Exploring 19 villages on Guam
Exploring 19 villages on Guam
Our footprint-shaped island is divided into 19 villages, each with its own distinct history and character.
Each of Guam's villages is also home to its own Catholic church.
Over the centuries, these communities' identities have evolved from bases for farming, ranching, and fishing to residential centers, hubs for commerce and history, and bases for the same food-producing activities that have long been a focus of life on Guam.
Visitors are invited to take special note of the island's colorful and uplifting village murals, beautiful works of art that arose as part of a revitalization project to unify the island, spearheaded by the Guam Visitors Bureau in cooperation with local mayors, businesses, schools, and residents.
Architecture in Guamanian villages varies widely, from strongly Spanish-influenced edifices to the matching two-story concrete homes in Asan-Maina, where in the 1980s the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority undertook a major redevelopment of residential structures, even painting the suburban-style houses the same color.
Some villages' borders are formed by modern highways, while the boundaries of others are defined by natural features; the municipality of Chalan Pago/Ordot, across the narrow "waist" of Guam, divides the predominantly volcanic southern half of the island from its mostly limestone northern half.
Catholic Church: Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
Fiesta: Follows Thanksgiving weekend
The villages of Asan/Maina, Hagåtña, Ordot/Chalan Pago and Sinajana border Agana Heights.
The sections of the village are As Apugan, Tipugan, Fonte, Hilaan, Taigigao and Charito. Fonte River divides Agana Heights from Maina village and Taigigao Street is the boundary separating Agana Heights from Ordot/Chalan Pago. Sinajana village and Agana Heights village are also separated by a shared roadway.
Prior to World War II, Agana Heights was a farming community for residents who lived in Hagåtña. Today, sprinkled throughout the village are some beautiful homes with gated and manicured lawns, quaint residential homes, apartment complexes, and a row of buildings that serve as homes to different religious denominations and organizations. Agana Heights has been transformed into a thriving cosmopolitan community.
Before World War II, Agana Heights was primarily farmland for the residents of Hagåtña. It was also the site for the Spanish militia's "lookout" for incoming ships and possible danger. That site today is Fort Santa Agueda, also known as Fort Apugan, which is a popular tour site because of its panoramic view of the island's capital city, bay of Hagåtña, the Philippine Sea, and the sheer northern clifflines of Oka Point and Urunao Point.
Before World War II, the US military used the area where the US Naval Hospital Marianas now stands for officer's quarters and a sick bay. During the war, the Japanese military used the facilities for training carrier pigeons as a means of communication. After the recapture of the island by U.S. forces, the facilities were utilized as an internment camp for prisoners of war.
Catholic Church: Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Santa Ana
While many regard Agat as the western gateway to the south, it is also the commercial center of the south. Numerous businesses - from merchants and restaurants to the seventy-room Inn on the Bay - have sprung up in the once-quiet seaside village in the last twenty-five years. Despite Agat's thriving business center, the old heart of the village that includes Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Convent and School, still exists.
The seaside village of Agat lies just south of Naval Base Guam. The village's main road, Route 2, meanders through several commercial and residential areas. The road also leads to a group of public buildings, such as the Agat Community Center and mayor's office and a community library and police station. Farther south, Route 2 runs along the coast of some of the finest beaches on Guam including Nimitz Beach. Nearby is the popular Agat Marina.
The village of Agat is also home to several parks dedicated to the events of World War II. These parks are part of the National Park Service's War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
It is believed that Chief Coroo headed the first clan of Agat. Beloved by his people, he was also the eldest in the clan. Chief Coroo divided the village into families, each with its own surname. Many of these survive today but are referred to as Chamorro family names, such names as Koroo, Kamachili, De'chi, Dagu, Kusiu, Min, Ato and Gotgohu, to name a few.
Spanish Governor Don Jose Quiroga then designed Old Agat between 1680 and 1684 as a settlement for rebellious Islanders whose homes he had destroyed during the Chamorro rebellion. Many of its citizens were brought from the interior village of Fena. The first church in Agat was established in late 1680. In the early 1700s this church was one of only six parishes on Guam.
