Thursday, February 27, 2020


This is a dinga' chålan.

In English we call it a "fork in the road."

You know it's a dinga' chålan when you have no choice but to turn either left or right.

That's why, in English, the expression "we have come to a fork in the road" means we have to make a decision, a choice.

DINGA' means "twin" or "pair."

CHÅLAN means "road," "street," "path" or "way."

So a dinga' chålan is when one road has twins, so to speak. It breaks off into two separate paths. It becomes a pair of roads.

If you told an older person about a "tenedot gi chalan," a "fork in the road," they wouldn't know what you're talking about. Language is more than just words. Language is also a way of thinking, imagining and feeling.

"Fork in the road" focuses on the break occurring in the one road. That's why it's "in the road." One road.

Dinga' chålan focuses on the two new roads, like twins sprung from the same original road.

No right or wrong; just two different ways of looking at the same thing. This mentality is shown in language.

Monday, February 24, 2020


In Chamorro culture, when two men share the same first name, they are called KÅYO.

Two Josés, two Juans, two each other they are kåyo.

If two Josés work in the same office or business, you could ask one José about the other José and ask, "Mångge i kayu-mo?" "Where is your namesake?"

The same would apply about two Josés no matter what the context, as long as the two Josés knew each other so that the one José would know who you were talking about.


The word, and probably the concept, is borrowed from Hispanic culture.

In Spanish, TOCAYO is someone who shares your personal name.

There is no clear origin of this word, some even suggesting it comes from Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs in Mexico.

Evidently, our Chamorro ancestors borrowed the term and shortened it to KÅYO.

The belief that kåyo comes from Spanish tocayo is also based on the frequency of repeated first names among Chamorros once they all became Catholic.

Prior to colonization, there were some repeated names among our ancestors, but not as much as after colonization. Once our ancestors became Catholic, duplication of first names abounded; many Marías and many Josés.

In Spanish and in Hispanic cultures, two women who share the same personal name are tocaya. But I don't think this was adopted by our ancestors or, if it was, it didn't last long. One hears of kåyo, never a kåya, and this is always applied to men. I never hear it applied to women.

In Tagalog, tocayo became katukayo. The ka- prefix means "partner" and tukayo means "name" or "nickname."

In modern slang, kåyo has been further shortened to kåts.

Friday, February 21, 2020


It was a quarter past 8 in the morning and as I walked from my car in the parking lot to the front door of the building, I saw him sitting on a bench anxiously looking at his phone, as if expecting a message or a call.

As I got closer, I said to him,

~ Kalan guaha håfa un nanangga.
~ It's as if you are waiting for something.

~ Depotsi para u fan gaige esta i taotao-ho gi a las ocho ya trabia ti man måfåtto.
~ My people were already supposed to be here at 8 and they haven't come yet.

Then he added,

Ma tungo' man haggan.

They know how to be a turtle (haggan).

By that he meant it was in their nature to move slowly like a turtle, especially in the morning.

Tungo' means "to know." Ma means "they." Ma tungo' means "they know."

Man can be a plural marker at times but it can also (along with fan) make things a verb.

Haggan is the noun "turtle," but man haggan means "to be or act like a turtle."

There is another way the turtle is used in a Chamorro expression as a metaphor or symbol for something, but that's another blog post.

Monday, February 17, 2020


Lanchero in the old days had a way to tell the difference between a wild pig and a pig owned by someone. This way, they wouldn't make the mistake of capturing and killing a pig that was running around free but which was, in fact, owned by someone.

When you owned a pig, you cut away parts of the ear or made notches in the ear of the pig. You could do this in different ways on the two ears; perhaps two cuts on one ear and three on the other.

Besides ear cropping or ear notching, you could also mark your pig by cutting the tail a certain way.

Wild pigs, on the other hand, showed no cropping or notches on their ears, nor did they have cut tails. If you came upon a pig like that, you could capture and kill it. It belonged to no one.

In order to avoid being accused of killing someone's pig, Chamorro men often cut off the intact ears of the wild pig to show any accusers that the pig was indeed wild and fair game for anyone.

Despite the fact that raised pigs were far more desirable as food, since the wild pigs lacked fat and thus the meat was less enjoyable, many men still killed wild pigs, cutting off the ear as evidence the pig was wild.

This was not just a Chamorro custom. It was practiced all over the world, and animal rights activists campaign against such practices today.

Friday, February 14, 2020


Language tells more than just literal meaning.

Guma' for house and chålan for road.

Language also gives us clues into the psychology of the people speaking that language.

In English, we say, "What's his problem?" when someone seems upset for no reason, or who is in need of attitude adjustment.

While we can say, and often do say, "Håfa problemå-ña?" in Chamorro, which means "What is his or her problem?" we also hear, and among older people I think even more so, "Håfa chetnot-ña?" which translates "What is his or her disease or illness?"

