Guinaiyan Guåhan

Buenas yan håfa adai! Aloha nui!

As I took my final exams, thanked teachers, and packed up my dorm room to close my first year at Kapi`olani Community College in O`ahu, Hawai`i, I felt very sentimental. I couldn’t help but reflect on the beginning of a very pivotal chapter of the rest of my life. A lot of time, learning experiences, and preparation went into moving to Hawai`i, so it wasn’t a smooth, easy jump from the nest.

My first year as an independent adult in Hawai`i was very difficult. In the first two summer months, I struggled to make connections while maintaining a strong identity in a new land. I was somewhat lonely having only a handful of friends to connect with, and little to no means of transportation to explore. I had many expectations from the anticipation of arriving that led to many disappointments. However, encouragement from loved ones, and the warm, embracing arms of family and O`ahu herself eased me into a new life. Throughout my first semester, I struggled learning to live on my own; I had to fend for myself and defend myself. It’s mapot (difficult) to be independent; working two jobs and going to school full time leaves me with little to no time to be carefree. I struggled to manage my time and attention between school, work, and homework; manage my finances to ensure that I can afford living expenses and tuition; and take care of myself. I made gof meggagai (many many many) mistakes, and stumbled a few times, got sick and injured the most in my life, met and unmet different people, but grew tougher, wiser, and more responsible. I learned so much so quickly, ultimately because I didn’t have a choice; either learn to swim or drown. Despite all the hardships and i minahålang (the feeling of missing a person/people), I was exposed to the mana (spiritual potential) of Hawai`i. I opened my eyes, my ears, and my heart to her, and she blessed me with the beauty of her spirit. As I walked through i tano/ke `āina (the land), touched i hanom fresku/ka wai (the freshwater), and swam in i tasi/ke kai (the ocean), I could feel her feeling me. I learned fundamental pillars of Hawaiian culture, history, and heritage which helped me see Hawai`i from a more insular perspective. It wasn’t hard to love her.

Things began to turn for the better as I entered my second semester and seventh month in Hawai`i. I expelled all the negative energy and vibes from my life and let only positive energy flow through me. Hawai`i has taught me that what you put in is you get out, and what you give is what you get. For example, I shared sustenance and conversations with so many people because cooking with si nanå-hu biha yan si tatå-hu meant cooking to feed families. Per karma and inafa’maolek (see Inafa’maolek in earlier posts), my mini-fridge was never empty and my stomach was always full. I learned to manage my time relatively more efficiently, when to apply myself, and when not to apply myself. With healing time and trust in Asaina/ke Akua (the Lord), I was better able to open up, bring down defensive walls I built so high, and connect with genuine, loving people. I have learned that food, good times, and memories are most enjoyable shared.

I participated in an enriching service-learning organization called Mālama I Nā Ahupua`a which means to setbe (take care of) land divisions. An ahupua`a is an ancient Hawaiian division from the tip of a mountain to the coral reefs in which mågas siha/ali`i (chiefs) would manage resources to sustain local populations and future generations. Through the program, I helped restore sacred cultural sites and perpetuate traditional Hawaiian culture, values, and beliefs. I heard the stories of i taotaomo’na/nā kūpuna (those that came before) through the voices of their descendants. Both generations welcomed me, and I felt blessed, humbled, and immensely grateful. I learned a lot about plants and the island ecosystems of Hawai`i nei, which set the course for my college path. Ecology of the Hawaiian Islands taught by my Kumu Mike Ross unearthed my love and curiosity for the environment and the inner scientist in me. Kintodu i aniten tåno yan tåsi (with the spirits of the land and sea), I decided to major in Environmental Studies along with my original goal of Pacific Island Studies. Of course, I made meggai mistakes again, but I acknowledged them, accepted them, learned from them, and moved on taking the lessons as tools in my brain or scars on my skin. I was almost sad to leave.

Being away from my home island of Guåhan and my family for a whole year made me incredibly grateful and appreciative, because again, you never truly appreciate something until it’s gone. A year away from my home in another people’s home made me appreciate what it means to have roots and history. In Guåhan, I am a native daughter of a 4,500 year-old people, society, and culture where the ancient spirits communicated with me and loved me. In this big, new island of O`ahu​, I was a haole (foreigner) with no connections aside from my feet on the ground. Over time, I learned that what you do and who you associate with, whatever land you are in, are the seeds you plant. With time, love, trust, sunshine, rain, and a little dirt, your seeds will grow, root deeper and deeper into the land, and branch higher and higher above the earth, making all kinds of connections. Being away from family for so long made me love and appreciate i mangaffå-ku on a much deeper level. Although I have a few aunties and uncles in Hawai`i, I couldn’t lean on them as much as my family and I leaned on each other. Not only did I realize how much ma sumesetbe yan ma pumupulan yu (they took care of and watched over me), but how much I depended on them for love, comfort, support, and physical and spiritual nourishment. I didn’t have my parents to hug and kiss goodnight, nor my Grandma Kotla’s house where I can eat and sleep anytime, nor older cousins to keep an eye out for me in potentially dangerous situations. I was so scared at times, but with trust in God, the spirits, and my family, fear did not prevent me from life. I learned how to always have my own back because if not, no one else will.

I have been home for about four weeks now and every single day has been a blessing. Guåhan has never been so gåtbo (beautiful) and mångge (gooooood). I hinasso-ku, i tatatato-hu, yan i ante-hu (my thoughts, my body, and my soul) feel replenished, healthy,  and whole again. I’m watering my roots and absorbing i fino’-ta (our language), ginefli’en mañaina-hu (wisdom of my elders), yan guinaiyan Guåhan (the love of Guåhan) as much as I can before I have to cross the ocean again. I know that it will be 12,000 times harder to dingu ta’lo (leave again), and as much as it will puti yu’, hu tungo na siempre na fitme yu (hurt me, I know that it will make me stronger).

I’m wholeheartedly grateful and truly blessed to be home again. I wish that I can spend time with everyone I know and love, and go everywhere that I haven’t been, but time won’t allow me. Please forgive me if we didn’t have time, and remember that tatman yu mågi ta’lo (I will be back again) because this is where I belong.

Saina ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.

Mahalo no ka heluhelu.

Thank you for reading.

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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.

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

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.

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.

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.