Pre-war Agat was a small village with coasts lined with coconut trees that produced copra (coconut meat). The village also supported farming, ranching, and fishing. Rice paddies existed on the coastal flats as well as the flat inland areas.
Catholic Church, Asan: Niño Perdido and Maina: Our Lady of Purification
Fiesta: Last Saturday in December and Last Saturday of January
The district of Asan-Maina encompasses a large area, including the main coastal village of Asan, the community of Maina nestled in a valley between Nimitz Hill and Agana Heights, and most of Nimitz Hill (also known as Libugon) and land beyond it further inland.
The main village of Asan was redeveloped in the 1980s by the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA). The redevelopment changed the village's look from its more traditional Spanish flavor to a fairly modern-looking suburban appearance. The streets were straightened, sidewalks were added and the houses are nearly all concrete with many two-stories high. GHURA still owns many of the houses in the main village, houses that were all built exactly alike, and even painted the same color. Space was limited by the ocean to the west and the hills to the east, which necessitated the two-story structures and small yards.
The village sits partly on the hillside of Nimitz Hill and partly on the flat land below it, just in front of the sea. Many of the houses are built on steep roads going up the hillside, reminiscent of San Francisco. The Catholic church, Niño Perdido Y Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), sits at the center of the village, along with the community center and mayor's office.
Maina rests in a valley of lush vegetation, bamboo groves and colorful flowers that come right up to the houses and the main road. The small community is spread out along one small, winding main road, one end of which meets the road going up Nimitz Hill and twists its way to the back side of Agana Heights. The small Fonte Bridge at the end of the road is the site of the famous Guam legend of the "White Lady."
The village of Asan was predominantly a fishing village in pre-Spanish times that switched to farming with the settlement of the Spaniards. Villages grew taro, rice and sugar cane on the fertile flatland between the beach and the hills.
In 1892, Asan beach was the site of a Leper Colony, which was used for eight years until destroyed by a typhoon. Then in 1901 the area was turned into a prison camp for exiled Filipino insurrectionists, including Apolonario Mabini, a leader against the US takeover of the Philippines, who is today considered a Philippine national hero.
In 1917, when the US declared war on Germany, the enlisted men of the German cruiser SMS Cormoran, which had been docked in Apra Harbor for three years, were imprisoned at Asan Point by the naval authorities.
In 1922, Asan Point became a US Marine Corps camp with a quartermaster depot, a small arms range, and barracks, but the area, along with most of the island, was demilitarized in 1931.
During World War II, Asan beach played a vital part in the American recapture of Guam from the occupying Japanese forces. On July 21, 1944, the American invasion took place on the beaches of Asan and Agat, beginning with a bombardment of the island at 5:30 a.m. Japanese defensive positions were placed on top and on both sides of Asan and Adelup points. The United States Armed Forces had four battleships, three cruisers, and three destroyers just off of Asan.
Catholic Church: San Vicente
Fiesta: Early April
Barrigada is a land-locked village located near the center of the island on Guam's limestone plateau. It stretches from the cliffline overlooking Harmon Industrial Park in the East to Mt. Barrigada in the north. Upscale homes have been developed on Mt. Barrigada along an area known as Barrigada Heights overlooking Tiyan, the interior hills of Guam and the Philippine sea. To the south is the village of Mongmong-Toto-Maite and to the east is the village Mangilao.
In the past, Barrigada was a popular ranching area for people from Hagåtña. Today some parts of the village still have a rural feel attributed to the long winding roads that make their way through hills, valleys, dense vegetation and wetlands. Nevertheless, the village of Barrigada is now a heavily populated residential area bordered by considerable commercial development along routes 8 (Purple Heart Memorial Highway), 10 (Vietnam Veterans Highway) and 16 (US Army Corps Drive). The recently returned former federally-designated land located in Tiyan (formerly the Naval Air Station, Guam) has become the site of some government of Guam offices, private businesses, and residential homes.
Little is known about the ancient villages that were scattered through central Guam. However, early archaeological studies on Guam found a large number of latte stones in the region now called Tiyan, which suggests that the area was well populated. Chamorros were forced out of this region during the Spanish-Chamorro Wars of the late seventeenth century. However, it was not long until Chamorros started using the area for ranching, hunting, and for grazing cattle.
