Tungo’ i Hale’-mu

Håfa adai and aloha todus hamyo!

As a Chamoru, Pacific islander, and Oceanian living in a Western world, my culture and values are challenged every day. My value of mangåffa’, belonging, and the past are almost completely opposite of those of American culture, or lack thereof. By beginning again and starting completely from scratch, it was easy to temporarily forget i hale’-hu (my roots). I thought I uprooted myself, but I didn’t truly realize how deep i hale’-hu actually go. I’ve been growing håle’ in i Islas Marianas for thousands of years, so no amount of distance or time could cut them.

Using my culture as a lens or way to see things, I try to observe society’s current realities. My current reality is that I live in a politically and economically Western place that is also a geographically and culturally Oceanic/Pacific island at its core. This goes for Hawai’i and Guåhan: we both have the U.S. flag flying over our lands (without choice or desire) but our cultures are in the roots of them. Although I have always seen it and somewhat knew it, I have finally come to understand that Western cultures value innovation, moving forward, and the future. They see time as a line: the future ahead of them and the past behind them. They turn their backs on the past and charge the future head on with full-force. They forget the rich knowledge gained by the people before them, therefore end up making the same mistakes. The newly elected president Donald Trump is the prime example. Growing up in a bi-cultural environment with Western surrounding me but Chamoru inside of me, I was somewhat a recipient of this mindset and way to approach life. I turned my back to the past and all the lessons it holds, and forgot that those lessons could guide me through the future. I always chose to learn the hard way and make my own mistakes even though someone I love and trust has literally been there and done that. Yes, I learned a lot from my experiences, but looking back now, I wasted so much time learning the hard way, and suffering because of it when I could’ve easily listened to my family, learned through their experiences, and learned something new and less painful. But hey, you live and you learn.

What I learned from my History of Guåhan class and am understanding in my Pacific Islands Studies and Hawaiian Studies classes are the Pacific/Oceanic approaches to life and views of time. Lilikalā Kame’eleihiwa said in her book Native Land and Foreign Desires,

“It is as if the islander (Hawaiian) stands firmly in the present, with his back to the future, and his eyes fixed upon the past, seeking historical answers for present-day dilemmas. Such an orientation is to the islander (Hawaiian) and eminently practical one, for the future is always unknown, whereas the past is rich in glory and knowledge.”

Micronesians, Melanesians, and Polynesians all view time as cyclical. Life is a natural cycle that we are very in-tune with (or used to be): the sun rises and sets, the tide comes and goes, i fufu’ mångga (the mango tree) gives you mangoes then leaves you waiting anxiously for next mango season. In the words of my kumu/fafa’någue (Hawaiian/Chamoru for teacher), “history repeats itself every day.” By knowing history, we can make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes as our ancestors. There is so much to learn from the past that will teach us how to overcome our present problems. When you know your roots, you can grow. 

No, you don’t have to learn the entire history of your people unless you really want to, then you should. I actually highly recommend you to try! A good start is knowing your family history: ask your grandparents about when they grew up and what home was like, ask your dad the hardest decision he’s ever made, see how far back you can trace your genealogy. In knowing these things and the struggles that our own blood and spirits have overcome will inspire us and give us strength to overcome our own.

From there, learn the legends, stories, and significant historical events of your culture and people. Dig deep and unearth the wisdom and valuable information within those, and carry it with you kada ha’åni (every day) in everything you do and everything done unto you. One ancestor that we can look to for guidance for a present dilemma is Maga’låhi Hurao. In 1669, he unified 2,000 warriors to fight against the Spanish missionaries and soldiers whom colonized the islands, forcefully converted us to Catholicism, and exploited our people and resources. Four hundred years and two colonial world-powers later, what he did and said can inspire and guide us towards decolonizing ourselves from our new colonizers whom are similarly converting our ways of life and exploiting our resources. Maga’låhi Hurao said,

“The Spanish would have done better to stay in their own country… The knowledge which they have given us has only increased our needs and stimulated our desires… Under the excuse of instructing us, they are corrupting us. They take away from us the primitive simplicity in which we live they dare to take away our liberty which should be dearer to us than life itself. They try to persuade us that we will be happier, and some of us have been blinded into believing their words… If they didn’t have need for us, they would not expose themselves to so many perils and make such efforts to establish themselves in our midst. For what purpose do they teach us except to make us adopt their customs, to subject us to their laws, and to remove the precious liberty left to us by our ancestors?… If we are ignorant and blind, as they would have us believe, it is because we have learned their evil plan too late and have allowed them to settle here… We are stronger than we think! We must regain our former freedom!”

Now put that in today’s context and replace “the Spanish” with “the American government”. Everything still applies because history repeats itself.Although this was a great feat, Maga’låhi Hurao and his men failed three times. Failing three times followed by a typhoon says a lot about the situation. What we can learn from this is that we can’t decolonize ourselves with only 2,000 warriors, we need the entire island in this battle. We can learn that this doesn’t have to be a gory battle, but a well-coordinated transition. Instead of resorting to war, violence, and weapons, we can use peace, love, and education to regain the freedom given to us by our ancestors. Hurao was right though, we are stronger than we think.

Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Realize and learn how you got here, who helped you, and why you are here. Plant your feet firmly and deeply in your land and strengthen that connection. Look forward to the past to be guided through the unknown future. Tungo i hale’-mu. Grow.

