Saturday, August 20, 2016

Setbisio Para i Publiko #31: Pale' Oscar Lujan Calvo

There is a long list of people whom I wish I had the chance to interview and ask some basic questions, the overwhelming majority of which are Chamorros or from Guam. This long, gof annakko' na lista is divided into two parts. First, those whom passed away long before I was born, and those whose lives overlapped with mine, but I never had the chance to sit down and interview.

High on my list was Påle' (Monsignor) Oscar Lujan Calvo, who was close cousins with my grandfather. Påle' Scot as most Chamorros referred to him was the third ever Chamorro Catholic priest. He went to seminary in the Philippines alongside Påle' Jesus Baza Duenas and Påle' Jose Ada Manibusan was ordained in Manila during the war, but died before he could return to Guam. He returned to Guam and war ordained just a few months before World War II hit the island. He, Påle' Duenas and Reverend Joaquin Sablan were the only religious leaders on the island during World War II, meeting the spiritual needs of more than 22,000 desperate and fearful Chamorros. After the war he spearheded the efforts to develop peaceful relations with Japan, working with Japanese groups to create the Guam Peace Memorial Park in Yigo.

He was recognized by the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (Guam CAHA) as a Master of Chamorro Culture in terms of the large collection of historical documents, photos and artifacts that he had amassed throughout this life. Although I came across his name during the first years of my research as an undergraduate and graduate student at UOG, and he was always on the edges of conversations for my Lujan side, I never reached out to him while he was alive with the intent of interviewing him and hearing his incredible story. I tried several times to visit his collection after he died, through his sister and his assistant, but was never able to get access. I wonder sometimes what became of it.

Below is the statement from the floor of the House of Representatives in 1999 from then Congressman Robert Underwood, commemorating the life and deeds of Påle' Scott.

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Congressman Robert Underwood dedication to Pale' Scot
Statement before the US House of Representatives
November 22, 1999


Mr. Speaker, as you know, December 7, 1941, and the Attack on Pearl Harbor mark our nation's entry into World War II. For the people of Guam, the war began on December 8th, the Roman Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patron saint of the United States.

This year, on December 8th, we in Guam will again celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We will recall the Japanese Invasion of Guam and we will give thanks for our deliverance and for the peace that has reigned on our island since the end of World War II. This year our celebrations will also include an historic first: the Archdiocese of Agana will dedicate its new museum and name it in honor of a native son, the Very Reverend Monsignor Oscar Lujan Calvo, the third Chamorro to be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest and the only one to date to reach his 58th anniversary in the priesthood.

It is a fitting tribute to a man who has spent a lifetime serving the Church and contributing not only to the moral and spiritual welfare of the faithful in Guam but also to the knowledge about who we are as a people. indeed, the museum which will bear his name will also house many of the historic documents, books, publications, photographs, and artifacts that he has carefully collected and lovingly preserved over many, many years. Known more commonly as Pale' `Oscat, and more affectionately as ``Pale' Scot,'' Monsignor Oscar Lujan Calvo is himself an historic figure not only in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Guam but also in the history of Guam itself.

Born in Hagatna on August 2, 1915, Monsignor Calvo first attended school in Guam and, at age thirteen, entered the San Jose Preparatory Seminary in the Philippines. He returned home thirteen years later and was ordained on April 5, 1941, joining Father Jose Palomo and Father Jesus Duenas, the only other Chamorros in the Catholic priesthood. He celebrated his first Mass on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941. Eight months later, on December 8, Japanese Imperial Forces attacked Guam.
In an interview several years ago, Monsignor Calvo related many of his experiences during the Japanese Occupation of Guam, including conducting secret Masses in direct defiance of occupation regulations forbidding him and Guam's two other men of the cloth, Father Jesus Baza Duenas and Baptist minister, the Reverend Joaquin Sablan, from practicing their faiths. In that interview, Monsignor Calvo spoke about his concern for the many valuable church records and artifacts at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral in Hagatna. When the occupying forces began to use the cathedral for their own purposes, Monsignor Calvo secretly removed the church valuables to a safer location away from the capital city. After the war, he went to retrieve them, only to discover that the secret hiding place and all it contained had been destroyed in intense American bombardment of Guam. Lost forever were the records of births, deaths and marriages dating back to the 1700s. Perhaps it was the sorrow over this immense loss that inspired Pale' `Scot to become such an avid collector of artifacts and written materials about Guam and its people.

Whatever the reason may be, Monsignor Calvo bore no animosity toward the Americans who fought valiantly to recapture Guam, destroying much in the process, nor toward the Japanese who precipitated the destruction. In fact, the good monsignor worked hard after the war to heal the wounds. Despite criticisms from U.S. veterans groups, he played a major role in the establishment of the Guam Peace Memorial Park, funded entirely by private Japanese donations and dedicated in tribute to Japanese and Chamorro war dead. In recognition of his efforts to promote peace, friendship and goodwill, the Japanese Government conferred upon him its distinguished Order of the Rising Sun with gold and silver rays. He was the first American to receive this prestigious award.

Monsignor Calvo also has been an Honorary Papal Chamberlain since 1947. He is a knight in the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, with the title of Magistral Chaplain in 1977. In 1991 he was enrolled in the Guma Honra, the Guam Hall of Fame, for his remarkable social, spiritual and civic contributions to the people of Guam.

With the dedication of the Monsignor Oscar Lujan Calvo Museum on December 8, 1999, future generations of students of Guam history will owe a debt of gratitude to Pale' and his diligent efforts to preserve, protect, and promote Chamorro culture and history and to share his collection. I join the people of Guam in celebrating the opening of the new museum. I look forward to visiting it and to viewing Pale' `Scot's collections, much of which will be publicly displayed for the first time. And to Pale', I want to say: ``Si Yu'os ma'ase, Pale', nu todo i che'cho'-mu put i estudion i fina 'posta-ta, i setbisiu-mu para i tano'-ta yan i dedikasion-mu para i Gima' Yu'os.

We are inspired by your works, grateful for your advocacy and deeply appreciative of your service to our island.

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