Guma’ Uritao. Image courtesy of Bess Press, Inc.

Language of bachelors

Fino’ gualåfon was a style of language developed and used by young bachelors in ancient CHamoru society.  The term fino’ gualåfon translates as follows: “fino’” is language and “gualåfon” is the full phase of the moon, or specifically,  full moon language or language of the full moon.

Young CHamoru bachelors were referred to as uritao. The uritao lived together in one of the largest houses in the village called the guma’ uritao or house of bachelors. In the guma’ uritao, young men would learn the trades and skills required to become a man. The uritao were also schooled in the oral traditions of singing, chanting, dancing, storytelling, sexual practices, poetry, and debate.

Fino’ gualåfon was considered a mysterious language by early visitors to the Marianas.  The language was created by the uritao and was used primarily in speaking with each other. In the guma’ uritao the young men would confide in each other and establish life long bonds. Fino’ gualåfon may have developed as a result of how close the uritao were to one another.

Fino’ gualåfon was used primarily in love songs. The uritao were instructed how to sing and were often responsible for creating new songs. The fino’ gualåfon was a result of their learning and was their creative addition to their abilities as performers.

Jesuits missionaries brought Christianity to the Marianas in 1668 and by the time the CHamoru-Spanish wars ended in 1695 the tradition of fino’ gualåfon was lost.  As Christianity gained influence with the CHamoru people, the Jesuits were able to get rid of the guma’ uritao which they considered undesirable.  The uritao, without a place to learn or create songs, did not continue the mysterious language of fino’ gualåfon.

By Nathalie Pereda

For further reading

Cunningham, Lawrence J. Ancient Chamorro Society. Honolulu: Bess Press, 1992.

–––. “Pre-Christian Chamorro Courtship and Marriage Practices Clash with Jesuit Teaching.” In Guam History: Perspectives. Volume Two. Edited by Lee D. Carter, William L. Wuerch, and Rosa Roberto Carter. Mangilao: Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 2005.

Freycinet, Louis Claude Desaulses de. An Account of the Corvette L’Uraine’s Sojourn at the Mariana Islands, 1819. Translated by Glynn Barratt. Saipan: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Historic Preservation, 2003.

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