Tonight, my wife and I had the privilege to watch a newly released cultural documentary called I Am Chamorro. As I opened up the newly wrapped DVD case, I asked myself other than where I come from, is there anything else that marks me as a Chamorro? With hopes that the film will shed new light about who I am, and who my children are as pacific islanders and Chamorros, I was eager to find out what the film was about. From the comfort of our Colorado home, my wife and I were immediately welcomed back to the sounds and sights of the Mariana Islands on our television. While the snow outside was melting on our brown lawn, we were quickly greeted with deep green moist jungles, dark limestone rocks, steep cliffs, colorful flowers and untouched beaches on our screen. These were only some of the vivid images from the Mariana archipelago that made me homesick or mahalang for my island and its people.
I Am Chamorro is a high-definition film in Blu-Ray and DVD narrated by Catholic priest, Father Eric Forbes, OFM, CAP, a Chamorro and Guam native with Irish roots. Father Forbes spent decades researching his Chamorro heritage, which thus created a passion for sharing his roots. Forbes, along with Executive Producer of the film, Joanne Tabor Modic, a Chamorro born and raised on Guam, now living in California, have successfully brought our Chamorro identity to the forefront.
With the resurgence of interest in the Chamorro culture by many in the islands and by many Chamorros abroad, Modic and Forbes could not have chosen a better time to produce and release this video. Over the last decade, so many Chamorros have worked collectively to bring their attention to rediscovering their eroding identity, and to bring forth new opportunities for growth and understanding of our culture.
This film framed where Chamorros came from as a people using DNA evidence, which has allowed scholars and scientists to theorize that several thousand years ago, Chamorros more likely migrated from places like Eastern Indonesia where East Indonesian women’s DNA is more similar to Chamorro female DNA than any other DNA across that region. There was a discussion of a theory of two migration waves from Indonesia, one which brought over the earliest of Chamorro settlers, and the second wave of people potentially being the impetus for the introduction of latte stones to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI). This theory is further supported by an Indonesian stone carving which seems to show a house atop what we would call “latte stones”.
I Am Chamorro paints an overview of the Chamorro people’s pre-history, and history concerning the migration of peoples from Spain, the Philippines, other islands in Micronesia, from Mexico, and other Asian countries as a result of sea-trade, farming, and missionary expeditions across the region. Additionally, it attempts to underscore the different political paths that Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands took, how they were affected by World War II, including how each struggled with occupations from Spain, Japan, Germany, and the United States.
This documentary has intimate dialogue between the younger Chamorro diaspora and the viewing audience, sharing their personal journeys about who they are and what they know of themselves to be as Chamorro. While the diaspora provided a narrative of their perspective, what made this film even more compelling are the interviews of older Chamorros on Guam and in the NMI, about their personal testimonies and experiences as they shared their identity.
If there was a highlight that caught my attention through out the video, aside from the factual information that informed my culture, it was the professional acting skills of two Chamorro natives who could pass as brothers. Dressed in ancient attire, with native bone and shell jewelry, carrying spears, they were trekking through the beautiful green jungles, limestone caves, and sandy shores of Guam. They dressed the part and did well in these roles. I only wish they actually spoke the Chamorro language to complete the cinematic experience. With the varied scenes they were part of, they made me want to explore my island even more, in ancient Chamorro attire to boot.
If you have not seen this new documentary, I’d encourage you to do so. This project of love for our people provides a spring board to further explore, and ask questions about who we are, and who we want to become as a Chamorro people.
While this film isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition for what a Chamorro truly is, I came to a realization that I’m better informed about my past, and my identity to form a more complete picture of who I am as a Chamorro.
My intention is to share this film with my children, and my children’s future children so that they can discover who they are, and what they can do themselves to learn more, and share more, to create the people that they themselves, would want to be as Chamorros.
Gerard Aflague is a blogger, and Chamorro, born on Guam, formerly from Sinajana, he now resides in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, living with his wife and three children.
His parents, Lorenzo and Julia, and grandparents, Demetrio Garcia Cruz and Teresa Duenas Cruz, together with Vicente Torres Aflague and Anna Martinez Calvo Aflague, were from Hagatna, the capital of Guam. Gerard traces his genealogy primarily to Guam, the Philippines, Spain, and Scotland. His lineage is from the following clans: Aflague, Cruz, Calvo, Garcia, Torres, Flores, Leon Guerrero, Duenas, Martinez, and Crisostomo.
Gerard is part of a worldwide collective of Chamorros who spends time to give back to his people and to promote his culture, as part of his varied collection sold on GerardAflagueCollection.com.