Wednesday, January 30, 2019



Based on an American visitor to Guam's description of a wedding feast he attended in 1895 or 1896.

The daughter of Félix, one of the richest men on Guam, is going to get married and Félix does nothing half-hearted. It is to be a grand feast.

The chubby father of the bride greets you with a handshake at his home. Crates of beer and claret wine are being brought in, as women in the rear of the house bake in an outside oven (hotno). They smile and wish you a "buenos dias." Young boys are tending an outside fire meant to roast a pig. A neighbor brings in bananas (aga') and oranges (kåhet) as a gift. On the floor, to the side, lay a big pile of yams and taro (dågo and suni). An old woman is grinding cacao, which was often made into chocolate for drinking.

Later that night, you walk to the groom's house which you easily identify among the neighboring homes because of the noise of the fiddle and accordion. There, the groom is having his own party. The Chamorros all know how to dance the waltz (båtso) and the Virginia reel. Margarita, a member of the family, escorts you by the arm into the party. On one table one finds various breads, tropical jellies, fruits, cakes, chicken, meat and fish.

Maybe your great grandmother danced this on Guam in the 1800s

On another table are wine, beer, gin and tuba (coconut toddy). Our American visitor is introduced to the groom's sister, who agrees to dance with him, her black eyes alive with excitement. After the dance, he must drink wine with her. In comes the groom, named Juan, accompanied by his male friends, who all tease him about the troubles of married life he is about the enter. In the corner is the groom's mother, puffing away at her cigar, made from local tobacco. He asks her for a dance, old as she is, to which she gives a curious look. Are you joking? But when she gets up to dance, she proves she's not as old as she looks.

All throughout the 1800s, visitors described how Chamorro women loved smoking cigars

The American now goes to the bride's party. Her father Félix owns a piano, which is being put to good use for the evening. In a prominent chair sits the bride's mother Guadalupe, and some plump, older ladies sit in their own chairs nearby, making remarks about this or that lady's attire. The bride is twirling on the dance floor with a Spanish officer. The Spanish officers go to all the parties, whether they are invited or not.

If you tire of dancing, there are always games of chance at these parties. And if you get bored at one party, you go the second one. Neither party will end soon, anyway. These parties go on till just before the sun rises.


Although the newspaper article does not give last names, even first names are enough of a clue.

When the writer said that Félix was one of the richest men on the island, and that his wife was named Guadalupe, that was enough for me to think of Félix Díaz Torres and his wife Guadalupe Crisóstomo Martínez. Félix was one of the manakkilo' (high status) Torreses. His brother Luís, for example, was a Manila-educated teacher and government official. Another brother, Juan, was island treasurer under American Governor Leary.

Félix and Guadalupe did have a daughter Josefa who married a Juan, Juan Anderson Millinchamp.

I'd put my last dollar that this American visitor had been a guest at the wedding parties of Juan Anderson Millinchamp and Josefa Martínez Torres.

Félix Díaz Torres

Monday, January 28, 2019


A young Hawaiian male and female

Whaling ships, which visited the Marianas with much frequency in the 1800s, were notorious for grabbing and disposing crew members left and right.

At times it was difficult to recruit whalers, so many a captain resorted to questionable methods to put men (and sometimes women) on their ships. It was not unheard of to lure men onto the ship for a party, get them drunk then pull out to sea while they were inebriated. When the poor lad woke up, he was many miles from home.

Sometimes, when a crew member or members became problems, such as with illness, or if they were trouble-makers, these whalers were conveniently "forgotten" on shore when the ship ventured off again.

It is a credit to the Hawaiian Government at the time that they pursued, perhaps at the urging of relatives, information about Hawaiians who left on a whaling ship and were not heard from again.

The Hawaiian Government wrote letters to Manila inquiring about four such Hawaiians reported to be on Guam. The Governor of the Marianas, Pablo Pérez, made the reply to the Hawaiian Government in 1849.

