Thursday, July 31, 2014

Talent Town

“The Talented Island of Guam”
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
July 31, 2014
The Marianas Variety

If you didn’t get a chance to watch “Talent Town,” the latest film from the filmmaking duo The Muña Brothers this past month, you really missed out. The film was an engaging and exciting take on the state of art and creativity in Guam today and a call for both artists and their audience here to take things to the next level in terms of representing Guam. Full disclosure, I am one of the people featured in the film and so I do have some positive bias towards it.

The Muña Brothers are known for their work on “Shiro’s Head,” which is considered to be the first Chamorro/ Guam-movie. Other movies were filmed on Guam before “Shiro’s Head,” but this was the first one that took the island’s identity, especially its Chamorro heritage seriously. Whereas other films such as “Noon Sunday” and “Kaiju-ta no Kessen Gojira no Musuko” just used Guam as just a backdrop and basically ignored the truth of it, “Shiro’s Head” got its hands dirty and provided a gritty and sometimes uncomfortable portrait of Chamorro culture, past and present.

When I watched it for the first time I was almost moved to joyous tears by the way the Muña Brothers incorporated the Chamorro language into the storytelling. For so many Chamorros today, there is an almost jarring divide between their pride in being Chamorro and coming from Guam and their relationship to the Chamorro language. They represent themselves through the language in small ways, through a tattoo, through a t-shirt, through some slang thrown into their English. But with extensive use of Chamorro in “Shiro’s Head,” the Muña Brothers made a statement about this island and how it should represent itself. It should not run away from its heritage, but find ways to celebrate and reimagine it.

The question on everyone’s mind after “Shiro’s Head” was released was, “What next?” What will the next film from the Muña Brothers be? Many people expected another fiction piece, something that either kept with their gritty dramatic edge or something entirely different like a local comedy. I imagine that few people thought their next effort would be a documentary.

But the more I think back to the conversations I’ve had with Don and Kel and with other artists on island, the more I realize that “Talent Town,” far more than being just their next movie, is a movie that is meant to help make their next movie possible. It is a film shot, edited and distributed with the intent of making a lot of future movies possible. A lot of future books published, songs written, albums recorded, artwork exhibited.

Even after the Muña Brothers gained local prominence for “Shiro’s Head,” they still had to deal with the difficult realities of creative life on this island. Not a great deal of support for local efforts, but people always find ways of coughing up a serious amount of support for someone to come from elsewhere to show us how things are supposed to be done. A mediocre band or artist from off island gets a big paycheck for “slumming” their way to Guam, while local bands get asked to play for free. Even for recognized talent like the Muña Brothers, the words of support they received for their next project loomed large like a great sail to take them into new waters. But the words were so empty, so hollow, that the sail couldn’t take them anywhere, the winds blowing right through the gaps between the support that was promised and what was actually offered.

“Talent Town” delves into why this lack of support exists, why people on Guam fear investing in themselves or believing in themselves and always feel compelled to valorize that which comes from elsewhere and has the luster of coming from some larger and intrinsically better place. It provides as an example the hysterical “Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon” film. Local filmmakers seeking support for creative works would get little attention from the government or business for their efforts. But the moment someone from “off-island” sauntered to our sandy beaches, people were throwing money, loans and sponsorships at them. It didn’t matter that any person with an internet connection could have told you that the makers of Max Havoc were hardly A,B,C,D or even E-listers in Hollywood. The fact that they came from elsewhere seemed to be enough dazzle.  

The film does not only lament the lack of support, but shows how this fear in supporting local, investing local leads to Guam missing so many opportunities. The makers of the film promised Hollywood, a blockbuster movie and a new local film industry. None of these things appeared. Imagine how different things could have been if they had given all that support to someone here, who actually cared about this place? Max Havoc is a lesson that the Muña Brothers and so many others hope the island will learn from. Because if we don’t, the cycle of self-degradation will continue and we will continually feel the need to bring in others to tell you how to appreciate things, think about things, believe in things, experience things.

If you missed the film, don’t worry; you’ll have other chances to watch it. There are plans to take the movie to the Chamorro diaspora and screen it in places like California, Washington and Texas. It will also be available soon as a video on demand. Finally it will be premiered again as part of the upcoming Guam International Film Festival in September.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Adios Senator Ben

Guam Remembers Pangelinan
Amanda Blas
July 9, 2014

With great sadness, the island mourned the passing of Sen. Vicente Cabrera Pangelinan, affectionately known as Ben.
Pangelinan died yesterday at age 58.
Friends, family and colleagues gathered at Guam Memorial Hospital, paying their respects to the late senator.
"Guam has lost probably the greatest leader of this generation," Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said.
Attorney Mike Phillips, who knew Pangelinan since 1985, said the two grew up together politically.
"He was always one step ahead and always fighting," Phillips said. "He was always fighting for the people. He would not give in."
Former Santa Rita Mayor Joseph Wesley considered Pangelinan to be like a brother.
"He's my buddy, he's my friend, he's my che'lu," Wesley said. "I look up to him as a friend and a leader."
Former Gov. Carl Gutierrez remembered Pangelinan as a great and passionate leader.
"All I can say is that man fought for the people of Guam, almost down to his last breath," Gutierrez said.
Tributes also poured in via written statements to honor Pangelinan.
"Ben was a dedicated public servant who worked diligently to improve our island," Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said. "He was a tireless advocate for Chamorro self-determination, and he was a careful steward of our public funds. I was honored to work with him throughout his career and will deeply miss his friendship."
Chief Justice Robert Torres said Pangelinan will be remembered for his expertise in public finance and government operations.
"Through his career in the Legislature, he shaped public policy to favor transparency, openness, and equality," Torres said. "He is counted as an early and steadfast supporter for the independence and unification of the Judiciary of Guam."
Gov. Eddie Calvo declared the island in a state of mourning and ordered all flags to fly at half-staff to remember Pangelinan.
"Chairman Ben loved the people, and he fought for the people," Calvo said. "And with that, all I can say is the island has lost a true Guamanian Chamorro patron."
Born in 1955 on Saipan, Pangelinan and his family moved to Guam in 1962.
"He may have been born in Saipan, but let me tell you, this man truly loved Guam and the people of Guam," said Speaker Judith Won Pat.
Pangelinan started his education at San Vicente Grade School and graduated from Father Duenas Memorial School in 1974.
Former Sen. Simon Sanchez, who graduated from high school alongside Pangelinan, knew him since their freshman year.
"For those of us who've known Ben the longest, Ben has always been the one who stood up for the little guy," Sanchez recalled. "He never was afraid, never backed down if he thought he was right."
Pangelinan attended the University of Guam for a year, transferring to Georgetown University and graduating in 1981.
In 1992, Pangelinan was first elected to public office, serving in the 22nd Guam Legislature.
Since then, Pangelinan served a total of 10 terms as senator and one as speaker in the 27th Legislature.
Pangelinan may be one of the longest-serving senators, Won Pat noted.
She held back tears as she remembered serving in public office beside Pangelinan.
"I remember my first term and we were fighting," she said. "He apologized by sending me a bouquet of flowers to let me know we can fight, but we're OK the next moment."

