Saturday, February 01, 2014

Lukao Fuha

The groups Our Islands Are Sacred and Hinasso organized a wonderful event today in order to celebrate the Chamorro new year. Although Guam today uses the 12 month calendar, the Ancient Chamorro calendar was based on 13 months because of the 13 moons of the year. This period of the year is Tumaiguini, the first month of the year meaning "to become like this." The event is Lukao Fuha or a procession to Fouha Rock in Fouha Bay.

Fouha Bay was a very sacred place in Ancient times for Chamorros. It was so sacred that the Spanish accounts even recognize its religious significance. This is important because the priests were committed to doing away with most of the religion of Ancient Chamorros and finding ways to subvert it and make it become subordinate to the new Catholic faith. But Fouha Bay in Umatac was noted for being a place where Chamorros from villages around the entire island would travel to hold a ceremony or gathering to honor Fu'una and Puntan, who according to the priests were the great beings that Chamorros honored as their creators.

The dominance of Catholicism led to Fouha being a place that Chamorros continued to respect but in fear of the spirits there and not in reverence to them. It is interesting because Chamorros continued to believe in Fouha Bay as being the home for powerful spirits and it was even a regular spot for families traveling to Umatac for their fiesta each year. I wrote about this in my Marianas Variety column last year under the theme of "sympathy for the taotaomo'na." The "guello yan guella" discourse that has become mainstream on the island is just the surface in terms of understanding how the religion of Ancient Chamorros survived albeit quieted and silenced within a Catholic framework. Fouha is another one of those sites. Chamorros clearly felt alienated by the place and not treating it with the same reverence and adoration they had before. But the respect was still there. The acknowledgement that these were not just random angry and evil spirits.

This Lukao is exiting because it represents a chance to try to re-connect to those spirits. It is part of a movement that has been building since the days Chamorros first began to see themselves in an indigenous/native context. The Spanish and Catholicism grossly disrupted the relationship that Chamorros had to their ancient ancestors. What we see today in movements such as i Fanlalai'an, Hinasso, Fino' Haya', Nasion Chamoru, OPI-R and many others are attempts to reconnect to that ancient past, to not let it be distant and abstract, but try to hold it closely to your chest and make it part of who you are today.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about the Lukao and what it means today. I also took several hundred pictures today and I'm sure I'll be sharing those as well.

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