eiko's turn, she showed the Emperor how it is done.)

Mampos manman i Imperadot ya ha faisen i påtgon.,
(The Emperor was really amazed and asked the child,)

"Kao hagu ha' esti humasso para un cho'gue pat ma ayuda hao?"
("Was it only you who thought of doing this or were you helped?")

Ti yaña si Eiko mandagi pues ilek-ña, "Ahe', si bihå-hu yu' fuma'nå'gue!".
(Eiko didn't like to lie so she said, "No, my grandmother taught me!")

Annai ha tungo' i Imperadot na ayu i un biha sumåtba i finaisen-ña na kuestion,
(When the Emperor knew that it was one old lady who solved the question he asked,)

ha rialisa na lachi eyu na hinengge i para u fan ma chachanda i manåmko'!
(he realized that it was wrong thinking to be rejecting the elderly!)

Ginen eyu na tiempo, ha otdin na debi todu i manåmko' Hapon
(From that time, he ordered that all the elderly of Japan)

ufan ma atiendin maolek ya u fan ma setbi komu siha kumåkatga i ancho na kinimprendi.
(were to be attended to and served well as being the ones who carried broad understanding.)

Magof si Eiko' annai man siha yan si Nånan-biha ta'lo gi halom guma'
(Eiko was happy when she was together again with grandmother in the house)

ya kada dia ha atendi komu guiya i tesorun i familia!
(and she took care of her as being the treasure of the family!)

Reinhold Atalig Mangloña
1917 ~ 2002


Hapon/Hapones are the older Chamorro words for "Japan" and "Japanese," borrowed from Spanish. More recently, especially among Chamorros from Guam, American influence has brought into the language the word Chapanis for "Japanese."

Monday, July 24, 2017


A village picked itself up and moved down the road.

What we call Agat today was not the original location of that village, called Hågat in Chamorro.

Why the change? World War II


In this pre-war map, you can see that Agat was located north of the present location of the village. A good landmark to orientate yourself is Ga'an Point, where there are Japanese guns located to this day. Ga'an Point is where the present village of Agat is located. In the higher circle, you can see the original village of Agat, with its several streets. The area which later became New Agat was once farmland.

Here is another map, based on pre-war information, showing the original location of the village. South of the old village, there is nothing but farmland and jungle.


But the war was to change all of that. In July of 1944, the Americans returned to invade the island and take it back from the Japanese. Two beaches were chosen to land the American invading forces : Asan and Agat. This meant the destruction of the two villages. American planes bombed Agat to smithereens in order to weaken the Japanese defensive forces entrenched in the village and its beaches.

This map shows the invasion point for the U.S. forces in Agat. The village is clearly in the way of the incoming American troops. The village church and its homes were all destroyed or damaged by American pre-invasion bombing.

Another view of the American invasion. The original village is just to the left of this map outlining the invasion. The new village lies in the center of this map, at Ga'an Point.


When the battle was over and the Americans had to care for the civilian population, it was decided to relocate the people down the road from the original village. The Americans did the same with the people of Sumay, relocating them a few miles east of the village. But this new village for the Sumay residents was not called New Sumay. It was called Santa Rita, the name of that location since before the war.

But in Agat's case, the Americans called the new location of the village "New Agat." The name "New Agat" persisted even into the 1960s.

The area where the current village is located covers places with different names. By the shoreline is Ga'an, which is also the name of the point. As the terrain then rises gently up to Mount Alifan, the inner part of present-day Agat was called Alifan. In the first map posted above, you can see the names of the other sites in the area.

In this map right after the war, you can see the village is now called "New Agat" and it is located down the road from the original location.

"New Agat" right after the war, with temporary housing structures built for the people.

A government record of planned sewage lines after the war talks about connecting the lines to "New Agat."

Even into the 1960s, as seen in this 1963 economic report, the government talked about "New Agat." The name "New Agat" disappeared from ordinary conversation by the 1970s. "New Agat" just became "Agat" or "Hågat."


