I AM CHAMORRO film on its way!


This column was published on February 8th, 2015.

February 21st will mark a major milestone for an important project known as I AM CHAMORRO. A crew will arrive to do two weeks of filming on Guam and the CNMI toward completing this effort.Screen shot 2015-02-08 at 9.43.04 AM

It was just about two years ago that this project began. I remember an early conversation with the project lead, Joanne Carbullido Tabor Modic about what was barely more than an inspiration at the time. Based on the work of Capuchin Friar, Father Eric Forbes, plans were being laid for a full length Chamorro history documentary. She envisioned a widely distributed “Smithsonian quality” film to be shared with the world, and especially our dispersed Chamorros.

This project did not come about suddenly. Father Forbes has been researching and document-ing Chamorro history for more than 26 years. In 2011, he presented a full day history workshop to a Chamorro audience in Los Angeles. I was not able to make that workshop. In 2012, I at-tended two of his three workshops which were presented to capacity audiences in Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco bay area. It was at these workshops that Father Forbes was asked to create a video of his history teachings so it could be more widely shared.

The plan was commendable, but seemed overwhelming; the creation of a script, the shooting of a documentary, and a budget of at least $150,000. The non-profit, Manhita Chamorro was formed to carry out the I AM CHAMORRO project. Volunteer board members are Rex Agagas, Rich Modic, Annette Ada, Denise Perez Agagas, John Agagas and Father Eric Forbes. They went forward with little more than faith and determination.

“It was the San Diego community that gave it the springboard it needed.” Joanne Modic shared. Early supporters at a fundraiser by the Chelu organization boosted the project financially and energetically.

One of the first steps was to create a movie trailer that gave a glimpse of the final concept, and then Joanne and her team set about raising funds and securing sponsors.

I AM CHAMORRO became a common sight at Chamorro events. They sold t-shirts and other gift items. They offered sponsorships of various levels. Chamorros in the US responded, as did Chamorros in the Marianas. While Father Forbes has worked on the scripting of the film, the Manhita Chamorro team worked with supporters in both California and the Marianas to complete the needed fundraising.

The project has received assistance from all over the world. Rosanne Meno distributed I AM CHAMORRO t-shirts in Washington DC. Heidi Ballendorf and Peter Ada and others organized the September 2014 fundraiser on Guam. “I was just talking with a woman in DeMoines, Iowa who wanted to buy a t-shirt,” said Joanne when I interviewed her. There have been many big and small supporters and many stories along the way. Sorry, I couldn’t begin to share Joanne’s extensive list here.

“None of this would be possible without the generous support of individual and family benefac-tors, business and government entities. We owe them, and our entire Chamorro people, the best documentary that we can possibly create,” said Father Eric Forbes.

Despite the amount of work, the Manhita Chamorro team is glad the fundraising is being done this way. “We could have done this with three big sponsors, but this is the people’s project,” Jo-anne Modic told me. They are grateful to have received an appropriation from the 32nd Guam Legislature and major sponsorship from the Bank of Guam. Many of their contributions, howev-er, came one $20 t-shirt at a time.

Now their initial goal to complete the filming has been met. They continue to need to fundraise, however, in hopes of including more material and features. Opportunities to be a supporter of the project are on their website, www.IAMCHAMORRO. The film will include names of its sup-porters starting at the $1000 sponsorship level.

The final I AM CHAMORRO full length film is expected to be available in time for Christmas 2015.

In addition, this Guam history documentary will be featured at the Guam Festival of the Pacific Arts 2016, and the soon to be constructed Guam Museum.

Said Father Eric Forbes, “We are very excited about filming this unique documentary; unique in more than one way. We are trying to tell the story of a people, not the story of events that hap-pened in this or that place. Instead, the people are front and center in this documentary. We will look at all the Chamorros, wherever they were and now are. We will look at events, but from a Chamorro perspective and at how these events affected the Chamorro people.”

I can’t help but be impressed by how true the vision for this project has proven to be. I AM CHAMORRO will not only be a Chamorro history documentary widely distributed for Chamorros everywhere, it will be included in the Guam collection at the Washington DC Smithsonian museum.

See the article as it was published, below.

