Holy Week

Today marks the second day of Holy Week. With the Easter season fast approaching, there's a mad dash of preparation going on in the church. There's preparation for the liturgy and music ministry for our Easter Vigil that has been ongoing for a couple of weeks now. The Triduum begins on Thursday and there is so much to do before then!

Last night was day two of cantor practice and I must say, it went pretty darned good! We've got the cantors squared away for the vigil celebration and have one more practice on the day of the celebration. Now, if only I could reacquire my flute so that I can transpose and practice!

My journey to Easter has been one marked with much determination - okay, maybe not that much(I tried) - and definitely more than a couple of inner struggles! Up until last week, I didn't not feel ready for Easter. In the past few years, there was always this anticipation building up towards the end of the Lenten season. But, for some reason, this year was different. I entered the season with zeal. With sincerity to become a better person. A better Christian, even. But, as time went on, I grumbled - a lot! - and every time I would fall, I found it harder and harder to pick myself back up to make the trek. My zeal smoldered out in to an almost nonexistent ember. But, as we all know, you add a little oxygen and wood to that ember and it has the potential to build back up in to a raging fire.

You see, all I needed to do was to take a step back. To take a deep breath and relax just a little bit. I needed to take a little break from the hustle and bustle of the office and of the world. To just brush aside the worries that I have... the worries that my kids won't understand anything that we're trying to transmit to them about our faith, the worries that I have friends in need that I can't manage to find time or energy to reach and help. I just needed to let it go and reflect on the season and what is to come.

For a Catholic, such as myself, Easter is the most important time in the Church. It is what our faith is all about. The death of Christ opened up the gates of heaven for humanity. It brought forgiveness of our sins. It shows us that God loves us so much that He was willing to come and dwell with us in human frailty, to the point of death. He could have chosen any form of death. But, He didn't. He chose a painful death. One so horrible that we turn our faces from the image of the crucified Christ.

I was having a conversation with a coworker today about said image. About how some people view the Passion as something to mourn. Some view the death of Christ as something to weep about. But, I do not. I see this season as one of deep reflection. I see the death of Christ as something in which I may rejoice. You see, no matter how unworthy I feel, what matters is that He never sees me as unworthy. Yes, I will pay my respects to the image of Christ in the tomb, to Christ on the cross. But, I will also remember that, on the third day, He rose again. By His death, I too have the chance to rise again and see Him face to face.

So, I enter in to the Triduum with great reverence. On Thursday, I shall pray my heart out that I may enter in to the Easter season with great zeal and love for Christ. On Good Friday, I shall kneel before the cross of the crucified Christ and be thankful for the love that He showed for me and for all humanity. I shall also pray for the courage, patience, love, and humility to, not only bear but, embrace the crosses that He has put in my life.

On Easter Sunday, Christ will lead me out of my dessert and in to a land far more beautiful than I could ever have wished or dreamed. I shall rejoice and - to most of my friends, this is the good part - I shall feast.


Never Say...


It's been a belief of mine, for some time now, that 'goodbye' has to it a ring of finality. To say goodbye means, I shall never see you again. I don't think I've said goodbye to anyone for a long time. It was something that I'd picked up from a friend, back when I was in high school. This friend, when parting from anyone, would always say, 'Later'. When I asked him why, his response was 'I don't like goodbyes'.

I don't say goodbye anymore because I believe it's too final. Will I not see you tomorrow or some time in the future? When I leave a place, I don't say goodbye to the people I know because I truly believe that I will see them again, one day.

As a Catholic, I believe that even in death, we do not say goodbye. The belief in life after death is instilled deep in my roots. Death is the beginning of a journey to the final judgement. On the last day, we shall all meet again. So, goodbye, to me, is an inappropriate parting gesture. If I let myself believe that I will never see or speak with you again, what is the point of saying I believe in eternal life? If there's nothing to look forward to, why keep going?

So, if I fail to say 'Goodbye' at the end of a conversation, don't think I'm being rude. Instead, know that I look forward to meeting you again one day. Take it as a compliment.


Nan Bai

Well, that's what her nieces and nephews call her. To us, her grandchildren, she's known as Grandma. To my siblings and I, she is Grandma Dededo - just to differentiate between her and our Grandma Barrigada. Her name is Oliva Taijeron and she was born and raised on this beautiful island. When you ask her how old she is, she proudly replies, 'I am 78-years-old!'. We, her family, know that this means, 'I am 87-years-old!'.

She's my only living grandmother. The lady that raised my mother and who we always saw as a strong and able woman. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has always done everything for herself. These days, she's not as able as she used to be. She walks with a cane and looks as thought she could break if you hugged her too tightly. But, she's a sharp woman!

