Tuesday, April 27, 2021



Guam was so devoutly Catholic in the 1800s that a political prisoner may have been liberated from captivity partly on account of it.

In 1872, there was an uprising against the Spaniards in Cavite in the Philippines which was quickly squashed. But many were arrested, even executed, while others were banished to the Marianas. One of these was Antonio María Regidor, a Spaniard by race but born in the Philippines and a supporter of Philippine causes and eventually of Philippine independence.

The escape of Regidor and one other from imprisonment on Guam is a long, convoluted story that leaves as many questions as it does answers. But one writer thinks that the escape to a waiting ship in Apra Harbor to take them away was made easier by the ringing of the Angelus bell.

In the old days, when you heard the Angelus bell at 6AM, 12 noon and 6PM, you dropped whatever you were doing and said the Angelus. The writer's suggestion is that while guards and officials were standing attentively in prayer for the Angelus, Regidor, or the ship he was on, was quietly slipping out of Spanish hands.

Regidor, disguised as a priest, made it to the ship in the early morning hours and sailed away, finding his freedom from Spanish prison. He was eventually pardoned.

The Angelus story conflicts with official records and other evidence still housed in the Philippine National Archives about Regidor's escape. It seems Regidor and his companion escaped from their cells by 4AM, long before the Angelus. The ship he managed to get on, which was American, sailed out of Apra between 10 and 11AM, long before the noon Angelus.

So much for the Angelus explanation. But it does make for a colorful anecdote and, even if the anecdote is not true at all, it does point to a general truth of which we can be certain, that the Angelus bell did stop normal activities three times a day for a minute or two in the old days.

In Catholic Ireland, national TV plays the Angelus bell!

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Guam era un lugar tan devotamente católico en el siglo XIX que un prisionero político pudo haber escapado del cautiverio en parte gracias a eso.

En 1872, hubo un levantamiento contra los españoles en Cavite, Filipinas, que fue rápidamente sofocado. Pero muchos fueron arrestados, incluso ejecutados, mientras que otros fueron desterrados a las Marianas. Uno de ellos fue Antonio Regidor, de sangre española pero nacido en Filipinas y partidario de las causas filipinas y eventualmente de la independencia filipina.

La fuga de Antonio Regidor y otros, del encarcelamiento en Guam, es una historia larga y compleja que deja muchos interrogantes. Pero alguien escribió que la fuga a un barco que los esperaba en el puerto de Apra se hizo más sencilla gracias al sonido de la campana del Ángelus.

Antiguamente, cuando se escuchaba la campana del Ángelus a las 6 de la mañana, a las 12 del mediodía y a las 6 de la tarde, se dejaba lo que se estaba haciendo y se rezaba. La sugerencia del escritor es que mientras los guardias y oficiales estaban parados atentos en oración por el Ángelus, Antonio Regidor se escapaba en barco silenciosamente de las manos de los españoles.

Antonio Regidor, disfrazado de sacerdote, llegó al barco en las primeras horas de la mañana y zarpó, encontrando su libertad de la prisión. Finalmente fue indultado.

La historia del Ángelus entra en conflicto con los registros oficiales y otras pruebas que aún se encuentran en los Archivos Nacionales de Filipinas sobre la fuga de Antonio Regidor. Parece que Regidor y su compañero escaparon de sus celdas a las 4 de la mañana, mucho antes del Ángelus. El barco en el que logró subir, que era estadounidense, zarpó de Apra entre las 10 y las 11 de la mañana, mucho antes del mediodía del Ángelus.

Hasta aquí la explicación del Ángelus. Es una anécdota colorida e, incluso si la anécdota no es cierta, sí apunta a una verdad general de la que podemos estar seguros, que en Guam durante aquellos tiempos, la campana del Ángelus detenía las actividades normales de la gente tres veces al día durante un minuto o dos.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021



One of the noble traits of the traditional culture of the past, still practiced by many, is the great care we had for each other, especially in the family.

No grandmother needed to be put in a senior home, nor care givers hired for her, because the family members themselves took care of her.

No grandchild needed to be sent to a daycare, since grandma or grand aunt was home all day to care for the children.

This care for family members extended beyond death. With most being Catholic, most Chamorro families pray for their dead, believing that our prayers help the souls of our departed while being cleansed in Purgatory.

Just as we pray a novena (a period of nine days, from the Latin word novem meaning the number "nine") to celebrate a saint's feast and ask for blessings from heaven, we also pray a novena of rosaries for the deceased. But not just one; traditionally there were two sets of rosaries to be prayed for the dead.