IACa16_pacificdailynews IACa17_pacificdailynews

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Uno Hit Chamorro education project






The Che’lu organization in San Diego adopted the Uno Hit project a little more than a year ago, and it is now an established cultural resource for the San Diego community and beyond.


Che’lu is known for its Chamorro Cultural Fest and Sakman Canoe project.  For the 2013 Chamorro Cultural Fest, board members hosted the Inetnon Gef’pago dancers from Guam.  The group did a free workshop for the community, which nearly 40 students came out to participate in.  From that, a seed of an idea began to grow: San Diego needed to offer Chamorro dance instruction.


Fast forward to today.  Classes of between 30 and 60 students are held weekly throughout the year.   The project is called “Uno Hit” which means “We Are One” in the Chamorro language.  It refers to the desire to unite the Chamorro people in their culture, wherever they live.  The program is tuition free.


Uno Hit is sometimes the first cultural education the stateside students receive.  It has included guest instructors like Mario Borja on the Sakman, Father Eric Forbes on Chamorro history, and Peter Onedera on Chamorro language.  It has also helped to launch GVB’s Guam Chamorro Dance Academy in the mainland, introducing its young dancers to dance master, Frank Rabon in March of this year.


Uno Hit’s dedicated instructor is Heidi Quenga, director of the 21-year-old Kutturan Chamoru Foundation in Long Beach.  Heidi and her husband and co-director, Joey Quenga have taken Uno Hit under their wing, sharing opportunities to perform at major venues including the Pacific Islander Festival (PIFA) in San Diego, and the Guam Liberation picnic and reception in Washington D.C.


Says Heidi, “I am humbled and honored to stand alongside the parents, apprentices and committee in ensuring the Chamoru culture is not forgotten.  My work with Uno Hit has given me the opportunity to engage 100+ participants in just 14 months, and I appreciate all the love and support.”


Uno Hit also serves their local community, performing at local fiestas, medical fundraisers and cultural events.  The Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in San Diego provides Uno Hit invaluable support, offering their facilities for classes and events.


Uno Hit has been influenced by some of the finest Chamorro cultural educators, including the newly designated master, Vince Reyes.   With the Festival of the Pacific Arts coming up on Guam in May of 2016, the students now have their sights set on returning “home” to experience this unprecedented cultural opportunity.


“Uno Hit has influenced me to not only embrace my culture but also demonstrate my culture through song and dance,” says MaryAnne Santos, who has been a student with Uno Hit from the beginning.


It is no secret that this cultural dance education has been my pet project. Additional committee members are Brienda Diaz and Loling Cepeda.

The enthusiastic students are what fuel the passion for the work.  It only takes seeing a young Chamorro exhibiting their pride in their culture to get hooked.

For more information on UNO HIT, please see www.UnoHit.org.

To keep the project tuition-free, Uno Hit accepts tax deductible donations through the Che’lu organization.  See the UNO HIT donation page here.

Si Yu’us ma’ase’

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Island of Warriors


Here is an important program that you don’t want to miss.



Guam, Pacific Islands

The men and women of Guam are U.S. citizens who serve in the military at a rate that is three times higher than the rest of the country. Yet in 2012 Guam ranked last in per capita medical spending by the Veteran’s Affairs. Why are Guam veterans not getting the services they needs? Find out in this episode of AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS, premiering Oct 11 on PBS.

This program episode will air at 6:30pm this Sunday 10/12 on PBS Guam, and you can also watch the show online at pbs.org/

americabythenumbers beginning Monday 10/13.

 If you are not currently in Guam, you can watch the show at 9pm this Thursday 10/9 on WORLD Channel, orthis weekend on PBS—check your local listings to find out when.

Airdate on WORLD: Oct 9, 2014
Airdate on PBS Weekend: Oct 11, 2014

Thanks to Lorenzo Cruz of NOCVA (National Organization for Chamorro Veterans in America) for this notice.

Thanks to Chamorro veteran advocate, Teresita Guevara Smith for serving on the panel discussion following this program premier.

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Liberations Queens keep the tradition of honor alive


It was inspiring to see the Liberation Queen candidates on Guam featured in last Sunday’s paper.   What many on Guam may not know is that we also select a Liberation Queen in San Diego, California.

