This past summer, I stayed home with my children and dedicated myself to using the Chamoru language as much as possible. From the second we woke up, I made a point of using Fino’ CHamoru in every single way I could (and I have my limitations with proficiency, so it was sometimes exhausting). But it was wonderful. Each day was exciting and learning with the children in my family was fulfilling, despite the huge commitment. It was no easy task to employ a language so many around us refuse to prioritize. I had to constantly push and remind people who entered the house that if they could, they needed to switch from English. It was also a challenge for me. There were things I wanted to say that I didn’t always have the immediate vocabulary for. It’s frustrating to want to say something and have to pause to think about it or even run to the dictionary and look it up, but I did it. My best friend and I would text each other gossip in CHamoru, which was probably the most fun I had ever had texting in my life. Everything sounds waaaay juicier in our language. I did it even when it annoyed people who thought I should just use English when something really needed to be said. I also made it a point to read a Chamoru book every day. Usually it was a children’s book. I love the ones recently published out of Taiguini press. I also had an anthology of Chamoru legends that I really enjoyed. I liked that the length of each legend was enough to digest during story hour. When I had more time on my hands, I would practice reading my Grandmother’s CHamoru bible and the suruhana book (that fat green one that also translates into Carolinian).

But summer is over. I’m back at work. The kids in the neighborhood are back at school and I’m really disappointed in myself. I have not kept it up. I’ve gotten lazy. I come home from work tired and when I can’t find the words, I slip into English instead of finding out how to say it as I did during the break. I still read the children’s books, but there are some nights when translating doesn’t seem to fit in and I grab English books off of my son’s shelf. And I realized, just yesterday, that I have begun using the language in a way that I wish my parents did NOT use with me. I’ve been using it as a tool to EXCLUDE.

I caught myself while riding in the car with my father to a rosary. My son had been slighted by someone and I wanted to share the incident with my dad without upsetting my boy. I recounted the story in Chamoru and we proceeded to exchange information this way, intentionally keeping my child away from our discussion. Halfway through the drive, my son kicked the back of my seat and said “STOP IT.” I turned around, not sure what he was upset about. He said he knew I was talking about him and that some of the words were not nice and he wanted me to stop.

Later that night, my nephews were running around the kitchen and I wanted to share some family information with my mother. Again, I slipped into the language as an intentional way to keep it secret from them. Again, my son turned around and told me to stop. He also demanded I tell him exactly what some of the words meant. I caught myself not wanting to tell him the definition of some of the words because he would figure out what I was saying. I need to stop this. It’s a terrible habit and I hated when my parents did this with me. I know better. I know our language should not be relegated to one of exclusion or one that is only used in the context of jokes or punishment. But here I am, doing it to the children in my family. I use the language most often to exclude and punish. Ugh. Gross.

So here I am, thinking about that. Wanting to do better. And more than anything, I hope if you catch me doing this, you will call me out on it. One of my friends presented wonderfully about the power of using our language with our children at this summer’s Pacific Literature Conference at the University of Guam. He made so many points that resonated with me as a mother, asking us to imagine what it would be like to have our child’s happiest memories be remembered in Chamoru. I was hormonal after just giving birth, but it really did make me cry. He reminded us to have fun with the language and extend its use into play, talking about Star Wars, and other things kids enjoy. And for a while, I was doing that; and it was a powerful bonding experience between the children in my family and me. But it takes work. Lots of work. I get lazy and I give up, especially when trying to balance the rest life wants you to do as a mother, wife, and teacher.