The boundaries of Old Agat were the Ñåmo River to the north, and the old cemetery to the south. This area, once abandoned right after the war, became repopulated slowly over time, as this current map shows. The old cemetery is still in existence, and indicated the southern end of the old village of Agat before the war. A good landmark for old Agat is the 76 gas station, which older people say was the location of the pre-war church.

Photo by Frankie Casil
The 76 Gas Station is approximately where the pre-war church used to stand.

The old Agat Cemetery, which can be missed by passersby, is the southern border of the old village.

             Looking at a modern map, showing the relation between the old village and the new

Thursday, July 20, 2017


José Díaz Wilson
(spelled Willson)

In the 1800s, there was a Wilson family in the Marianas.

James (in Spanish, Santiago) Wilson arrived in Guam around 1826, according to an 1831 document listing the names of foreigners living on the island.

Other records suggest that his full name was Robert James Wilson.

His main occupation, it seems, the whole time he lived on Guam was pilot at the port. This means he directed to shore the boats that would pick up passengers from the larger ships anchoring at Apra.

He seems to have married twice and had nine children from both wives combined, but we're not entirely sure about all their names.

But one of the older children seems to have been a María Materne Wilson, born around 1827 and a 70-year-old widow by the time she is listed in the 1897 Census. Her deceased husband was Juan Taitano Díaz, who was dead already by 1866. In 1897 she is living with two grandchildren. Her maternal surname Materne suggests that James Wilson's first wife was a Materne.

1866 document stating that María Wilson was the widow of Juan Díaz

There seems to have also been a Juana Wilson, deceased by the 1897 Census but the first wife of Francisco Pangelinan, aged 76 years, listed in the 1897 Census.

Juana Wilson and Francisco Pangelinan could be the parents of one José Wilson Pangelinan, born around 1878 who moved to Saipan. He married twice. His first wife was Dolores San Nicolás Sablan and his second wife was María Cabrera San Nicolás. He was better known as Jose'n Obo.

This Juana Wilson, married to a Francisco Pangelinan, might explain why there is also mention of a man named Lorenzo Wilson Pangelinan, He is absent from the 1897 Census but there does appear there a widow named Valeria de la Cruz, who had been married to a Lorenzo Wilson Pangelinan, dead by 1897.

We are more certain about James' children from his second wife, Rufina Palomo Díaz.

One was a daughter named Eduviges, who married Antonio Pangelinan Martínez. Many of their children married into socially prominent families. Antonia married into the Goyo clan (José Flores Pérez); Emilia married the American William Notley; Josefa married Julián Pérez Sáiz; Joaquín married Rita Anderson Millinchamp; and Ángel married Emilia Roberto Kamminga.

Another daughter, María, married into the Siket family of Castros. Her husband was Ezequiel León Guerrero Castro. From the Chamorro pronunciation of Ezequiel (E - se - kiet) is derived the family nickname Siket.

Son of Ezequiel Castro and Maria Wilson
He signed his name in the Spanish style, with the father's surname first

Thus it seems that James had two daughters named María; one from the first wife and the other from the second wife.

James had one son whose name appears frequently in the old documents. His name was José, and he followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a pilot at the port. In those days, the boat carrying passengers from the ships would land at the pier in Piti, which was part of the village of Tepungan. José was civic head of Tepungan a few years, too.

Here is a reference to José Wilson and his son from an author who wrote about arriving at Apra harbor in 1895:

"About sunset on Christmas eve, we sight the high table lands of Guam....and finally drop anchor at Fort (San) Luis de Apra. As there was nothing to be gained by going on shore long after dark, we deferred our landing till next morning. About nine o'clock a boat comes off, manned by a crew of natives, under the command of the son of Joe Wilson, the pilot." (1)

It's interesting that the American author calls José by an American nickname - Joe. With all those British and American whalers visiting Guam in the 1800s, it wouldn't surprise me if José, half-white himself, was called Joe by the British and Americans.

