The Guam Chamorro Dance Academy

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

 

Janice Lujan Waller Bouffiou was CHELU’s Chairperson for its first 6 years. 

 

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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A Pacific American Place

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With this article comes acknowledgement for all those who work long and hard to develop the resources to help our children be successful in the world.

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As printed in the Pacific Daily News 1/11/14.

Chamorros are among many Pacific Islander communities in San Diego.  This fact contributes to the feeling of belonging Chamorros can enjoy here.  We can find familiar island music, familiar island food, and even an annual Pacific Islander festival in the San Diego area.

In the last few years a Pacific Islander focused school has also become an option for the children of San Diego.  The Pacific American Academy (PA’A) is a San Diego public charter school.  The school is based on quality education for Pacific Americans, which encompasses pride and understanding of their native cultural heritage.

Because of its charter school status, PA’A is able to create a unique environment for its students.  The school keeps classrooms small, with about 20 students per class.  Their learning is project based, incorporating hands-on learning into their curriculum.  And because it is located in a highly diverse neighborhood in San Diego, it serves a wide range of ethnicities. PA’A believe that by teaching children about their own culture, it teaches children respect for all cultures. Chamorro children are among those enrolled in PA’A.

The school’s opening in 2010 was the fruit of more than a decade of effort by many in the southern California Pacific Islander community.  A major advocate and founder of PA’A is its Executive Director, Margaret Sanborn.   In conversations I have had with Margaret, she won’t hesitate to share the struggles that the school has faced.  However, the school’s success is now beginning to become obvious.  In its third year of operation, it continues to grow.  The elementary grades will expand next year to include middle school.  Eventually, Margaret says, the school intends to create a high school and vocational school.

The first of the cultural education offered at PA’A is Hawaiian language and culture.  The school is extremely open, however, to working with other cultural groups.  Currently, the campus provides space for a local Laotian group to meet, and has offered to be available for our Chamorro cultural workshops as well.   Additional curriculum offerings can also be developed over time.  It is encouraging to see this unique offering as part of the San Diego Unified School District, providing parents more options to choose from for their children’s all-important learning environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Chamorro in the Arctic… and on Guam

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Here’s  a story from a while back, that I am just posting now.

Mr. Danny Blas is our wonderful Chairman of the Che’lu organization board in San Diego.  He has had many adventures from the Big Island to Arctic, but I don’t think I have seen him more excited than he was to be leaving for Guam recently.  This was his first homecoming since childhood, and he was looking forward to what he promised would be one of many visits back.

I recently saw Danny post a picture of himself with the Governor of Guam, where he invited Governor Calvo to our 2014 Chamorro Cultural Fest, and then discussed findings from his scientific Arctic expedition.  This is when I realized Danny’s article was not yet on GoIsland.net.

Here it is, better late than never.  Enjoy!

 

As it appeared in the Pacific Daily News on Oct. 10, 2013

Interesting people and places come together sometimes, with wonderful results.  This was this case this summer when local San Diegan and fellow Chamorro, Danny Blas set off for the Arctic. 

 

As part of a small group of teachers who work each summer with UCSD’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Blas was the one chosen to accompany Scripps Scientists on their three-week mission north of the Arctic Circle.

 

Blas explained that the purpose of the trip was to learn more about the conditions of a recent ice age, 13,000 years ago, by acquiring core samples that would then be analyzed back at the Scripps and collaborating Woodshole MIT laboratories.  The harsh Arctic climate creates a pristine environment for scientific research. 

 

Blas wrote a blog and video taped the experience to share with high school students and others.  He not only shared the scientific activities on board the ship, but recorded sightings of the abundant wildlife such as walrus and polar bears.  He interviewed the Coast Guard crew to offer a view of this lesser known branch of the military.  He also took the opportunity to learn about the culture of the native people through a member of the Inupiaq tribe who worked as a cultural consultant on the expedition.

 

Despite occasional rough seas, Blas enjoyed amazing scenery, great meals, and the times everyone was allowed to play on the ice, which they called “ice liberty.”  These always included scouts with binoculars who were on the lookout for approaching polar bears.  He quite obviously appreciates his experience of this secluded and sensitive area of the earth.

 

Blas received the Teacher Of The Year Award at his high school in 2013, and was awarded the Coast Guard Arctic Service Award as a result of his work this summer.

 

Danny Blas is the son of Jose R. Blas (deceased) originally from Hagatna, and Cecilia San Augustine Baza originally from Sinajana.  He is currently the Chairman of the San Diego Che’lu organization, and a teacher at Lincoln High School.  But most of his life has been in the Midwest.  As a young child, his family moved from Guam to Rantoul, Illinois where his father was stationed in the Air Force.  After going to school and working in Chicago, Blas moved to San Diego in 2002 to go to graduate school, and earn his teaching certification.

 

San Diego is the first place where he has lived among Chamorros outside of his immediate family.  Says Blas, “It’s the first place I can fully be myself.”   His next big expedition will be to go back to Guam this December where he hasn’t been since he was a child. “I want to explore my culture and learn more about who I am, and from where I came from,” he says.

