100 Healing Rituals for Chamorros Suffering from Homesickness and Diaspora

I was already home after the first 7

Craig Santos Perez

This poem is dedicated to every Chamorro child whose left our islands because their parents decided to migrate. This is for every Chamorro who migrated because they lost their job, their land, their house, their faith that things would get better for them. This is for every Chamorro who migrated because they were drafted and/or enlisted into the military. This is for every Chamorro family who moved from base to base because family is just as important as geography. This is for every Chamorro who is deployed far away from their family, may you return home safely and be re-united soon. This is for every Chamorro who migrated for health care, who left because they couldn’t afford to keep traveling back and forth for treatment. This is for every Chamorro who migrated for college, who returned home for the holidays, who excitedly waited for graduation to return home to their…

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Photos by Manny Crisostomo, Lee Lemley, and Cotch Diaz

Lasting Impacts of FESTPAC

Håfa adai and aloha todus hamyo! Gof måhalang yu nu Guåhan, lao hu guaguaiya i Hawai’i nei  (I really miss Guam, but I’m loving Hawai’i.)

Now that the Festival of Pacific Arts and Cultures is long over and the fever is long gone, I felt now is a good time to reflect upon the historic, once-in-a-lifetime event that can change the course of our cultural and colonial history. Guåhan hosted the 12th quadrennial FESTPAC in which twenty-seven island nations– independent and colonized came together to share their stories and cultures through dance, song, sailing, tattooing, weaving, film, healing, and various mediums of ancient and contemporary art. It truly was the “olympics of Pacific cultures”. Many might agree that it wasn’t well-planned, organized, and funded, however everything flowed and came together by the hard-working hands of all the delegates and our people. I know everyone enjoyed it and misses it now that it’s over.

Thousands of locals came to watch the opening ceremony, and almost everyone showed pride in where they’re from– Chamorus wore their sinahis, tapon (spondylous), and repped their beloved Guåhan brands. Chuukese, Belauans, Pohnpeians, and other islanders wore their native-wear proudly. Being submerged in the ocean of Pacific cultures encouraged us to embrace the islanders in us and rejoice our uniqueness and likenesses. In those two weeks, we started to feel free to express ourselves, explore our cultures, learn our pasts, face our presents, and navigate our futures. FESTPAC was a great experience for Chamorus especially to reconnect with our inner islanders and neighbor islanders because we aren’t so connected to our culture. Many of us don’t speak our language or remember our ancient arts; most are modern interpretations of what we believe our ancestors did. That sacred knowledge and stories were stolen from us by brainwashing, assimilating colonizers. In one of the demonstrations at Saggan Kotturan Chamoru, Solomon Islanders made spondylous beads using all-natural, hand-made tools– an ancient art passed down by their ancestors. They made me wonder how my ancestors made their tapon and feel disheartened that I don’t know. However, instead of mourning what we lost in the past 4,500 years, I focused on how we came together, with 26 other island nations miles and histories apart to celebrate håfa iyo-ta, håfa guinåha-ta, yan håfa ta påtte (what is ours, what we have, and what we share). Maybe our ancestors made their tapon the same way the Solomons did– we are kind of related.

On the contrary, one issue few islands share with Guahan is a colonial status. Colonization has been an issue for too long especially in the Pacific, however the uproar of appreciation and pride for our cultures raised awareness on it. The Guåhan delegation ended the closing ceremony with a giant banner reading, “DECOLONIZE OCEANIA, FREE GUAHAN.” Now that we’re learning and loving what makes us unique, we must protect our cultures and languages from outside forces. Colonizers don’t know or understand our cultures and lands, so they don’t know what it takes to resolve our problems and take care of our peoples. Whatever they do with their colonial subjects is for their benefit only. As long as someone else’s flag is flying over our lands, our futures aren’t in our hands. We must reunite our communities with all our strength and voices to end colonization.

FESTPAC ignited flames of interest, passion, and respect for all cultures, but now that it’s over, we must keep the fires going. Don’t let pride in your culture stop at clothing and jewelry, dig deeper: unearth your history, make your language live on, explore and protect your homelands, and wear your island-skin every day.

Saina ma’åse nu i tinaitai-miyu.

