Monday, December 31, 2018


Thanks to the German Capuchin missionaries in Saipan, we have this one, old (1900s) Chamorro song about New Years.

New Years was not as big a celebration in olden Spain, and her colonies, as the world celebrates it today. But the German culture did celebrate it with a bit more attention and so it passed from the German missionaries to their flock in Saipan and Luta in the early 1900s.

The original German song is found in the video link at the end of this post. The Saipan version is actually a medley, a blending of two songs, as it does add a middle section taken from another song.

In the song, we thank God for the graces of the past year and we ask for continued grace and protection in the coming year. We also ask eternal rest on those who died in the past and on those who may die in the time ahead. This song, sung repeatedly in the Northern Marianas for New Year's, lead to the modern custom of lighting candles for each person who died in the year just passed.


Ta fan magof todos
(Let us all be happy)
mientras man lålå'la' hit.
(while we are still alive.)
Ta nå'e mit gråsias
(Let us give a thousand thanks)
i muna' fan huyong hit.
(to the one who created us.)

Esta måtto i nuebo
(The new year has already)
na såkkan ni para hita.
(come for us.)
Ta propone de nuebo
(Let us propose once again)
u ma arekla i ha'ani-ta.
(to rightly order our lives.)

Ta fan magof todos
(Let us all be happy)
mientras man lålå'la' hit.
(while we are still alive.)
Ta nå'e mit gråsias
(Let us give a thousand thanks)
i muna' fan huyong hit.
(to the one who created us.)

Jesus Yu'us-måme
(Jesus our God)
gi nuebo na såkkan
(in the new year)
gai'ase' nu hame,
(have mercy on us,)
apåtta i dåño.
(keep away all harm.)
Nå'e nu i deskånso
(Give rest)
i man gaige esta gi naftan
(to those already in the grave)
ya an guaha sea kåso måtai na såkkan.
(and to those who may die this year.)

Ta fan magof todos
(Let us all be happy)
mientras man lålå'la' hit.
(while we are still alive.)
Ta nå'e mit gråsias
(Let us give a thousand thanks)
i muna' fan huyong hit.
(to the one who created us.)

Fan adesea de nuebo
(Desire for each other again)
ginen i korason-miyo
(from your hearts)
"Felis na Åño Nuebo"
("Happy New Year")
todo i ha'anen-miyo.
(all the days of your life.)

Ta fan magof todos
(Let us all be happy)
mientras man lålå'la' hit.
(while we are still alive.)
Ta nå'e mit gråsias
(Let us give a thousand thanks)
i muna' fan huyong hit.
(to the one who created us.)


Saturday, December 29, 2018


A Christmas song from Saipan, where the Niño is always dressed in cloth, as in the picture above.

Maigo' Yiniusan Påtgon,
(Sleep, Divine Child,)
O maigo' sen måffong!
(Oh sleep so profoundly!)
I anghet ma pupulan hao
(The angels watch over you)
yan ma kantåtåye hao
(and sing to you)
yan ma kantåtåye hao.
(and sing to you.)
Hame nu i famagu'on-mo
(We your children)
man bebela gi fi'on-mo.
(keep vigil at your side.)
Maigo', maigo' Påtgon Långet maigo'.
(Sleep, sleep heavenly child, sleep.)

Si Maria Bithen Nåna
(Mary, the Virgin Mother,)
ina'atan hao magof.
(looks happily at you.)
Si Jose gi oriyå-ña 
(Joseph at her side)
nina'manman nu hågo
(is in awe of you.)
nina'manman nu hågo.
(is in awe of you.)
I pastores ginen chågo' 
(The shepherds from afar)
man adulalak guato.
(chase after each other there.)
Maigo' maigo' Påtgon Långet maigo'.
(Sleep, sleep heavenly child, sleep.)

Saturday, December 22, 2018


In this Christmas carol from Saipan, the angel directs the shepherds to see the Christ Child in Bethlehem, and the shepherds respond in the refrain "We are all ready!"

This carol is only now becoming known on Guam, since it was only taught to the Chamorros of Saipan and then of Luta by the German Capuchin missionaries there in the early 1900s. Guam had the Spanish Capuchin missionaries at the time, teaching them different Christmas carols.

Todos hamyo fan malågo para i Belen guato,
(All of you run over to Bethlehem,)
para i Belen guato ya en li'e' i milågro i Mesias ni måtto.
(over to Bethlehem and see the miracle of the Messiah who has come.)
En li'e' gi un pesebre i Verbo Divino,
(You will see in a manger the Divine Word,)
i Verbo Divino na sen bula pinepble i sen såntos na Niño.
(the Divine Word, the most holy Infant who is full of poverty.)

Todos ham man listo ya tåya' u ma dingo para in adora i Niño.
(We are all ready and no one will be left behind to adore the Infant.)

Kulan sinilo åtdao en sedda' siempre i Niño,
(Like the sunrise, you will surely find the Infant,)
en sedda' siempre i Niño nai matå-ña gåtbo mås ke diamånten fino.
(you will surely find the Infant, whose face is beautiful, more than a fine diamond.)
Una bithen sin måncha en li'e' i nanå-ña,
(You will see His mother, a virgin without stain,)
en li'e' i nanå-ña ya i gaige gi langet ayo proprio Tatå-ña.
(you will see His mother and His true Father in heaven.)

