Friday, March 29, 2019


Around eight years before this incident
Sketch by Arago

Ever since the Spaniards depopulated Tinian in the early 1700s, the island never had a stable human community living there until the late 1800s.

For those hundred years or so, the Spaniards on Guam used Tinian for agriculture, especially cattle raising. The meat from those cows was sold and helped finance various things, including the government's care of Guam's lepers and other patients.

In order to raise that cattle, Chamorro men from Guam were employed, usually for a couple of years, to live on Tinian and take care of the government herd. Since wives and children couldn't normally live on Tinian at the time, these male workers did their time in Tinian and returned to Guam, replaced by a new set of workers. At times, no one was physically in Tinian now and then.

It was on one such occasion in 1826 that a British whaling ship, the George the Fourth, commanded by a Captain Buckley, stopped by Tinian and found no one there.

Buckley took advantage of whatever he found in Tinian for the benefit of his ship and crew but, being English and knowing that Tinian was a Spanish possession, Buckley decided to destroy whatever he could on Tinian before he left, and put the Spaniards at a disadvantage.

He burned down the homes used by the cattle workers. He even cut down breadfruit and coconut trees, and did various acts of devastation. One only wonders what he might have done to the cattle, besides letting them loose, after butchering some, I suppose, for the ship's needs.

The reason why we know of Buckley's razing of Tinian is because two of his crew deserted and remained behind on Tinian when the ship left. When the Spanish Governor on Guam, José Ganga Herrero (ancestor of Guam's Herrero family), sent a few soldiers to inspect Tinian some time later, they found the two deserters and learned the facts from them.

Vermont Journal, January 27, 1827

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Yanggen para hågo, siempre u fåtto.

(If it's meant for you, it will surely come.)

Don't work too hard for your dreams. Hard work does not guarantee that all dreams come true.

If it's meant to be, it will surely come. Sometimes without you even working for it, or even looking for it.

Work. Plant. Collect. Store. Ask. Watch.

But do not worry. Some things are meant for you, and they will surely come.

The Irish have a similar saying.

What's for you won't pass you.

If it's meant for you, it will surely come and not pass you by.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Maga' is an area in Mangilao, not far from the site of the University of Guam.

This entire, huge area of central Guam, up to the northern cliffs overlooking the northern coast, was Guam's prime farmland. Almost everybody in Hagåtña, the capital city, had farms east and north of the city.

Dionisio de Salas was one such farmer. In order to get to his ranch, he had to pass through Maga', using a road that went through Félix Meno's property.

According to Salas, this road was used by the general public without any problems for time immemorial. But, one day in 1902, he saw that Meno had put a fence right across the road. Salas now could not get to his ranch. He filed a grievance at the court house in Hagåtña.

Meno countered that the road he fenced was not the public one, but one which was on his private property. The public road was just a few feet away. That one he did not block.

Salas disputed that, and brought to court Pedro Torres Pangelinan, Agustín Cruz Royos, Vicente Flores del Rosario, Antonio San Nicolás Ada and José Demapan Rojas to testify that the road which Meno fenced off was the public one.

Meno brought his own witnesses to court, namely Juan Santos Quichocho, Joaquina Lajo Quidachay and Fernanda Balajadia Quichocho. Meno's witnesses were less helpful. They were somewhat vague in their testimony.

The court must have thought so, too, since it ruled in favor of Salas. Meno had to take down his fence and open the road again.

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Asaina Yu'us Tåta,
(Lord God and Father,)

hågo muna' fan huyung todo i guaha.
(you made all that exists.)

Todo i ma susesede gi hilo' tåno', man ginigiha siha nu i kanai-mo.
(Everything that happens on earth is guided by your hand.)

Un po'lo hame ni taotao-mo guine na tåno' gi talo' gi halom tåse.
(You place us your people on this land in the middle of the sea.)

Meggai na chinatsaga in susede, man maså'pet ham gi todo klåsen minappot.
(We have gone through many hardships, we have suffered in all manner of difficulty.)

Lao i yo'ase' na kanai-mo sumåtba ham todos.
(But your merciful hand saved us all.)

