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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

CHAMORROS ON PAKIN ATOLL


Pakin Atoll, Pohnpei


Pakin Atoll lies northwest of Pohnpei.

During the Japanese administration of Micronesia, government policy was to isolate islanders suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy) on remote atolls. Pakin was one of them.

At least three Chamorros were sent by the Japanese to Pakin before World War II.

One was from Luta (Rota), named Jesus. His last name was not recorded.

The two others were from Saipan. Jose de los Santos and Maria de los Santos. Their relationship is not documented. They could be spouses, siblings, cousins or have no close relationship at all.

After the war, Pakin was no longer used for this purpose. The final outcome of these three Chamorros on Pakin is something I have yet to discover. After World War II, Tinian was used as the site of a facility for patients of Hansen's Disease from all over Micronesia, including Chamorros. It's possible these three were sent there.


Friday, January 9, 2015

ALLÁ EN EL RANCHO GRANDE...CHAMORRO STYLE



Today, one finds many people wanting to strip the Chamorro language of any foreign influence.

Interestingly, this is a new attitude, and individuals are certainly free to have it. I wonder where it comes from. It certainly doesn't come from our mañaina, who borrowed left and right!

They borrowed musical tunes as well as vocabulary, without feeling that they were any less Chamorro for doing so.

Take, for example, the Mexican folk song, "Allá en el rancho grande."  The tune is borrowed and, in this Chamorro version, English words are incorporated to make for a humorous song.

The chorus remains the same, in Spanish :

Allá en el rancho grande, allá donde vivía;
había una rancherita, que alegre me decía, que alegre me decía.

Then the Chamorro verses go :

Bai fa'tinåse hao lancho-mo, lånchon lanchero;
bai fa'tinåse hao dega-mo, degan kuero.
(I will make for you a ranch, a rancher's ranch;
I will make for you slippers, leather slippers.)

Allá en el rancho grande.....

Bai fa'tinåse hao talayå-mo, talåyan "wire;"
bai fa'tinåse hao karetå-mo, humåhånao sin "tire."
(I will make for you a net, a wire net;
I will make for you a car, which runs without tires.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

OLD CHAMORRO SIGNATURES



In Spanish times, Chamorros were not used to writing their names. They had little need to. They were farmers and fishermen and paper work was few and far between.

In fact, many Chamorros couldn't write their names. Those who couldn't would mark an X or a + where their name would be written by a clerk on a document.

The first American Naval Governor of Guam, Richard Leary, didn't like this. So, he issued General Order No. 13, dated January 23, 1900, instructing all adults on the island to learn to sign their names by July 1st of that year.

This list above of signatures by island residents was drawn up in the 1920s. Some of them may have been young adults born during the American administration, but some more than likely were older and born under the Spanish flag.

In those days, people were less concerned about uniformity. Take Pangelinan, for example. The first Pangelinan spells it clearly with an E, the second Pangelinan could be spelling it with an I. It's not so clear which.

Garrido is a Spanish surname and is spelled with two R's, but Manuel is happy with just one R. It wouldn't have bothered anyone at the time. If a clerk preferred two R's, he'd have listed Manuel as Garrido and not Garido, and Manuel wouldn't have cared either.

Joaquin Rivera had some trouble writing. He spells it Joaqien, and adds a second R at the end. We know his last name today as Rivera, which is how Spaniards spell it. But, V and B sound the same in Chamorro (and Spanish) so many spelled it with a B in those days.

Spanish influence is very clear here, even 21 years after the Spaniards left. It is seen in the style and form of the letters, and in the name Atoigue. The last Atoigue, Vicente, adds two dots above his U. Atoigüe. This is because, in Spanish, GUE or GUI will not make the GWE or GWI sound unless there are two dots above the U. Without those two dots, GUE sounds like GE, like Guerrero; and GUI sounds like GI as in Aguigui.