Candle of remembrance

Won Pat called session shortly after noon yesterday and asked the senators to join her in lighting a candle of remembrance at the seat of the late senator.
After Sen. Tina Muña Barnes said a short prayer for Pangelinan, Won Pat asked if senators wanted to share words, prayers and memories of their colleague.
Sen. Chris Duenas and Sen. Dennis Rodriguez expressed their gratitude for how much they learned from Pangelinan.
"At the end of the day, I always knew his interests were for the betterment of the island and the betterment of our people," Rodriguez said. "He was a good friend, and he was my friend."
Sen. Mike Limtiaco said he was honored to work with someone with such a passion for his beliefs.
Limtiaco's voice broke with emotion as he recounted seeing Pangelinan's body during the viewing earlier in the day. He said Pangelinan seemed to be at peace, and Limtiaco was reminded of seeing his father at peace after his death as well.

Sen. Michael San Nicolas said the passing of the late senator took him by surprise.
"I sit here and I need to really reconcile with myself, so what happens now?" San Nicolas said. "Now that Speaker Ben is gone, what happens now? Because he provided so much direction, so much foundation. We'll mourn his loss while we figure out what to do next."
Cruz said he met the late senator before some of his colleagues were born.
"There is no one that will be able to understand the budget the way that he understood the budget," Cruz said. "In what little time that I had in this Legislature I will try as much as I can to continue the work that he has done, though I know his shoes are absolutely impossible to fill, I'll try to stumble along."
Speaker Won Pat said she remembered Pangelinan when he worked for Won Pat's father, Guam Delegate Antonio Borja Won Pat, as an intern in Washington, D.C.
Pangelinan would join Won Pat's family for dinners and events.
The speaker said that Pangelinan would later tease her for telling her mom, "Don't feed that fat boy because he doesn't need any more food."
"He truly is a dear friend," the speaker said.
She remembered being angry with him for being so stubborn at times.
"The man has a memory of an elephant, but I want you to know, he's truly a donkey," she said laughing through her emotion.
"Guam and CNMI have lost a son, and I'm very fortunate to have served with him," she said.


Island community grieves loss of Ben Pangelinan

Posted: Jul 08, 2014 5:38 PM Updated: Jul 08, 2014 6:06 PM by Ken Quintanilla
Guam - The island is in a state of mourning over the loss of Senator Vicente "Ben" Pangelinan. The Democrat lawmaker served 20 years in the Guam Legislature and passed away this morning. He was a man many considered a great statesman, passionate leader and dedicated public servant.
Attorney Mike Phillips says there are very few people like Ben. "It's an enormous loss for the people of Guam," he told KUAM News. Phillips was one of several island leaders and former colleagues who remembered Pangelinan today after he passed away this morning. Phillips remembers Pangelinan for the time they worked together paying cost of living allowances for retirees, he said, "With COLA, the same thing, Ben was tenacious he wouldn't stop I remember when he was designing the legislation, we were on the phone two or three times a day, he was always in the lead, keeping me on the loop."
Pangelinan was born in Saipan and came to Guam at a very young age. He grew up in Barrigada and graduated from Father Duenas Memorial School in 1974 before attending Georgetown University in Washington, DC with a bachelor's degree in government. At an early age, Ben showed interest in government service having worked as a staff assistant for Guam's first congressman Antonio Won Pat. Speaker Judi Won Pat says as an intern, Senator Ben would attend family dinners in DC and today remembered the softer side of Ben.
"Ben would always pick on me and joke with everybody especially when our colleagues were around him," she recalled.
Lawmakers were supposed to reconvene session today but instead senators paid tribute by sharing their memories of the late senator. Black ribbons were placed at the entrance of the Guam Legislature with a candle and wreath placed on his desk in the Session Hall and his chair draped with black ribbon. Won Pat says Senator Ben wasn't just a dear friend and mentor but a true leader and genuine statesman, saying, "Always reminding me to put the people first and that's what exactly what he did his whole life, as a public servant you look at his office and you see the sign and what does it say? The People's Office - it was never really about Ben."
Pangelinan served in the 22nd to the 27th and 29th through the 32nd Guam Legislatures. He served as the speaker in the 27th Guam Legislature and last served as the chairman on the Committee on Appropriations. Senator Ben served as chair on many committee and championed many issues that others did not. Along with cola, he led the fight on Guam's quest for self-determination, protection of our natural resources and our land.
Acting Land Management director and former Chamorro Land Trust Commission chairman Mike Borja says Pangelinan fought hard until the day he died. "Senator Pangelinan was a very big champion on Chamorro land rights here on Guam and land rights all together and his passing is very hurtful," he shared.
Many island leaders paid their respects to Senator Ben this morning at the Guam Memorial Hospital, including Governor Eddie Calvo. He said Ben, "Has served this island and he served it at 150% and he was working 'till his dying breath. What more can we ask from a public servant?"
Today Governor Calvo declared the island in a state of mourning to honor the life of Senator Ben. "He's a fighter - we may not always agree but one thing you ask for someone elected into office is to fight for your cause, Chairman Ben loved the people and he fought for the people and with that all I can say the island has lost a true Guamanian, a Chamorro patriot," he said solemnly.
For the past few weeks, Senator Ben was in the intensive care unit at GMH. He recently announced he would be retiring after this term to, as he said, "Ensure I spend the remaining good years of my life with my family - enjoying them, living with them, serving them and giving them the same commitment that I have given to the people of Guam these past decades." 
Ben Pangelinan was 58 years old.