Todos ham man listo ya tåya' u ma dingo para in adora i Niño.
(We are all ready and no one will be left behind to adore the Infant.)

En li'e' i estreyas na ma'lak ininå-ña,
(You will see the stars whose light is bright,)
na ma'lak ininå-ña para giå-ta guato gi sen popblen sagå-ña.
(whose light is bright to be our guide to His most poor dwelling.)
En li'e' gi un eståblo na hokkok mina'lak-ña,
(You will see in a stable its complete brightness,)
na hokkok mina'lak-ña i Niño mafañågo pot nina'siñå-ña.
(its complete brightness, the Infant born through His power.)

Todos ham man listo ya tåya' u ma dingo para in adora i Niño.
(We are all ready and no one will be left behind to adore the Infant.)

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Much of Guam's history is hidden right in front of our eyes.

We pass these sites all the time and are not aware of the history, or that they even exist. Just turn a corner we normally ignore; venture just a few steps more, and we're facing a piece of island history.

Take for example the Japanese rice mill in Malesso'. It's not terribly difficult to see, but it is off the main road. It sits on private land, so one has to ask permission of at least the neighbor through whose land one must pass. The barking dogs will make you do that, anyway.


Guam Rice Paddy during Japanese Occupation

When the Japanese occupied Guam, from December 1941 till July 1944, both the Chamorros and the Japanese turned to the land and sea for food. Some food continued to be imported from off-island, but in ever-decreasing amounts due to shortages and the dangers of American attacks.

In 1943, the Japanese government made self-reliance in food the absolute rule on Guam. Even more so for the Japanese than for the Chamorros, who were quite happy with corn and other carbohydrates, rice production was a top priority. Paddies were started typically in the southern half of the island where low-lying, watery areas, often crossed by rivers and streams, made rice growing ideal.

In December of 1943, a rice mill was built by the Japanese in Malesso'. It consisted of two, non-adjoining rooms. Rice paddies may have surrounded the area, which is low-lying, not far from the beach. Though no documentation exists, that we know of, to prove it was a rice mill, this is what some local residents alive during the Occupation say it was.

The mill was not in use for long, though, if at all. First of all, rice production was more or less a failure on Guam during the Japanese Occupation, for several reasons. Harvests were poor and could not adequately feed the Japanese military on Guam, especially when their numbers increased in 1944 in anticipation of the American invasion.

By March of 1944 or so, just four months after the mill was built, preparation for all-out battle with the Americans took precedence and farming took a back seat, especially when the Japanese rounded up the Chamorros to wait out the battle in the interior hills and jungles.

Today, the roof and interior floor of the mill are gone. Inside the building, vegetative and man-made debris litter the area. All around the mill, the same conditions exist. Yet, despite typhoons and earthquakes, the four concrete walls of the mill are still standing, more than 70 years later.

It is the only non-military Japanese-built structure surviving on Guam from the Occupation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


This Chamorro version of the famous carol "Silent Night" is sung by Donovan Afaisen and Andrea Pangelinan. It begins with the English version and then the Chamorro version follows.

Puengen Yu'us, puengen Jesus
(Night of God, night of Jesus)
u ma tuna si Yu'us!
(God be praised!)
Ya u fåtto gi taotao siha
(And may it come to the people)
i ha tåtånga na pås-ñiha
(their longed-for peace)
gigigo ha' yan si Yu'us,
(together with God,)
gigigo ha' yan si Jesus.
(together with Jesus.)

Puengen Yu'us, puengen Jesus
(Night of God, night of Jesus)
dalai lokkue' sen mampos!
(oh my, exceedingly so!)
A'annok i Rai i rai siha
(The King of kings is revealed)
guihe gi echongñan-ñiha*
(there at their side)
ya ti yan-ñiha si Yu'us,
(but they did not love God,)
ya ti yan-ñiha si Jesus.
(they didn't love Jesus.)

Echongña. This word is now forgotten by most. Even many older people (aged 80 years and up) do not know that it means "side." The word appears in other hymns, too, like in "O Maria Nana'magof" where it says, "tunanas gi echongñå-mo," meaning "straight alongside of you." To modern-day Chamorros unaware of this word, it sounds like "echong ñåmo" or "crooked mosquito."

There are slightly different versions of the wording of this carol. Påle' Roman de Vera, Capuchin, was the first to publish a Chamorro version on Guam.

Monday, December 17, 2018



His/her tears are shallow.

Some people hardly ever cry at all, even when they are profoundly sad or moved. They have the ability to fight back the tears and keep their eyes dry.

Others can cry in an instant, for the simplest of reasons. It doesn't take them much to shed a tear. It's as if the tear was already on hand, just waiting for the slightest reason to come out.

These people are said to be nátata lago'-ña. Their tears are shallow. Why?

Their tears are right at the surface of their eyes. Any closer to the surface and their eyes would be spilling out tears all day long.

In order for these people to cry, they don't need to reach into the deep recesses of their storage of tears. Their tears are right there, on the surface, shallow, ready to shed at any moment.

