Tuesday, April 22, 2014


On Tinian, sugar was king in the 1920s and 30s

One of the neatest things about Tinian is the abundance of Japanese-era remnants that exist there to this day.

Tinian was an entirely Japanese (and Okinawan and Korean) island in the 1920s and 30s.  The Japanese, who took over the Northern Marianas in 1914, found no permanent and rooted Chamorro community on the island.  Since the Spaniards deported the people to Guam in the 1700s, Tinian was inhabited only by seasonal Chamorro workers, and then later by a Carolinian community eventually relocated to Tanapag (Saipan), who tended the herds of cattle for the government and sometimes private entrepreneurs.  By 1914, all this had more or less been shut down and the island depopulated again, except for sporadic visits by Chamorros on Saipan to get beef or benefit somehow from the land.

Sugar Mill of the Nanyo Kohatsu Kaisha (NKK)

Taking advantage of Tinian's flat terrain, suitable soil and lack of a native population that owned land, much less used it themselves, the NKK sugar company expanded the sugar industry from Saipan to Tinian.  Eventually Tinian would be producing twice the amount of sugar Saipan was.

Though the fires burn, thanks to the battle, Tinian's sugar cane fields are still clearly visible

Tinian was mainly populated by Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans.  Chamorros amounted to a dozen or so males from Saipan and Rota doing temporary work on Tinian.  There wasn't even a Catholic priest assigned to Tinian during the Japanese period.

Japanese Communications Center
now surrounded by cattle farms

The torii (gate) of the NKK Shinto Shrine

Japanese Air Administration building near the now-abandoned airstrips

Japanese Air Operations building in the area of the old airstrips

An office building of the NKK

The railroad tracks went through here, transporting sugar cane to the mill.

Tanks for raising unagi or fresh water eels.

The Sumiyoshi Shrine sits atop a hill thickly covered by vegetation.

The Shrine is still in good condition.

Another Shrine, on Mt Lasso, is not in as good a condition as Sumiyoshi.

Japanese Coastal Defenses, Chulu Beach

Japanese water pumps and tanks dot the island
What's left of the Japanese crematorium

Friday, April 11, 2014


Åntes de para un hånao
ai fangågågao lisensia!
Yanggen magof yo' un hånao;
yan ti magof yo' pasiensia.

(Before you leave,
oh, ask for permission!
If it pleases me, you will go;
if not, have patience.)

Stinging words that can be applied in more than one scenario.

One can imagine an adolescent boy who knows the girl of his love interest is momentarily at church or in another public place.  If he moves quickly enough, he can stroll by and converse with her.  But mother is keeping him on a short leash.

It could be a teenage girl, eyeing a potential boyfriend.

Perhaps it could even be from one lover to another, detaining the other to prove who rules in the relationship or perhaps to further enjoy the other's company.

The verse can mean many things, depending on the singer.

Thursday, April 10, 2014



Early 1941 was a good time for agriculture, the main occupation in Malesso'.   Tomatoes and corn in particular did very well.  More people were interested in farming and a record twenty-two plows were bought in Malesso' in just one month.

A type of pandanus called åkgak was receiving a lot of attention on Guam in the late 30s and early 40s.  Its production and use in weaving all kinds of things for home use and daily life was promoted by the government.  Jesus C. Barcinas, a teacher in Malesso', was a leader in åkgak production.  There was a big demand for woven products made of åkgak, especially by statesiders buying them as souvenirs.  It was a new way of making cash on Guam.

On the church front, Father Marcian was able to tear down what was left of the church which remained roofless after the typhoon of November 1940.  He was busy doing carpentry work to fix his residence and start building a new church.


About the only sour note in Malesso' in June of 1941 was the no-show of the mañåhak fish.  They showed up but in such small numbers that the people could not salt any for future use.  What little mañåhak came was eaten up by the people.

Imagine this kind of life before December that year would change life forever.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Village leaders in the Marianas during the Spanish period were not elected in the way we are familiar with today.  In the late 1800s, only a small group of village elite cast consultative votes, which could be (and often were) ignored by the Spanish officials who made the final determination.

These elite men were prior and current holders of various municipal positions such as gobernadorcillo (village chief), cabezas de barangay (neighborhood leaders), alguacil (a kind of justice officer) and others.

The local priest also had his say.  Sometimes this was even ignored by the Spanish Governor.

Keep in mind that in the Hågat (Agat) political unit, Sumay was included, as it was a more recent village and considered an annex of Hågat.  So some of the individuals mentioned below were residents of Sumay.

In the "election" of 1893 for the village of Hågat (Agat), the following were involved in the consultations :

Joaquin de San Nicolas
Vicente de Leon Guerrero Blanco
Juan Pineda
Jose de Rivera
Antonio de Leon Guerrero
Martin Taeñao
Francisco Sablan
Nicolas Diaz
Ignacio de la Cruz
Luis Blanco Carbullido
Guillermo Lizama
Felix Charfauros

When all these men voted for the highest post, that of gobernadorcillo , the top vote-getters were :

Vicente de Leon Guerrero Blanco
Luis Blanco Carbullido
Juan de los Reyes

Padre Jose Palomo, the first Chamorro priest, was acting pastor of Hågat at the time and weighed in on the matter, saying that Vicente Blanco could hardly speak Spanish, but that Luis Carbullido knew how to read, write and speak Spanish.

