Thursday, March 28, 2024



This Chamorro penitential hymn (a song of sorrow for one's sins) is sung in Saipan, Tinian and Luta (Rota) but is unknown on Guam. It's been sung in Saipan since before World War II. Many people, especially the older folks, can sing at least the first verse and chorus from memory.

The words are inspired by an old hymn in Latin called Miserere et Parce, which means "Have mercy and spare." This suggests that whoever wrote the Chamorro knew the Latin hymn and what it meant, so probably one of the missionary priests or perhaps a very educated Chamorro.

The recording was live at a Mass at Kristo Rai Church, Garapan, Saipan.


Asi'e' Asaina, asi'e' i sengsong-mo (1)
ya un na' fan libre nu i sen guaguan hagå'-mo.
(PardonLord, pardon your people
and free them through your most precious blood.)

1. O yo'ase' Yu'os-ho gai ase' nu guåho;
i dångkulon kompasion-mo u funas todo i isao-ho. (2)
(O my merciful God, have mercy on me;
your great compassion will erase all my sins.)

2. Un fa'gåse todo i chine'tan-ho,
pot todo i isao-ho; un nå'e yo' ginasgås-ho.
(You wash away all my defects,
on account of my sins; you give me purity.)

3. Sen mañotsot yo' ni linachi-ho;
ya i isao-ho gagaige ha' gi me'nå-mo.
(I truly repent of my errors,
and my sins are always before you.)

4. Umisao yo' Asaina ya hågo hu isague;
gi me'nan i inatan-mo i linachi-ho nai hu cho'gue.
(I have sinned Lord and offended you;
before your sight I have committed by sins.)

5. Nina' magof hao nu i sinsero korason-ho;
gi hinalom-ho un fanå'gue yo' tai ine'son.
(You are pleased with my sincere heart;
within me you have taught me tirelessly.)


(1) Songsong means a community, a village,  but by extension it means the people who make up that community or village.

(2) Kompasion is a Spanish loan word and is used and understood by older Chamorros, but not as much as yine'ase', meaning the same thing. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024




No; the above Japanese marker is not in Japan. It was in Pigo' Catholic Cemetery in Guam.

It belonged to a Japanese resident of Guam who is so forgotten that his name does not appear in a list of Japanese settlers on Guam compiled by third-generation Japanese descendants on Guam.

But there's an understandable reason for this.

The man, José (Tetsuo) Shibata, left no descendants on Guam after he died very, very early under American rule. He does not appear in the 1920 Guam Census or thereafter, and court documents mention him only up to 1912.



Shibata is already on Guam by 1900. That's only two years after the United States took possession of Guam and only one year after the Americans sent an actual Governor for the island. He was on Guam ahead of many other Japanese who came a little later.

In 1900, he is employed as an agent of the HIKI TRADING COMPANY, a Japanese business that set up a store on Guam. Japanese and other goods were to be sold; and the Japanese were also interested in buying Guam-produced copra (dried coconut meat).

Court documents show that Shibata was a native of Shimabara, a small city close to Nagasaki. His father was Daichiro and his mother was Taki.

On Guam he married a Chamorro woman from a prestigious clan. The Herreros were the descendants of a former Spanish Governor of the Marianas, José Ganga Herrero. Vicenta Cruz Herrero was the governor's granddaughter. She had first married a man with the last name Rosendo, but he had died by the time Vicenta met Shibata.

Shibata was baptized a Roman Catholic in the Hagåtña Church in order to marry Vicenta. He took for his Christian name José María.

He was born around 1873, so he was in his late 20s when he came to Guam. Vicenta, however, was older, being born in the 1860s. She being in her 40s, perhaps she wasn't able to conceive and thus no children were born to them.


One thing is for sure and that was Shibata was a busy businessman. His constant movement in business brought him to court many times, and thus we have documented evidence of his activities.

Evidently he parted ways with the Hiki Company and went into business for himself.