Guam mourns Pangelinan

GUAM is mourning the loss of Sen. Vicente “Ben” Pangelinan who died yesterday morning.

Gov. Eddie Calvo declared Guam to be in a state of mourning to honor the life of the 10-term member and former speaker of the Guam Legislature. The cause of death was not given, but Pangelinan had said he was being treated for cancer in recent months.

The news of Pangelinan’s death evoked an outpouring of emotion from both sides of the political spectrum, as differences were set aside to honor the late senator.

“This is a sad day for Guam. Sen. Pangelinan was a fighter. He devoted his entire life to serving our island as a watchtower for clean government. I respect the man and I will miss him," Calvo said.

The loss was felt at the Guam Legislature, where Pangelinan served for 20 years. His service began in the 22nd Guam Legislature in 1993 and continued – with the exception of the 28th Guam Legislature – until the 32nd Guam Legislature, in which he served as chairman of the committee on appropriations.

He was speaker of the 27th Guam Legislature.

“Speaker Pangelinan was a true leader and genuine statesman who worked hard for the people of Guam,” said Speaker Judith T. Won Pat. “He was a dear friend and mentor and I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing. I send my sincerest condolences to his family. ”

Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo said she is "deeply saddened by the passing of Pangelinan,” noting he was a dedicated public servant who worked diligently to improve the island.

"As a 10-term senator and former speaker of the Guam Legislature, he championed many issues for our families and fought for his convictions. He was a tireless advocate for Chamorro self-determination and he was a careful steward of our public funds. I was honored to work with him throughout his career and will deeply miss his friendship," she said. “Our island has lost a great statesman and leader. I join the people of Guam in honoring Ben's service to our island and remembering his many contributions to our community. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones and friends during this very difficult time.”

Across party lines

Sen. Rory Respicio, chairman of the Democratic Party said: "Speaker Ben was a true Democrat and a great senator. My condolences go out to Speaker Ben's family during this most difficult time. As a colleague, Speaker Ben was always a great example to all of us of what it meant to be a public servant. He was a man of ideals and not ambition. He believed in helping working families and those in need. He always fought for what he felt was right, even if it was not popular at the time. With Speaker Ben's passing, the Democratic Party has lost an outstanding leader, and our island community has lost a noble public servant."

Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Nerissa Bretania Underwood said the late senator was a fighter for the people all of his life.

"Just as he fought cancer these past few years, he fought for an honest and accountable government. For all Democrats, indeed for all of the people of Guam, Pangelinan represented the power of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. His intellect and his service will be missed," she said. "While there will be thousands of official words of praise in ceremonies for the next few days, there will be many more silent words of praise uttered by the common citizen who felt the power of his service," she added.

Republican Party of Guam chairman Mike Benito issued the following statement on behalf of the Republican Party: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Speaker Ben Pangelinan. He dedicated his life to public service and fought until the very end for what he believed in. Guam is a better place today because of him. On behalf of the Republican Party, we extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family.”


The island's education department and institutions of higher learning also paid tribute to Pangelinan and extended their condolences to the senator's family and loved ones.

Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez said the late senator's commitment to public service and, in particular, to Guam's children and families will be sorely missed.

"On a more personal note, I was lucky enough to work for Sen. Pangelinan 20 years ago, and he has been a mentor and friend to me since then," Fernandez said. "When I was considering coming home to Guam, he was among the first people I called for his advice and perspective, and he was among the very first to offer me his public support. Whether we agreed or disagreed on issues, it was always in the spirit of trying to make Guam a better place. I will miss his leadership and dedication to our island and our children."

The University of Guam also joined the island in mourning, noting that the former speaker worked tirelessly for the island and her people as a senator for more than two decades.

"The well-respected leader and statesman was a strong advocate for higher education and the efforts of the university to fulfill its mission. He was also a dear friend to many in the UOG community who worked closely with him over the years," the statement read.

UOG President Robert Underwood, who is currently traveling, expressed his sadness at the news: "Speaker Pangelinan was more than just a supporter of resources for the university, he was a champion of sound government finances and an intelligent force for positive change. I knew him for several decades and my admiration for his insights, tenacity and sense of service grew decade after decade. The island will miss his voice.”

"The leadership at the University of Guam sends its deepest condolences to the family of Speaker Pangelinan and to his colleagues in the 32nd Guam Legislature. The university community is grateful for the commitment and dedication to Guam that Speaker Pangelinan has demonstrated over the years and will remember his legacy in public service," Underwood added.

Judiciary, OAG

Attorney General Leonardo M. Rapadas said the late senator was a man who passionately served the public for more than 20 years, gave a voice to the people, and will be remembered for his dedication and insight.

"From proposing legislation that has positively shaped the legal landscape, to sitting as the oversight chairman and handling the government’s budget in recent years, his stout commitment is evident and the toils of his work have touched the lives of all he encountered," he said.

Chief Justice Robert J. Torres of the Supreme Court of Guam said the late senator will be remembered for his expertise and foresight in public finance and government operations.

"Through his career in the legislature, he shaped public policy to favor transparency, openness, and equality. He is counted as an early and steadfast supporter for the independence and unification of the Judiciary of Guam,” Torres said.


Former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez yesterday issued the following statement: "My wife Geri and I are extremely saddened by the passing of Speaker Pangelinan. Ben was a great and passionate leader, and he loved the people he was honored to serve. He was not afraid to fight for what was right, and he never backed down, even when the odds were against him. For that, he had my deep respect. His death is a great loss to our island community, and I know he will be missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family.”


