Wednesday, October 28, 2015

ChaNoWriMo 2013

by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Marianas Variety

IN THE writing world, November is a special month, although a generally crazy one.

It is known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. During this month all of those who have a passion for writing are encouraged to cast caution into the wind and blitz out the novel they have always dreamed of writing. It is something anyone, from any walk of life can participate in. All it takes is commitment and time management. The link for the website where you can sign up is

For those who take on the NaNoWriMo challenge, the number 50,000 signifies both a hated overseer and a inspiring target. As this process is about getting those who want to write, to write, everyone is given a target – 50,000 words – they are to reach by the end of the month. Over the course of November you are to type out 50,000 words of your chosen story.

Since the target is all that matters you are not encouraged to edit and rewrite as you write, but simply charge forward until you finally scale that 50,000 word tall peak. The rest of the year can be spent tweaking and rethinking, but November is purely for writing. So you take your idea and see whether it can take you to 50,000 words or not.

I participated last year and used November as a chance to start a story I had always imagined but never gotten around to really fleshing out. My story was titled “The Legend of the Chamurai” and takes place over 600 years after a great warrior makahna, or spiritual fighter, receives a vision foretelling the doom of her people. Along the way, conquistadors and Japanese samurai make appearances. Ferdinand Magellan appears in a cameo at one point.

As Ancient Chamorros believed in ancestral worship as their religion, they saw the world around them as filled with the spirits of their ancestors. These spirits give guidance and good fortune, and so my story tries to give life to this possibility, placing the worlds of the living and the dead side by side. Makahnas (today known as suruhanus) have the ability to harness the power of the spiritual world and cast spells, summon monsters and create shields of protection.

Famous taotaomo’na figures such as the white lady and Gadao are there, as are lesser known spirits such as Anufat and Gamson. Even the infamous trickster spirit Ukudu plays a role in the story.

I reached my goal of 50,000 words and have been eagerly awaiting November so that I can continue my story.

This year is different however, because I am currently the program coordinator for the Chamorro Studies major program at the University of Guam. The purpose of the program is to preserve, study and promote the knowledge, language and culture of Chamorros. So this year’s NaNoWriMo has a visibly local twist for me, and I am encouraging people to join me and participate in ChaNoWriMo, or “Chamorro Novel Writing Month.”

Participating in ChaNoWriMo is just as easy as NaNoWriMo, with one expected difference. For NaNoWriMo you can write about anything, for ChaNoWriMo, you have to take special care to weave throughout your story things that are representative of Chamorros. In other words, write a story that will use the Chamorro language, history and culture as core parts of how the plot unfolds.

This can mean that you write a story entirely in Chamorro, or it can mean just the dialogue is in Chamorro. Or it can just be a promise to use Chamorro words as much as possible in the dialogue or the text.

But these sorts of things can be incidental; the inclusion of a minor character from Guam, the use of “Hafa Adai? here or there, or as most films and novels do it, just the mention of Guam randomly at some point. For those who want to participate in ChaNoWriMO, you have to go a bit further. You have to really find a way to creatively represent Chamorros. This means finding a part of the Chamorro story or the Chamorro experience that doesn’t receive as much attention and highlighting it. Or it can mean taking something that people are already familiar with and writing about it in a completely new light.

For example, I am looking forward to someone updating the traditional “suruhanu/suruhana” figure. Suruhanus can help people in many ways. They have natural remedies, sometimes offer midwife service, can be experts at massage, and can also be our link to the spiritual world. When you are at a point where an illness seems to have no cure or where some supernatural mystery cannot be answered, you turn to a suruhanu to help you.

I can’t wait till someone writes a series titled, “CSI: Suruhanu.” In it, families and the police when faced with crimes or mysteries that cannot be solved or have some unfathomable dimension, they’ll call in the services of CSI: Suruhanu, who can use his mental fortitude to analyze clues, but also his connections to his “ga’chong” in the taotaomo’na world for finding the truth. If this concept doesn't interest you, take some other aspect and write a similar transformation for it.

The Chamorro Studies Program Facebook page will be offering more information on how to participate in ChaNoWriMo. To receive these updates please like it on Facebook.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Speak Chamorro Mobile app

Young Men’s League of Guam launches ‘Speak Chamorro’ mobile app
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, February 24, 2015 

(Hagatna, Guam) Today, the Young Men’s League of Guam (YMLG) is pleased to announce the release of the ‘Speak Chamorro’ mobile app. 

