Friday, February 20, 2015

CHAMORRO SERMON ON CONFESSION



Well, part of a sermon.  From the 1960s

Un Påle' eståba na mamamaisen kuestion siha pot i katesismo.
(A priest was asking questions about the catechism.)

Måtto gi un dikkike' na påtgon låhe ya ha faisen,
(He came to a small boy and asked,)

"Juan, siakåso mohon na måtai hao yan un makkat na isao gi anti-mo, para måno hao guato?"
("John, suppose you die with one mortal sin on your soul, where will you go?")

"Siempre malak sasalåguan yo'," ineppe-ña i patgon.
("I will surely go to hell," was the boy's answer.)

"Pues håfa mohon para un cho'gue?" finaisen-ña ta'lo i Pale'.
("So what would you do?" was the priest's question again.)

"Bai hu konfesat," ilek-ña si Juan. Manman si Påle' ya ilek-ña, "Para un konfesat?"
("I will confess," Juan said. Father was amazed and said, "You will confess?")

"Måno nai un konfesat an esta hao gaige sasalåguan?"
("Where will you confess if you are already in hell?")

"Bai hu konfesat giya hågo," ineppe-ña i patgon.
("I will confess to you," was the boy's answer.)

Si Juan lache ni para u konfesat giya sasalåguan. Magåhet na yanggen måtai un taotao yan un makkat na isao
(Juan was wrong that he would confess in hell. It is true that if someone dies with mortal sin)

gi anti-ña, siempre u falak sasalåguan. Lao ayo ha' hamyo nai siña mangonfesat
(on his soul, he will certainly go to hell. But you can only confess)

yanggen man gagaige ha' hamyo trabia guine gi tano'.
(if you are still here on earth.)

Solo gi mientras man låla'la' hamyo.
(Only while you are alive.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

THE LEGEND OF AS MÅTMOS



Many years ago, before the Spaniards came, there was a village on Luta called As Måtmos. Måtmos means "drown." The village is long gone, but the area is still called that today.

You might think the village was called by this name because it was located on a cliff by the sea. One false step and you could fall off that cliff and drown in the sea.

But the ancients have another explanation.

In those days, villages in our islands loved to compete. There were rivalries between chiefs, between father and son, and also between villages.

One day, the chief of the village eventually called As Måtmos challenged another chief of another village to see who could grow more rice.

Rice, as you may know, needs a lot of water to grow. Rice cannot grow on dry land, even if it is watered a lot. It has to grow in wet lands, like swamps.



Growing rice seedlings (få'i) in a rice field (famå'yan)

Well, As Måtmos is very dry and rocky land by that seacoast cliff. Try and try as they might, the people of that village couldn't create a rice field. But their chief kept pressuring them, so they wouldn't loose the competition and become mamåhlao (ashamed).

There are two versions of the conclusion of this story. The first is that the people of the village got fed up with their chief's insane ambition to win, which would have been impossible. So, they threw him over the cliff and he drowned. In the second version, the chief himself, seeing how it was impossible to grow rice in his village's bad terrain, threw himself into the sea and drowned.

In either case, the chief drowned and the place was known henceforth as As Måtmos, the place of drowning.



The rocky, sandy land of As Måtmos

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ESTORIAN I KAKKAK


Kakkak
(Yellow Bittern - Ixobrychus sinensis)


An tiempon Kuaresma, manayuyunat i taotao.
(During Lenten season, the people fast.)

I man åmko' yan i man malångo u fañocho kåtne.
(The elderly and sick are to eat meat.)

Pues i kakkak ti malago' umayunat, sa' ma'å'ñao na u masoksok.
(Now the kakkak didn't want to fast, because he was afraid to get skinny.)

Pues annai måkpo' i Kuaresma, sinangåne as Jesukristo,
(So when Lent was over, he was told by Jesus Christ,)

"Ti un hongge i fino'-ho. sa' ma'å'ñao hao na para un masoksok."
("You didn't believe my word, because you were afraid that you were going to get skinny.")

