Thursday, May 24, 2018


This Chamorro hymn to Mary speaks about the beauty of Mary. It is primarily a spiritual beauty, that came about through God's doing, God's grace, while Mary, as a free human being, cooperated, accepted and followed through with that grace.

Hu none hao Maria, saina-ho yan Jesus; (1)
(I greet you Mary, my mother and mother of Jesus;)
gef pulan yo' gi tano', yan gi me'nan Yu'us.
(watch over me well on earth and before God.)

Tai tituka na rosa, paopao yan gef pågo, (2)
(Rose without thorn, fragrant and most beautiful),
tåya' tinifok Yu'us, gåtbo-ña ke hågo. (3)
(there is no work of God more beautiful than you.)
Gi ginegue-mo Nåna, hu po'lo yo' på'go
(Into your care, Mother, I place myself today)
sa' gi kanai-mo siha ti ya-ho chumågo'. (4)
(because I do not like to stray far from your hands.)

I rosa yan i lirio, gef gåtbo yan paopao, (5)
(The rose and lily, are very beautiful and fragrant,)
masamai na Raina-ho, ti u ha ige hao. (6)
(my beautiful Queen, they will not outdo you.)
I gaige giya hågo, magåhet na åtdao.
(He who is with you is the true sun.)
Ya guiya muna' gåtbo yan nina' paopao hao.
(And it is He who made you beautiful and fragrant.)

O påharos chatanmak, an oga'an tåftaf, (7)
(O birds of the dawn, when it is early in the morning,)
katiye si Maria, bonito yan åpmam.
(cry out to Mary, beautifully and prolonged.)
Ya hamyo bo'bo' hånom, kantåye ekahat
(And you springs of water, sing smoothly)
i Be'bo' Paraiso, Nanå-ta tai mancha. (8)
(the the Font of Paradise, our sinless Mother.)


1. None. This is an old term, now mostly forgotten. It doesn't even appear in the most recent Chamorro dictionary. Even if you ask older people who can sing this hymn from memory, most won't be able to tell you what the word means. It means "to salute, to greet."

Saina is also used, which generally means anyone superior to you. In this case, it means "mother." Mary is our mother in a spiritual way, and Christ's mother both spiritually and also physically, or biologically.

2. På'go. Another old term that most have forgotten. The usual meaning of the word is "today" or "now."  But the word can also mean "beautiful." A recreated traditional Chamorro village center in Inalåhan is called Gef Pa'go. Although few older people understand the word to mean "beautiful," all Chamorro speakers understand the word chatpa'go, which literally means "defectively or imperfectly beautiful," and from there we get the definition "ugly."

The song also says that Mary is a "rose without thorn." This is a reference to Mary's sinlessness. All of us, no matter how admirable we are, some for their physical beauty, others for their intelligence, still others for this or that talent, we are roses with thorns. We have our admirable traits (rose), but also our painful defects (thorns). Not so with Mary, who was free from sin (thorns) from the first moment of her human existence or conception.

3. Tinifok. From the word tufok which means "to weave." Tinifok is the product, the woven item. The hymn uses tinifok as a metaphor for Mary, whose Immaculate Conception is the work of God.

4. Chumågo'. Chågo' means "far" and chumågo' is the verb form which means "to go far from," or "to stray away from."

5. Gef pågo. In the original hymn, as published by Påle' Román, the phrase is, "lu gåtbo yan paopao." Lu means "even though," as in "despite the fact that." As an example, "Metgot lu dikkike'." "He is strong even though he is small." So the phrase really means "Even though the rose and the lily are beautiful and fragrant, they will not outdo you in beauty or fragrance, my beautiful Queen." Due to the fact that lu is hardly ever used nowadays, the choir decided to change the word lu to gef, which alters the original meaning. Lu isn't included in the most recent Chamorro dictionary.

6. Masamai. An old word meaning "beautiful." Again, this word does not appear in the latest Chamorro dictionary. Many Chamorro speakers do not know the word.

7. Påharos. Most Chamorro speakers use the word paluma for "bird." But older speakers were also familiar with another Spanish-borrowed term for "bird" which is påharo or påharos.

8. Tai mancha. Måncha (borrowed from the Spanish language) literally means "stain," but theologically is can also mean "sin." Sin is like a stain on the soul.


The Chamorro hymn is based on a Basque original entitled Ama Maite Maria, meaning "Lovable Mother Mary."

The Basques are a race of people, with their own language and culture, who live in Spain and France. Påle' Román, a Spanish Capuchin missionary who lived on Guam from 1915 till 1941, was Basque and translated some Basque hymns into Chamorro.

I cannot find an audio recording of it, but here is the music of the Basque original, which matches the music of the Chamorro hymn.

*Thanks to Lawrence Borja for finding the Basque original

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