Friday, March 31, 2023



Si Påle' Faustino i pale' Malesso' gi tiempon Españot ya guaha tanores-ña ni ha repåra na kada primet Bietnes gi mes, tåftaf na makmåta si Påle' Faustino lao ti ha tungo' malak måno si Påle' asta ke måtto tåtte si Påle' para i Misan chatanmak gi a las singko.
(Father Faustino was the priest of Malesso' in Spanish times and he had an altar boy who noticed that, every first Friday of the month, Father Faustino got up early but he didn't know where he went till Father came back to say the dawn Mass at five o'clock.)

Pues i tanores ha faisen si Påle', "Håfa na kada primet Bietnes gi mes humåhånao hao tåftaf para otro na lugåt åntes de un sångan i Misan a las singko?"
(So the altar boy asked Father, "Why do you go very early every first Firday of the month to another place before you say Mass at five o'clock?")

Manoppe si Påle', "Kada primet Bietnes gi mes, mumimisa yo' gi sementeyo åntes de hu sångan i Misan a las singko."
(Father replied, "Every first Friday of the month, I say Mass at the cemetery before I say the five o'clock Mass.")

Manman i tanores sa' guiya ha' na tanores pues håye na tanores guma'chuchunge si Påle' gi kåmpo sånto?
(The altar boy was surprised because he was the only altar boy, so which altar boy was accompanying Father to the graveyard?)

Pues humånao i tanores para i sementeyo gi primet Bietnes gi sigiente na mes ya umattok gi tatten i trongko yan tinanom.
(So the altar boy went to the cemetery the following first Friday of the month and hid behind the trees and shrubs.)

Katna ha' måtai i tanores sa' ha li'e' na, gigon ha tutuhon i Misa si Påle', gotpe ha' umannok un dikkike' tanores ni minagågågon tanores ya ha tanorise si Påle'. Gigon måkpo' i Misa, gotpe ha' malingo i tanores.
(The altar boy nearly died because he saw, as soon as Father began Mass, suddenly a small altar boy appeared dressed as an altar boy and served Mass for Father. As soon as Mass ended, the altar boy suddenly disappeared.)

I tanores ha faisen si Påle', "Håye ennao na tanores ni tumanorise hao gi sementeyo?"
(The altar boy asked Father, "Who was that altar boy who served your Mass at the cemetery?")

Manoppe si Påle', "I hagas tanores-ho ni eståba åntes ke hago."
(Father answered, "My former altar boy who was here before you.")

"Ya håfa uttimon-ña?"
("And what happened to him?")

"Måtai måtmos ya ma håfot gi sementeyo."
("He died drowning and was buried in the cemetery.")


Monday, March 27, 2023



You may have noticed this past Sunday, if you went to Mass, that your church covered the statues in the sanctuary (altar area). Not all Catholic churches do this, but all of them did prior to the 1960s and the custom seems to be returning to most churches in our islands.

Veiling the statues shocks us, and it is meant to.

We are two weeks away from the bitter suffering and crucifixion of the Lord when the statues are covered. The Church is wanting us to feel the loss of the Lord. He was arrested and taken away. Imprisoned, He was absent from His Mother and His disciples for that time. We, too, should feel something of their sense of loss when He was taken away.

Two Sundays before Easter was called by our mañaina (elders) DAMENGGON LÅSARO. LAZARUS SUNDAY.

Which Lazarus?

Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, who died and who was brought back to life by Jesus even after Lazarus had been buried several days in the tomb.

Well that was the last straw for the enemies of Jesus. Outdone by Jesus, His enemies resolved to put Him to death, and the ball started rolling leading to His arrest and crucifixion.

But why is this Sunday named after Lazarus? 

In the Missal (Mass prayer book) used in Spain at one time, and still is used in a few parts of Spain, took its Gospel for the Sunday before Palm Sunday from the story of Lazarus' resurrection. So, in Spain, the Sunday before Palm Sunday was called DOMINGO DE LÁZARO, and because the Catholic missionaries in the Marianas were mainly Spaniards until the late 1930s, our mañaina called it the same thing, but using the Chamorro version of the name.

Here's how the schedule looked in the old days :



(cover statues)










Start of Holy Week

(Semåna Sånta)

Holy Monday

Holy Tuesday

Holy Wednesday

Holy Thursday

Good Friday

Holy Saturday



Statue veils come off at Vigil Mass












(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Es posible que notara el domingo pasado, si asistió a misa, que su parroquia cubrió las imágenes del altar. No todos los templos católicos hacen esto, pero todos lo hacían antes de la década de 1960 y la costumbre parece estar regresando a la mayoría de las iglesias en las Islas Marianas.

Estamos a dos semanas del amargo sufrimiento y crucifixión del Señor, tiempo en el que las imágenes están cubiertas. La Iglesia quiere que sintamos la pérdida del Señor. Fue arrestado y llevado. Encarcelado, estuvo ausente de Su Madre y Sus discípulos por ese tiempo. Nosotros también deberíamos sentir algo de su sentido de pérdida cuando se lo llevaron.

Dos domingos antes de Semana Santa fue llamado en chamorro por nuestros “mañaina” (ancianos) DAMENGGON LÅSARO.

¿Cuál Lázaro?

Lázaro, el amigo de Jesús, que murió y que Jesús lo devolvió a la vida incluso después de haber sido enterrado varios días en su tumba.