"Pues tiene ke ni ngai'an na para un yommok."
("Therefore you will never be fat.")

"Masosoksok hao asta i finatai-mo."
("You will stay skinny till your death.")



  • This was a story with a warning to those who did not faithfully observe the Lenten fast and abstinence rules.
  • Another lesson to be learned was that when one defies God's law for some perceived benefit, one is stuck with that benefit in such a way that it turns into a liability.






Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SUPPLYING THE WHALERS



Although the heyday of the whaling era was already over, some foreign merchants thought there was still money to be made on Guam supplying the whaling ships and whoever else might sail by.

A merchant with roots in Peru named Serapio San Juan opened such a business on Guam. The landing is described as Apra Harbor, but the actual store could have been in Sumay, or perhaps Hagåtña. My guess would be Sumay, though, as it was right on the harbor.

It's quite an impressive list of items for sale, one that the European colony on Guam and perhaps some affluent Chamorros would have welcomed, except that the Spanish Governors usually wanted control over all commerce in the islands. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some quiet "arrangement" between San Juan and the Governor at the time, Pablo Pérez, who was a controversial figure.




Apparently, San Juan reached out to two people with money from opposite sides of the Pacific, probably to invest in his business and keep it alive with capital.

Martín Varanda was a Spanish businessman in the Philippines, and Francisco Rodríguez Vida was the Chilean Consul in Hawaii.

The business floundered and didn't last very long at all, perhaps just a year. San Juan's name shows up in press accounts and documents in Peru years later, after his failed Guam venture.

The ads above were placed in a Honolulu newspaper. Because of the whaling ships, a mercantile connection linked Guam and Hawaii for much of the 1800s. Because of that, a small colony of Chamorros ended up in Hawaii long before both of us became part of the U.S.

*** Even years after Sanvitores changed the name of these islands to the Marianas, non-Spanish sources often still called them the Ladrones in the style of the older maps and books. This was often abbreviated as L.I. (Ladrone Islands)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

DESPEDIDA LETTER



Sometime after New Year's, 1972, Juan Aguon Sanchez, a well-known civic leader in Saipan, learned that the pastor of Saipan (it was all one parish then), Capuchin Father Lee Friel, was being transferred to Guam.

Sanchez was moved to write a farewell, or despedida, letter to the priest. His original letter is seen above. I will transcribe it using my orthography and supply an English translation :

I gine'fli'e'-ho na Påle'-måme gi papa' i månton Korason de Jesus.
(My beloved pastor of ours under the mantle of the Heart of Jesus.)

Dångkulo na hu agradese, Påle', todo i masapet-mo pot hame nu i famagu'on-mo,
(I hugely appreciate, Father, all your hardships for us your children,)

yan i Lorian Yu'us na Saina-ta, (1)
(and for the Glory of our Lord God,)

annai eståba hao guine gi parokian-måme.
(when you were here in our parish.)

Pues, Påle', hu gågågao hao gi todo i ha'ånen i tinayuyot-mo,
(So, Father, I ask you that in all your daily prayers)

na on (2) hahasso ham yan i famagu'on-mo siha, ya nå'e ham nu i bendision-mo.
(that you remember us and your children, and give us your blessing.)

Sin mås, Påle', adios ginen hame yan i asaguå-ho yan i famagu'on-ho.
(Without further ado, Father, farewell from us and my wife and children.)


NOTES

(1) Some Chamorros say gloria and others say loria, for "glory."

(2) On is an alternative for un (you, singular).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

THE GUAM CAPUCHINS AND LOURDES


Dedication of OL of Lourdes Church, Yigo
May 5, 1965

The Capuchins on Guam established most of the parishes on Guam, but Yigo stands out in a special way because that church may never had been called Our Lady of Lourdes had it not been for the Capuchins, and perhaps because of one in particular, Påle' Román María de Vera.



