Monday, February 19, 2018

Fina'kuentos Chamorro #6: Si Yu'os, Yu'os...

I have not written one of these posts in a while, although the collecting of Chamorro sayings continues. Fina'kuentos Chamorro is where I post different Chamorro sayings or phrases, they are important in providing us a sense of the Chamorro worldview, both in history and in a contemporary context, and give us a sense of the Chamorro particular flavor to life. Sometimes this flavor can be very familiar to other cultures, sometimes it can be very Catholic, sometimes is can appear to be very tied to the land and people here themselves.

This saying "Si Yu'os, Yu'os. I taotao, taotao ha'" can be both very simple, yet also encompass very deep thoughts. It translates simply to "God is God, man is man."

On the surface it is simply that men should not worry about things that are beyond their control, as those things lie in God's hands and he will determine what happens. It is a simplified serenity prayer.

But it can also extend further into helping understand Chamorro fatalism and also traditional aversion to confronting authority or systems of power. It is possible that this saying was born after the arrival of Catholicism and its genesis is owed entirely to religious blunting of human potential, but it could have earlier origins in Chamorro values such as gaimamahlao.

I find this saying useful in terms of its critical potential in referring to those things that are supposed to be beyond our ability to affect or influence. To this end I have used this saying in my Pacific Daily News columns and even academic articles when trying to discuss Chamorro layers of epistemology.

For example, if you swap out "Yu'os" and "taotao" and replace them with nouns more familiar to political status discussions, you receive the division that animates much of Guam's decolonial deadlock, "Iya Amerika, Amerika, Guåhan, Guåhan ha'." The US is that which brings life, order, prosperity and possibility, Guam is just Guam, and that's it.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


By Jay Baza Pascua

Fo’na yan Pontan hu gågaogao hamyo
Chachalani i famagu’on-miyu

Ginen Pontan na gaige ham guini gi tano’-ta
Ma nå’i ham ni tahtaotao-ñiha

Fo’na yan Pontan hu gågaogao hamyo
Chachalåni i famagu’on-miyu

Ginen Fo’na na gaige ham guini gi tano’-ta
Ma nå’i ham ni’ lina’la’-ta!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Death of the Chamorro Language

Ti siguro yu' håyi tumuge' este, lao interesånte. Guaha meggai na hestoria put i Chamorro gi Islas Sangkattan gi este na ti gof anakko' na tinige'. Hu sodda' este na tinige' ginen i gasetan Saipan, annai manespipiha yu' infotmasion put Fino' Chamorro gi halom i kottre gi Islas Sangkattan. Ti meggai na infotmasion humuyong, lao hu fakcha'i este. Ti hu tungo' i kilisyanu na fulånu ni' tumuge', lao ya-hu i milalåk-ña i hinasso-ña siha. Frihon yan botlon.


The Death of Chamorro Language
March 31, 1999
The Saipan Tribune

For many years, we were active participants in the death of our local vernacular. It started with the golden days in grammar school when speaking your language lands you some corporal punishment, a fine of five cents, scribbling several pages of “I will not speak Chamorro”; picking up trash outside the classroom after school, among others.

Well into high school, there’s the student monitors or JPOs who were authorized to arrest students for speaking their native tongue. At Hopwood, we even had a student court where defendants are brought in to justify why they spoke Chamorro. More often than not, it’s a textbook case and we giggle when the sentence is issued.

But I noticed too that dependents of TTG stateside employees were never arrested for speaking the local language. Of course, English is their first language spoken both at school and at home. But the use of our local and new lingo is divided: we brave use of conversational English at school, scrap the whole bag as we leave campus in the afternoon, return the next day pretending we’re all real Amerrrrican kids bluffing other students with our “Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot” vocabulary.

There were graceful moments too as we struggled to learn the English Language. Our sixth grade teacher, Mr. Frank M. Sablan, once asked the class to name the fruit right next to our classroom window known in Chamorro as “laguana”. There was a moment of silence when a tiny hand in the corner was raised. Declared my classmate: “Legueners!” Man, did the class broke out in laughter. Our wonderful teacher finally volunteered that it’s called “sour sop”.