Help me! Remind me! Scold me if you have to the next time you catch me being ga’gu. I am doing every single thing I said I would never do when I became a parent.

sinko mes

My daughter is six months old today. It has been half a year since she was born. In her six months alive, she has hung off my hip while I’ve protested, while I’ve cried and read bad poetry. She has been strapped to me in a carrier while I’ve danced with brothers and sisters from hundreds of islands while they kiss her face and bring her feet to their noses. She has learned to crawl on the floors of meetings while elders smile at her. I’ve fed her while soaking up oral histories, taking notes on faded memories. I’ve shushed her while weaving stories on a laptop at 3am. I’ve held her close, inhaling her sweet scent before leaning over caskets, rocking her to the sounds of mourning songs. I’ve passed her around classrooms full of happy students. She’s stared questioningly at me while I touch my toes, seeking health and beauty after giving so much of it to her. She has wandered with me down dirt roads, seeking bihas with amot for stuffy noses and wheezy chests. We’ve played in the shadows of our lightless house, not caring when power would return. We’ve welcomed home relatives we’ve never seen before and cheered as primas walked down aisles. We’ve rushed toward family gone too long inside airports full of tourists with no boundaries. We’ve hugged tearful goodbyes with aunties promising to return. How many strangers’ vacation photos has she been in? We’ve emerged from our house in the early morning hours, pulling aga’ off of trees with boonie dogs in tow. We’ve jumped around the living room, celebrating consonant sounds. Not even a full year of life and she has lived so much. This morning, I stand in gratitude for what I never thought I wanted, but have come to love so deeply. Happy half-year of life to my mini maga’haga.

Letter from Senator BJ Cruz to Gov

So I realllly thought this was worth sharing.

I appreciate the facts in the below letter from Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz to Governor Eddie B. Calvo in response to the Governor’s lapse message on the Annual Appropriations Act of FY 2017 (Substitute Bill No. 250-33).  
September 10, 2016
The Honorable Edward J.B. Calvo

Governor of Guam

Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex

Hagåtña, Guam 96910
Re: Response to Lapse Message on Substitute Bill No. 250-33 (COR)
Dear Governor Calvo:
Håfa adai! On September 1, 2016, I delivered a letter to you relative to the concerns you identified regarding Substitute Bill No. 250-33 (SB250), now the Annual Appropriations Act of FY 2017. I had hoped my clarifications would have prompted you to direct your fiscal team to reconsider its initial findings on SB250. Unfortunately, based on your lapse message to Speaker Judith T. Won Pat, you have disregarded the facts raised in my letter. Instead, you remain committed to a misguided temper-tantrum against the overwhelming bipartisan majority of senators who crafted the budget, which is now law.
Put simply Governor, fourteen senators built a budget that made sense because you transmitted a budget that made things up. As I have said before, the General Fund revenues you provided to the Committee on Appropriations and Adjudication (Committee) were inflated, overly aggressive, reckless, and irresponsible.
As such—and for the second consecutive fiscal year—both the Committee and the Office of Finance and Budget (OFB) worked diligently to correct General Fund Revenue Projections to a more conservative level. Because of this work, your General Fund revenues (which presumed a 10.7% increase in the General Fund as compared to FY 2016’s adopted levels) were reduced by $55 million.
Notwithstanding this reduction in General Fund revenues, there continues to be $18 million more appropriated from General Fund revenues in SB250 than in Public Law 33-66 (Annual Appropriations Act of FY 2016).
In light of the glaring contradictions and misunderstandings perpetuated by your fiscal team, I will take the time here to address every “concern” raised in your recent letter to the Speaker:

1. Department of Corrections (DOC): You claim that there is a $2.8 million shortfall for the DOC-Guam Memorial Hospital Authority consolidated cooperative agreement.
Fact: Section 1(n)(3), Chapter V of SB250 allocates $1.1 million toward this agreement. This is the same figure provided in DOC’s FY2017 detailed budget request. This request was certified by the Bureau of Budget and Management Research (BBMR) and provided to the Committee.
2. Guam Police Department (GPD) and Guam Fire Department (GFD): You claim that there was a $3.7 million cut from GPD which would have gone to hiring more police officers, promoting officers, and covering anticipated overtime and utilities. You also claim that there was a $1.8 million shortfall for GFD that would have gone to hiring vacant positions.
Fact: I would like to direct you to the OFB Website at, which can provide you and your fiscal team with comparative appropriation levels from FYs 2015 to 2017. There you will discover that GPD and GFD have consistently received an increase in appropriation levels over the past three (3) fiscal years.
Over the past two (2) fiscal years, the Guam Legislature has appropriated to, and prioritized the recruitment and hiring of, additional public safety officers for DOC, GPD, and the GFD, providing nearly $9.5 million ($6.2 million in FY 2015 and $3.3 million in FY 2016). You have not utilized this funding source to the full benefit of our people.