Friday, December 14, 2018


From a news article in 1911

As the above headline states, Christmas didn't happen on time on Guam one year, in 1910.

Well, that's according to the American Navy which ruled Guam in those days. The Chamorros and their Chamorro and Spanish priests, however, celebrated Christmas on time just the same anyway.

As far as the Americans were concerned, however, it was the United States that brought Christmas to Guam. The article from the same newspaper above stated, "Christmas on Guam is only twelve years old," brought to Guam only in 1898 when the United States took control over the island away from Spain. Never mind that the Spaniard Sanvitores came to Guam in 1668 and celebrated the first Christmas here that same year, two hundred and thirty years before the Americans came.

According to the Americans, Christmas couldn't happen on Guam either unless the American Santa Claus brought gifts and toys to the island. That's why Christmas was late in 1910.

Starting in 1907, the American Navy brought hundreds of Christmas toys and candy to Guam for the school children every year. But in December of 1910, the health officer on Guam would not allow the Navy ship to unload passengers or cargo because one man on board had a mild case of smallpox and was actually already recovering from it. Still, no amount of convincing could change the health officer's mind. The ship had to continue to Manila without leaving behind all those toys and candies for Guam's school children.

And that is why, the American newspaper said, Christmas didn't happen on time on Guam that year.

Better tell that to the thousands of Chamorros who were at midnight Mass for Christmas. Apparently they had no idea that Christmas couldn't happen until the toys came.

Christmas on Guam only started in 1898, according to this American newspaper!
News article in 1911

Wednesday, December 12, 2018



Egg in the grass.

This saying sounds strange at first to people hearing it for the first time, but it was heard by some older people in the past.

Here's the idea behind it. A hen usually lays her eggs in a coop (kasiyas) or basket (ålan månnok).

So if a woman gives birth to a child out of wedlock, it's like the hen who lays her egg out on the grass, in a field and so on. Far away from the public eye, from the usual places a hen would lay an egg. Even the child would be called påtgon sanhiyong, a child "from the outside, " outside of marriage, that is.

There were lots of births out of wedlock in the old days. But it was considered something shameful. There would be no christening party, for example, when the baby was baptized.

Thursday, December 6, 2018



In 1742, the British admiral Lord George Anson stopped at Tinian and saw a sakman (flying proa) sailing on the sea. He was impressed with its speed, reckoned by many today at 20 knots or 23 miles per hour on land.

Anson needed to make repairs and replenish food and water supplies at Tinian, and give his crew some rest and the sick among them some convalescence, but he couldn't stay long since the Spaniards in Guam might send up an armed force if they heard about this British visit.

So Anson destroyed the boat and the sakman being used by the Spanish and Chamorro men drying beef in Tinian before he left the island. But he also had his draftsman draw, in great detail, the design of the sakman. This drawing made its rounds back in England, along with the story of Anson's travels in book form, published in 1748.

Well, twenty-some years after news of Anson's voyage in the Pacific, his visit to Tinian and his depiction of the sakman circulated around England, a British shipbuilder decided to make a canoe based on the Chamorro sakman as documented by Lord Anson. The story appeared in a British newspaper in 1767.

Notice that the article talks about a praw (proa) and that it belongs to the Indians, a common name in those centuries for natives of America and the Pacific. The Spaniards called Chamorros and Filipinos indios in those days, too. The Marianas were still called Ladrones by many in those days, as well.

The British copy of the Chamorro sakman could not have been an exact replica. Local, English materials were undoubtedly used, rather than Pacific island material. I wouldn't be surprised if there were technological changes made, too.

But it goes to show that European admiration for the Chamorro sakman's speed and agility was strong enough for one English man to make a functional replica of it 250 years ago. What became of it remains an unanswered question.

Monday, November 26, 2018


In a traditional Chamorro wedding, a veil or belo is draped over both bride and groom after they have exchanged their vows.

Just as the one piece of fabric covers both bride and groom at the same time, the belo symbolizes their union and also God's blessing (and that of the Blessed Mother or of the Holy Family) covering the newlyweds.

How important was this custom of pinning the belo?

Before the war, evidently very important. As this one story illustrates.

This wedding took place in the mid 1930s in Hagåtña. The groom was Chamorro. His bride was mestisan Amerikåna, mixed Chamorro and caucasian. Her father was a statesider and her mother was Chamorro.

Perhaps in order to accommodate wedding guests from the American colony on Guam at the time, the wedding took place late in the day, and not at the usual dawn hour. Americans on Guam were not accustomed to waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning. Chamorros at the time were. So weddings, in fact almost all Masses, were celebrated before dawn or at the crack of dawn.

For whatever reason, the story never explains why, the belo was not pinned to the bride and groom at their wedding Mass late that day. I have a suspicion why, but it's only speculation. Perhaps the Spanish priests or the Chamorro mañaina (elders) felt that a late-in-the-day wedding was an agreeable compromise to allow stateside guests to attend, but that some tradition be maintained and that the belo not be put on until the following morning at the "completion," as it were, of the nuptial rites at the traditional, early hour. Bride and groom were expected to return to the church the next morning and get pinned with the belo .

