Monday, December 16, 2019



Genuine hospitals were a new thing on Guam when the Americans first took over the island. Under Spain, there was a military medical doctor on duty at times, and a US Navy report says the Spaniards had a "primitive hospital." There were also secluded houses set up for lepers and those mistakenly considered lepers. But hospitals in the modern sense of the word did not yet exist.

Yet, even when the US Naval Government set up a hospital in Hagåtña, with free medical care for the civilian population, many Chamorros avoided the hospital at all cost.

"Sagan finatai ayo," some people said. "It's the place of death," when speaking about the hospital.

Well, to the casual observer it may seem so. Although the medical service was free and as good as was possible at the time, given all the limitations being as distant as we are, not everyone survived surgery or treatment. Some patients arrived when the disease was too advanced and nothing could be done. So, many a patient who walked into the hospital did not leave the hospital except to be buried in the cemetery.

Sagan finatai for sure.

But many people came to the conclusion that the hospital actually made you die! To be sure, even in our own day, this can be true!

So many Chamorro people in the old days preferred to stay at home, and be treated with traditional, herbal remedies furnished by a suruhåno or suruhåna. They claimed that the American medicine did them no good, and that there were side effects to them, as well.

"Atdet-ña i amot ke ni chetnot." "The medicine is worse than the disease."

"Ti fina'maolek si tatå-ho ni amot Amerikåno. I amot Chamorro ha' ha angongokko." "My father was not helped by American medicine. He only relies on Chamorro medicine."

Besides staying home, the old Chamorro habit was for the sick to stay home with all the windows closed, making the room as hot and as stuffy as possible. Blankets were even put on top of feverish patients. The belief was you could sweat the disease out of you, and that the draft or cool air (sereno) was deadly and what made you sick in the first place.

Closing up all the windows was the exact opposite of what American officials urged people to do. But no amount of American pressure could convince Chamorros to open the window.

Even in the 1990s, I would bring holy communion to the home-bound elderly, many of them quite sick. Their rooms were often dank and humid, because they always kept the windows closed.


Another thing many old time Chamorros avoided was any sort of amputation, big or small. Or even the removal of internal organs.

"Malago' yo' na ha sodda' yo' kabåles si Yu'us, taimano i ha fa'tinas yo'."

"I want God to find me complete, the way He made me."

"Singko na kålulot ha nå'e yo' si Yu'us, singko na kålulot bai nana'lo."

"God gave me five fingers, five fingers I will return."

These are some of the sentiments expressed by many man åmko'.

Even when warned that keeping the diseased body part would lead to death, some older people refused to have any body part amputated or removed.

These religious reasons may have been just a convenient way to cover up fear or dread of living the rest of one's life with one foot. Not living at all was better for them than living with one foot.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Where is this Chamorro guy above going? With his rooster under his arm? Accompanied by an armed man, what looks like a village head or gobernadorcillo, wearing a top hat and with staff in hand, and a clerk with record book in tow?

Well to the cockfight, of course! The gayera was a strong element of Chamorro colonial times under Spain.

A visitor to Guam in 1849 says this about the cockfight as he saw it. It is written in a style of English sometimes strange to our eyes or ears, so I have explanatory comments in parentheses and in italics :

"Between the government house (the palace or palåsyo) and the calaboose (prison), which stood directly opposite it, was a small grass plot (it must have been what we now call the Plaza de España), toward which we saw several parties of Spaniards as well as seamen, directing their steps, and we retraced ours. There we found active preparations going on for a cock-fight, some four or five cocks being already there, a small cord being tied to the leg of each, and at the other end a small peg which was driven in the ground, beside each cock stood its owner, descanting (speaking at length) upon its merits, and waiting for bets, previous to heeling (attaching blades to the heel) and matching them.

Within a few yards of the last, another group were seated gambling for money, at a game peculiarly their own, and they too, within one hundred yards of the church, and the sound of the little bell before the altar, which we distinctly heard.

Nearly every individual then was laboring under a severe attack of the influenza, which was raging fearfully and fatally upon the island; but neither death nor disease prevented them from practicing this cruel and brutal amusement as it is termed.

At four o'clock the services of the church were concluded, which was announced by the tinkling of the bell, when they immediately uncovered (their heads) and dropped on their knees, remaining in that position until the boxed (I can only assume he was being carried in a litter) priest and his retinue had passed, the game cocks standing proudly erect, as though conscious of their superiority to the degraded beings who knelt around them.

