Here's how Guam came to be the shape it is today

Guam Visitors Bureau

With the southern and northern ends being robust and the central being as narrow as it is, the geography of our island is unique, to say the least. But how did Guam come to be that way? Long ago the taotaomo’na, ancient ancestors of the CHamoru people, flourished on Guam. They possessed wisdom, strength, and magical abilities. They thrived on the island’s natural resources. One day, a group of peskådores (fishermen) began to notice that their island was shrinking in the middle. The Hagåtña Bay and Pago Bay were missing huge chunks of land, as if the center of Guam had been eaten away by a mighty creature. This strange occurrence continued to worsen until the taotaomo’na grew fearful that the island would soon be split into two lands. A meeting was called to discuss the growing problem but no one had any idea what was causing the central part of the island to grow smaller and smaller each day.

Defeated, the taotaomo’na returned back to their homes. But not long after, a peskådot in Pago caught sight of a giant fish eating away at the land. This large creature was the reason for the shrinking island! When he arrived back on land, he spread his account all throughout the villages. Angered, the men were determined to catch this giant fish and ensure it never ate another piece. Unfortunately, no matter how long they searched or how many canoes and men scoured the waters, the fish continued to evade them time and time again.

While the men continued their hunt, the young women of the island would gather together and talk about this elusive and mighty creature that was tearing away at their home. They would meet at the Hagåtña Springs to wash their hair in lemon water. Because of this, lemons peels would be scattered all over the springs. One day, a young maiden from Pago noticed the same lemon peels floating in the bay. Confused by how they had gotten there from the springs in Hagåtña, she soon came to realize that the giant fish must have eaten so much land that there was now a gaping hole connecting the springs to Pago Bay. She spread news of this to the women of the island.

Being the resourceful maidens they were, the ladies formulated a clever plan to trap the fish at the springs. Taking magical strands of their hair, they wove a great fish net that grew stronger and larger as they sang. Entranced by the beautiful voices of the young women, the fish swam up to the surface to enjoy the melody. When it became visible, the women threw their woven net over the large creature and trapped it. Soon after the men came to retrieve the fish and ensure it never ate another chunk of Guam again and the young ladies were celebrated for saving their island from destruction.

Legends serve many purposes. They entertain audiences, provide explanations for odd occurrences, and educate generations on timeless and universal themes. Most of all, they serve as mirrors of a culture –– reflecting the values and beliefs of a group of people. This legend not only shows the resourcefulness and creativity of the ancient CHamoru people, but it also highlights the deep love and respect our island has for its women and land.

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