The first set of rosaries is when the general public comes and prays. It is called the LISÅYON LINAHYAN, meaning, the Rosary of the Assembly. Linahyan can mean "crowd, multitude, congregation, assembly." Everyone and anyone can come and join this rosary.

RIGHT AWAY. It begins, in most cases, on the day of death. If the person dies way past sunset, it will begin the following day. Not only was the rosary begun as soon as possible, burial also happened quickly in the old days. Before the war, there was no place to hold the body in cold storage, so burial had to happen quickly, usually within 24 hours.

NOON AND EVENING. In the old days, two rosaries were prayed during these first nine days. The first was at noon. Anyone could attend it, but typically most people waited till the second rosary, which was prayed at night, often at 8PM in the old days. So the noon rosary was a smaller affair, involving mainly the family members and older friends of the deceased who didn't have work or farm obligations.

PRIVATE HOME. The rosary was prayed at a private residence, typically the home where the deceased lived. Sometimes the rosary was held in another home, but within the family, when, for example, the deceased's house was not suitable to hold a rosary either because of problems with the house, or lack of outdoor space for the crowds or remoteness of location.

Because of the large numbers of people, most attendees sat outside, and a tent or canopy was sometimes opened over them. Long before we had folding chairs, wooden benches were more available in the old days and many times people just stood.

REFRESHMENTS. Unlike modern times when full meals were often served every night, in the prewar days refreshments were simple. It was often as simple as one kind of breadstuff (broas, buñuelos, roskete) but there was always mamå'un passed around (pugua', pupulu, åfok, amåska or betel nut, pepper leaf, lime chalk and chewing tobacco). Pastries were touch and go but mamå'un was always offered.

FINAKPO'. The end of the nine nights of public rosary was celebrated with a big meal. Before the war, this is when the pig was slaughtered, or even a cow depending on the family.


But a second set of nine nights of rosary was prayed for the deceased immediately after the first nine nights. But, this time, it was only for the "immediate" family, "immediate" in the Chamorro sense, not American sense. The "immediate" family in our own culture means siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, in-laws. That could be 50 people right there.

This second set of rosaries was called the LISÅYON GUMA' or LISÅYON HALOM GUMA'. This means the House Rosary or Rosary Inside the House, making a distinction between the rosary to which the LINAHYAN (Multitude) was invited and the rosary to which only those inside the home (Halom Guma') came.

It couldn't be called the Lisåyon Familia (Family Rosary) because, in Chamorro mentality, "family" means anyone even distantly related. Now we're back to 400 people at the rosary.

Halom Guma' showed that this rosary was meant for family members more closely linked to the deceased, the ones living in the same home as the deceased. But, a sibling or close cousin living in another home wasn't excluded, either.


Rosary for the dead is not disappearing, but it certainly is changing and in some cases is disappearing.

The second set of rosaries, the Lisåyon Guma', is definitely not practiced by a growing number of families. The first nine nights was enough for them, they feel.

The noon rosary has also fallen into disuse in many families.

The majority of families now have the rosary at church, rather than their homes. This lightens the burden for the family in some ways, but it involves an additional cost (paying the church for power usage) and it passes on some difficulties to the parish (tying up use of the church, wear and tear of the building, trash issues).

Since most families use the church and have the deceased remembered at the Mass right before or after the rosary, some families decided to skip the rosary altogether and just have a "rosary" of Masses, that is, nine nights of Masses for the deceased.

Another big change is language. It's getting harder to find a techa (prayer leader) to lead in Chamorro, and many families don't want it in Chamorro anymore.

In the 1970s and 80s, even the poorest of families tried their best to put on a good meal for nine nights. Today, even the wealthiest of families skip refreshments altogether, without even water or iced tea.

There are many factors involved in these changes. Some people say they have too many rosaries to go to. Some nights, one family has to vacate the church immediately so that another family can start theirs. Some pastors try to get two families to have one rosary for both deceased. They usually are not successful in convincing them. Families are getting smaller over the years, and the burden of feeding 200 people every night falls on fewer family members now, compared to the bigger families of the past. And there are more reasons why our rosaries for the dead are not what they used to be in many cases.

I predict we will see more of these changes in the years to come, till only a small number of more traditionally-rooted families practice most of the old customs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Manuel, age 16, was at the kitchen sink when he casually asked his grandmother :

Manuel : Nåna, håfa "sponge" gi fino' Chamorro?
Manuel : Grandma, what is "sponge" in Chamorro?

Nåna : Espongha.
Nåna : Espongha.

