Hasso' = Remember: Manenggon/Pulantat

Pulantat Latte Site
Pulantat Latte Site

Hasso' = Remember: Manenggon/Pulantat

by: Dominica Tolentino | .
Guampedia | .
published: March 27, 2016

Editor’s note: Few know how special Guam is like the folks behind Guampedia.com. Their latest endeavor is “Hasso’: Chamorro Heritage Sites Project.” In conjunction with the upcoming debut of the project’s film, Stripes Guam is partnering with Guampedia to feature one of these special sites each week to offer a glimpse into our host territory’s rich cultural heritage.  

Inland heritage site

The area known as Manenggon Hills is more than 1,300 acres that encompasses the Leo Palace golf course and resort, condominium and housing developments, as well as undeveloped lands in the municipality of Yona. 

Known more as the site of the World War II concentration camp for thousands Chamorros, Manenggon and adjoining Pulantat are mostly undeveloped lands with a wealth of significant cultural resources for the people of Guam.

The limestone landscape of the northern plateau of the island differs dramatically from the volcanic hills in the south.  Archeologists speculate that the ancient inhabitants of Manenngon/Pulantat in the southeast-central part of the island, with its fertile soil, likely were able to cultivate a variety of food plants as well as to take advantage of the abundance of other plants to meet medicinal needs or for use in building. 

In the Pre-Latte era, small gardens and encampments for collecting food could have been utilized for harvesting while the majority of the population maintained permanent residences elsewhere on Guam, such as along the coast. 

By the Latte Era (around 700-1600 AD) the presence of latte stones (foundations for houses and other structures), pottery, lusong (or mortars) and other artifacts indicate this area was more permanently settled. 

In the Spanish Era (1668-1898), the area had a few small ranches and was used for cattle grazing and planting fruit trees.  Spanish colonization and missionization activities had forced the Chamorro inhabitants to move to more centralized locations set up by the Spanish.

The nearest parish district at this time would have been Pago on Guam’s east coast, and it is presumed most of the residents of the Pulantat/Manenggon area were relocated there after the Chamorro-Spanish wars ended in 1695. By 1856, a typhoon destroyed the church in Pago and a smallpox epidemic decimated the population and Pago was essentially abandoned.

In the US Naval Era (1898 to 1941) the Manenggon/Pulantat area remained largely undeveloped.  Some trails continued to exist, but were not clearly mapped out. People had probably begun moving into Yona decades earlier, establishing small farms and raising cattle and carabao.

Navy Lt. Governor William Safford noted in 1899 that there were farms, coconut, taro, yams and fields of corn and tobacco; another observer in 1926 declared Yona was known for its oranges.  In 1915, a school was built in the village to accommodate the growing population.

During the Japanese occupation (1941-1944), just before the American invasion in July 1944, the land in Manenggon became the site of large concentration camps for the Chamorro people. The Manenggon camp was the largest on Guam with as many as 15,000 occupants, and was set up on both sides of the Ylig River. After the war, with most of their homes destroyed, the US military opened a refugee camp in Manenggon, which they renamed Yona Camp. Thousands stayed there for a time and slowly returned to their farms when the war officially ended in 1945.

By 1960, developer Dwight Look purchased the land and began to clear it to plant orchards. He attempted to raise hundreds of cattle but was unsuccessful.  Look later permitted the US military to use the land to conduct training maneuvers. In the 1990s, the Leo Palace resort was constructed and now occupies an extensive area of Manenggon Hills.

The sites in Manenggon Hills as roughly comprised of 85 prehistoric sites in all–all small except for one medium and one large site.  Eleven of the 85 sites contained intact latte sets or ruins of once-intact sets. Isolated shafts (or bases) and capstones were recovered from five sites, and it was unclear if they were indeed a part of any latte set at all. Other finds in the Manenggon site included postholes, fire-pits, manmade limestone wall formations and earth ovens,” according to one of the survey reports by archeologist Rosalind Hunter-Anderson and others at the Micronesian Archaeological Research Services. 

Numerous burials have also been found in the Manenggon area, some associated with latte and others at non-latte sites.  The majority were women, and a considerable number were young women.

In general, it is believed the lower-ranking Chamorros lived in interior villages.  Secondary burials were seen in both interior and coastal sites suggesting that these people shared a set of common social and religious beliefs.

Manenggon area was probably used by ancient peoples as far back as 1600 years ago, but was not used heavily prior to or during the early years of the Latte era.  However, occupation and use increased by about 1200 AD to its heaviest use at about 1400 AD, well before the arrival of Spanish and other Europeans.

South Pulantat Latte Complex-RCA parcel

The Pulantat area in Guam’s southern uplands lies between the Pago River and the Manenggon fork of the Ylig River.  The terrain is primarily volcanic and has remains that date to the late prehistoric Latte period occupation. It was accepted for the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

The South Pulantat area contains at least four reconstructable latte sets.  Other latte locations contain remnants of latte sets, or spatially isolated artifacts, or are associated with other prehistoric uses.

The portrait that arises of the prehistoric occupation of Guam’s interior is one where forested regions served as permanent residential locales complete with extensive latte complexes and agricultural sites, as well as some latte quarrying sites, depending upon the availability and accessibility of the rock outcrops. There is a possible stone and siltstone quarry, the first of its kind to be recorded on the island. 

Today little remains of the Pulantat site, which by 1975 had been recorded as two sites– the North and South Pulantat sites.  Cattle ranching, bulldozing and development have taken their tolls.

It is believed that the Pulantat site, at one time, held about 35 latte houses scattered across 50 hectares of land.  All but eight have been cleared away.

Spanish Cross etched into a latte

A large latte structure was recorded as standing on the site in 1945, but it has since been pushed over a bank and lies in a heap halfway down a slope. It contains one of the most unusual latte stones on Guam, bearing a Spanish cross engraved on its side.

– Read Dominica Tolentino’s complete article at: www.guampedia.com/haputo

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