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.