My Journey Continues

Buenas yan håfa adai!

As I have said in “Pot Guåhu”, I am on a journey… We all are. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I know that I am moving forward. My destination in this chapter of my life is learning, loving, and living my culture. This blog is definitely a part of it, as is hiking to spiritual, ancestral, and beautiful places here on Guåhan to find peace and meaning. My journey for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and experience continues, not in the jungle… but in the classroom.

I have enrolled full time at the University of Guam, and plan to major in International Tourism and Hospitality and Pacific Island Studies. I am furthering my knowledge of my language, history, and island through academia. At the same time, I hope to continue my spiritual healing in Guåhan’s natural beauty, grow, learn new trades and skills, nurture and develop the skills I already have, stay healthy and active, and spend time with loved ones and i familiå-ku (my family). Sounds like a lot on my plate right?? Well I have to try!

Since this is my first semester in college, I’m taking general education courses, and one of them happens to be Elementary Chamoru I. Si Siñot Ed Benavente iyo-ku ma’estro (Siñot Ed Benavente is my teacher). He is one of the pillars of i Sagan Kottura which is located in Tumon (left turn before Hilton going northbound) and is accomplished and wise. I hope to learn much more than the language in this class. If you are going to school or plan on doing so, I encourage you to take a Chamoru language class! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I hope that I get more than a degree from college. I want to build life-long friendships and connections, broaden my horizons, become a better citizen of my island and this world, and grow!

No matter where you want to go in life, don’t be discouraged by time, or other limitations of this world, just keep moving forward.

My journey continues. Where does yours begin and where does it take you?

Dångkulu’ na si Yu’us ma’åse for reading.

We Are Not Free

Buenas yan Håfa Adai!

“Liberation Day” was about two weeks ago, and if I saw you that day, I probably greeted you with “biba reoccupation!” Here’s why.

I have mixed feelings about Liberation Day. On this holiday, we celebrate the liberation of our island from Japanese occupation thanks to the U.S. military with fiestas and a big parade in Hagatña. What I think we are forgetting to do and should be doing on this day is remember the suffering that our manåmko (elders) endured, commemorate the struggles that i taotao-ta (our people) overcame during the war, mourn the lives that were lost, and honor the people who lived through World War II.  If you’ve been to the Liberation parade, it’s all about the military and thanking Uncle Sam for coming back for us. It was only 71 years ago, and we are already forgetting what happened. Truthfully, I don’t know everything that happened, but I probably know more about the World War II Era more than any other era in the history of Guåhan. If your grandparents or great-grandparents aren’t with you anymore and unable to share their war experiences with you, I highly recommend that you read An Island In Agony by Tony Palomo. This book is a collection of written accounts of Chamoru war survivors and their experiences. I read it halfway, and had a hard time reading further because it was so wretched… This is what the book looks like, and you can probably find it in any book store.

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Liberation Day seems like a very joyful holiday on our island, but is it really? It seems like there’s more celebrating than commemorating, but what are we celebrating?

Our people were very thankful for help of the U.S. military in World War II, as am I, but what they did with our thanks is quite controversial. The United States of America, the Land of the Free, has stripped us of 1/3 of our ancestral lands and denied us the right to govern ourselves all those years ago. They took advantage of our size and location, and took took took. People were forced out of their homes, their ranches, their farms, and were forced to live in poverty. They promised us American citizenship, and gave us the title, but not the rights. We can’t even vote for what happens to ourselves and our island. We are second-class citizens with no voice. For detailed information of all the injustices we suffered during and after WWII, there are books and many documentaries, one of them being War For Guam. DVDs will be released soon (I will keep you posted). There are many others, all eye-opening, stomach-wrenching, and haunting, which I strongly advise you to watch.

You and I are colonized people and have been so for over 400 years. In fact, we are the longest colonized nation in the entire world. Che’lu-hu, WE ARE NOT FREE. So on July 21st, “Liberation Day”, I mourn. I’m angry. I don’t rejoice. Thanks for coming back Uncle Sam, but no thank you for your abuse, greed, colonization, and reoccupation.

 Please educate yourselves, get involved, be proactive, and free your minds. Remember, WE ARE NOT FREE.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading

Belau Is the Place to Be

Håfa Adai and Alii!

