DA – In the Chamorro culture in Guam, there are the spirits of the Chamorro ancestors. You ask for permission so you don’t disturb the spirits, called the taotaomo’na.
Interviewer – For entering the forest?
DA – Yeah. The taotaomo’na live in the forest and also protect it.
(DA shows me a picture of a stone structure. It is made of two massive stone shape: one is a wide column, and on top is a round bulge with a flat side facing upwards. There are two people in the background to show how massive this structure is)
DA – If you see these structures in the forest, you should leave immediately. These are the latte stones and it’s a marker that it’s an ancient Chamorro site. They were just used as pillars or support for ancient Chamorro homes and stuff like that.
Interviewer – What is the significance of Chamorro sites and what would happen?
DA – I guess you can kinda treat them as tombs. There’s probably very likely ancient spirits in there that you shouldn’t disturb out of respect, and if you do, you would be cursed and get some sort of illness or physical pain.
Interviewer – Are ancestors and spirits generally a big part of Chamorro culture?
DA – Yeah! Respecting your elders is one of the important things you have to learn in the culture, so that also plays a part in it.
Interviewer – And is there anything you can do to lift the curses of the Chamorro?
DA – Yeah! Witch doctors (in the Philippines: albularyo, in guam: suruhanu). First they see what’s causing whatever you’re feeling. Usually with melted candle wax and a bowl of water: they let it drip and the hardened wax would form into who caused it. And they tell you what to do based on that. But I don’t really know much about this part.•
DA – I read up on it to refresh my memory, but it makes sense why they wouldn’t be kind to visitors. Spain, Japan, and the US fucked up the culture pretty bad. (By the 18th and 19th centuries, travelers were likely to see latte stones in areas abandoned after foreign diseases wiped out a lot of the Chamorro population)
DA – It’s a good thing a big part still survived, but barely anyone speaks the language. It’s part of the required courses in the education system. My Chamorro teacher and I talked about this before. The problem is not many people are really interested in continuing to learn beyond the requirements. You only need to take one year of Chamorro language in high school, and most students take it freshman year. And like everyone tends to do, they forget most of it by the time they graduate. And there aren’t many speakers in the first place either.
The taotaomo’na spirits were the ancestors of the Chamorro people, native to Guam. It is important to be respectful not only to living ancestors, but also to those who passed on a long time ago. Signs of their presence, like the latte stones, are common in places where many of the Chamorro had been killed of from foreign plague, and also act as tombs. It is common knowledge in Guam not to risk drawing bad things or curses to yourself by disrespecting the dead. The informant recalls that these stones are some of the best preserved remnants of the Chamorro culture, because so much of it died out due to foreign plague, assimilation into western cultures, including the language. Although the informant learned more of the Chamorro language than most in their high school, the informant regrets that they have also forgotten much of what they learned.