“Håfa Adai!”

Buenas todus hamyu!

“Håfa adai!” is the most renowned Chamoru greeting in all of the Marianas. It’s a spirit of warmth, hospitality, and love, residing in the hearts of all those who perpetuate it. It’s an icon of the Chamoru culture, illustrated on many hats and shirts of local brands. Many Chamorus and Guamanians alike are bringing this Chamoru greeting back to life by using in their everyday lives. Even local companies have taken the “Håfa Adai Pledge” in which they swear to greet everyone with håfa adai. It’s a small but awesome step for our people towards revitalizing our culture through language.

“Håfa adai”, to me has always been a simple Chamoru greeting, until recently when my uncle Tony Ramirez, accomplished Guåhan historian and my mother Rita Nauta, managing director of guampedia.com shed light on the true meaning and depth of those words.

I mañaina-hu said that håfa adai is actually short for håfa un adadahi hao meaning, “how are you caring for yourself”. In that moment, it all came together… Our culture teaches that we are supposed to treat everyone like they’re family, so showing love and care for someone, even a complete stranger is (supposed to be) our initial response to assoda (meeting) them… like second nature.

Knowing the meaning of håfa adai is only half the job; the other half is to perpetuate the values that are in the meaning itself. Like si nanå-hu said, in our culture, we practice universal love–loving everyone selflessly. Doing this, however, has become quite difficult with Western influence and what the Westerners did with our hospitality. Western ideals and culture are much more individualistic, which clash with our collectivistic Chamoru values. It’s also hard to be welcoming and caring for everyone because as a people, we are scarred. We were so grateful to Uncle Sam for saving us from the Japanese in World War II, but what they did and are doing to us now is beyond chenchule’. They’ve taken our land without adequate compensation; made us second-class citizens on our own island; seized ancestral, spiritual lands; denied us access to those lands; and infected our culture.

A great step in the direction of cultural-identity and self-determination is knowing and practising the values of our culture, such as the håfa adai spirit. Love your neighbor like he’s your che’lu. Respect people and their property like it’s your grandma’s own. Spread pås yan guinaiya (peace and love).

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading

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