José married Encarnación de San Nicolás and, after she died, he married Tomasa Castro Castro but Wilson's last will states that he no children with either wife. He did have one daughter out of wedlock, but whom he did publicly acknowledge. Her name was María San Nicolás Wilson, who married Antonio Flores San Nicolás. Wilson's will mentions a brother named Antonio Díaz. Since Antonio is not a Wilson, I imagine he is a brother of Wilson only on his mother's side.

Since José had no sons, the Wilson name eventually disappeared.

Guam Court documents show that José Wilson was called on at times to act as court interpreter in English, for the benefit of witnesses who couldn't speak Spanish and of the court officials who couldn't understand English. Wilson must have learned English from his father, but it's also possible that he spent some time on the British and/or American whaling ships that touched on Guam in those days.

José Díaz Wilson again, as court interpreter of English 

(1) Christian, FW. The Caroline Islands (1899)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


A View of Pågan

It is rare that I come across a song written about one of the northern islands, but I caught something on Facebook. It was a home recording of Tomasa Taman Ada, also known as Tan Båcha', singing about missing the island of Pågan. Tan Båcha' was born in Agrigan but spent part of her childhood on Pågan. Pågan was evacuated in 1981 when its northern volcano erupted but, since then, small groups of people have gone back and forth to Pågan and some live there to this day. Against vocal opposition from the local community, the U.S. military hopes to use Pågan for live-fire shooting practices.

In this homemade video, Tan Båcha' is asked by her daughter to sing the song. Without prior rehearsing, she needed some help in remembering some of the lines.

Later, I made the following recording of the song with the help of two talented musicians, Tony Treltas and John Perez.


I langet yan i chinago'-ña, hongga ha' hulo' i piniti-ho.
(Heaven and its distance, my sorrow is heard above.)

Kulan ha' mo'n para bai hu måtai, ya u dingo yo' i anti-ho.
(It's as if I am going to die, and my soul depart from me.)

I Faibus yan i chinago'-ña, hongga ha' påpa' i koron man ånghet.
(Faibus and its distance, the choir of angels is heard below.)

Olåra mo'n ya bai hu li'e' i tano'-ho iya Pågan.
(Oh that I would see my land of Pågan.)


Chinago'-ña. The sorrow of the singer is due, in part, to the distance that separates her from heaven and from Pågan.

Mo'n. Is a shortening of the word mohon, which indicates something hoped for or possible.

Anti-ho. The song is very theological. In Catholic theology, death is defined as the separation of body and soul. The body dies; the soul does not die. The body dies when the soul leaves it.

Faibus. Is the name of a location on Pågan. It is probably Carolinian in origin. Carolinians (as well as Chamorros) settled on Pågan. There is also a place called Faibus on Tinian, which at one time was settled by Carolinians.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Korean Peace Memorial
Marpi, Saipan
In memory of the Korean fallen in Saipan in World War II

Long before more recent Chamorro-Korean marriages, a few Chamorros in the Northern Marianas married Koreans in the 1920s and 30s.

Japan invaded Korea in 1910 and colonized it. In 1914, Japan occupied the Northern Marianas and the League of Nations later recognized Japanese rule in the Northern Marianas.

Over time, Japanese, Okinawan and Korean settlers moved to Saipan and vastly outnumbered the Chamorro and Carolinian population. During the war, Koreans in the Imperial Japanese Army were sent to defend the Northern Marianas from the oncoming American invasion.

Serafina King Nabors, a well-known resident of Tinian, is the child of one such Korean-Chamorro marriage. Serafina has served in elected office and has always been active in civic life. Here she tells of her discovery of her Korean paternal roots.

Serafina went to Korea and did some digging and found out that her father's last name was Kim, the most common Korean surname. It wasn't unusual for some last names to be changed by clerks and priests who recorded them. Kim became King.

Her father moved to Luta (Rota), working on a tapioca farm and the sugar cane fields. There he met a Chamorro lady from Saipan, whose mother came from Guam, from the del Rosario family. Serafina is related to the Ngånga' and Seboyas clans.