Manuel : Ti "saosao mañopchop?"
Manuel : It isn't "sucking wipes?"

Nåna threw her slipper at Manuel.

But to use Manuel's remark as a learning tool, let's look closer.

ESPONGHA is borrowed from Spanish, where the word for "sponge" is ESPONJA.



The first sponges were from the sea. People figured out that these marine animals (yes, animals - not plants) were absorbent and could be used to apply oils or perfume on human skin. From there, the human imagination put the marine sponge to many other uses. Famously, a Roman soldier dipped a sponge in vinegar and lifted it up for Jesus to drink while He was hanging on the cross.

Obviously our ancestors, being so at home in the ocean, knew about marine sponges. Whether they used them for anything, or whether there was a word for them, I don't know. But in the last 100 years or more, our people just call sea sponges espongha, and there isn't any regular use of them.

In time, people were able to make sponges from different material and, when these were first sold in the Marianas, our people called them espongha.


But espongha can also be used to mean "to puff up, to be fluffy." Even in Spanish that can be a meaning. And, common sense will tell you the reason just by looking at a fluffy cake like the SPONGE CAKE.

No one calls sponge cake kek espongha in Chamorro, but one could call it that.

What our mañaina (elders) did say, as evidenced in older dictionaries, is na' espongha when they wanted someone to fluff up something like, let's say, a cake or bread.


Manuel's invented phrase saosao mañopchop is not without logic.

Saosao means "to wipe" or the wipe itself.

Mañopchop comes from chopchop, which means "to suck."

To suck means to absorb, to take into. The guy in the picture is sucking on a straw and is taking in the drink. He is absorbing the drink through the straw he is sucking on.

A sponge absorbs the liquid it is wiping up.

So one could say saosao mañopchop, but nobody does. Only Manuel thought that one up. And grandma's slipper put a quick end to it.


Many readers ask me to always put an audio clip so they will learn how to say the word. Here it is :

Monday, April 5, 2021


We all know it as Camel Rock.

It only looks (vaguely) like a camel if you look at it from a certain angle. Otherwise, it just looks like a flat rock, with jagged edges. lying on the reef.

It was only called Camel Rock during American times. Our own people call it GA'PAN and sometimes GA'PANG. Some might call it Åcho' Ga'pan (Ga'pan Rock) and others might call it Isletan Ga'pan (Ga'pan Islet, or very small island).

Since the name  "Camel Rock" has become so common, there might be people who want to call it Åcho' Kameyo which is "Camel Rock" in Chamorro, but Ga'pan is the actual Chamorro name.

I wasn't sure about the accurate pronunciation of Ga'pan till recently. The maps and documents just spell it Gapan and sometimes Gapang, but is there a glota in the way it is pronounced but just doesn't show in the old spelling? Is one A really an Å, which sounds different, like the two vowels in HÅGAT? Since the maps don't indicate any of these, the best thing is to hear the name pronounced by older residents of the area.  It took me some time, but I found someone very active in the community, who knows fishermen who know the area, and he's always heard the fishermen and man åmko' (elders) say Ga'pan, with the glota and the two As being the same kind of A that sounds like the A in "cat" and not like the A in "far."

OLD MAPS (1819 and 1900) SHOWING GA'PAN

When was the last time you say a camel on Guam? We don't have them. So this American writer in 1959 wondered how Chamorros came up with the idea to name the rock after an animal they had never seen.

The writer assumes too much. First, she assumes the Chamorro people named it Camel Rock. They didn't. They already had a name for it - Ga'pan.

Second, she assumes Chamorros never saw camels.

We have no camels in the Marianas, but many Chamorros in the old days would have had some idea about them and how they looked because camels are often featured among the different statues in the belén or nativity scene. Not every Chamorro family had belén in their homes in the old days, but even those who didn't have them would have seen camel statues in those families that did have them or even in pictures. At the very least, a priest could have explained what a camel was, since camels are part of the Christmas story, especially with the Three Kings which Chamorros celebrated joyfully.

Still, our people did not call it Camel Rock, nor did they think of camels when they looked at the rock. It was always Ga'pan or Ga'pang. Calling it Camel Rock was an American idea.


If you wanted to know how the rock got there in the first place, I would reply by asking "Which legend do you want to hear?"

There is more than one legend, and they differ a lot but also contain a few details common to all versions of the story.

Let me start with the oldest one I have found so far.

FROM 1927

I'll summarize the legend as published in the Guam Recorder in 1927. No author and no source is stated. 

The people of Hagåtña were tired of being raided or invaded by warriors of other villages, who would attack Hagåtña sailing their canoes through the opening in the Hagåtña reef.

