Flora Baza Quan
Queen of Chamorro Music
Flora Baza Quan is a renowned CHamoru/Chamorro singer and songwriter from Guam, who has been performing and recording for more than thirty years. Known affectionately as the “Queen of Chamorro Music,” Baza Quan is a pioneer of contemporary Chamorro music, lending her signature sound and vocal talents to perpetuating Chamorro culture. Some of her recognized favorites include “Hagu,” “Puti Tai Nobiu” and “Hinasso.”
Originally from Sinajana village in central Guam, Baza Quan is the daughter of Jesus A. Baza and Josefa C. Baza. She has three brothers and three sisters. Baza Quan graduated from the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, an all-girls high school located in Hagåtña. She earned a BA in sociology from the University of Guam, where she graduated Cum Laude and was a member of the Chi Omicron Gamma National Honor Society of UOG. She earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 1999. In addition, Baza Quan is a Certified Fund Raising Manager (CFRM) by Purdue University’s Fundraising School in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Baza Quan began singing and performing at an early age, although she never received formal music or vocal training except for what she was taught by the Franciscan Sisters and Mercy Sisters at St. Jude Elementary (now Bishop Baumgartner School) and the Academy of Our Lady of Guam high school. She recalls her mother Josefa telling stories about a 2- or 3-year old Flora singing as a toddler with her grandmother, Martina. The young Baza Quan would also attend novenas with her grandmother who was a techa (prayer leader) and sing with her during the services. Her talent recognized, she was often encouraged by her neighbors to sing at community gatherings such as fiestas, and her teachers, especially the religious sisters, would ask her to perform musical solos for operettas held at St. Jude’s and Academy. In fact, her first public singing debut was at a 4-H Club islandwide talent show. After this, she joined a group named the “Judettes” and went on to win another islandwide talent show with the group’s rendition of Aretha Franklin’s, “I Say a Little Prayer.”
In addition to singing, Baza Quan excelled academically. She graduated third in her class from the Academy, where she was also active as the editor of the school newspaper (The Checkerboard) and president of the National Honor Society. She began attending the University of Guam after graduation.
During her studies, while she was working as a student intern with the Department of Corrections, Baza Quan was encouraged by the members of the Guam Beauty Association to join the Miss Guam International Contest, which she won. The contest gave her the opportunity to compete in the Miss International Contest in Osaka, Japan, in 1970. The following year she was asked to compete in the Miss Asia Quest contest in the Philippines, where she won Miss Talent, Miss Friendship, and the title of Miss Asia Quest in 1971 against contestants from around the Pacific region and Europe. With her win, Baza Quan became the first Chamorro Guamanian to win an international beauty contest. For the talent portion of the contest, Baza Quan had played guitar while singing the popular hit, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
As Miss Asia Quest, Baza Quan was able to travel the world numerous times with other pageant winners, and also serve as Tourism Ambassadress of Goodwill for Guam with Transworld Airlines (TWA). Whenever she made guest appearances, she would sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and another crowd favorite, “Love Story.”
Despite her whirlwind reign, Baza Quan completed her sociology degree, graduating Cum Laude.
Musical talent was abundant in the Baza family. Her brother, Edwin, and all her sisters played guitar and piano and composed their own music. Her sister, Janice, was the composer/lyricist for one of Baza Quan’s most well known songs, “Hagu,” and another sister, Louise, co-composed Guam’s Notre Dame High School’s alma mater. Baza Quan also performed as lead female singer with her cousin’s band, the Hytones, on weekends or at parties and family gatherings.
Baza Quan idolized the singers on popular television programs like The Allen Sekt Talent Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, where she saw the Beatles perform. She also loved the music of local talents Maria Quintanilla and the Sunset Twins, Josefa and Esther Cruz. Whenever she visited her maternal grandparents in Malesso’, she was treated to her mother’s younger sister’s love of country and western songs, adding to her repertoire of music styles. She was drawn to singers like the Everly Brothers, Skeeter Davis and Paul Anka. There was also the music of Connie Francis, whose signature songs included, “Where the Boys Are” and “Lipstick on Your Collar.” Influenced by the American pop music style of the time, Baza Quan took these contemporary upbeat and sincere styles and infused them into her own songs, creating a signature sound.
In 1973, Baza Quan teamed up with another pioneer of contemporary Chamorro music, Johnny Sablan, to produce two songs on his album Casamiento. The songs, entitled, “I Pution” and “Puti Tai Nobio,” are about love and loss, and are richly enhanced by Baza Quan’s melodic voice. She worked with other local producers, including Tom Bejado and the Charfauros Brothers. In 1982, she produced a second album entitled, Flora Baza—Queen of Chamorro Music. The eponymous album represents the title given to her by loyal music fans.