After the war, the Kings resettled in Tinian. All four main islands of the Marianas are involved in Serafina's family history!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Although our islands were a bit out of the way, we are so situated and so stretched out north to south that ships were bound to make stops in any one of the Marianas during the 17 and 1800s.

One such visit was made to Alamågan in 1799 by a ship in need of water.

The ship's visit was written up by a certain Captain Bass, who I can only assume was British since he had his story printed in a British magazine.

His ship was on its way to China, traveling in a westerly direction and running low on water. Without a fresh supply of it, they were sure to run out of water before they arrived in China. It was common knowledge among mariners who sailed in this area of the northwest Pacific that any one of the Mariana islands could supply food and water. Some, Bass said, preferred to by-pass the lower and larger islands in order to escape Spanish encounters. The northern islands were largely abandoned at the time and passing ships could enjoy perfect liberty in these islands.

Bass' ship decided to stop at Alamågan, which appeared before them one hazy morning. They found out soon enough that the haze was caused by plumes of smoke billowing out of Alamågan's volcano, active at the time. While on land, Bass got somewhat close to the volcano and heard rumbling deep from the earth.

Alamågan's crater, dormant at the time the photo was taken

Water was unfortunately not found so the men collected as many coconuts as possible, which were plentiful by the shore.

One lemmai tree (breadfruit) was found and some bananas, but also papaya, which came to the Marianas from abroad, so they must have passed through Guam before being brought up to the northern islands. The crew also feed themselves with the pånglao (land crabs) that were abundant and also some birds. But there was no sign of the Hawaiian pig and some chickens that were left on Alamågan by an earlier visiting British ship.

Alamågan would be settled then abandoned numerous times, under Spanish, German, Japanese and Trust Territory times, right up to Commonwealth times, all depending on the mood of the volcano.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017



In 1919, we find a Chamorro man living in New Orleans, Louisiana.

His name was Manuel San Nicolás, born in Hagåtña in 1878, the son of Mariano.

In 1893, Manuel came to the United States. More than likely, he joined the crew of a whaler or some commercial vessel stopping by Guam. That would have made him 15 years old, not unusual at that time period.

In the U.S., Manuel worked in various jobs,

Manuel is found in the 1920 US Census named "Manuel Nicolas." It's not unusual for names to change slightly, and sometimes completely, in documents of those days, especially with non-Anglo names. But we know from documents that Manuel lived at 1215 Royal Street in the year 1919, and the 1920 Census entry is for the residents at 1215 Royal Street.

The Census says that Manuel is from the Philippines, but we know that many Chamorros listed Spain or the Philippines as their place of origin in those days because the Marianas were not well-known by others back then, and because the Marianas were a province of the Philippines which was under Spain in the 1800s.

According to this Census, Manuel was married to a woman from New Orleans named Louise, who is of Portuguese and Mexican descent. Other records show that her maiden name was Laurence (sometimes spelled Lawrence) and that they had married in 1905. They had four children by 1920 :a daughter Manuella, aged 13, and two sons, Manuel, aged 4, and Peter, less than a year old.

Manuel and Louise reappear in the 1930 Census in New Orleans, still on Royal Street but now at house number 2237. Their older children, Manuella, Manuel and Peter are not living with them anymore but they have the following children living with them : Thomas (13), Raymond (6), Rita (3) and Calvin (4). If Thomas is truly 13 years old, he should have been listed in the 1920 Census, and maybe he is, but named Manuel. If people had two given names, records sometimes use the 1st and at other times the 2nd given name, which explains the discrepancy. In 1930, Manuella would have been 23 years old by then and possibly married. Peter could have died in infancy. Many did in those days.

Interestingly, the 1930 Census says that Manuel was from the Philippines but all the children's entries state that their father Manuel is from Guam! So much for human record keeping.

One of Manuel's seasonal jobs was to go to Cuba and work for the Hershey company. Needing a better source of sugar for his candies, Mr. Hershey bought acres and acres of sugar cane fields in Cuba in 1916. Manuel would go there to work as Centrifugal Foreman at the mill.