And that is when Mrs. Ana Underwood asked the father of the groom if the belo had been pinned at the wedding. The father replied that it had not, but would be the following morning at another Mass. Tan Ana'n Underwood then said, "Then make sure the bride and groom do not consummate the marriage until then." Any romance between the bride and groom would have to wait. The groom, in fact, did not sleep with his bride that night after the wedding.

The next morning, Mr. Chester Butler, the bride's godfather, picked up the groom to take him to the morning Mass. He asked the groom if he and his bride had had a good night. The groom responded, "How could we? The belo is this morning so my wife went home last night after the fandånggo."

Such was the importance of the belo in pre-war Chamorro weddings. You were not completely married, nor able to enjoy the blessings of marriage, until the belo was pinned on you and your spouse.

Friday, November 23, 2018


In traditional Chamorro belief, the dead are never really gone.

Their bodies may be gone, but their spirits are ever among us; unseen by us, they see us all the time. But, once in a while, they make their presence known and perhaps even seen, heard or smelled.

This story is from the 1930s on Guam.

The man had just married his bride. Because the bride was the only surviving daughter of her mother Rufina (a sister, Ana, had passed away in her young adulthood), bride and groom moved into Rufina's house. That way, the young bride could still look after her widowed mother, and also care for her dead sister's young child. The groom, too, had lost a parent. His mother had died when he was just a young child.

One night, when husband and wife were walking home in Hagåtña, the man sensed a presence behind him.

Tumalak tatte yo' sa' hu siente na guaha ga'lågo ni tumattitiye ham.
(I looked back because I was feeling that a dog was following behind us.)

Ha faisen yo' i asaguå-ho, "Håfa un a'atan?"
(My wife asked me, "What are you looking at?")

Manoppe yo', "Kao guaha ga'lågo." Lao gi magåhet, hu sospecha na i espiritun nanå-ho eståba.
(I answered, "If there is a dog." But truly I suspected that my mother's spirit was around.)

Annai humålom ham gi gima' i sogrå-ko, humånao ham hulo' gi segundo piso.
(When we entered the home of my mother-in-law, we went up to the second floor.)

In hingok na ma baba i grifo gi halom båño. Annai in baba i pettan i båño,
(We heard the bathroom faucet turn on. When we opened the bathroom door,)

tåya' taotao! Ya ma huchom esta i grifo!
(there was no one! And the faucet was turned off!)

Ilek-ña i asaguå-ho, "Adahe na si Ana," i matai na che'lu-ña.
(My wife said, "Watch out that it's Ana," her dead sister.)

Sigiente dia gi pupuenge, annai in bira ham gi gima' sogrå-ko,
(The next day at night, when we returned to my mother-in-law's house,)

in li'e' na mañiñila' i kandet sanhiyong, ni fihu in pino' an esta gespainge.
(we saw that the outside light was on, which we usually turn off when it is late at night.)

Hu tungo' na guaha håfa ha susede i sogrå-ko.
(I knew that my mother-in-law experienced something.)

Annai in baba i petta, in hingok na kumåkånta i sogrå-ko "Abe Maria."
(When we opened the door, we heard my mother-in-law singing "Ave Maria.")

In faisen gue' håfa ma susede. Ilek-ña, "Eståba na umå'åsson yo' annai hu hungok na guaha taotao.
(We asked her what happened. She said, "I was lying down when I heard there was someone.)

Hu siente na guaha taotao umåsson gi fi'on-ho gi kamå-ho.
(I felt that someone lied down next to me on my bed.)

Kahulo' yo' ya hu baba i petta lao tåya' taotao. Pine'lo-ko na era hågo ya hu essalao i na'ån-mo.
(I got up and opened the door but there was no one. I thought it was you and shouted your name.)

Annai tåya' manoppe, hu huchom i petta, hu na' fañila' i kandet sanhiyong
(When no one answered, I closed the door, turned on the outside light)

ya hu tutuhon manaitai yan kumånta."
(and I started to pray and sing.")

Annai humåme ha' yan i asaguå-ho, ilek-ña i asaguå-ho,
(When it was just me and my wife, my wife said,)

"Ilek-ho na era si Ana."
("I say that it was Ana.")

Since Ana was not physically present at such a special occasion as her sister's wedding, they believed Ana was trying to somehow be there in the way she could. The same could be said for the man, who thought that the sensation of a dog following them at night was his deceased mother, also physically absent on his wedding day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


I used to love to converse with Escolástica Cabrera (also known as Tan Esco or Tan Átika) about anything. It didn't matter what we were talking about. It was her superb and articulate Chamorro that I loved listening to and learning from.

Here we talk about two different kinds of cooking by boiling.

If the boiling is done quickly, it's chankocha.

If more time is needed to cook it, it's sotne.

Chankocha is borrowed from the Spanish sancocha (the verb being sanchocar), which means to boil or parboil (not completely boiled).

So, for example, most vegetables can be cooked quickly. But some, like hard tubers (sweet potatoes, yam, tapioca/cassava), will only get soft and edible when boiled a long time. Some animals (like wild deer meat) are so tough that they need a long time to boil, whereas lobsters and shrimp can cook very quickly.