During the early twentieth century, the village of Barrigada was established near the current location of P.C. Lujan school which was surrounded by scattered ranches. Some of the island's best soil was located at Tiyan, which was ideal for corn. Early in the US Naval Era a deep well was drilled here to attract farmers to settle and by 1924 there were enough people to warrant the construction of Barrigada's first school. By 1940, about 875 people lived in the municipality of Barrigada, which at the time also included what is now Mangilao and Toto.
Catholic Church, Chalan Pago: Sacred Heart of Jesus and Ordot: San Juan Bautista
Fiesta: Late May and Late June
The municipality of Chalan Pago-Ordot stretches across the narrow "waist" of the island of Guam. Housing areas are built mostly along Route 4. These villages are on the dividing line between the mostly volcanic southern half of the island and the mostly limestone northern half of the island. The result is a diverse and rugged topography characterized by low hills, small valleys, wetland areas and streams that seem to disappear into the ground. The area is covered with lush green vegetation and homes are built on flat areas of land at times next to small valleys. Some residences have also been built at the foothills of nearby mountains.
The area had long been a center of ranching for people from Hagåtña but since World War II, it has become home to two tight knit village communities as well as several new housing subdivisions.
Chalan Pago also leads to Pago Bay where homeowners have a view of the ocean on Guam's eastern coast. A few people have also taken advantage of mountain properties, building residences overlooking the bay.
Ordot is also the site of the island's landfill. In March 2008, U.S. District Court of Guam Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood placed the dump under federal receivership after the local government failed to close it and build a sanitary landfill in another location as ordered by a federal mandate. An off-island solid waste management consulting firm has been given full authority to take over the closure of the dump.
Pago is an ancient settlement in Pago Bay along the southeastern coast of Guam. In the 1670s, Pago was resettled as a Catholic village, established when Chamorros were forced to leave their homes throughout the Mariana Islands during the Spanish reducción. In the 1700s, Jesuit missionaries established an agricultural station at Tachogna which encompassed much of the present-day village of Ordot.
Other ancient settlements in the area included Fagtu, Tagun, Pumud, Tinaka, Pohund and Aguan. A typhoon and an epidemic struck the island in the 1850s which caused massive population loss as well as the abandonment of the village of Pago. Survivors were absorbed into other villages. The area remained a popular ranching area, however, because of its fertile soil and proximity to peoples' homes in Hagåtña. Corn was the most popular crop although some rice, taro and yams were grown in the wetlands. Gaddo' and dago (types of yams) were also plentiful in the region. It was not until after World War II that people again began to build permanent houses for use as their primary residences. Initially, the villages were considered suburbs of Sinajana but in 1956, Ordot and Chalan Pago combined to become its own municipality.
Catholic Church: Santa Barbara
Fiesta: Early December
Dededo is Guam's second largest and most populous village, encompassing thirty square miles of northwestern Guam. Most of Dededo is located on Guam's limestone plateau and sits above the Northern Aquifer, an important fresh water resource for the island as it provides for about eighty percent of Guam's drinking water.
The main sections of this northern village lie on either side of Route 1, officially known as Marine Corps Drive, Guam's main thoroughfare. From a small pre-war farming community, it has become a major commercial and residential center.
Dededo is home to the Micronesia Mall, the largest shopping mall in Micronesia, located at the corner of Route 1 and Route 16 (Army Corps Drive). Along Route 16 there are several small stores and other businesses that cater to the area's Filipino residents. Also along this strip is a two-story McDonald's restaurant, the Guam Power Authority main business office, and the gated Iglesia Ni Cristo Church. Along Fatima Road, off the highway, there are several vegetable stands selling local crop products.
The history of Dededo is complicated by the fact that the boundaries of the village have changed considerably during the twentieth century. During the Early American period, the northern half of present-day Dededo was the village of Machanao. Most of Machanao became Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Communications Station, and Machanao is no longer a village, but a section of Dededo. The pre-war village of Dededo extended further south to include what are now the villages of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon while the village center of old Dededo was located in present day Harmon between the two-story McDonald's and the San Miguel Brewery building.