The Speak Chamorro app is free and available on Google Play for Andriod phones and the iPhone version of the same will be available next Friday, March 06, 2015. 

The features of the app include:
a. Chamorro word of the day
b. Definition of the Chamorro word
c. English translation of that word, and
d. The use of the Chamorro word in a sentence and its translation in English. 

The genesis of developing a mobile app came about in a recruitment meeting between Brother Bob Pelkey, President of the YMLG, Brother Dr. Wilfred P. Leon Guerrero, Member of the Board of Directors, Brother Wil Castro, Public Affairs Officer, YMLG, and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio. Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio stated “that I too have made it a goal to become proficient in my language and if there was a way we may help others like me, that would be great.” 

The Guam Department of Education Chamorro Studies Division is a development partner for the app. Brother Ron Laguana is the administrator of that division and a member of the Board of Director for the YMLG. He assists the league by providing the content used in the app. 

The YMLG prioritized the development of the app in consideration of Mes Chamorro and upon the start of its ‘Drive to 100,’ a 24 month campaign leading up to the league’s centennial anniversary. The league was founded in March of 1917. 

According to YMLG President Bob Pelkey, “for many years we have served our community by providing scholarships, sponsoring events, participating in clean-ups, caroling during the holidays for the young at the hospital, man’amko, and for those who are sick or needy, and in other ways. This year we want to do something that would reach as many people in a way that was meaningful to the league but relevant to those who share our love for the Chamorro language and culture, so we developed the Speak Chamorro app.” 

The Young Men’s League of Guam is the oldest Chamorro fraternal organization.
For additional information about the app you may contact Brother Wil Castro, at 929-6209 or or visit us on Facebook at

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kantan i Taotao Tano'

The Guam Symphony Society will be hosting its 49th season opener Kåntan I Taotao Tåno  on Saturday, October 17 at 6 p.m. and again on Sunday, October 18 at 3 p.m. at the Lotte Hotel Guam.

The concert will highlight Chamorro favorites such as Nihi Ta Fanhånao Ta Fampiknik, Nobia Kahulo’, Pues Adios, Torroro Meresa, Atan Jesu Kristo and many more!  Kåntan I Taotao Tåno will also feature special performances by internationally acclaimed Inetnon Gefpå'go.

"We are so proud and very pleased to continue with our Chamorro series featuring some of the most beloved songs and music that we all grew up with as Chamorros," says Clifford Guzman, President of the Symphony.  "We invite everyone to come out and enjoy this special evening with the Guam Symphony Orchestra and Community Chorale and Inetnon Gefpå'go!" 

Saturday tickets are $65 and includes a Chamorro inspired dinner buffet. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the show starting promptly at 7 p.m. The Sunday matinee show tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students.   Tickets are available at Faith Bookstore in Maite.

For more information, contact 687-2696 or at or visit

Young Navajos Studying to Save their Language

Voice of America 
Young Navajos Study to Save Their Language 

For part of her life, Sylvia Jackson stopped speaking her native language, Navajo. Like many Native American children, she had little chance to speak her language.

“We had to speak English. So I lost a lot of just speaking the Navajo language.”

More than 100 years ago, the U.S. government began sending Native American children to boarding schools. All the instruction was in English. The native cultures and languages of the children were discouraged.

In the last 20 to 30 years, tribal governments have started to promote the teaching of Native American languages in schools. The U.S. Department of Education now also supports Native American language programs.

Today, Sylvia Jackson is a Navajo language instructor in the small town of Holbrook, Arizona. She teaches Navajo to students at Holbrook High School. Her class is taught entirely in Diné, the Navajo language.

Ms. Jackson said both she and her students have an important part in keeping their language alive.
“My parents are actually, they grew up speaking the Navajo language; they’re fluent speakers. They’re like a dictionary. If I ask them, “How do you say this?” they translate. But me, I’m learning as I’m going.”

Navajo Nation
​​The town of Holbrook is an hour by car from the Navajo Nation. The 69,000-square-kilometer territory is the largest of the 326 Indian reservations in the United States. The Navajo Nation covers parts of four states in the American Southwest. It is about the same size as the country of Ireland.
During the 1800s, increasing numbers of European settlers in America moved west. In 1864, the federal government began a campaign to deport Navajos from their lands. The natives were moved to the northwest in a series of marches called the "Long Walk." The marches took place under the threat of death.

