Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Mai'es (Corn)
The main staple of the Chamorro diet before the war

In 1902, Juan Mesa, from the familian Dodo, owed José Cruz Fejarang seven gånta of corn. That was a lot of corn.

A gånta was a measurement of dry grains or cereals, equivalent to about three liters. The term was borrowed from the Philippines.

Freshly harvested rice in a gånta crate

So imagine seven of the crates pictured above, but filled with corn kernels. That's how much corn Juan owed José.

One afternoon, Juan Dodo went to José Fejarang's house in Santa Cruz, a barrio on the western end of  Hagåtña.

Juan yelled at Fejarang from the street, so that even the neighbors could hear.

"Are you wanting to collect from me?"

Fejarang yelled back, "Yes!"

Juan yelled back, "Gran puñetero! Lanña' hao! Karåho! Maila' ya ta mumu! Tåya' ma'åñao-ho, ni gi as nanå-ho!"

"Big idiot! Screw you! Damn it! Come and let's fight! I have no fear, not even of my mother!"

Thankfully, the verbal fight did not move to fists.

Instead, the case was brought to court. Witnesses testified that Juan Dodo did say those words.

But the two enemies asked the court to drop the case, as they would solve the problem on their own.

The case was dropped.

Not even of his mother. Imagine that.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Salomón Tenorio Garrido was the alguacil of Hagåtña in the early 1900s.

The alguacil (Spanish title) was like a sheriff, court clerk or bailiff. His signature appears in countless court documents, like the one above.

Salomón was born around 1863, the son of Diego Garrido and María Tenorio. He married the former Carmen León Guerrero Blaz.

He had a ranch in what is now called Agaña Heights. According to one source, writing between 1917 and 1919, the ranch was southwest of today's Government House.

Salomón began noticing that things on his ranch went missing. Chickens, eggs, pigs. He told his wife, "I'm going to spend the night at the ranch and catch the thieves." Carmen pleaded with him not to do it, but Salomón took his machete and went to the ranch. He had his son Vicente bring him his rifle to the ranch later that day. The young Vicente returned home.


The next morning, Salomón had not returned home and Carmen was getting anxious because it was time for her husband to get ready for work at the court house. She saw a woman passing by the house on her way to fetch water from a well and told her about it. Carmen had already sent, Vicente, her oldest son who was around 12 or 13 years old, to check on his dad. Just as Carmen was talking to this woman passing by, Vicente returned to the house, visibly shaken.

So upset was Vicente that he couldn't talk for half an hour. The whole while Carmen kept asking him what was wrong. Finally he said, "Tåta is dead." Carmen became emotional and started screaming and all the children with her. The judge was called and he, accompanied by some men, went to the ranch and found Salomón dead on the ground. They carried his body to the hospital, where the doctor looked over the wounds of his body.

His wounds included gun shots, so he was probably overpowered by more than one man and shot with his own rifle. This happened in 1904.

The thing was that the gun shots that night were heard by a sentinel who stood guard not far from the ranch, in a place known back then as Kasamata, where Government House is now and where a tuberculosis hospital was located from 1916 till around 1930. But the sentinel who heard the gun fire felt he could not leave his post to check on what happened. One wonders if he had gone looking and found Salomón, would he have found Salomón alive? Would there have been enough time to run down to Hagåtña, bring back help, bring Salomón to the hospital and save his life?

No one, as far as we know, was ever charged with his murder. There were a few suspects, but nothing based on solid evidence and the case went cold to this very day.

* Salomón is the Spanish version of the name Solomon, which is the English version of the Hebrew original Shelomoh

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Cha'-mo tumattitiye i sihek yanggen chineflålågue hao.

(Don't dare follow the sihek if it is whistling to you.)

The sihek is a member of the kingfisher bird family. Besides being a pretty bird, it has a chirp that is just as pretty and which can be heard from a distance. But, if you're in the jungle and are attracted to its chirping, you will get lost if you follow it.

There is a story about the origin of the sihek and its loud chirping. There was once a loud woman in the village and the taotaomo'na (ancestral spirits) turned her into the sihek! That'll show you!

There are different versions of this saying, apparently because more than one bird can lead you astray in the jungle. In Saipan they even call one type of bird nossan na' abak. Na' abak means "to lead astray." Some identify this bird as the chichirika.

As birds often move from tree to tree, or perch to perch wherever that may be, and since birds can fly and change location quickly and over more space, following the bird will lead you in all sorts of directions and you can easily lose your bearings or find yourself in a dangerous spot in the jungle.

Whatever the zoological details, the saying is a metaphor for the care we should take about the people, things and ideas that can lead us astray.

You can listen to various birds of our islands here :


Wednesday, April 17, 2019


If you pronounce those two surnames differently, chances are your pronunciation is greatly influenced by American English.

In traditional Chamorro pronunciation, the Z sounds just like an S.

Try it out on names like Cruz, Baza, Lizama, Martinez.