The procession having turned an angle of the government mansion, they sprang from their knees, adjusted their hats and proceeded to cock-fighting with as much nonchalance as a Broadway exquisite would sip his julep."


1. Cockfights were always held on Sundays after morning Mass. The church service the writer talks about having ended around 4PM was not Mass; it was Vespers and Benediction, always held in those days (in bigger churches) on Sunday afternoons. Mass in those days was always celebrated quite early; 4AM or 5AM. On Sundays, a second or third Mass was possible but none past 10AM.

2. The Sunday cockfight was THE social event of the Sunday, after church. People came out in large numbers. At times even the village priest attended the cockfight and sometimes even, if the writer was telling the truth, entered his own rooster in the contest! All this in opposition to church rules.

3. Chamorros in those Spanish times played different games of chance now forgotten, except for Tres Siette, remembered by a few. But other games were called paiket, tangga and panggengge. Games could involve cards, dice and other things.

4. The visitor happened to come the very same month a ship from Hawaii brought the flu to Guam, January of 1849, killing 200 people. His ship arrived on January 21 for three days, leaving on the 24th. Had the ship left the following day, the 25th, this visitor would have experienced one of the worst earthquakes the island had felt in a while. The church tower in Hagåtña even fell.

5. The writer speaks of a "boxed priest." Only one thing comes to my mind, to explain this curious phrase. People could be carried about in boxes carried on men's shoulders, called a litter or palanquin.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019



The Japanese bombed Sumay and other targets on Guam on December 8, 1941. They continued doing so on December 9.

But the Japanese didn't land on Guam till the early morning hours of December 10.

An invasion force landed at Apotguan (what most people today call the Alupang side of Tamuning, or Dungca's Beach) and then marched west to Hagåtña, following what is now Marine Corps Drive. When they got to Hagåtña, they were met with the small and futile defense of the Chamorro Insular Force Guard in the Plaza de España, and a few American Navy men.

The Japanese victory was swift, but not without bloodshed and loss of life. At least seven men, Chamorro and stateside, died that day at the Plaza de España. Others perished at other island locations.

One of them was Ángel León Guerrero Flores, a married man aged 31 years or so, with five young children.

A story, which has been disputed by some who were at the Plaza that day, says that Flores was ordered by the Japanese to lower the American flag in front of Government House, the residence of the American Governor. Despite repeated orders shouted menacingly at him, Flores refused to lower it. A Japanese swung at his head with a sword but another Japanese did the job by pushing his bayonet into Flores. Other versions of the story say that he was killed a day or two later. To this day, no one knows where the Japanese buried his body, nor the bodies of some others killed in the Japanese invasion.

In 1978, the US Navy and the local government commended Flores posthumously, and others, for his conduct as a Prisoner of War under the Japanese.

Whether the flag story happened or not, what can be said with more certainty is that Flores remained at the Plaza, facing the threat of superior invading Japanese forces, at the risk of his life, which he eventually did lose.

A street in Sinajaña. where his widow and children resided after the war, is named after him.

Friday, December 6, 2019



There are three main clans of Lizamas in Saipan, known by their nicknames :

Pilåkku'. Batittang. Pina'lek.


These are the earliest Lizamas to move from Guam to Saipan. Around 1893 or 1894, Vicente Cruz Lizama, from Hagåtña, Guam, and his wife Rosa Taisague Cabrera, also from Hagåtña, moved to Saipan. A son Antonio had already been born on Guam but Vicente and Rosa had many other children born on Saipan. These children in turn had many offspring and the Pilåkku' clan was well-established.

Vicente had a brother Antonio who also moved to Saipan but it seems he and his wife did not have children. Another brother of theirs, José, died in Saipan in 1895, apparently a bachelor.

Vicente was the son of Juan Mendiola Lizama, born around 1838 in Hagåtña (his father was Mariano and his mother was Margarita) and his wife Margarita Demapan Cruz, born around 1846 in Hagåtña, the daughter of Casimiro and Josefa.


This clan of Lizamas in Saipan was founded by Joaquín San Nicolás Lizama, pictured above. Joaquín was born in Guam, the son of José Lizama and María San Nicolás. At some point he moved to Saipan, where he got married in 1903 to Carmen Mendiola Mendiola, of the Damoa clan, which had both Guam and Luta (Rota) origins.

Joaquín and Carmen had almost a dozen children, so the Batittang clan spread.