Since 1953, the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in has crowned a Liberation Queen of their own.  Traditionally, the SDGC Liberation celebration is a formal affair highlighting World War II veterans and the coronation of the winning candidate.  As I have watched the Liberation court over this past year, I have seen that the pageant tradition is much more than a contest.  It is a bonding experience for our community.

Liberation candidates begin their campaign months in advance.  Their outreach and fundraising efforts bring together friends and relations from far and wide.  The girls and their families work closely with the Guam Club, becoming an important part of the organization in the course of their campaigns.  You will regularly see Queen candidates gracing public events, offering their musical talents, even serving lunch at the regular senior (manamko’) luncheons.  Lasting relationships are created, including close camaraderie among the competing candidates.

Anissa Acfalle is this year’s Liberation Queen Chairperson who will guide the girls vying for the 2014 title.  Anissa herself ran for Liberation Queen in 1985.

“I was a princess and loved every minute of my campaign.  During my campaign Auntie Lupe Perez was queen chair and, to be honest, it’s because of her and the experience I had as a candidate that made me passionate about Liberation.”

Anissa’s two sister’s in law were each royal princesses at one time, and in 2007 her daughter, Alissa Acfalle was crowned Liberation Queen.  Between her daughter and her fellow candidate, Christina Gerber, a record $97,000 was raised for the club that year.  This entitled the pair to travel to Guam for the island’s Liberation Day festivities.  Their Chairperson and mentor was Julie Holowitz.

Says their mentor, Anissa Acfalle, “We are proud of our lineage and our commitment to our community but most of all, being able to have represented our people during this most important time, which was when our island was liberated.”

For this historic 70th Liberation celebration, I wanted to introduce the two San Diego Queen candidates, Ferlyn Quitagua and Mauryn Mantanane.

Ferlisa Quitagua Photo by Bryson Kim

Ferlisa Quitagua
Photo by Bryson Kim

Mauryn Mantanane

Mauryn Mantanane.  Photo by Bryson Kim


My name is Ferlisa Ruphia Matagolai Quitugua. With the help and support from my family and friends, I am a Liberation Queen candidate for The Sons and Daughters of Guam Club Inc.  I am currently a Junior attending Diego Hills Charter School. I am 16 years of age and the youngest of eight.  Growing up, I was adopted by my grandmother Luisa M. Quitugua. My maternal parents are Harvey and Efcy Matagolai. I was born and raised on the island of Saipan and hail from the village of Koblerville. I presently reside in San Diego, California. After living in San Diego for three years I have grown attached to its Chamorro Community.Goals: My future goals involves continuing and finishing high school and going straight to a community college to further my education, to become more involved in spreading knowledge of the Chamorro language, culture and customs.  I want to help the SDGC in bringing our Chamorro community together, so that together we may preserve, embrace and continue our heritage out here in the mainland as if we were all back home.Guam’s Liberation to me is:
The day the US military helped free Guamanians they didn’t just gain their freedom, but they gained their pride as well. Guam’s Liberation is the biggest celebration held on Guam and some parts of the mainland. Chamorros come together and have big parades and festivals in honor of the freedom Guamanians gained on that day. They recognize and celebrate all those who fought and won freedom for Guamanians to live and die being a true Guamanian/Chamorro and not a Japanese Worker or prisoner.Mauryn Jessi Matanane is 17 years old, and originally from the village of Tamuning.  Her parents are: Martin Matanane and Giana Balajadia Matanane.  Her paternal grandparents are Francisco Anderson Matanane (Familian Che’) and Maria San Nicolas Matanane (Familian Hilario); Maternal Grandparents: Santiago “Sam” Baza Alcazar (deceased) and Lola Guzman Alcazar. Mauryn has two brothers (Martin Jr and Blake Jon) and four sisters ( Chloe, Sharae, Meeah and Megan).  She is sponsored by TeamMauryn and ISAO7 / IRIEspect.

Mauryn was born on Guam in May 1997 and relocated to San Diego at the age of 2 1/2 years old.  She is a Junior at Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, CA ( San Diego).  Mauryn loves playing softball and plays for Monte Vista High School. Mauryn also enjoys Polynesian dancing.