Chankocha, sotne...
(Chankocha, sotne...)

Ennague meggai na man lalache este påle' i man hoben...
(There we have many of these young people who are wrong, Father...)

I chankocha yanggen gollai.
(It's chankocha if it's vegetables.)

Chankocha sa' an un råtoto ha' Kalan para un na' fañåggue ha'.
(Chankocha because when it's only a brief As if you're just going to make it tremble.)

På'go i ma sotne...kamuti, då anåkko' tiempon-ña. Ma sotne. Mendioka.
(Now sotne....sweet potatoes, yam....which take a long time. Sotne. Tapioca.)

Taiguennao siha. Ennague' tiningo'-ho.
(Those things. That's what I know.)

Yan i mahongang pat uhang yanggen ma "boil" nai håfa gi fino' Chamorro?
(And lobster or shrimp if it's boiled what is it in Chamorro?)

Eyague' chankocha lokkue' sa'....ti anåkko' tiempon-ña siha,
(That's chankocha also because....those things don't take a long time,)

un råtoto ha' man måsa chaddek.
(a short time and they're cooked quickly.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018


A common theme in many old Chamorro stories is extraordinary strength in exceptional people and even in children.

Sesso ha hungok i metgot kåttan na guaha metgot gi san lichan.
(A strong man from the north* often heard that there was a strong man in the southern* side.)

Humånao gi galaide-ña ya annai måtto Inalåhan ha sodda' gi halom liyang
(He went in his canoe and when he came to Inalåhan gi found inside a cave)

fotsudo na låhe.
(a muscular man.)

Mamaisen, "Kao gaige guine i ma sångan na guiya mås metgot gi san lichan?"
(He asked, "Is the one they say is strongest in the south here?"

Manoppe i taotao, "Hunggan lao mamaigo' esta."
(The man answered, "Yes, but he is already sleeping."

"Lao maila' ya bai na' lågo i na' amotsan talo'åne para hita na dos."
"But come and I'll make lunch for the two of us.")

Ya konfotme i metgot kåttan.
(The strong man from the north agreed.)

I taotao liyang ha goppe i mås lokka' na trongkon niyok ya måmfe' månha.
(The man in the cave jumped the tallest coconut tree and picked young coconuts.)

Gigon tumunok ha fugue gi kanai-ña ha' nu i chigo' månha ya ha na' gimen i metgot kåttan.
(As soon as he came down he squeezed in his own hands the juice of the young coconut and made the strong man from the north drink.)

Entre guiya ha' ilek-ña i metgot kåttan, "Seguro na guiya este i lahen i metgot luchan.
(The strong man from the north said to himself, "Surely this is the son of the strong man from the south.)

Yanggen taiguine minetgot-ña i lahe, kuånto mås i minetgot-ña i tata?
(If this is the son's strength, how much more the father's strength?)

Gigon makmåta si tatå-ña, siempre ha ñukot i agagå'-ho."
(As soon as his father wakes up, he will surely choke my neck.")

Pues chaddek ha dingo Inalåhan ya ha bira gue' tåtte para i tano'-ña.
(So he quickly left Inalåhan and returned to his own place.)

Ti ha tungo' na i taotao ni ha sodda' gi halom liyang era et mismo metgot luchan.
(He didn't know that the person he found in the cave was the very strong man of the south.)

Mandagi i metgot luchan ya ha fa' si lahi-ña gue'.
(The strong man of the south lied and made himself out to be his son.)

* Kåttan/Luchan. In Chamorro, there really is no north, south, east and west in the Western sense; what we call "cardinal points" or "cardinal directions." There is, in Chamorro, "towards the sea" (lågo), "away from the sea" (haya), to the left of the sea (luchan) and to the right of the sea (kåttan).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Because of over a century of American influence, many Chamorros think of the English letter I when they hear the Chamorro sound AI. As in "island, ice, iron."

So they spell GUAIYA, the Chamorro word for "to love," as GUIYA.

This creates confusion because there already is a Chamorro word GUIYA, and it means "he, she or it."

Watch the video.

So, to spell "I love you" in Chamorro, it is : HU GUAIYA HAO.


GUIYA means "he, she or it."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


A song recorded by Genaro Saralu many years ago.

Milalak påpa' i lago'-ho
(My tears flowed down)
esta* påpa' gi fasu-ho
(even down on my face)
lao hu kesungon pot mungnga yo' tumånges
(but I tried to endure it so I wouldn't cry)
lao duro milalak påpa' i lago'-ho.
(but my tears kept on flowing.)

Ilek-mo na pa'** un hånao hao agupa'
(You said you were going to leave tomorrow)
ya på'go uttimo umali'e'-ta.
(and today is our last time to see each other.)
Entre triste yan mahålang bai padese
(I will suffer between sadness and longing)
nene yanggen un dingo yo' esta.
(baby if you will leave me already.)

Humånao yo' tåtte para i gima'
(I went back to the house)
despues de esta hao humånao.
(after you had already gone.)
Humålom yo' gi halom guma'
(I went inside the house)
ai ya duro yo' kumasao.
(oh and I cried a lot.)