Påle' Román

The idea probably came about in 1919, because by early 1920, Påle' Román was already preparing a young Yigo lady named Isabel Torres Pérez to recite the novena in Chamorro which Påle' Román had written. Besides the novena, Påle' Román composed the hymn to her in Chamorro, using a Basque church melody, and taught it to a small group of young Yigo maidens, mostly sisters from the Pérez (Goyo) clan.

A very rudimentary chapel, made up of free materials from Guam's jungles, was built for the small numbers of people in Yigo at the time. As the years went on, the population grew, as Yigo was prime farming land.


The temporary chapel built in Yigo right after the war in 1945


THE SPANISH CAPUCHIN DEVOTION TO LOURDES

The Spanish Capuchins who worked on Guam since 1915 were from the Basque country, in the north of Spain near the French border. They were so close to France that devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes was something easily planted in the Basque country.


Lourdes (at top of map) is not very far from Spain

When the Capuchins began a presence in Manila, Philippines, they set up a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in their church in Intramuros, and, when that was destroyed in World War II, moved it to its present location in Quezon City where it has become a National Shrine.



The Lourdes Devotion in the Capuchin Church in Manila before the War

This connection with the Capuchin Church in Manila before World War II is important because Påle' Román first served in the Philippines long before he came to Guam.

A REMINDER

When I designed the new friary on Guam, built in 2007, I wanted to remind us all of our traditional Guam Capuchin link to the Basque Capuchins, Intramuros, Påle' Román and Our Lady of Lourdes. So I had this simple outdoor shrine made for Our Lady of Lourdes, across the Friary chapel.




People see this shrine and think of Our Lady of Lourdes, but there's more to this than that.

I pass by and think of all those things mentioned above.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SERENITY PRAYER IN CHAMORRO




The English version is well-known :

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.


NOTES

Nå'e yo' minahgong-ho. Måhgong means peace, tranquility, quiet. In Chamorro, when one asks God for this or that, the request is often expressed as "God give me my patience," or "my courage" and so on. Måhgong, by the way, is not the same as mågong, which means the easing of pain or illness.

Minatatnga. From matatnga, meaning boldness, fearlessness, courage.

Tinemtom. From tomtom, or wise.

Monday, February 9, 2015

ANNAI LALÅLO' SI PÅLE' SKÅT UN BIÅHE


Monsignor Oscar Luján Calvo

Although he was honored with the title Monsignor, Chamorros back in the day always called him "Påle' Skåt."

The Skåt was short for Oscar, shortened and pronounced the Chamorro way which changes final R to T. Like kolot instead of Spanish color. Under American influence, Skåt is often spelled Scott, but that just confuses people, thinking his actual name was Scott.

Påle' Skåt started out as a priest with a reputation for avoiding controversy. This he did with the Japanese when the Imperial forces occupied Guam during the war, and it saved his head, which was good for the 20,000 Catholic Chamorros who needed him!

In due course, however, time would prove that Påle' Skåt was not afraid of confronting publicly what he thought was unjust. The earliest example is when he lead a protest against the writings of George Tweed, the U.S. Navy radioman who was sheltered by the Chamorros the entire time of the Japanese occupation.

Right after the war, Tweed wrote a book, with the help of a professional writer. In that book, he made statements about both Father Dueñas and Påle' Skåt that were highly offensive to Påle' Skåt and others. Returning to Guam after that book was published, Tweed was greeted by a demonstration in the Plaza de España in Hagåtña, with Påle' Skåt at the forefront. Tweed later retracted his statement about Father Dueñas (but not about Calvo), saying that his ghost writer embellished the story and that he (Tweed) relied on what others said too much.

THE PDN LANGUAGE POLICY

Around 1977 or 1978, Påle' Skåt was at the forefront of another protest, this time against the "English only" language policy of the Pacific Daily News.