Pérez informed the Hawaiian Government that two Hawaiians, a brother and a sister, named John Tahuane and Maria (maybe Mary?) Tahuane were, in fact, left behind on Guam by a French whaling captain named Debats of the ship Gustave. But, Pérez said, he had put the pair on an American whaling ship, the Howard, in January of 1849, and had a signed, written promise by the captain, Alexander Bunker, that he would repatriate the siblings back to Hawaii.

In addition, Pérez said there was another Hawaiian, named Kalehuahi, who was abandoned on Guam due to illness by his captain, named Coteel, of the American whaling ship the Alabama. But Kalehuahi died on his illness on May 14 and was, we can assume, buried on Guam.

Besides these three individuals, there were no other Hawaiians on Guam to the best of Pérez's knowledge as of that date. Two other Hawaiians the Government inquired about were unknown to anyone on Guam.

Because trans Pacific sailing, especially due to the whaling ships, was frequent in the 1800s, our Chamorro ancestors were acquainted with indigenous Hawaiians, and adopted the sometimes offensive term kanaka to describe them.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Based on a true story from 1903.

Hagas ti man afamaolek i familian Vicenta yan i familian José.
(Vicenta's family and José's family did not get along in the past.)

Man besino siha giya Yoña.
(They were neighbors in Yoña.)

I lanchon Vicenta eståba gi kattan i chalan.
(Vicenta's ranch was to the north/east of the street.)

I lanchon José eståba gi lichan i chalan.
(José's ranch was to the south/west of the street.)

Un dia, mamomokat si Vicenta yan i yetno-ña as Manuel gi chalan gi entalo' i dos låncho,
(One day, Vicenta and her son-in-law Manuel were walking on the road between the two ranches,)

ya umessalao si José, "Håfa na mamomokat hamyo guennao na chålan?"
(and José shouted, "Why are you walking on that road?"

Manoppe si Vicenta, "Ya måno na chålan malago'-mo para in pokåte?"
(Vicenta answered, "And on what road do you want us to walk?")

Manoppe si José, "Famokkat nai gi chalan para sasalåguan!"
(José answered, "Walk on the road to hell!")

På'go si Manuel ha oppe si José,
(Manuel now answered José,)

"Ti in tingo' ayo na chålan para sasalåguan.
("We don't know that road to hell.)

Lao yanggen hågo tumungo' måno nai gaige,
(But if you know where it is,)

pues hågo un chule' ayo na chålan!"
(then you take that road!")

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


A Chamorro classic by Johnny Sablan

1. Buenas noches Marikita / kao siña yo' un na' hålom
(Good evening Marikita / can you let me inside)

ya ta hihita man rega nu / i man fresko siha na hånom.
(and water together  / with fresh water.)

REFRAIN : Kao mungnga hao? Kao mungnga hao? Sa' hunggan yo', nene.
Will you not? Will you not? Because I am willing, baby.

2. Ti ya-mo åttilong na taotao / lao gof ya-mo i fanihi
(You don't like dark-skinned people / but you like the fruit bat)

ya hu desesea kerida na / un guaiya yo' taiguine.
(and I desire sweetheart that / you love me in the same way.)

3. Åttilong yo' nai na taotao / åttilong ti ma guaiya
(I am a dark-skinned person / dark-skinned persons aren't loved)

lao gef atan nu i dos matå-mo / sa' un dia un fina' baba.
(but look well at your two eyes / for one day they will deceive you.)

4. Ti pinite yo' as nåna / komo hågo yo' kumonne'
(I won't feel bad for mama / if you are the one to take me)

komo humihita chumochocho / ai masea linemmok donne'.
(if we eat together / oh, even if it's just crushed chili pepper.)

5. I famalao'an ni man dudus / man gof andi' i lalåhe
(The flirtatious women / the show-off guys)

an un pala'i labios-mo libistik / siempre ha' un ma essitane.
(if you smear your lips with lipstick / you will surely be mocked.)