Goal: To study early child development and own my own Day-Care/ Preschool Program.

What does Liberation mean to me?

Growing up in the mainland, I was not able to experience the Liberation festivities. However, after reading and listening to the stories, Liberation means FREEDOM to our grandparents, uncles, aunts and our Island. I also acknowledge that the Chamorros endured pain and suffering during this time. With that we celebrate the soldiers that fought and the FREEDOM that was given back to our Island.

SEE THE ARTICLE AS IT APPEARED IN THE PDN ON JUNE 7, 2014, BELOW.  You can click to enlarge.




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This report for the NHPI community is arguably the most illuminating yet on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander peoples in the 50 states.

The hope is that this will be used as a resource to identify priorities for specific groups and improve the experience for the NHPI community as a whole.

Please click the link below for the downloadable publication:

A Community in Contrasts 2014


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The Guam Chamorro Dance Academy



The Guam observance of Chamorro month spilled over in many ways to the Chamorro population in the US this last March.  One important cultural promotion was the launch of the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy at the Che’lu Chamorro Cultural Fest in San Diego.

The Chamorro dance effort on this side of the Pacific faces the difficulty of resources being too few and far between.  With some effort, costumes and music can be acquired.  But how do you get the attention of a qualified dance instructor more than 6,000 miles away from the islands? 

Recognizing this difficulty, the Guam Visitors Bureau has committed to helping existing and aspiring US based Chamorro dancers as part of their initiative to build capacity and excitement for the 2016 Festival of the Pacific Arts (FestPac) on Guam.  Their program, funded under their Cultural Heritage And Community Outreach (CHACO) committee, is the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy.

The dance program launch was timed to take advantage of the concentration of dancers in San Diego for the Chamorro Cultural Fest on March 29th.  Master of Chamorro Dance, Frank Rabon, arrived prior to the Fest and spent two days holding workshops with the Kutturan Chamorro Foundation in Long Beach, and the San Diego based Uno Hit and Imahen Taotao Tano dance groups, as well as the visiting and the curious. A few were learning the dance for the first time. Many learned additional choreography and technique.  Everyone had a chance to hear from Frank Rabon and accompanying performers about their experience as Chamorro dancers and their own travels to prior FestPac events.  Students’ questions included, “How is Chamorro dance different than Polynesian dance?” as well as, “What was it like to travel as a Chamorro dancer?”  The hope is that, as dancers or attendees, these young Chamorros will be enticed to return to Guam as the island hosts FestPac 2016. 

Therese Arriola, the CHACO committee chair, promised that the launch at the Che’lu Chamorro Cultural Fest is just the beginning of many more Chamorro dance workshops.  Workshops will be planned around major events that bring Chamorros together, especially in the largest Chamorro settlements of California, Washington and Texas.  Said Arriola, “I would like to see this happen a minimum of three times a year.” 

The highlight of the launch was when the participants of the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy workshops came together on the Chamorro Cultural Fest stage. Dancers wore the respective costumes of their groups, but the combined performers danced as a single group. The image of the collection of dancers moving together embodied the theme of the festival, “Man Uno Hit” (We Are One).  It would be nice to see more of this, courtesy of the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy.


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The BBQ Show is something I’ve been wanting to share since its start over a year ago.  Right in the middle of a crazy-busy time preparing for the Chamorro Cultural Fest and the Uno Hit Conference, I took the time to attend a recording of the show with some visiting artists.  We had so much fun enjoying the interviews, even the bloopers, and seeing the BBQ Show team in action.  Enjoy the article, and feel free to check in on the BBQ show for yourself.

As it appeared in the 4/12/14 PDN:

Chamorro culture has taken on a new media in southern California.  The Internet has allowed us the ability to tune into programs all over the world.  And these days, Chamorro-centric island music and events can be found on Betelnut Internet radio and its weekly BBQ Show, produced in the city of Long Beach. 

The BBQ Show plays great music; island favorites from all over the world, and a nice collection of Chamorro and Chamolinian music too.  It is billed as an interactive variety show.  Their recent features have included cultural artists, writers, and university student groups as well as musical entertainers.  The show is available to hear on any computer with an Internet connection, or with a Betelnut Radio app downloaded on a smart phone.

The BBQ show recording session that I recently attended hosted the musical group Two Story Zori, spoken word artist, Da’kota Camacho, and Guam Chamorro dance master, Frank Rabon.   They were all in the area to perform at the Chamorro Cultural Fest, and were eager to share their work with the BBQ radio show audience.  During the three-hour broadcast recording, the show’s energy was high, with talk of southern California Pacific Islander events between the guest features.  Joe Sav and Joey Quenga , known as “Q”, are its regular hosts, with the recent addition of Silulu (Lulu) Aetonu-Grey. 

Although I enjoyed all the hosts, I am most familiar with “Q”.  Joey Quenga is a life-long Chamorro cultural advocate, best known for his musical direction of the Kutturan Chamoru Foundation, co-directed by his wife, Heidi Quenga.  The radio show is a natural extension of his long-time efforts to bring awareness to the Chamorro arts and cultural activities.  Joey Quenga is also a natural showman, able to emcee, perform music or sing on stage as needed.  I was greatly impressed by his performance at last year’s Pacific Islander Festival Association (PIFA) opening ceremony in San Diego, singing the Star Spangled Banner a cappella.

The BBQ Show is counted a big success, with regularly well over 100,000 listeners from dozens of countries around the world.  The show is true to its name, serving up island talent and entertainment with a virtual “Island Style BBQ”.  As a listener, I have appreciated what Q and his co-hosts, Joe Sav and Lulu provide; a place to hear Chamorro humor, music and the latest on California events that I just can’t find anywhere else.

Additional info:

The BBQ Show can be streamed live at www.betelnutradio.com on Thursdays at 7pm Pacific Time, or Fridays at noon on Guam.

 You can connect with the BBQ Show at OnairwithQ@gmail.com or at www.facebook.com/TheBBQshow




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Good work, good people.


It always feels good to come across good work being done by good people in the community.  I appreciate the chance to share how a San Diego group is assisting the ill, especially ill children and their families that need help during a medical crisis.

Member of San Diego CNMI Club hosting a gathering for our medical referral patients during the holidays

Please read as it appeared in the Guam PDN on February 9th 2014.


The newest Chamorro group to form in San Diego is known as the CNMI San Diego Club established in November 2013 to help CNMI citizens in the area, especially those who have come as medical referrals.

Although the group can only identify about 200 CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) citizens in the San Diego area, they attract membership from as far away as Los Angeles, a two-hour drive away, and gathered a group of 30 at their last membership meeting. The Club officers are David Atalig, president, Frank Norita, vice president, Shirley Lababit, secretary, and Susana Cabrera, treasurer.  Ken Conception is the club’s public relations officer, and spoke with me about their mission.

“We have been seeing a huge number of medical referrals, especially our children, that were being referred from the CNMI due to heart problems and other problems… being referred to Rady Children’s Hospital or Ronald McDonald House,” Ken told me. Rady Children’s Hospital is a renowned area medical facility for children.

Ken explained that when a child is referred to Rady Children’s Hospital, they and one parent or guardian are provided air transportation along with an accompanying nurse.  An ambulance is available to take the child and one parent of guardian from the San Diego airport to the medical facility.   Fortunately, Rady has so far been able to house the referrals at their adjacent Ronald McDonald House residence for families.  Insurance or Medicare often covers the medical costs. However, accompanying family members, often here for an extended time, must provide for themselves.

“When we found out that these people, these children, that were being sent from the CNMI out here were just being medical referred and a lot of them didn’t have any mode of transportation; didn’t have any mode of going anywhere, even to buy food…” said Ken.  “A couple of these families were requesting on Facebook for donations to buy things such as laundry soap, daily hygiene needs…  We found out, they weren’t given a stipend.  And we decided to form this organization.”

There are now four children and their families at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.  Over the Christmas holidays, there were as many as seven families. Currently, the CNMI San Diego Club has someone standing by to provide transportation, whether it is to and from the airport, or to buy groceries.  Expenses are paid out of club members’ own pockets.

