Monday, August 26, 2019


One of my favorite singers of Marianas music

A song of blessing for someone leaving home. This happens a lot in the Marianas. People leave for the military. People leave for work in the US. Some come back; many never do.

Si nanå-mo un inecha (1) bendision-mo (2)
(May your mother pour your blessing on you)
masea måno hao guato.
(wherever you may go.)
I Saina-ta un binendise gi karerå-mo.
(The Lord bless you on your journey.)

Karerå-mo ti u chågo';
(May your journey not be far;)
fottunå-mo siempre un sodda'.
(may you surely find your fortune.)
I Saina-ta un binendise gi karerå-mo.
(The Lord bless you on your journey.)

I karerå-mo i atdao u inina;
(May the sun illumine your path;)
kåten påharo siha gi aire;
(the cry of the birds in the air;)
freskon månglo' siempre un guinaife
(a cool breeze blow on you)
masea måno hao guato.
(wherever you may go.)

Todo gåtbo siempre guinifi-mo;
(May your dream surely be all beautiful;)
tåya' siempre parehu-ña.
(surely it will have no equal.)
I Saina-ta un binendise gi karerå-mo.
(The Lord bless you on your journey.)


1) Echa. Comes from the Spanish word echar, meaning "to chase out, fire from work" but also "to pour out." So "echa bendision" means "to pour out a blessing."

2) The traditional expression is "Si nanå-mo un inecha bendision-ña." "Her blessing," because she is pouring on you a blessing from her.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Commodore George Anson of the British Royal Navy visited Tinian in 1742, and lost two anchors.

Apparently, according to news accounts, one of the two was found around 1829 by a whaling vessel stopping at Tinian. When the whaling ship lowered its anchor, it touched Anson's old anchor resting at the bottom. The anchor was taken down to Guam, rusty but in usable condition, where it was banged by Chamorro workers into bars and bolts, since someone was building a ship and needed those parts.

Well, if this makes you sad, hold on.

History-minded persons in Saipan took advantage of a Scripps Institute research team doing some exploration in the very area offshore in Tinian where Anson's ship was anchored. They asked the researchers to keep an eye out for anchors, and they did in fact find two. In 2017, these two anchors were brought up. They very well could be Anson's two anchors, but the jury is still out on that until we can be more sure.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Here is a glimpse of agricultural låncho Chamorro society; the way they lived for 250 years until life after World War II took most of the people off the land.

People borrowed from each other in those days. A lot! Not everyone had everything, but those without X could borrow from those who needed their Y. That way, nearly everyone was covered.

This applied to animals, too.

One farmer might have fertile cows, but no bull to impregnate them. Another farmer down the trail might have a bull but no cow to get pregnant.

Alakunao in northern Guam

In 1922, this was Joaquin's situation. He had a bull, but no cow at his ranch in Alakunao. And so he asked Florencio if he could borrow Florencio's cow so that his bull could impregnate her.

Florencio considered the benefit possible for him. And so he agreed under these conditions :

1. The first baby calf born of the cow was to be Florencio's. The second would be Joaquín's.

2. If the cow died due to Joaquín's negligence, Joaquín would have to pay Florencio the value of the cow.

3. If the cow died and Joaquín was not at fault, both Florencio and Joaquín could still profit from the cow by selling the meat. In order to do this, however, Joaquín had to inform Florencio of the cow's death within 24 hours of finding out about the cow's death. That way, the meat of the dead cow would still be fresh enough to butcher and sell, to the profit of both men.

Well, a year later, Joaquín did find the cow dead on a Saturday morning at the ranch in Alakunao. He told Florencio, the owner, right up to the 24 hour limit, informing him of the death right after the 5AM Sunday Mass at the Hagåtña cathedral.

Florencio was not satisfied that Joaquín had taken proper care of the cow and was thus, he claimed, responsible for its death. Florencio took Joaquín to court but, in the end, Joaquín was exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Thursday, August 15, 2019



A euphemism is a nicer way of saying something.

"Passed away" sounds nicer than "died." That's a euphemism.

In traditional Chamorro culture, one doesn't come straight out and talk about sex. One finds ways to talk about it between the lines, around the bush. Hinting, suggesting.

There are many ways to do this. But the other day an older lady showed me one more way.

We were sitting across each other at a party and next to me was her older brother. Both, by the way, are in their 80s.

The lady started telling me about her brother, who was in his own world eating his food. He's hard of hearing anyway.

She was saying how he, a widower, met this younger lady "pues pumanggengge i dos unos kuåntos meses." The two "played panggengge for some months."