You will also notice a family name we don't hear about today. Julian Cabo. In the 1897 Census, there is a Cabo family on Guam. The father, Leoncio, is probably Filipino or some other non-native. But he married a Chamorro, Manuela Guerrero Dueñas. They had a good number of children - five, including Julian. Four of those five were boys, so it's interesting that there are no more Cabos on island, at least descendants of Leoncio.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

FAMILIA : ANGOCO



If you are an Angoco, you have the good fortune of coming from a small family, which means you can be very sure of your lineage at least as far back as the mid 1800s.

It's an indigenous name, based on a Chamorro word : angokko.

Angokko means "to depend on, rely on, trust."

The family comes from Aniguak, which, in the 1700s, was overwhelmingly populated by the more purely Chamorro, while Hagåtna was peopled by the Spanish, Latin American and Filipino soldiers who intermarried with Chamorros.

Presiding over the Aniguak Angocos in 1897 was one Joaquin Angoco, married to Susana Taitano (another indigenous name). Listed with them are over a dozen single adults, young adults, teens and children. It is possible that the older ones are their children, and the younger ones their grandchildren.

Living apart from them is a Don Pedro Angoco, who is old enough to be a son of Joaquin and Susana, but I can't tell from the Census if he is, as he lives apart. If we found out that Pedro's maternal middle name was Taitano, that would be a good indication that he is the son of Joaquin and Susana. The "Don" means that Pedro served once as a municipal official, probably the head (cabeza) of the barangay (district) of Aniguak at one time.

But there is also a Dimas Angoco, a little younger than Pedro, and his middle name is Cruz. He is the son of Francisco Angoco and Nieves Cruz (apparently both deceased by 1897). It's possible that Pedro and Dimas are brothers. Not sure. Dimas also lives in Aniguak, apart from Joaquin and Pedro.

So, the Guam Angocos seem to come from two possible origins. A Joaquin and a Francisco.

At one time, there was a Manuel Angoco. He seems to have moved to Luta (Rota) in the mid or late 1800s where he married an Ayuyu. He is the ancestor of the Luta Angocos. His relation to the other Angocos is currently unknown, but there must be a connection as the entire clan seems to be small and limited to Aniguak.


Friday, January 2, 2015

HÅGAT : CAPITAL OF THE MARIANAS?




Yes....if the wishes of a few Spanish governors had been granted.

The idea of transferring the capital of the Marianas to Hågat was put in more than one report written by the Spanish governor to his superiors in Manila.

Remember that Guam was not politically separate, as it is now, from the rest of the Marianas. Until 1898, all the Marianas were one political unit.

Don't forget, either, that Hagåtña was overshadowed at times by Humåtak, where the Spanish governor would often reside. The fact is that the disadvantages of Hagåtña, and the advantages of other places, sometimes meant that the official capital city of the Marianas was in question.

What were these disadvantages and advantages?



DISADVANTAGES OF HAGÅTÑA



1. Lack of Anchorage

Hagåtña is bordered by a coral reef that acts like a wall or barrier. Ships could anchor outside Hagåtña in the deep, but to get from the ship to the shore, passengers would have to get in small boats and take their chances going through small breaks in the reef.

It is for this reason that Humåtak became such a desirable place for the Governor, who controlled the importation of goods. Ships could more easily anchor in Humåtak Bay without a reef to deal with. Later, Apra Harbor became the port of choice. From Sumay, the town which developed at Apra, it was a short ride to Hågat.

2. Lack of Good Drinking Water

Although a small river ran through Hagåtña, beginning at its source in the ciénega or swamp to the east of the city, people did not drink from it. The water was cloudy and brackish so they used it for washing and bathing instead.

For drinking water, people in Hagåtña dug wells on their property. But the soil is chalky, and the water, though drinkable, was not pleasant enough for the Europeans and perhaps even some Chamorros. Those who would not drink the water from the Hagåtña wells would have water from the Asan River hauled over to the city. This took time and, for some, money.