Late last month, Pangelinan announced his retirement from the Guam Legislature, stating: “For 20 years, I have had the honor of serving the public with the love and support of my family and the willingness and courage to do what is in the best interest of the people of Guam. This year, I have put great thought into and consideration for my family and giving them that same love and support they have given me these past years when thinking about my decision for the future.

“In wanting to ensure I spend the remaining good years of my life with my family – enjoying them, living with them, serving them, and giving them the same commitment that I have given to the people of Guam these past decades – I have decided that I will be retiring from the Guam Legislature at the end of this term.”

Pangelinan was born in Saipan in 1956 and came to Guam when he was very young. He was raised and lived in Barrigada and attended San Vicente School and Father Duenas Memorial School. He held a bachelor’s degree in government from Georgetown University.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beyond the Media Fences

When we look at the media landscape of Guam it is pretty simple. There are two main newspapers. Their ideological difference is sometimes stark, sometimes not. The PDN reflects a clear ideological agenda most of the time. They are the mainstream source of print media, the towering megalith and as such they tend to see their job as guiding the island and sometimes saving it from itself. The Marianas Variety is a worthy challenger at times, showing more ideological breadth and willingness to be critical of things the PDN is not. But the Variety is ultimately a challenger and something which is out there, but not read as much or supported as much in terms of advertising. 

For TV there is a similar dynamic, with two stations offering daily news, KUAM and PNC. PNC offers more ideological flexibility, whereas KUAM often times appeared chained to the ideology of the political families and parties it is closely associated with. Some argue that PNC has a similar bias to the opposite side of the spectrum, but the PNC affinity to Democrats is nothing compared to KUAM's recent affinity to Republicans and the current gang in Adelup. 

For radio talk shows, you have two main options. K57 and ISLA 63. K57 is the dominant radio power on the island. People, even those who don't like the personalities or the callers, tune in each day while in traffic, at work, at the gym. K57's range of opinion varies, but it tends to be associated with angry stateside or po'asu critiques of Guam. ISLA 63 is the home of Jesse Anderson Lujan and the Buzz. This is the only real bastion for Chamorro talk and regular Chamorro critiques. The on,y problem with it though is the lack of an audience and the fact that the same callers tend to call in every single day. 

In this media landscape things such as decolonization and demilitarization are dealt with, but always in very minute and superficial ways. For example, KUAM, Variety and PNC may regularly cover Commission on Decolonization meetings, although they will rarely delve into the issues involved, but simply state a meeting took place and provide mentions of some of the things that were discussed. Demilitarization is something discussed in difficult and delicate terms. The media is owned by businesspeople who usually have interests beyond just this franchise. They tend to see the possibilities presented by any military increases as meaning more viewers, readers, advertisers, investment opportunities. This combined with the fact that Guam, at both the macro and micro level feels that militarization is an intimate and core part of the way people see identity and culture here, means that militarism goes almost completely uncritiqued most of the time. 

It is for these reasons that the island is fortunate to have the KPRG show Beyond the Fence, produced by former UOG Social Work Faculty Vivian Dames. This show represents the most critical media outlet on Guam, unless you count having dinner in Ed Benavente's backyard or hanging out at the soon to be opened Sagan Kutturan Chamorro. It was started off as a forum for discussing the potential impacts of the US military buildup in 2010, but it is expanded to include topics on Chamorro language, culture, arts and resistance and Guam History. I am a host for the show and produce around 5 episodes a year.

Below is the announcement for the most recent episode that I worked on:


I invite you to tune in to Beyond the Fence which airs every Friday at noon on Public Radio Guam-KPRG 89.3 FM, your source for NPR (National Public Radio) news and music discovery.  This locally produced one hour program features interviews and coverage of public events offering analysis and personal perspectives on the local impacts of US global militarism in the Asia-Pacific region, especially Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.  It also provides accounts of different forms of resistance, decolonization and sovereignty struggles, and the challenges of building community beyond the fence where U.S. bases and installations are located. 

KPRG streams live at and has released apps for Iphone/Ipad and Android devices. Audio podcasts of most episodes are available for free and may be downloaded within five days of the broadcast by going to:

Ep. 195, “Hinekka i Tiningo’ i Manåmko’: Chamorro Elders Remember the Japanese Occupation” hosted by Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua (with production assistance of Marlon Molinos and Alan Grossman) airs 7/25/14. 

For the past year the Chamorro Studies Program at the University of Guam (UOG) has been undertaking the project, Hinekka i Tiningo’ i Manåmko’ or the collection of the knowledge of the elders. As part of this oral history project, UOG undergraduate students have conducted interviews with more than 100 elderly Chamorros. These interviews focus on the specialized knowledge that only elderly Chamorros may possess, such as details of past historical periods and unique or undocumented forms of the Chamorro language, whether they be songs, jokes or axioms. 

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day,  July 21, this episode showcases seven interviews with elderly Chamorros about their experiences during I Tiempon Chapones, or the Japanese occupation, conducted by undergraduate students enrolled in Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua’s ( Summer 2014 Guam History class. These interviews provide an interesting portrait as to the diversity of Chamorro experiences during a difficult time.  The interviewees were allowed to answer in either English or Chamorro, based on whichever made them feel more comfortable. 

The list of interviewers and interviewees (in order of presentation) is as follows: 

Interview 1: Ariane Santos interviewing Rosita Munoz Flogger
Interview 2: Henedina Cervania interviewing Concepcion Cruz Flores
Interview 3: Maria Esmero interviewing Piti Mayor Vicente Diaz Gumataotao
Interview 4: Dustin Elliot interviewing Edward Cruz
Interview 5: Nino Dizon interview Lucy Anderson
Interview 6: Anthony Sanchez interviewing Former Yigo Mayor Antonio Calvo
Interview 7: Karla Dizon interview Barbara M.C. Dela Cruz

Music selection: Mångge i Chamorro or “Where are the Chamorros?” from the band Chamorro and their album “Tiempo.”

Please forward this announcement to your respective networks and encourage listeners to submit their comments on line.  Suggestions for future topics and guests or requests to be removed from or added to this contact list may be sent to

Thank you for listening to and supporting public radio for the Marianas --- and for promoting Beyond the Fence, locally and abroad. 

