Tuesday, January 31, 2023



Francisco Baza León Guerrero was a fighter.

He fought for American citizenship and for democracy for Guam's people, where the people would one day vote for a representative form of government and not be ruled by Naval Governors who were the entire government rolled into one man.

A little-known story shows how León Guerrero wasn't a doormat even in his younger days.

León Guerrero, who was a chicken farmer in his youth, helping to support his widowed mother, got a job working at the US Agricultural Experiment Station in Piti. As such, León Guerrero was an employee of the US Department of Agriculture, and not of the US Navy.

In 1926, while León Guerrero was working at the Piti Station as a specialist in poultry raising, the Naval Governor, Captain Henry B. Price, walked into the Station looking for long-time Station employee Peter Nelson. All but one of the employees stood up to greet the Governor. After Price had asked his questions and gotten answers, Price turned around as if to leave, so León Guerrero and his coworker Joaquín Guerrero sat back down again.

Then, Price turned back again and commanded León Guerrero to stand once more. This León Guerrero refused to do, taking Price's command as intending to humiliate León Guerrero, who said Price already had ill feelings for him, for reasons he did not state.


León Guerrero was charged in court with "Wanton Disrespect to the Governor."

Price's version of the event was that he met León Guerrero at the Station and asked for Nelson. León Guerrero told the Governor where Nelson was, but made no attempt to inform Nelson that the Governor was at the Station looking for him. Instead, León Guerrero sat down, tilting the swivel chair as far back as it could go, raising his arms and clasping his hands behind his head, looking at the Governor in what Price interpreted as a disrespectful stance.

Price told León Guerrero, "You are disrespectful." León Guerrero retorted that he was not. Price then ordered León Guerrero to stand up. He remained seated and Price was done waiting for him to stand, so Price left.

Guam's court found León Guerrero guilty as charged.


In an appeal made to a trio of appellate judges made up of a Navy officer, a Marine officer and a Chamorro judge (José Roberto), León Guerrero argued that he could not be guilty of breaking what was not a law. There was no law obliging him to rise when ordered by the Governor to do so.

Furthermore, León Guerrero could not be accused of insubordination to his superior because León Guerrero did not work for Price. He worked for the US Department of Agriculture, and not for the US Navy whose highest officer on Guam was Price.

Unsurprisingly, this court denied León Guerrero's appeal.

Still, León Guerrero did not lose his job at the Agricultural Station.

Friday, January 27, 2023



On January 10, 1942, the Japanese shipped off to Prisoner of War camps in Japan all the Americans they found on Guam after they invaded the island on December 10, 1941. Around 500 people, military and civilian.

Except for TWO people.

These two Americans stayed on Guam for the entire Japanese Occupation. They were never sent, like the other Americans, to prisoner of war camps in Japan.

Who were they? And why were they exempted?

They were LOUIS FURTADO and MARY MAGDALENE CRUZ, and they had two things in common. First, they were born in Hawaii. Second, they were both of Portuguese ancestry.

Why should those two things matter?

First, Furtado claimed that the Japanese told him that he would not be imprisoned because the Japanese considered Hawaii "conquered territory." Sure, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, but they never conquered Hawaii. Who knows why they would have said so.

Second, both Furtado and Cruz, whose maiden name was Vinhaça (sometimes spelled Vinhasa), were of Portuguese ancestry. Portugal was neutral in World War II, neither an enemy nor an ally of Japan. Still, Furtado and Cruz were both born in Hawaii and had American citizenship, even though their families had come over from Portugal. So it remains a mystery why the Japanese would have let these two go free, while all other Americans were shipped off to Japan.


Meeting again in Hawaii in 1946

Furtado, a married man with children, was sent to Guam in 1941 to work for the US Navy. When the Japanese bombed Guam on December 8, 1941, Furtado was asked by Governor McMillin to supervise the destruction of fuel on Cabras Island so as not to fall into enemy hands. He then fled into the jungle trying to avoid the Japanese. But he finally turned himself in when the island was firmly in Japanese hands. When they found out he was from Hawaii, the Japanese demanded he tell them what he knew about Pearl Harbor and American defenses in Hawaii. When he refused to, they beat him up.

He was told by the Japanese that they'd let him stay on Guam, but they kept an eye on him and punished him now and then for singing God Bless America, teaching Chamorro children to sing it and for other minor infractions. He also kept a radio, illegal under the Japanese, but got away with it till the very end. Generally, he was left unmolested, and he tried to be invisible as much as he could, farming on borrowed land. He is also credited for composing the Uncle Sam song, along with Pedro "Seboyas" Rosario.

He was ordered by the Japanese to work on the defense projects of the Japanese. He hated the idea. First, he did not want to aid the Japanese war effort. Second, he had heard that the Japanese had killed entire work crews after the job was done. So he had someone pour boiling water on him so he could claim injury and be unfit to work. He was supposed to scald only his hand, but the water scalded much of his upper body, leaving scars. He was hospitalized for ten days.

When he was caught with the radio, he fled into the jungle. That was hard on him, due to the lack of food. Luckily this was right before the American return and he finally met up with some Marines and he was brought inside American lines.

Word was sent to his wife and children, father and siblings that he had made it through the Japanese Occupation with his life intact. In due time he returned to Hawaii, and lived to the ripe old age of 96, dying in 2002 in Hawaii. Too bad I didn't know about him back then. Imagine the stories I could've heard from him.


The next Hawaii-born person left alone by the Japanese on Guam lead a quieter life than Furtado's, being the wife of Antonio Ignacio Cruz, familian Fånggo, a school teacher in Piti in 1940.