Chamorro language advocates were offended. They felt that the PDN should honor the Chamorro language which is indigenous to the island. When they felt that the PDN was not open to their arguments, they scheduled a protest.




THE PROTEST

The morning of the protest, which I believe was on a Saturday, I stood on the periphery of a crowd of 40-60 people who gathered on the public sidewalk in front of the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, facing the tall PDN Building. Protesters sang Chamorro songs and gave speeches in English and Chamorro. Indistinguishable faces peered from behind blinds and curtains from the PDN Building, including perhaps management which worked on the 2nd floor.

But the dramatic scene was saved for Påle' Skåt who climbed (with assistance) the raised platform and began his speech, again in both languages. Quite unexpectedly, he raised a copy of the PDN and, if memory serves, said into the microphone, "Here's what we think of your newspaper," and I suppose someone else (Påle' Skåt was advanced in age and nearly blind) lit a flame to the newspaper and set in on fire.




THE AFTERMATH

Within a week or so of this protest, the PDN changed its policy. Things could be published in the PDN in languages other than English, as long as there was also an English version of the same.

I am not sure now what is the PDN language policy today. I know that Peter Onedera has a CHamoru column in the paper, with an English version of it available on-line.

Once in a blue moon I will see a paid ad or notice (like funeral announcements) entirely in Chamorro.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

ETTON. NO, NOT THE ENGLISH SCHOOL ETON.



Some of the streets in some of our villages are named after long-forgotten areas in the outskirts of the village. Take, for example, Etton Lane in Sinajaña.

Few residents of Sinajaña know that Etton is actually the name of an isolated area in between Sinajaña and Ordot. Legally Etton lies in Chalan Pago-Ordot Municipality. But, in olden times, the area was considered part of Sinajaña, which itself was legally part of the capital city of Agaña,

Here's a map showing the location of Etton, encircled :




At one time, though Etton had ranch houses, some of them growing coconuts, probably for the copra trade. Here is a Spanish-era land document showing the owner having land in Etton, spelled Erton by the Spanish. Just think of Terlaje, also a Spanish spelling, though in Chamorro we say tet-lahe.




The Spanish above, starting with the word "Segundo," means :

"Second : a piece of land, with coconut plantings, situated in Erton.


MEANING?

Now rests one final question. What does "etton" mean?

It's such an old word, no one uses it any more.

But it means "obstacle, hindrance." We have Påle' Román's Chamorro-Spanish dictionary to thank for that information.

Now why should that area be called "obstacle" or "hindrance?"

Who knows? It's in a heavily forested valley. Perhaps difficult to access and that's the reason for the name. Or maybe not. Our ancestors did not write down the reasons for what they did or why they named things the way they did.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

HEARTBREAKING LETTER



In 1912, the U.S. Naval Government of Guam decided to send island residents they deemed to have contracted Hansen's disease (usually called leprosy in those days) to an island in the Philippines called Culion, where facilities set up by the American Government in the Philippines would give them better care.



At first, conditions at Culion were horrible. But by 1922, with new administrators, Culion in time became one of the best, most well-equipped and modern treatment center in the world for patients suffering this malady. Culion took on the atmosphere of a normal town, with a band made up of patients entertaining the residents in a Spanish-style plaza on Saturday nights. There was also a church in Culion, cared for by Jesuit chaplains.



Chamorro patients in Culion
Antonio Unpingco Collection

But the Americans, who thought that Chamorros and Filipinos were similar enough to make for an easy transition, did not expect the tremendous emotional trauma the Chamorro patients underwent.

Even the Filipino patients suffered emotionally, unable to see loved ones and family. Patients from all the different provinces, many speaking only their own local language, were put together, increasing the sense of loss and unfamiliarity. Imagine what it felt like for the Chamorros if even the Filipinos felt they were in a strange land, an "Island of No Return," as they said of the place.

