Thursday, November 30, 2017


San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 1903

Spanish rule over Guam effectively ended on June 21, 1898 when Spanish Governor Marina, and all the other Spanish officers and troops, were put on board American ships and taken to Manila. The American flag now flew over Guam.

Many babies were born on Guam for the rest of the year 1898. Many more were born in 1899, 1900 all the way up to 1903. But none of them were American.

No, the first American baby born on Guam didn't appear until March 23, 1903. It was a baby girl, the daughter of Lieutenant and Mrs. Eugene Ryan of the US Navy, occupying the position of island paymaster.

Why weren't all those babies born in 1900 and 1902 with names like Pérez and Taitano and Borja and Sablan considered American babies? Because the Chamorros of Guam just happened to be living on an island owned by the United States, but not an integral part of the United States. United States citizenship wouldn't be granted until 1950 and, even now, Guam remains an unincorporated territory of the United States. Unincorporated. Not an integral part of the United States.

The little girl, names Eugenia Louise Elizabeth Ryan, happened to have Catholic parents and she was baptized at the Hagåtña Church (it wasn't a cathedral yet) on Easter Sunday, with none other than the American Governor, William Sewell, taking the part of godfather while the godmother was the wife of a Navy doctor.

Her birth was hailed as a historic event, not only by the military community but also by some of the Chamorro upper class who gave their share of christening gifts to the infant.


Lieutenant Ryan's baby girl was perhaps the first child born on Guam to American parents that the US Navy knew of at the time, but it is altogether possible that a child was born on Guam to American parents long before 1903. It's just that the US Navy didn't know about it since it happened during Spanish times, and as the child and parents eventually left Guam.

Guam was constantly being visited by American whaling ships (and those of other countries as well). Although it wasn't often that women were on board, it did happen at times that whaling captains had their wives along. We cannot rule out the possibility that an American couple came to Guam just as the wife was about to give birth and did give birth to an American baby on Guam during Spanish times. We do know of one case where a British mother, married to a British man, gave birth to a girl either on Guam or on the high seas heading towards Guam during Spanish times.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


John Manibusan and Family
Liverpool, England
1891 British Census

Not all the Chamorro men who left Guam and the other Mariana islands on the whaling ships left for good. Some came back. One of them was Juan P. Manibusan.

According to Juan's marriage record, he was born in 1866. But, in those days, people were often unsure of their ages and birth days, so we have to keep an open mind about the question of his age.

He ended up in Liverpool, England at least by the 1880s. Liverpool was a great seaport at the time, sometimes called "the New York of England." It was home to the Cunard and White Star shipping line, and the home port of such historic ships as the Titanic, the Lusitania and the Queen Mary. Huge amounts of cargo came through the port as well as thousands of immigrants from all over the world. I'm not surprised that a Chamorro seaman of the 1800s found himself in Liverpool.

The great port City of Liverpool

Because of poverty and the famine in Ireland, which began in 1845, thousands of Irish, mostly Catholic, moved to Liverpool for work. Among them was a young lady from Kilkenny, Ireland named Mary McKenna Drennan. Juan met her, the two fell in love and were married in Liverpool in 1889. While some of their children died in infancy or childhood, at least four children lived to adulthood : Anthony, John, Joseph and Maria. These Chamorro-Irish children were all born in England.

In Liverpool, Juan ran a tobacco shop and a boarding house where he provided lodging to sailors. In the 1891 British Census, Juan rented out lodging to a Filipino sailor named Chris Puto Labiron and his much younger British wife and step children. In Juan's neighborhood, in fact, there were no less than 4 or 5 Filipinos living there.

The star marks Upper Frederick Street, home of the Manibusans in 1891

In 1891, the Manibusans were living on Upper Frederick Street in the Pitt Street Ward district of the city. This area was close to the docks, so it's no surprise that Juan rented out lodgings to seamen.

It is said that at the end of World War I, he brought his wife and the two youngest children to Guam for good. The two older boys, Anthony and John, joined the British Navy and in time settled in the U.S.

Juan the seaman became the opposite when he returned home to Guam. He farmed the land! He is not listed in the 1930 Guam Census so he must have passed away between 1920, when he is listed, and 1930. Mary appears in the 1930 Guam Census as a 61-year-old widow, and in the 1940 Guam Census, as well. It is said she died right after the war in 1945.

Descendants of Juan and Mary Drennan Manibusan live to this day in Guam and the United States mainland.