In the original version of SB250, the Committee wanted to truly prioritize funding to DOC, GPD, and GFD by restricting your ability to both transfer funds out of and reserve spending authority from these agencies. Yet, at the request of certain senior Adelup officials, an amendment was made to delete the transfer authority restriction—providing you with the authority to take money from agencies you say are so shortchanged.
1. Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center (GBHWC): You claim that there was no funding for the GBHWC Drug & Alcohol Prevention and the Focus on Life Suicide Prevention Programs.
Fact: Sections 2 and 3, Part III, Chapter III of SB250 clearly allocate funding in the amount of $1.57 million and $86,000 to these programs, respectively.
2. Retirees Medical, Dental, and Life Insurance Premiums: You haphazardly claim that there is a $4 million shortfall in Retiree MDL Insurance Premiums.
Fact: Both you and Lieutenant Governor Tenorio were completely aware of the appropriation level in SB250 prior to the signing of the FY 2017 Health Insurance Contract. In that contract, Lieutenant Governor Tenorio selected a non-exclusive contract and that “choice” will now cost the taxpayers of Guam $21.6 million more than the alternative. I will admit: it takes a lot of brass to blame me for a shortfall your administration has chosen to create.
I should not have to remind you that, as of the end of FY 2015, the government of Guam is facing a $120 million General Fund deficit because of what the Public Auditor has called “overspending.”
The memo sent to you by the Health Insurance Negotiations Committee states, that with the selection of an exclusive health insurance carrier—in other words, one (1) carrier which was TakeCare Insurance—the government of Guam would have saved $20 million. Yet, despite this information, Lieutenant Governor Tenorio still decided to choose the non-exclusive option which included Calvo’s SelectCare, Netcare, and TakeCare Insurance at a $1.6 million increase over what was spent in 2016.
Governor Calvo, it is decisions like these that make so many people wonder how you can continue to complain about shortfalls when your administration has had such a large hand in creating them.
Your administration had the opportunity to save $21.6 million, money that could have met any of the alleged shortfalls you are now lamenting. How many policemen could $21 million support? How many lifesaving pharmaceuticals could it buy? Your administration had all of the information and the power to save millions, and it said “no.” Sadly, the consequences of that poor decision will not belong to you alone.
3. Residential Treatment Fund (RTF): You claim that the RTF appropriation is short by $1.6 million.
Fact: As I explained to you in my previous letter, this was the exact same amount that you requested in your Executive Budget Request for FY17.
4. Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS): You claim that DPHSS was cut by $2.6 million, of which $2 million is from the Medically Indigent Program (MIP) and $600,000 is from the Medicaid local match program.
Fact: For MIP, the amount of $15.8 million appropriated in Section 2(a) and $1 million in Section 2(b), Part II, Chapter III of SB250 was more than what was requested in the DPHSS detailed budget requests as certified by BBMR. It was only after the DPHSS Budget Hearing that its Director provided a correction to the BBMR’s certified DPHSS detailed budget request, wherein $15.8 million was requested for MIP.
For Medicaid, $14.3 million was requested by you and appropriated by the Guam Legislature in Section 3, Part II, Chapter III of SB250.

