Chief Quipuha (Ke puha) Statue

Photo of
AganaFronting the Chief Kepuha statue is the "Boat Basin" at Paseo de Susanna a peninsula created from the debris of war-torn Agana or Hagåtña. Guam has the distinction of being the only remaining populated U.S. soil invaded on Dec 8 1941 and occupied by another country during WWII {3 remote Aleution isles off Alaska were also invaded}. While the U.S. Marines defended Cabras Island, Agana Heights and parts of Agana in Category F, some Chamoru Guam Insular Guards {Pedro Cruz, Vicente Chargualaf and Ramon Camacho} mounted a brave but futile defense of Government House during the Japanese Invasion. During the occupation, atrocities, grenade slaughters and rapes were common. Concentration camps at Manengon and other interior sites were established by the 29th Division of Japan's Kwantung Army. 600 Chamorus were officially executed {some were beheaded due to the Chamoru 3-year humanitarian effort to successfully feed and hide a U.S. Navy radioman George Tweed from capture}. The Campaign of Guam which started on July 21 1944 by the Americans was marked by a record tonnage of naval bombardment with 7,000 U.S. casualties and 11,000 Japanese perished. Post-Conflict Islanders have since embraced both countries in friendship.

Photo of Chief Quipuha
(Kepuha)

The Spanish Occupation March 6, 1521-June 20, 1898
Chief Kepuha was Guam's first Catholic chief. The name Kepuha or Quipuha means "To uphold". He granted the lands upon which the Basilica stands. The Basilica is the first Catholic church on Guam erected in 1669.

The matriarchy society of ancient chamorros was dominated by women or maga'hagas. Kepuha was depicted as having stood tall and robust. He had gained prominence in 17th Century Hagatna because of his post as maga'lahi, or high-ranking male. He had the authority to hand down important decisions made with the advise and consent of the highest ranking woman in his clan, the maga'haga.

June 15, 1668 341 years ago - the Ship "San Diego" with Spanish Jesuit missionaries, headed by Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores of Burgos, Spain, landed off the shores of Hagatna Guahan and were welcomed by Chief Kepuha. Other members of the mission were Padres Tomas Cardenese, Luis de Medina, Luis Morales, and Pedro de Casanova. they were accompanied by Lorenzo Bustillo, a lay brother; Captain Juan de Santa Cruz, Sergeant Major Juan de Santiago, a few other laymen and 32 soldiers, 19 of whom were Filipinos. The missionaries were met by a man named Pedro, a survivor of the "Concepcion," a galleon that was wrecked near Saipan (Tony Palomo, Pacific Sunday News, "This month in Guam History" June 15, 2008; 18).

Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores, who with other priests and soldiers established a Catholic mission in the M arianas. Kepuha welcomed the missionaries and later allowed himself to be baptized by San Vitores as Don Juan Kepuha (Levesque, Rodrique. 1992 History of Micronesia. Religious Conquest Vol 4.; 556). He remained faithful to his new-found religion and provided a large plot of land for the mission. The first Catholic church in Guam was built on that plot. In those days, land was owned by clans, and only women could 'inherit' land. It is presumed but undocumented that the maga'haga of his clan may have had some decision on the granting of land. Chief Kepuha died within 6 months on 23 Dec 1668 as stated by Fr. Medina (Levesque, Rodrique. 1992 History of Micronesia. Religious Conquest Vol 4.; 556) but his legacy had a tremendous impact on all Chamorros by allowing the Spanish to successfully establish a strong foothold and refuge in the Marianas for the Manila Galleon Trade. Ironically, the burial of Kepuha under the Hagatna Church as insisted by San Vitores rather than under his traditional family home latte foundation created Chamoru resentment of the Jesuits. Dissatisfaction would increase with the abandonment of other Chamorro cultural practices imposed by the Spanish and mortality of babies exposed to European pathogens.

The Chamorro Spanish War 1671 - 1698

The War began with the murder of a Mexican boy who went to the mountains unescorted [contrary to Father Superior's orders] to cut branches for crosses. In searching for the culprit, Spanish Sergeant Major Don Santiago was blocked by Magalahi Guafac who might have been protecting a suspect. Unaware of the high-ranking chamorri's authority, the soldiers killed him. A few days afterwards, 2000 combatants led by Magalahi Hurao and supported by a Chinese Buddist named Choco Sangley, attacked 31 soldiers {ref. Freycinet}. The soldiers armed with muskets and 2 cannons, clergy and civilians were sheltered in a blockade. Before the attack, the Spanish were pre-warned by a baptised Chamorro named Antonio Ayhi. Magalahi Hurao was captured during a Spanish sortie and was released by the urging of San Vitores following peace negotiations with his relatives.

