Saturday, October 29, 2016


St Jude Procession in the late 1950s or early 60s with Fr Kieran

A lot of what I am about to say cannot be proven with documents.

It's what I heard from a few older people, but older people who I believe, because they were in positions at the time that lend credibility to their story.


It's a mysterious thing, because, prior to the founding of Saint Jude's in Sinajaña after the war, the Chamorros had no devotion to Saint Jude. Most never even heard of him, except perhaps when they would, at times, hear or read of the full list of Twelve Apostles.

Before the war, the Chamorros had no nobena to Saint Jude. No one had ever seen a statue of Saint Jude on Guam before the war. The Chamorros didn't even have a Chamorro hymn to Saint Jude.

How, then, did this saint, unknown to the Chamorros, get to be the patron of the new parish in Sinajaña after the war?


It wasn't just the Chamorros before the war who didn't know much at all about Saint Jude. The great majority of Catholics all over the world in those days knew almost nothing about him. This was the case for two reasons.

First, most of the individual Twelve Apostles were given little attention. What do you know, for example, of Saint Bartholomew or Saint Simon?

No; most of the attention went to the "biggies" among the Twelve Apostles. Saint Peter, Saint John and then in decreasing order, Saint Matthew, Saint Andrew, Saint James (two of them) and so on.

The second reason is due to another "biggie" among the Twelve Apostles, but a biggie in a bad way. Judas the Traitor. Because Judas Iscariot the Traitor and Jude Thaddeus have the same first name (Judas; Jude is just another version of the name Judas), poor Jude Thaddeus suffered from negative association with the bad Judas. It's something like unfortunate people who had the last name Hitler, who were not even related to the bad Hitler (Adolf) but who had to change their name after World War II because of Adolf.

In a similar way, people tended to ignore Saint Jude Thaddeus, so as to avoid the whole topic of Judas Iscariot.


But Jude Thaddeus was a separate person, the opposite of the bad Judas. Jude Thaddeus became a martyr and saint, and not a traitor like the other Judas.

Jude Thaddeus preached in Armenia, and he is highly venerated by the Armenians to this day. Many centuries later, the Dominican priests went to Armenia as missionaries and there they saw the great devotion of the Armenians towards Saint Jude Thaddeus. The Dominicans started to promote the veneration of Saint Jude all over the world, wherever the Dominican Order was present. If Saint Jude is better known today in the Church, it is due in large part to the Dominicans.


One place the Dominicans were was Hong Kong, a British colony at the time.

In the 1930s, a man from Guam, with Manila connections, found himself in Hong Kong doing business. His name was Francisco (Paco) Muña de la Cruz, son of Eulogio de la Cruz. Eulogio was a Filipino living on Guam, married to a Chamorro. Eulogio seems to have engaged in business and had Manila connections. Paco went to Manila in the 1920s and 30s to also engage in business. He then branched out into Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Paco became acquainted with Saint Jude, thanks to the Dominicans who were in Hong Kong. Paco personally began a devotion to this saint during his time in Hong Kong.

Dominican Priory in Hong Kong


After World War II, Sinajaña changed from a small, agricultural village of 1300 people to a crowded town of 9000 people in 1950. It was the biggest village on Guam for many years, competing with Barrigada which at times was also the biggest village depending on what year in the 1950s and 60s.

The Church decided to establish an actual parish in this new main village of Guam. The old and small chapel before the war had been under the title of Dulce Nombre de Maria, the same as the Hagåtña Cathedral. The Church wanted to build a bigger church and give it a new patron.

From a small group of elders, I learned that Paco de la Cruz, and his half-sister Ana Pérez Torres (wife of Judge Vicente "Ben" Reyes), suggested that Saint Jude be chosen as the patron of this new parish. Ana had also spent time before the war in Hong Kong with Paco, and may have become acquainted with Saint Jude that way.

Ana Reyes was a resident and parishioner in Sinajaña. Paco was, as well, till he moved to Hagåtña, where he opened the Guam Academy of Music and Arts, with his Filipina wife, Carmen (Meling) Romuladez de la Cruz.

A nobena to Saint Jude was translated into Chamorro, but a Chamorro hymn to Saint Jude was not composed until the early 1970s by Jesus Arriola Sonoda of Saipan, who was, at the time, a Capuchin brother named Brother Marion. I was told that it was Paco de la Cruz's copy of the English novena to Saint Jude that someone translated into Chamorro.

In the photo above, you can see Paco de la Cruz on the far right. There are also people connected to his half-sister Ana Reyes. Ana's sisters Asunción Torres and María Limtiaco are seen, as well as Ana's brother-in-law Antonio Artero. Photo was taken in Sinajaña right after the war. American military men are also in the pic.

Paco's half-sister, Ana Reyes, and yours truly

As I mentioned, I have no documents to prove any of this. But the older people who told me this information are credible. And it does explain why this unknown saint became Sinajaña's patron. The dots are all connected.

Saint Jude - Armenia - Dominicans - Hong Kong - Paco de la Cruz - Sinajaña

It's just that few people knew the story. It wasn't considered a big deal who made the suggestion. People didn't take "credit" for those things in those days. So people didn't talk about it, and thus the information was not passed down except to a few.

If this story is right, and perhaps we will never know while here on earth, at least I won't die and not pass on this story.

Monday, September 19, 2016


"Erat latro"
"He was a thief"

Lazzaro Pisani's depiction of the Good Thief is not just art; it is a catechesis.

The Good Thief accuses and condemns himself, holding the sign of his crime above his head. The sign describes who he was. A thief. Christ, hanging on the cross next to him, opens a door to what the Good Thief can be. A saint. "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

The story of the Good Thief (San Dimas, in Chamorro and Spanish), is a clear explanation of the way God is both just and merciful; God punishes, yet forgives the sinner who repents.

Many times, God's punishment is the very means He uses to move the sinner to repent.

By striking the less important (our temporary, earthly life), God tries to save the more important (our immortal soul). By punishing the earthly, God tries to get us to heaven.

God punishes. Dimas is put on a cross to die for his crimes. He is a thief (Mt 27:38) and, according to ancient tradition, a murderer. God used the civil powers to punish Dimas. Saint Paul teaches that the civil government can be God's instrument, punishing evil. (Romans 13:1-4)

If we do not punish and correct ourselves, someone else will. It is helpful for us who are punished to see God's hand in this.

In the Old Testament, God even used pagan kingdoms to punish the Chosen People, Israel, when Israel went astray. Assyria was God's instrument in punishing unfaithful Israel. (2 Kings 17:18-20) (Isaiah 10:5-6)

When God punishes us, what are we to do?

If God is the one punishing and correcting us, can we oppose that and expect to win?

The only wise thing to do is to submit, as Christ, who was innocent of all sin, submitted to punishment for our sake.

Because "For whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth." (Proverbs 3:12) "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." (Hebrews 12:6)

If we allow God's heavy hand to bend us low, God Himself will lift us up after we have been purified. "Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (James 4:10)

The Good Thief was punished. But, in the end, he was right where he should have been. Next to his Savior. Dimas' punishment placed him exactly where he could obtain paradise.

There are only two kinds of punishment given out by God.

The first is the eternal punishment of hell. Out of that, no good for the soul is possible.

The second is the temporary punishment on earth and in Purgatory. Out of these, God can accomplish much good in the punished souls on earth, and God definitely accomplishes a good thing in the punished souls in Purgatory.

Since you and I are reading this while still on earth, isn't the wise choice to allow God to accomplish the good He is trying to achieve when we feel the heavy hand of His justice? It is His way of opening a door to His gentle hand of mercy.

By giving us a little less than what we deserve (condemnation), God is trying to give us, if we allow Him, an abundance of what we do not deserve at all (mercy).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,  and he cried out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”


The Scripture passage above has one main teaching purpose - to show that Jesus had authority. 

What is authority?

It is the ability to command things - and be obeyed! Many people, even with titles, bark orders and no one obeys. Not much authority there.

Authority also means the ability to get things done. The man needed to be freed from demons, and, in the end, he was indeed freed from demons. Jesus gets things done. Demons obey Him.


It strikes me how less concerned the Lord is with titles.

For many Jews, Jesus enjoyed no titles. He was not a Jewish priest or levite; not a scribe, not a member of the Sanhedrin. He was the son of a carpenter from Nazareth. Not even worth mentioning.

Even when someone in the Gospel story above wants to throw out a title, "the Holy One of God," Jesus tells them, the demons, to shut up.

Someone once called Jesus "good teacher," (Luke 18:19) and Jesus questions the man, "Why do you call me 'good?'" Jesus isn't all that moved by the mere mention of titles. He wants to make sure we understand what we're saying when we call Him by a title.

"You call me teacher and lord, and rightly so," Jesus tells the Apostles (John 13:13), but do you understand what you're saying when you call me those things? If the teacher bends down and washes feet, then so must you, the student.

The Lord even warned us that getting His title(s) right doesn't mean we get saved in the end. "Not everyone who calls me 'lord, lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 7:21)" What will save us? "Doing the will of my Father." 

Titles are not the Lord's focus. What title can we even given the Lord? Is it we who name Him? Or rather is it God who names us? Does man name God? Or does God name us, giving us His own name Christ-ian, just as He changed Abram's name, Jacob's name and Simon's name. What do we call Him but titles that He Himself has given us. "I am who am." "I am the Good Shepherd." "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

Jesus is fine with titles. He even informs us which titles we are to use. But His focus is on getting things done (saving us) and in gaining our obedience to His authority, because it is an authority that saves us.

And isn't it true that we know a few people who have few or no titles at all, but who have great authority? People respect them, listen carefully to their advice, follow their example? That is authority.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Bishop Ishigami at his priestly ordination (2nd from left) in 1952

Tadamaro Ishigami was born in 1920 in the Northern Ryukyu islands of Japan.

At the age of 7, he was baptized a Roman Catholic and given the Christian name Augustine.

At age 13, he was already off to a minor seminary in mainland Japan.

Then World War II broke out and Tadamaro was drafted into the Japanese Army. When the war ended with Japan's defeat, Tadamaro went back home to his little village on a little island in the Ryukyus.

The tiny Catholic community was without missionaries, due to the war. The faithful still gathered for prayers. Tadamaro was one of the lay leaders of the community, having had some seminary training.

In 1947, Rome entrusted the Catholic mission of Okinawa (Ryukyus) to the American Capuchins. Of the two Capuchins sent to Okinawa that year, one had been a missionary on Guam before the war, Father Felix Ley, and was thus sent by the Japanese to prisoner of war camp. For the three and a half years he was a prisoner in Japan, Father Felix picked up a little Japanese. He was very willing to go back to Japan as a missionary.

Tadamaro was at the dock when the two American Capuchins arrived.

Although Father Felix spoke a tiny bit of Japanese, it was not enough for him to communicate well with Tadamaro. Tadamaro could not speak English at all. What to do?

They spoke in Latin. That was the language that united two American Catholics and one Japanese Catholic.

Tadamaro greeted the missionaries and said, "Est maximum gaudium mihi servire vobis." "It is my greatest joy to serve you."

Ishigami as a layman meeting Guam's Bishop Baumgartner. Okinawa was under Guam's Catholic jurisdiction for a short time right after WW2.  Baumgartner ordained Ishigami a priest in 1952.

Ishigami later joined the Capuchins and was given the religious name Peter Baptist. Twenty-some years later he became Bishop of Okinawa.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Clare of Offreduccio, a noble maiden of Assisi, was attracted to the poor life of Francis of Assisi, a member of the town's merchant class who divested himself of all material goods to live in imitation of Christ.

Like Saint Francis, Saint Clare attracted followers. In those days, there were no "sisters" as we know them today; women who forsake marriage in order to live in community, pray and do all kinds of ministry : to teach, attend to the sick, shelter orphans and so on. That kind of sisterhood came later. In Clare's day, only one kind of female religious life was possible : the monastery. Behind the monastic walls, nuns were to pray; for their own spiritual life, for the needs of the Church and the world.

So Saint Clare and her religious sisters did so. From Assisi, numerous monasteries following Clare and Francis opened all over Europe. Her own blood sister Agnes was sent to lead the monastery in Prague, in the present-day Czech Republic.

There had been monastic nuns in the Church for hundreds of years. Why would Saint Clare's nuns run into trouble?

They ran into trouble with Rome because Saint Clare's nuns were different.

Every other monastery of nuns that came before Saint Clare lived on endowments. Many of the women becoming nuns came from wealthy families. Ordinarily, if one of their daughters married, her family gave the groom a dowry, a sum of wealth for the upkeep of the bride after marriage.

With the daughters entering convents, that dowry went to the monastery. Thus, the nuns could focus on their religious life and not worry about paying the bills. When the more recent development of working sisters came along, their livelihood was supported by the income of their work running schools, hospitals and so on.

Following the ideals of Saint Francis, Saint Clare refused to accept dowries from her nuns. They were to live on charity alone. Of course, this was a risk! What if donations were meager! How could the nuns farm or do other work to earn income? Doing this would jeopardize their focus on prayer and the hidden life, separate from the world. Bishops were afraid that they would end up having to look for food and other necessities for hungry nuns. These were the days of widespread epidemics and periodic droughts and pestilence. Wars, also, interfered with agriculture as armies marched through the countryside. A ready supply of food was not always reliable in those days. When the farmers themselves were poor, who would feed the nuns?

Thus Rome insisted that the Poor Clares, as they came to be called, accept dowries. This would provide financial security to the nuns, and neither Rome nor the local bishop, nor the area farmers would have to worry about providing for the nuns.

Saint Clare struggled for many years against this. It was completely contrary to the ideals of Saint Francis, whose Rule of Life had been approved by Rome. Approved for the friars, who went among the people and who were able to live on charity as well as their own work, but not for the nuns, who lived in the cloister and who could not work or go among the people. Rome said it had never been done before, that nuns should live off charity. Saint Clare thus termed it the "Privilege of Poverty;" the privilege of being the only nuns in the Church who would decline dowries and live off people's generosity, even at the risk of lean times when people could be less generous.

Clare and her sister Agnes even resorted to worldly politics to help them get what they needed from Rome. The Pope at the time was also a political ruler, owning a large part of central Italy directly under his secular rule called the Papal States. Thus, the Pope needed political alliances with different kingdoms against other rulers who had plans on conquering the Papal States. Rome needed an alliance with Prague, and Saint Agnes in Prague did her best to open doors for that to come true.

Finally, only two days before her death, Rome gave Saint Clare what she always wanted. Rome approved a Rule just for the Poor Clares, and this Rule had poverty at its very core. From then on, the Poor Clares were granted the Privilege of Poverty.

The story shows that Rome doesn't always understand right away nor moves at the speed we would like. Clare obeyed Rome; but continuing to ask for what one has been denied is not disobedience. We need to persist and never give up in asking, just as Saint Clare did. In the end, God's will is done. Even if it happens just two days before we die.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


My dad as a "Chief of Staff" in the movie

Not really. But he did have a minor role in an obscure, low budget and forgettable movie called Noon Sunday which was filmed on Guam in 1970.

Somehow my dad got to know the producer, an Australian named Terry Bourke. Dad mainly worked in production doing all kinds of things.

They didn't even use my dad's voice when he had his 15 seconds of fame appearing on screen. I remember giggling at the premier (at the Agaña Theater, where Staywell is now) when my dad's face popped up on the screen, both because it was unusual to see my dad look the way he did and because it was not his voice.

I remember dad would store some of the movie props at our house. We had some of them for years after the movie was made; junk which the production company didn't want. I especially remember the miniature jeeps which were used in the movie.

Noon Sunday involved a number of local bit players and extras, like Frank Cushing and villagers for the Umatac scenes. San Dionisio Church "blows up" in the movie! That miniature church was also stored at my house!

My dad's name in the credits

Here are some excerpts from the movie, beginning with my dad (again, NOT his voice) and Umatac scenes, including the blowing up of the church. Not since Magellan's visit in 1521 did the village see so much violence.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Me at 54; Father Benigno at 101

On one of my last trips to Manila, a friend casually brought up that he knew of a Spanish priest who was 101 years old.

I said, "What! I love old priests! I love old Spanish priests!" I just had to meet this one.

Father Benigno Benabarre is a Benedictine priest at San Beda Abbey in Manila.

The day and time were arranged, through my friend, to meet him.

I walked into his office, which is one small corner of the Alumni Office at San Beda College. He was at his computer typing away, totally oblivious to me standing there. You can see his printer right over my shoulder in the photo above.

A lay staff member called out, "Father!" and Father BB, as he is fondly called, looked up and showed me a nice smile. I was relieved. I had no idea what he would be like, and his smile disarmed me.

He offered me a seat and I asked, in Spanish, "Shall we speak in English? Or in Spanish?"

He crossed his arms and rested them on the desk in front of him, shook his head and said, "Español." I said under my breath, "Oh boy. Here goes some practice."

I spent my 15 minutes with him asking him three questions about Spanish peculiarities in the liturgy and devotional life; peculiarities which I could never explain after reading the many Spanish books and articles I have perused all these years. Younger Spanish priests would be out of touch with these old customs, so who better to ask, I thought, than a Spanish priest 101 years old! And a Benedictine, which meant that he would be more into the liturgy than other priests.


It may not be a big thing, and it really isn't, but it was a distinctive trait of many Spanish priests when saying Mass in the old days. It was to hold up the hands at Mass with the palms facing outward, towards the altar ("ad altare versas").

The usual way priests everywhere else did it was to turn the palms towards each other. If you look at the two pictures above, the difference can be hard to tell if one isn't aware of the difference. But in one of those pictures, the four fingers are not clearly seen and neither is the left palm. That's because the palms are facing outward (the Spanish way).

I had heard about it from traditional priests, one of whom even joked about it ("hands up! bang bang!") but I never saw it until 1992 when I was in Spain once. I was at a Novus Ordo Mass (the Mass after Vatican II) said in Spanish but the celebrant was an old priest ordained in the 1940s. I'll never forget his homily echoing something Saint Ignatius Loyola once said ("If my eyes see white, but the Pope says it's black, it's black!"), but what I also remember is that the priest faced his palms outward, just as I had heard.

So I asked Father Benigno where this custom came from. He didn't know. Furthermore, he said he himself never saw priests in Spain in his youth do it, and he himself did not practice it. Today, hardly any Spanish priest holds his hands up like this any more.

It's safe to say this must have been an ancient Spanish custom which Rome eventually conceded formally. But, as Father Benigno says, it wasn't the custom with every priest in Spain. But it was widespread since the custom was talked about by many when the topic of Spanish liturgical peculiarities would come up.


When I was young and listened to the older ladies lead in singing the Chamorro hymns, one thing struck me about the Chamorro Salve (Hail Holy Queen), which goes "Si Yu'us unginegue Rainan yan Nånan mina'åse'." It ended with the words "Amén. Jesús."

Why was the name of Jesus added? Almost every other prayer ended with just "Amén." Why add the name of the Lord after the word that ends every prayer?

Years later, when I saw the Spanish version, it was there as well. "Amén. Jesús."

But I have never seen this in Italian or French prayers. If it exists, please let me know.

Father Benigno attributed this Spansh custom to the attachment they have to Jesus, and/or His Holy Name. If this is so, then the preachers promoting devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus several hundred years ago did a good job.

This is the answer I received from a Spanish priest, Don Tomás de la Torre.

"When people say 'Amén, Jesús,' they are affirming 'May this be so in the name of Jesus.'"

Beautiful custom!


If you are familiar with Spanish devotions and devotional books and pictures, you will come across pictures calling Jesus "Our Father." "Nuestro Padre."

This is found especially in the south of Spain (Andalucía) where the devotion to the suffering Lord is very prominent.

But then I also noticed that, in one Chamorro hymn, Jesus is also called "Our Father." It is found in the hymn Dimuye, Manhengge. The line goes :

Ti siña ta yute' ennao na señåt-ta
(We cannot abandon this our sign)

annai i Tatå-ta umakalaye.
(wherein Our Father was hung.)

And there is yet another Chamorro hymn that calls Jesus the Father. Jesus Tatå-ho mames. Jesus my sweet Father.

Now, anyone translating this into English is immediately struck by the question : How to explain to people how Jesus is Our Father when He is, in fact, the Son of the Father.

One thing is sure. The Church never teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the same persons. All three are one God, but three separate and distinct persons.

So God the Father was not hung on the cross. God the Son was.

Then why call the Son a Father?

Because even the Son possesses fatherly traits.

In John 14:9, Jesus says that those who see Him also see the Father. Not because Father and Son are the same person, but because the Son is a person who perfectly reflects the person of the Father. "Like Father, like Son" as the saying goes. The Son so perfectly loves the Father and obeys the Father, and shares in the same divine nature as the Father, that he who sees the Son sees the likeness of the Father. This is what Jesus means when He says that "The Father and I are one." Two separate persons of the one God, sharing one divine nature with all the same powers of the divinity, united in will. When two human beings are united in love, it is said that they are one heart in two different bodies. Father and Son are one God but two different persons.

And so Jesus calls the Apostles and disciples "children" several times (John 13:33, 21:5, Mark 10:24). It is true that He doesn't call them "My children," but He does address them as children. If the Apostles are children of the Father, they are such only through the adoption won for them by the true Son of the Father (Jesus Himself). That is another way Jesus is, for us, a Father. Just as Adam is our father in terms of being the first man from whom we all originate, Jesus is the New Adam, and if we become new people, God's children, heirs of heaven, it is because of the New Adam, who is the first of the new human race, saved from the fall of the Old Adam. We call founders and originators of things "fathers," like the Founding Fathers of the Country. Jesus is the founder of a Church. He calls it "My Church," not simply "God's Church" or "the Father's Church." It is HIS Church; He is the founder and therefore the Father of His Church.

Finally, in Isaiah 9:6, one of the titles given to the Messiah, whom Jesus was, is "Everlasting Father." The Prophet himself calls Jesus the Everlasting Father. Why? Because He is like a father to us in many ways. He gives us new birth as the children of God the Father. He is founder of a new people, His Church. He provides and defends us like a true father, dying in order to save His children from death.

When I asked Father Benigno, he was most at a loss with this one question. He attributed it to Spanish popular piety, especially of the southern Spaniards.

Well, nonetheless, I enjoyed my time with this centenarian priest whose legs don't carry him much but whose cheerful spirit, agile mind and typing fingers still do a lot of good in this world for other people. Would that I can do the same!

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Meet Father Leonidas Contos.

A rather dapper, sophisticated and distinguished man, wouldn't you think? And he was.

It was 1988 and I needed to take a class from outside the Dominican school of theology where I was matriculating.

The Dominican school was one of nine different theology schools that made up a consortium. To ensure that students took classes in more than one school, it was required that students take no less than one third of their classes from schools other than the one they were registered at.

I was loathe to take any classes from the Protestant schools (all far left liberal). I couldn't find an enticing class at that time with the Jesuits and the Franciscans, so I decided to take a class with the Greek Orthodox! At least they believed in the divinity of Jesus, had valid orders and greatly esteemed the Virgin Mary!

On the first day of class, I sat down with two other students. Yes, there were only three of us taking some class with Father (and Doctor) Leonidas Contos, a Greek Orthodox priest who sounded and acted more like an English parson. Cool, suave, debonair. Always in clerical collar and tweed jacket. A native of Connecticut, he earned his doctorate from Oxford.

He spoke in soft tones and leisurely, as if he were speaking to a handful of intimates, and he was!

We were graded on only one thing - a final paper at the end of the semester.

I decided to write a paper showing how even the Greek Church in the early centuries believed in papal supremacy as evidenced by their actions. I read the early Greek church histories : Eusebius, Socrates and Sozomen. Greek historians for a Greek professor!

I tried to show from the Greek historians themselves that, in practice, if not by explicit statements, the Greeks looked to the Bishop of Rome as having the final say in church controversies. I showed how Athanasius and many other orthodox bishops fled to Rome when the Arians took control of diocese after diocese. How the Bishop of Rome believed he had the right to scold erring bishops in the East and order them to set things right. And how eastern bishops bristled at papal reprimands. Obviously, eastern bishops felt the weight of Roman pronouncements. So forth and so on.

When I got my paper back, I saw that Father Contos gave me a B+.

A small sacrifice to make in defense of papal supremacy!

Monday, April 4, 2016


Down the street and on the other side of it lived two older sisters whom I knew only as Tan Ebi' and Tan Da.

Later I learned that Ebi' meant Nieves and Da was for Soledad. Tan Ebi' never married and so kept her maiden name San Nicolas. Tan Da was married and her married name was Mesa.

Like many of the older Chamorro women I knew when I was a child, the sisters were quiet and gentle. Tan Ebi' seemed to be the more sprightly one and Tan Da the more serene. Like many of us who didn't live far from the church, they would walk to Mass.

Those were the days when children were seen, not heard. I couldn't speak Chamorro anyway. Tan Da it seemed spoke more English than Tan Ebi'. Till the day she died, I never heard Tan Ebi' say a single word in English, though I am sure she spoke some.

It was when I was already a Capuchin brother than Tan Ebi' finally started speaking to me, and even more when I became a priest. It was all in Chamorro.

She would almost always tell me, "Hågo på'go si Påle' Román," "You are now Father Román," or words to that effect. Påle' Román was a pre-war Spanish friar with a longish white beard and a long nose and I suppose I reminded her of him.

Tan Ebi' was a member of the Franciscan Third Order and often wore her brown dress to Mass, as seen in the picture above.

There isn't really much else to say except that people like Tan Ebi' made me feel good about myself and the world I grew up in. Nice, simple people. Religious. They came to Mass and talked to God and all the saints. Nothing ostentatious. Gentle and sincere smiles.

I miss seeing people like Tan Ebi'.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


The 15th Guam Legislature (1979)

Front (L-R) : Unpingco, San Agustin, T Palomo, Espaldon, Kasperbauer, Blas, Taitano, Charfauros, Quan, Santos, Quitugua

Back (L-R) : B. Palomo, Crisostomo, Duenas, Aguon, Tanaka, Underwood, Bamba, Lamorena, Sudo, Perez

In my late teens, I was very involved in Guam politics. Every day after school, I could be found at the Guam Legislature. I was also a member of the Guam Youth Congress three terms and Speaker of the last of those terms.

In the 1978, we saw the election of a Republican Governor (Paul Calvo) and a legislature with a Republican majority. That was a first and it hasn't been repeated very often to have both branches of government in GOP hands.

As usual, I was hanging around the Legislature the evening the 14 members of the Republican majority of the newly-elected 15th Guam Legislature met in caucus to elect the new speaker. The caucus started around 6pm and all the employees had left the building. Only the security guard, a man we all called Balajadia, was left behind and he could not leave the building.

Besides myself and a good friend, the only other people present in the entire building were Kin Blaz, Executive Director of the Guam Legislature, and Bob Torres, one of the campaign leaders of the victorious Calvo-Ada team. Both were hanging out in Kin Blaz's office, waiting to see who might be elected Speaker. Rufo Taitano would come in and out of the building, also curious who would win the speakership. Other than us, no one else was around.

The caucus met in the back meeting room and we were told to stay a certain distance away, so as not to hear the voices in the caucus. My friend and I hung out in the lobby area of the building next to the session hall.


At around 7pm, Katherine Aguon walked out of the meeting to call my friend and I to the meeting room. At the door, we were asked to go pick up dinner for the caucus members. Benigno Palomo gave us cash (easily $100 or more) and asked us to get the food from House of Chin Fee, an old Chinese place. We were not told to order anything specific. My friend and I went and got an assortment of Chinese standards sure to please everyone.


Closer to 10pm, the caucus was over and we heard who won. But, the senators wanted to celebrate with yet another meal and insisted that my friend and I go with them. This time, dinner was at King's at the Gibson Shopping Center, what is now Guam Premium Outlets. My friend and I sat at the same tables with the senators but at our own corner.


When the caucus first adjourned close to 10pm, my friend and I went into the meeting room to put it in order. I saw notes with vote tallies left on the table. But it was impossible to put together, from those notes alone, how the voting went all night.

But, the next day, one of the senators told my friend and I the whole story. I will leave out some details, as so many of these individuals are still with us!

The Republican majority were looking at three candidates for speakership. Tommy Tanaka, Frank Blas and Tony Palomo. For some reason, the Republicans agreed since the beginning that the candidates had to lose twice before one was elected Speaker.

There was no clear winner on the first ballot. But, by the 2nd ballot, the candidate who garnered the fewest votes earlier decided to take his name out of the race. Thus, the 2nd ballot was between two candidates only, and Tommy Tanaka was the man who won speakership on that 2nd ballot.

Also elected that night was the powerful Rules Committee chairman, and that went to Tony Unpingco.


I was only 16 years old when I witnessed, to some extent, the election of the Speaker of the 15th Guam Legislature.

I spent three years in my teens actively involved in politics, as soon as the school bell sounded the end of the school day.

This experience was quite an education that I believe helped me prepare for the priesthood, where one has to know human nature very well, among many other things.