Vivian Loyola Dames, Ph.D. 
Anchor Host & Coordinator,  Beyond the Fence 
KPRG -89.3FM
303 University Drive, UOG Station 
Mangilao, GU 96913

T:  671-734-8930

F:  671-734-2958

Our studio is located in Mangilao on the campus of the University of Guam, Dean's Circle #13, next to the Isla Center for the Arts. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chamorro Public Service Post #26: Ai Na Pinadesi

Every time I go to deposit a check at the bank, KC Leon Guerrero is always there. His music reflects in such simple ways the Chamorro worldview and experience. I know many of his songs and I would argue that very few of them are very deep, but there is still an exciting, vibrant Chamorro dimension to them. He has sung about everything from heartache, Chamorro traditions, to racial impurity, to colonial amnesia, to optimistic weather forecasts. In honor of hearing him earlier today while at the bank I decided to post the lyrics to one of his more famous songs "Ai Na Pinadesi."


Ai Na Pinadesi
KC Leon Guerrero

Ai na pinadesi
Este pågu neni hu padedesi
Triniste yan minahålang
Desdiki un dingu yu’ nai palao’an
Ai sessu yu manguifi put hågu
Kada mafung mo’na i maigo-hu
Manmåta yu ya sigi yu’ tumånges
Ai sa taigue hao gi fi’on-hu

Ai na pinadesi
Este pågu neni hu padedesi
Triniste yan minahålang
Desdiki un dingu yu’ nai palao’an

Ai pågu sessu yu’ di bumalåchu
Sa ti siña hu sungon neni i piniti-hu
Hågu yu’ lokkue muna taiguini
Ai makkat este na pinadesi

Ya ai na pinadesi
Este pågu neni hu padedesi
Triniste yan minahålang
Desdiki un dingu yu’ nai palao’an

Makkat este neni na kastigu
Puru ha este ginen hågu
Ai dalai ya ti siña un dispensa yu’
Hågu siempre pumuno’

Ya ai na pinadesi
Este pågu neni hu padedesi
Triniste yan minahålang
Desdiki un dingu yu’ nai palao’an

Triniste yan minahålang
Desdiki un dingu yu’ nai palao’an

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Island of Massacres

Every July Guam becomes transformed into an "island of massacres." As the collection memory of the island becomes focused around recalling and recounting the tragic final weeks of I Tiempon Chapones on Guam, the month seems to move from one horrific story to another. July 1944 was filled with more atrocities and more suffering than the 31 months of Japanese occupation that preceded it. Pale' Jesus Baza Duenas is killed. Chamorros are forced into concentration camps. Massacres take place in Hagat, Yigu, Merizo and Hagatna. War stories from war survivors build towards a brutal climax at this point. This brutal period however is the prologue to the happy end to Japanese rule. Within days or weeks of these atrocities taking place, Japanese guards have disappeared from concentration camps and stories of American troops being spotted are traveling around with lightning speed.

War narratives at this point jump from opposite sides of the spectrum. They go from being colored in blood and gore and the grim of muddied and bleary eyed marches, to being filled with canned goods, cigarettes, powdered milk and US Marines are painted in reds, whites and blues. Chamorros were at one point wallowing and suffering, but now are being lifted from their squalor and led to refugee camps where they start to gather what they can to rebuild the island and their lives.

So much is lost in this transition. I've written about what is lost in so many different forums. From dissertations, to thesises, to blog posts, to my Variety column, to my lectures in my classes. What is lost in this cauldron of tragedy and triumphant liberation is the Chamorro itself. The Chamorro as a sovereign subject, as something that exists on its own and conceives of itself in its own way is lost. It is replaced with a Chamorro who will forever forward struggle with their relationship to the United States more than anything. They will see everything through a lens of American patriotism, including their own past, present and future. The Chamorro who believes in self-sustainability, who has the ability to not accept every ridiculous colonial lie that worms its way into the island, who doesn't just give up their language, culture or identity because someone else says to, this Chamorro disappears. You could argue it dies in Mannegon, in Mokfok, in Fena, in the wreckage of Hagatna or anywhere else. It is killed in the crossfires as empires of steel clash.

I have been working for six months now on a project to tell a story that will hopefully give life to that Chamorro once thought lost. The patriotic Chamorro is born out of the suffering of World War II and it is sustained through the continuing narratives of victimization. But I am working on helping tell the story of one incidence when Chamorros were not simply victims, where Chamorros when faced with annihilation and death, chose to fight back and in the village of Malesso they killed their Japanese captors. This is the story of the Mighty Men of Merizo who rose up against the Japanese at Atate in July 1944.

For the next seven weeks the PDN will be publishing sections of the memoirs of Jose M. Torres, who was a participant in the uprising against the Japanese at Atate. In the month of September I am hoping that his book will be ready so we can release it to the public.


Chagui'an Victims Remembered
Jerick Sablan
July 15, 2014

Ramon Baza Quitaro, 15, was the youngest person to be killed by the Japanese during World War II when he and 44 other men and boys were beheaded in Chagui'an in Yigo.

And although no one from that massacre survived, their memories live on through the annual memorial that was held yesterday at the Chagui'an site.

"Just imagine, he was small. Fifteen years old. Why? Fifteen years old. He didn't even enjoy his childhood," Lourdes Quitaro Pangelinan Taitingfong, his niece, said.

Quitaro was the youngest sibling of Taitingfong's mother. The family was in the concentration camp in Yona when Quitaro was asked to help the Japanese carry something, Taitingfong said. That was the last time they ever saw him.

No one knows what exactly happened since there were no survivors, Toni Ramirez, a local historian said yesterday.

Taitingfong said to this day, no one in her family knows what happened to her uncle. Her dad's brother, Jose Quichocho Pangelinan, also died in the massacre.

Yesterday was the first time she attended the memorial.

On Aug. 8, 1944, Marine patrols from the 21st Regiment discovered 45 bodies of young Chamorro men in Chagui'an, beheaded and with their hands tied behind their backs.