6. Ti guåho na klåsen taotao / para hu tohge gi flores-mo
(I'm not the kind of person / to stand on your flowers)

lao måtto yo' para hu konsuela hao / annai hu hungok i tanges-mo.
(but I came to comfort you / when I heard your weeping.)

Monday, January 21, 2019


"Tea" in Chamorro in chå. It's the same word for tea in many Chinese languages; in Korean, Japanese (ocha) and Filipino (tsaa).

But tea didn't grow in the Marianas, so the word chå must have been adopted from other people who called "tea" cha. But from who?

The Spanish word for "tea" is . Why didn't the Chamorros borrow the Spanish word , as they did so many other Spanish words?


With few exceptions, the world has only two ways to say "tea." Both ways originate in China, where the plant was cultivated before anyone in Europe or America knew anything about it.

For much of China, "tea" is cha, and that word spread to Korea and Japan, and also to those places where tea was carried over land by merchants. Land routes carrying tea and other goods from China reached Persia (where cha became chay); Russia (where cha also became chai) and Arabia (where it became shay).

But a coastal area of China called Fujian says te for "tea." Where tea was exported by ship from Fujian, the word te went with it. This is how English got the word tea, and French thé and Dutch thee. The Spanish word for tea is .

Interestingly, the Filipino word for tea is tsaa, even though the great majority of Chinese in the Philippines have roots in Fujian, where tea is called te.


You would think that, if the Spaniards were the first to bring tea to the Marianas, we would also use their word for it - . But we don't.

Dutch and English ships also came to the Marianas now and then. We don't use a word similar to theirs for tea. When American ships started coming to the Marianas in the early 1800s, we didn't borrowing their word for tea, either.

Instead, we use a word coming from the majority of China, and Korea and Japan. But, other than Choco in the time of Sanvitores, we don't know of any Chinese living in the Marianas in the 1600s. And how much tea could Choco have had, if any? He was a castaway, anyway, who probably landed here with not a whole lot of possessions. Did Choco grow tea? If he did, from what source, having been a castaway? Tea didn't grow well in the Marianas. Safford (writing around 1905) says that they tried to grow tea on Guam, but it failed.

Chinese immigrants moved to Guam in the late 1850s and into the 1860s and after. They might have brought small supplies of tea, and relied on incoming British and American ships to sell them more. But almost all of these Chinese immigrants were from Fujian, where the word for tea is te, not cha.

That leaves Japanese merchants. Their word for tea is ocha. But the Japanese traders didn't start coming to the Marianas until the 1890s, and the Chamorros already had the word chå for "tea" since
1865 (or before) when Ibåñez wrote his Spanish-Chamorro dictionary and chå appears there as the Chamorro word for tea.

Perhaps the Filipinos, who always had a trickle of people coming to the Marianas in the 1700s and 1800s, brought the word chå to the Marianas.

Who knows? It's a mystery why Chamorros did not borrow the Spanish word for tea, and it's a mystery from whom they did borrow the word chå.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Perhaps because a new administration has just taken office on Guam, some people are wondering how to say "Lieutenant Governor" in Chamorro.

For many years already, the usual way most people say "Lieutenant Governor" in Chamorro is :


or, perhaps spelled Sigundo Maga'låhe or Segundu/Sigundu Maga'låhe.

Sigundo Maga'låhen Guåhan
"The Lieutenant Governor of Guam"

Segundo means "Second" and is borrowed from Spanish.

Segundo, by the way, is also a proper name, meaning a first name for a male. That's because most people in the past were named after saints and there are actually more than one Saint Secundus, in Spanish, San Segundo.

Maga'låhe is one way to say "Governor" and is an indigenous term, not borrowed from Spanish. It was the word for "chief" that was used at the time the Spaniards came to the Marianas.

It comes from two words. The first is må'gas, meaning "great." The second is låhe, meaning "man." The S in må'gas is dropped when combining the two words. When combined, the word means "great man." Thus, "chief."