Bendise ham todos på'go annai in silelebra i kutturan-måme.
(Bless us all now when we celebrate our culture.)

Na' fan uno ham gi guinaiya yan inagofli'e'.
(Make us one in love and mutual endearment.)

Sa' todo i bidan-måmåme para i ma tunan i na'ån-mo.
(Because all that we are doing is for the praise of your name.)

In gagagao hao ni este ginen i Lahi-mo as Jesukristo i Sainan-måme.
(We ask you this through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.)

Taiguennao mohon.

Friday, March 22, 2019


(Every time you eat the cake, eat the bread)

A song that has been around for a long time; for sure before the war. But the song may have come about only since American times (1898 and after) since the song uses the English loanword kek, for "cake." It is possible that the song goes back even earlier to the 1800s, since English-speaking British and American whalers and other seamen did visit the Marianas in those days and some English influence did affect the Chamorro language even during Spanish times.

At least the refrain of the song is definitely of foreign origin. The melody can be found in different countries, where it goes by various names such as the Tippy Tippy Tin Waltz, or Tipi Tin in Cuba.

The Chamorro version can also differ slightly depending on the version being sung or on who is singing it.


Ai ke yånto si Tan Martina,
(Oh what weeping is Tan Martina)
si Tan Rosa'n Benjamin.
(Tan Rosa'n Benjamin.)
Mås ke nungka yo' un guaiya,
(Even if you never love me,)
lao bai faisen hao pot fin.
(but I will ask you at last.)

Tipi tipi tip, tipi tan,
kada un kånno' i kek, kånno' i pån.
(every time you eat the cake, eat the bread.)
Tipi tipi tip, tipi tan
tipi tapi tipi tip.

Sinetnan chotda, chotdan tanduki,
(Boiled banana, tanduki banana,)
titiyas fadang yan mañåhak.
(Federico tortilla and rabbit fish.)
Sinetnan suni, sunin bisåya,
(Boiled taro, bisaya taro,)
konne' båsta nene de ababa.
(take, enough baby of being silly.)


This song is something of a nonsense song, with no particular story or message. It's meant to be playful; an excuse, I think, to get up and dance.

Yånto. From the Spanish llanto, meaning "sobbing, weeping." The whole phrase is borrowed from Spanish, "Ay que llanto." "Oh what weeping."

Tan Martina. We don't know what woman named Martina is being mentioned. Perhaps it was just made up; or perhaps the composer had an actual Martina in mind. Tan is the honorific title for women.

Tan Rosa'n Benjamin. A woman (fictitious or real, we don't know) named Rosa is being mentioned.  People were identified through another person they were connected with. Benjamin could have been Rosa's husband, father or some other man.

Kada un kånno' i kek. This seems to be teasing; eating both cake and bread at the same time seems to be overdoing it. Some versions say : kada un kånno' i kek, un kånno' i pån. "Each time you eat cake, you eat bread."

Båsta nene de ababa. Most versions I hear do not say "Konne' båsta nene de ababa," but simply "Båsta nene de ababa."


As mentioned, the refrain is definitely borrowed from an older source. Here's a compilation of other versions of the refrain, from different countries.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019



Chamorro hymn to Saint Joseph

SAN JOSE LAO tai achaigua matunå-mo yan bittut-mo :
(Saint Joseph your praises and virtues are without equal :)

(Beloved Saint Joseph defend us
by your holy prayers.)

1. Si Yu'us ha' muna' håne ayo i mafañagu-mo.
(God alone brought about your birth.)

2. Man sen manman i lumi'e' i sinantos pinatgon-mo.
(They are awestruck who witnessed your holy childhood.)

3. Si Maria asaguå-mo si Jesus ma fa' patgon-mo.
(Mary was your spouse and Jesus was made your child.)

4. Gos ya-ña si Jesukristo i minames tinektok-mo.
(Jesus Christ liked very much your sweet embrace.)

5. Na'manman yan sinantusan sasahnge i fina'pos-mo.
(Your life was awesome, holy and unique.)

6. Hungok i tinayuyot-ho gi sen ma'lak na tachong-mo.
(Hear my prayers from your glorious seat.)

7. Pulan yo' gi finatai-ho ya un såga gi fi'on-ho.
(Watch over my death and stay by my side.)


Verse 3 : Jesus was not the biological son of Saint Joseph. Thus, Jesus "was made" his son, meaning Saint Joseph was considered the legal father of Jesus.