In FYs 2014 and 2015, you transferred a total of over $3 million from both DPHSS and GBHWC to other agencies. If you continue to believe that there are any shortfalls in DPHSS or GBHWC, it would be prudent for you to discontinue your practice of taking funds from these agencies and actually provide them every single cent the Guam Legislature had appropriated.
Guam Department of Education (GDOE): You claim that $11.5 million was cut from the GDOE that would have helped pay for personnel, utilities, and operating expenses as well as $2 million for the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program.
Fact: The total GDOE appropriation was increased by over $3 million compared to FY16. What concerns me are how highly disingenuous your actions are regarding our three (3) education agencies this fiscal year. You continue to withhold nearly $10 million from the GDOE, $20 million from the University of Guam, and $10 million from the Guam Community College. You claim that we shortchanged education on spending authority, but you won’t release cash for the spending authority they already have.
Instead of the division, scare tactics, and temper-tantrums to which the Administration now seems accustomed, I hope that with the enactment of SB250 you can truly prioritize Education, Health, and Public Safety in a manner commensurate with the tone of your recent message.
Si Yu’os ma’åse’,
Benjamin J.F. Cruz

Task Forces

Years ago, if I used words like “colony,” “self determination,” or “colonization,” in my classroom, students would stare back with blank eyes. The words were foreign to them and it took a lot of work and patience to get them to think about or even be brave enough to say what they thought about out loud. Today, there was been a definite shift. When I say the words, students, even some fresh out of high school, will raise their hands and contribute to the discussion. There are many nodding heads when issues are discussed. They don’t all agree; not all of them think it’s important…but they know what it is.
When I listen to the children in my family talk, even their consciousness seems to be evolving. They make distinctions about Guam and America, they clarify things, and seem to value and take pride in being from here very much. I don’t involve myself in the arguments of the kids around me; but I will say that as a child, when people told me the Chamoru language wasn’t important and that there were no chamorus anymore, I would not know how to respond. I would get quiet, not knowing how to argue with an adult. This is not the case anymore. Quite a few of our kids will not tolerate being told their language is unimportant and that they don’t exist. 
This is the result of a lot of love, pushing, patience by generations before to plant seeds in the minds of future generations. And now, our island has approached a point in its history that is both scary and exciting. Julian Aguon just argued, very powerfully, for the native right to vote; there are teachers in both secondary and post secondary schools organizing teach-ins and discussion panels, and meetings are popping up across the island to discuss this thing called “self determination.”
I welcome the information and work of all government tasks forces given the chore of educating the community. With little funding they’ve been asked to prepare our entire island for a huge decision to determine our island’s future. It’s incredibly important that everyone, even if they don’t agree, understand what we’re doing and know the consequences of their choices. I have only heard or received information from ONE task force (independence). I have only seen one task force enter our schools (independence). Only one group has Facebook and IG pages set up to help community members, like me, who cannot always get to their small meetings to learn, understand the points of their arguments. 
Resources are thin, but they’re making it happen and I’m amazed by it. The governor’s office is hosting meetings about self determination. I found out about them the night of the meeting on fb when a candidate running for office announced that she went, and not many people were there. This meeting was not an independence task force one, but word spread that they were the only task force there that was ready, organized, and coherent. This made me think about how lots of people on the island are terrified of independence because it will leave the island in a state of chaos. But when I look at the chaos and confusion with the planning of this government run education campaign, the chaos and confusion does not originate or even effect the ability of the independence task force to show up and be effective. 
Like many on island, I don’t even know when the governor’s office is having their next meeting. They aren’t advertised very well and if you aren’t part of activists circles, it’s hard to find out about them. But I’m curious to find out when my village will have one and hope to be there. I hope that my students from their villages are being reached about the meetings. I hope these meetings become more than a place for senatorial candidates to take pictures and be seen near community workers. 
I also hope that if the governor’s office really wants to educate the community, they put more thought into the way they reach out to the public. An announcement on letterhead is not the best way to fill those empty chairs. The time you schedule a meeting matters. The place you schedule it matters. Otherwise, you will end up with an empty room. I sometimes wonder if the haphazard way things are advertised or organized is intentional. Do they not want us to come? Do they not want us to really understand these things? I don’t know. But if the desire to educate is sincere, they might want to take a few pages out of the independence task force’s book. 

