Tuesday, March 27, 2018


The next time I look out at Hagåtña Bay, I'll remember that a New Zealand ship struck its reef and sank there.

In 1856, the barque Invincible, under the command of a Captain Brier (some accounts say Brice), left New Zealand and was heading for Manila. But before leaving, Brier agreed with the captain of another ship, the Vixen, to meet at Guam and then the two of them sail together for Manila.

Brier first spotted Rota on January 5, then sailed down the western coast of Guam, looking for whatever sign he could find of a port or the Vixen. He then spotted Hagåtña and a ship at bay there. Brier wondered if this ship was the Vixen. He also supposed it was the famous Apra Harbor he had heard about Guam, but it seemed too small and too constricted to be the big, wide harbor he had heard of.

Brier later said the strong current and winds more or less forced him to take the narrow channel that passed through the bay's reef. towards the basin where the schooner he had seen earlier was at rest. A strong current pushed the Invincible onto the reef, but within half an hour, Brier got the ship off the rocks and into the basin. The schooner he had seen was not the Vixen but rather the Spanish schooner Secreto.

Then came aboard the island's official pilot, John Anderson, who was responsible for greeting every arriving ship and supervising its anchoring in Guam's waters. Anderson told Brier he was in the wrong harbor. Brier asked Anderson why hadn't he come aboard sooner, while the ship was still outside the reef. Anderson gave no answer.

When ashore, Brier says he was told by island residents that they had been urging Anderson to go out sooner, and were willing to go out themselves to help guide the ship, but the law of the land forbade anyone doing so before the pilot. Brier's next step was to wait until the waters were calmer and try to get the Invincible past the reef back onto the high seas without incident.

In the meantime, circumstances tried Brier's patience. Anderson took sick, and the other interpreter available left much to be desired. The Spanish Governor, Pablo Pérez, spoke no English and Brier spoke no Spanish. Other men considered skilled in piloting ships were brought into discussions. One suggested one plan, another proposed a different plan altogether, resulting in a stalemate. Most were agreed that they had to wait for Anderson to recuperate and handle the job.

Finally, after several days, the morning dawned a clear, calm day. The plan was to have seven boats accompany the ship past the reef, to guide it away from dangerous rocks. But only four boats appeared. Still, they headed out. Unfortunately, the ship hit the reef on one side. The boats guiding the ship got into trouble; the ropes they used to pull the ship in one direction got tangled on the rocks. Then the current and the wind picked up, pushing the ship in this or that direction. The ship was now damaged and it seemed would be lost. Just then, the pilot Anderson in his boat and a second boat, the two best boats in Brier's opinion, came out to help. Brier said that had Anderson and these two boats done that from the beginning, the ship probably would have made it past the reef safely.

Seeing that the ship would more than likely be lost, Brier now focused on saving his cargo and things of value from the ship. But he could get no help from Governor Pérez, who was more interested in making money off of Brier's troubles. Brier was finally able to get physical help from island residents, some of them European settlers, by agreeing to pay them for their services. After all these hurdles, Brier was successful in saving much from the damaged ship.

Brier still had to contend with Governor Pérez who presented all kinds of financial difficulties. But, in order to get off the island, Brier paid Pérez what he wanted. The sale of the salvaged goods of the ship at auction raised the money. Brier and the crew members left Guam on other ships.

In some newspapers, someone got the blame for all this and it wasn't the ship's Captain Brier. Instead, the island's official pilot, John Anderson, was blamed by these newspapers for not doing what he could for the ship. Even the American honorary consul on Guam at the time wrote to that effect. This John Anderson was almost certainly the same John Anderson who had settled on Guam in 1819 and started a family with his Chamorro wife, Josefa de la Cruz. We don't know Anderson's side of the story.

Monday, March 26, 2018


(A vegetarian broth made of corn)

During Spanish times, Catholic regulations about fasting were different from today's church laws. Fasting was a major reduction in food intake. Abstinence was a different matter, although sometimes a certain day might involve both fasting and abstinence. Abstinence meant giving up eating meat.

Here is what one priest explained to his people, in Chamorro, in 1873.