Verse 7 : Saint Joseph is the Patron of a Holy and Happy Death.

Monday, March 18, 2019


We don't write an awful lot in Chamorro.

Dalai. Many Chamorros don't even speak Chamorro.

And, being immersed in an English-speaking and an English-writing world, we are apt to let that influence us when we attempt to write in Chamorro.

But, itt was the Spanish and not the Americans who taught our ancestors the Roman alphabet and, for whatever reason, the Spaniards chose to use the letter Y (mainly) to represent the Chamorro sound that, in English, we might spell DZ. I have an idea why they used Y to stand for Chamorro DZ but that's something for another blog post.

Chamorro has its own sound, represented by the letter Y.

Check this out :

And so that's how we got the Chamorro Y. It has its own sound. And we really ought to be very familiar with it because we have two large villages whose names begin with Chamorro Y.

In Saipan, there is a place called Obyan and another called Chalan Kiya, and in both cases the Y is Chamorro Y, not English or Spanish Y.

We also have the surname Ayuyu.

And yet, despite an abundance of cases where the Chamorro DZ sound is spelled with a Chamorro Y, our Americanized minds revert to the English J when we want to say Chamorro DZ.

For example, in the picture at the very top, many people spell the family nickname Beyong with a J.

Or the family nickname Goyo with a J.

Or the family nichname Yeye with a J.

And in vocabulary, there are many people who spell it LATIJA and TITIYAS, instead of LATIYA and TITIYAS.

In these cases, we're switching from a Spanish-era Chamorro spelling to an American-era English spelling. We're mixing up two spelling systems.

So what happens in the case where the Bejong's first name is Juan?

In this example, the J has two different sounds. In Bejong, an American J. In Juan, a Spanish (and Chamorro) J.

If, in Chamorro, J and Y sound the same (which they don't), then what becomes of Joaquin Jeje and Josefa'n Gojo?

Far better to stick to the very clear Chamorro Y. Jesus Yeye. Juana'n Goyo. Joaquina'n Beyong.

Even in the top picture, the Siboyas family page keeps the Chamorro Y sound, instead of spelling it Sibojas.


Just to complicate things further, the Spaniards also used LL for the Chamorro DZ sound.

This is because, in Spanish, LL sounds the same as Y.

And so Acfalle, Tajalle and Quintanilla all have the Chamorro DZ sound, because LL in Spanish sounds like Y, and Chamorro Y is like English DZ.

And so, some Goyos also spell their nickname Gollo.

But it's also perfectly right, in Chamorro, to spell it Goyo.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Francisco Quitugua Tenorio
(pic courtesy of Fred Tenorio Rodriguez)

Around 1975 or 1976, our science teacher at Bishop Baumgartner Middle School, Sister Joan Weisenbeck, told us that we would all have to do something for a Science Fair she was organizing. It could be anything but the topic had to relate to a branch of physical science.

I decided to make a display about Chamorro herbal medicine. You can see that I already had the cultural bug in middle school. Well, herbs deal with biology, so I'm good, I thought.

I turned to my grand aunt, Asunción "Chong" Torres, my grandmother's sister. She was one of the elders in the family who raised me (ma poksai biha) and she was always willing to help me in anything. Sure enough, she took me one day to visit a suruhåno (folk doctor or herbal practitioner). His name was Francisco Quitugua Tenorio, better known as Supiåno, the family nickname.

We got into her car and we drove not a far distance to Chalan Pago. We went into the house of an older man whom I remembered as quite solid-framed. My aunt and he did most of the talking in Chamorro; I just listened. But in time he started getting out some leaves, branches and roots and explaining to me the various uses. I started to write down the information. What plant was used for what ailment. Most of the time it was a mixture of several plants.

