U.S. Navy photos by Alana Chargualaf
U.S. Navy photos by Alana Chargualaf

Guam Residents, Military Come Together for Annual Back to Sumay Day in Guam

by Alana Chargualaf
Joint Region Marianas

SANTA RITA, Guam (April 9, 2019) – Guam residents and the military community came together to celebrate the 10th annual Back to Sumay Day at Clipper Landing Park aboard U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) in Santa Rita April 6.

Back to Sumay Day is a commemoration of the island’s former Sumay village, which was devastated during World War II. Though the Sumay area is now home to NBG, NBG leadership has welcomed former Sumay residents, their descendants, and guests back to the former village grounds to honor what was once a thriving, local community.

Largely organized by the Santa Rita Mayor’s Office staff, the Back to Sumay Day event was a collaborative effort with the NBG community, consisting of a Catholic mass, traditional fiesta buffet, entertainment, static displays, and base tours.

NBG Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Grimes found value in the event, in that it encouraged the sharing of the Sumay story and nurtured the local-military relationship.

“The most important thing about this event is that the Sumay residents come back, and they’re able to tell the story amongst themselves, the local community, and, also, our local military,” he said. “This is a great event that the Santa Rita Mayor’s Office and staff do a great job (at) every single year. It’s a true honor that we could host this event. This is just one piece of a larger effort to continue to reinforce that we’re the good neighbors, (and) that we have good people that surround us.”

Grimes hopes to continue to strengthen and expand the base’s involvement in similar events, and looks forward to the cultural and historical exchange, and cultivation of friendships.

Santa Rita Mayor Dale Alvarez anticipates the event every year. He thanked the military for their accommodations.

“The manåmko’s (elderly) of Santa Rita were born and raised here. I started this event 10 years ago, so they can come back, look at their birth place, and reminisce with others about the Sumay days,” he said. “Thanks to the military, of course. They’re very hospitable in opening the base, and making sure that I get what I need.”

Though life in Sumay is just a memory for former Sumay resident, Juan Guzman, he was happy to see those of the younger generation celebrating Back to Sumay Day.

“It means a lot. This is where I was born and raised before the war,” he said. “I enjoy seeing the new generation come down and spend time with us. It’s all up to us, now, to pass on the memories of the old village of Sumay to them.”

Sailors, hailing from various commands in Guam, assisted throughout the day’s festivities and found the event informative.

“I’m new to the island of Guam, so I volunteered to learn more about the culture here,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Yvette Hawkins, a volunteer from USS Frank Cable (AS 40). “I didn’t know all of what was involved until today, so it made a big difference; a better understanding. It’s an honor to come here and help out.”

Photo Caption:
SANTA RITA, Guam (April 6, 2019) - Juan Guzman, a resident of the former Sumay village, guides a tour of significant historical sites on U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) during the 10th annual Back to Sumay Day aboard NBG in Santa Rita April 6. Hosted by the Santa Rita Mayor’s Office, in collaboration with NBG, the event was an opportunity for former residents and their descendants to return and honor Sumay with a Catholic Mass, food, entertainment, and tours of significant historical sites around the base.

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