The Hershey Mill in Cuba at the time Manuel would have worked there

Another time, we find a document showing that Manuel went to Veracruz, Mexico on account of work. It seems the 15-year-old sailing boy never lost his love of travel.

What became of Manuel's Chamorro children? One of them, Raymond, moved to Kentucky where he died in 1984.

Despite numerous records simplifying San Nicolas to just Nicolas, Raymond signed his name using the full name San Nicolas

It would take some research to find out where Manuel's descendants are today and if they have any inkling of their Guam and Chamorro roots.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


There are many beliefs held by many Chamorros about what transpires among those about to die. For example, it is said that the dying see their dead relatives in the room, as if the dead relatives are beckoning their family member to join them in the afterlife.

But here is one story I was recently told about a dying woman which points to another kind of experience. Did this grandmother have an out-of-body experience, visiting grandchildren, thousands of miles away, to say goodbye before she passed away?

Diddide' åntes de u måtai si nånan-måme, annai esta kumåkama
(A little before our mother died, when she was already bed-ridden) 

ya ti siña gue' kahulo' ginen i kattre-ña, mangågao si nånan-måme paopao
(and couldn't get up from her bed, our mother asked for perfume)

sa' para u palai gue' paopao malago'-ña. 
(because she wanted to put some on her.)

Si nånan-måme tåya' na ha dingu i gima' sin ha nå'ye gue' paopao, 
(Our mother never left the house without putting on perfume,)

masea yanggen para i tenda ha' para u hanaogue. 
(even if she was just going to the store.)

Man manman ham ni mañe'lo sa' mangågao paopao ya ti siña kahulo'! 
(We siblings were surprised because she asked for perfume and couldn't get up!)

In faisen gue', "Nang? Para måno hao na para un nå'ye hao paopao?" 
(We asked her, "Mom? Where are you going that you're going to put on perfume?")

Chumålek sanhalom ha' i amko' lao tåya' håfa ilek-ña. 
(She just smiled and said nothing.)

Ha huchom matå-ña ya kalan ha tutuhon maigo' lao in li'e' na guaha ha hahasso, 
(She closed her eyes and it was as if she started to sleep, but we could see she was thinking about something)

lao umachigo' matå-ña. Despues, guaha entre i mañe'lo ilek-ñiha
(though her eyes were closed. Later, some among the siblings said)

na mangågao paopao si nånan-måme sa' para u bisita i famagu'on famagu'on-ña 
(that she asked for perfume because she was going to visit her grandchildren)

ni mañåsaga Amerika ya ti siña man måtto Guam 
(who were living in America and couldn't come to Guam)

para u atende i bihan-ñiha ni esta kumekematai.
(to attend to their dying grandmother.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


There is a beach just south of Two Lovers Point that is very popular with people seeking the sun, sand and surf.

Now if we could only figure out its name!

It is called both Faifai and Fafai, depending on who you talk to or what map you consult.

I have looked through several pre-war maps of Guam, and they all say Fafai.

This map above is from 1901. It spells Fafai with a Y; Fafay.

This map is from 1914.

This map is from 1941.

Finally, this map is from 1954.

There may be old maps that say Faifai, but, so far, I haven't found them.

It is also true that spelling mistakes were made in older maps. But, in time, most of these were corrected. In the case of Fafai, all the maps spell it Fafai (or Fafay) but never Faifai.

From Peter Onedera's book, compiling the place names of Guam, we find this :

The National Register of Historic Places also lists the beach as Fafai.

Finally, the area was called Fafai (of Fafae) in Spanish land records such as this, from 1902 :

But, the name Faifai has recently become equal to if not ahead of Fafai in popular speech.

I haven't found a meaning, either, for fafai nor of faifai.


Some reader feedback says that the name of the place is pronounced Fafa'i. In other words, three syllables. Fa - fa - i.

This would suggest a connection with få'i, which means "rice seedlings" at the planting stage. There are several speculations why this coastal area would be so named.