But, over time, the Chamorros, whose chiefs all disappeared when the island politics changed, applied the word maga'låhe to the islands' Governor.

There are two issues, to my mind, created by the term "Segundo Maga'låhe."

The first is that maga'låhe is used. Today we have a woman governor. She is now being called the maga'håga ("great daughter"). But the Lieutenant Governor is being called "the Second Great Man." Is there a first "Great Man?" Is his superior also a male? No. She is a håga. Daughter. So how can there be a Second Great Man if there is no First Great Man.

And suppose we had (again) a woman Lieutenant Governor (as in the days of Lt Gov Madeleine Bordallo). If we called her the Segundo Maga'håga, does that mean there is a First Great Daughter? That her superior is also female?

The second issue is that segundo is used. If the Lieutenant Governor is the Second Governor, do we now have two governors? A first and a second?

Both these terms seem a bit problematic to me, although I do concede that they may not be problematic to anyone else in the universe but me.

So what, then, would be an alternative?

The above name for the position "Lieutenant Governor" is traditional and avoids the messiness of calling one a maga'låhe and another a maga'håga, or calling someone a "Second Governor," implying that we have two governors.

The first word in this title is a word the older people remember, but not the younger. A teniente was the second-in-command, the vice or the assistant.

Take another look at the English word we use for Lieutenant Governor.

LIEU + TENANT (teniente)

LIEU comes from French and means "place."

TENANT also comes from French (and all the way back to Latin) and means "holder."

Think of the person renting an apartment as the tenant. Our word maintenance comes from "holding" (tenance) by the "hand" (main, French from the Latin word for hand, manus, as in "manual").

A lieutenant is a "place holder." When the Governor is away, the Lieutenant Governor holds the place of the Governor.

The Marianas under Spain were full of tenientes. Take a look at this list of officials in Hagåtña during Spanish times :

At the top of this document it says "City of Agaña."

Then we see the name of Don (Sir) Mariano Luxan. He was the Governadorcillo ("little governor"), something like a town mayor, of Hagåtña. Don't worry about the X in Luxan (Lujan). For the Spanish in those days, X and J often had the same sound if it came before a vowel. Think of Don Quixote, or Oaxaca in Mexico (itself pronounced me - hi - co in Spanish).

But the next official, the second-in-command to Don Mariano, is Don Pedro Pangilinan (same as Pangelinan), who is called the - TENIENTE!

By using the word teniente, it is clear that we don't have a "second" Governor. We have only one Governor. But, we also have someone who holds the place of the Governor when she or he is absent. A Lieu-TENANT Govenor. Teniente.

Next, by using the word Gobietno (Governor), there is no issue of gender. The older meaning of maga'låhe, anyway, did NOT mean the ruler of the whole island. Before the Spaniards came, maga'låhe meant "chief," and there were many in one village and hundreds all over the island and in the neighboring islands. When all the Chamorro maga'låhe disappeared, due to the Spanish conquest, our ancestors applied the title to the Spanish Governor, of all things!

Believe me or not, in the 1970s or 1980s, I did see a campaign sign in Chamorro, asking voters to support someone for Gobietno and another person for Teniente Gobietno.

But I didn't know I'd have a blog one day, so I didn't take a photo of the sign.

This entry from Francisco Valenzuela's Chamorro Dictionary from the 1960s shows that teniente was a known word among our elders. And, as you can see, it means second-in-command.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Washing in the Hagåtña River

The image of the old Chamorro grandmother as a sweet and cuddly matron is a figment of the imagination. Certainly there were many of those - but not all grandmothers were like that!

Many grandmothers, mothers and godmothers in the old days were strict disciplinarians, quick to use corporal punishment with all the strength of their seventy-year-old hands.

Take for example Manuela Manalisay Dueñas in 1903.

Manuela had a goddaughter, Joaquina Materne, aged 18 years old.