In his short time on earth, dying sometime in the 1910s, Shibata ran a STORE, a SALOON or bar, and even an eatery which he called the SUNRISE CAFE.

He was frequently in court trying to recover his money from people who owed him.

Alas, he lived too short and left no children, leaving us only the memory of him in court documents and in one photograph of Pigo' Cemetery which just happens to include his grave marker.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024



In Santa Rita they sing a Lenten hymn that is in the Lepblon Kånta (Chamorro hymn book for all of Guam from before the war) but which I have never heard sung anywhere else.

It is called MAILA' GEF MAÑOTSOT and it is based on the Spanish Lenten hymn VEN A PENITENCIA (Come to Penance).


Maila' gef mañotsot gi guma'yu'us / maila' as Tatå-mo guine as Jesus.
(Come, truly repentant, to church / come to your Father here who is Jesus.)

Gutos i kadena / ni i geddede-mo / ya un ta'lo mågi gi inisague-mo;
(Break the chains / of your bondage / and come here again to the one you have offended;)
mampos i isao-mo / gi me'nan Yu'us.
(your sins overflow / before God.)

Hokkok i minaolek / i ginefli'e'-ña / hokkok i mineggai / i mina'ase'-ña;
(To the limit is the goodness / of His love / and the abundance / of His mercy;)
maila' as Tatå-mo / guiya si Jesus.
(come to your Father / He who is Jesus.)

Asaina hu tungo' / i tinailaye-ko / na hu isague hao / ni i minaolek-ho;
(Lord I know / my evil / that I have sinned against you / who are my good;)
gai ase' nu guåho / Asaina Yu'us.
(have mercy on me / Lord God.)


The Spanish starts this way with the refrain :

Ven a penitencia, ya no peques más; ven a penitencia y te salvarás.
Come to penance, and sin no more; come to penance, and you will save yourself.

So whoever translated the Spanish into the Chamorro version strayed a bit from the Spanish original in order to rhyme in Chamorro (Guma'yu'us / Jesus) and to keep within the number of notes.

But the next verse stays a bit closer to the Spanish original :

Rompe la cadena, que te tiene atado; ¡ay! que es grande pena ver a Dios airado;
llora tu pecado y te librarás.
Break the chain which has you tied; oh what a great sorrow to see God angry;
weep over your sins and you will free yourself.


1) Usually, the definite article "i" (the) would change guma'yu'us to gima'yu'us, but the song doesn't follow that rule for some reason, even though it does in godde (tie) which becomes "i geddede-mo."

2) People think hokkok means "finished, exhausted, used up." But it really means "the ultimate point or limit." When all the food is finished, depleted, used up, it has reached its final or ultimate limit. God is tai hinekkok, without limit. But our mañaina used to say things like, "Hokkok i minagof-ho!" or "Hokkok i piniti-ho!" not to express that they no longer had joy or sorrow but that their joy or sorrow has reached its ultimate point or limit; that they had so much joy (or sorrow) that they couldn't be any fuller of it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024




Her last name was Ada, but she didn't have a drop of Chamorro blood in her.

But it didn't matter. 

The end of war in Saipan in 1944 would give this orphaned Japanese girl a new name and a new identity. 

This Japanese girl, 10 years old, would become Chamorro, a Catholic and a Mercedarian Sister.

Later in life, she would recover much of her Japanese roots.

Kimiko Nishikawa was born in Saipan on April 24, 1934, the daughter of a Japanese couple that had moved to Saipan under Japanese rule, like thousands of other Japanese had done. Kimiko was one of six children born to her parents. Her father Tsunetaro was a reserve officer in the Imperial Japanese Army, but before the war broke out he was in the tapioca business on Saipan.

In 1944, when Kimiko was only 10 years old, her parents and all her siblings except her oldest brother, Taiichi, died in the battle between the Japanese and American forces. 

An American Marine officer, Lieutenant James Albert Granier, came across Kimiko, bereft of her parents, in what the Americans called Death Valley, the scene of horrific fighting on Saipan's eastern side, in what is properly called Papago.