ADVANTAGES OF HÅGAT



1. Port at Apra

As mentioned, some thought that by moving the capital to Hågat, it wouldn't be that much of a distance from Hågat to the port at Apra where ships were anchoring. The road between Hågat and Sumay was easily traveled by carriage.

2. Abundant, Good Water

The mountains behind Hågat produced good streams and rivers which could easily provide a new capital city with drinking water.

Although not stated, as far as I know, in Spanish reports, I believe another factor that made Hågat more desirable than Hagåtña was its spacious landscape compared to HagåtñaHagåtña was hemmed in by the reefed shoreline in front and by the sheer cliffs that rise behind the capital city, where Agana Heights is now located.  The disatnce beteen the cliffs and the beach in Hagåtña sometimes leaves the tightest of spaces to build.

Hågat, on the other hand, had a broader space, from the beach slowly rising into the highlands behind it. This would allow for the expansion of houses. Hagåtña, in contrast, was growing ever more crowded due to space limitations.




HAGÅTÑA

hemmed in by both reef (north) and cliffs (south)





HÅGAT

more spacious and well-watered

If Governors Francisco Villalobos (1831-1837) and Francisco Olive (1884-1887) had their way, Hågat would have become the capital of the Marianas.

But it was not to be.

Spanish inattention of the Marianas doomed such a large project from the beginning. A great deal of effort, and some money, would need to be spent in order to transfer the government to Hågat from Hagåtña.

Some factors also favored the retention of Hagåtña as capital of the Marianas.

First, the majority of Hagåtña's population would have stayed there, rather than move to Hågat. This majority had their interests in northern lands, where their farms, and livelihood were located. Some Hagåtña families owned land in and around Hågat, but most had their lands up north. That would have kept them tied to Hagåtña and closer to the farms they tilled so they could eat.

Secondly, the Church would more than likely have remained headquartered in Hagåtña, sanctified, as it were, by the spirit of Sanvitores, who chose Hagåtña as his center of activities and his residence. If ordered by the government to make Hågat the seat of the mission, the missionaries could be expected to put up a fight against such an order.

Hågat was not the only place proposed as a possible new site for the islands' capital. In the end, none of the suggested villages ever replaced Hagåtña.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

KOSTUMBREN ÅÑO NUEBO



Different cultures view New Year's Day differently, and so customs differ throughout the world concerning the first day of the New Year.

Some cultures consider New Year's a time to ward off evil and encourage good fortune for the coming year. So fireworks, for them, chase away the bad and 12 (some say 13) round fruits on the dinner table on New Year's means 12 months of good fortune, all year round; the 13th for some people means even extra fortune.

Others, like Americans, regard New Year's as a time to begin anew. So, they make New Year's resolutions.

Chamorros, in the past, didn't seem that preoccupied about the coming year's fortunes, good or bad. Perhaps this is due to the average Chamorro's consistent pattern of having the basic necessities of life. There were few luxuries for most, but almost all had a roof over their head, land to till and the sea to fish in.

The attitudes Chamorros had about New Year's in the days before Americanization can be broken down into three main categories. Remember that not every Chamorro family had the same regard for New Year's and not everyone practiced these customs.


A TIME TO PUT SOME THINGS TO AN END

For some, New Years was the time to bury the hatchet. Or machete. To forget about past wrongs, end a family fight, or grievance with a neighbor or whomever. Two people who may not have spoken to each other due to a quarrel might start to speak to each other once again on New Year's or thereabouts.

CLEAN THE HOUSE

Some families observed the custom of really giving the house a clean sweep. Everything in the house, and sometimes around the house, was given a good cleaning. Perhaps some old and useless things were disposed of. The New Year was started, this way, with everything clean and in order.

NEW CLOTHES

Another custom, for some, was to wear nothing but new clothes and new shoes on New Year's. Again, it was the idea of starting the new year using nothing but new things. But, as one lady said, this was not a widespread custom before the war, because, before the war, "Puro ha' mamopble." "We were all poor."