My grandmother never thought of herself as an intelligent woman. When we were growing up, we would go with my mom to take Grandma to the banks, to the lawyers, where ever it was that she needed to go. When she would fill out her applications or deposit forms at the bank, she would feebly take it to the teller and shyly admit the reason behind her sloppy handwriting. She would apologize saying, 'I had to leave school at the age of seven. I am sorry if you can not read it but, maybe my grand daughter can help you.' It was never something I questioned her about or that I was ashamed of, really.

You see, the period in which my grandmother was raised was a difficult time. Not only for the people of Guam, but for society as a whole. On the island, child rearing was always held in high regard. But, prenatal care was almost non-existent. My great grandmother - my Nana - died in the delivery room whilst giving birth to her sixth child. Unfortunately, so did the baby. My grandmother, being the eldest of her siblings, had to quit school at the age of seven in order to raise the rest of the children. My Tata was not a man from money and could not afford to hire someone to do this for him. One of the children had to be adopted out to another family in order to get the care she needed. But, that put aside, my grandmother still had her plate full.

After raising her 3 siblings, she met my grandfather. He was a mechanic working for the military. He knew the importance of frugality and teaching his children the value of family and humility. Most importantly, to my grandmother, he knew how to take care of her. Together, they had 12 children (three of them died in infancy). Together, they survived natural disasters. They survived a war. Most importantly, my grandmother survived burying six of her children.

Looking back at the life they lived, I see now how it was difficult. Growing up, I never really valued this struggle. I always thought, 'My grandmother had it easy!'. I never knew that she struggled with money. I never knew that she had to raise her siblings. From what I had learned, she never had a headache, she never had a pain or a struggle that she couldn't bear. I thought she was sheltered. I thought she always had it all.

My grandmother is a woman that I see as beautiful and strong. She has a strong head on her shoulders. Today, she is very business oriented and knows how to plan for the future. Coming from a background like hers, she always needs an explanation before handing out money for assistance. She has come a long way from being that 7-year-old girl who had to quit school. Now, I understand exactly where my mother gets her smarts. Now, I can look at my grandmother and see the life she lived and the life that she has made for her children.

To the world, my grandmother looks like a little old lady who can't hold her own. To me, I look at her and see so much! I see how time has worn her from the strong and able woman that she used to be in to a fragile little lady with white hair and shaky legs. I see her radiant smile that she uses to mask the pain of losing a mother, a father, a husband, and six children. I see the life weathered face and hands of a woman who has worked hard to get here. I see the woman who my mother will become.

The woman that I dream of becoming.


The Language

First, let me say that I take great pride in the fact that I come from a people whose language is like music. Now, I've heard the expression 'His/Her voice was like music to my ears'. But, personally speaking, the Chamorro language takes this expression to new heights. In the language of the people from Guam, we change things, we alter words, so that they are easy on the ears. Unless we are angry, our language is very sing song. Heck! Even when we're angry, there's a certain harmony to our words.

When I was in college, I studied the Chamorro language and the culture of our people. The greatest emphasis was put on how we alter words to make a phrase harmonious. If you put the word 'i' (pronounced 'ē') in front of a word, you would usually have to chance one of the vowels in said word so that it is phonetically appealing. I will use a part of my blog from yesterday as an example. 'I kettura' (the culture). Kettura, in it's original form is 'kutura'. Since we put the 'I' in front of it, we have to change the 'u' to an 'e' so that the word flows. There's so much more that I learned in the classes that I took and it all helped me to understand my language a bit more.

When I was growing up, I always enjoyed sitting with my elders and listening to them speak our language. I was one of the few that took advantage of this time and used it to actually learn how to speak. To socialize with our elders was something that was frowned upon, in most cases. You were not to listen in on any conversation that had nothing to do with you and you definitely did not have the right to speak up about whatever was being discussed. But, I was always one who went against the flow of things. This is one time that I can say that I am thankful for my rebellious nature!

Unfortunately, I am guilty of not putting the knowledge which I possess to good use. I knew how to speak my language. When I was living in the states, I would speak it in order to have private conversations. When I came back home, I realized that I have very limited knowledge of the language. What knowledge I had had dwindled to almost nonexistence. I could still sit and listen and understand what's being said. But, when participating in the conversation, I would stumble and sometimes would have to ask other for assistance in finding the words. Living back on the island is allowing me to be exposed to the language more often. I am slowly starting to pick it back up and put it to use.

In a recent conversation, I asked a friend if there was an English word to describe the feeling that you get when you see someone who is so cute or adorable that you would just like to squeeze them and (for lack of a better word) eat them up! We weren't able to come up with a word that even closely resembles the feeling. In Chamorro, this feeling is described as 'maggodai'. To say the phrase 'Gof na' maggodai' would be appropriate when someone is in the act of making you want to just squeeze the heck out of them.