When Kimiko's mother was hit by American machine gun fire, Kimiko panicked and ran off, believing her mother to be dead  Eventually she got separated from her mother, wounded but not yet dead, but then met up with her brother and other Japanese. They surrendered to the Americans and were taken to Camp Susupe, where they were reunited with their wounded mother, but not for long. Her mother eventually died from her wounds at the camp.


Granier was Catholic and became friendly with Saipan's priest, the Spanish Father José Tardío. Granier collected money from fellow American soldiers and put them in a sock to give to the priest to help rebuild Garapan's bombed-out church.

Father Tighe was another Catholic priest who knew Kimiko, the future Antonieta. He was a military chaplain who took to heart the dire situation of the Catholics of Saipan, including the Mercedarian Sisters. He was instrumental in bringing the Mercedarians to work in the United States.

not long after surviving the Battle of Saipan

But Granier also had one concern. What would become of Kimiko? Father Tardío told him she would be cared for by a Chamorro family. Father Tardío baptized Kimiko, and Granier was present, as proud as can be. Her Christian name was Antonieta, named after Granier's mother Antonietta. A few days later, James Granier was killed in the Battle of Tinian.


with her adoptive family
on the right Juan Martínez Ada and wife Ana seated
an aunt on the left

Juan Martínez Ada was one of Saipan's most prominent men. Born on Guam, he was raised on Saipan as a child when his parents moved there. Brought up under the Spanish and German flags, conversant in both languages besides Chamorro, Japanese and English, he emerged after the war as a Chamorro leader the Americans could rely on. Ada became a post-war mayor of Saipan.

He had also been friends with Tsunetaro, Antonieta's (Kimiko's) father.  Ada had lost two children in their youth and took a liking to Kimiko, then just 2 or 3 years old. The Nishikawas allowed Kimiko to spend much time with the Adas. It got to the point that Kimiko wasn't sure who her parents were; the Japanese or the Chamorro ones. She even began to wonder who was this Japanese man, her father, who would periodically visit her and give her sweets.

But when Kimiko became of school age, she had to reconnect with her Japanese parents because Kimiko had to go to the school set up for Japanese children, and not go to the school for Chamorro children. So, Kimiko would live with her Japanese parents when school was in session, and during vacation time Kimiko would be with the Adas. "In school I was Japanese," she said. "After school I was Chamorro."

It wasn't all pleasant for her at Japanese school, as her fellow Japanese classmates considered her less than Japanese, calling her toming, a Japanese word literally meaning "island person." It was meant as a put-down, and the term was applied to all islanders, whether Chamorro, Carolinian, Chuukese, Palauan and the rest.

After the Americans took over Saipan, Ada came to Camp Susupe and found Kimiko's dying mother. She told Ada that Kimiko was still in the jungle and for Ada to take her, as she was his "daughter." When Kimiko's mother died in the camp, Ada came and took Kimiko to be raised as his own daughter. Kimiko's brother was forbidden by Japanese law to be adopted by Ada. Only Japanese girls could be so adopted by non-Japanese, but Japanese boys could not, according to Japanese law. Her brother was sent to Japan with all the other Japanese war refugees.

Kimiko, now named Antonieta, settled in with Juan and his wife Ana Crisóstomo Cepeda, and took their last name. She now spoke only Chamorro (and later began to learn English), and her grasp of Japanese weakened to the point of forgetting most of it.

Camp Susupe, Saipan


In 1963, Antonieta entered the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz, a Spanish community of missionary sisters who came to Saipan in 1928.  She had been attracted to the life of the Sisters since her teens and wanted to join, but her mother Ana opposed it. "Wait until I die," Ana kept telling Antonieta. The Adas had no children living except for Antonieta, and in Chamorro culture it was the daughters, more than the sons, who took care of the elderly parents, especially the mother, in their daily needs. But time was ticking, and one can become too old to be accepted into the convent, so at age 29 Antonieta joined the Mercedarians.