Mary Magdalene Vinhaça (sometimes spelled Vinhasa) was born in Kona, Hawaii. Her parents were of Portuguese background. 

Antonio Cruz was a teacher and somehow was in Hawaii in the late 1920s. He and Mary met and got married. Their oldest child was born in Hawaii, but they soon moved to Guam, where the rest of the children were born.

Antonio died in 1970 and Mary lived the remainder of her life in Hawaii. All of her children also moved away from Guam. Mary died in 1980 in Hawaii.

May they rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023



There is disagreement going on right now about renaming Upi Elementary School.

Some want to rename it after the late master ifit carver Robert S. Taitano, who, besides his significance as a cultural arts practitioner, didn't live far from the school.

But others, especially those connected to the school, want to keep the current name of the school.

Having no connection whatsoever to the school, it is not my purpose to weigh in on the matter. But I do want to clarify some statements made by some people that need it. As I didn't hear these people make these statements, and am relying on media quotes, one has to ask if they were quoted accurately.

Nonetheless, someone is reported to have said that Upi is "simply a street name that stands for Northwest Field." This is not accurate. Long before there was a small Upi Street in Yigo (not even where Upi Elementary School is), there was a district of northeastern Guam called Upi. And Upi is not in the northwest of Guam but in the northeast, nowhere near Northwest Field.

This map based on a 1902 Guam map shows the traditional location of the area called Upi. It is exactly where Andersen Air Force Base sits today.

Thus, the second alleged statement by another individual, that "Upi was actually named after a cluster of homes in the Tarague area" is also in need of clarification. Upi is an area just south of Tarague, but it is its own area, distinct from Tarague. 


FROM 1989

Many people associated with Upi Elementary School today want to keep the name as is, but how interesting to find out that, in 1989, the people associated with the school back then actually opposed the name Upi Elementary School.

Prior to 1989, it was Andersen Elementary School. Then the Guam Board of Education voted to change the name to Upi Elementary School. Over 600 people connected to the school opposed it, signing their names to a petition. They preferred the school be called Mount Santa Rosa Elementary School.

Late 1960s

Those opposing the name Mount Santa Rosa said that the school was not on Mount Santa Rosa, which is south of the school, though not very far.

Those opposing the name Upi Elementary School did so for a number of reasons. Some said no one knew where Upi was nor even how to pronounce it; some pronouncing it YOO-pee. Others said there was no connection between the school and some place they had never heard of.

As for the fear that Upi would be called YOOPEE by others, let it be a lesson. While it is good to anticipate possible problems, they all don't actually become problems. Almost everyone today pronounces Upi the right way, as far as I know.

The question is : is Upi Elementary School in Upi?


As seen in the 1902 map, Upi is way at the northeast corner of Guam. Looking at the areas near it, one sees that Late Point is adjacent to Upi. It is definitely north of Anao Point. Upi, properly speaking, is exactly where the air fields of Andersen Air Force Base are.

Upi Elementary School is located well south of that. The school is adjacent to Anao Point.

So Upi Elementary School sits in between Upi and another area called Lupog, just north of Mount Santa Rosa. 

So a better case might be made that Upi Elementary School resides in Lupog, as the map indicates that the school is much closer to Lupog than it is to the air fields of Andersen Air Force Base, which is definitely Upi.


Who says a building or institution has to sit in the geographical location it is named for?

After all, there are many bakeries called Paris Bakery, and grocery stores called Manila Food Store, that are neither in Paris nor in Manila.

Buildings and institutions can be named after places, people and events that mean something to those who use the building or are part of the institution.

And, in the end perhaps, it is they, the users and participants, who ought to decide, since it is they who will have to live each day under that name.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023



One rarely hears of witches in Chamorro folklore. It's all about taotaomo'na on Guam; birak in the Northern Marianas.

But, in the old days, Chamorros also feared witches, the BRUHA.

Bruha is borrowed from the Spanish word bruja, which means "witch."

FROM 1907

In 1907, an American lady living on Guam wrote about the bruha as she learned about it from Chamorro friends.

Unlike the taotaomo'na, the bruha was never seen.

But she was still able to do much harm.

She was not seen, but could be heard.

One night, a man was eating dinner all by himself when he heard "click, click, click." He knew that sound was from the bruha.

He told the bruha, "Come eat with me. I'm not afraid of you."

All of a sudden, the candle on the table where he was eating blew out. Dishes leapt from the table and smashed against the wall or the floor. The man himself was attacked by an unseen force and his face was covered in blood and his torn hair was all over the room.

The man was only able to chase away the invisible bruha by repeating, "Jesús, María, José." "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."

Tuesday, January 3, 2023




The I'e' fish became a Tarakito fish

This is a saying applied when a story starts when one person tells it to another person, but by the time the story reaches the 20th person, the story has grown way bigger than it really is.

The i'e' is a small fish. It's actually the name for a kind of fish when it is still in its baby stage.

When the i'e' matures and grows, it is then called tarakito.

So let's say Juan tells Manuel that he was bit by a dog.

Manuel tells Francisco and Francisco tells Lorenzo that Juan was bit by two dogs.

Lorenzo tells Ramón that Juan and his wife were bit by a pack of dogs.

Ramón tells Pedro that Juan and his wife were bit by a pack of dogs when Juan and his wife were picking mangoes from Antonio's tree without permission.

You get the idea.

The tiny fish became a big fish.

It could also be applied, I believe, to embellish a story. After all, who would be impressed if you caught a small fish? But if you single-handedly caught a marlon as big as yourself, people saw "Wow."

I i'e' humuyong tarakito.