Maga’låhi Gadao Statue. Guampedia photo.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, on the island of Guahan in the Mariana Islands there lived two manmaga’låhi (chiefs) named Malaguana and Gadao. Malaguana was the maga’låhi of Tomhom (Tumon) in Northern Guahan. Gadao was from southern Guahan and was the maga’låhi of Inalåhan.

The manmaga’låhi, in those days, were usually the strongest and wisest members of their clans. However, there was much debate about who was the strongest and mightiest maga’låhi of the entire island. Legend had it that because of his tremendous strength, Malaguana was widely regarded as being the greatest maga’låhi of Guahan. This unofficial title was something that Malaguana and the villagers of Tomhom were proud of and quick to defend. However, there was one skeptic from another village who, during a visit to his relatives in Tomhom, expressed his belief that Malaguana was no match for Gadao.

“Although Malaguana is one of the strongest and mightiest manmaga’låhi of Guahan, his strength is nothing compared to that of Gadao of Inalahan village,” said the visitor.

When Malaguana heard about the visitor’s remark he was eager to visit Inalåhan to prove that he was stronger and mightier than Gadao. “I am the strongest and the greatest maga’låhi of Guahan and I will prove it by defeating Gadao in a duel of strength!” boasted Malaguana.

Determined to end the debate over who was the strongest maga’låhi of Guahan Malaguana made his way to Inalåhan. As he entered the southern coastal village Malaguana met up with a man who appeared to be a village farmer. Little did he know that the farmer was Maga’låhi Gadao.

“Hafa adai!” Malaguana called out, “I am Maga’låhi Malaguana of Tomhom, the greatest maga’låhi of Guahan, and I am here to challenge the strength of Gadao. Bring me to him at once!”

Gadao was surprised at Malaguana’s words. He decided not to reveal his true identity just yet. He said in a friendly tone, “Welcome to Inalåhan, Maga’låhi Malaguana. If you wish to meet Gadao I will certainly take you to him. But since you’ve traveled such a long way, I would first like you to join me for some refreshing coconut juice.”

“Thank you,” Malaguana said gratefully.

Gadao went to the nearest coconut tree and with incredible force shook the tree until all the coconuts came falling down. Gadao picked one up from the ground and, with his bare hands, cracked it into two perfect halves, giving one half to Malaguana.

Malaguana was astonished by what he had just witnessed. He could not believe that an ordinary man could possess such tremendous strength. When Gadao looked the other way, Malaguana picked up one of the fallen coconuts and attempted to crack it open with his bare hands. He couldn’t do it, and began to doubt his superiority over Gadao.

“If an ordinary Inalåhan farmer possesses this much strength, how much stronger is their Maga’låhi Gadao?” Malaguana thought to himself. Unwilling to risk defeat and ruin his reputation, Malaguana decided to return to Tomhom.

“I thought you wanted me to introduce you to Gadao?” said Gadao, as he observed Malaguana getting ready to depart. For a moment Malaguana was silent as he thought of an excuse. He finally said, “I’m sorry, I must go home now. I have been away from Tomhom too long and I feel that my leadership is greatly needed back home.”

Gadao was quite pleased at this outcome because he was able to intimidate Malaguana without actually challenging him. Gadao decided against revealing his true identity because he knew that Malaguana would go home thinking that Gadao was more powerful than he actually was.

Gadao, however, felt sorry for Malaguana and decided to offer to take him home by canoe and Malaguana accepted Gadao’s offer. The two maga’låhi got into Gadao’s canoe and began to paddle in opposite directions. Unaware that the other was paddling in the opposing direction, both maga’låhi paddled harder and harder as they noticed that the canoe wasn’t moving. Finally, the opposing forces, the canoe split in half and both maga’låhi were thrust in opposite directions.

Gadao cave

As a remembrance of this event, Gadao drew the story on a wall in a cave. Today, this same petroglyph is still well preserved in Gadao’s Cave in Inalåhan. In honor of Gadao, a statue was placed alongside Inalåhan Bay. The statue is a huge figure of Gadao sitting in his portion of the ripped canoe and holding a paddle.

Editor’s note: Excerpted from “Legends of Guam,” produced by the class members of an education class at the College of Guam in 1962.