Liverpool, England
Canning Dock, not far from Juan's residence

*** The assistance of Juan's descendant, Jamie Bolton-Ronacher, is gratefully acknowledged.

Monday, November 27, 2017


Back in the day when Air Micronesia, a subsidiary of Continental Airlines, existed, travel between Saipan and Guam was usually done on a 727 jet plane. The trip took a mere 20 minutes from take-off to touch-down. Those days are now gone as we squeeze into a smaller propeller plane for a 40 minute flight.

A man loses the love of his life to the 727 jet, taking her to God-knows-where, but far from the shores of Saipan and the man who loves her.

Esta para un hånao gi 727 jet.
(You are ready to leave on a 727 jet.)
Mampos yo' triste yan mahålang
(I am really sad and dejected)
pot i para un dingo yo' nene.
(that you're about to leave me baby.)

Pues hanao ha' kerida
(So just leave darling)
lao cha'-mo maleleffa
(but don't forget)
na gaige ha' yo' nai guine
(that I am just here)
na hu nanangga hao kerida nene.
(waiting for you darling baby.)

Gi annai kumikilolok i ruedan 727 jet
(When the wheels of the 727 jet were turning)
duro lokkue' i lago'-ho
(my tears also)
de milalak påpa' gi faso-ho.
(really fell down on my face.)


Mahålang. The root word is hålang, and describes a weakening of spiritual energy and power. So it can apply to fear, nostalgia, yearning for what is absent, discouragement.

Kilolok. To revolve, to make circular turns.

Milak. Flowing liquid.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017



It's interesting how even scary folklore changes over time.

For example, I came across a duendes story from 1852 that differs, in some detail, from our duendes stories today. I'll add that link at the end of this post.

Now I've come across a story about a bruha from 1902.

The word bruha is borrowed from the Spanish word bruja, which means "witch." Most of us, raised in the American culture, think of pointy hats and pointy noses. Wizard of Oz and Snow White sort of things.

We don't hear the word bruha much anymore, or about their alleged existence. As a kid I heard older people say the word bruha only rarely. Maybe once every few years. But the word does appear in older Chamorro dictionaries (Ibáñez 1865 and von Preissig 1918).

This story comes from an American reporter in 1902 who heard it on Guam. That's not directly from the local source, so take it for what it's worth.

"The bruja is never seen, but commits awful atrocities on people and property. One evening a man was eating his supper when he heard the peculiar click, click which indicated the presence of the bruja. In a sudden fit of bravery he invited the unseen to partake of food, adding that he was not afraid, when without a moment's warning the candle was extinguished, dishes broken and the man himself attacked until his face was covered with blood and his hair lay in tufts about the room. This was the work of the witch, itself frightened away at last by the terrified man's prayer to the saints, 'Jesús, María, José,' from whom protection was asked. Suffice it to say that that man never again invited the bruja to lunch."

Just like us to call out "Jesús, María, José" when in a jam!

A duendes story from 1852 :

Monday, November 20, 2017


Pan Am 1941 route map showing Canton Island

Canton Island in 1941 was a tiny, barren atoll of sand and rocks, with no native population. But it made a convenient spot where Pan American Airline's clipper planes could stop for refueling on their way from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Pan Am also had a station on Guam, and it was from Guam that Pan Am recruited workers to staff various positions on Canton Island.

That's how these Chamorro Pan Am workers got stuck on a remote atoll, far from home, when World War II broke out on December 7, 1941.

From the list of Chamorro Pan Am employees working at Canton Island in 1941

When war broke out and disrupted normal travel and communications, and with the Japanese at the outer fringes of that Pacific area, the residents of Canton Island abandoned the island. The Chamorro workers were first taken to Pago Pago in American Samoa, not too far from Canton Island. From American Samoa, they went by ship to Honolulu in January of 1942.

The Chamorro workers were (name, age, occupation, home village) :

ANDERSON, Jose (24, waiter, Sumay)
BORJA, Antonio (21, launderer, Sumay)
CARBULLIDO, Albert (23, clerk, Agat)
CHARFAUROS, Ignacio (23, mess boy, Agat)
CONCEPCION, Juan (23, waiter, Sumay)
CRUZ, Ignacio (31, cook, Sumay)
CRUZ, Vicente (25, assistant cook, Agana)
DE LEON, Jose (46, aircraft mechanic, Agana)
DUEÑAS, Ramon (47, carpenter, Sumay)
GARRIDO, Anselmo (27, aircraft mechanic, Sumay)
GUERRERO, Jose (27, cook, Agana)
GUERRERO, Magno (18, messboy, Agana)
MAFNAS, Antonio (23, waiter, Agana)
MATAGULAY, Juan (41, aircraft mechanic, Garapan, Saipan)
MATERNE, Domingo (23, laundryman, Agana)
MESA, Felix (24, utility man, Agat)
PEREZ, Vicente (20, waiter, Agana)
QUITUGUA, Enrique (30, cook, Asan)
RIVERA, Vicente (22, waiter, Agana)
SALAS, Juan (33, cook, Agana)
VALENZUELA, Francisco (27, mess boy, Agana)
WON PAT, Vicente (23, bar keeper, Sumay)