Prior to joining the Sisters, Antonieta had experience in the working world, being a secretary for some official. She had pursued some studies and had traveled. She kept in touch with her Ada relatives on Guam, siblings of her father who had decided to return and do business on Guam. A close relative was a priest on Guam, Monsignor José Ada León Guerrero, son of her father Juan's sister.

After being accepted by the Sisters, she was sent to the Mercedarian house in Kansas City, Missouri and continued her education. She then returned to teach in Saipan "to give back" to her island community, as she said. She also worked in Palau and the Philippines.

She often had asked God before, "Of all the Nishikawa children (to survive), why me?" Perhaps she found her answer in her religious calling to serve the Church and the people.

Before she entered the convent, Antonieta took advantage of an American merchant ship going from Saipan to Japan. She, and a number of Saipanese, sailed in the ship to Japan, where Antonieta met her brother for the first time since the war. He could not speak English, and she had forgotten her Japanese.


In 1977, Sister Antonieta began an eleven-year residence in Japan, where she re-learned Japanese and worked as a missionary sister. For the first two years in Japan, she studied Japanese. Then she did missionary work. She and her older brother would visit each other at least once a year.

But her Saipan roots were much deeper and she returned to her homeland in 1988, and began teaching Japanese at Mount Carmel School in Chalan Kanoa and at Marianas High School in Susupe.


Words fail to express the trauma Sister Antonieta experienced through life. The complications of living in two worlds as a child; a Japanese world and a Chamorro one. Her body subjected to the explosion of bombs and the whizzing of bullets, all the while hiding in caves and under trees in the jungle, with little to no food or water, with the smell and sight of death all around her; the loss of her parents and all her siblings save one, her own life at risk. 

It's no surprise that at first she hated the Americans, but not for long. The hatred went away but she had no desire to interact with them. In time, especially when she found a job in an island government office with American supervisors, she learned to be comfortable around Americans.

She credited her healing from all these emotional wounds to the total and unconditional love of Juan and Ana Ada. They gave her all they could, especially their faith in God. Sister said, "We do not know the things God has planned for us, but they all work out for our good."

Sister Antonieta passed away on Saipan in 2016. U såga gi minahgong. Rest in peace.

THANKS to Sister MaryAnn Hartmann of the Mercedarian Sisters in Saipan for many of the photos in this article.



Su apellido era Ada, pero no tenía ni una gota de sangre chamorra.

Pero no importó.

El fin de la guerra en Saipán en 1944 le daría a esta niña japonesa huérfana un nuevo nombre y una nueva identidad.

Esta niña japonesa, de 10 años, se convertiría en chamorra, católica y Hermana Mercedaria.

Más adelante en la vida recuperaría gran parte de sus raíces japonesas.

Kimiko Nishikawa nació en Saipán el 24 de abril de 1934, hija de una pareja japonesa que se había mudado a Saipán bajo el dominio japonés, como lo habían hecho miles de otros japoneses. Kimiko fue una de los seis hijos de sus padres. Su padre Tsunetaro era un oficial de reserva en el ejército imperial japonés, pero antes de que estallara la guerra estaba en el negocio de la tapioca en Saipán.

En 1944, cuando Kimiko tenía sólo 10 años, sus padres y todos sus hermanos, excepto su hermano mayor, Taiichi, murieron en la batalla entre las fuerzas japonesas y estadounidenses.

Un oficial de los Marines estadounidenses, el teniente James Albert Granier, se encontró con Kimiko, privada de sus padres, en lo que los estadounidenses llamaban el Valle de la Muerte, escenario de horribles combates en el lado oriental de Saipán, en lo que propiamente se llama Pápago.

Cuando la madre de Kimiko fue alcanzada por fuego de ametralladora estadounidense, Kimiko entró en pánico y salió corriendo, creyendo que su madre estaba muerta. Finalmente se separó de su madre, herida pero aún no muerta, pero luego se encontró con su hermano y otros japoneses. Se rindieron a los estadounidenses y fueron llevados al Campamento Susupe, donde se reunieron con su madre herida, pero no por mucho tiempo. Su madre finalmente murió a causa de sus heridas en el campo.

