Elders

Manåmko’ is a Chamorro word which means the elderly. Manåmko’ can be translated into two words: The main word or subject is amko meaning elderly, with man making it plural.

Like most indigenous cultures, Chamorro elderly are the first teachers for children in the family or clan. Chamorros are taught to respect and honor manåmko’ for their role as teachers, passing and sharing the Chamorro traditions and culture. Respect for them grows as they age for they are responsible for knowing their culture, traditions, genealogy, history, land, secrets, language, crafts, and leading the next generations into the future. They are the link from the past to the future of the Chamorro people and the land.

Manåmko’ are respected simply because of their age and the knowledge that they hold. When a younger Chamoro meets manåmko’ they are expected to nginge’ which is the Chamorro way of showing respect and taking in some of that elder’s spirit and wisdom. To nginge’ a person takes the elder’s right hand and bows, touching the back of the hand to the forehead and saying ñora to a woman and ñot to a man. It is also acceptable to kiss the manåmko’s cheek. In return manåmko’ are obliged to give her or his blessings.

Being around the manåmko’ and listening to what they have to say helps keep the Chamorro culture alive as they pass on traditions and customs. This cultural sharing and teaching can be observed at family and social gatherings. An example can be seen in almost any Chamorro kitchen in preparation for a function. The elder is in charge of the kitchen and assigns people their duties. At this time the manåmko’ shares their knowledge of traditional ways of preparing a dish or a family recipe and instructs the younger generation on how things should be done. This time together is also used for passing on oral histories, traditions, secrets, and any other culturally relevant knowledge.

The knowledge from manåmko’ can only be fully understood when man’hoben or children are ready to listen and understand that they need this knowledge to continue age old traditions. Manåmko’ are the living Chamorro encyclopedia.

By Lina Taitingfong

For further reading

Department of Chamorro Affairs Research, Publication and Training Division. Chamorro Heritage: A Sense of Place; Guidelines for Authenticating Chamorro Heritage. Hagåtña: Department of Chamorro Affairs Research, Publication and Training Division, 2003.

Political Status Education Coordinating Commission. Hale’-ta – I Ma Gobetna-na Guam: Governing Guam Before and After the Wars. Hagåtña: Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, 1994.

Topping, Donald M., Pedro M. Ogo and Bernadita C. Dungca. Chamorro-English Dictionary. Honolulu: University Press of Hawai`i, 1975.