Here we see that the literal meaning of a physical illness or disease is not usually meant. Negative moods do sometimes come from a physical (or even mental) condition. But generally speaking this is not what is meant when someone asks what disease someone has who is throwing out a negative attitude.

We can psychologize why Chamorros call a bad attitude a disease. And our theories are probably right for some people, some of the time.

Maybe we are saying that a bad attitude hurts the person having it, more than it hurts others, just as any disease would. People with bad attitudes are often avoided, and they isolate themselves from others, bringing them added frustrations in life.

Maybe we are saying that a bad attitude has to be cured, just as we would want to cure any disease.

Maybe we are saying that a bad attitude isn't attractive, pleasing or enjoyable, just as any disease would be considered something unpleasant to dread and to avoid. This is why the opposite of a bad attitude, a good attitude, is called månnge' by Chamorros. Good things are "delicious." They taste good and smell good.

Maybe we are saying that something is not right, something is "broken" in your way of thinking when we ask, "Håfa chetnot-mo?" What is wrong with you? Why are you thinking or feeling that way? That is a broken way of thinking, an inappropriate way to feel. Something is wrong with you, just like a disease means something's not working properly in your body.

This is also why we say in Chamorro that a car with engine trouble also has a chetnot. "Guaha chetnot-ña i karetå-ho." "My car has a problem." There is something not right, something wrong, something broken with it. So chetnot can also mean injury, defect, wound and similar things, besides disease or illness. And just as a car might need fixing, some people's attitudes may also need fixing.

I wonder if other cultures have something similar. Instead of asking, "What is his problem?" they ask "What is his disease?" Or "What is wrong with him?"

No matter the answer, it is a very Chamorro way of thinking and talking, among the older generations.

Monday, February 10, 2020


A branch of the Rivera family on Guam is better known as the familian Kakarote. Or Kakaroti.


According to the older dictionaries, kakarote means "to hop while spinning." Thus it also came to mean "fickle," that is, someone who isn't steady; someone who changes opinions or plans; just like spinning ends up in an unpredictable place. Kakarote also came to mean a "rascal," someone mischievous. Tricky people, like rascals, are unpredictable.


The word sounds like it's borrowed from Spanish, but there is no Spanish word cacarote nor even cacarrote. There are a handful of Spanish words, some of them slang, that come close to cacarote, meaning many different things. Cacarote, or words similar in sound, appear in Galician, a language in northwestern Spain, and in Brazil, where they speak Portuguese but have many of their own words and slang and, in the modern age, there is even a Korean doll called cacarote. So, there's just no way for sure we know how kakarote came into the Chamorro language. The Marianas were under Spain for 230 years, but influences on us came from all over the globe.


The Kakarote seem to be the descendants of Juan Rivera and his wife Rosa Ulloa. This couple would have been born in the mid 1800s as their children were born beginning in the 1870s.

Their sons, who would generally be mainly responsible for carrying on the clan name, were :

Joaquín, who married Antonia Rosario and also Ana Tenorio

Manuel, who married Magdalena Dueñas Borja and also Dolores Dueñas Borja

Ignacio, who married María San Nicolás. This couple had a large number of children.

José, who married Carmen Taitingfong Agualo. This couple also had a large number of children.

@ Kakarote

Wednesday, February 5, 2020



"Bootleg" refers to the illegal manufacture, distribution or selling of alcohol.

In 1907, it was illegal to make or sell liquor without a government license.

Long-time Guam resident Hermogenes Daproza from Santa María in Ilocos Sur in the Philippines either didn't know or didn't care. He never got a government license.

But he maintained a still and made åguayente or agi, a hard liquor. Perhaps he thought he could get away with it because he lived and made his booze in Atantåno', a farming area south of Piti, just before you make the turn to travel towards Hågat or Sumay. Atantåno' wasn't exactly teeming with people, so maybe Daproza felt safe and secure in the peaceful, hidden quiet of his ranch land.

He didn't even sell those six and a half bottles of åguayente to Ana Matanane, the wife of José Pérez de la Cruz. He gave it to her as a gift. She said she needed it as medicine, as she anticipated being confined soon to her bed.

Somehow, the Island Attorney heard about it and sent police to Daproza's ranch, where they confiscated implements used in his bootleg operation. The bottles given to Ana were also confiscated.

Daproza plead guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine. He couldn't keep his still, either. The government said it would sell it at public auction and the income put in the island treasury.

There is humor to the end of the story. The court directed the local hospital to analyze the bootleg to see if it would have caused any harm to someone who drank it.

The analysis showed that Daproza's booze was 45% alcohol. His liquor was on the same level as whiskey. The doctor said it wouldn't do anyone any harm if drunk in moderation.

By the way, the doctor said, there's no need to dump Daproza's bootleg. The hospital could use it as rubbing alcohol.