Para u fan gef ayunat i kilisyåno, gin oga'an, onsa i media na nengkanno'
(For the Christian to fast well, in the morning, an ounce and a half of food)

ni i tai iyo sustånsian gå'ga'; pot ehemplo :
(which has no animal substance; for example :)

chokolåte (1), chå, kafe, un tasitan atule, un pedasiton titiyas,
(chocolate, tea, coffee, a small cup of atule, a small piece of titiyas,)

pat kuatkiera ha' otro na nengkanno', yagin tai iyo sustånsian gå'ga'.
(or whatever other foods, if there is no animal substance.)

Gi talo'åne siña u kånno' todo i ha nesesita i estomagu-ña;
(At noon he may eat all his stomach needs;)

ya siña u gisan mantika, achok ha' guihan.
(and he can fry in fat, even if it's fish.)

Gin håye, ni i umayuyunat, tåya' guihan, siña an malago', u kånno' kåtne,
(Whoever fasts, if he lacks fish, may, if he wants, can eat meat,)

lao mungnga muna' dadanña' gigo gi un sentåda ha' kåtne yan guihan (2),
(but do not mix in the same meal meat and fish,)

sa' atotta yan må'gas na isao.
(because it is forbidden and it is a great sin.)


(1) Chokolåte. Learned from the Spanish, chocolate was drunk. Chocolate was melted and sugar often added, as well as spices, depending on personal taste and availability.

(2) The old rule was, on fast days, meat and fish could not be eaten at the same meal when fasting. It had to be one or the other.

(3) Atotta. It means "forbidden." It is a word that people eventually stopped using.

Friday, March 23, 2018


Someone needs a haircut!

When I lived in Saipan for three years, I found out that they don't use the word kotchi', a word used on Guam to describe when someone's hair is too long and in need of a haircut.

I don't find the word kotchi' in Ibáñez's dictionary of 1865, nor in von Preissig's 1918 dictionary. But it appears in Påle' Román's 1932 dictionary.

There he says that kotchi' means "long hair."

But, does that apply to women as well as men, or even animals?

But the only times I've heard kotchi' used in conversation is when people imply that a man's hair is too long (when is a woman's hair ever too long?) and that he needs to go to a barber. So, it could be that the meaning has changed over time. Perhaps its meaning has gotten more specific. Not just long hair, but hair long enough that it needs to be cut.

Whatever the case, everyone I know from Saipan says they don't use the word. I suppose the same is true for Tinian and Luta, but let me know if that's not the case.


There is another word, very close in sound to kotchi', but means something completely different. Koche. It comes from the Spanish word coche, and it means a "coach" as in the passenger's seating on a wagon. Since the invention of the automobile the word also means "a car."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


former Pastor of Inalåhan

The parish of Saint Joseph in Inalåhan had no shortage of Chamorro hymns to their patron saint. But its first Chamorro pastor, Father Jesús Baza Dueñas added one more to the repertoire. Dueñas was assigned to Inalåhan by Spanish Bishop Olano in 1940.

Bill Paulino, church organist who plays in this video, was told by an older parishioner, a contemporary of Fr Dueñas, that the lyrics were composed by the priest.

Frank Cruz, organist at the Hagåtña Cathedral, also credited the hymn to Fr Dueñas.

Because this hymn was composed just before the war, it is not found in Påle' Román's Lepblon Kånta (Church Hymnal) which was published several years before this hymn came about.


San José patronon-måme, goggue i famagu'on-mo.
(Saint Joseph, our patron, defend your children.)
Atan ya un chachalåne i umå'ågang na'ån-mo.
(Watch and guide those who call on your name.)

1. San José i finatai-mo u na' metgot i anti-ho.
(Saint Joseph, your death will strengthen my soul.)
Ya hu måtai gi kanai-mo yan i gråsian i Lahi-mo.
(And I will die in your hands and in the grace of your Son.)
Cha'-mo Saina didingu yo' siha gi chinatsaga-ko.
(Don't leave me Father among my troubles.)
I aniti dulalak gue' chågogo' giya guåho.
(Chase away the devil far from my soul.)