Monday, July 3, 2017


(Family Photo)
Juan Blas Blanco

He was perhaps Japan's greatest success in its effort to form some people from Saipan in the Japanese mold.

He was sent to Japan to be educated there, and was even given a Japanese name. Kamiyama Seiichi. His Japanese language skills were superb, as were his knowledge of Japanese customs and the Japanese mindset. He lived with Japanese host families, one of them getting so close to him that he considered them his Japanese "father and mother." Some noted that his Japanese accent was a proper Tokyo one.


Juan was born in Saipan in 1923. His parents, like so many Saipan families, were originally from Guam.

His father was Juan Taitano Blanco, the son of Domingo de León Guerrero Blanco from Hågat and his wife Juana Manahane Taitano. They moved to Saipan at the end of the 19th century.

(Family Photo)
Domingo de León Guerrero Blanco, seated, and his wife Juana Manahane Taitano
Juan Taitano Blanco is the tall man standing. The two ladies are his sisters and the young ones are their children.

His mother was the former Antonia Blas, from Hagåtña.

(Family Photo)
Juan's parents : Juan Taitano Blanco and Antonia Blas


In 1934, twenty years after the Japanese took over the Northern Marianas, four representatives from Japanese universities paid a visit to Saipan's schools.  These representatives believed that a few Saipan students should be sent to Japan to continue their education. Juan was class president in the third grade, and was selected.

He was first sent to a school in Tokyo and then to another school in Shimizu City in Shizuoka Prefecture. As already mentioned, he stayed with Japanese host families. In Shimizu City, he had the good fortune of having his older sister living with him as she was studying midwifery in the same city.

Juan Blanco stands in class in Japan

Juan's time in Japan had a big effect on him. His experience was generally a positive one. Most of his teachers were good to him and, as mentioned earlier, he got on so well with one hosting couple that they became surrogate parents to him.


But Juan's father started to get concerned about his son being in faraway Japan when signs of international war loomed on the horizon. Japan was already engaged in full warfare in China. What would happen if war broke out between Japan and America? How could his family keep in contact with Juan if war in the Pacific made such communication difficult, if not impossible. Juan's father thus decided to bring Juan back to Saipan.

With his mainland Japanese education, Juan wouldn't have profited much being enrolled in the school for Chamorros and Carolinians. He was allowed the rare privilege of entering a school in Saipan normally reserved for Japanese students alone. Eventually he became the only Chamorro graduate of the Saipan Industrial School.

After graduating, there were two possible job opportunities. One was to work for the Japanese military on Saipan, and the other was to work for the largest commercial interest in Saipan at the time, the sugar company or the Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha or NKK for short. It was here that Japan's racial divide showed. The military would have paid him lower wages for being non-Japanese. The NKK was willing to pay him the same wages as a Japanese in the position he was to fill. Juan opted therefore to work for the sugar company.


Juan was picked up by the Americans and put in the same stockade with the Japanese, not believing he was Chamorro! After two weeks, with the help of an American officer who spoke good Japanese, he was able to convince them that he was Chamorro and he was transferred to the Chamorro camp.

Juan did many and sundry things after the war, and all pretty successfully. He worked for the U.S. military, served in the Saipan Municipal Council and other political offices, was first branch manager of the Bank of America in Saipan, and was involved in other business ventures which brought him also to Guam at times, where he had many friends.


According to one of Juan's sons, Juan had one misgiving about life under Japanese rule in those days. No islander was ever supposed to excel over a Japanese in anything. When Juan rose to the top of the class or made it to the honor roll, the parents of a Japanese or Okinawan classmate complained, and Juan was deprived of his honors. If Juan beat a Japanese or Okinawan classmate in wrestling, there would be trouble.

"At least the Americans made us citizens," Juan's son said, quoting his deceased dad.

Still, it could not be denied that all his Japanese experience, much of it very positive, left a permanent mark on him. He kept in contact with numerous Japanese friends and was present at many Japanese events held in Saipan.

(Family Photo)

Juan Blanco
before his passing in 2014

* A note of thanks to Juan's sons John and Harry for information and photos