I remember another classmate who contracted rashes known in the vernacular as “loglug haga`” (rash). He was sent to the main office for attention. At the office, the clerk asked what’s wrong with him. He said: “I have boiling blood”. For nearly five minutes, the clerk disappeared behind the counter trying to tame her laughter for it was the first time she’s heard a new allergy–boiling blood. Well, we were learning English the hard way, yeah? Remember when every male stateside here is named “Joe?”

Then there was my dad who one day admonished me for failing to fulfill my house chores. He asked me questions when I decided to answer in English. The next thing I heard was the loud and powerful slam of his mighty belt in my behind. He must have been offended for my use of English and probably thought I was cussing him. Man, one had to remember when to roll and hold on one of two lingo. A Saina!

Remember the use of the word “fire” when local workers in the old NTTU were warned that anybody caught using the dump truck for lunch in Chalan Kanoa will be fired? The interpreter related to everybody that the entire Chalan Kanoa Village was on fire. So each driver jumped on his truck and headed to the old village. The American boss stood there in awe why the guys are headed out with NTTU’s trucks. Yeah, sometimes it’s good volunteering as an interpreter!

Although I’ve learned to speak, read and write Chamorro (which I sometimes use in this newspaper) just to keep new local recruits (students) learn how to read in their native tongue, it is really a language that is good to know as an indigenous. But it is a completely useless language in my professional career and business dealings too. And it is really shameful that indigenous kids are being taught their native tongue at school rather than at home. We would have turned our vernacular into complete irrelevance in the not too distant future. Think about it if you wish to perpetuate your native tongue.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Media Resolutions for 2018

Media Shouldn't Defend Colonial Status Quoby Michael Lujan Bevacqua
January 5, 2018
Pacific Daily News

As we crawl out of the dumpster fire that was 2017 for much of the United States and its territories, we inch cautiously into 2018 and hope for the best. As someone who has been working over the past few years to elevate the community consciousness about decolonization, I am most interested in what the coming elections and federal cases will bring in terms of changing the island’s political status.

What occupies my thought process is the role of the media in helping build that consciousness or impede it. The media institutions in any society don’t just exist to report or investigate. These institutions also, often in less perceptible ways, promote values and norms, usually on behalf of elite segments of society.

In a colonial context, these roles gain a colonial dimension. Both institutions and individuals often will be compelled to defend and naturalize the colonial status quo. In both explicit and implicit ways, the media will promote notions of the greatness of the colonizer and propagate a fantasy of American political belonging that may not really exist.

We see this in the media landscape in Guam. Guam isn't a state, yet the media functions in such a way as if Guam is just like any other part of America. You can replace certain words in your average story and suddenly it'll be set in Arkansas or Kansas.

This does a disservice to those who consume that media, as it promotes a mis-recognition of reality. It encourages them not to recognize the truth of our relationship to the U.S., but proposes patriotism and pride as appropriate responses to living in a contemporary colony.

The media isn't alone. We see the same inconsistency from both Adelup and the Legislature. One day there’ll be a press release condemning U.S. colonialism, the next day a resolution promoting the fiction that we are just like any other part of America.

The educational system is one of the most problematic sites for this type of intellectual framing. So much of what is taught is wishful American-centric lessons that range from stupid to harmful. There are many things that would overlap in curriculum on Guam and any corner of the U.S., but if the foundation of your curriculum is they are one in the same, colonial problems will emerge.

This can change, if only the media landscape of Guam take up resolutions like the rest of us. For instance, not every story has to highlight Guam’s colonial status, but this has to be a silent yet still fundamental fact. The media often portray Guam’s relationship to the U.S. as something we are failing to live up to, as if we are some rebellious and corrupt piece of American real estate.

We are owned by the U.S., a immoral relationship that shouldn’t be glossed over in today’s world. As such, the focus on decolonization not happening because of local leaders and problems misses the point. The U.S. has an obligation to assist in this movement, but for decades has largely been unhelpful or obstructionist. Any coverage of the delayed decolonization has to assign the karabao’s share of blame at Uncle Sam’s feet.

Let us hope that in the coming year the media resolves to abandon its role as defenders of the colonial status quo and work to become real guardians of truth.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Litraton Jupiter Siha

These pictures are from NASA's Juno spacecraft which has been orbiting the planet Jupiter for more than a year and a half. The images are stunning to say the least and make me wish I was painting again. The colors and the textures are so engrossing. When I finished sending out emails tonight I may actually break out some paints and canvas.


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