In 1993, she produced Todu i Tiempo, which includes the songs “Y Chamorro,” “Sirena” and “Manu Hit Mohon Sin Guinaya.” In recent years, she released a Christmas album entitled, Merry Christmas from Guam and Micronesia, featuring her daughter Jessica. Today, her memorable melodies “Hinasso”–one of her original compositions–“Sirena,” “Hagu” and “Y Chamorro” are considered classics. Her music and lyrics touch a wide audience, especially generations of Chamorros interested in learning about and embracing their Pacific Island identity.
In addition to recording and live performances, Baza Quan’s career has included numerous stints of community service and promotion of Chamorro cultural heritage through music and the arts. Between 1973 and 1986, Baza Quan produced shows for various local organizations. Singing was not her only talent–she also danced with the original dance group Taotaotano and performed with them during a South Pacific arts festival.
Her versatility on stage led to several lead roles in local drama productions, including the first Chamorro opera Likeawake, which was based on the local legend of the White Lady and performed at the UOG Fine Arts theatre. She also had roles playing Anna in The King and I, Evita in Women of Broadway, and Nancy in Oliver, among others. Additionally, she was emcee at various Chamorro heritage audio-video documentaries, local and international pageants and cultural festivals. In 1992 she returned to the stage, participating in the production Kanton i Taotao Tano, a showcase of Chamorro culture, music and dance, along with longtime friend and fellow vocalist, Johnny Sablan.
Baza Quan’s background in fundraising and project management led to other opportunities outside of music and performing. In 1984, she accepted a three-year appointment to the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA) Board of Directors. From 1987 to 1993, she served as the Capital Improvements Project Director and Co-Chair of the St. John’s High School Planning and Construction Committee which oversaw the construction of the new high school and gym for St. John’s School in upper Tumon. Baza Quan was also a member on the Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA) board, and in 1993, she was appointed Director of the Chamorro Heritage Foundation board, which was implemented to coordinate various cultural and Chamorro language activities from among the different governmental agencies. A year later, she joined the War Reparation Task Force, which, at the time, was sponsored by Congressman Robert Underwood, in an effort to seek compensation for Guam residents who suffered during World War II.
During this time, Baza Quan directed the filming of several oral histories for the Department of Parks and Recreation Division of Historic Preservation, which focused on World War II experiences, the influence of Spanish culture, sports history on Guam, Chamorro lifestyles and healing practices, and life in the village of Sumai. Her work culminated in a documentary series entitled, The Many Faces of Guam. In two parts, The Many Faces of Guam: Life in Sumay and The Many Faces of Guam: World War II documented oral histories about life on Guam in the years prior to, during and shortly after the Second World War. Life in Sumay, in particular, featured interviews with former residents of Sumai who described their lives in the village before the US Navy took over the land to create Naval Station in the late 1940s.
More recently Baza Quan has engaged in community service. She returned to the CAHA Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008. For eight years, from 2000 to 2008, she served as Executive Director of the University of Guam Endowment Foundation. Her time at the Endowment Foundation saw much success in building a network of committed individuals and corporate sponsors, and the Foundation received more than $8 million in donations for scholarship programs, campus improvements, and the construction of the Jesus S. and Eugenia A. Leon Guerrero School of Business and Public Administration. She also helped solicit funds for improvements to the University’s library from benefactors such as Dr. Tan Siu Lin, Dr. Lucio Tan and Henry Sy, among others.
While at the Endowment Fund, Baza Quan also helped organize the first ever conference that focused specifically on issues of Chamorro language, culture and perspectives. Representatives from throughout the Mariana Islands participated in the three-day conference to share information and research on topics such as healing practices, language and revival of Chamorro culture. Commenting on her role, not as an activist, but as one of the early Chamorro recording artists, Baza Quan said:
Some people call us ‘activists’ but we’re not… We recorded our songs and the culture is not dead. It’s not dying. It’s very alive. And this conference is a reaffirmation that there’s nothing dead about our culture.
Today, family commitments and running a business take up much of Baza Quan’s time. She is currently a licensed realtor and owns her own consulting firm, FB Enterprises. When she has time, Baza Quan paints scenes of Guam and other places she has visited, and she loves to cook and entertain. Although she only makes special appearances now, such as during the 10th Anniversary of local dance group Inetnon Gef Pago’ in 2010, Baza Quan’s music is still played during performances of local dance, in promotional advertisements, as well as on Guam radio stations and social networking formats like YouTube. Some of her children are working on re-recording some of her songs to be released in the future. In 2011, Baza Quan was honored during the Chamorro Island Music Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Johnny Sablan.
Baza Quan is married to Anthony F. Quan, Sr., and is the mother of four: Anthony, Edwin, Jomia and Jessica.
Flora Baza’s album Queen of Chamorro Music.
For further reading
FB Enterprises. “Hafa Adai! Welcome to FB Enterprises.”
I Manfayi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History. VoI. 3. The Hale’-ta Series. Hagåtña: Department of Chamorro Affairs, Division of Research, Publication, and Training, 2002.
Lynott, Samantha. “Chamorro Conference Exhibits Cultural Pride, Not Political Activism.” KUAM News, 30 March 2006.