Thank you for reading.

Mahalo no ka heluhelu.

Si Yu’us ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.

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Tumututuhon Ta’lo

Håfa adai and aloha!

Dispensa yu for not writing sooner, I am still getting into the motion of school, work, my internship at a marine lab, independence, and having fun. I can’t really sum up my time here in Hawai’i into one feeling so far; there have been different waves of events and emotions that I got caught up in and am still swimming out of. It was hard to adjust to living in a new place with barely anyone I knew. Before leaving Guåhan, I imagined my summer would consist of exploring and adventuring beautiful Hawai’i nei, but there is only so much one can do by oneself in an unfamiliar place. To add to that, i minahålang  (the feeling of missing someone) is real. Too often I would catch myself lingering in the past, looking back at happy memories of home, missing nånan Guåhan and i mangaffå-ku, and turning away from the path laid out in front of me and all the adventures it holds. I feel that way once in a while, but by going back to the faith of i mañaina-hu, I am able to see and seize moments as they come, appreciate them, and keep moving forward.

Moving to a foreign land, another people’s home is a humbling experience. All my life, I’ve been an indigenous child of the land that loved it, knew it, and was a part of it, but now I’m an outsider. I felt like an intruder at times because Hawai’i is already overpopulated, and like Guåhan, the indigenous people are a dwindling minority. In addition, it was hard to transition from going anywhere on Guåhan and seeing your auntie or old friend, to coming to a new place where you don’t know ANYONE. As a result, for the first time in my life, I tried to fit in. I wanted to be a kama’aina (child of the land) so badly so I could connect with locals, learn their culture, and fill the voids of my loved ones back home, but in doing that, I sort of uprooted myself. I realized ti kama’aina yu. Taotao tåno yu… Hagan Guåhan yu (I am not kama’aina. I’m of [Chamoru] land… I’m a daughter of Guåhan). No, I’m not local to this land, but I do respect it and love it like I am. I am not Hawaiian, but I’m one of their Pacific primus (cousins) with similar values of family, respect, and nature. Tumututuhon yu ta’lo (I was beginning again). I had to start from the bottom once more, but by using my open mind and heart, my experiences, my culture, and my håfa adai spirit as tools, I can build my new life, place new roots, and branch out. Hopefully my Kanaka Maoli cousins come around soon, I just have to be my Chamoru self.

Aside from my sad moments, I’ve been making the most of my time here in beautiful Hawai’i nei. I have connected with many Chamorus which made me feel a little more at home. I’ve explored and learned about Hawai’i, her history, and her culture through academic sources (although learning first-hand from the perpetuators and keepers of the culture themselves is the best way to learn a culture, I had to start somewhere). I connected to the land and the ocean here, and can feel the mana (spiritual potential) all around. I also learned the art of surfing, though I’m only a beginner. I have dreamt about surfing my whole life, so I was extremely blessed to start learning in its sacred birthplace.

When times get tough and i minahålang tugs at my heart, I try to refocus on why I came out here in the first place: my mission. There are so many things to learn, adventures to go on, and experiences to undergo anywhere I go that will make me a smarter, stronger, humbler, and worldly person, more equipped to defend my island, protect my culture, and serve my people.

Mahalo no ka heluhelu

Si Yu’us ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu

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.

Gallery

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.

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.

Biba Santa Marian Kamalen

Håfañelus! (Hafa adai Mañelu)

Håfa manatatmanu-hamyo? Long time, no?

As many of you may or may not know, today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception in which Catholics on Guam honor and venerate the patron saint of Guam Santa Marian Kamalen. The tradition is to have mass at the Cathedral followed by a procession around Hagatña, then pray to and venerate the historical statue of our Blessed Lady.

Santa Marian Kamalen has historical significance here on Guam. According to the stories of mañaina-ta, a group of fishermen were fishing down in Malesso when one of them saw crabs carrying the statue underwater, swam to her, and brought her in. The statue allegedly came from a sunken Spanish galleon off the coast of Malesso. For the full history of Santa Marian Kamalen here on Guam, visit guampedia.com or ask your grandparents to tell you the legend.

Although today is a day of celebration, it’s also a sad day. On this day 74 years ago, the Japanese bombed Guam and began World War II. The entire island was preparing for the nobena, lukao (procession), and misa (mass) in their own villages when the bombs dropped and war was declared around 9:oo AM. My grandma Engracia Diaz Pangelinan whom was present that day said that many parishioners cheered because they had never seen planes before and believed that it was a blessing from God, only to end up screaming in terror.

Growing up, procession was kind of fun, kind of not. I got to see a lot of people, but it would get hot and I would be sweating in my Saint Francis uniform or my confirmation shirt. Today, it means so much more. This is the one day dedicated to the Patron Saint of Guam Santa Marian Kamalen, the person that our people, the Chamorus have prayed to, and through her intercession, overcame many difficult things, including World War II. Today, I am celebrating our people’s patronage, spirituality, and faith that has kept us alive and together, remembering the history of our once broken people, and keeping the tradition of lukao para Santa Marian Kamalen alive… What is this day to you?

Biba Santa Marian Kamalen! Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading.

P.S. Procession is at 4 at the Cathedral followed by mass, and if you’re unable to attend mass, watch the Voices of Our Elders – Santa Marian Kamalen Retold section on Guampedia (: