PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
GUAM’S UMATAC – CHAMORRO CRADLE OF CREATION
Anthony P. Sanchez
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 26) –Ferdinand Magellan landed in Umatac on the island of Guam in 1521. But the area had a significant role in Chamorro history and legend long before the Spanish came.
Less than a mile to the North of Umatac is Fouha Bay, Guam's cradle of creation. "Fouha" means "to spew."
Fouha and the surrounding area was the center of the spring running of guatafi, a type of fish.
The month of March in Chamorro is "Umatalaf," or "to catch guatafi," which is believed to be the root word of Umatac.
Each March equinox (March 20), our ancestors held a spring festival at Funa Rock, a large circular rock phalanx that protrudes from the reef straight up for some 30 feet, just off the shore at the entrance of Fouha Bay.
Fuuna is the name given Fouha Bay on early Spanish maps for a large and important village. Today, the rock at the entrance of Fouha Bay is referred to as Funa Rock, which plays into our legend of how man was created.
As told in "Legends of Guam," published in 1988 by the Department of Education's Chamorro Studies, researched by Olympia Q. Camacho, the origin of man from the Chamorro is summarized thusly:
"In ages past there was once a god named Chaifi (guaifi means fire) who lived in Sasalaguan (readily translated as "hell," where people who died violent deaths went). There he made souls and used them as slaves. One day Chaifi built a very large fire in an open pit, which suddenly exploded. In the confusion, one of the souls escaped from Sasalaguan and landed on the southern part of Guam. It turned into rock, which softened as the rain fell, transforming into a man. According to legend, the remnants of this rock is Funa Rock.
"After exploring the island, he found he didn't like to be alone. So he decided to make some companions for himself. Gathering up some red earth and some water, he formed it into the shape of a man. He used the heat of the sun to give it a soul. He made both men and women and called them children of the earth.
"Meanwhile, Chaifi, having controlled the fire in Sasalaguan, checked his remaining souls and discovered one had escaped. After searching many days, he noticed a small child playing on the beach. Thinking it to be his lost soul, Chaifi sent in a big wave to destroy the child, but the child escaped because his soul had come from the sun. Chaifi then tried many ways to destroy the child but was unsuccessful.
"The child became a man and told Chaifi he couldn't destroy him or the many other souls created since they came from the sun. Having no power over souls from the sun, Chaifi returned to Sasalaguan, beaten."
Spanish accounts say the ancient Chamorros treated their tale of creation lightly. No worship or organized religion concerning gods existed.
This is just part of the story of our people, who have inhabited our islands for the past 4,000 years.
April 27, 2005
Anthony P. Sanchez is editor for "Guahan/Guam: A History of Guam" and acting director of the Bureau of Planning.
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