The large number of Sumay men is not surprising, given that the Pan Am base and hotel site were located in Sumay before the war.

One of the Chamorro Pan Am employees on Canton Island in 1941



Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Santa Ana (Saint Anne), mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus

In the old days, most parents and grandparents were very strict with their adolescent children, especially the girls. Their every movement was monitored and who they kept company with was duly noted. Even at dances, older sisters or cousins or aunts went to chaperone the activities. This meant that young people in love found it a challenge to find time to chat with each other.

One opportunity was Sunday Mass. Since almost everyone was Catholic and went to Mass on Sundays, there was a good chance you could see your sweetheart there. One young man thought he could take advantage of Mass and spend a few moments chatting with his girlfriend. But even in church there are challenges to be met.

Era 1956 na såkkan ya sen umaguaiya si Francisco yan si Luisa.
(It was the year 1956 and Francisco and Luisa were so in love.)

Lao pot i mampos estrikto todo i mañainan-ñiha, ti siña i dos umali'e'
(But because all their parents and elders were so strict, the two couldn't see each other)

solo an umeskuela i dos ya para un råtoto ha'.
(except when they were both in school and only for a brief moment.)

Sinangåne si Luisa as Francisco un dia gi eskuela,
(Francisco told Luisa one day in school,)

"Gi Damenggo, ta asodda' gi Misa."
("On Sunday, we'll meet at Mass.")

"Lao mångge?" mamaisen si Luisa.
("But where?" Luisa asked.)

"Tohge gi fi'on i mañåntos gi pettan san me'na," ilek-ña si Francisco.
"Stand by the statues of the saints at the front door," Francisco said.

Ya magåhet na ayo na Damenggo eståba si Francisco
(And sure enough that Sunday Francisco)

na ha nanangga si Luisa gi fi'on i mañåntos gi pettan san me'na.
(was waiting for Luisa beside the saints at the front door.)

En fin måtto si Luisa lao ti magof matå-ña.
(At last Luisa came but her face wasn't happy.)

"Håfa, kerida, na ti mamagof posision-mo?" mamaisen si Francisco.
("Why, sweetheart, is your expression not happy?" Francisco asked.)

"Francisco. Atan hulo' ya un li'e' håye na såntos un ayek para un fi'une," ilek-ña si Luisa.
("Francisco. Look up and see which saint you chose to be next to," Luisa said.)

Tumalak hilo' si Francisco ya ha repåra na tumotohge gue' gi fi'on Santa Ana.
(Francisco looked up and saw that he was standing next to Saint Anne.)

"Ai lokkue'. Sa' kontodo gi halom guma'yu'us ha pupulan hit si Nanan Biha," ilek-ña si Francisco.
"Oh dear. Even in church grandmother is watching us," Francisco said.)

Monday, November 13, 2017



You can't totally get away with it.

That seems to be the message of this bit of wisdom from the elders.

The inner ugliness of an evil person will somehow manifest itself outwardly in the body of that evil person when he or she dies.

Thus, even if an evil person who did much harm in life got away with it, the punishment will come when the dead body of the evil person becomes so ugly that the person suffers an ignoble death.

Here's how one older lady explained it :

I taotao gi durånten lina'lå'-ña yanggen mampos bula tinailaye bidå-ña,
(The person who during his life if he has done a great deal of evil,)

tåt komo mampos båba i pachot-ña,
(such as having a very bad mouth,)

sesso de muna' mumu taotao,
(who stirs up fights between people,)

gi oran finatai-ña siempre u guaha ma susede.
(at the hour of his death something surely will happen.)

Siña ha' ma baba i pachot-ña, ma laknos i hila'-ña
(It's possible his mouth will open, his tongue come out)

ya ti siña ma na' halom.
(and it can't be put back in.)

Horror! But this is the punishment.

Even though evil people often get away with it in this life, still, at death, you can't get away with it completely.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


It was only the second mass trial of black military servicemen in the U.S. during World War 2.

