The familiar Chamorro saying of gratitude — “si yu’os ma’åse'” — is attributed to the seventeenth-century Spanish Jesuit missionary San Vitores as his final words, spoken to the Chamorro maga’låhi who had struck him down, Matå’pang. “God is merciful.” It had been the dream of his life to be martyred, and so he had his wish.
Mina’åse’ can be interpreted in a death-cult context, but it is an older Chamorro word than San Vitores’s usage. “Asi’i yu’ fan” is still used to mean “forgive me, please.”
Today, some younger (and older!) people use “saina ma’åse'” instead, which can still be interpreted as a reference to god (many texts use “saina” for god), but can also refer to the indigenous tradition of ancestor veneration.
I like to use the name of the person instead. For example, “Si Matå’pang ma’åse'” or “Si Grace ma’åse’.” Ga’o-ku fumino’ håya’. Maolekña i fino’ håya’ kinu i fino’ Ingles pot i fino’ Españot (“yu’os” derives from the Latinate “deus”). And that’s (literally) who you are thanking, isn’t it? It usually makes people smile or laugh, too, and I’m not opposed to that at all.
Chagi fan. Play a little more with the language to make it your own. For me, being so new to Chamorro, perhaps I am more experimental than I should be, but it’s almost inevitable that, as I start putting together the pieces of the grammar, some of those pieces will be a little slippery in my hands for a while . . .