Ton Supiåno gave me those plant samples and we went home and I started to put the display together. I got three poster boards and taped them together to form a three-paneled display. I taped or stapled the plants to the board and artistically explained their use on the boards. I also had some things displayed on the table in front of the boards. The Science Fair was just the next day. I think I won a prize.

Sr Joan Weisenbeck, FSPA

I know I pleased Sister Joan, which was important to me because I really liked her as a person and as a teacher.

But my exposure to Ton Supiåno was a new experience for me. For the hour or so I was at his house, I got a glimpse into Chamorro life I didn't see at my own house. The sights and smells of different plants. And the names of these plants!

Lodogao and betbena. But also tomåtes chå'ka, which even at age 14 I understood as "rat tomato," and mumutung palao'an, which I also already could understand as "woman's stench."

At age 14, from Ton Supiåno's explanations, I was seeing how people got sick (I didn't see much of that yet in life) and in so many different ways. And I saw how our people had their own way of addressing illness and using the natural things found right around us. Plants and trees were not just "there." They had practical uses, and maybe even "life and death" uses. The experience taught me that we were resourceful and that we had "our own way."

Ton Supiåno was not my first experience of Chamorro medicine. That happened when I was 5 years old (or maybe even younger but I don't remember) when Tan Romana Ramos, our next door neighbor, would come over with her åmot Chamorro (Chamorro medicine) made from some very bad tasting herbs. I don't even know what illness I had but they would lay me on someone's lap and force open my mouth and Tan Romana would dip a cloth into her herbal medicine and squeeze the cloth into my screaming mouth! Did it taste awful! But the old ladies were happy that I would now be able to live another day!

But Tan Romana was not a suruhåna in the full sense of the term. She was able to make one kind of medicine for children. She was not consulted by many about many health issues.

Later, I would encounter a suruhåna who was more of a makåhna (spirit intermediary) who dealt with spirits and divination, and not with herbal medicine. That was a weird experience.

But Ton Supiåno was my first experience of a bona fide suruhåno, someone the community looked up to as knowledgeable about all herbal medicine and many health concerns. And meeting him was an affirming experience of my Chamorro culture.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


They say that love makes you do crazy things.

Case in point. Two American Marines, stationed on Guam in 1920, decided to grab a boat and hit the high seas with their newlywed brides.

First Sergeant Everett E. Clifton, 25, and Corporal William V. Dawson, 22, were both in love with Chamorro girls. Clifton fell in love with Tita León Guerrero Palomo, the daughter of Joaquín Blas Palomo and Rita Acosta de León Guerrero of Hagåtña. Their Palomo family nickname was Palolo. Dawson's belle was Rosa Cruz Lizama, the daughter of Ezequiel Fejarang Lizama and Candelaria Ulloa Cruz of Sumay.

The problem was that the Navy Governor at the time, Captain William Gilmer, disapproved of interracial marriages on Guam between military personnel and Chamorro civilians, so he outlawed it. His Executive Order forbidding interracial marriage was not scrapped till June 30, 1920, after enough voices in protest were heard in Washington, DC. By this higher authority, Gilmer was told to rescind his prohibition of interracial marriages on Guam and Gilmer was soon replaced as Governor.

Well, the two couples were not going to wait. With Gilmer's prohibition was still in force, what to do? They decided to escape Guam (and military duty) by finding a boat, loading it with supplies and head towards Australia, away from American jurisdiction. Then, free from Gilmer's laws, they could find someone to marry them. They set out on April 22.

But, problems soon came. First, they started to run out of food. Then, the fuel got desperately low. Finally, a storm obscured vision and posed a danger. Fortunately, they saw a small island and made for it. Sadly, the island had little to offer. The two couples subsisted on shell fish and what meager vegetation the island provided. But then, a Japanese trading vessel passed by and saw their distress signals. The ship picked them up and took them to Yap.

We know that the four left Guam and ended up in Yap, and somewhere along the way they stayed for a while on an unpopulated island with very few resources. Maybe it was Gaferut, but who knows?