Maps as old as 1819 and during the war show the break in the reef in front of Hagåtña. Today, thanks to dredging by man and machine, the channel has been deepened and widened.


So the chiefly class of Hagåtña decided that everybody, young and old, would solve the problem by collecting rocks and dumping them at the break in the reef to seal it up. Enemy canoes would no longer be able to come in, so they thought.

The problem was the rocks they collected and dumped were small, so when the tide changed, the rocks were washed out to sea. The break in the channel remained open.

Obviously they realized they needed a bigger rock, one big enough that the flow of water when the tide changed couldn't move. But they didn't know of any rock big enough in the Hagåtña area. But the maga'låhe (chief) of Orote was a friend of the maga'låhe of Hagåtña and said they could find one in Orote. So, off some men of Hagåtña went in their canoes to Orote, where they found a nice big rock and loaded it onto one of their canoes and headed back to Hagåtña.

Now the problem was Asan. The people of Asan had a grudge against the people of Hagåtña who raided their village from time to time. When the maga'låhe and people of Asan saw the Hagåtña canoes passing by and one loaded with a huge rock, they knew what it was for and that it would prevent them from attacking Hagåtña by sea. The time to act was now. So the Asan warriors got in their canoes and attacked the Hagåtña canoes, whose men hadn't planned to fight when they made their voyage to Orote. Lacking the proper weapons for battle, the Hagåtña men easily succumbed to the Asan attack.

The Asan warriors decided to break up the Hagåtña canoe just enough so that the big rock it was carrying would submerge it. And so it happened, and all that was left on the reef outside Asan Point was the rock from Orote the men of Hagåtña intended to bring to their village.


Justo Quitugua Chargualaf was a life-long Asan resident, who was interviewed in 1961 at the age of 86 years. That means he could have heard the legend of Ga'pan as a child in the 1880s, which would predate the 1927 Guam Recorder article. But, since we don't know how old Justo was when he heard the story about Ga'pan, I'll have to place him after the Guam Recorder story to be safe.

In his version, it was the people of Piti and Hagåtña who were at odds. In Spanish times, the people of Piti actually lived in Tepungan, a little closer to Asan. It was a taotaomo'na of Piti (or Tepungan) who decided to block the Hagåtña channel with a big rock so he got one from Apapa' or Cabras Island. He did it at night, as taotaomo'na generally are not active during the day. But, before he could reach Hagåtña with the big rock, the sun started to rise so he threw the rock down on the reef outside Asan Point.


In another version, seen in print more recently, two boys, only four years old, from the Aguada clan, were sent to get the rock from Orote for the same purpose, of sealing the Hagåtña channel to prevent enemy attack. The detail that the two boys were only four years old means that Chamorros were so strong back then that even two children that young could fetch a huge rock. Their clan had a rule never to be out past a certain time at night. So, on their way back to Hagåtña, they saw a twinkling star which they mistakenly believed meant that the sun was soon to rise and they would break their curfew. So they dropped the huge rock on the reef at Asan Point to hurry back home in time.

On account of them being tricked by the twinkling star, the story is sometimes called Dinagi Laolao, which means "The Lie of Quivering," meaning the quivering or twinkling star.


In yet another version, the two men who fetched the rock were sons of Chief Gådao of Inalåhan. He sent them for the same mission, to seal up Hagåtña's opening in the reef. He told them to get the job done and return home before sunrise. They saw the twinkling star and, fearing sunrise, ditched the rock on the reef at Asan Point and beat a hasty return to Inalåhan.

There are a few more versions, some of them even giving the names of the two boys, or the name of their father. 

But, as you can see, the versions are wildly different in many ways, but let's see how all versions say the same thing in some respects.


1. The mission was to seal up the break in the reef at Hagåtña.

2. That would be accomplished by taking a big rock from somewhere else to Hagåtña to put in the break and seal it up.

3. The mission was not successful and the rock was dropped on the reef outside Asan Point.

Because the job was not accomplished, some people say that ga'pan means "unfinished work," but I cannot substantiate that from older dictionaries. The word doesn't appear even in the 1865 Chamorro dictionary.

So these three points are the heart of the story that appear in all the versions. But then the different versions of the legend add to the skeleton of the story in the different ways you see here. Who knows what newspaper article or book of legends in the future will add even more new elements to the story. And of course there may be old versions of the legend not passed down to us, or hidden somewhere on a piece of paper at MARC.

Ga'pan is a better name for this rock because it doesn't always look like a camel, but it always looks like a Ga'pan to me.