Sunday, September 21, 2014

A New Chamorro Champion Emerges



The Chamorro language has lots of fans. This is something to applaud. Two generations ago, the Chamorro language was being used by more people, but had very few fans. Most people who used it didn't speak it to their children or those younger than them. So even if it was being spoken, it was not being passed on and so its death sentence was already being prepared. It had few fans, most of the older generations of Chamorros, who were World War II survivors and veterans of American colonialism, were not big fans of Chamorro. They saw it as something that was a relic of the past, tied to a stagnant and penniless way of life, and something to be gotten rid of to make way for English.

The game has changed. Chamorro now has more fans. The Chamorro language has more than 10,000 likes on Facebook. Attitudes have shifted so that people say the language should be saved and should be used. They admit to a beauty to it and it being an important part of the heritage of the Marianas. Only a handful of people, some who are Chamorro and some who are not Chamorro will openly say the Chamorro language is useless and shouldn't be saved.

But if the saving of the Chamorro language is a game, it is important to remember that fans don't win games. They are an important part of the atmosphere in which games are won and lost. But players win games, teams do, and all great successful teams need champions. Champions are those who take the fight to the next level, who can see further than others. They can adapt, take advantage of what is there, help influence what should exist. The Chamorro language has lots of fans today, but it needs champions, groups and individuals who take seriously the game of saving it and are not content to just sit on the sidelines wearing Guahan Soldier shirts and drinking Budweiser.

The kids show Nihi, created by my cousin Cara Flores-Mays, is one possible champion. It is something which can change the game, which can be a force that others rally around, that can affect everything that comes after. I am hoping that it will, para Guahu, lao mas para i famagu'on i famagu'on-hu siha.

Here is a PDN article about the potential that Nihi represents.

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"New show champions Chamorro language: targets kids age 5 - 9."
by Lacee A.C. Martinez
Pacific Daily News
September 19, 2014

In the brief preview to the upcoming kids local TV show "Nihi!," little Sumahi curls up next to her dad, Michael Bevacqua, under a make-shift blanket fort while introducing him.

"We do a lot of fun activities," the child says.


This could be any other kind of children's show, but Sumahi utters the sentence in Chamorro.

On Sept. 29, the first season of "Nihi!" premieres on several local television stations, aiming to perpetuate the Chamorro language and culture while encouraging environmental stewardship, healthy choices and character development.

Community support through sponsorship and volunteer work has finally gotten the nonprofit Duk Duk Goose Inc. project off the ground.

"Most of our topics are cultural and scientific," explains Cara Flores-Mays, director of the nonprofit, who also is featured on the show. "One of the first episodes will be on i pilan, the moon and the tides,"

Three months of original programming in the first season also will touch on farming, respect, native birds and other Guam aspects, with a target age range of 5 to 9.

"But we actually find that kids as young as 2 or 3 enjoy the program and my grandfather, he enjoys it as well," Flores-Mays says. "It's for the entire family."

While Bevacqua and his daughter are both Chamorro speakers, most involved aren't, but are learning through the show.

Skits involving language are coordinated and instructed by the Hurao Academy, and Flores-Mays says the show is in need of more kids who do speak the language.

"We're actually learning ourselves, so we coordinated with Hurao Academy and most of the skits you see are instructed by Hurao."

There are other instances with native speakers, including a segment with Michael Bevacqua and his daughter, who both are fluent Chamorro language speakers.

"It's actually been fairly difficult to find kids who are willing to be on TV," she says. "Finding kids, and then ones who have the patience and the ability to go through multiple rehearsals and also the filming (is hard). We are always happy to find new talent."

The show is expected to run seven days a week, twice a day except for Mondays, when it will air once, says Kristine Lujan, who sits on the nonprofit's board.

"In other words, we're going to be engaging our kids all week long," she says. "This is the only children's program of its kind. We have nothing like it on Guam. It engages children while inspiring the preservation and protection of Guam's story.

"And what is that? That is our language, our culture, our values. That is our organization's mission, first and foremost."

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