The club is currently pursuing non-profit status so that they can qualify for grant money to provide services. They have also received an offer of assistance from the Cal Islanders Humanitarian Association aka CIHA, which has been doing similar work in Orange County, just north of San Diego.

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed.  Thanks and praises have come from the CNMI, including an official letter from the CNMI lieutenant governor.

Says Ken Conception of the CNMI San Diego Club, “We’re available to everyone from the CNMI that is being sent out here.” Donations are gladly accepted, and money as well as things like laundry soap and daily hygiene supplies are helpful.  New members are also welcome. You can call Ken Conception, the CNMI San Diego Public Relations Officer at 619 823-9059 or email him at LANCHERU@HOTMAIL.COM.


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The Guamanian Connection


For at least the last couple of years, word has been buzzing around getting the Chamorros stateside to speak up for our island-dwellers who do have not vote in the US political process.

The NOCVA veterans group talks about stateside Chamorros using their vote to influence policy around veterans benefits.  The We The People project talks about uniting with all US territories including American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Washington DC to gain a vote for all of these unrepresented 5 million citizens.  Now, the Guam Governor’s office is launching The Guamanian Connection which is asking people to let us tally up all our activities by using the hashtag, #GuamConnect.

Read all about it:




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The Che’lu Spirit


Please meet some of my favorite people and the work that we love.

You may click to enlarge or read text below.

You may click to enlarge or read text below.

As it appeared in the Pacific Daily News, January 19, 2014.

The word, Che’lu means sibling in the Chamorro language.  To many, it also refers to Chamorro Hands In Education Links Unity, aka CHELU, a San Diego organizationwith the mission of promoting the Chamorro language, culture and health through education. 


The idea for Che’lu was born within the established Chamorro social network of San Diego as a means to create educational projects for the community.  Things came together when this longing for cultural resources and a city revitalization program partnered.   In 2006 CHE’LU became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  Soon after, the group established an office in the newly built Jacob’s Center that was the centerpiece of a city improvement effort by the Jacobs Foundation.  Chamorros were one of many ethnic groups that the Jacob’s Center reached out to.  Chamorros answered the call.  CHELU is one of the Jacobs Center’s nine community groups, and built a latte house replica on the Jacobs Center site to represent the Chamorro presence.


CHELU has two currently well-known activities.  First, it supports the Sakman Chamorro project.  This Chamorro canoe was begun in 2010 and completed in 2011.  It is a one of a kind replica of the original Chamorro design.  The project is overseen by its master carver, Mario Borja who tirelessly works to share the history and craftsmanship of the 47-foot vessel to students and the public from California to the Marianas.


In 2010, CHELU established the Chamorro Cultural Fest (CCF), again the only one of its kind, to share Chamorro culture and arts.  The heart of the Fest is its cultural workshops, but fest-goers also enjoy the food, crafts, and entertainment of the day.  Meanwhile, families assemble, and old friends meet at the gathering of several thousand Chamorros and Chamorro-lovers.  On March 29th 2014, attendees will come from California, neighboring states, and even as far away as the east coast and the Mariana Islands to enjoy the 5th annual CCF.


More recently, in 2013, CHELU organized the first UNO HIT Conference on the day following the Chamorro Cultural Fest.  The next conference, held on March 30, 2014, will focus on Chamorro artists and their families who want to prepare for the Guam Festival of the Pacific in 2016.  Local experts and representatives of the Guam Festival of the Pacific organizing committee will present.


The UNO HIT dance program is the group’s latest project.  After two years of connecting the youth with Chamorro dance workshops, Che’lu has organized a weekly training for a new San Diego Chamorro dance group.  With about 30 dedicated students learning under Long Beach based fafana’gue Heidi Quenga, the San Diego students plan their first major public performance at the Chamorro Cultural Fest on March 29, 2014. 


This and numerous additional workshops and events keep the fifteen-member board of CHELU very busy.  Current President, Danny Blas’ philosophy is “If we do something, we’re going to do it great!”  The group sustains itself with a strong Che’lu spirit, working with other like-minded organizations to promote the unique Chamorro culture.








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