2. Gi oran i finatai-ho, yo'ase' un atan yo'.
(At the hour of my death, look at me kindly.)
Ya un nå'e yo' grasiå-mo ya hu måtai måhgogong.
(And give me your grace and I will die peacefully.)
Chåhlao Saina i anti-ho gåsgagas gi me'nå-mo.
(Receive, Father, my soul in purity before you.)
Ya entrega i Lahi-mo gi tronu-ña tagåhlo.
(And give it to your Son at His throne on high.)


The devotion to Saint Joseph looks at more than one attribute of the saint. This hymn focuses on one of them, that Saint Joseph is the patron of a happy death. The lyrics of this hymn always revolve around that theme.

Saint Joseph is the patron of a happy death because, according to tradition, he died with Jesus and Mary at his bedside. What better kind of death can a Christian hope for than to die with Jesus and Mary, and now Joseph, close at hand.

It's interesting that this hymn about a happy death was composed by a priest who met an untimely and undeserved death at the hands of the Japanese during the war. But Dueñas was at peace with his expected execution. He told Joaquin Limitaco, present at a house where Dueñas was held in custody and beaten up, that God would be his deliverer, for he had done nothing wrong.

Model for all Christian deaths

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


From a list of Chamorro government officials in the 1830s. On the island of Luta :

Mayor : Angel Taiquinene

Vice Mayor : Ignacio Hocog

Agricultural Officer : Pedro Songsong

Neighborhood Leaders : Angel Taiquinene, Borja Taimañao, Mariano Matantaotao, Luís Songsong


1. The "Mayor" was called, in Spanish, the Gobernadorcillo, meaning "little Governor."

2. The "Vice Mayor" was called, in Spanish, the Teniente, related to the word lieutenant, as in Lieutenant Governor.

3. The "Agricultural Officer" was called, in Spanish, the Juez de Palmas, Sementeras y Animales, or the Judge of Palms, Fields and Animals.

4. The "Neighborhood Leaders" were called, in Spanish, the Cabezas de Barangay, or Heads of the Barangay. Barangay meant a neighborhood or a district.

5. The man named Borja Taimañao had, as a first or personal name, Borja, which isn't surprising since the patron of Luta's church was San Francisco de Borja.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Price of a Movie Ticket : An old stone

A Chamorro boy trades artifact for movie ticket

A museum in Hawaii wanted to collect pre-Spanish stone tools, implements and weapons on Guam. It was 1925, and the Bishop Museum of Honolulu was on Guam to expand their collection. But how to get as many objects as possible, in a limited amount of time?

The adults wouldn't go near anything associated with the island's pre-colonial past. They had been brought up all their life to avoid physical contact with anything connected with the ancient people, for fear of punishment.

So, the museum resorted to the children. In exchange for free entrance to Hagåtña's movie theater, children had to go in search of pre-contact adzes, blades, chisels, sling stones, sinkers; whatever they could find!

Apparently, the children eagerly complied. Off they went along the beach or into the jungle where their parents dreaded to go. Watching cowboys and train wrecks was worth the risk of upsetting the taotaomo'na (ancestor spirits). The children just had to present the ticket vendor at the theater with these artifacts in order to gain free admission. The museum reimbursed the theater.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


These two are as yet unidentified

After August of 1944, it was now the Japanese who had to fear for their lives. The tables had been turned.

That month, organized Japanese resistance to the incoming American forces had ceased, but hundreds of Japanese soldiers fled into the jungle to escape capture. These fugitives were still armed and dangerous. They were also desperate, coming out at night to grab food wherever they could find it, including people's homes and ranches. If you happened to be there at the same time, you could catch one of the few remaining Japanese bullets.

So the US military organized both soldiers and deputized civilians to patrol the island's interior, forcing the hiding Japanese into the open. But there also happened to be at least one Chamorro lady joining the effort, and she had every personal reason to chase Japanese. Her name was Luisa Baza Santos of Malesso'.

Just as the Americans were bombing the island in preparation for the invasion, the Japanese rounded up Chamorros in Malesso', including Luisa, her sister María Baza and her mother Rosa Baza. The Japanese told them they were being lead to a "place of safety." The Japanese instead put them with other Chamorro civilians in a cave at Tinta and threw in grenades. One Ramón Garrido dropped down near Luisa, hit with fragments. The Japanese cut his head off as he lay there groaning. Manuel Charfauros, the school principal, was hit with a sword. The Japanese thought he was dead, but he wasn't. When the Japanese left, he left Tinta cave injured but alive.