I knew one of Joaquín's daughters who told me how her father was a kapitan in the sendålon Alemán (a captain among the German soldiers). What she meant was her father was one of the local men recruited by the Germans to be police officers in Saipan. 

A note on a photo of Joaquín said that, when the Japanese were coming to take Saipan away from Germany in 1914, he was eager to fight the Japanese. He was loyal to Germany.

Joaquín also had two boats which he used for trade and fishing. His daughter said, "Ti in tingo' tenda," "We didn't know anything about stores, because my father always bought or traded things with the other boats."


The Pina'lek Lizama were the last of the three main clans to move to Saipan from Guam, making the move around 1915 or so.

Two brothers, Luís de León Lizama and Juan de León Lizama, moved to Saipan. They were the sons of Mariano Lizama and Rosa Palomo de León. By 1902 both parents were deceased when some of the children were still young (under 20 years). They were already called the Pina'lek clan in Guam, and not all of them moved to Saipan. Luís and Juan had siblings who remained on Guam.

Luís married a Naputi and Juan married a Crisóstomo, and their descendants continued the clan in Saipan.

Luís was an artillery man in the local insular force under the Americans in Guam in the early 1900s before he moved to Saipan.

The clan's nickname, Pina'lek, means "heartburn" in Chamorro. Why the clan is named that is something I have found no conclusive reasons for.

Juan de León Lizama @ Pina'lek
Signature in 1911


There was one other Lizama who moved from Guam and to Saipan, and she was actually there before the others.

Lucía Fausto Lizama, probably born in Guam and the daughter of Javier (also called Gabriel) and María was already in Saipan in the 1870s bearing children although she was not married. In time, she married the biological father of these children, José Acosta Arriola, and the children all became Arriolas.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


The witness mentioned five people, but no last names!

As most of you know, nearly every Chamorro family has a nickname; a "better-known-as."

On an island where there was a José Cruz, Manuel Flores and Ana Dueñas around every corner, such nicknames were very helpful in specifying who you meant.

It seems that it was such a prevalent thing in the old days that, many times, people sometimes didn't even know the actual last names of the people they were talking about!

Take, for example, this court case in 1906 involving a land dispute.

A witness mentioned the names of five people who might be able to provide information on the case. He didn't use a single last name for any of the five. He called them all by their family, or perhaps, personal nicknames.

Let's see who they were.


This would have been Juan Muña Garrido, whose family was better known as the familian Humåtak. In those days of Spanish influence, J sounded like H as in Juan and José. The Spaniards didn't use a K in their alphabet (except a few times when using Greek words, for example), so they used a hard G to spell Jumatag (Humåtak).


This would have been Juan Concepción Garrido, a relative of Juan Muña Garrido, but whose family was better known as the familian Emmo', after their patriarch Anselmo Camacho Garrido. The -elmo in Anselmo became Emmo'.


I haven't been able to find a family better known as Ama, so it could be that this is Vicente's wife's nickname or his mother's nickname. Sometimes people were identified by their spouse's first name. Like José married to Ana would be called Josen Ana, and Ana would be called Anan José. Or, there could have been another explanation for Ama, but we don't know what it is.


There are families better known as familian Chåda', mostly with the last name Cruz.


Quico is the Spanish spelling of Kiko', since there is no K in Spanish. Kiko' is the nickname for Francisco. There are several families better known as familian Kostat, so it's hard to say which one. Kostat is the Chamorro word for bag.

So when this witness mentioned all five of these people by their nicknames only, I wonder if the Chamorros in the court room (the judge, clerks, advocates) nodded their heads, saying to themselves, "Yes, we know who they are."


The witness was asked to identify someone, and his answer was,

"Tio Joaquín, Bådo, ti hu tungo' i apeyidu-ña."

"Uncle Joaquín, Bådo', I don't know his last name."

Imagine! It's his "uncle"; he knows his personal name and his nickname. But not his last name.

That's how it was for a lot of people in the old days. Last names were sometimes not known, even of the people you personally knew.


Besides being known by your family or clan nickname, people were also known by their spouse's first name.

José and Ana, who are married, were known as José'n Ana and Ana'n José.

It often happened that you were ONLY known by your spouse's name by many people.

Here is a dialogue between a lawyer and a witness in 1910 :

~ Do you know her grandmother?
~ Yes.
~ What is her name?
~ Manuela'n Vicente.

How's that for identification? Manuela isn't known by her last name, but by her husband's name Vicente.