Releasing Pale' Duenas From the Chains of History

Every couple of months I write about Pale' Jesus Baza Duenas.

There are a number of reasons why. Here are two.

One is that when I was an undergrad and graduate student at the University of Guam, I did a helluva alot of research put i lina'lan Si Pale Duenas. I combed the archives at the Micronesian Area Research Center and other places on Guam looking for whatever mention I could find of him. I also did several dozen interviews with people who had worked with Pale' Duenas during the war, had known him before the war, or had worked on his legacy after the war. From all this research I was given an extremely machalapon pinenta put Si Pale'.

For instance, today there is a small movement to beatify Pale' Duenas and eventually get him sainthood for his ministry and bravery as the second Chamorro Catholic priest ever. Although the odds of Pale' Duenas actually being beatified are extremely extremely gof gof poor, if this was a possibility it would depend upon those petitioning the Pope for this gesture being able to prove the motivation behind the priest's martrydom.

Para hamyo ni' ti en tingo' put i minatai-na Si Pale' Duenas, bei na'tungo' hamyo: In 1944, in the midst of the American re-invasion of Guam, Pale' Duenas is executed along with his nephew Edward and another Chamorro, former Navyman Juan Unpingco Pangelinan (familian Male') by the Japanese. Throughout the Japanese occupation of Guam from 1941 - 1944, Pale' Duenas had been in the words of Guam historian Tony Palomo, a "thorn in the side" of the Japanese administration. He often times refused to cooperate with them, when they requested that he use the power of his pulpit to help ease the transition between American and Japanese colonial powers.

But here is the rub (hunggan hu egga' Inside Man) for those who wish to see Pale' Duenas become either a full blown saint or at least a minor saint. In the fourth chapter of my Micronesian Studies master's thesis I went into detail about the way that after World War II, the public memory of Pale' Duenas would be a mixed bag of religious devotion and American patriotism. The most popular stories about the exploits of this Chamorro priest are unbelievably rabidly pro-American. In the midst of Japanese occupation where people are being tortured and executed for their ties to the United States or for suspicion of assisting the cowardly American hold outs such as George Tweed, you have stories of Pale' Duenas, recklessly singing patriotic American anthems or reading American magazines such as Reader's Digest around Japanese soldiers and officials.

In 1970 Governor Carlos Camacho declares July 7th as "Father Duenas Day," and in the resolution making this official, he lauds the priest as a“man of fierce pride and patriotism for the country he loved so much.” And resulting from his martyrdom, Pale’ Duenas became a “great symbol of love and loyalty to the United States…”

This secularization however means that Pale' Duenas can not be cannoized or beaitifed, because it means he died for his country (or the country of his colonizer) and not for his faith, for his evangelism. As part of the general hijacking of meaning of the war on Guam by political and economic elites and the military, Pale' Duenas has largely come to mean either nothing whatsoever (as in the case of students who attend Father Duenas who knew nothing of him) or he tends to signify an intense and reckless love and patriotism to the United States. The motivation for a martyr must be solely a love for God and not a love for country. The patriotic hues that have been used to paint Pale' Duenas into Guam's historical memory have therefore largely defeated any real chance of him ever being honored for the religious heroism he often displayed during i tiempon Chapones.

To sum up what was originally supposed to be a short, incidental point as to why I write about Pale' Duenas every couple of weeks, it is because of the how I can see in the memory of him, the ways that there is no real history in Guam, but rather a multitude of histories which are occassionally in agreement and work with each other, but other times seem to battle and rattle each other as they conflict and cannot easily form some coherent consistency around their sites of contestation. For some the heroism of Pale' Duenas should be attributed to his patriotism. For others it belongs to i hinengge-na, his faith. For some, but unfortunately less than the others, it is his sense of national pride and his commitment to his people, un espiritun Chamoru. Of course, all of these are mixed together in any articulation of what Pale' Duenas meant then or means today, but the point is what position will derive from which? Which position is subordinate or merely an effect of another?

The second reason is less historically known, but more important within my family. When I first began doing the above mentioned research, my first stop was naturally my greatest source of Guam history and Chamorro language advice, i grandma-hu. She told me a story that truly changed the way I would think about Pale' Duenas as well as the telling of history in general.

My grandmother did not know Pale' Duenas, taya' umasodda' i dos. But the priest was her relative, a second cousin to my great grandmother Rita Pangelinan De Leon Flores (familian Badu).

Fine'nina bai sangani hamyo didide' mas estoria put este na tiempo. At this point in time, Guam is predominently Catholic with only a handful of Chamorros who had converted to Protestantism. Relations between Catholic and Protestant Chamorros were very strained, and often times less than cordial. The Spanish priests of the time often preached about the devil worshipping and evils of the Chamorro protestants and sometimes encouraged their flock to be mean or discriminatory against them. My uncle Tommy Cruz for example, told me that he was regularly punished by his teachers in elementary school, for nothing more than him being Protestant. Every few days, his teacher who I will refrain from naming (sa' la'la'la' ha') would tell him, regardless of how neat or spotless his clothes were, that he had come to school unhygenic and had to be punished. The most common form of punishment was lashes across his fingers and then being sent home.