It started to rain and the Japanese left. Luisa's sister told her that their mother had not survived and that they should leave. Luisa's sister did not make it. She, too, died.

Luisa's foot had been wounded by an exploding grenade. Tomás Cruz had pulled her out of the pile of dead bodies, and then Luisa herself crawled out. She made it up a hill and lay there in exhaustion, hoping to remain undiscovered by wandering Japanese. She was there for five days.

Luisa was married, and had a husband named Feliciano. He, too, had been rounded up by the Japanese and put in a camp with other Chamorro men, their hands tied behind their backs for 48 hours. But his group was eventually told to go hunt for food, and Feliciano took advantage of this and ran away. In time, he climbed a hill and heard crying. It was his wife Luisa!

Some time after, both Feliciano and Luisa worked as clerks in a military camp. But Feliciano also hunted for Japanese stragglers. He had killed nine so far, putting a notch on his rifle for each one killed. But Luisa was willing to hunt for stragglers, too, and started practicing on a rifle. Due to the dangers of roaming Japanese soldiers, she never left the safety of the community without her carbine hanging over her shoulder.

Feliciano called her his "Pistol Packin' Mama."

A newspaper depiction of Luisa taking shooting lessons from husband Feliciano

Tuesday, March 13, 2018



Different languages have, or lack, different sounds.

Many Chamorros traditionally have had trouble with the English AW sound, as in the word "awe."

Usually, English speakers pronounce words and names like Paul, call, small, tall with the AW sound.

But many Chamorros pronounce those words and names with the O sound, as in pole, cole, smole and tole.


So, while others go to the Mall of Asia when in Manila, we go to the Mole of Asia.


Monday, March 12, 2018


Here's an older Chamorro folk belief we rarely ever hear about today. But, apparently, according to an edition of the Guam News Letter printed in 1918, many Chamorros of old believed in the existence of "spectral dogs" which sported flashing, flaming eyes. Chamorros called them bihu, which means "old." Perhaps these spooky dogs lived long ago and now appear and disappear as ghosts.

The bihu can be found at night digging up the earth with their paws, looking for the bones of dead men.

If a bihu sneaks up behind you and you turn around to look at him, he will jump way above your head and disappear into thin air.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Ipao Leper Colony

"Leper" and "leprosy" are the traditional words for a disease which in the last 100 year or so has also become known as Hansen's Disease, after a Norwegian physician who studied the disease. Some find the older terms offensive, so I have put "leper" in quotation marks in the title of this post.

Secondly, many other skin conditions and diseases have been misidentified in the past as leprosy, and this certainly did happen in the Marianas in the past. At times, people just assumed a disease was leprosy, or classified all skin diseases or ulcers as "leprosy," even when they were not, so I put "leper" in quotation marks for that reason as well.

Since the disease can be spread person to person, isolation was a key method of handling cases of leprosy. The Spaniards did this by opening leper colonies or residences in various place, such as Pågo, Adilok (Adelup) and Asan Point.

A Leper Colony used to front this beach at Ipao

When the Spanish Government on Guam came to an end in 1898, the leprosy patients were let loose and returned to live with their families or on their own. In the first year of American "rule," there was no clear and stable American government to decide what to do with these lepers. That wouldn't happen until the second American Naval Governor arrived.

In the meantime, a passing American Naval officer recommended that these lepers, living among the general population, be sent to Molokai, where a famous leper colony was run and attended to at one time by Saint Damien. It never happened.

As often happened in the past, and as would be repeated in the future, some families were horrified at the thought of losing their family member sick with leprosy. So many of them hid them inside their homes, rather than let them be discovered and taken away.


But the second American Naval Governor of Guam, Seaton Schroeder, resolved to open up yet another leper colony on the island, this time at a new location. Again, the idea was to stop the spread of the disease by separating those with leprosy from everybody else. Early in 1902, the government had discovered four individuals with leprosy. Schroeder ordered a thorough search of the island, as families tended to hide their relatives struck with the disease. That search revealed several more cases. That's when Schroeder decided to open a new leper colony.

