Carmen Garrido Iglesias Santos

Oct. 25, 1926 - Aug. 15, 1999

Guam’s History in Songs Produced by Carmen Iglesias Garrido Santos.

Analysis by Rudolph Villaverde

The film Guam’s History in Songs include song narratives of romance, tragedy, and life changes expressed as vivid musical expressions which reflect foreign invasions before the turn of the 20th century. Carmen Santos wrote, “The people survived WWII with dignity, pride and spirit. Culture lives on adapting and memorialized in songs.” Dr. Keith Camacho writes, “Indigenous experiences and memories are commemorated through storytelling, legends, songs, art and chants.”(Camacho, Cultures of Commemoration, Aug 2005; Pg.27) “Islander memories as survivors of violent and forceful histories of conquest and subjugation “are shared, across generations of friends and family. (ibid; pg 28)”

Chanting has been a form of music carried during ancestral worship in ancient Chamorro society (Chamorro Heritage 'A Sense of Place', 2003; pg 35) Spanish explorers noted a social practice of the Chamorro Matua using singing messengers called “chulugaigai” to convey song messages to the Chamorro Manachang. (Guam's History in Songs film).

From these ancient traditions of music evolved the Tsamorita - a form of dialog singing (Gertrude Hornsbostel, Guam field notes Bishop Museum, 1925), renamed 'Chamorrita' in 1947, and renamed again 'Kantan Chamorrita' in the 1970’s (Michael R. Clement, 2001 Univ Guam Grad thesis 'Ancient Origins of Chamorro Music'). “The Tsamorita is a composition of lyrics that is made up and sung in a unique melody by two contestants responding alternately, as they try to outduel each other with poetry and logic, in either a teasing or combatant spirit. Anyone in the crowd may jump in with a quick response to beat either of the two contestants. The ancient song contest may go on for hours without a breath” (Chamorro Heritage, A sense of Place, 2003; pg 55).

Chamorro songs in this film derive their genesis from the Tsamorita. According to C.R. Kim Bailey, an ethnomusicologist, Tsamorita is an extemporaneous poetic song debate. Bailey thought it was plausible that functionally and creatively that the Tsamorita was an ancient pre-contact dialog song form. The Tsamorita is expressed through a "conversational style of singing based on oral traditional techniques of poetic parallelism" (Clement, Michael R, 2001, Ancient Origins of Chamorro Music; pg. 144). Tsamorita disappeared because it was tied to communal work that no longer existed such as cultivating crops, fishing the reefs, or weaving thatches for house roofs. I am suggesting that communal work in the form of forced labor was revived by the Japanese military occupation of Guam which in turn revived the Tsamorita and folk songs. Post WWII job changes on Guam rendered the communal way of life obsolete and thus the Tsamorita disappeared.

The Tsamorita was sung with the belimbau tuyan accompaniment. The refrain is mostly used satirically as a lampoon directed at one’s rival, but it is also used as a love song as well. The words of the first two lines have often nothing to do with the last two (Gertrude Hornsbostel, Hornbostel field Notes Bishop Museum 1925, pg. 2). Songs express wit, humor and spontaneity (Guam’s History in Songs Film).

“The song is sung by one person to another in falsetto, or in the case of more singing, there is one song leader in each party who sings in a falsetto key, while the rest accompany in alto. The first two lines are sung along by the song leader, then the rest join in for the last two lines. The second and last lines of the song rhyme” (Gertrude Hornsbostel, Hornbostel field Notes Bishop Museum 1925, pg. 3). Old writers tell us that after battle, the Chamorro warriors celebrated their victory with songs, in which they taunted the defeated and exaggerated their own worth. The game being to improvise words for the refrain, directing them at some individual of the party, who returns it with interest much to the delight of all (ibid; pg. 4). Side Note: After growing up in the Marianas, Gertrude Van Constinoble married Hans Hornbostel, who in 1924 collected ethnohistorical Chamorro artifacts for Hawaii's Bishop Museum. Known as "Trudis Aliman," she performed zoological and cultural research on Guam. The Hornbostels later relocated to Manila Philippines when Hans was commissioned a U.S. army major in 1940. They were captured by the Japanese in 1941 during WWII and interned in Santo Tomas Prison where Gertrude was infected with leprosy. After WWII, both lived in a Louisiana leprosarium until she recovered (Please see ebay for dvd about the leprosarium called Triumph at Carville which mentions Hans and Gertrude twice).