* Esta. The older word is asta and it is borrowed from the Spanish word hasta, meaning "until, till, up to, down to, as far up or as far down as" and other similar meanings. When modern speakers change asta to esta, we encounter the question whether asta is meant or the already-existing word esta, which means "already." Usually context will answer that question but many older people retain the original word asta and keep asta and esta separate words.

** Pa' is a shortening of para, meaning "to, for."

Thursday, November 1, 2018


As All Souls Day approaches, this is a good traditional song to learn, to pray for the souls in Purgatory.

The only reason why we pray for the dead is because many of them are still going through a painful but wholesome purification in Purgatory. The souls in heaven do not need prayers (instead, they pray for us), and the souls in hell cannot benefit from prayers. They are eternally condemned there, without hope of release nor of relief.

This song traditionally was always sung or said towards the end of the rosary prayed for the dead. If only one deceased person was prayed for, it was sung using the singular.

But since All Souls Day remembers all the dead, this version is sung using the plural.

The substance of the prayer is that it is through the innocent and unjust suffering and death of Jesus that atones for our sins and wins mercy for the repentant sinner. And so the suffering of Jesus is spelled out in the prayer in a more specific way. Our Lord suffered all these things in order to save our souls. This salvation is extended to us time and time again in the Mass ("Do this in memory of Me......For the forgiveness of sins.") and so the prayer reminds us to remember the dead at Mass. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a special intercessor for the dead and so she is also mentioned.

1. Ma asi'e', ma asi'e', ma asi'e' siha, Yu'os-ho.
(Forgive, forgive, forgive them, my God.)

Refrain : Kristo Jesus-ho, ma asi'e' i anten-ñiha.
(Christ my Jesus, forgive their souls.)

2. Manaitai hao yan tumånges gi fangualuan Olibas.
(You prayed and wept in the Garden of Olives.)

3. Ma godde hao kalan sakke Såntos na Yu'us Lahi-ña.
(They bound you like a thief, O Holy Son of God.)

4. Ma saolak hao yan man annok todo i te'lang siha.
(They scourged you and all the bones were visible.)

5. Ma korona yan ma anña' i todo ha' ha na' siña.
(They crowned and assaulted the Almighty.)

6. Maså'pet hao yan ma la'la' gi me'nan Santa Maria.
(You suffered and were flayed in front of the Virgin Mary.)

7. Rai i taotao ni i ma puno' pot i tinailayen-ñiha.
(King of the people who was killed on account of their evil.)

8. Tumunok hao Putgatorio homhom na fansinapitan.
(You descended into Purgatory, a dark place of suffering.)

9. Mañe'lu-ho tayuyute, tayuyute siha gi Misa.
(My brethren pray, pray for them at Mass.)

10. Bithen del Karmen ma åsi'e', gai mina'åse' nu siha.
(Virgin of Carmel forgive, have mercy on them.)

Very often the techa (prayer leader) or the singers will begin again at Verse 1 and end with the refrain.


When sung or recited for one deceased person, siha (them) is changed to gue' or guiya (him or her).

The possessive suffix -ñiha (their) is changed to -ña (his or her).

1. Ma asi'e', ma asi'e', ma asi'e' gue' Yu'os-ho.
(Forgive, forgive, forgive him/her, my God.)

Refrain : Kristo Jesus-ho, ma asi'e' i anti-ña.
(Christ my Jesus, forgive his/her soul.)

9. Mañe'lu-ho tayuyute, tayuyute gue' gi Misa.
(My brethren pray, pray for him/her at Mass.)

10. Bithen del Karmen ma åsi'e', gai mina'åse' nu guiya.
(Virgin of Carmel forgive, have mercy on him/her.)

The following video shows the change made in the first verse and refrain only. The change to the singular has to be made also in verses 9 and 10.


The song is based on a Spanish original called the Mozarabic Miserere. "Mozarabic" refers to the Christian Spaniards living under the Muslim government of the Moors (the years 711 till 1492). The Christians in Spain used the Latin language in the liturgy, as all Christians did in the western side of Europe in those days.

"Miserere" is Latin for "have mercy." This song was also a prayer for the dead.

*** Thanks to Lawrence Borja for the accompaniment and for finding the Spanish original.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


It was the first public execution on Guam under the Americans.

Pablo M. Corpus, just 20 years old, was a servant of an American Naval officer stationed on Guam. On December 13, 1915, Corpus fatally shot Dolores Cárdenas de la Cruz, the wife of a Japanese immigrant on Guam, Antonio Takichi Ooka. Corpus then turned the gun on himself, but he survived his self-inflicted wound. He was arrested, brought to court and sentenced to death. This death sentence was appealed, but the appeal was denied. Corpus was hanged on February 4, 1916 - the first execution of a criminal carried out on Guam by the American government.


On December 13, 1915, Corpus entered the Ooka home in Sumay. It was night, so perhaps Corpus thought he could enter the home undetected, maybe when everyone was asleep. Ooka was a merchant, and Corpus was eventually charged with the crime of theft after this incident, so, conceivably, the impetus for all this tragedy was theft. Without the court records, I do not know if Corpus was after Ooka's merchandise, cash or both.