I have stayed in the Republic of Palau or Belau with my family for a week and am so excited to share my experiences with you. My parents have been visiting Palau for 15 years. I have been to Palau once before in 2011 for the 15U Micronesia Basketball Tournament Western Division and my cousin’s wedding, which was a week later. My family (aside from my sister who is killing it in summer classes at UOG) had the opportunity to come to Palau again when my dad’s close friend decided to get married here. To me, this trip has been a beautiful celebration, a tremendous learning experience, our first family vacation in over 15 years, and a much needed getaway from the hustle and bustle of Westernized life.

Here are some facts about Palau. Palau is an archipelago of more than 500 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean, well known for its scuba-diving and snorkeling sites. The population is just over 20,000. Palau has a constitutional government in free association with the United States. The Compact of Free Association was entered into with the United States on October 1, 1994, also marking Palau’s independence. Palau has three branches of government. The President is directly-elected and serves a four year term. The President and Vice-President run on separate tickets. The Council of Chiefs, comprised of the highest traditional chiefs from each state, acts in an advisory capacity to the President on traditional laws and customs (http://palaugov.org/about-palau/). You can easily research Palau on the internet, but there are some things that you have to experience for yourself. What I have seen, learned, and experienced in Palau, which I will share with you in this post, have me convinced that Palau is the place to be.

Firstly, the Palauan culture is very much alive and well, evident in everything from its people, food, art and architecture, and government. Although introduced to various cultures over the course of hundreds of years, Palauan traditions, values, and ideals are still a part of everyday life. For example, almost all Palauans are fluent in their native language, which they teach at school and at home, they eat mostly locally grown/caught foods including fish, taro, tapioca, bananas, pineapples, papayas, and fish to name a few, and some homes are shaped like the traditional bai. The keepers of the beautiful Palauan culture (which I don’t know very much about), the Palauan people are so nice, generous, and hospitable. If you think that Chamoru hospitality is all that, Palauan hospitality is peerless. I was so happy to meet everyone that I did, especially Rimuu, and hope to see them again some day! 

Secondly, the people of Palau, whether local or not, all live in harmony with the life around them. This is an observation that I made myself, which could probably be proven through a survey or something. The first thing I noticed was how much life was in Palau. It wasn’t just the people, but there were so many birds, insects, trees, plants, animals, and aquatic animals/plants, and they were all HEALTHY! Even the stray dogs were healthy and beautiful. It was so amazing and new, and I felt as if all their energy was energizing and revitalizing me (which is probably why my appetite was relatively small). The trees in Palau are huge, however they weren’t obstructing anyone’s view or taking up yard space. It seemed like the people were coexisting with the life that was there. Rarely would anyone cut down a tree or cut into the landscape to shape it how they wanted to. They make use of all the natural materials around them for decorations, furniture, and jewelry to name a few. Palau is also very eco-friendly! I was so excited to see recycle bins, solar panels, and smaller, fuel-efficient cars. Underneath it all, I think that the Palauan people care about their homeland and its entire ecosystem, which is why they are on top of everything. It’s extremely admirable, especially from a colonized-islander’s perspective. We all should care about our sacred lands and fragile ecosystems like our brothers and sisters in Palau, which is another reason why it’s the place to be.

Thirdly, Palau is self-organized. They petitioned to be their own, sovereign country in free-association with the United States in 1994 because they didn’t want to be an unincorporated territory. What is even more impressive is that they incorporated their culture into the government by making Chiefs their own branch, counseling and guiding the executive branch based on their traditional customs and values. Their museums and aquariums were awesome too! The museum was organized, well-managed, and beautiful, and had extensive information on everything in the history of Palau, even information about Guåhan and the Marianas islands! There were beautifully preserved artifacts, vivid pictures, and even an outdoor portion (which I couldn’t see because it was raining). The aquarium was also impressive and very well-put together. There was a government agency for everything from conservation, culture preservation, resource management, tourism, and more! Even though Palau is a small country, it is organized and self-sustainable, which makes it the place to be.