Panggengge is an old card game, using Spanish cards as seen above. The word appears in an old song, "Panggengge, panggengge kon kuåttro Españot."

So, literally, she said her brother and the younger lady played a card game, but the hidden meaning was not so hidden.

Monday, August 12, 2019


If you ever wonder how languages change over time, just keep your eyes opened.

It's happening right now, in our own times.

It's just a fact of life. Languages change over time. The English spoken today is not exactly the same English spoken 500 years ago. And neither is Chamorro.

It doesn't happen because the government changes it. It doesn't happen because a committee changes it. It happens because people change it. Without planning it, without intending it. It just happens.

Someone just starts saying something different, or someone gives an old word a new meaning, and it spreads, like the flu or cold.

We have had for several hundreds now two Spanish loan words with different meanings, and happening right now before our eyes (or ears) is that one of those words is taking on both meanings.

The first word is ÅSTA.

It comes from the Spanish word hasta, which means "until." In Spanish, the H is silent. It sounds like asta. So we can say the following in Chamorro using the word åsta :

Åsta a las dos. Until two o'clock.

Åsta ke måtai yo'. Until I die.

The second word is ESTA.

We know it comes from Spanish, but there are two Spanish words. One is esta, which means "this." And the other is está, which means "it is." Most people think the Chamorro word esta comes from the second Spanish word, está. Some even think the Chamorro word esta comes from the Spanish phrase está ya, which means "it is already there" or "it already is."

This would make sense because the Chamorro word esta means "already." So we use like this :

Esta måtto. He or she already came.

Kao måsa esta? Is it cooked already?


But now, many Chamorros have dropped asta and say esta when they mean asta.

Listen to this short clip of two different singers singing the exact same line. One singer says asta and the second says esta, even though the singer means asta. The line they sing is "asta/esta i finatai-ho," "until my death."


When languages change, there is hardly anything anyone can do about it. We probably won't be able to stop people from abandoning asta and saying esta when they mean asta.

But now we have a harder time telling if they mean asta or esta. If esta can mean both "until" and "already," we now have to look for more information to know if they mean one or the other, because nowadays, "Esta a las dos" can mean EITHER "until two o'clock" or "it is already two o'clock."

Before, when asta clearly meant "until" and when esta clearly meant "already," we could easily tell the difference.

Now that esta can mean both words for many people, we have a harder time seeing the difference between "until" and "already."

So some of us old-fashioned people continue to say asta when we mean "until," and we say "esta" when we mean "already."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


I cannot find anything in writing prior to 1944 calling any place on Guam "Agaña Heights." If I find it, I'll update this post.

But the use of the name "Agaña Heights" occurs in writing so quickly after the war that I wonder if the name was used to describe the area "up the hill from Hagåtña" first by Americans, I would suspect, and then spread to Chamorros rubbing elbows with Americans more frequently than others.

The area which we now call Agaña Heights was not considered one place before the war. The area was included in Sinajaña municipality and was known by the specific names of the separate smaller areas such as Tutuhan, Taigigao, Pa'åsan, Apugan and a few others. Even today, some people refer to these specific areas by these traditional names.

Here is a map of the area in the 1940 US Census :


As you can see, there is an Agaña, a Sinajaña and an Asan but no Agaña Heights. The area now known as Agaña Heights was then a part of Sinajaña municipality.

A village breakdown of the 1940 Census shows that Tutujan and Apugan (now parts of Agaña Heights) were barrios of Sinajaña in 1940 :



Immediately after the return of US forces to Guam in July of 1944 we see the first references to an area called Agaña Heights. It started with the US military.

It started with the US military because the area above the capital city had strategic military value. This was recognized even in Spanish times, which is why the Spaniards built a fort in Apugan, now a part of Agaña Heights, which still remains to this day.

From the heights above Agaña, one could enjoy a military advantage over the city below.

And so, the US military started referring to "Agaña Heights" as they fought the Japanese coming from the south entering into Hagåtña. Here is an example. A war reporter writes as early as August, 1944 about a machine gun placed at "Agaña Heights."


But, just to be clear, the writer wasn't referring to an established, political entity called Agaña Heights. In other news articles at the very same time, reporters sometimes do not capitalize "heights," meaning they literally are saying "the heights above Agaña," rather than saying there is a specific municipality called Agaña Heights. Other reporters call it "Agaña height," in the singular. Again, "Agaña Heights" was not a village name in 1944. But the name did get its start right at the time of the American return to Guam.


And so, from the last half of 1944 until around 1950, people called the same area by two names; the traditional name Tutujan and the newly-coined "Agaña Heights."