I can only surmise that Dolores, Ooka's wife, surprised Corpus in the act. Perhaps in a moment of desperation at being caught by surprise, Corpus fired a shot from his gun at Dolores. Realizing that he had shot, and possibly killed, a woman, and would more than likely suffer the worst punishment possible, Corpus turned the gun on himself and fired.

Someone found the two wounded people and called for help. Dolores lingered for a day but then died of her wounds on the 14th. Corpus survived and recuperated from his wounds.

He was arrested and charged with theft and murder.



There was no trial, per se, since Corpus pleaded guilty. The court records covering the court proceedings would have been most helpful, but they are not included in the 1915 and 1916 court records available.

All we can say is that Corpus was arraigned on January 6, 1916 and plead guilty to both charges. The court sentenced him to death.


But an appeal was filed against this sentence on the following grounds :

1. It was claimed that Corpus did not have legal counsel when he entered his guilty plea on January 6. Lacking legal counsel, Corpus may not have known that a guilty plea could have cost him his life.

2. It was claimed that Corpus did not deserve the death penalty due to the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Dolores. No further details are given, but I assume that what is meant is that Corpus did not shoot Dolores with malice of intent. Corpus had entered Ooka's house to steal, not to murder, and that he shot Dolores in a moment of surprise.

3. It was claimed that the court erred in placing the site of execution at Sumay and not in Hagåtña. I am not sure why this was considered a judicial error. Perhaps there was some statute in place (or assumed to still be on the books at the time) mandating all executions be done in the capital city.

There seems to have also been some doubt as to Corpus' age. His defenders thought that he was only 17, and thus not subject to the death penalty.

The appeal was turned down by the court on January 31. I don't know how, but Corpus' age was determined to be 20. The day of execution was set for February 4 at Sumay.


Still, Corpus had his supporters. These were lead by Cándido Agbay Sánchez, a Filipino resident of Guam who occupied various government posts during his lifetime. On February 2, he wrote a petition to the Naval Governor, William Maxwell, asking for the cancellation of the death sentence and instead to sentence Corpus to life imprisonment. Around fifty island residents signed the petition.

The petition reminded Governor Maxwell that five persons, all Chamorro, had been sentenced to death by Guam's courts since the US Navy took control of the island. Not a single one of those five Chamorros was in fact executed. Almost all of the five were not even serving time in jail anymore! Was it fair, so the implied question seemed to ask, for the Filipino Corpus to die, when five Chamorros were similarly sentenced to die but were never in fact executed?

One has to wonder if the issue of race enters in, as the Filipino Sánchez fought to save the life of the Filipino Corpus, who, being young and apparently unmarried, had no familial connections to the local population that may have saved his life. Yet, among those fifty persons who signed the petition asking to save Corpus' life were undoubtedly a good number of Chamorros.

Maxwell turned down the petition. The execution of Pablo Corpus proceeded.

Guam's Governor William J. Maxwell, USN


The night before the execution, on February 3, Corpus was taken to a tent set up for him at the execution site in Sumay. With him was his spiritual counselor, Påle' Román de Vera, a Spanish Capuchin missionary, who was fluent in Tagalog (among many other languages). Someone had cooked dinner for Corpus, and Påle' Román served it to Corpus. Then, Corpus slept soundly in his tent.

At six o'clock on the morning of February 4, almost the whole town of Sumay followed Påle' Román from the church to the execution site. Påle' Román was bringing with him the Blessed Sacrament to give Corpus his last holy communion. I am almost sure, then, that the people had gone to the church earlier that morning for Mass and then followed Påle' Román afterwards.

After receiving his last holy communion, Corpus and Påle' Román spent several hours in prayer. Corpus asked forgiveness of the Governor, from the family of Dolores, the woman he killed, and asked Påle' Román to write to his mother in the Philippines, assuring her that he died in the best spiritual state possible.

At nine o'clock, Corpus ascended the scaffold, accompanied by Påle' Román. He asked to be allowed to speak, and he began in attempted Chamorro but continued in Tagalog.

"Cha'-miyo pinite ako. Ito ang suwerte ng Diyos sa akin. Ipanalangin ninyo ako. Paalam na sa inyong lahat."

"Don't be sorry for me. This is God's will for me. Pray for me. Farewell to all of you."

Then his hands were bound and his head covered with a hood. The noose was fitted around his neck. All the while, he was praying along with Påle' Román. Moments before he died, Påle' Román told him, "Pablo, now you know that within a few moments you will be in heaven." Pablo replied, "Yes, Father." "Farewell," said Påle' Román. "Farewell," said Corpus, and the trap was opened and Corpus fell to his death.

His body hung for a little over ten minutes, but it was assumed he has dead, since there was no movement at all of his body, except for the natural swinging of the body as it hung suspended over the ground. At 9:22 AM, the medical officer pronounced him dead and at 9:27 AM the rope was cut and the lifeless body of Pablo Corpus was placed in the casket and turned over to his friends for burial.


Påle' Román

Why did Påle' Román tell Corpus that he would be in heaven within a few moments?

Catholics believe that everyone who dies in the state of grace is assured of heaven. Purgatory is a state of final cleansing before one enters the perfect holiness of heaven. But by dying for his crime and sin, and doing so after having confessed his sin and accepting Christ's mercy, Corpus was making atonement for his crime and sin. The innocent life he unjustly took away was being paid for by his own death.

