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.


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