So in 1926, a group of Chamorro patients wrote this letter, in Chamorro, to the Governor of Guam, begging him to repatriate them. I will write it here in a more modern form of spelling.

Señor Maga'låhe :
(Sir Governor : )

I in sen gofli'e yan i in sen respeta na Gobietnon-måme giya Guam.
(Our very beloved and very respected Governor in Guam.)

Señor! In tatayuyut si Yu'us, yan man didimo ham gi me'nå-mo, man mangågågao ham mina'åse',
(Sir! We pray to God, and we kneel before you, asking mercy,)

na un konne' ham guine na tåno'.
(that you take us away from this land.)

Sa' demasiao in padedese triniste yan minahålang pot i familian-måme ni esta åpmam na tiempo
(Because we suffer too much sadness and homesickness for our families which for a long time now)

na ti in li'e matan-ñiha yan i tano' lokkue' annai man mafañågo ham.
(that we haven't seen their faces, or the land where we were born.)

Ti siña in maleffanñaihon ha'åne yan puenge in guiguife ha' siempre.
(We cannot forget day and night we will surely dream of them.)

Ma'åse' Señor nu este na inigong-måmåme nu hågo,
(Have mercy Sir on this our sighing towards you,)

ya un na' li'e ham ta'lo ni tano'-måme åntes de in fan måtai.
(and make us see our land again before we die.)

Sa' tåya' nai mås maolek i taotao na i tano'-ña.
(Because a person is nowhere better than in his own land.)

Ginen in hingok, Señor, ma sångan na para in fan ma konne' guine, para ennao iya Ipao.
(We have heard it said, Sir, that we will be taken from here, to there in Ipao.)

Pues in desesea na dångkulo yan man mannanangga ham siempre giya hågo
(So we greatly desire and are waiting from you)

kao håfa disposision-mo ya in tingo' hame guine todos ni manåtanges.
(what are your orders and all of us who are weeping will know.)

Unfortunately, the Government never changed its mind. The Chamorro patients were never taken back to Guam and they died there in Culion. They were not given individual and identified graves. All that remains is a mass grave for all of them.



Culion as it appears in recent years



Culion's location in the Philippines

Monday, January 26, 2015

MALAIGLESIA : SEEKING REFUGE IN THE CHURCH



Under Spain, if you were being pursued by the law, or indeed by anyone, you had the right to run to the church and be protected from your pursuer, at least for a while.

Since the sanctuary of the church was considered holy and inviolate, the civil authorities could not enter it and arrest you.

But the priest couldn't let you off the hook for murder, for example. The right of church refuge was a way of protecting innocent people from rash judgments or mob justice. If the priest saw that you were probably guilty, he had to surrender you to the law, but by that time (hopefully), there was more evidence and calmer minds so that you could undergo the judicial process fairly.

But, if the priest saw that you were innocent, he could tell the civil authorities that you were exempt. Then you could be released from the sanctuary with the guarantee that you would not be held accountable for something you didn't do.

The Chamorros had a term for this running to the church for refuge : malaiglesia or alaiglesia.

In Spanish "a la iglesia" means "to the church."

"Ma la iglesia" is a Chamorro-Spanish construct meaning "to go to the church" for refuge.

Or, malaiglesia could come from malak (Chamorro for "to go to") and iglesia (church).

There is at least one documented case of malaiglesia on Guam.

It happened in 1860, to a Filipino resident of Guam whose last name was Custodio. He was apparently working for an English carpenter who was rather rough on him. Custodio claimed he was being physically abused by this man, so he stabbed the Englishman in the rear, causing two large gashes.

Realizing what he had done, Custodio ran to the church in Hagåtña and hid behind the high altar.