Granier era católico y se hizo amigo del sacerdote de Saipán, el cura español José Tardío. Granier recaudó dinero de sus compañeros soldados estadounidenses y los puso en un calcetín para dárselo al sacerdote para ayudar a reconstruir la iglesia bombardeada de Gárapan.

El Padre Tighe fue otro sacerdote católico que conoció a Kimiko, la futura Antonieta. Era un capellán militar que tomó en serio la terrible situación de los católicos de Saipán, incluidas las Hermanas Mercedarias. Tuvo un papel decisivo para que las Mercedarias trabajaran en los Estados Unidos.

Pero Granier también tenía una preocupación. ¿Qué sería de Kimiko? El Padre Tardío le dijo que la cuidaría una familia chamorra. El Padre Tardío bautizó a Kimiko y Granier estuvo presente, muy orgulloso. Su nombre de pila era Antonieta, en honor a la madre de Granier, Antonietta. Unos días más tarde, James Granier murió en la batalla de Tinián.

Juan Martínez Ada fue uno de los hombres más destacados de Saipán. Nacido en Guam, se crió en Saipán cuando era niño cuando sus padres se mudaron allí. Criado bajo las banderas española y alemana, versado en ambos idiomas además del chamorro, el japonés y el inglés, emergió después de la guerra como un líder chamorro en el que los estadounidenses podían confiar. Ada se convirtió en alcalde de Saipán en la posguerra.

También había sido amigo de Tsunetaro, el padre de Antonieta (Kimiko). Ada había perdido a dos hijos en su juventud y le tomó cariño a Kimiko, que entonces tenía solo 2 o 3 años. Los Nishikawa le permitieron a Kimiko pasar mucho tiempo con los Ada. Llegó al punto en que Kimiko no estaba segura de quiénes eran sus padres; los japoneses o los chamorros. Incluso empezó a preguntarse quién era ese japonés, su padre, que periódicamente la visitaba y le regalaba dulces.

Pero cuando Kimiko llegó a la edad escolar, tuvo que volver a conectarse con sus padres japoneses porque Kimiko tenía que ir a la escuela creada para niños japoneses y no a la escuela para niños chamorros. Entonces, Kimiko viviría con sus padres japoneses cuando la escuela estuviera en sesión, y durante las vacaciones Kimiko estaría con los Ada. "En la escuela yo era japonesa", dijo. "Después de la escuela yo era chamorra".

No todo fue agradable para ella en la escuela japonesa, ya que sus compañeros japoneses la consideraban menos que japonesa y la llamaban “toming,” una palabra japonesa que literalmente significa "persona de la isla". Tenía la intención de despreciar y el término se aplicó a todos los isleños, ya fueran chamorros, carolinos, chuukeses, palauanos y el resto.

Después de que los estadounidenses se apoderaron de Saipán, Ada llegó al Campamento Susupe y encontró a la madre moribunda de Kimiko. Ella le dijo a Ada que Kimiko todavía estaba en la selva y que Ada la llevaría, ya que era su "hija". Cuando la madre de Kimiko murió en el campo, Ada vino y se llevó a Kimiko para que la criara como su propia hija. La ley japonesa prohibía que Ada adoptara al hermano de Kimiko. Sólo las niñas japonesas podían ser adoptadas por no japoneses, pero los niños japoneses no, según la ley japonesa. Su hermano fue enviado a Japón con todos los demás refugiados de guerra japoneses.

Kimiko, ahora llamada Antonieta, se instaló con Juan y su esposa Ana Crisóstomo Cepeda, y tomó su apellido. Ahora sólo hablaba chamorro (y más tarde comenzó a aprender inglés), y su comprensión del japonés se debilitó hasta el punto de olvidar la mayor parte.

En 1963, Antonieta ingresó a las Misioneras Mercedarias de Bérriz, una comunidad española de hermanas misioneras que llegó a Saipán en 1928. Se había sentido atraída por la vida de las Hermanas desde su adolescencia y quería unirse, pero su madre Ana se opuso. "Espera hasta que me muera", le decía Ana a Antonieta. Los Ada no tenían hijos vivos excepto Antonieta, y en la cultura chamorra eran las hijas, más que los hijos, quienes cuidaban de los padres ancianos, especialmente de la madre, en sus necesidades diarias. Pero el tiempo corría y uno puede llegar a ser demasiado viejo para ser aceptado en el convento, por lo que a los 29 años Antonieta se unió a las Mercedarias.

Antes de incorporarse a las Hermanas, Antonieta tuvo experiencia en el mundo laboral, siendo secretaria de algún funcionario. Había realizado algunos estudios y había viajado. Se mantuvo en contacto con sus parientes Ada en Guam, hermanos de su padre que habían decidido regresar y hacer negocios en Guam. Un pariente cercano era un sacerdote en Guam, Monseñor José Ada León Guerrero, hijo de la hermana de su padre Juan.

Después de ser aceptada por las Hermanas, fue enviada a la casa Mercedaria en Kansas City, Missouri y continuó su educación. Luego regresó a Saipán para enseñar "para retribuir" a su comunidad isleña, como ella dijo. También trabajó en Palau y Filipinas.

A menudo le había preguntado a Dios: "De todos los niños Nishikawa (que sobrevivieron), ¿por qué yo?". Quizás encontró su respuesta en su vocación religiosa de servir a la Iglesia y al pueblo.

Antes de ingresar al convento, Antonieta aprovechó un barco mercante estadounidense que iba de Saipán a Japón. Ella y varios saipaneses navegaron en el barco hacia Japón, donde Antonieta conoció a su hermano por primera vez desde la guerra. Él no hablaba inglés y ella se había olvidado del japonés.

En 1977, la Hermana Antonieta comenzó una residencia de once años en Japón, donde volvió a aprender japonés y trabajó como hermana misionera. Durante los dos primeros años en Japón, estudió japonés. Luego hizo obra misionera. Ella y su hermano mayor se visitaban al menos una vez al año.

Pero sus raíces en Saipán eran mucho más profundas y regresó a su tierra natal en 1988, y comenzó a enseñar japonés en la escuela Mount Carmel en Chalan Kanoa y en la escuela secundaria Marianas en Susupe.

Las palabras no logran expresar el trauma que la Hermana Antonieta experimentó a lo largo de la vida. Las complicaciones de vivir en dos mundos cuando era niño; un mundo japonés y uno chamorro. Su cuerpo sometido a la explosión de bombas y al zumbido de las balas, mientras se escondía en cuevas y debajo de los árboles en la selva, con poca o ninguna comida ni agua, con el olor y la vista de la muerte a su alrededor; la pérdida de sus padres y de todos sus hermanos salvo uno, su propia vida en riesgo.

No sorprende que al principio odiara a los estadounidenses, pero no por mucho tiempo. El odio desapareció pero ella no tenía ningún deseo de interactuar con ellos. Con el tiempo, especialmente cuando encontró un trabajo en una oficina gubernamental de la isla con supervisores estadounidenses, aprendió a sentirse cómoda con los estadounidenses.

Ella atribuyó la curación de todas estas heridas emocionales al amor total e incondicional de Juan y Ana Ada. Le dieron todo lo que pudieron, especialmente su fe en Dios. La Hermana dijo: "No sabemos las cosas que Dios ha planeado para nosotros, pero todas resultan para nuestro bien".

Sor Antonieta falleció en Saipán en 2016. Que descanse en paz.

(translated by Sister Yasuko, MMB)


執筆者 エリック・フォーブス神父による  202438













[海兵隊士官 ジェームズ・アルバート・グラニエルさん]




[米軍兵士と日本人の子ども ススペのキャンプにて]





























[タイ神父とアントニエタ サイパンでの戦争直後]










































訳者 清水靖子