The old leper facility at Asan Point had been destroyed and the site was used for the Filipino political prisoners, such as Mabini. So, a new site for a leper colony had to be found. Ipao Beach in Tomhom (Tumon) was selected. Thirty acres (some accounts say 29) were required and funds from Washington DC were requested to pay back the original landowners. Schroeder sought, and obtained, the support of Padre Palomo. Schroeder was hoping Palomo could find Catholic sister nurses to come to Guam and attend to the lepers. This never came about.

By the summer of 1902, news reports around the US were talking about the new leper colony at Ipao. The first houses were of thatched roof. On the premises were a hospital, a mess hall, kitchen chapel. There was a residence for the superintendent and two watchmen.

Site of the Leper Colony

A 1905 newspaper article describes the Ipao Leper Colony as looking like a typical Chamorro village, only cleaner! That year, there were 24 leprosy patients at Ipao.

Leprosy Patients at Ipao


In 1912, the Naval Government decided to move the leprosy patients at Ipao to Culion, an island in the Philippines which was the location of a large leprosarium, or hospital for lepers.

The leper colony at Ipao was not dismantled immediately. It was used again briefly in the 1920s for new cases of leprosy, and the facility was used also for female and juvenile offenders for a time before the war. But after the war there was no trace left of the leper colony. The disease had all but disappeared on Guam by then.

Location of the Ipao Leper Colony on today's map

In 1906, Acting Governor McNamee ordered that Juan be permanently confined in the


Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Aqua Resort in Saipan is located in Achugao

Despite being 135 miles apart, both Guam and Saipan have places with identical names. One of them is Achugao.

There is an Achugao, Saipan and an Achugao, Guam.

Achugao, Saipan
"Unai" means "Sand" and refers to a beach

Achugao in Saipan is a small coastal area in between Tanapag and San Roque villages. There are maybe a dozen homes in Achugao.

Achugao in Guam is another story. It is so isolated that hardly anyone on Guam knows that it even exists. Achugao in Guam is located just south of Fakpi Point, south of Hågat and north of Humåtak.

Some people in Saipan can say they live in Achugao, but nobody on Guam lives in Achugao.

Achugao, Guam


Does Achugao have a meaning?

What is certain is that achugao is a Chamorro word and it identifies a plant.

Exactly what plant is the question.

The 1918 von Preissig Chamorro dictionary doesn't have achugao listed.

Neither does Påle' Román's 1932 Chamorro dictionary, but it does have achugan and says that achugan is a plant, or a willow, like a rattan vine, and Achugao in Saipan is indeed a low-lying marshy area where reed-like plants dominate.

Safford's book about the plants of Guam, printed in 1905, also lists achugan, which is a "coarse swamp grass" that only karabao will eat. There may not be any connection at all between achugan and achugao, but clearer evidence would be nice to have one way or the other.

Topping's 1975 Chamorro dictionary does not list achugao. Nor does Francisco Valenzuela Cruz's 1967 dictionary.

It is Katherine Aguon's 2009 dictionary that says that achugao can be a "large onion," or a "perennial swamp grass that produces an edible bulb," or "a mangrove grass." And, Achugao in Saipan is a swampy, marshy area.

But another source, which includes a listing of Saipan place names, says that achugao is the Chamorro name for gleichenia, the scientific name for a kind of fern.

Safford's bookmentioned earlier, "The Useful Plants of the Island of Guam" lists gleichenia dichotoma, and says they are ferns which grow in the grassy uplands. But Safford doesn't say that these are called achugao in Chamorro, In fact, he says they are called mana.

So, we are left with a confusing assortment of different definitions. I have asked a number of older people from Saipan if they knew what achugao meant, and they didn't.


Monday, March 5, 2018


Perhaps you've tried Katson's chorisos Chamorro.

Crumbly, red, spicy. At one time it was such a best seller that the family went into business making and selling it, with USDA approval!

Nowadays it is no longer sold commercially but different people make their own chorisos Chamorro for domestic use.

How did the Katsons start it all up?

Vicente Calvo Aflague, of the Katson branch of Aflagues, was actually a jeweler by trade and profession. His work adorned the ears, necks, wrists and fingers of many a lady on Guam, as well as men.