Guma Chamorro

When I lived away from home for a while, one of the harsh realities that I had to make peace with was that after so many years away, I had lost touch with some of the immediate problems plaguing the island. This was hard for me. I felt that I had worked hard to remain rooted and proud of my culture from afar. But the truth is Guam changes and evolves very quickly. It’s problems are complicated. Phone conversations with relatives, trips home for breaks, reading the PDN online, and staying involved in social media networking were not enough to give me a full perspective on what was happening on island. Attending “Guam” functions in the states didn’t cut it. So much goes unsaid on Guam. Much of what this island struggles with floats through the air in subtle ways that you cannot really see unless you’re here, moving on the ground. I would become frustrated when relatives on island did not feel my ideas or thoughts carried equal weight with theirs. It hurt my feelings. I mistakenly felt that their refusal to fully consider or appreciate my position was because they were questioning how “Chamoru” I was as someone who opted to leave the island. I was bruised when they weren’t sensitive to my deep longing to return home, but my inability (at the time) to pick up and make an actual move happen. What was really happening was that they were not questioning my “Chamoru-ness” or my right to identify as a daughter of the island; they simply didn’t have the time or energy to fa’neni a perspective that was a little out of touch.

So here I am, back on island, raising my children and working on the island that raised me. The ten years away have faded and all I can see in front of me is Guam. Life on Guam. My children on Guam. And there is so much wrong here that it breaks my heart. I now see how different Guam can feel when you aren’t actually living here. The condition of our island’s schools, the roads we drive our children to school on, the contaminated water, the militarization of the island, the racism and identity issues our Micronesian children are navigating through…. The list goes on. And when voices from afar chime in, I am able to see, very clearly, why friends and relatives sometimes responded the way they did during my time away.

This afternoon, I spent far too much time responding within an online thread regarding the raising of funds for a “Guma Chamoru” clubhouse in Balboa Park, San Diego. I think the clubhouse is a great idea. A cultural center for Chamorus abroad sounds great. My problem with it is that our local legislature approved the use of 70K from the island’s Tourist Attraction Fund to help build it. I take issue with this. Big time. I did not hesitate to make that position known, mostly because I know that the majority of the people around me on island feel the same. The Guam legislature is infamous for doing things without really putting the people of Guam first. We thought the Chamoru diaspora knew this, which is why so many were put off when they heard the San Diego group was willing to take the money, claiming 70K was “not much.” When some of them said they didn’t feel like they were “asking for much,” it showed me just how much you can lose touch with Guam being away. For Guam, that 70K can go a long way in helping a community that lacks some really basic things.

Additionally, the culture and identity problems the diaspora community feel their children are suffering from are not absent here on island. Our children struggle with some very insidious and hurtful issues on a daily basis that make them questions their indigenous backgrounds here, on their native soil. They lack places and programs that help them overcome those issues, too. Within the thread, a member of the group asked me to try to “see their vision.” But I maintain that their vision does not immediately help this island or sustain it long term in the way that a locally based vision could.

I believe that by starting the healing here at home, we can send out waves of healing energy, effort, and a stronger sense of identity for Chamorus who have left the island to feed from. When people from other groups leave their homelands that they believe are lacking, they usually do not turn around and request funds from their native country to sustain their projects in the place they decided had more “opportunity.” We don’t see people who have left the Philippines asking the people who still live in the Philippines to send money to them. It’s actually the other way around. Those who leave to seek greater opportunity in a different place usually end up sending aid home, and not “aid” that helps them feel better about where they come from while living afar, but actual help that makes the everyday lives of people in their homeland less harrowing. They do this because they know the work needs to start AT HOME. I know that my comments really hurt the feelings of some Chamorus of the diaspora. It even went so far as them posting an image of young diaspora girls in hopes of helping me to understand where our island’s money is going. But the picture only unsettled me even more. I thought of the children here, in their broken schools and powerless homes and only ended up being more committed to the idea that if Guam has money to spare, it needs to be invested here on island.

I want to apologize to any diaspora Chamorus I might have insulted by engaging in that argument. I believe we’re one, that you are also my family. I want happiness for you and I want pride in your culture for you. But this is my home 24/7 and it needs a lot of help. I hope you can forgive me for going to bat for the children who still live here as you advocate for yours over there. I hope you can see that the problems here are very immediate and basic. I hope you can see that there are many ways to help children of the diaspora develop healthy Chamoru identities without the use of this money.