If you hear the BUZZING of BEES when you say those names, that's American influence right there.

This video may help :

Monday, April 15, 2019


This is a story with a moral, a lesson in right behavior. The moral of this story is : Be generous. God punishes the selfish and takes away what they had.

Ginen guaha taotao ni gai iyo dångkulo yan lokka' na trongkon mångga.
(There was once a man who owned a large and tall mango tree.)

Fuera de i dinangkulo-ña yan linekkå'-ña, sen meppa' na trongkon mångga.
(Besides its size and height, the mango tree was very fruitful.)

Kada såkkan sen bula tinekchå'-ña mångga, asta ke ini'ingak påpa' i ramås-ña
(Every year it had a lot of mango, till its branches bent down)

kulan mohon para u pacha i edda'.
(as if to touch the ground.)

Mamopoddong i mångga yan meggai na fruta man låstima sa' ti man ma hokka' 
(The mangoes would fall and much fruit was wasted because they wouldn't be picked up)

ya ti man ma kånno'.
(and wouldn't be eaten.)

Un dia, maloffan un sottero gi me'nan este na trongko ya ha repåra
(One day, a young man passed in front of this tree and noticed)

na man låstima i mångga ni esta man lamas gi hilo' odda' sa' ti man ma hohokka'.
(that the mangoes were wasted as they ripened on the ground because they weren't picked up.)

Umessalao para u yåma i dueño ni pine'lo-ña na eståba gi halom guma'
(He yelled to call the owner whom he supposed was inside the house)

lao ti humuyung i dueño.
(but the owner didn't come out.)

Entonses, ha tutuhon i sottero måmfe' mångga ginen i mas manakpapa'
(Then, the young man began to pick mangoes from the lowest)

na råmas ni man libiåno ma tife'.
(branches which were easy to pick.)

Gigon ha tutuhon måmfe', humuyung i dueño ginen i gima'
(When he started to pick, the owner came out of the house)

ya ha tutuhon lumalåtde i sottero ya ha dulalak.
(and started to scold the young man and chase him away.)

Må'pos i sottero sin håfa na mångga ya asta ke måkpo' i tiempon mångga,
(The young man left with no mangoes at all and till mango season was over,)

i dueño ti ha sedi ni håyeye para u fånfe' mångga ginen i trongko-ña,
(the owner didn't allow anyone to pick mangoes from his tree)

achok ha' meppa' ya man lålåstima i mångga.
(even though it was abundant and the mangoes were being wasted.)

Gi sigiente na såkkan, annai esta måtto i tiempo ni para u fanflores i
(The following year, when it came time for mango trees to flower,)

trongkon mångga, ma repåra nu i taotao na i mamalo na trongkon mångga
(people noticed that the other mango trees)

manfloflores, lao i trongkon mångga ni iyon i chattao na dueño tåya'
(were flowering, but the mango tree of the stingy owner)

flores-ña. Annai esta bula tinekcha'-ñiha i mamalo na trongkon mångga,
(had no flowers. When the other mango trees had a lot of fruit,)

ayo na trongko ni iyon i chattao na taotao, sen taya' tinekchå'-ña mångga.
(that tree owned by the stingy man was really lacking mango fruit.)

Mina' i chinattao-ña i dueño na si Yu'us ha kastiga ayo na taotao 
(It was due to his selfishness that God punished that man)

ya ti ha na' gai tinekcha' i trongko-ña.
(and didn't make his tree bear fruit.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019



Geologists tell us that Guam does not sit on a dormant volcano, waiting for the next big eruption to explode. Nor is Guam delicately sitting on top some underwater peak that the next mega earthquake will shake so violently that Guam will fall into the Marianas Trench.

But for many years, many people thought that.

On February 25, 1849, a very strong earthquake shook Guam, destroying a number of buildings, burying some victims underneath the rubble. The quake started around 2:40 PM and after shocks, numbering some 128, continued till 11PM that same day.

For nine more days, people could feel that the ground was different. It felt like the earth below their feet was moving like a river. People expected the worst. The dormant volcano of which Guam was thought to be was now awake, ready to explode and send all the people of Guam into the sky.

Sixteen whaling ships happened to be anchored at Guam at that time. According to a report by Spanish Governor Pablo Pérez, many people left the island to board those ships, waiting to see if Guam would explode and fall into the sea. This lasted for a few days till, to their relief, the island was not blasted in a volcanic eruption.

Lewistown Gazette (Pennsylvania), 18 August 1849.

Monday, April 8, 2019



An important part of traditional Chamorro culture is being preserved and promoted through several "houses of healing," or guma' yoåmte.

This is an initiative of the Håya Foundation, headed by Zita Pangelinan. For years she has gathered yoåmte, suruhåno and suruhåna, traditional healers from all over the Marianas, to share their knowledge in conferences and through print and other media.

