First written account

Fray Antonio de Los Ángeles was the first known Catholic missionary to write an account of Chamorro life. De los Ángeles was a Franciscan friar on his way from Acapulco, Mexico to the Philippines in 1596 when his ship, the San Pablo, stopped at Guam. He asked for and was given permission to remain on the island sixty-six years before the first permanent Spanish Catholic mission was established on Guam.

The first group of Franciscan missionaries sailed from Acapulco, Mexico to the Philippines in 1577. When their ship passed through the Marianas (called the Ladrones at that time) some of them wanted to be left with the Chamorros but were denied as military protection for the missionaries was not available. The governor of the Philippines, General Gomez Perez Dasmarinas, asked King Felipe II of Spain in 1591 if a presidio could be established in the Marianas.

Permission was granted in 1596 to leave missionaries, with soldiers for their protection, in the islands. During that same year Fray de Los Angeles chose to stay in the Marianas to bring Christianity to the islanders. Two soldiers followed after him, to try and persuade him to return to the ship but they were also carried off by the Chamorros.

The three were unharmed and picked up by another Spanish galleon the following year and brought to the Philippines.

Fray de Los Angeles’ sixteenth-century account was written for King Felipe II of Spain about his year-long stay on Guam. The account touches on the social life, customs, and character of the Chamorros of the time. The information pre-dates that supplied by later sources, such as Fray Juan Pobre de Zamora (1600) and Blessed Diego Luís de San Vitores (1662).

By Eric Forbes, OFM Cap.

For further reading

“The Account of a Discalced Friar’s Stay in the Islands of the Ladrones.” Guam Recorder 7, (1977):19-21.

Ribadeneira, Marcelo de. Historia de las Islas del Archipiélago Filipino, etc. Madrid: La Editorial Católoca, 1947.