Some forty-five black service men were convicted and given different sentences for a "riot" on Guam involving white Marines. The troubles included some deaths, and also, according to many reports, Chamorro women who were pursued by both white and black military men.

Reflecting the general tenor of the country at the time, the U.S. military was a segregated one in World War 2. Black servicemen were grouped together in their own companies and quarters, separate from the whites, and even had their own line for meals in the canteen. Black nurses treated black patients in military hospitals.


Black Marines in Saipan 1944

On Guam in 1944, four companies working in the Marine supply depot were comprised entirely of blacks.

For some time, white Marines targeted these black Marines, yelling racial slurs, throwing at them empty bottles, rocks and even hand grenades and smoke bombs on a few occasions. One of these smoke bombs thrown by a white Marine landed in the fuel dump, where black Marines were working with dangerous amounts of octane gas. An explosion, putting the black men at the risk of their lives, was gratefully avoided.

Complaints by the black Marines fell on deaf ears with the higher command. This only increased the sense of frustration and helplessness among the black men, convincing them that they had to take matters into their own hands. As one black Marine said about doing military service on Guam, he might as well be in a "town in the deep South," since he found the same racial discrimination in both circumstances.

Part of the tension involved competition over the Chamorro women these military men met. Besides a general kind of competition for these women's attention, there seems to have been a few cases of specific rivalry between a black and a white service man over a specific Chamorro lady.

The military commander (and civil governor) of Guam, Major General Henry Larsen, was warned that trouble was brewing among his own service men. Larsen preached reconciliation and unity, but his words came too late. In December of 1944, verbal assaults and bottle throwing turned more violent. Shots were fired and men, both black and white, were killed.

More than once, black Marines left their camps in the Hågat-Sumay area and went up to Hagåtña, only to engage in fights with white Marines. White Marines in jeeps drove by the black camps, firing shots. The last time, early in the pre-dawn hours on December 26, a caravan of black Marines, armed with weapons taken without permission, heading towards Hagåtña hoping to get back at the white Marines, was stopped on the road by a military barricade. The black men were arrested.


During World War 2, news reports were heavily censored by the government in the interest of national defense. After all, you don't want the enemy to get tipped off about America's military situation by reading the morning newspaper. The Navy therefore blocked the release of news reports about the racial riots among the military on Guam. It would be bad for military morale and bad for the image of the U.S. in the world.

Except that.....Walter White was in the picture.

Walter White

Walter White was the Executive Secretary, at the time, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, the nation's influential advocacy group for black Americans. White happened to be on Guam in December of 1944 right when the racial troubles blew up.

He served as counsel to the black Marines arrested on Guam. He would make sure that their case would receive the attention and fairness that he believed they had a right to.

The forty-some black Marines tried and convicted for things such as rioting and the abuse of military property (like the guns they took) got dishonorable discharge and prison terms as high as four years down to four months. The fewer white men facing charges got considerably lighter sentences, as low as 20 days' confinement which was then written off.

As soon as the news blackout was lifted in July of 1945, White made sure that the story of the convicted black Marines made national news. He also put pressure on the Navy to reopen the case and look at significant factors that were not considered at the trial, such as the intimidation given the black Marines by the white ones, and the non-action of the military commanders to diffuse racial tensions by taking seriously the complaints of the black Marines.

In 1946, the Navy released from prison those black Marines still serving time for the Guam "riots."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


The 19th century saw a lot more contact between the Marianas and the rest of the world than had been previously seen.

The British and American whaling ships were a constant source of news, activity and opportunity for our little island for much of the 1800s. Businesses associated with the whaling enterprise then came into contact with Guam and the Marianas.

Case in point, the Melchers Company in Honolulu.

The Honolulu trading company was a branch of the original Melchers Company established in Bremen in modern-day Germany. The founder of that company had three sons and one of them, Gustav by name, founded the Hawaii branch in 1852 along with a partner named Gustav Reiners.

As many whaling ships either came from Honolulu or were on their way to Honolulu before or after touching at Guam, Honolulu became a conduit of merchandise and information for Guam. Thus, it's no surprise that the Melchers Company had some kind of relationship with the Spanish Governor of the Marianas. The Company urged whaling captains to call on the Company before they sailed for Guam. Perhaps the whaling captain could bring some supplies, merchandise or news to the Governor. One Spanish governor used the services of Melchers when the Governor wanted to return deposits made to the Spanish government in the Marianas to whaling captains based in Hawaii.