But he also raised pigs at his ranch in Dededo. With all that pork available, Vicente wondered how to make good use of the meat. He and his wife, the former Ruth Lujan Tydingco, decided to make sausage, or chorisos, with the pork. At first, these sausages were not encased like link sausages. They were loose and crumbly. Everybody fell in love with it.

Vicente and Ruth used parts of the pork best suited for sausage. The butt, belly and thighs. In Chamorro, the posuelo (the front chest area) and the pietna (legs or thighs) were used. To give it some fat, the skin (lassas) was added to the mixture in due proportion. This was all ground in a molino (grinder), hand-driven at first and then they switched to an electric one when the business took off.

Essential to the recipe are garlic (in generous amounts), white vinegar, achiote (the seeds, not the powder from a package), paprika, salt, black pepper and as much, or as little, chili pepper (the donne' såli kind) to suit one's taste. Chicken can also be used to make chorisos Chamorro.

When the family was still running the business, they supplied Payless and other local stores with it, and even the military commissaries, both Navy and Air Force. Casings were ordered from the US and some of the sausages were made into links. Many people, however, still preferred the loose kind which was pan fried, cooked with vegetables or eggs, or added to fried rice. It could also be found on the menus of some local restaurants.

You can find on the internet a few recipes for chorisos Chamorro and some people do make their own. But it all started after the war with Ton Vicente'n Katson and his wife Ruth.

Katson's Chicken Chorisos Chamorro

Thursday, March 1, 2018


The unhappy life of Samuel Stratton Foster.

This American merchant and adventurer found himself on Guam in the late 1800s, as did many other Americans and Europeans. Our small island of just 8000 or so inhabitants became home to a good number of immigrants of all nationalities.

Foster was someone always on the move. Born in New Jersey, he moved to California by 1849, in the first years of that state's incorporation into the United States. That was the year of the great California Gold Rush. Using California as his home base, he eventually did business in Tahiti and Samoa.

In time he got connected with the Capelle trading company in the Marshall Islands and went to Guam in 1880 as an agent to get some commercial activity going on in Pagan and Agrigan. But he seems to have brought his daughter Jennie along with him, along with her love interest, who happened to be a fellow agent with the Capelle company. His name was Charles H. Ingalls, an American from Boston.

On January 9, 1880, Ingalls and Jennie, Foster's daughter, were married at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Church in Hagåtña by Father Francisco Resano, the Spanish priest. Ingalls was 40 years old; Jennie a mere 19.

Witnesses to the marriage included the Englishman Henry Millinchamp and his Chamorro wife Emilia Castro Anderson. Other witnesses were Mariano de Castro, a government clerk, and Salvador Luján, patriarch of the Åtdot clan which today runs the Lujan Towing company in Aniguak.

A joyful occasion; except that 1880 would also be the year that the bride's father, Samuel Foster, passed away, again on Guam. He died in Hagåtña on November 20th of that year.

In the Spanish records, Foster's last will is found. Its paragraphs reveal a broken man, who both owed money and was owed money, and a man who had severed relationships with his wife and some of his children. As he writes, he had left country, family and friends.

But he hadn't lost everything. He still had Jennie, his loyal daughter, whom, he says, followed him in his "exile." He also found a friend in the first Chamorro priest, Påle' José Palomo, whom Foster made executor of his will. Foster even suggested in his will that, if necessary, Palomo use the Church as a shield against the Spanish government if the civil authorities attempted to grab the assets of the Capelle Company on Guam.

Foster's friend Påle' José Palomo
a friend to many Americans

The Spanish records show that Palomo spoke excellent English. In fact, it was Palomo who translated Foster's will written in English into Spanish for the Spanish Governor to read.

When the Americans took over Guam in 1898 and collided with the Spanish missionaries, some of the Spanish friars wrote that Palomo quietly supported the end of the Spanish regime and the start of the American one. "He was always friendly with the Americans," they said.

Palomo learned to speak English because he was, first of all, very bright, speaking more than one language, and because there were so many British and American seamen and merchants visiting Guam, some of them staying for life, that it was easy to pick up English from them if one wanted to.