ON SAIPAN - REMEMBERING THE YEAR'S DEAD

The Germans have many interesting New Year's customs. In some parts of that country, a spoon full of melted lead is dropped in cold water and the resulting shape is supposed to give a clue as to the coming year.

The German Capuchins were in charge of the Catholic mission in Saipan and Tinian from 1907 to 1919. They used some German melodies to compose new hymns in Chamorro. These songs were not sung on Guam; only in Saipan and then Rota.

One of these songs, "Ta fan magof todos," is sung for the new year. It includes the lines :

Jesus Yu'us-måme / gi nuebo na såkkan
gai'ase' nu hame / apåtta i daño.
Nå'e nu i deskånso / i man gaige esta gi naftan
yan guåha sea kåso måtai na såkkan.

"Jesus, our God / in the new year
have mercy on us / remove what is harmful.
Give rest / to those already in the grave
and on those who may die this year."


In time, this idea of thinking of the dead developed into remembering the dead of the past year. In recent years (the last 20 or 30), this developed further into the practice of lighting candles in Mass, and presenting them to the altar or sanctuary, one candle for each deceased in the past year, at the New Year's Mass. This custom (and the song) also traveled south to Guam where it became the practice in some parishes.

NOT A BIG DEAL

In many families in the old days, New Year's was not celebrated with any special attention.

The reason is this. For the Church, up to this day, January 1 is not the celebration of a change in the calendar. It is a spiritual, or religious, commemoration.

For centuries, January 1 was, for Catholics, the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, since Old Testament Law ordered that Jewish baby boys be circumcised on the 8th day after birth. Since the Lord's birth was observed on December 25, His circumcision would be observed on January 1. The feast of the Lord's Circumcision meant several things. First, it showed how Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus obeyed the Old Testament Law. Second, on the 8th day, baby boys received their names. Our Lord's name, Jesus, means "God saves" and is indicative of His mission and identity. Third, when the Child Jesus was circumcised, He shed His first blood for our salvation. The fact that this feast fell on the first day of new civil year was secondary.

In 1960, Pope John XXIII changed the title of the Church feast of January 1 from the Circumcision of the Lord to "Octave of the Nativity," "octave" meaning "eighth day." The prayers of the Mass of that day still referred to the circumcision of the Lord. In 1969, the general reform of the Church Calendar shifted the observance to Mary, the Mother of God, though the current Gospel for that day does make reference to the circumcision of Jesus.

So Chamorro Catholics from the time of Sanvitores up to the changes in the Church calendar observed January 1 as a religious feast of the Circumcision, and thereafter the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. The change of a new secular, or civil, year was not seen as a religiously significant thing.

Now, of course, New Year's in the Marianas is often accompanied by fire crackers, gun shots and resolutions, under influences from abroad. But, under several centuries of Spanish influence, many Chamorros did not give January 1 any special attention and not many customs developed except for the ones described above.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

THE STORY OF PALÅYE ROCK



To most modern people, the rock on the left, off the shore of Hågat, looks like Aladdin's slipper or maybe a genie's lamp.

But to our ancestors, who had no idea who Aladdin was, the rock reminded them of a canoe.

A very old story is told about these two rocks came about.

Many centuries ago, before the time of the Spaniards, some Chamorro men in Hågat agreed to go out to sea to catch fish. They took with them fruits and the bark of the puting tree, which is narcotic, to use to catch fish.

The tide would soon go out and the fishermen needed to tie their nets to the breaks in the reef in order to catch the fish swimming out with the tide. In their haste, they chose a canoe that was leaky. As they rowed out, the boat began to leak. As they paddled back to land, they began to throw their things out of the boat so as to return to land faster. But the canoe was just leaking too much and they abandoned it to swim to shore.