Dededo began in the early twentieth century as an area of widely spread ranches centered in what is now the Harmon Industrial Park. Among the agricultural products of the area were copra, timber, fruits, vegetables and cattle. The village center, which included a Padre San Vitores School (opened in 1929) and Santa Barbara Church were located in the vicinity of the present-day Harmon McDonald's Restaurant. Fishing also played an important role in the life of many Dededo residents since the village was only a short bull cart or horse back ride from Tumon Bay. There were also two stores that served the community where residents could exchange farm produce, especially copra, for various goods. By 1941, at the outbreak of World War I, 1,529 people lived Dededo and the surrounding ranch areas of Tumon and Tamuning.
Catholic Church: Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica
Fiesta: December 8
Hagåtña, located in central Guam, is nestled between Agana Bay and the cliffs of Agana Heights. It is considered the first European city in the Pacific because of the early colonization of the Marianas, as compared to the rest of the Pacific. It was declared a city by a Spanish royal decree March 30, 1686 as the capital of the Marianas, the residence of the Spanish governor and the site of the garrison.
Guam’s main roadway, Marine Corps Drive, runs through the village from east to west. Another major artery, Route 4, dissects the village from the shoreline to the central part of the island, running east. Hagåtña borders the village of Tamuning in the east and Asan to the west.
The capital of Guam, Hagåtña is the seat of the island’s three branches of government: Judicial, Legislative, and Executive as well as the religious center for the Catholic Church. It is also home to numerous commercial activities including legal offices, banks, department/variety stores, insurance, technical and professional services and restaurants.
The cultural resources of the village are significant being home to a large number of Guam’s historical sites. The Hagåtña boat basin (formally known as the Gregorio D. Perez Marina), the Guam Public Library (formally the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library) and numerous public facilities are also located within the village.
As opposed to the island’s historical past, Hagåtña is currently one of the least populated villages on the island. Residential homes primarily are located below the cliff at the western portion of the village.
Few detailed accounts of the village are known prior to the arrival of the Catholic mission headed by Father Diego Luis de San Vitores in 1668. San Vitores is credited with establishing the Catholic Church in the Mariana Islands. Shortly after arriving on the island of Guam, he renamed the village of Hagåtña, “San Ignacio de Agadña,” in honor of his holy father and patriarch. At that time Hagåtña was reported to be the island’s principal village. It is estimated that 1,000 people lived in the village that reportedly had 203 dwellings; fifty-three upper class homes and one hundred and fifty other dwellings that belonged to lower caste residents “who had no part of the affairs of Agadña.”
Catholic Church: St. Joseph, Husband of Mary and Catholic Church: San Isidro
Fiesta: March Malojloj and May
To the outside eye, the village of Inarajan seems to have been untouched by the hand of change. It is known as the most distinctly Spanish-style village on the island, with the village proper on Inarajan Bay, remaining basically intact over the decades.
A visitor could drive through the small Spanish barrio-style streets, which until recently were one-way streets, and see the history of Inarajan in its old houses. The houses reflect a mixture of architecture influenced by the Spanish period and the early American period (early 1900s).
The village retains many of its traditional ways, with the St. Joseph Church still at the center of many activities, including the village’s annual fiestas. Residents of the village are still a small number of families whose roots are deeply entwined in Inarajan. Very few outsiders have moved into the village, and very few modern structures have been erected.
Part of what gives Inarajan its heritage-rich flavor is one of its more recent additions: the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village, which sits right on the bay. The village, which consists of ancient-style thatch-roofed huts, is staffed mainly by elder Chamorros who demonstrate traditional Chamorro arts, crafts, and cooking to visitors.
Not much is known about the early inhabitants of Inarajan, which was a village before the Spanish arrived on Guam. The village was officially established in 1680 by the Spanish, along with St. Joseph Church, and was one of the main villages on Guam during the Spanish era. The village was designed in the Spanish custom with the church as its focus.
