CHAMORRO LANGUAGE NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE RELEASED
By Haidee V. Eugenio
The Northern Marianas marks a cultural and religious milestone with the publication of the first complete New Testament Bible in the Chamorro language, 100 years since the arrival of two priests on the islands who translated biblical texts from German to Chamorro.
Bishop Tomas A. Camacho of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa yesterday presented copies of the "Nuebu Testament" (The Chamorro New Testament), which he dedicates in honor of Father Callistus Lopinot and Father Corbiniano Madre who arrived on Saipan and Rota in 1907 and 1908, respectively.
The bishop initiated his own translations of the readings for the Holy Mass when he was appointed in 1976 as the first native pastor in the then Bithen de Carmen parish in Chalan Kanoa.
He moved on to translate other religious materials in the Chamorro language with the help of other individuals.
"It was 31 years in the making," the bishop told Variety.
What also makes the 486-page Bible special is its use of the contemporary Chamorro language, making it a tool for the preservation of the local culture, according to Father Isaac M. Ayuyu and Rita C. Guerrero, who helped in the review of the translation, along with Carmen S. Taimanao and others.
"This is the newly sanctioned way of writing the Chamorro language. This is how children at school are being taught now," Guerrero said, adding that those who are 35 years old and younger are the focus of teaching the language.
While there have been recent religious publications that included a Chamorro translation of some gospels in the Bible, none of them included a complete translation of the 27 books in the New Testament.
Copies of the new Chamorro language Bible are available at the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa for US$15 each.
The bishop said they also provided copies to the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library.
Besides the publication of the new Bible in Chamorro, the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa has also completed translating the New Testament’s Gospels of St. Mark and St. John in the Carolinian language.
In yesterday’s presentation, the bishop said during the Spanish administration of the Marianas, prayers were said in Latin except the homily. When the Germans came, they translated some of the religious texts in Chamorro.
He said Father Callistus translated Dr. D.I. Schuster’s writing of the Bible history into Chamorro. He also gave the Northern Marianas a Chamorro-German dictionary, a copy of which is still intact.
About a hundred years ago, Father Corbiano also taught the local people Christmas songs in Chamorro, and some of them are still sung on Rota each year.
The bishop also acknowledged the help of the following in correcting and reviewing the translations: the late Father Roger T. Tenorio, Father Isaac M. Ayuyu, and Dr. Anthony Abela, as well as Dr. Anicia del Corro, Carmen Fruit, Lolita Babauta, Carmen S. Taimanao, Rita C. Guerrero, the late Dolores I. Marciano, Maria C. Deleon Guerrero, Ina S. Taimanao, Emilia C. Sablan, Lorenzo DLG. Cabrera, the late Rita C. Cabrera, and the United Bible Society.