When they looked back, they saw that the canoe had changed to a rock, which they called Palåye. The things they threw out of the canoe, such as the nets, the bark and fruits, formed a second rock.

Since then, Palåye Rock served the fishermen of Hågat by making loud noises as sea water rushed through holes in the rock, just as the canoe from which it was made had leaking holes. These loud noises warn the fishermen that big waves are on their way.

The other rock, formed by the nets, bark and fruit, has some vegetation. But on Palåye, made from a canoe, no plants grow. At least, as the story goes. But recently some vegetation has spring up on Palåye. Still, compared to the growth found on the rock on the right, one can see why that's how the story goes. I do remember seeing Palåye Rock completely barren of plants.


NOTE

The puting tree is known, in English, as the fish-killer tree and as the barringtonia asiatica among scientists. Its poison stupifies fish, making them easy to catch in their dazed state.


Monday, December 29, 2014

ANTI-JAPANESE SENTIMENT IN PRE-WAR GUAM



Mr. K. Sawada, a Japanese merchant, was living a comfortable life on Guam since around 1908. Though a long-time Guam resident, he never fully entered into local society besides selling his wares and having friendly business relations with other merchants. His wife, Nao, was Japanese. Unlike other Japanese men who became Catholic because they married Chamorro women, he and his family did not convert.

Sawada took a trip to his native country, specifically to Tokyo, in March of 1933. This was less than a month after Japan withdrew completely from the League of Nations, which pointed to Japan as the cause of the problems in Manchuria. Japan's growing isolation from world diplomacy created in many the impression that Japan were the "bad boys" of the global scene.

On Guam, Sawada said, this negative feeling towards Japanese could be felt. Sawada's comments were reported in more than one Japanese newspaper. He said there was a desire on the part of some on Guam to drive the Japanese out, at least those who had not married into local society. In fact, seven such Japanese males left Guam permanently that March.

The Japanese on Guam, numbering in the 40s, worked as merchants, tailors, barbers, fishermen, carpenters, blacksmiths, cooks and farmers, making more money than Chamorros doing the same work. This, also, did not help Japanese-Chamorro relations.

The interesting thing, Sawada said, was that some of the children of these Japanese, being half Chamorro, supported the idea of forcibly repatriating some of the Japanese residents of Guam.

Sawada did not live long enough to see the ultimate result of Japan's diplomatic divorce from the rest of the world. He died before World War II began. His widow, Nao, lived long enough to gloat when the Japanese flag flew over Guam, and she made life difficult for some locals during the war. Mysteriously, she disappeared when the Americans invaded Guam.

Friday, December 26, 2014

CHAMORRON YAP : AQUININGOC


Headstone at Tinian's Catholic Cemetery


Ignacio Arceo and Manuel San Nicolas Aquiningoc were Chamorros who moved to Yap sometime around or before 1920.

The Japanese were running all of Micronesia by then, except for Guam.

Ignacio was born in Agat, Guam, the son of Joaquin and Vicenta Arceo Aquiningoc. He first married a Welsh-Chamorro woman with the last name Lewis. She was the daughter of Evan Lewis, a Welshman from England, who went from island to island doing a variety of work, till he settled in Yap and married a Chamorro woman with the last name Cruz.

Ignacio had a good number of children, born in Yap. Living for twenty or more years in Yap, I am sure that Ignacio, as head of the household, was able to speak some Japanese and maybe even some Yapese. Manuela, minding more domestic duties, probably had less interaction with the Japanese and Yapese but could still have learned something of those languages.

The children, especially the older ones, would have had more exposure to the Japanese and Yapese languages. The couple continued to have children right into the war. Those younger ones would have been still very young when the family, as well as all the Yap Chamorros, were forcibly moved off of Yap by the U.S. government at the request of the Yapese.

Like most of the Yap Chamorros, the Aquiningocs moved to Tinian after the war, where there was plenty of good land and no native population to cultivate it.