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Hagan Guåhan giya Hawai’i Nei

Håfa adai and Aloha Mangatchong-hu! (my friends)

My journey continues… in the islands of Hawai’i. I have moved to Oahu to further my education at Kapi’olani Community College, learn the Hawaiian culture, make roots and connections, and grow as an individual. I chose Hawai’i for various reasons: it has the only university that offers a degree in Pacific Island studies, it’s the perfect cross between island-life and city-life, it’s not tooooo far from home, and it could be the stepping stone to the rest of Polynesia. Hawai’i like Guåhan has a complex colonial history that has severely affected its culture, language, and people. Hawaiians have revitalized their language and culture, and I think that Chamorus can learn a lot from their struggles and successes on our own journey to self-determination and identification. I have worked very hard to get here, so I am very determined to accomplish these goals.

As a hagan Guåhan, leaving si nanan-måmi islan Guåhan yan i familiå-ku was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Hu dumingu (I left) hugs from my parents, kisses from si nanå-hu biha, family fiestas, familiar faces everywhere I go, and the physical connection with the land and my ancestors… I’m already mahålang for the smell of the jungle, the sun’s warm embrace, the saltiness of i tasi, and the silence of our rural island. Although I still cry everyday and long for home, I won’t let my feelings sway me. What I’ve been told and what I believe is that there is an entire world full of knowledge, adventures, cultures, and people out there waiting to be explored, so I’m accepting this quest steadfastly. Sometimes I feel selfish for leaving because there are so many things that I could be doing to help back home, but based on others’ experiences and my own, leaving is necessary for growth; you’ll never truly appreciate a place until it’s gone. Home will always be there waiting to greet with open arms. Whatever I learn and experience will be brought back and shared. I’ll be home sooner or later better equipped to help i islå-ta, i taotao-ta, yan i lina’lå-ta.

Now, I am a part of the Diaspora and am a foreigner in another people’s home.

I na kanaka o ka aina, ka Kanaka Maoli,

ʻO Zea Francesca Pangelinan Nauta koʻu inoa, ke kaikamahine a Guåhan. I hele mai ai i ko oukou mau aina e like me koʻu mau kūpuna i hana ai, e kaʻana ike, ka nohona, a me ke aloha. Koʻu poʻe kānaka a me kou poʻe kānaka maka like aumeume, aka pu, ia kakou ke lanakila maluna o lakou. Ke noi haʻahaʻa aku noi ia oukou no ko oukou pomaikai.

Mahalo nui loa no kou kokua, hoolea aku i ka Pacific!!!

(To the people of the land, the Kanaka Maoli, my name is Zea Francesca Pangelinan Nauta daughter of Guåhan. I come to you like my ancestors did to share knowledge, culture, and peace. My people and your people face similar struggles, but together, we can overcome them. I humbly ask you for your blessings. Thank you for your help, praise the Pacific!!!)

To all my readers, this isn’t the end of my writing, but a new chapter from a different perspective.

Saina ma’åse nu i tinaitai-miyu.

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Ancient Living in Modern Times

Håfa adai mañelu-hu yan mañaina-hu!

Our ancestors, the ancient Chamorus called themselves the Taotao Tåno (people of the land). They lived healthy lives by working together to hunt, gather, farm, and fish to feed their clans—family and nature was life. They knew the properties of indigenous plants and used them to åmte (heal) physical and supernatural ailments. They mindfully used everything around them to sustain their clans. They didn’t just survive, they thrived and developed technologically advanced åcho latte and sakmans (flying proas) that we still can’t understand today. How they were able to sustain themselves by living harmoniously with the land and sea amazes and inspires me to do the same thing. After the U.S. recaptured Guåhan from Japan in World War II, the U.S. military seized 80% of i tano in a span of two years. Our 3,500 year-old subsistent economy (only produced/took enough for daily needs) instantly shifted to a cash-economy, which was a massive change for our grandparents and great grandparents; without their lands, they were unable to work in the låncho and go fishing. The only other way for Chamorus to feed their families and survive were working jobs and earning money. This abrupt change is a factor in the many Chamorus’ disconnection from i tano yan tasi and irrelevance of inafa’maolek—which is a deep Chamoru cultural value.