The Spanish Governor stationed two guards at the church doors, in case Custodio exited. Meanwhile, negotiations began between the parish priest and the Governor. The end result was that the priest exonerated Custodio, since he was being physically abused by the man he stabbed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

KÅNTAN CHAMORRITA


Yanggen oga'an hao na sinedda'
ti un tinaka' talo'åne;
hahasso yo' bonitan måta
yanggen håfa hao hu sangåne.

If in the morning you are found
you won't reach midday;
think of me, pretty face
if I tell you something.


This verse is open to more than one interpretation.

Remember that, being a strict Catholic society in those days, lovers had to speak in code all the time.

"You won't reach midday." The lover, probably a male since it is unbecoming, in those days, for the female to be the pursuer, is telling his paramour that if he has the good fortune of seeing her in the morning, his love is so intent that it won't even be noontime when he does or says something.

"Think of me if I tell you something." If he sees her in the morning, he will tell her something that he hopes she won't forget. Perhaps he will ask her to meet him somewhere, and hopefully it will take place before noontime.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

BELEMBAUTUYAN


Chamorro Studies staff learn about the belembautuyan
guampdn.com


The belembautuyan is considered a native musical instrument in the Marianas, but we can't be sure about its origins.

Not much documentation exists about it prior to World War II. We can't even be sure just how extensively used it was before the war.



After the war, a few people still played it. By the 1980s, Guam had just two men - Jesus Meno Crisostomo and Manuel Indalecio Quichocho - who were belembautuyan players. But Jesus, now deceased, did train Delores Taitano Quinata and the art is now being passed on by her to others.

The art involved is actually two skills : making the belembautuyan and then playing it.

The name of this instrument - a long wooden rod tied with string or wire - is actually a combination of two words.

Belembau is a Chamorro word meaning "to sway, to brandish, to totter, to wave, to swing." The general idea behind belembau is for something to move side to side.

Tuyan means the abdomen. This is because the gourd of the belembautuyan, which allows the vibration of the string or wire to be amplified, is placed on the tuyan of the player.

But we are torn between the theory that belembau is truly an indigenous term, and that it is a Chamorro version of the imported word berimbau.



Brazilian berimbau

Since Chamorros avoid the R and replace it with an L, one can see how it is possible that the berimbau of Brazil became the Chamorro belembau.

It's possible that the actual instrument came to the Marianas from abroad. When Chamorros were first introduced to it, they heard it being called a berimbau. In time, that was changed to belembau.

Chamorros then applied it to the harmonica, calling it the belembau påchot, as opposed to the belembau tuyan.

Brazil and Guam seem too far apart for this connection to have happened. But one should remember that Guam was often visited by people from South America. Some of the first governors of the Marianas were actually from South America. Whalers of every race and color visited Guam in the early 1800s. Anything could have happened!

From the musical instrument, then, Chamorros could have applied the word belembau then to anything that swayed side to side.


Jesus Meno Crisostomo of Inalåhan
Master Belembautuyan Player

How does the belembautuyan sound?

I once saw, when I was a kid in the 70s, Jesus Crisostomo riding on a parade float on Liberation Day, playing the belembautuyan.  Boing, boing, boing was the sound it made, but he could change the pitch, though there was not much variation in the sound it made, as far as I remember.

But, as you can hear from the video below of Quichocho playing the belembautuyan, it can actually give off a good array of sounds. Caution, however. The narrator's Chamorro pronunciation is not the best.

For more, go to

http://www.guampedia.com/belembaotuyan-2/

VIDEO LINKS

Manuel Quichocho playing the belembautuyan :

http://vimeo.com/6790671

Jesus Crisostomo and Manuel Quichocho show how to make a belembautuyan :

http://vimeo.com/6789125


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A CHAMORRO STABBING IN MARIN COUNTY




Two men with possible Chamorro identities, involved in a stabbing, in Marin County, Califronia, in 1890.

Sounds unimaginable.

But I guess our forebears got around, especially by sea.

Vicente Pangelinan and Antonio Lujan were drinking with a woman at the Mailliard Ranch in San Geronimo, California, about 8 miles distant from Novato.