The area received a lot more attention after the war than before. The military had a lot to do with that.
The US Navy used the Tutujan area a lot right after the war, and sometimes referred to the area as "Agaña Heights." The US used the area for the stockade of Japanese prisoners and even for Saipan Chamorros, Guam Japanese civilians and Japanese-Chamorros. Then, the US built Naval Hospital in the area.

So, here's an October 1944 report on military construction on Guam, mentioning a building project in "Agaña Heights."


And yet, people didn't abandon the name Tutujan just yet, as seen in this court testimony given by Adolfo C. Sgambelluri, a civilian police officer, in 1945 :


And, as you can see, Tutujan was still considered a part of Sinajaña in 1945.

This map of Guam was printed just a year or so after the end of World War II. In it, Tutujan is still the name of the area we now call Agaña Heights.



But change was on the way and very quickly. By 1950, "Agaña Heights" was the preferred, and eventually official, way of designating that area of the island.

And so, in this 1950 Guam Census map, the area once named Tutujan in earlier maps is now called Agaña Heights, still considered a part of Sinajaña in 1950.


One very nice example of how the name Tutujan phased out and was replaced by "Agaña Heights" is seen in the Catholic directory of Guam parishes. The switch to "Agaña Heights" occurred in 1948, just four years after the American return to Guam. The 1949 Catholic Directory, reflecting information for the calendar year 1948, no longer lists a parish located in Tutujan, but rather in Agaña Heights. Here's an example from the 1952 Catholic Directory.




We were under Spain for 230 years so we inherited many spellings of our Chamorro names, both of places and of people, from Spain. In Spanish, J is pronounced like Chamorro or English H.

Juan and Jose, for example.

And so we get Chamorro names like Sinajaña and Inarajan spelled with a J. Or last names like Fejeran and Terlaje where the H sound is spelled with a J.

So while the move lately has been to stick with the H instead of the J (Tutuhan instead of Tutujan), older documents will still use the J and I don't think we're going to see many Taijerons and Tajalles switch to the H just yet.


In recent years there has been some attempt to bring back the name Tutuhan from the past.

The grassy triangle at the eastern entrance of the village, popularly called "Triangle Park" was christened "Tutuhan Park" by the mayor some years ago.

The village marker in that area says Tutuhan. It doesn't say "Agaña Heights."

But efforts to do more, as in officially changing the name of the municipality to Tutuhan, have met strong resistance by some of the residents of Agaña Heights themselves.

Apart from stating that people are so used to calling the village Agaña Heights for over 70 years already, opponents to the reversion to Tutuhan say that Tutuhan is not an accurate name for the village since Tutuhan is only one part of the municipality. Specifically, Tutuhan is the name of the area around the parish church and the center of the village. But many of the village residents actually live in Pa'åsan, or Taigigao or Apugan and other areas within the municipal borders. Is it fair, they ask, to name the entire village by just one of the many areas making up the municipality?

But, some others point out, that shouldn't be a problem because that's the situation with a number of other villages. Barrigada, for example, includes Cañada, As Penggao, Leyang, Ungåguan, Lålo' and many other areas, but no one living in those areas minds if the entire village is called Barrigada.

One Agaña Heights resident told me that there is, perhaps, another, more important reason for keeping the name "Agaña Heights." "In the alphabetical list of villages," he told me, "Agaña Heights appears at the very top of the list. The letter T, as in Tutuhan, comes towards the bottom of the list, as in Talofofo or Tamuning."

Ai ke!

Monday, August 5, 2019


by Paul Jacoulet 

A song of lost love sung by Chris Kaipat of Saipan

Farewell beloved.

1, Adios keridå-ho ya bai hu hånao
(Farewell my beloved and I will go)

sa' esta hu sen tungo' na guaha otro
(because I truly know that there is another)

guinaiya-mo mås ke guåho gi tiempo.
(whom you love more than me all the while.)

Ai sa' sen pinite korason-ho.
(Oh how very painful is my heart.)

2. Tumekkon yo' un råto ya hu hahasso
(I bowed my head awhile and was remembering)

i tiempo gi annai humihita.
(the time when we were together.)

Ai sen gåtbo lina'lå'-ta lao ti hu tungo'
(Oh our lives were so beautiful but I didn't know)

na otro esta nene ga'chochong-mo.
(that another already, baby, was your companion.)

3. Po'lo diåhlo ya bai hu sungon
(Just let it be and I will endure)

nu todo este piniten korason-ho.
(all this pain of my heart).

Ya un dia ma tulaika hinaso-mo
(And one day your mind changes)

ya un bira hao mågi nene gi fi'on-ho.
(and you turn back here, baby, by my side.)