Pågo

Sailing through the clouds in a metal canoe,

I knew I was perpetuating what my ancestors used to do.

They used to voyage from home to another Pacific land

to share, explore, and understand.

They shared technology, wisdom, and trees

to take back to home island and plant the seeds.

That wisdom and those trees sprouted with fruit,

forever connecting our islands via canoe.

Colonialism abruptly cut our Oceanic ties,

starving us of sovereignty and feeding us lies.

But the indigenous peoples we still remain

in our home islands, though never the same.

My family continued to speak our native tongue

but did not pass it on to me when I was young.

They raised me with culture, they raised me Chamoru

forever a child of the land–un taotao tåno.

My ancestors called on me to reconnect with our past,

so I left Guåhan for Oceania, the vast.

They called me to remember the language of the land,

to look to the stars and in the dirt, plant my hands.

 

In navigating the ocean, one must know from where they come

to know where one is going once the journey’s begun.

I know my past and I carry it with me

to ground me and nourish me when I am in need.

So a successful future looks like our past

because this modern lifestyle on Earth won’t last.

I am crafting this future starting with myself

by decolonizing my mind, body, and health.

I’m learning and using my language every day

as it holds our culture and our ancient way.

I’m embracing Hawai’i as my new home

incorporating her culture into my own.

I mālama ‘āina every day of the week

because the ancestors in the land have the answers we seek.

Working and doing is another way that I learn

so my work educates me as it provides the wages I earn.

I work for service-learning at KCC

to reestablish love for ‘āina in our community.

My group is rebuilding a garden at Lē’ahi

to increase the hospital’s sustainability.

I work for Central Middle After-School All-Stars

to help underprivileged students realize they’ll go far.

I teach them sports, lessons for life

and that they can attend college no matter the price.

I interned at Kāko’o ‘Ōiwi over the summer,

an opportunity for myself and Hawaiians to learn from each other.

They taught me how to plant kalo and manage a farm.

I shared Chamoru culture and linked with them by arm

to make Hawai’i sustainable, starting with our lives

with the ‘ulu and hō’io ferns that grow and thrive.

I work with Mālama I Nā Ahupua’a

making Hawai’i sustainable through various lo’i and mala.

We connect students with the land they live on

to mālama native ecosystems and culture before they’re gone.

 

My journey in Hawai’i has not been easy

but my humble beginning is a tool for me.

My family was never rich nor poor,

lived simply and shared with those who needed more.

We used what was around us, everything that we had,

caring for the good and fixing the bad.

My family provided for me as I was in school

which enabled me to excel in everything I pursued.

My family and culture built me tough

to be resourceful when the sea gets rough.

Because resourceful is what I have to be

to sustain my life here in Hawai’i.

I continue to pay for tuition and rent on my own.

Working multiple jobs is all I’ve known.

KCC tuition I am able to manage and pay,

but I cannot afford Mānoa, so my education will be delayed.

From FAFSA, I don’t receive any financial aid

because of the amount my parents get paid.

But they are unable to help me paying their bills and debt.

Together though apart, we ensure ends are met.

They grew me to work hard and earn what I need

to work well with others so we all succeed,

so we can craft a future better than our present state

of colonization and militarization before it’s too late.

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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