Navajo leaders and the U.S. government reached a peace treaty in 1868. It established the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Today, more than 250,000 people live in the Navajo Nation. They have their own laws, fly their own flag, and elect their own president.

The 2010 United States Census showed that about 170,000 Navajos speak Navajo at home. It is one of the most robust Native American languages today.

A right to speak Navajo
But there is a growing worry that the Navajo language could disappear. Seventy years ago, nearly everyone on the Navajo reservation spoke Navajo as their first language. But today, few young Navajos can speak the language of their grandparents.

A study in 1998 found that only 30 percent of Navajos entering school spoke Navajo as their mother tongue. Just 30 years earlier, that was true of 90 percent of first-grade Navajo students.

Richard Epstein is a linguist and professor at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey. He said a language’s survival depends on one generation passing down knowledge to the next generation.
“In order to keep a language alive, the adults of the community have to be able to transmit it to the young folks.”

Dr. Epstein calls teaching and transmitting your native language to your children a right that should be better protected.

“Everybody should have the right to speak their own language, just as much as they should have the right to practice their religion. Because their language is as good as everybody else’s language…So if you take that away, you’ve taken away a massive resource for knowing something about a part of human life.

"And you’ve taken away a part of who those people are. Is that right? Everybody should have the right to speak their language and to transmit their language to their children and to keep their culture alive.”

​​On the reservation itself, Navajo language instruction in schools starts at a young age. At Indian Wells Elementary School, 3rd graders are learning how to read, write, and speak Navajo. The school opened in 2001.

Dr. Robbie Koerperich was Indian Wells’ first principal. Now, he is the superintendent of the Holbrook Unified School District. He said his district is concerned with preserving the Navajo language.

“The Navajo language itself, I believe, is a major concern on the reservation and in our district, pertaining to the preservation of the language. So the preservation of the Navajo language is part of our mission.”

Hortensia is a third-grader at Indian Wells Elementary. She said Navajo language is her favorite class.
“So we could learn it and teach it to other people.”

The role of older generations
Hortensia said she often visits her grandmother, or naali in Navajo. Grandparents on the reservation play an important part in passing down both the language and culture to their grandchildren.
Morgan is a Navajo language student at Holbrook High School. She is one of Sylvia Jackson’s students. She visits her grandparents’ home with her cousins, nieces and nephews. She said she sometimes feels like an outcast.

“With my nieces and nephews and my cousins, they’re about my age or a bit older and they don’t speak Navajo. And so it’s a bit hard when we go out to my grandparents’ place and they try to talk to us. And it feels like — when my grandparents and my parents talk together — I feel like, kind of like an outcast, like I don’t know what they’re saying, but it's like, I want to learn the language so I can carry it on and then teach my kids. And so we won’t lose the language.”

​​Some of these students’ grandparents and great-grandparents may also have played an important part in U.S. history. During World War II, the U.S. military recruited Navajo speakers. Together, they developed a code to send secret information past Japanese and German code-breakers.

The code was never broken.

Dr. Epstein credits the Navajo language’s complex structure for it being such a successful code.
“It was so unbelievably complicated that the enemy couldn’t figure out how it worked. And yet we took the children of these people away from their families to train them to speak English only on the grounds that this language was inferior.”

Sylvia Jackson was once one of those children. Today, she finds herself at the forefront of keeping her language alive.

“If you just think about it, my parents, if they go, then that’s going to be me right there who has to carry that on. If I don’t have the knowledge that they had, that’s going to be it right there. So, I’m glad that we have students who want to learn the language, who want to keep that language.”

I’m Ashley Thompson.
And I’m Caty Weaver.

Ashley Thompson and Adam Brock wrote this story. Caty Weaver and Jill Robbins were the editors.

Words in This Story

promote - v. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase
robust - adj. strong and healthy
transmit - v. to give or pass (information, values, etc.) from one person to another
folks - n. people in general
principal - n. the person in charge of a public school
outcast - n. someone who is not accepted by other people
code - n. a set of letters, numbers, symbols, etc., that is used to secretly send messages to someone
inferior - adj. of little or less importance or value
forefront - n. the most important part or position