Joaquina was washing clothes in the river in Hagåtña one Thursday. Catalina Crisóstomo Cruz was there, as well, washing clothes in the river. Up came the godmother Manuela, who called her goddaughter Joaquina out of the river. As soon as Joaquina came up, Manuela whacked her repeatedly with a bamboo cane (båston piao).

Manuela withdrew and Joaquina went back to washing. But a short time later, godmother Manuela came back and this time beat Joaquina with a stick of ordinary wood.

Two days later, Manuela called Joaquina to her house, where she attacked her goddaughter with a piece of cord or rope. Catalina Bae Cruz was a witness to that. Joaquina filed a complaint in court against her own godmother.

Manuela admitted to the court that she beat her goddaughter Joaquina on those occasions. But, she argued, she was within her rights. Joaquina had disobeyed her and she, as godmother, had every right to punish her.

Unfortunately for Manuela, the law was not on her side. Even though she was godmother (matlina, nina) to Joaquina, what she did to Joaquina was a crime, according to the Código Penal (Penal Code) at the time. This was the same Spanish Penal Code used in the Marianas before the Americans came, so it can't be said that this was all American thinking.

In Chamorro culture, the godmother had a lot of say over her godchildren. Think of the legend of Sirena, and how her godmother mitigated the curse pronounced by Sirena's own mother.

But, even under Spanish law, the godmother could not do whatever she wanted to her godchild. Corporal punishment had its limits even then.

Manuela was fined and had to pay court costs.

The question is : did Joaquina involve her godmother in her wedding later in life? Or anything else later in life? Or was this relationship broken forever?

Godmother Manuela Dueñas' signature

Monday, January 14, 2019


Slocum's article in 1889

A lot of wild and fantastic things have been said about the Marianas over the years, up to the present. Some of it is borne out of ignorance, and some of it is invented because it's entertaining to the purveyors of tall tales.

Apparently, one such fanciful tale was that you could get eaten up by cannibals if your ship happened to take you to Guam in the 1800s.

The story was that a 16-year-old boy had been captured at Guam and fattened by the natives to be the main course in a banquet.

Every westerner who sailed the Pacific in those days could have set the record straight.

One did; a rather colorful seaman named Joshua Slocum.

Slocum on the Spray

A Canadian-turned-American, Slocum was a veteran seaman who could be found in all the world's oceans. He spent a good deal of time in the Philippines and almost anywhere else you could imagine. At least once, we know, he set foot on Guam in 1879 on his way from Hawaii to Manila. On Guam, he replenished his water and food supplies, and visited Hagåtña while his ship lay in Apra Harbor.

Slocum wrote to a newspaper in 1889 mocking the report of cannibalism on Guam. He wrote that Guam had no cannibals and was a Spanish colony for a long time already. It was a place frequently visited by many ships to stock up on water, coconuts, yams, sweet potatoes, pigs and goats, all in abundance.

"One of the pleasantest days of my life was spent on this pleasant island off there in the Pacific Ocean," he wrote.

Slocum later achieved fame by being the first human being to sale around the world all alone, on his boat, the Spray, between 1895 and 1898.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Vice and virtue have no favorites. They can be found, sometimes in equal measure, among all races, ages and genders.

Take for example Joaquina del Rosario, better known as Joaquina'n Dalalai.

Joaquina was at the top of the list of Guam's "bad girls" in the early 1900s. She was hauled into court on more than one occasion.

In 1903, Joaquina went to the home of Manuel Asunción, who was selling island moonshine called åguayente. Åguayente was a stronger liquor than tuba, although it was often made from tuba. But åguayente could be made from almost anything that contains sugar.

Joaquina bought three cups of åguayente for one reåt each. A reåt (in Spanish, real; pronounced ray - al) was a coin found in the Spanish colonies and in Latin American countries.