They are described as Portuguese, but American newspapers often misidentified Chamorros as Spaniards or Portuguese. We know that Pangelinan is a common Chamorro (and Filipino) name, and that many Chamorros also have the Spanish Lujan surname. The account says that Lujan was a seafaring man. So, we have strong reason to suspect that these two men were Chamorros who made it to San Francisco, as Chamorros often did, by way of the whaling ships which they joined.

Well, apparently, the drink got to at least Lujan, who struck the woman. Pangelinan rose to her defense, and Lujan stabbed Pangelinan with his pocket knife. Six inches deep.

Lujan fled and, at the time of these reports, was still at large. It was feared Pangelinan would not survive his wounds.

Friday, January 16, 2015

GRANDMA'S TEXTBOOK



The Spaniards ran schools in the Marianas. The first and the best was founded by Sanvitores in Hagåtña, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán. "Colegio" did not mean "college" in the American sense - a school of higher learning beyond high school. In Spain, then as well as now, "colegio" meant a secondary school, the level after primary or elementary education.

Education was free, but limited. It was meant to groom leaders among the Chamorros. Primarily men who would be Catholic and obedient to the Spanish government. The Jesuits, who started schools in the Marianas, also trained the select students at the Colegio in music, farming and other skills.

Thus, even in Hagåtña, an education was given mainly to the most promising youth. Hundreds more children did not go to school. It was believed, even up to American times, that youngsters who would eventually become farmers and fishermen wouldn't need a western education except in how to write their names and (for the Spanish) in the catechism. Even the catechism was as basic as can be, and most often passed down orally and retained by memory, not by books.

But, what books did the select students actually use?

In the records of the 1800s, the most prominent book mentioned was the catón.

The catón was a primer, the fundamental and basic reading book first given to little children to use in school.

Although the catón I am using in this post as an illustration was printed in 1919, it would have been very similar in content to the catón used in the Marianas in the late 1800s.

The language of the catón was Spanish. This is how the brightest children would learn to speak basic Spanish. Some Chamorros learned excellent Spanish, as well.




As you can see, the catón taught the alphabet and basic readings skills; on this page, how to pronounce syllables. Some of these Spanish words would have been easily recognizable to the students, as these had been passed over into the Chamorro spoken at home. Dåño for "wound," såla for "hall" or "large room," siya for "chair," tåsa for "cup," båla" for "bullet" are just some of the many Spanish loan words in the text above that entered Chamorro speech. Of course, when necessary, we changed the Spanish pronunciation to our own and used Spanish words according to our grammatical rules.




The catón would also cover basic math skills; adding, subtracting and multiplying. Above we see an additions table.




The catón was also a kind of catch-all book. It included whatever the educators thought would be necessary for the fundamental formation of the child on all levels, including the moral and the religious. On this page, we see the Roman numerals as well as proverbs and refrains meant to enlighten the child in moral lessons about general life.  One such proverb above says, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." And, "He who wants it all, loses it all."




Under Spain, at the time, religion was not separate from education. So, the catón also included, if not emphasized heavily, the Catholic religion. Religion is spread throughout the catón, no matter the subject. On this page, we see the enemies of the soul (the world, the devil and the flesh); the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity); the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) but also the five corporal senses (to see, hear, smell, taste and touch)! All older Chamorros know from memory that the three enemies of the soul are : i tano', i anite yan i sensen.

On other pages of the catón, there are the Ten Commandments, the Seven Sacraments, a guide how to hear Mass in Latin and many other religious teachings.




Agueda Johnston, Guam's foremost educator under the early American administration first went to school under the Spanish system, more than likely using a catón.  In one of her written recollections, she complains how limited and rudimentary her schooling during Spanish times was. She said, words to the effect, that it was too basic and then became repetitive.  Agueda was meant for much more in life than just the basics.