The Spanish were also responsible for an unusual addition to the residents of the village, as the residents of the northernmost Mariana Islands, known as Gåni (including Anatahan, Sarigan, Alamagan, Pagan, Agrihan, and Asuncion), were relocated to Inarajan and Merizo in the late 1600s. The Spanish relocation of the Chamorros, including the consolidation of the villages of Guam, was done to better control the local people during the Spanish-Chamorro wars that were going on at the time. There is still a section of Inarajan known as “As Gani” today.
The St. Joseph Church is named after the village’s patron saint of San Jose or St. Joseph. It contains a large statue of St. Joseph that, according to oral tradition, was brought to Guam by the Spanish, who intended to bring it to Umatac. But a storm prevented the ship from going to Umatac, and it ended up landing in Inarajan, where the statue remained.
The church has been rebuilt several times, and the current church was built in 1939. It was damaged during the bombing of World War II, and in the earthquake of 1993, the church’s steeple fell to the ground. It was rehabilitated in the late 1990s by the Parish Council, the church Pastor, and parishioners.
Catholic Church: Santa Teresita
Fiesta: Late September
The village of Mangilao is located in central Guam. It lies between the villages of Barrigada and Chalan Pago. The village also branches off into subdivisions bordering Dededo and Yigo. These subdivisions include Latte Heights, Latte Plantation, Sunrise Villa, Banyan Heights, and lower and upper Pagat. The village has been called “Guam’s capital of education” because both the University of Guam and the Guam Community College are located there.
The village of Mangilao today is fairly new, but the area has ancient sites that date back more than a thousand years. The district of Pagat, located on Route 15 (also commonly referred to as the back road to Andersen), was once an ancient Chamorro village. Pagat is one of the most scenic areas on the island, with breathtaking cliff lines that overlook the Pacific Ocean, and jungle trails that lead to freshwater caves and ancient latte.
Originally, Pagat was thought to have been occupied during the later part of the Ancient Guam Period or early in the Spanish Period in the late seventeenth century. Because of the areas limited accessibility, it was theorized that the first inhabitants had fled from Spanish rule, but the discovery of a certain type of pottery found there in the 1980s has proven to be typical of an earlier settlement, perhaps just more than a thousand years ago.
Mangilao lacks a natural water source, therefore, it was not until the late 1920s that the area would be repopulated after water wells, a school, and a road were built. People who owned ranches in Mangilao farmed there during the day and, at night, would return to their homes in Hagåtña. In the 1920s, naval Governor Henry B. Price launched a vigorous “back-to-the-soil movement” to convince Chamorros to develop their agriculture and become self-sufficient. Part of his program was the concentration of farms in a given section.
The Mangilao-Barrigada area was chosen because of its rolling plateaus and proximity to the island’s capital, Hagåtña. To encourage people to live on their farms and produce more, Price built a road into the area and then the Mangilao School in 1926. He ordered families to send their children to the school, so they would have to live in Mangilao during the week and in their Hagåtña homes only during the weekend. Price ordered that an agriculture department and a dairy factory be built in the village.
After World War II, Mangilao continued to be Guam’s main farming area. Some of the village’s major crops included tapioca, cassava, corn, mongo beans, tomatoes, peppers and other beans. Many people paid for their homes by selling these crops to a new population of people that moved to Mangilao – construction workers. The village housed thousands of construction workers employed by the military who lived there during the post-war rebuilding boom. Roads and houses were built to accommodate the workers, and grocery stores began to line the village’s main road.
Catholic Church: San Dimas
Merizo skirts Guam’s scenic southern shoreline on a long strip of land between mountains and sea.
Cocos Lagoon, several miles square and enclosed by a large triangle of reef, extends about three miles out from the village. Cocos Island Resort draws day visitors to the small, densely vegetated, low-lying strip of land along the lagoon’s southern exposure. The lagoon is distinguished from the deeper water outside the reef by an array of vivid blues and greens that signify shallow water over sand flats and protected coral gardens. Mama’on Channel, the lagoon’s deep main pass, runs west to east past Merizo Pier and the village boat ramp, gradually shallowing as it cuts farther into the lagoon.