 

You can see Danny Blas’ blog at www.DannyBlas.com.

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Happy 2014!

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Here’s wishing you a year of ease.  But should obstacles arise, here’s wishing you perspective and faith.

Adios to 2013.

Happy 2014!

As it appeared in the 12/29/2013 Pacific Daily News

With the New Year in sight, it is natural to look back on what the year before has taught us. Some lessons we have learned joyfully, and others with difficulty.

In my work to bring the people and projects of the stateside Chamorro community to light, there have been many joys.  There is the passion that motivates our experts in their work.  There is the persistence of cultural practitioners to pass down what they know.  There is the enthusiasm of our young people to acquire the knowledge and skills available to them. 

There is also disappointment.   People can’t always take the time to share their talents.  People don’t always make the effort to listen and to learn what is offered. 

To keep moving forward, we need to remember that despite the setbacks, there is a higher purpose to serve.  I remember hiking through the jungles of Guam and being uncomfortable with the mosquitos and sword grass along the way to my destination.  It was difficult to deal with these, but once past them, they were quickly forgotten.  What remained important was to reach that special place that I was determined to get to.  The swim at Cetti Bay or the view from Mount Lamlam made all the discomforts worthwhile.

Of course, the actual difficulties we face have to do with real people or circumstances that obstruct our way.  Dealing with these takes more effort than slapping away the mosquitoes, I must admit.  To persevere, we need compassion and faith; compassion for the circumstances that keep people from working with us, and faith that there is another way that we can go.

 Just recently, I was disappointed to learn that free space for our dance workshops was not available, as we had hoped.  The charitable foundation we worked with needed to rent their spaces for financial reasons.  We were disappointed, but understanding of their circumstances.  The necessary search for another place has actually brought out new people and groups who would like to help us.  At this point, we have identified a local Pacific Islander focused school that not only offers us space, but other valuable opportunities to work together.  Our path has veered, but it has brought us to an even better place! 

  When I struggle with setbacks, my husband wisely reminds me that everything we do is because of how we see things.  This year has taught me to go forward with my higher purpose clearly in my sights; to look past obstacles with compassion and faith.  The difficulties are ultimately forgotten with the joy of arriving at the desired destination.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Holidays from Guam’s Governor

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Please enjoy a holiday message from Guam’s Governor Calvo.

Happy New Year to All!

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A Chamorro Christmas

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The note on the front door reads “Maila’ Halom”

A Chamorro Christmas in the mainland US is not only possible, I understand that it is being observed by many.  This year I experienced for myself one family’s tradition of the Nobenan Nino complete with Chamorro prayers and a special addition of their own. 

Tony San Nicolas Treltas and Rose Pangelinan Treltas have lived away from their homeland of Guam for decades.  They raised their children in the San Diego area with the companionship of the large Chamorro community.  But it was when Tony and Rose became grandparents about ten years ago that they revived their family’s practice of the Nobenan Nino. “They were the ones who motivated us to do it, because I wanted them to know our culture”, says Rose of her grandsons.

Many years ago when Rose Treltas brought her one remaining aunt with her to California, she also brought her aunt’s religious statues and her Nino Jesus.  On this night of the nobena, her statue of baby Jesus resides in the family bilen, or nativity that is the focus of the Treltas’ Christmas décor.  Rose has also decorated her home throughout, including an extensive lighted Christmas village.  The smells are of bonelos or tamales or other holiday specialties that Rose usually prepares at this time of year.

While Rose and Tony conduct this annual nobena, they are steadily turning over responsibilities to their children, Tony and Cessa and niece, Alanna Pangelinan.  Rose is instructing Cessa and Alanna to become techa’ (Chamorro prayer leaders).  “They are in training”, says Rose.  “I don’t let them do it yet because they’re going to slow down the program and we’re going to be done in three hours”, she laughs. 

As we later listen to Rose’s rapid rhythm of prayers, we have to admire her fluency in the language and in the reciting of these particular litanies.

The Treltas’ nobena has a special addition too, because of their musical talent.  In the last two years they have been a part of the Island Rain Ukulele Ensemble, and the group has accompanied the Treltas’ nobenas.  They are a lively group of friends that play an impressive number of Chamorro songs. That may be one reason their nobena is visited by many, like Dorothy Camacho from Washington State, myself, and Father Eric Forbes visiting from Guam. The night I am there, the Treltas’ son in law, Enzo Naputi joins in on ukulele.  The grandchildren, Eric and Aidan play percussion.

Their prayers ended, the grandchildren carry the Nino Jesus to all to be kissed or nginge’.  The ukulele musicians and singers sing Dan Dan I Pandaretas.  For a lighthearted conclusion Rose and Tony and their friends end with the island version of Jingle Bells singing  “jungle bells, coconut shells, sticker burrs all the way…

Felis Nabidat todo hamyu!  Merry Christmas to all!

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