They were young men forced by the Japanese into a treacherous march as they carried supplies and ammunition to the Japanese command posts at Mount Mataguac, almost a mile and a half south of the massacre site, Yigo Mayor Rudy Matanane said yesterday.

A white cross symbolizes the 45 men who were found at the site, while signs list their names and a short story about the site in English, Chamorro and Japanese.

For Quitaro's friend, Gregorio Concepcion, 85, yesterday was a time to remember his old friend. The two were the same age and were neighbors in Yona, he said.

They would go out to the farm and work, he said.

The last time he saw Quitaro was when the Japanese invasion of Guam happened and he moved back to Piti to be with his family.

"He was too young. It's sad," he said.

Gov. Eddie Calvo said it was hard to believe that 70 years ago, such a horror occurred.

"Now what once were enemies now are friends. And what was once a battlefield and site of a massacre is a location of paradise," Calvo said.

Ramirez told a tale from the first-person perspective of Quitaro, inspired by his research on the massacre. He was one of the 17 men who were below the age of 18, he said.

He detailed what happened and how Quitaro came to be a part of the massacre by weaving together the narrative and his research.

Ramirez said the war wasn't something many Chamorros understood.

"It was not their war. They got caught in the war," he said.

He offered praise for Jakson Umlauf, 14, who helped get materials for the memorial site, like signs, benches and flower beds.

"Jakson is the same age as Ramon 70 years ago. He came here to die. Jakson came here to preserve the memory of what happened in the war," Ramirez said.

Umlauf, from Boy Scouts of Guam Troop 1420, said his family and his troop asked people to donate and they were glad to do so.

He came to the memorial last year and only saw a white cross that memorialized the 45 men.

"I thought we need to respect our fallen heroes a little more," he said.


Families Remember Tinta, Faha Victims
Dance Aoki
July 16, 2014

The last time Juan Q. Guzman saw his uncle and namesake, he was 10 years old.

He remembered his uncle, Juan C. Guzman, broke away from the families who were marching from Santa Rita to a concentration camp in Manenggon during the Japanese occupation of the island in World War II.

The elder Juan Guzman headed toward Merizo to be with a woman he'd fallen in love with and her son who he wanted to take care of.

"I remember my grandmother, a small, feisty old lady," Guzman, now 80 years old, recalled. "I heard my grandmother say, 'Juan, don't go.'"

He didn't find out until after U.S. Marines liberated the island that his uncle was one of the victims of the Faha massacre in Merizo.

"If he just should have listened to my grandmother..." Guzman said, trailing off.

Guzman attended a solemn memorial ceremony for the victims of the Faha massacre yesterday as a breeze cooled a group of about 30 people who hiked to the site.

The memorial ceremony at Faha followed a separate memorial at Tinta, the site of another massacre during World War II.

Younger generation

Merizo Mayor Ernest Chargualaf asked those present to keep coming back to the memorials.
"Those who were born during the liberation and the invasion, they're diminishing," Chargualaf said. "We need to engage the younger generation, ... so that they can come to understand and appreciate what we're perpetuating every year so that their deaths are not in vain. These people suffered at the hands of the enemy, and they were innocent."

Honoring history

Plaques placed at each site tell the story of the massacres.

On July 15, 1944, Japanese soldiers gathered 30 influential Chamorro residents of Merizo village, guided them to Tinta, and instructed the group to assemble in a cave.

The soldiers then threw grenades into the opening of the cavern, and when the dust was cleared, stabbed anyone moving with bayonets.

A handful of survivors who pretended to be among the dead managed to escape.

The next day, Japanese soldiers marched another group of the strongest Chamorro men to a separate location at Faha.

They were once again told to gather in a cave, and all were killed after the soldiers shot them with machine guns.
Guzman said the younger generation doesn't understand everything that happened during the war.
"The younger generation don't know anything," he said.
Darlene Leon Guerrero said her father was a young boy when the massacres occurred.


When the residents of Merizo heard of the killings, they were outraged and rebelled against the Japanese soldiers in response to the massacres.

On July 20, a furious group of Merizo men charged the Japanese headquarters, killing 10 Japanese soldiers. One soldier escaped, fleeing toward the village of Inarajan.

Leon Guerrero said her father would share stories with her about the rebellion.
"The young are interested," she said.

But there aren't very many people who are willing to share their memories from the war years, she added.


Rick Camacho was 4 years old when his father, Juan Babauta, died at Tinta.

Camacho's wife, Cecelia Camacho, said the events that occurred at Tinta need to be memorialized, but it's not easy.

"We're getting older and pretty soon we won't make the trek," she said.
"We're trying to bring my kids, but they're still sleeping," she said.

Ann Perez, Camacho's niece, said she wanted to remember that her grandfather's spirit was still here, and that's why it's so important for her to come to the site of the Tinta massacre.
"It would make me feel good, that it didn't die down, that people are still visiting (years from now)," Perez said.

Costs for families

The Merizo mayor said there are efforts being made to make the Tinta site easier to get to.
The pathway cuts through private land belonging to different families, so the mayor must ensure the visitors to Tinta have permission to enter the property to pay their respects.

The families of the victims and of the survivors have paid some of the cost of hosting these ceremonies every year, the mayor said.

"It shouldn't be the families that have to bear the burden, and the governor must ensure these things are commemorated and perpetuated every year as a grim reminder that no nation or people should ever again be subjected to the atrocities that we had then," Chargualaf said.


Many Reflect on War at Fena Memorial
 Malorie Paine
July 20, 2014

Somber, sobering moments are what many experienced walking up to the entrance of the Fena Caves during the Fena memorial service in Agat yesterday.

Some were looking into the very place their family members were killed by Japanese soldiers during World War II; others were merely paying respect to the history of Fena and those who lost their lives.
The caves, because they are located within the Naval Base of Guam, are open to the public only during select times of the year. Capt. Andy Anderson, commanding officer at the Naval Base of Guam, said it's important that the public be allowed to return to the caves out of respect to their histories.

"The importance is respect. These people gave their lives. They defended freedom unarmed, essentially. We owe it to them, to the families and to their deaths. We owe it from a respect point of view," Anderson said.