Those three cups were enough to make Joaquina terribly drunk and she went around Hagåtña being a nuisance. She stopped outside the house of Juana Acosta and started yelling obscenities at her. "Puñetera! Karåho! Puta! Demonio! Animåt!" The whole neighborhood could hear her. There must have been bad blood already between Joaquina and Juana.

The police came and apprehended her. As she was disorderly in public, there was no want of witnesses. She was sentenced to serve a short time in the city jail.

Later, Joaquina'n Dalalai would be arrested for something more serious than public intoxication. But that's a story for a future post.

Åguayente, by the way, is the Chamorro version of the Spanish word aguardiente, made up of two words : agua (meaning "water") and ardiente (meaning "fiery"). Fire water!

Chamorros of the early 1800s distilling åguayente

Monday, January 7, 2019


An older man was telling me how he would go on and on, talking to his mother when he was a child, making bold claims as he talked to her.

His mother was not impressed with what he was saying, as teenagers often become inflated with self-importance or become over-confident in what they are saying.

To cut him back down to size, his mother said to him, "Ya kao si Påle' Lottot hao?" "And are you Father Lottot?"

The thing is that the man himself had no idea what lottot meant. His mother used the expression, and she was born in the early 1900s. We knew that påle' meant "priest," but neither of us knew what lottot meant.

From the context we knew that "Påle' Lottot" was not a term of endearment. If by calling him Påle' Lottot, the mother was more or less telling him that he was full of baloney when he talked, we knew that lottot must have meant something disparaging.

According to all the more recent dictionaries, lottot means "full of lice."

But when I checked Påle' Román's older (1932) dictionary, he says that lottot means tina in Spanish, and tina in Spanish means a tub, or basin or a large jar. But this might be an error or a typo. Perhaps Påle' Román meant tiña, not tina. Tiña means a ringworm or a kind of mite that attacks beehives. That would correspond more with "lice."

But Påle' Román's dictionary solved the mystery by adding that "Påle' Lottot" means "a false priest or minister."

Those were the days of strong religious bias, with Catholics mocking Protestants and Protestants mocking Catholics. The Protestant missionaries came to Guam in the early 1900s claiming to be preachers of God's word. Catholic missionaries would have opposed that claim. Mockery and ridicule were found everywhere in the world, and Chamorros weren't outdone in that either. I am not surprised, then, that someone considered a false preacher was called a "lice-filled priest" in those days.

Thursday, January 3, 2019


Today we simply call it "Government House" but, for some time during the Spanish period, the area was called Kasamåta, or in Spanish Casamata. It's mentioned in some Spanish-era documents.

That word has a meaning in Spanish. It means a domed structure where artillery is placed. Here's one photographic example of a casamata :

The late Marjorie Driver, for several decades head of the Spanish Documents section of the Micronesian Area Research Center, says that a casamata was built on "Mount Tutuhan," the hillside behind the Governor's Palacio, near Fort Santa Águeda. The location makes sense for one, as a fort with canon would need an artillery shed nearby.

Since the fort was not built till 1800, the casamata couldn't have been earlier than that. Some scholars say it was built by Governor Villalobos in 1833. So, the area wouldn't have been called kasamåta by the local people till that time. What the pre-Spanish name of the place was, if there had been one, is unknown to me unless and until we find some evidence for it.

vigía, or lookout point, is also indicated at Fort San Ågueda by Governor Villalobos in 1833.

Here are two indications from documents from the past that show that, in the past, our people called the area where Government House is Kasamåta.

In 1904, a witness in court was testifying about an event occurring in the area of Casamata (Spanish spelling). The line in the written record of that testimony says, "el lugar llamado Casamata," meaning "the place called Casamata."

Some ten years later, or so, a student wrote an essay about an incident that could be heard from Casamata, where the tuberculosis hospital was at the time. In that period, Guam's tuberculosis ward was located where Government House is today.

Apparently there were remains of the Spanish casamata until they were removed, demolished or built over when the present Government House was built after World War II.