Now traditional Chamorro medicine and therapy are actually being practiced and not just spoken about. The first guma' yoåmte opened in 2016 at the Sagan Kotturan Chamoru at the old Guam Memorial Hospital site. Now there are three guma', the second one opening in Hågat and the third in Yoña, both in March of 2019.

At the guma', both experienced yoåmte and apprentices being trained are available first for consultation and then treatment. Treatment involves the use of medicinal herbs available on island and the use of massage therapy.

Listen to Kai share how she got started learning traditional Chamorro medicine.


The response from the public has been strong and receptive. The guma' at the Sagan Kotturan Chamoru is always busy with clients, and the other two centers also get many people seeking help. Many people getting Western medical attention like to supplement their care with traditional treatment and some amazing results are seen. One person was scheduled for an amputation due to diabetes but the Western doctor canceled the amputation when traditional medicine started to improve the person's condition.

A wide variety of people are coming to the guma'. Young and old, and people of all races. Even tourists and American military personnel seek traditional Chamorro treatments. Clients come not only for common health issues but also fertility concerns and also infant sicknesses.

In 2018, at the Sagan Kutturan Chamoru location alone, there were 5880 visits from clients.

This lady shares why she appreciates the help she is getting at the Yoña guma'.


It's not just the medicine that is being practiced as a traditional Chamorro value. It's also the traditional Chamorro belief about payment.

In traditional Chamorro culture, there is no fee for the services provided. But, in traditional culture, the beneficiary of the yoåmte's services still shows appreciation by freely donating money or other goods.


To ensure that our traditional healing skills continue for future generations, the Guma' Yoåmte trains apprentices like Clarissa.

Poster of the yoåmte (healers) and hours of operation.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


The seaman was dumped on a lonely Saipan beach, 
probably to avoid Spanish authorities

Having a sick crew member on a ship in the old days was a matter of grave concern. There is no place to escape on a ship while it is on the high seas. Although they could quarantine a sick crew member or passenger, this didn't always prevent the disease from spreading to others.

If many crew members were sick in bed, who would run the ship? If the ship were a whaling ship, who would do the work of catching whales? Sick crew members meant a loss of income.

So there was always the possibility that, if you were sick, your captain would let you stay on the next island, if they would take you, and hopefully another ship would pick you up later.

Then there were times that a captain might dump you somewhere no matter what and, if getting permission from the local government was in question, a captain might let you down on an isolated beach and move on quickly.

In 1859, this is just what happened to an American whaler named Elias Young at the island of Saipan.

Young was sailing on the Arctic, commanded by Captain William Phillips. The Arctic sailed out of Honolulu and headed west. When the ship got close to the Marianas, Young took sick, but not, he claimed, in a way that posed a danger to anyone else, not even himself. Yet, he states, Phillips threw him off the ship at a beach in Saipan, far from the town and without allowing Young to take his personal possessions.

Young did not speak Spanish or Chamorro or anything other than English and had to walk to town and seek help. For a whole year, Young remained on Saipan with much hardship. He complained later that Saipan didn't get many visiting ships, but finally a passing ship took him on board. Returning to Hawaii, Young filed suit against Captain Phillips. The Hawaii court decided not to rule on it, citing a lack of jurisdiction. The ship was American and the two parties involved were American citizens, while Hawaii was still at that time an independent kingdom.

If only Young had written a diary, or taken photos of Saipan in 1859. But cameras were not common in those days, except for professional photographers.

Monday, April 1, 2019



As many of you may know, the Spanish depopulated all the Mariana Islands north of Luta (Rota), completing that by around 1740 or so. All the inhabitants of these islands were brought south to Guam and a few to Luta. With the exception of a small community of Chamorro men from Guam, numbering only a few dozen, living on Tinian to take care of the government cattle herds there for a year or two before returning to Guam, all these islands north of Luta had no human population till much later.

More than once, the Spanish tried to depopulate Luta as well, but no attempt ever succeeded.

The following is the gist of an oral legend passed down by some Luta elders many years ago about the first time the Spanish officials tried to take everyone from Luta down to Guam. This would have been in the early 1700s.

When the Spanish ship arrived to put into action the depopulation plan, the Spanish officials saw the reluctance of the Luta Chamorros to abandon their beloved island. The people of Luta had been spending day and night in church praying before their patron saint, San Francisco de Borja, pleading him to do something to stop the forced relocation.

People of Luta carrying San Francisco de Borja in procession

The Spanish officer in charge told the people of Luta that, because they were so devoted to their patron saint, he would take the image of San Francisco de Borja and tie it to the tallest mast of the ship. That way, the people would have to follow their patron and board the ship. The people grieved at the idea and remained praying in the church.

That night, the tallest mast of the ship fell straight down inside the ship and pierced through the bottom, filling the hull with water. Everyone on board abandoned ship and headed for shore. The ship sank! There was no way the people could be transported to Guam. Heaven had answered their prayers, thanks to the intercession of San Francisco de Borja.