Right now, a clubhouse for diaspora in San Diego just doesn’t seem like the best way to use any extra money Guam has.

Hurao 2016: More Reasons to love Julian Aguon.

This was a huge week for the Chamoru people. Julian Aguon defended our island’s people against Dave Davis, a notorious racist on island who often appropriates the language of oppressed groups to justify his lack of regard for the human rights of indigenous people. I was anxious and excited for days up until the hearing. By the time the big day rolled around, I could barely focus. I spent the whole day at work dying for an update. I was grateful to see that there were MANY updates being shared by the  residents who were able to attend. Every single person that went left blown away by Julian Aguon’s accuracy, storehouse of knowledge, and vigilance. He made the island incredibly proud. There is so much talk of “heroes” on our island, but Julian truly is one. He is a true warrior for Guam, an actual soldier in the defense of our beautiful home. He’s our modern day Hurao and I could not be more grateful to him. Below is a pasted in excerpt of Victoria LG’s notes after being in attendance. Audio clips of the hearing are available online and I hope you will check them out. Thank you, Julian! You gave us all so much to be proud of this week. 
Vicky LG’s quick summary:

What a day! I’m finally sitting at my kitchen table typing up my notes from the Arnold “Dave” Davis vs. Guam Election Commission case, and I am still blown away by the layers and layers that were unpacked. My best summary: 

1. Dave Davis didn’t even show up.

2. Davis’ Attorney Christian Adams seemed to want to lose. His arguments were weak despite his consistent tinge of arrogance. Even when he made good points, he did very little to back them up especially when up against Attorney Julian Aguon, who represented Guam, and ran a marathon of words that the court reporter couldn’t keep up with. Adams didn’t even want to cross the finish line. He said he had a flight to catch at 5 and complained about the fact that the trial lasted 6 hours. The judge had to remind him of the importance of the case.  

3. Our political candidates and elected officials should talk to lawyers (especially Julian Aguon) and know exactly what they are doing before making any large claims about, introducing legislation on, or trying to take into their own hands Guam’s decolonization. Everything THEY do can be used against US in a court of law. Attorney Adams cited several incidents and statements from our local leaders that supported his claims and that were very hurtful to the progress of our decolonization efforts. 

4. And lastly, Attorney Aguon so eloquently summed up the heart of this matter. As the judge repeatedly pointed out he was talking 330 words per minute (because his brain was working 330 mph), thus, my notes (which almost filled an entire large legal pad) are very freehand and sometimes illegible, but here are the points that really stood out to me that I hope our community thinks and talks about: 

[From Julian Aguon] Decolonization is not a right that applies to all, “it is a remedy to restore a right” that was taken away. This cure is meant for a particular harm that was inflicted on a particular group of people. U.S. Congress itself defines this group as those who were made citizens by the enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and their descendants. To argue, as Attorney Adams did for Davis, that this is a civil rights issue because Davis is being denied the right to vote in this particular plebiscite, assumes that the right to vote is a fundamental right in an unincorporated territory whose residents are blatantly denied the right to vote for people who make decisions on their behalf. The courts continue to uphold this because the Constitution and specifically the 14th and 15th Amendments, and even the voting rights act do not always apply to us. The Insular Cases affirm this in defining an unincorporated territory as a possession of Congress that is not on the path to statehood, but rather de-annexation and fuller self-governance. Thus, Davis’ claims that the people of Guam are racist in not allowing him to register in Guam’s Decolonization Registry are, as Attorney Aguon accurately expressed, “repugnant.”


Today was Guam’s preliminary election. Voting here sometimes really depresses me, but I maintain that it’s important to participate in the process. I was happy to cast a vote for a couple candidates I really believe in and to answer questions my kid had about decolonization. I wanted to post an entry because I really love that picture of låhi hu with the sign. 😊