As a Chamoru living on Guåhan in the 21st century, I am a citizen of the United States living according to American standards. My parents work full time jobs to pay for the mortgage on the house, the cars, and day-to-day necessities. I go to college to earn a degree which will allow me to earn more money. I’m currently working a part-time job to pay for school and other things I need/want. Si tatå-hu bihu (my grandfather) was a lancheru while si nanå-hu biha was a stay-at-home-mother. Although my mother was raised working on the ranch and learning how to live off the land, I wasn’t. The survival skills I was taught were to study hard and get good grades so I can be a good worker and earn good money. In modern Guåhan, the ancient Chamoru survival skills of working at the låncho, building guma’ latte, talåya-throwing, weaving, slinging atupats, building and sailing sakmans, and navigating have become irrelevant. How can we find balance? How can we follow the footsteps of our ancestors in the uncharted paths of our future? How can we incorporate the ancient value inafa’maolek into our modern world?

I believe we must go back to i hale’-ta (our roots). We can’t (and I’m sure many don’t want to) make a complete U-turn and just go back to our subsistent lifestyle, but I think we can incorporate it into our modern lives as an island community. We should revamp our lånchos and reconnect to our land to become self-sustainable to a certain degree. For starters, we can take care of our environment by slowing down the pollution of our land, ocean, and air. Cleaning up after ourselves, properly disposing trash and other waste, and using all-natural cleaning products will prevent toxins and chemicals from destroying our precious soils and waters that grows our food. Following fishing laws and regulations will allow fish populations to remain stable to ensure that our children can fish forever. If one can’t fish or farm, they can buy local fruits, vegetables, and meats which will decrease the need for imported items (less shipments = less gas burned), support local farmers, and keep our money in our economy. We need to stop building concrete jungles and start preserving the lush jungles of precious indigenous plants–live with nature and not against it.

My dream is to be self-sustainable, and I hope to accomplish that by learning my ancestors’ ways of working in the låncho and fishing, but also putting this degree I’m earning to use. If we can all go back to our roots, respect i islå-ta and understand that it is our lifeline, Guåhan would be a much better, healthier, and more beautiful place for our people and culture to thrive on forever.

Saina ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.

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Ha na Liliti i Kurason-hu as Litekyan

Hafa adai mañelu-hu yan mañaina-hu! Biba CHAMORU!!!

A few weekends ago, I went on the first tour open to the public for Guampedia to the rediscovered ancient latte sites in Litekyan (stirring place)–not Ritidian. Our ancestors named it Litekyan because it is where the eastern and western currents meet and form whirlpools. Indeed, Litekyan made my heart stir– Ha na liliti i kurason-hu as Litekyan. Litekyan is not only a cultural heritage site, but an official National Wildlife Refuge containing thousands of trongkon niyok and other indigenous plants, lush coral reefs, yan meggai na man aniti lokkue (and many spirits as well). The latte’ sites are unbelievable; many are still standing, surrounded by countless pottery shards, lusongs and lommoks, and other remnants of our ancestors’ lives. In fact, our ancestors still reside in Litekyan which some can feel upon entering i halom tano (the jungle). There are tours of Litekyan daily from 8-4pm that are absolutely free.

My experience in Litekyan was almost magical and definitely spiritual . I was in awe at how beautiful it was and the abundance of life, but a little disheartened at the small amount of trash I collected. Our hike was like a journey through time because we visited different sites of different eras. I almost couldn’t believe that these places were homes of my ancestors where they would cook and eat the food they caught and farmed, where they would talk to each other and tell stories, and carve lattes and lusongs. These latte’ sites are tangible links to our past and reminders of who we are that must be protected. The fact that they are so beautifully and naturally preserved, almost locked in time, reassured me that we aren’t going anywhere.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Litekyan. The U.S. government wants to take OUR culturally, historically, and environmentally rich WILDLIFE REFUGE to use for military training purposes. They already built a barb-wire fence around the premises! Do I even have to say what’s wrong with this??? Ha na lalalo yu! (It makes me so mad!) Like I said in In Dependence, when the government takes land, they take the best land as if they don’t have enough. The latte’ sites within those fences are OURS. If they take them, what will we have to show our future generations? They too will be further disconnected from our past than we already are.