Unfortunately, this record doesn't show who was actually appointed gobernadorcillo of Hågat by the Governor.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Wedding of Pedro & Maria Nauta, 1947

Talak hiyong gi bentanå-mo
Ya un ekkungok yo’ kerida mia
Ya bai hu kantåye hao på’go
nu i siette na Sakramento siha.

I finene’na i bautismo.
Hu tungo’ na esta hao matakpånge,
Tinakpånge hao as påle’
Sa’ guiya yo’ sumangåne.

I segundo konfitmasion.
Hu tungo’ na esta hao ma konfitma.
Guåho lokkue’ i na’ån-ho
Gi korason-mo bai hu fitma.

I tetset i penitensia.
Esta yo’ kumonfesat gi as påle’
Na hågo ha’ guinaiya-ko
Hågo ha’, kerida, båle.

I kuåtto i Santa Komunion
Nai un resibe i tataotao i Saina.
Un dia un chåhlao yo’ para asaguå-mo
Ya hågo para guåho må’gas na raina.

I kinto i Santos Oleos
annai ma palai i kumekematai.
Guåho lokkue’ siempre ma oleos  
Sa’ sin hågo chaddek yo’ måtai.

I mina’ sais i pumåle’.
Ni ngai’an para bai ma otdena.
Lao si påle’ hit  siempre ha na’ danña’;
I dinañå'-ta kalan fitme na kadena.

I mina’ siette i matrimonio.
Guiya på’go et mås malago’-ho.
Pinto’ Yu’us na hågo bai asagua
Ya bai kumple este na matago’-ho.