What Påle' Román said cannot be taken as a matter of fact. Only God knows what became of Corpus' soul once he died. But Corpus' repentance, his turning to Christ for mercy and his resignation towards his earthly punishment all point to a firm hope that he was on his way to heaven.

Source : Army and Navy Register, Washington, DC, May 6, 1916, 583-584

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Maria Manibusan Díaz-Igibara from Saipan was interviewed many years ago about life on the island before the war.

She says,

Guaha nu kompañían atkohot, kompañían ais.
(There was a liquor company, an ice company.)

Lao mangaige ha' nai guine Chalan Kanoa todo na mandadanña'.
(But they were just here in Chalan Kanoa where everything came together.)

I gellai i taotao tåno' ha' man manånånom.
(The natives of the land planted the vegetables.)

Man baråto yan man fresko kada dia man lililiko' gi chalan man manbebende.
(They were inexpensive and fresh, every day they would go around the streets selling.)

I Chamorro i man manånånom mai'es. Åntes man mamai'es, man kamumuti,
(The Chamorro were the ones planting corn. Before, people grew corn, sweet potatoes,)

man manånånom suni, todo klåsen tinanom man ma chocho'gue åntes.
(they planted taro, all kinds of plants they did before.)

Tan Maria starts by talking about there being a liquor company and ice company, then switches to  specifying the agricultural role of the Chamorros. She may be contrasting the activities of the Japanese, who focused on sugar plantations, and that of the Chamorros. The Japanese made use of all aspects of sugar and by-products of sugar are alcohol and molasses. Haruji Matsue, the "Sugar King" of Saipan, also built an ice plant.

The Chamorros, on the other hand, kept up their traditional dependence on corn, besides the variety of other crops that sustained them.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Nations have often used far-off possessions as a place of exile for criminal and political prisoners. The Marianas were no exception under Spain.

Many times, the convicts sent here were given much freedom. They often lived among the people, finding girlfriends and sometimes wives. A few even ended up working for the very government tasked to detain them.

At other times, they lived under some restrictions and were made to work on public projects. Many times they found it easy to run away into the hills, but in time they'd be caught and they were often found hungry, thankful to be back under custody if at least for a steady meal, simple as they were.

In 1821 we find lists of these presidiarios or prisoners on Guam. The lists do not say they were Filipinos, but the lists do state the place of origin of these prisoners, and the vast majority are clearly from the Philippines. I put a question mark on the few whose home towns are unclear to me.

It is doubtful that the Filipino convicts sent here in 1821 were political prisoners. There were no revolts against the Spanish in the Philippines at that point in time. The last uprising was in 1807 and the next one would not be till 1823. Still, it's entirely possible some or many of these prisoners were indeed political exiles.

This list is interesting because we find some recognizable surnames among the prisoners : Sarmiento, Candaso, Matías. But we can be sure that the Matías on this list has nothing to do with the Leonardo Matías who came to Guam much later than 1821 and married a Tanaka. As for Candaso and Sarmiento, we cannot say one way or the other, for now, if they have any connection with today's families by those names.

The Santiagos of Malesso' and Humåtak do indeed come from a Filipino by the last name Santiago, but his first name was José, not the Mateo in this list.

There is clearly one Mexican prisoner by the name of Esparza. Chamorros would have pronounced that name ESPÅTSA and indeed there is a branch of the Camachos known as the familian Espåtsa. I wonder if there is any connection between them and this Mexican Esparza.

A Mexican prisoner sent to Guam isn't surprising since Mexico was indeed fighting for independence from Spain in 1821, but Guam seems an awfully far place to send a Mexican political exile, especially since the Acapulco galleon ships had stopped coming to Guam by 1815 due to the Mexican war of independence. Maybe Esparza was a Mexican who just happened to be living in the Philippines and was arrested there for something other than rebelling against Spain.


LORCAS, José Antonio

Guadalajara (Cebu or Mexico?)


Guadalajara (Cebu or Mexico?)

URRUTIA, Vicente

Ermita (Manila)

BRIONES, Antonio


GUERRERO, Alejandro

Quiapo (Manila)

DURÁN, Francisco

Malabon (Manila)

DURÁN, Pedro

Calumpit (Bulacan)


Aklan (Panay)


Calarcar (Perhaps Carcar in Cebu?)


Aparri (Cagayan)

CANDASO, Teodoro

San Mateo (Rizal)

MALDONADO, Alejandro

Calumpit (Bulacan)

ESPARZA, Juan de Dios

San Luís Potosí (Mexico)

DÍAZ, Pedro

San Luís (Pampanga)

RAFAEL, Lorenzo

Morong (Bataan)


Malolos (Bulacan)

SARMIENTO, Fulgencio

Tagui (Zambales?)
*or is this really Taguig (Manila)?

MATÍAS , Felipe

Malate (Manila)

NAGUIO, Francisco

Macabebe (Pampanga)

CRUZ, Salvador

Masicog (?)

EGUILUZ, Ángel Domingo

Sampaloc (Manila)