My childhood in church is coming back to me with all the news stories these days about delegates passing out from thirst and heat exhaustion at the opening ceremony for FestPac.
Ya y jumonggueyo, taegüije y sinangan y Tinigue: y sanjalomña manmimilalag y sadog janom na lalâlâ.
So much about heat and thirst and water quenching thirst in the Bible.
CJ Ochoco, a Guam delegate who I know personally from UOG and respect very much, put up a devastating response to the official CYA statement, which you should read if you’re wondering if things were really that bad:
So picture this, 3,000 delegates, young and old, standing in the hot sun. Most don’t have water and are thirsty. It’s 530pm, the ceremony has barely kicked off. We are desperate for water. Joyce comes up to me and asks me if there’s really no way we can get water. I approach a FestPac official who shall not be named. I respectfully ask her if there’s any way that we can get water for the delegates. She looks at me, turns away, and walks away without a nod or acknowledgement.
Now, however, the discussion is being revived with an essay by Mar-Vic Cagurangan in the Guam Daily Post that emphasizes minesngon as the epitome of ancient Chamorro virtue. (Not that she uses actual fino’ Chamoru, but I take that as her meaning.)
Minesngon is a profound word meaning “able to endure” or “long-lasting.” It can also mean forbearance. People often speak of the Chamorros who survived WW2 in this way. I Manmesngon. Those who endured and survived through great suffering. I Manmetgot. The strong ones.
Minesngon and minetgot are certainly Chamorro virtues. But I wonder why they are being used in a discussion that is essentially about hospitality. The delegates from other islands were visiting Guam, as our guests. They had come to visit our home by invitation.
Are they not our guests in our home?
One of the first Chamorro words I ever heard was balutan. I’m sure most people on island are familiar with the concept and practice balutan regularly at social gatherings. This custom of giving guests food, full plates of food, even to take home after the party is done, derives from the generosity and caring traditionally shown toward guests by Chamorro hosts and their families.
Gineftao. Inafa’maolek. Those are the Chamorro concepts that apply for hosts in relation to their guests. They also apply to people living in community with each other. For example, let’s take ancient Chamorro fishing customs:
One of the most moving aspects of Chamorro culture witnessed by Fray Juan Pobre in the early 1600s was the system of cooperation and sharing among members of Chamorro society. People helped each other with different kinds of fishing activities, whether it was net fishing or float line fishing. Anyone who asked for assistance with fishing, such as for catching mañahak, could not be refused. In addition, although the mangachang could not fish, any catch of fish was shared with them. This reflected the value known as inafa’ maolek, which is a recognition of the interdependence of people in the community and the desire to live harmoniously through mutual respect and generosity.
Fray Juan Pobre was especially moved by their compassion. He stated:
“They are naturally kind to one another…On the day an indio is ill and cannot go fishing, his son will appear on the beach at the time the other village fishermen are returning. The latter will know that the father or brother is ailing, and, consequently, they will share some of their catch with him. Although he may have a house full of salted fish, they will give him some of the fresh catch so that he will have it to eat that day.”
Source here. If anything is reflective of Chamorro culture, it is fishing tradition. Påtte. “Håfa ta påtte.”
Mar-Vic Cagurangan writes:
But centuries of American colonization have turned us into spoiled brats, who depend on the government to serve everything to us on a silver platter – from cradle to grave.
That’s an . . . interesting way to speak of an ancient people group well known for traditional ways of interdependence, communalism, and sharing. That’s an . . . interesting way to speak of indigenous Pacific Islander guests passing out from six plus hours in the hot sun with no water provided from their FestPac hosts. But what’s really at issue here are two different concepts of society. In one, inafa’maolek and gineftao are prominent. People take care of each other. The second concept, here espoused by Ms. Cagurangan, focuses on individualism, “Nature red in tooth and claw,” and exclusionary thinking. I’ll leave it to you to guess which typified the ancient Chamorro way of life and which typifies Eurocentrism. Here’s a clue: I used Chamorro words to describe only one.
But inafa’maolek has a deeper political resonance still. As does minesngon. The use of minesngon to describe WW2 survivors often bears with it the context of ongoing oppression. War reparations not being paid. Guam still remaining a territory, or, more accurately, a colony. Land having been stolen from families. Children suffering from military pollution. Etc. Those who survive terrible things; those who endure terrible things. It should probably go without saying that comparing FestPac, a beautiful celebration, to the trauma and devastation of World War Two ought to be ridiculous on the face of it. Why indeed should we expect our guests to “survive” our festival? We should have treated them with respetu in the first place. Taimamahlao.
Inafa’maolek, or inafa’matatnga, has very different political implications. If you are truly a matrifocal society, truly a matrilineal society, if you truly want to represent the pinnacle of ancient Chamorro virtues and values, then of course you will care for one another and make things better for one another and strengthen one another. Of course! You don’t rail against “socialism” to score political points, but you do ensure that the vulnerable, the poor, the old, the ailing, are cared for. Like human beings. There’s a distinction in Chamorro: are you treating people like human beings? Or like animals?
Can’t we as an island do better than United? At least on their eight-hour flights there is some food available for purchase.
I think I’ll end with one final Christian exhortion. Because really, all this defense of not providing water to thirsty people is too ridiculous. Just apologize humbly for your error and then do what you can to make it right. It’s not rocket science. It’s Christianity.
There’s no need to offend or harm your guests. Or your fellow human beings. “The least of these.”
Ayo nae y ray ualog ni mangaegue gui agapaña: Maela jamyo mandichoso gui Tatajo, ya inereda y raeno ni esta listo para jamyo desde y mafatinas y tano;
Sa anae ñalangyo, innachocho yo; anae majoyo, innaguimen yo; anae taotaojuyong yo, innajalom yo;
Anae taya magagojo, innaminagago yo. Anae malangoyo, inbesita yo; anae gaegue yo gui calaboso, manmato jamyo guiya guajo.
Ayo nae y manunas manmanope güe ilegñija: Señot, ngaean nae inliijao ñalang, ya innachocho jao? pat majo, ya innaguimen jao?
Ngaean nae inliijao taotaojuyong, ya innajalom jao? pat anae taya magagomo, ya innaminagago jao?
Pat ñgaean nae inliijao malango, pat y calaboso, ya manmatojam guiya jago?
Y ray ujaope ilegña nu sija: Magajet jusangane jamyo, taemanoja na y infatinas ni uno güine gui mandiquique na mañelujo, infatinasja locue nu guajo.
San Mateo 25.34-40