Pues estague siha i Sakramento
Ni ginen i Saina nai man pine’lo
Lao entre siha este ha’ malago’-ho
I åras, aniyo yan belo.

~~~Tinige' Påle' Eric



Look out from your window
and listen to me my love
and I will sing to you now
about the seven Sacraments.

The first is baptism.
I know you are already baptized.
You were baptized by the priest
because he himself told me.

The second is confirmation.
I know you are already confirmed.
My name as well
I will write on your heart.

The third is penance.
I have already confessed to Father
that you alone are my love,
you alone darling are worthy.

The fourth is Holy Communion
when you receive the Body of our Lord.
One day you will take me as your husband
and you will be for me an exalted queen.

The fifth is Holy Anointing,
when they anoint the dying.
I, too, will be anointed
because without you I will quickly die.

The sixth is ordination.
I will never be ordained.
But Father will join us together,
our union like a strong chain.

The seventh is matrimony.
Now that is what I most want.
It is God's will that I marry you,
and I will accomplish this, my task.

So these are the Sacraments,
which were established by the Lord.
But among them this only do I want :
the coins, ring and veil.*

* A Spanish tradition continued among Chamorros is the blessing and exchange of coins, symbolizing the husband's promise to provide for the family, and the veil which goes over both bride and groom (her head, his shoulder) symbolizing their unity.

Monday, April 7, 2014



Family Shoe Store was the first shoe store on Guam.  Shoes, of course, were sold in other stores before and after the war, but this store was exclusively for shoes.

It was opened around 1950 by husband and wife Jose (Ton Nene) and Ana Franquez Dueñas. 

The upper floor was originally storage space but in the early 1970s it was rented to my aunt, Sally Limtiaco, as a beauty salon (called Princess Coiffure). 

Route 4 at the time was just two lanes and there were no side walks as yet.
The store closed in 1983 and eventually became the first offices of the newly-created Catholic Social Services.
Route 4 is widened and now has sidewalks.
The land was eventually leased to the Bank of Guam and the old building torn down to make way for the building of the bank's headquarters.  Route 4 now has a median island or divider.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Sais åños despues de umassagua i dos, ha sodda' un palao'an na primu-ña mina' kuåttro grådo i asaguå-ña.
(Six years after the two married, a woman found out that her husband was her fourth cousin.)

Mampos inestotba i palao'an pot este, ya humånao sekretamente guato gi bihå-ña para u famaisen kao guaha håfa båba bidan-ñiha yan i asaguå-ña.
(The woman was exceedingly disturbed on account of this, and secretly went to her grandmother to ask if she and her husband had done anything wrong.)

Ilek-ña i bihå-ña, "Hagas hu tungo' na parientes-ta i asaguå-mo, lao hu konsiente para un asagua gue', sa' esta mina' kuåttro påpa' i matuban niyok."
(Her grandmother said, "I knew back then that your husband was our relative, but I agreed for you to marry him, because he was four grooves down the coconut tree.")


Tuba, we mostly all know, is the fermented drink made from the sap of the coconut tree.

But matuba can mean the cut grooves on the trunk of the coconut tree (niyok) to help people climb it.  There is a connection between the cuts and the drink because the sap is collected by cutting the flower of the tree.

In the old days, one could see many coconut trees with these slashed grooves on the trunk.  Nowadays, as fewer people in our islands climb the trees to make use of them, it is harder to find trees that are matuba.

Older people thus used the symbol of the grooves of the coconut tree to express distance from the top.  The lower the groove, the more distance from the top.  By analogy, this could be applied to distances among blood relations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Not all folk beliefs are consistent.

People are people, and come up with a variety of beliefs that are the same in some ways, and differ in others.

Take for example rain.

Some believe that if it rains on Christmas day, it will rain on and off the following year.  There will be no true "dry season" or fañomnagan.

But others say this :

Yanggen uchan gi Åño Nuebo, siempre u templao entero i sakkan.

If it rains on New Year's Day, the whole year will be temperate.

Templao means that the year will be evenly regulated, with no extremes.  There will be rain and shine evenly distributed all times of the year.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


My informant was in his early teens when the Japanese invaded Guam in December of 1941.  He prefers to remain anonymous.

When the people had to vacate Hagåtña when war began, his family headed north to Yigo where the family had farm land.

I asked him about his Japanese school teacher in Yigo.

"Marino.  Si Kanabichi na'ån-ña." 
("He was a sailor.  Kanabichi was his name.")

"Kao maolek pat båba kostumbre-ña?"  I asked.
("Were his ways good or bad?")


"Ti ha patmåda hamyo, pat ti ha anña' hamyo?"
("He didn't slap you, or beat you up?")

"Åhe', Påle'.  Tåya' bidan-måme lokkue' ni para in merese man ma anña'!"
("No, Father.  We didn't do anything either to deserve to be beaten up!")

Then he grinned a little, looked at me and said,

"Påle', ti todo Chapanis man båba."
("Father, not every Japanese was bad.")

Monday, March 24, 2014


In the village of Hågat there has been, for many years, a small number of families who go by the last name Taiañao or Taieñao.

They really are the same name, but since people in the old days spelled names the way it sounded to them, slightly different spellings came about. 

The root word for this Chamorro name is å'ñao.  We see it in words like ma'å'ñao, which means "fearful."  But that meaning came later.  Å'ñao means "victory, domination, subjugation."  Ma'å'ñao meant someone or something was dominated, subjected, beaten in a fight.  Naturally, this was something fearful so ma'å'ñao also came to mean "fearful," or perhaps "overcome with fear of subjection."

A'a'ñao means someone who is victorious and who dominates another.  The "a'a" is then changed into "ak" and "a'a'ñao" becomes akñao, meaning someone who is victorious.

Tai means "lacking."  So Taiañao/Taieñao means "invincible, unconquerable" but also fearless about being dominated, so intrepid.

The entire Taiañao/Taieñao family seems to be descended from one man with that surname, one Alejandro Taiañao from Hågat.  He was married to a Maria Charfauros.

Their children were Mariano and Martin.  Martin (born 1844) married Maria San Nicolas Quintanilla, had a number of children, including sons, in the 1860s and 70s and from them the family continued to this day.


To make matters more interesting, also in Hågat, there was the Eñao family.  This family did not continue to our times due to lack of males to carry on the name.  Eñao could actually be Añao, but perhaps not.

So you see how there are three Chamorro families, the Taiañao from Hågat, the Maañao from Asan and the Taimañao from Luta, and all three names are derived from the root word å'ñao.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Chamorro politics traditionally has been, like the Spam above, hot and spicy.

Political meetings were a form of entertainment, back when less people were lucky to have a TV to watch the one channel we had in those days, which went off the air dutifully at midnight after the playing of the National Anthem.

Political speakers were supposed to attack the opposition; the more fiercely, the better.  But what really scored points was when you made the audience laugh when you attacked the other party.

People judged a speech on its content, eloquence and humor - all in Chamorro.

Guam politics has become more Americanized, which means much (not all) of the humor is gone.  Very few speeches are said in Chamorro, as there are fewer candidates who can speak Chamorro.

But in the Northern Marianas, much of the campaigning continues to be in Chamorro, and speakers are expected to be combative yet humorous at the same time and entertain the audience.

On one of the northern islands, a certain politician's intials were PAM.  As he was a senator, they added S to PAM and he became known as SPAM.

So the opposing party milked this for all it was worth, habitually referring to this politician as SPAM.

Said one speaker, "Magåhet na SPAM hao.  Ya bai hu nangga asta ke måkpo' i election ya bai hu aflito hao ya bai hu na' dokngos!"

"It's true that you are SPAM.  And I will wait until the election is over and I will fry you and I'll make you burnt."

The thing is SPAM took this in stride.  He and his party also fired the same kind of shots back at the opponents.

My grandmother's brother-in-law was also a politician in Guam in the 1950s and 60s.  A man told me he went to one of the campaign rallies and heard a politician attack my uncle fiercely.  Later that night, he saw my uncle and the politician who attacked him sitting at the same table in the same restaurant having a meal together and having a great laugh.  While this was not true in every case, it was true that such attacks, often humorous, were just part of the natural and expected course of Chamorro politics in those days and up to now in the northern islands.

Our politics today is much more serious, and perhaps for good reason.  The issues of the past did not include many of the deep philosophical divisions we have going on today.