Bueno, ésa fue la gota que colmó el vaso para los enemigos de Jesús. Superados por Jesús, sus enemigos resolvieron darle muerte, y la bola comenzó a rodar lo cual conducía a su arresto y crucifixión.

Pero, ¿por qué este domingo lleva el nombre de Lázaro?

En el Misal (libro de oraciones de la Misa) usado en España durante un tiempo, y todavía se usa en algunas partes del país, se tomó del Evangelio, para el domingo anterior al Domingo de Ramos, la historia de la resurrección de Lázaro. Así, en España, el domingo anterior al Domingo de Ramos se llamaba DOMINGO DE LÁZARO, y como los misioneros católicos en las Islas Marianas eran mayoritariamente españoles hasta finales de los años 30, nuestros “mañaina” (ancianos) lo llamaban así, pero usando la versión chamorra del nombre: DAMENGGON LÅSARO.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023



Julia Miller was an outgoing, cheerful person.

And she had a sense of humor.

She was born Julia San Nicolás Chargualaf, and she often told people she was Russian.

She said it with a straight face and the rest of us just looked at each other in bewilderment.

Then she would pronounce her name CHARGUALAF to match with STROGANOFF.

Then we'd burst out laughing.

She was the daughter of Pedro and Maria San Nicolás Chargualaf and was born in the Bilibik barrio of Hagåtña then lived in Talofofo after the war, until she got married.

She married Joe Miller (RIP) and she herself recently passed away. U såga gi minahgong. Rest in peace.

Thursday, March 16, 2023



In the Marianas, there are the suruhånas and suruhånos everyone speaks about.

And there are also the ones fewer people talk about.

The well-known ones are the herbal doctors who get interviewed, gain recognition and are put on special lists, such as Master Suruhåno/a.

They were, shall we say, the full-fledged suruhånas who dedicated most of their day treating clients with all sorts of ailments.

But the less-known ones never got nominated to win special titles. They were more or less known mainly in their villages, and weren't "full time" healers. They often stuck to just making common herbal remedies for ordinary illnesses such as the flu. While not regarded as full-blown suruhånas, they were the go-to people in the village when you needed åmot Chamorro (local, herbal medicine).

Here are just two examples, from people I knew in life and who gave me herbal medicine.


Lucia was a more-or-less homebound lady living in Malesso' when I was the priest there now and then in the 1990s.

Though homebound, due to her difficulty walking, she knew what was going on in the village, as most people in small villages do. A devout Catholic, I saw her once a month on First Fridays to give her Holy Communion. She always gave me some Mass intentions to be said at the parish.

But when she would hear that I had the flu or a cold, invariably someone would come to the konbento (priest's house) with a plastic gallon jug of åmot Chamorro and tell me, "This is from Tan Lucia."  If she heard I had the flu five times, five times a bottle of herbal medicine would be dropped off to me from her. God bless her.


Tan Romana was from my home village of Sinajaña. She was known as a healer of children's illnesses.

I can't say for sure which specific children's illnesses she treated, because I was just 4 or 5 years old when I got the Tan Romana treatment. So I don't know what my illness was! I wasn't told; who tells a four-year-old what their illness is?

All I know is that Tan Romana came to my grandmother's house one day (or night) with her herbal concoction. I was put on someone's lap and held down, and someone used their hand to force my mouth open.

Tan Romana dipped a fresh piece of gauze into her brown, liquid medicine then squeezed the gauze till the herbal medicine poured down my throat. It was very bitter! I wanted to cough it all out, but everyone was telling me to swallow, and with hands holding me down on someone's lap and another hand firmly holding my mouth open, I complied.

I don't even remember being sick, or getting better. But I never received a Tan Romana treatment again. I didn't hold it against her, and I never developed a fear of Tan Romana. She was always a nice lady to me as I continued to see her till her death in 2001. God bless her, too.

In all the island's villages, there were women, and a few men, who weren't considered full-fledged suruhåna/o, but they did make åmot Chamorro and helped people with ordinary bouts of sickness. I'm sure many readers could add more names to this list of åmot makers.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023




Imagine a young Chamorro man serving in the US Army during World War One in Europe.

But that's exactly what Vicente Muña Flores did, and it serves as a reminder that it was not totally impossible for Chamorros in the old days to leave our small islands and get a taste of the big world out there.

In fact, Flores did not join the US Army on Guam but rather in Sacramento, California; which shows that he was already in the big world away from Guam before he joined the Army.

He was in Sacramento working on a steamboat as a deck hand. His draft registration says he had previously been a mess attendant in the US Navy so maybe that's how he ended up in California. He had been born on Guam in 1891 so he was already 26 years old when he registered for the draft.


Flores fought in France in 1918. He was there at the Champagne-Marne campaign which was the Germans' last offensive. When the German push was repelled, the tide of the war went in the favor of the Allies. World War I was over in a few months.

Flores was honorably discharged but didn't return to Guam till 1922. Then he married Ana Blas Untalan and raised a family. He was described by both the 1930 and 1940 censuses as being a farmer. The young man who left the island to see the big world, going so far as to fight in Europe in World War One, came back to be like almost every other man on Guam; a tiller of the soil settled on his land.

But he, like few others, could sit with all those fellow Chamorros who had never left Guam and regale them with stories about France, California, the war and the high seas.