In Yap, the Japanese authorities held them in custody. Then, the four were sent to Yokohama and then put under American supervision while there. The two Marines were made to live on a stationary Japanese ship while the two Chamorro ladies were housed at the local YWCA. Eventually, the four were sent back to Guam, where they celebrated their nuptials with the government's blessing since Gilmer was now gone. Both pairs got married on the same day - September 19, 1920. Dawson and Lizama got married in Sumay by Påle' León de Alzo, the future Bishop Olano. Clifton and Palomo got married at the Hagåtña Cathedral, officiated by Påle' Román de Vera.

There remained one problem. The two Marines faced trial for desertion.

Clifton and Dawson were sentenced to three years in prison and after that to be dishonorably discharged. They did their time in California.

Talk about broken dreams. They married, but they never got to enjoy their matrimony for long, since the two husbands were sent to be incarcerated in the US mainland. Rosa remained on Guam, and so did her son that she had with Dawson, George Lizama Dawson. They appear in the 1930 Guam census. But, in the 1940 census, Rosa Dawson is identified as being divorced and George is no longer with her. George had enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 and was off on his own. I suppose when Dawson was released from prison, he decided against returning to Guam and chose instead to find a new wife and remain in the US. By the early 1930s he already had a son with a new wife.

Clifton's marriage to Tita also did not last as he appears in the 1930 US census having a new wife, living in the US mainland.

Serving time in San Quentin

Monday, March 11, 2019


From the 1913 Typhoon

An American visitor to Guam around 1895 wrote about his experience of a typhoon coming out of nowhere.

We know, of course, that typhoons don't come out of nowhere but are actually formed over time when the right factors combine to create a storm that intensifies into a typhoon. But, in those days, they didn't have the technology we have today to see trouble spots and track the development and direction of storms.

Our American visitor was a spectator at the island's biggest cockfight of the year, where people were so focused on the contests that they didn't notice some of the telltale signs that islanders believe suggest a typhoon is on the way.

First, people eventually did notice that the air became still. There was no more wind, and it was the time of year when the trade winds should have been shaking the trees. People looked up, and all the coconut fronds were perfectly still. Not a breeze in sight.

Second, the birds had all disappeared. There were none to be seen resting on branches. There was no chirping to be heard. The birds had all flown somewhere else, to seek shelter from a storm they knew, ahead of the human beings, was coming.

Next, someone went down to the beach and looked at the horizon and the sky above. He was soon followed by others, till there was a bit of a crowd with him, all scanning the same horizon and sky. They all concluded that a storm was on its way, and they returned to their homes to prepare for it.

Long wooden stakes were nailed into the ground and the main posts and beams of the roofs of houses were anchored to these stakes by cords and ropes.

Wooden or metal stakes to help keep the roof from flying

Just as people were busy doing these things and tying up animals, a large gray cloud appeared from the southwest. The trees swayed once more, but with ever-growing strength. Gray turned to black and more black clouds appeared and the sky was darkened. The wind started to blow hard now, and some thatched roofs blew off.

But this storm was not a long one, nor a particularly strong one. By dawn the wind had died down to a normal breeze for that time of year. Some houses lost their roof and roads were impassable due to downed trees, but no one was seriously hurt. Thank God, it was a weak typhoon this time.

Friday, March 8, 2019


Para hita guine gi islas siha i familia yan asunton familia i mås impottånte.
(For us in the islands, the family and family matters are the most important.)

Gi pot båndan i lai ti libiåno ma komprende kabåles
(In legal matters it isn't easy to understand thoroughly)

mucho mås para un fakcha'i un abogådo osino abogåda
(even more to find a lawyer, male or female,)

ni siña ha eksplikåye hao pot i lai gi klåro yan komprendiyon na manera
(who can explain the law to you in a clear and understandable way)

yanggen guaha kaosa fumåfåna' hao.
(when you are facing a case.)