In the morning of Sept 11 1671, Magalahi Hurao and his 2000 men regrouped and went to battle again. The assaults were interrupted by a Typhoon on Sept 18 1671. In one of the Spanish sallies, Hurao was recaptured. After a post-typhoon assault which was repulsed, a temporary peace was reached with the release of Hurao again upon insistance of Sanvitores. Photo of
San Vitores Statue

Upon his release, Hurao resumed the battle which so far lasted 35 days which ended after a Spanish raid on their trenches. Magalahi Quipuha the Second extended an offer of peace accepting Spanish conditions of attending mass, baptising their babies, repairing the church and sending their children to catechism classes. Peace was temporary as Quiphua the Second and Hurao later engaged the Spanish in battle.

In April 2, 1672, Padre San Vitores and his Filipino assistant, Pedro Calansor were killed by a bone-tip lance and cutlass by Chief Mata'pang ("to be made pure by cleansing") of Tomhom {Tumon} and Chief Hurao. Click here for Hurao's Speech. The name Hurao or Hirao means "emotion, caring, attention, heed". From the book, "The Life and Martyrdom of Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J. pg 251 252" here is the synopsis: They arrived here (Tomhom) at seven in the morning, when Father San Vitores learned of a newborn baby girl. He went at once to the house of the father, whose name was Matapang and begged him to bring out the daughter for him to baptise. "Go ahead, imposter, go into my house and baptise a skull there." And adding other insults, he (Matapang) threatened him with death. To this the charitable father replied, "Well, you are baptized, so let me baptize your daughter and then kill me. I will gladly give up the life of my body, that she may gain the life of her soul." Then in order to give the barbarian time to calm his anger, Father San Vitores gathered a group of children and began to teach them the Christian doctrine, calling Matapang to some and listen. But he answered, "I don't want to learn. I'm fed up and angry at God." Then Matapang tied to persuade another Indio [Hurao], a pagan, who had come to where the children were, to kill the father. Hirao resisted. Hirao, not wishing to be thought a coward, consented and Matapang, glad to have an accomplice, went to get their three lances, giving Father San Vitores time to baptise his [Matapang's] daughter, which he did. The barbarian was angered still more because of this. He (Matapang) first attacked Father San Vitores' companion...after he (Pedro Chalangsor a Visayan) had avoided many thrown lances, one at last struck him, and Hirao, running up with a cutlass, gave him (Pedro) the crown of martyrdom with a deep wound to the head. Seeing them approach ... he (San Vitores) spoke in the Mariana language, "May God have mercy on you, Matapang!" Whereupon Hirao struck him with a cutlass, wounding his head, which dropped forward on his neck, while Matapang ran him through the chest with a lance." [end of synopsis].

Being villified for centuries, the name Mata'pang evolved to mean "silly". On Guam, this event is of great significance since it sparked the escalation of Spanish retribution and War. There are speculation as to the Chief's motivation as... The frustration of being made obedient to a remote foreign Spanish King had forced societal changes which threatened the nobility. A bid to demoralize the Spanish occupation. Perhaps the reason was simply a father's rage of possibly losing a daughter to the water of baptism which Chamorus believed was killing other babies. Matapang's daughter grew to an adult and was later mentioned in Spanish writings after the war.

One Hundred years earlier, in 1565 a Basque sailor, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi led by his flagship San Pedro, claimed the islands of the Chamorus as the property of the Kingdom of Spain. This occurred 44 years after Ferdinand Magellan's {Fernao de Magalhaes} scurvy stricken crew landed on Guam on March 6, 1521. The inhabitants of the islands did not consent to this declaration of taking. Mata'pang, who himself was baptised by San Vitores turned against the Christian mission and Spanish authority. Mata'pang engaged his final battle on the Northern Island of Rota in 1680 with the Spanish military governor Jose de Quiroga. Magalahi (Chief) Mata'pang died from lance wounds incurred during the battle while being transported from Rota to Guam.

The battles gave the Marianas mission the reputation of being among the most dangerous in the Spanish dominion. While Padre San Vitores tried to carry out his mission in a peaceful manner, the Spanish military attended to theirs ruthessly utilizing an imbalance of weaponary - gunpowder versus lances. The last galleon voyage was recorded in 1815. Between 1670 and 1695, many battles took place and thousands of people were killed by diseases. During the course of the Spanish occupation only a few thousand survivors were left in the entire Marianas. Chamorus after 1695 were forced to settle in five villages: Agana, Agat, Umatac, Pago, and Fena. Monitored by the priests and military garrison, they were forced to attend Church daily and to learn the Spanish language and customs.

By 1740 the Chamorus of northern Mariana Islands, except Rota, were removed from their home islands and exiled to Guam. The cultural skill of ocean navigation was extinguished. The Spanish war of extermination plunged the total population of local inhabitants. Historian Benigno Palomo noted that the First official Spanish census of Guam and Rota was taken in 1710, which indicated that there were 3,143 natives in these islands and 471 Spanish/Mestizo people. There were no other nationalities recorded in that census. Padre San Vitores' mission in Agana survived and serves as the center for all other Catholic churches in Guam and the rest of the Marianas.

Some info above was taken from Hale'ta / Produced and Published by Political Status Education Coordinating Commission Vol 1 Agana, Guam 1995 ISBN 1-8834-88-04-4


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