Lastly, Palau is beautiful. The word beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it. Palau is actually a renowned diving destination, and even described as “the eighth wonder of the world”. Billionaires from around the globe would sail to Palau on their yachts to dive and just see its wondrous beauty. If you ever have a chance to, you should really visit our sister Palau. Personally, it meant a lot to go to Palau because our ancestors frequently traveled there and to the other islands in Micronesia. They are our brothers and sisters because we all came from the same place.

I’ve constantly said that Palau is the place to be, and it is, however, that’s not where I want to be. Palau is our sister, but not our mother. Guåhan is my home, my mother. I’m partially writing this post to show what we can do and what we can be! Palau is amazing, and they have worked hard for what they have. They actually CARE!!! My brothers and sisters of Guåhan, i che’luhu, we have to start caring! We need to organize ourselves and become our own sovereign country. We need to get off all the perks of being an unincorporated territory, which are very limited and not even worth it. Those perks are just blinding us from the heinous injustice that have been done unto our guellas and guellus (great grandmothers and great grandfathers), ourselves, and eventually our future generations if we don’t act soon! It is up to us.

Put fabot, get involved, educate yourselves, and care! Our island is being taken from us more and more every day. If Palau can do it, we can do it too.

FANOHGE CHAMORU!!!

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading!

When Hiking

Håfa Adai!

Hiking, in my opinion is one of Guåhan’s best pastimes. There are so many beautiful places to hike to, each of them holding an adventure waiting to happen. I love going with friends and family, but I like to keep the group under 10 people just so nobody gets left behind.

I could tell you all the things you need on a hike, how to prepare for it, etc., but it’s pretty easy and different depending on where you go. However, there are a few things that you should know and practice when hiking here on Guåhan.

Primet (firstly), before beginning your trek, ask permission. Our ancestors still dwell on our lands and we must respect that. Asking in English is okay because they can feel your vibes. What I always say is “Saina-hu, kao siña hu mammokat i chalan-miyu?” which means, “my elders, may I walk on your path?” It was part of a chant I learned in Chamoru class in elementary school and I thought it fit. We ask permission to be acknowledged by our ancestors in hopes of not disturbing them. These are our lands, este i tano-ta.

Secondly, leave nothing but footprints and bubbles. On almost every hike I’ve done, I’ve collected at least one kitchen-sized bag of trash. It really disgusts me and breaks my heart to see how people have no regard or love for our island. It’s so ironic! They hike to see Guåhan’s natural beauty yet soil it with their trash. After being frustrated and upset for a little bit, I just do my part. Every time I spend time in the outdoors whether it be at the beach or on a hike, I take a bag with me and pick up trash. I really encourage this practice, however, it can get pretty difficult carrying that up a steep hill or be a hindrance when you need your second hand. I do my best because I care.

Lastly, appreciate. Appreciate the world of life around you; the trees that have taken decades to grow, the animals, big and small that live together and give life to each other, and how all of them make a beautiful song. When I feel all of nature’s energy surging through my body, I feel so empowered, yet I feel so small. Being in nature reminds me that I am small but I am a part of this big world and its circle of life. Always take pictures, but don’t be rapt in your phone/camera.

Wherever you go, do your part as a loving, appreciative, responsible resident of Guåhan and keep our island clean! Enjoy her beauty and keep her beautiful. Go outdoors, explore your island, have an adventure! And while doing all that, have respect.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading, pås yan guinaiya! (peace and love)

“I Will Be a Hummingbird”

Buenas todos hamyu!

My somewhat presence on social media such as facebook and instagram has given me insight on other people’s journeys through our culture by studying or travelling, etc. It’s so empowering knowing that people are not necessarily along side me, but going in the same direction as I am in loving, understanding, practicing, and living our culture and language. All around me, I see apprentices of Chamoru crafts and skills, young Chamoru dancers, activists, historians, linguists, teachers, farmers and fishers, and people who just want to be involved. It’s amazing! Seeing such interest and passion ensures me that we Chamorus are still here and not going anywhere.

Seeing what everyone is doing makes me so happy, but also makes me question what I’m doing… Then I kind of feel inadequate. What am I doing to preserve my culture? What am I doing to protect our people from complete Westernization and colonization? If anyone ever feels the same way, please watch this video right here. It was showed to me by the most inspirational teacher I’ve ever known, Linda Tatreau.