When a Hawaiian commercial ship, the Pfeil, was condemned at Guam because of serious damage, it was put up for sale and Melchers bought it.

Another Guam connection with Melchers was Richard Millinchamp, an Englishman who had previously settled in the Bonin Islands but who later definitively moved to Guam and stayed. He also had prior connections in Hawaii and legally appointed Melchers to represent Millinchamp's interests in Hawaii.

Richard Millinchamp's signature

The contact between Guam and Melchers did not last long. Melchers was bought out by someone else and, as the whaling business subsided, the connection between Guam and Hawaii cooled down as well.

The Melchers Building, built in 1854 on Merchant Street, is the oldest commercial building in Honolulu.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


It was a Spanish hymn translated into two different Chamorro versions, one in Saipan and one in Guam.

This recording is of the song sung in Saipan.

1. Mames Jesus man hongge yo' sen metton
(Sweet Jesus I believe very firmly)

na Hågo ha' i Sånta Komunion.
(that You Yourself are Holy Communion.)

Maila' pues ya un na' chocho i anti-ho
(Come then and feed my soul)

ya un na' såntos i korason-ho, ya un na' såntos i korason-ho.
(and make my heart holy.)

2. Mañotsot yo' nu todo i isao-ho
(I repent of all my sins)

båsta yo' umisao yan umaguaguat.
(I am done sinning and rebelling.)

Ya bai sen osge i tinago'-mo 
(And I will truly obey your commands)

ya bai hu sen guaiya Hao Asaina, ya bai hu sen guaiya Hao Asaina.
(and truly love you Lord.)


My suspicion is that there is a Saipan and a Guam version because the original Spanish hymn, on which both Chamorro versions are based, didn't become known until after the split between American Guam and the German Northern Marianas in 1898. Prior to 1898, all the Marianas were one political unit and would have a shared musical tradition. But, after 1898, the two parts of the Marianas were served by different missionaries who started new musical traditions within their own island group.

While the two Chamorro versions are worded differently, they share a common origin, the Spanish hymn, and so are both the same in that they are both songs for Holy Communion, focusing on the reality that the Host is the true Body of Jesus, and the consecrated wine has become the true Blood of Jesus.


The Spanish hymn is quite well-known among traditional Catholic circles in the Spanish-speaking world. Prior to Vatican II and the outpouring of new church songs following a different style, this Spanish hymn, Oh Buen Jesús, was very common in church.

Many sites that include this hymn say that the author is unknown, but one site says the composer was one "H. León" but nothing more. I have not found any information who this person was. The H can stand for Hermano, or Brother, meaning a religious brother, and León (Leo) is his first name.

The first verse in Spanish says :

Oh Good Jesus, I firmly believe that for my benefit You are on the altar;
that you give Your Body and Blood together
to the faithful soul in a heavenly meal.


A Spanish missionary on Guam (probably Påle' Román de Vera) translated the Spanish original differently from whoever translated it in Saipan.

On Guam the hymn is entitled Guåho Jesús.

The first verse goes like this :

Guåho Jesús hu hongge na magåhet
(Jesus, I believe it is true)

na gaige Hao guennao gi sagå-mo.
(that You are there is your place.)

Ume'etnon yan i man yiniusan
(Joined together with the divine)

na tataotao, ånte yan hagå'-mo, na tataotao ånte yan hagå'-mo.
(body, soul and blood.)

Thursday, November 2, 2017


I was on a plane to Saipan and overheard the conversation of two people sitting in my row. It's a very small, cramped plane!

I heard them use a phrase of which I knew the literal meaning, but also knew that they were saying something hidden to me.

"Para lahi-ho," said the man. As is often done, he shortened it to, "Para lai-ho."

Literally, it means "To be my son." But I tried to figure out what was the hidden meaning. Was he going to adopt someone? He seemed somewhat too elderly to adopt a little boy!

Minutes later, the lady he was speaking to said, "Para hagå-ho." She, too, shortened it to "Para hagao."

So, of course, as soon as I got the chance, I asked some older people what they meant.

When one of your children is getting married, their spouse-to-be becomes, after the wedding, your son or daughter.

Technically, they become your yetno or yetna; son or daughter-in-law. Those are terms borrowed from Spanish.

But, as these folks did, one can also say they become your son or daughter. Period.

I think this gives some insight into the way traditional Chamorros view family relations. There is much more blending of family relations than in modern culture. You can imagine my shock when, thirty years ago, I heard people call their father or mother-in-law by their first names, instead of "mom, pop, nang or tang," as I normally hear.