Ivan Babuta, of Agat, says his uncle was one of the men herded into the cave and killed. He said being able to return to the location meant so much to him.

"The trip was very sentimental for me. My mother's brother was one of those who got beheaded by the Japanese. It means a lot to the family, but we forgive the Japanese," Babuta said.

Babuta said his uncle was only 14 or 15 at the time of the Fena Massacre. He also said that while the experience was a difficult one for the family, they have learned forgiveness is the most important thing now.

"It was a sad time, but we forgive, and we have to move on. It's sad for me, but those days are gone already. Now, we have to move forward and live in peace. With the Lord's grace and help, I find peace now," Babuta said,
He said it's difficult to forgive as a human being, but "through the grace of God," he is able to. Babuta said forgiveness is a lesson many in the world need to learn.

"Forgiveness is letting go. I find forgiving helps me find peace in myself. If we look at the world today, the ones who can't forgive are the ones who are still suffering," Babuta said.

Several World War II veterans also attended yesterday's Fena memorial service. Men who served on Agat beach 70 years ago returned to celebrate the years of freedom that have followed their service on Guam.

Tom Spry, of Mission Viejo, California, served on Agat beach when he was 18 years old. He says it was his first mission while serving in the Marines, and he was honored to return to see that freedom still stands.

"It's remarkable to see what has been done from 1944 to now. There's so much. I hardly know how to describe it," Spry said.

Spry, now 88 years old, returned to Guam with his son for the Liberation celebration and to visit with old friends.

Yesterday's memorial service was not a time of sadness, but one of remembering how far the people of Guam have come in 70 years.

Agat Mayor Carol Tayama said the people of Guam have persevered throughout the years and they will continue to do so.

"Seventy years later, we are a stronger people, but more importantly, we are a forgiving people," Tayama said.

Toni Ramirez, a Guam historian, said the Chamorro people were victims of war.

"Each Chamorro who lived in July 1944 was a victim of war, but it wasn't their war," he said. "Every Chamorro living in July 1944 was a solider. They fought to live."

He said that while war is a part of the Chamorro history, the people must look forward and realize everyone is together.

"We are one under the sun, and we are one under humanity," Ramirez said.

Ramirez told those in attendance that no other place remembers or celebrates the history of World War II like the people of Guam. He encouraged the audience to never forget, but to always be forward thinking.

"We are a grateful island," Ramirez said. "Live in peace. Live in harmony. Let's move forward."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tinestigu para Historic Inalahan

The website of Pale' Eric Forbes is a great place for information on Chamorro language, culture and history. He has everything from Chamorro sayings, to translations of Chamorro texts, to little tidbits and footnotes from Chamorro history. It is a great resource for those who want to deepen their knowledge about so many of the things that make Chamorro Chamorro. He has a creative way of drawing out interesting parts of our native and pre-contact history, but also our colonial history. He has an equal excitement for both dimensions, which many find surprising because of his work as a Catholic priest.

Below is the transcript of some testimony given recently at the Legislature gi Fino' Chamoru. Pale' Eric provides not only a transcript but also a translation. Often times when he provide a text like this he'll have detailed notes on some of the words used and their origins. The testimony was given in favor of a bill to support the Historic Inalahan program. It is nice to hear more and more people speaking Chamorro at the Legislature, especially after we lost our best Chamorro speaker there recently, Senator Ben Pangelinan.


Supporters of the "Historic Inalåhan" program came to the Legislature in support of a bill intending to help fund this endeavor.  The majority of the testimonies were given in Chamorro.  Here was one of them.

Guåho si Rosita San Nicolas, uno gi “crafter” yan i taotao i kusina ta’lo,
(I am Rosita San Nicolas, one of the crafters and kitchen crew also,)
gi guåho fuma’titinas i asiga guihe påpa’.
(I am the one making salt down there.)
Dångkulo na si Yu'us ma'åse', Senator Cruz, Aline yan si Tina.
(Thank you very much, Senator Cruz, Aline and Tina.)
Man måtto ham, man magof ham gi annai man mamaisen ham ayudo.
(We come, we are happy to ask assistance.)
In agradese todo i ineppen-ña si Tina nu hame.
(We appreciate all of Tina's answers to us.)
I representånte-ña as si Stephanie måtto påpa'
(Her representative Stephanie came down)
gi sagan-måme ya ha kuentuse ham.
(to our place and spoke with us.)
Pues man gaige ham på'go guine
(So we are here today)
para bai in sangåne hamyo na in agradese todo i ayudo
(to tell you that we appreciate all the help)
yanggen siña en na’e hame para bai in abånsa ha’ mo’na.
(if you could give us so we can move forward.)
Yan an man måtto i bisita
(And when the visitors come)
pareho ha' i estråño yan hita ni taotao tåno'.
(the foreigner as well as the locals.)
In fanunu’e håftaimano mo'na i kinalamten i man antigo
(We show them how things were in the past)
guihe påpa' gi lugåt-ta.
(down there in our place.)
Yan guåha na biåhe na man mamaisen bokan Chamorro.
(And there are times that they ask for Chamorro food.)
Pues in na' posisipble ennao gi anggen man mamaisen
(So we make that possible when they ask)
para bai in na’ guåha.
(that we provide it.)
Ennaogue’ testigo ha’ si Sen Cruz gi annai måtto un biåhe.
(There is Senator Cruz to witness when he came one time.)
In na’ sena guihe påpa'.
(We made him eat dinner down there.)
Pues in kombida para bai in fan gupot an si Senator.
(Then we invited Senator to feast with us.)
Si Tina ti måtto ha dalak hame guihe na ha'åne.
(Tina didn't come to follow us that day.)
Lao hu tungo' ha' dångkulo i korason-ña
(But I know that her heart is big)
para u bisita i taotao Inalåhan lao chumatsaga guihe na ha'åne
(to visit the people of Inarajan but that day it was difficult to do so)
annai måtto påpa' si Sen Cruz.
(when Senator Cruz came down.)
Pues in agradese na dångkulo yanggen mumaloffan este i finaisen-måme
(So we appreciate a lot if this our request moves ahead)
ni para en ayuda ham gi håftaimano mo'na para bai in abånsa mås i kinalamten i historical Inalåhan.  
(that you help us in our endeavor to advance more the activities of Historical Inalåhan.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Story of the 731st