If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed and feel like you’re not doing enough, whether it be saving our culture or saving the world from ourselves, remember: be a hummingbird and do the best that you can. I may be small and insignificant, but I am doing what I can.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading.

What Every Chamoru Should Carry in Their Car

Buenas!

While learning about ancient life here on Guåhan, I’m also learning about modern-day island life. From personal experience and examples set by friends/family, I have made a list of things that you absolutely need in your kareta (car) no matter what you drive and why it’s necessary for the Guåhan lifestyle:

  • Hånom (water) – Hånom is life and Guåhan is hot. Try not to use single-use plastic bottles, plastic is harmful for the environment!
  • Umbrella – Para i ichan (for the rain (uchan-rain)
  • Flashlight
  • Machete – Whether your uncle calls you up last-minute to pick sakåti (sword grass) for his binådu (deer), there’s a brown tree snake at your grandma’s house, or anything in between, you’re ready (if this is illegal, please disregard)
  • Lighter
  • Trash Bag – Keep our island green and clean no matter where you go
  • Reusable Shopping Bags – STOP THE USE OF PLASTIC BAGS! This is for every time you go to the store just to get coconut water and påstit (turnover) (-:
  • Cooler Bag – Always ready to keep your drinks cold or food hot because a lot of get-togethers on Guåhan are last minute
  • Sunglasses – It’s really important to protect your eyes. In addition, being stylish is part of being Chamoru (;
  • Extra Yori (Slippers) – You can go from work to a barbecue and only have to change one thing. Gotta have yori
  • Sunblock & Lañan Niyok (coconut oil) – This is the ultimate skin care package for the Guåhan heat. Lañan Niyok is an all-natural moisturizer and mosquito repellant that will leave you smelling like paradise. I know most of us are brown and we don’t get sunburn as easily, but even though there is no visible evidence, overexposure to the UVA and UVB rays from the sun can cause long-term damage and even cause skin cancer. Protect your bonitu island brown skin!
  • Swimwear – It’s good to have at all times. The weather here is perfect for a swim almost all the time, and plus, you never know when your friends and family are gonna have a spontaneous beach day!

Not sure if it’s just my family and I, but having these things in your car is extremely useful! It may seem like this stuff will take up a lot of space, but it really won’t. It’s always best to be prepared for anything.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading! Esta ki.

Inafa’maolek

Håfa Adai!

Inafa’maolek (making things better) is one of the core values of our Chamoru culture. It means living harmoniously with each other, i tano (the land), i tasi (the ocean), and i gåga siha (the animals), and working together to make things right.

There is a balance in nature: the sun sets and the moon rises, the mango trees only bear fruit in the dry season, not all the new-born turtles make it to the ocean. This is nature’s way of keeping things in check. We humans are a part of this natural balance, and have the responsibility to keep it. Practicing inafa’maolek with nature is simple: take only what you need.

Some people (including myself at one point) could mistake inafa’maolek as a tit-for-tat, an eye-for-an-eye kind of thing, when it really isn’t. I’m still learning! When you do something to help someone, it should be out of the goodness of your heart, and not for anything in return, not even a thank you. Karma does its thing, and soon enough, when you are in need, someone will help you out of the goodness of his/her heart. We give, and someone will give back. I think it’s so beautiful because it is literally the human expression of nature’s love and the circle of life.

Inafa’maolek can be shown/done in so many ways, and sometimes you do it without even realizing it. Inafa’maolek is most commonly practiced by giving chenchule’ (a support system of exchange in which families express their care and concern for each other, as well as a sense of obligation to each other while working together to help each family meet its needs by means of money, labor, gifts, or food – def. from http://www.guampedia.com/chenchule/). Inafa’maolek and chenchule’ go hand-in-hand.

I encourage you all to continue (or start) to make inafa’maolek a part of your daily lives. Help your neighbor move the tree that fell down in their yard after the typhoon. Give your niece and extra dollar in her confirmation card. Don’t kick sand into the crab holes on the beach. Bring your chicken keleguen to your friend’s mom’s rosary because yours is the bomb. When you’re fishing, take only enough to feed your family for dinner. Let’s restore and keep the balance of life and love here on i islå-ta (our island). Do things out of the goodness of your heart.

Si Yu’us Ma’ase for reading!