If you are interested you can read more about this dynamic in Reverend Joaquin Flores Sablan's autobiography My Mental Odyssey: Memoirs of the First Guamanian Protestant Minister or William Pesch's thesis Praying Against the Tide: Challenges Facing the Early Protestant Missionaries to Guam (adahi sa' kalang puru ha' put i manapa'ka este), or Pale' Eric Forbes article from the first volume of Guam History: Perspectives.

This antagonism shouldn't imply that there no gestures across this religious divide. These were all Chamorros which means each family most likely had some relatives, hihot pat chago' who had converted and become Protestant. Some families, despite religious pressure would maintain connections and ties. In my family history there are several of these moments. For instance, Tatan Doi, the grandfather of my auntie, Sister Josie Marie Perez (familian Ginga) was the brother of my great great grandmother Antonia Duenas Pangelinan De Leon. Antonia along with her husband and a few members of her family had converted to Protestantism, and today can be found in the Baptist Cemetary near Feathers and Fins. When Antonia died in 1923 one of the Spanish priests in his sermons demonized her, degraded her in front of the church and ordered no one to attend her funeral. Upon hearing this about his sister, Tatan Doi nearly killed that priest and was so furious at this blind hatred within the church that according to Sister Josie Marie, seriously considered converting to Protestantism.

According to my grandmother, Pale' Duenas, while perhaps not as forceful nonetheless made similar gestures across the religious divide. After returning from seminary in the Philippines and after being ordained in Hagatna, Pale' Duenas would often visit my great grandmother.

When I first started becoming politically active on Guam, I would often dream about Pale' Duenas. I gathered so much lore about him, I would dream episodes about him. One night he would be fishing on Dano', what is now called Cocos Island. Another night he would be commanding a troop of Japanese soldiers with their guns levelled at him, to drop their weapons, and whether because of a miracle or his sheer will, they did drop their guns. He is bringing food to Tweed one night, the next night he is being beaten while protecting that kubatde. One night he is singing Chamoritta with men in a field in Talo'fo'fo', the next he is consoling a woman whose son has drowned. Sometimes he would ride a white horse, or a brown horse, sometimes he has a bicycle, other times a car.

I am often asked when I will "publish" my research on Pale' Duenas. To tell the truth, other than what I used in my first master's thesis, the "publishing" is taking place all the time. Oral history for most people and not just academics, is nothing but unreliable sources. It is just take, always subject to change, always able to take on new forms and meanings because it is supposedly not objective, not concrete. But this is precisely the "publishing" that I am interested in, a form which is closer to oral history. A form which brings history into the everyday, where it is woven into the way we talk about things and actively changed as we change. A more modern conception of history is partially to blame for the empty yet occassionally patriotic place which we find i espiritun Pale' Duenas' pa'go. Within that history, Pale' Duenas is to be chained to sources, encased within a particular meaning never to be changed or tampered with. Within this conception, the closest one can come to Pale' Duenas meaning anything to your life is a shared love of either the Catholic Church or the United States. It can mean nothing more than that, because ultimately his memory and his history belong to the conditions of meaning which you do not make, but which are decided by academics and historians.

In honor of the life and works of Pale' Jesus Baza Duenas, I'm posting below most of the lyrics from a song written in his honor by The Chafauros Brothers. It was featured in the documentary Guam's History In Songs, which I really wish I had a copy of.

Si Pale’ Dueñas
Tinige’ as I Mañelon Chafauros

Sigon i masangan-ñiha
Kalang gui’ sinatusan
Sen finu i lassås-ña
I matå-ña sen låmlam

Guiya Si Pale’ Dueñas
I mames na mimorias
Muchu mås para i manmahongge
I gråsia ginnen Guiya
Presiosiu para Hita
I estoriå-ña magåhet ha’ piniti

Guiya Pale’ Inalåhan
Gi tiempon Chapones
Estoriå-ña yan i ma sångan
Hihot yu’ ha na’tånges

Ti malago’ ha osge
Mungnga gui’ na u dimuyi
Ayu i Empiradot giya Hapon
Dibottao gui’ gi Yu’os-ña
Guiya yan i rilihon-ña
Ya todu i kastigu ha sungon

Si Tweed ilek-ña i Taicho’
Si Pale’ Dueñas numa’na’
Ya siempre un puno’
Ya ti ha sångan i lugat
Ma aresta ma kandålu
Todu gui’…


Victoria-Lola said…
i have a copy of guam's history in songs back home, i think i got it at hafa books. if you still want a copy, that's a good place to look. also, guampedia has the tools to make old vhs tapes about guam into digital files. that was one of the movies they were going to do that to, so you can ask shannon if it has already been done.
i really liked this blog on so many levels. the family history, your dreams of pale duenas and the way you weaved it all together. while i respect your desire to keep this history oral, so much needs to written and re-written, told and re-told.

Popular posts from this blog

SK Solidarity Trip Day 5: Worst History Lesson...Ever

Chamorro Public Service Post #13: Baby Vocabulary

Chamorro Public Service Post #11: An Gumupu Si Paluma