film description cover Carmen Iglesias Garrido Santos when asked if “the Chamoru style of dealing with pain is to turn it to humor” replied, “The Chamoru way is satire. The Chamoritta (an indigenous call and response style of singing) is a kind of teasing method of singing. Only in cases where death is sudden or violent, then it’s too solemn, so they don’t make songs.” (Latte, June 1997, pg 56).

In the film, songs document islander life experiences. Batkun Chauman was a song about Chamorros enlisting in the Navy as mess hall attendees and cooks with women left behind who were hurt and lonely. Estorian Murinu was a song about the lament of a mother of Chamorro sailor who enlisted for a 4 year service. There were songs which were derived from the Japanese occupation of Guam. “Sensei na Sensei” was a well-circulated tune which ridiculed the authority of Japanese teachers with the last line of the song: No wonder you are ugly (Camacho Keith, Cultures of Commemoration Aug 2005; pg 80). “They reflect the hardship of domination and inner strength that carried people through the war. Songs were sung to get back at captors without endangering their family.” (Guam’s History in Songs Film) Songs recorded acts of desperation, disloyalty of leaders who cooperated with the occupiers during WWII.

There were strong social pressures to be loyal. "Cooperation with colonial authorities can be misunderstood, bringing to mind James Scott's notion of the 'weapons of the weak'" (Hattori Ann, Colonial Dis-Ease, 2004; pg 35). Dr. Keith Camacho wrote, “Outmatched by the Japanese military, Chamorros resorted to what James C. Scott calls ‘everyday forms of peasant resistance’ such as song, prayer and humor. They typically avoid any direct, symbolic confrontation with authority” (Camacho Keith, Cultures of Commemoration Aug 2005;pg 81). Musical expression, constituted the most powerful and popular form of resistance as Chamoros sang pre-war American Melodies when alone (ibid, pg. 79) “During the war,” assert Lindstrom and White, “Islanders composed a huge medley of songs to comment on remarkable experiences and transformations in their lives.” “Music document traumatic experience and kept sanity in brutal times when food meant for the family was appropriated by Japanese soldiers. They mark milestones and rites of passages, beliefs, survival and endurance, strength of social ties, and respect of people for each other.” (History of Guam in Songs Film)

They were used to mark the wartime execution of a leader {Father Duenas} and bolster courage and preparation of the retaking of Guam {Uncle Saum}. Keith Camacho wrote, “In Guam, “Uncle Sam” was a song sung to the melody of ‘Sierra Sue’ which personified the United States as an approachable symbol that Chamorros looked to moral guidance, courage and optimism.” On page 57, Latte Magazine, June 1997, Carmen Santos stated, “The songs represent the oral approach to the history. People were participating in their own history by composing these songs. We are the insiders looking out. It’s the story of the people of Guam.” The film Guam’s History in Songs firmly establishes it as being an Islander-Centric compilation of music forged when the spirit of the people were tempered by the war. Carmen Santos summarizes, “Folksongs of the past are reminders of history and heritage that shape us in what we are today and the memories survive to carry us into the future.”
Rudolph E. Villaverde

Gi todu i tiempo na manhihita
Guini gi hilo' tå'
Takhelo' i che'cho'-mu
Put Kotturan Chamoru
Inorabuena para hå.

KORU
Pues adios estaki, Pues adios estaki
(I) che'cho'-mu in gef agradisi
Pues adios estaki, Pues adios estaki
Då Si Yu'os Ma'å'.

Pues put uttemo, si Yu'os ga'chong-mu
Gaige hå gi tinayuyot-må
In diseseha na
Un sen gefsaga
Gi fi'on Yu'os Tå.

Click to inquire for
original DVD/VHS cassette from Carmen's Family.

Click for film credit
acknowledgement page.

Internet Explorer Ver 5 and higher works! Netscape may not work.

culture Ultimate site