Put fabot, hånao yan bisita fan Litekyan. Go on a tour, look around and experience the magic for yourself, and remember that everything there could be destroyed for military target practice, unless we do something about it.

Si Yu’us ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.

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Biba M̶e̶s̶ Chamoru!

Buenas Mañelus!

Måtsu (March) was declared Chamoru Heritage Month by the government since 19 forgotten. Many schools, government agencies,  and hopefully companies are hosting various activities to celebrate our culture and heritage. Although this month is a great way for Chamorus and Guamanians to recognize and appreciate all things Chamoru, I feel that this shouldn’t be done one month a year, but year-round and every single day.Our cultures should be who we are and permeate  our everyday lives. If we only recognize our roots one month a year, who are we the remaining 11?

I have been learning a lot in my History of Guåhan course at the university. One thing that interests me the most is how our culture and language survived about 348 years (and counting) of colonialism. The Spanish colonized us in 1668 upon the arrival of Padre Luis San Vitores. He successfully converted all of the Chamorus from our ancient animistic religion and beliefs in Puntan and Fu’una to Catholicism. The Chamoru population was decimated by 80 percent in 30 years as a result of disease and the Chamoru-Spanish War. Many families’ lands that were passed on to them from their families was taken from them. The Japanese and Americans forced us to learn their languages and abandon our own. The American government even threatens our Chamoru identity with Guamanian, as if we aren’t really a people. With these rapid, traumatic changes throughout the years, the perpetuation of our culture and values and use of our language is significant evidence of our strength as a people.

Remember, we are the keepers, the sacred vessels of our culture. If we don’t pass it on, it will cease to exist. Our culture is changing because times are rapidly changing, but what we have been through and learned in the past can help guide us through whatever the future holds. So this mes Chamoru and on, let’s reconnect and stay connected. Let’s appreciate and protect what we have to pass on to future generations. BIBA CHAMORU, MANTAOTAO TÅNO!

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading.

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Major Indecision

Hafañelus!

Remember when I said I wanted to double major in Pacific Island Studies and International Hospitality and Tourism? Well… I changed my mind about tourism having seen the effects it has had on our island. Tomhom (darkness), also known as Tumon is the heart of tourism here on Guam. Little do people know that it is the biggest burial site in the Pacific. It used to have the most beautiful, pristine beaches and luscious jungles, and now it’s a playground for tourists with hotels, shopping plazas, and pollution. The picture above is actually Tumon bay in the 1950s. Gef pågo (beautiful), no? Because tourism is the island’s main source of revenue, we are starting to put the desires of tourists before the needs of the people and the land. It’s like we’re creating a picture perfect paradise Guam just for their pleasure. Eco-tourism companies such as Fisheye Marine Park let tourists feed the fish dog food and bread even though it is bad for the fish and the already fragile ecosystem they are a part of. Jetski clubs pollute the beaches and scare the fish away on the daily just to give tourists a joyride. There are many pressing issues on our island that need to be addressed like homelessness, pollution, failing public transportation, the illegal raises that the governor gave his staff, public health and education, chemical castration of sex offenders, decolonization, the list goes on. But instead, a culvert that drains filthy water into our beaches to alleviate flooding in Tumon is more important to our leaders. The bill wasn’t passed thanks to concerned taotao Guåhan, but I just think it shouldn’t have been proposed in the first place.  I wanted to be in tourism to show people Guåhan for all that she naturally is and not what people are shaping her to be. I wanted to show tourists Guåhan’s soul, but it’s getting harder to find it. I wanted to engender respect and appreciation for our culture and our island in visitors, but how could they appreciate it if we don’t?

Pues pågo (so now), my options are open! It’s quite exciting because there are so many majors and programs I can choose from and so many things I can learn to help si nanan-mami Guahån (our mother Guam). I don’t want my career and my life to revolve around money, I want to help something bigger than myself sa hu guaiya i islå-ta, i taotao-ta, yan i kotturå-ta (because I love our island, our people, and our culture).

Si Yu’us ma’åse for reading.