Friday, August 02, 2013


I was racking my brain recently to determine what was the first ever Chamorro song that was featured in a motion picture. Noon Sunday was the first every motion picture to be filmed primarily on Guam, prior to that some minor filming had been done on Guam for World War II and Godzilla films but nothing substantial. Noon Sunday was not set in Guam, but it was the first film to feature extensively the island of Guam. Guam was the locale for a fictional Pacific island that was being taken over by a menacing Asian power. Almost all the speaking roles went to people from off-island (from the US or the Philippines), and Chamorros ended up playing most of the "extra" roles. As a result the film didn't feature any Chamorro music.

You do find documentaries and television programs, all locally produced that feature Chamorro songs of at least Chamorros singing songs. Guam's History Through Songs, made by the late Carmen Santos is a perfect example of this. For those of you unfamiliar with this documentary it is a wonderful window into Chamorro history and the types of songs that were essential parts of the daily soundtrack of Chamorro life before. Chamoru Dreams directed by Eric Tydingco also featured several different Chamorro songs and chants. Even several documentaries about Guam during World War II will feature versions of "Sam, Sam My Dear Uncle Sam." I don't truly consider this to be a "Chamorro" song however because it isn't in the Chamorro language. I would classify documentaries differently than regular feature films and so these don't count in my tally.

Shiro's Head released in 2008 did feature several Chamorro songs including a few by the father and son combo of J.D. Crutch and Joe Mccarrel. Shiro's Head  created by the Muna Brothers truly deserves the title of being the first Guam-made film, because it was set in Guam and featured an incredible amount of Chamorro music as well as dialogue. It went on to represent Guam in film festivals in the United States and helped establish its creators the Muna Brothers as local media and creative icons. Although you find plenty of Chamorro music in the film it was not the first movie to feature Chamorro music.

There was a movie prior to Shiro's Head that featured a Chamorro song in it. It was a movie that was supposed to put Guam on the map. It was a movie whose makers promised that it would spawn a local movie industry and bring international attention to the island. The makers of this movie promised that Hollywood was coming to Guam and the island would never be the same.

For those who haven't guessed yet, this film made movie-making on Guam infamous in a terrible way. It is none other than Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon. This movie featured a short cameo by Carmen Electra and extended sequences with Richard Roundtree and David Carradine. It was the story of a former fighter who after killing someone in the ring becomes a sports photographer. In order to get away from his violent former life he takes a job in Guam. He becomes entangled with some Japanese Yakuza/Ninjas after his love interest ends up in possession of an old dragon statue that belongs to the clan. The movie was directed by Albert Pyun and if you know anything about movies then hearing that name should make alarm bells screech in your head.

The film does attempt to show some of the scenery and beauty of Guam, and in one scene it does feature a Chamorro song. While Max Havoc and his love interest played by Joanna Krupa are walking through what is supposed to be the Guam Museum but is in reality the lobby of a hotel, you can see Chamorro dancers behind them. The song that plays in the background may be familiar to some who know the group Taotao Tano'. The song is "Tuleti" and has performed countless times by dance groups on island and is still learned by kids in Chamorro classes and at Hurao Academy.

"Tuleti" is name for a type of canoe and is also a word meaning to row or paddle (preferably with two oars). The song talks about the swiftness of the Chamorro canoe and celebrates the ancestral spirits of Chamorros for creating this island which is akin to a "garden in paradise." I've always liked this song, but it came to the forefront of my consciousness recently when my daughter Sumahi came home one day singing "Tu-le-e-ti." which is the line that begins the song.

The lyrics are included below:



Kulan i paluma yan gumupu hulo’ gi langhet

Kulan i palmua yan gumupu hulo’ gi langhet
I tasi yan i tano’ i hatdin giya para’isu
Puntan yan Fu’una esgaihon ham mo’na
In enra i na’an-mu na’i ham animu
Para ta tu’lo, para ta tu’los mo’na i galaide

Kulan i palmua yan gumupu hulo’ gi langhet
I tasi yan i tano’ i hatdin giya para’isu
Maila mañe’lu-ta ya ta onra i Ante-ta
Sa’ siha fuma’tinas este i guinaha-ta
Para ta tu’los, para ta tu’los mo’na i galaide

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