Thursday, September 17, 2015


Antonio Borja Won Pat and Ana Salas Perez Won Pat

My family was almost exclusively Territorial and then Republican.

Only recently have some, in the younger generations, supported other parties.

Many in the family also keep very quiet about politics.

But back in the 1950s and 60s, the more vocal members of the family were publicly Territorial and then Republican. Five members of my family have been elected senators; all of them Territorial or Republican.

But the one Democrat some of my older relatives very openly supported was Antonio Borja Won Pat. This was interesting on several counts.

First, my Uncle Ben Reyes, a two-term senator (they were called Congressmen in the 50s and 60s) was not only in the party opposite Won Pat, Uncle Ben was also one of those in the 3rd Guam Legislature who booted out Won Pat as Speaker and put in his place Francisco B. Leon Guerrero.

Secondly, in those days, campaigns often involved personal attacks. Won Pat and Uncle Ben were always in rival parties and, though I never heard that they ever personally attacked each other, some of their colleagues certainly did.

Thirdly, Won Pat was said to have been a Mason or, at least, not closely allied to the Church. Uncle Ben, on the other hand, and especially his vocal wife, Auntie Ana, were "church people."

But it wasn't just Uncle Ben and Auntie Ana who supported Won Pat when Won Pat ran for the U.S. Congress election after election. My very religious grandma and grand aunts did the same, though more quietly.

I remember my Auntie Ana telling me in the 1970s, and I wasn't even a voter yet, "He's the only Democrat I vote for." Of course, only she knew what she did in the privacy of the voting booth.

The reason was personal. Won Pat's wife, Tan Ana, was a distant relative and close friend. In fact, in post-war Sinajana, the Won Pat's were neighbors until he packed up and moved to Washington, DC in the mid 60s as our Delegate and then Representative. The Won Pat house in Sinajana still stands, though now in another owner's hands.

Tan Ana'n Won Pat was a Perez on two sides; her father's non-Chamorro side and her mother's Chamorro side. The blood connection was through that maternal line.

But it was more than blood. Uncle Ben, or Auntie Ana, I forget which, was a godparent to one of the Won Pat kids. Old man Won Pat was not churchy, but his wife Tan Ana remained a practicing Catholic.

The Won Pats, parents and children

When Tan Ana passed away in the mainland and her remains were brought to Guam for final burial at the Veterans Cemetery, I was asked to officiate at the Catholic rites because of this family connection.


"Doc" Sanchez

Politics often brings out some funny sides to people's personalities and the election of 1976 certainly did with Auntie Ana.

Not only did she support another Democrat, she supported one who was running against Won Pat!

Pedro C. Sanchez, popularly called "Doc Sanchez," had been an academic all his life. In 1974, he was president of the University of Guam but decided to make a go of politics and run for governor. He lost the primary, coming in number two after Ricky Bordallo.

In 1976, he decided to challenge Won Pat for the Washington seat as a Democrat.

He got Auntie Ana's Republican vote.

When explaining why she supported him, she told me it was because of two things. First, she was proud of his PhD - a Chamorro who got the highest academic degree possible.

Secondly, and in her own words, she voted for him because "he brought a soul into the Catholic Church." Sanchez's wife, Flo, was born a Methodist but became a Catholic (and a very devout one) to marry Sanchez.

So, Auntie Ana said, "Even though he's a Democrat, I'm voting for him because he brought a soul into the Catholic Church."

No animosity towards Won Pat. But, this alone was enough reason for Auntie Ana to change her vote.

When Doc Sanchez lost the primary in 1976 against Won Pat, Auntie Ana went back to supporting her compadre.