My life as the program coordinator for Chamorro Studies means that my life boils down to one exciting project after the next. One thing that I love about Chamorro Studies here at UOG is that while it is an academic program in an academic institution, it is also community driven. So many of the projects that I have taken on over the past year were initiated by people in the community who wanted to have their stories recorded, wanted to have something documented, wanted to see something that is very necessary be created in the community. One project that I am hoping to expand upon in the coming year is the story of the 731st MP Company, which was a National Guard reserve component unit that served in the First Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. They were the only unit of their type from the Pacific region to be deployed and they served with great distinction. I have been working with their command officer when they were deployed Joseph Hara Salas about telling this story and interviewing some of its members. The first stage of the process was to publish a short column in the Marianas Variety that gave an overview of their accomplishments and introduce the project to the community. This past week the article "The Story of the 731st MP Company" was published in the Variety. I've pasted a copy of it below:


The Story of the 731st MP Company

People often think of Guam as a small place, and assume that small places and those who come from them are incapable of great deeds.  However, the work of the 731st MP (EPW-Proc) Company, begun on July 31, 1981, demonstrates that the Chamorro people are truly capable of greatness.  Formed soon after the Guam National Guard was created, the Company’s major mission was to process enemy prisoners of war (EPW), in addition to acting as military police (MP).

The Company’s training was tested when it was activated and deployed during the Persian Gulf War (First Gulf War).  It was the only reserve component unit from the entire Asia-Pacific region to be deployed during this war.  Some might assume that since these soldiers were mostly Chamorro, with some Filipinos and other Micronesian islanders, they were ill-prepared for desert warfare.  However, their training was to prove worthy of their task. 

A party was held on January 2, 1991, at Andersen South to honor these brave soldiers of the 731st MP (EPW-Proc) Company who were about to be sent to the other side of the world.  There were many salutations, many tears, and many prayers for these soldiers to return home safely.

The soldiers traveled from Guam to Schofield Base, Hawaii, for training, re-grouping, and processing, where they were joined by a contingent of volunteers from Guam and Hawaii.  These soldiers were naturally anxious since about 95% of them were not experienced in combat situations.  At Schofield Base, they had physical examinations, training in weapons qualification, and a course in Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) weapons.  The dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, had used chemical weapons against the Kurds before, and the Americans were not taking any chances.  Iraq had the fourth biggest army in the world at that time.  The 731st MP Company was issued suits and gas masks for additional protection.  While the soldiers remained stoic, not wanting to show fear, their officers were anxious that many would not return home alive.

The 731st MP Company flew from Hawaii to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, via New Jersey and Germany.  They arrived a few hours after midnight, with the air quiet and cold, the ground covered with snow.  Soldiers felt the eeriness of their surroundings, instinctively sensing unknown dangers on the horizon.

The war had not gone well for the Iraqis: thousands of their troops on the front line had been cut off and abandoned by their command after the U.S. began to bomb and invade.  Most, if not all, of the Iraqi troops were poorly trained conscripts.  Tens of thousands of them began to surrender, desperate for food.  It was at this point that the 731st MP Company proved its skills and set a record for the highest number of EPW processed in a very short period of time.

Enemy prisoners of war were taken from the battlefields to the prison-camp processing station.  High-value targets, such as members of Hussein’s Republic Guard, would be processed and then immediately taken elsewhere for further interrogation.  Other EPW would be given wristbands and recorded in computers, then transported to other prison camps.  New EPW would then be brought in for processing. The Persian Gulf War was the first time that the U.S. military utilized computers to process EPW.  It quickly became clear that sand was one of the army’s worst enemies in the war as it got into helicopters, vehicles, and even the computers used for EPW processing. 

In the prison camp, there were more EPW than military police.  Each day, as crowds of hungry and sometimes desperate Iraqis were processed, the platoon commander worried about potential outbreak.  MP guards were armed; however, MP processors were not authorized to carry weapons in the processing stations. 

During the height of the war, the 731st MP Company performed exceptionally well.  In one twelve-hour shift, the unit processed more than a thousand EPW.  This was especially impressive considering that the handbooks they were using were not applicable to their situation, and the 731st MP Company and other MP units had to design their own systems to fill the void.  Over a four0month deployment, the 731st MP Company processed about 20,000 EPWs out of a total of 120,000 EPWs for that war.

The soldiers maintained high morale through their Guam pride and connections to home and Chamorro culture.  General Edward G. Perez, Adjutant General of Guam Army National Guard, delivered care packages and letters to many of the soldiers while they were training in Hawaii.   In the 731st MP Company compound at the desert of Saudi Arabia, the Guam flag was proudly flown.  The flag display attracted many Chamorro or Guamanians visitors from other units to see and talk to the soldiers in the Chamorro language.  At one gathering, camel kelaguen was offered as a dish.  Many of the soldiers said it tasted like deer, and they imagined they were eating kelaguen binadu instead.

On May 10, 1991, the 731st MP Company returned home to Guam.  They were driven from the Won Pat International Airport to a special reception at Adelup.  Their return coincided with Mother’s Day, which increased their natural feelings of relief and joy in family reunions.  Local leaders spoke of their appreciation.  For some, if not all, this day was the first time in months that they could taste alcohol or beer.  Islamic custom, which the unit had respected during its deployment, prohibited alcohol, although Saudi Arabia offered a “near beer” in place of the real thing.

One year after the 731st MP (EPW-Proc) Company returned from Operation Desert Shield/Storm, the unit was decommissioned on March 8, 1992 at Fort Juan Muna.  First Lieutenant Joseph Hara Salas, the last commander of the unit, lowered the Guidon flag in the presence of Lieutenant Governor Frank Blas, Sr. The Chamorro Studies program at UOG is currently working with Commander Salas to interview members of the 731st MP Company who were part of this exciting moment in Chamorro military history, to ensure that this story is preserved for our people.


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