Another word that we use is 'mahalang'. It is a word that is used to describe a feeling similar to that over 'homesickness' or 'lovesick'... A yearning... But, it goes so much deeper that just those words. It is a deep feeling of emptiness or loss that you can not describe in English.

Yet another is 'mungge' (I'm sure I'm spelling this totally wrong. But, hey... one step at a time!). Mungge' can be used simply to describe something that is appealing to the taste buds, this definition is simple. But, when you use it to describe a person, it is a lot deeper than 'yummy' or 'good'. As my friend Andrew put it, munnge' is 'a devouring likeness to fuse with that which is great (and then "gof" added in front...hell that's a need for confession)'. When you say 'I na minannge'!', it's almost like saying... excuse the expression... I'd really like to get her in the sack!

There are so many words like this scattered throughout the Chamorro language. I'm sure that other languages are similar. To me, English lacks in the ability to describe feelings or things beyond the physical realm. These words and phrases, to me, are little gems that you stumble upon when learning or using a language other than English.

In my opinion, language is an important part of cultural identity. It establishes a deeper connection between a person and the place and people that they come from. If your native tongue is a language other than English, I highly recommend that you learn enough of it to understand a conversation of not to speak. It's a beautiful skill to possess and it will give you a sense of accomplishment. It will help you to understand your background a little more than you would by just knowing the history. If anything, it will give you a way of talking about people without them knowing *wink*.


Biba Mes Chamorro

This month, on Guam, is Mes Chamorro. The month that we celebrate the Chamorro language and culture. Every year, in March, schools and businesses around the island showcase Chamorro activities. You can find anything from traditional island dance to language competitions to huge fiestas!

I remember growing up on Guam, we only celebrated Chamorro week. It was something that we looked forward to in school because it gave us an excuse to get out of classes and experience the local treats. We would have coconut frond weaving demonstrations, coconut candy making, coconut husking and grating competitions. If it had anything to do with being Chamorro, it was done - and done well!

In high school, the competitions went as far as hut building! This was always the highlight of the week. About a month before the competitions, different organizations within the school would register for said competition. One week before the competition was slated to be judged, the groups would get together after school to plan and construct their structures. On the Friday of Chamorro week, school would let out at around 10am and everyone would head to the field for a huge fiesta and for the judging and festivities. It was always something that we anticipated.

Rather than drone on about the competition, I will just say that it was always quite an event! People would show up in their traditional(Spanish era) mestisas and there would be dancing, eating, and games of all sorts. It was something that made us proud to be Chamorro. I believe it played a big role in the pride I have in being from Guam, today! It showed the hospitality of the Chamorro people in that we welcomed people from all backgrounds in to our festivities and showed them the acceptance that you hear so much about when someone talks about people from Guam. Most of all, it gave us a chance to learn about our culture through experience.

Today, I am not sure to what extent this is celebrated. I know that there are still local exhibits in the island businesses. There are specials run by restaurants highlighting the local food and drink. In schools, there are spirit days where the school children can wear their island garb. I believe they have eliminated the hut competition and school wide fiesta due to some unfortunate incidents that arose some years ago. Unfortunately, the times are catching up on our island youth and there are a lot of outside influences that alter the way locals react to certain situations. But, it is a sign of growth.

What we, as an island culture, have to realize is this; if we are to remain proud of our heritage, we must keep it alive. There is nothing wrong with change. But, we have to remain aware of our roots and make our ancestors proud. The land, the culture, and the language that they fought so hard to keep intact are definitely something that we should hold dear to our hearts. It is part of who we are and it connects us, as a people.

Go out, experience our island... It is a beautiful, God given gift that we don't use to it's full potential. Learn the language of our people and use it in your daily life. I am guilty of letting it go by the wayside. But, when I hear it or speak it myself, I realize its beauty. Be proud of our people. Our ancestors were a race that showed great hospitality and love for others. We can grow and change as much as we please... But, we will always need to love one another and show great respect for all people. Ina'fa'maolek is a custom that we have inherited from long ago. Simply put, it means to make better. To live in harmony. It is a custom that we should keep alive in our lives and put in to practice daily. Help your brother... help a friend in need... If you need to, compromise.

I can definitely say, I am proud to be a Chamorro! I will live this month as I have lived my whole life... Not ashamed at all of the culture in which I was raised! Bai hu usa i lenguahita sa debi ta protehi i lenguahi, i kettura, yan i tano'ta! Biba taotao Guahan! Biba mes Chamorro!