Lao guaha remedio. I ofisinan i abogåda as Señora Rosemond Blanco Santos
(But there is a solution. The office of the attorney Mrs Rosemond Blanco Santos)

siña ha probeniye hao akonseho pot i fundamenton i lai,
(can provide you with advice concerning the basics of the law,)

håfa ha sedi yan ti ha sedi hao para un cho'gue,
(what the law allows and doesn't allow you to do,)

håfa i direcho-mo yan håfa lokkue' siha i gåsto yanggen un deside para un ma representa
(what are your rights and also what are the costs if you decide to be represented)

pareho ha' yanggen måtto i kaosa gi kotte osino åhe'.
(whether the case goes to court or not.)

Tåya' dinagi, tåya' fina'baba, tåya' fina'ga'ga' sinede nu i lai.
(The law allows no deceit, fraud or abuse.)

Yanggen este na manera ni malago' hao ma ayuda
(If you want to be helped in this way)

pues ågang i ofisinan Rosemond Blanco Santos
(then call the office of Rosemond Blanco Santos)

gi numero 234 4357.
(at number 234 4357.)


Abogådo. Lawyer. Many people say abogao (abugao) instead. The female form of the word remains abogåda.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Life is rarely totally black and white. There is good and bad in almost every facet in life.

Some Spanish governors of the Marianas were well-received by the people; some were not! Some were hard task masters. Some were unfair and unjust in their treatment of people. But one of the main complaints people had against some Spanish governors was financial.

Many Spanish governors considered their assignment to the Marianas a form of exile. Self-seeking Spanish officials saw only one advantage in being sent to the Marianas, especially those who happened to live at the time British and American whaling ships were coming to the Marianas in good numbers in the early 1800s. The Spanish Governor could make some decent money during their short stint on Guam, using the power of the office to demand fees of all kinds from visiting ships. The locals had no money; but a small fortune might be squeezed from whaling ships.

Spanish governors still had to be careful. A few Spanish Governors of the Marianas were, in fact, denounced in Manila and faced charges. But not always.

Here is how one American visitor to Guam described in a newspaper article a story he heard when he visited Guam, if we can assume from the time of publication, in 1895 or 1896.

In February of 1895, an American whaler had anchored in Apra Harbor. The captain was hoping to replenish the ship's food stocks and to give his crew rest and relaxation.

As usual, the Spanish Governor and his officers came on board. Captains knew they had to welcome the Governor and give him the royal treatment. Otherwise, the Governor could make trouble for the visiting ship. The smallest misbehavior by any foreign seaman could result in fines. Seamen could be jailed; ships not allowed to leave port. So, a nice dinner was served on the ship for the Governor and guests.

After the dinner, the Spanish Governor took the American captain aside for a private conversation. The Governor told the captain that he wished to buy an American $20 gold piece to use as a gift to his wife. These gold coins were called "Double Eagles," not because they had two eagles on them, but because they were worth twice the value of the $10 Eagle coins.

An 1877 Double Eagle

At the time, an American Double Eagle was worth 40 Spanish pesos, but the Spanish Governor haggled and got the American captain to sell one to him for only 14 pesos. When asked why he gave in to the Governor's ridiculously low price, the American captain said he had no choice. It's either give in and avoid trouble or irritate the Governor and pay a higher price for it in other ways. The Governor tried to buy more but the captain demurred. At least the Spanish Governor let him get away with that.

Later, the writer of the story says the Governor tried to sell gold coins to him and, when he saw the Governor's collection of gold coins, the Governor had no less than $600 worth of gold coins, most of them American. In current values, $600 would be $18,000.

The Governor of the Marianas in 1895, by the way, was Lt. Col. Emilio Galisteo y Brunenque, who served from late 1894 to late 1895.

Friday, March 1, 2019



It is better to regret backwards than to regret forward.

It is better to have already made a mistake in the past (tåtte/behind) and regret it, than to move ahead (mo'na/ahead) and do something you will learn to regret.

The mistake you made in the past is done. Whatever damage it would have caused, has happened.

But the mistake you make in the future may be bigger than expected; the damage more severe than you think will occur.

Best not to play with fire. Rather than just burn your finger tip, the fire may burn down the whole house.

Mañotsot can also mean "to repent," which means more than just the feeling of regret. To repent means to do something about what you regret, to repair the damage and to change one's life so as not to repeat the same mistake.