Fiestan Tasi (Festival of the Sea) is held annually in Merizo, and celebrates the importance of the ocean to Guam’s past, present and future. It often includes boat races and other water sports competitions and exhibitions. Dates of the festival vary from year to year.
On the other side of the winding main coastal road, Route 4, several rivers flowing to the sea from the nearby mountains cut lush valleys through dry savanna foothills. Much of the population lives in these rural valleys, which are mainly residential areas dotted with a few farms and ranches, shadows of the community’s agrarian past.
While there are few accounts of the pre-Spanish colonial era on Guam, Merizo’s abundance of fresh water, its protected lagoon, extensive reef and shorelines, and its fertile valleys suggest that the area likely sustained a large population. By 1833, however, the population was estimated at only 318. By this time, disease, calamity and the Spanish-Chamorro wars had reduced the native Chamorros.
Despite the dramatic decrease in the Chamorro population during the Reduccíon (efforts to subdue Chamorros into accepting Christianity and Spanish rule), the population of Merizo was significant enough for Father Diego Luis de San Vitores to order the building of the fifth mission on Guam in Merizo in 1672. No trace of the original mission structures exists today. The restored Malesso’ Kombento, home to the parish priest, and the Kampanayun Malesso’ (Merizo Belltower), both Spanish-era structures, as well as the new church dedicated in September 2002, attest to the church’s enduring place in village life.
The Japanese occupation of Guam set Merizo on a course that, in July 1944, would make the village a locus of infamous brutality and stirring heroism. Almost four years after the Japanese invasion and occupation of Guam, their situation began to grow desperate as American ships bombarded the island in preparation for the July 21 landing and retaking of Guam. The Japanese troops stationed in Merizo rounded up two groups of thirty Chamorros each. Forty-six Chamorros were slaughtered with grenades, bayonets, and sabers.
At Tinta, in the Geus River valley, some escaped death by lying still under the corpses of their relatives and friends, while others were able to flee. Not one of the thirty in the second group survived the massacre at Faha, just behind the village cemetery. Each year in July, people hike for prayer services to the original massacre sites in remembrance of the forty-six villagers. Similar massacres took place in Fena, near the present day Santa Rita, and Yigo.
Catholic Church, Mongmong: Nuestra Señora de las Aguas
Toto: Immaculate Heart of Mary
Mongmong-Toto-Maite is located in central Guam, just north of the capital city of Hagåtña. Aside from the airplanes flying directly over the tri-village before landing in the neighboring area of Tiyan, many residents of Mongmong-Toto-Maite find it to be a very quiet and peaceful place to live. Maite’s cliffline, with beautiful sunset views, is home to some of the island’s most well known families, including the Calvo’s, whose attractive homes line the cliff above East Hagåtña.
Mongmong and Toto for the most part are rural, residential areas. Mongmong runs parallel to Maite and is at the center of the tri-village. It is heavily vegetated and is the most populated of the three villages. Toto borders Barrigada to the north of the other two villages, and is known for its winding roads and swamplands.
However, there is also a busy industrial side to the Mongmong-Toto-Maite. The area of Maite and Toto along Route 8 between Tiyan and the island’s capital, Hagåtña is primarily an industrial area, filled with warehouses, hardware and furniture stores, mom-and-pop markets, and many popular bargain shops.
Mongmong’s Catholic Church is Nuestra Senora de Las Aguas (Our Lady of the Waters). Parishioners celebrate their annual fiesta in honor of their patron saint on the last day of January.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Toto celebrates its patron saint’s fiesta on the second or third Saturday of June each year.
The village of Maite does not have a Catholic Church and does not have a village fiesta. The Bayview Baptist Church and Son of God Baptist Church are located in Maite.
Sixty years ago, Mongmong-Toto-Maite was not a place to live; it was a place to work. And working at that time didn’t mean reporting to an eight-hour job in an office. It meant walking a few miles to a ranch to farm for food as was typical for many areas of Guam.
Before the Japanese occupation of Guam in 1941, Mongmong-Toto-Maite was mainly used for small-scale farming and raising poultry and other livestock. Most of the people who used the land prior to the war lived in Hagåtña and would walk through jungle trails to the tri-village to farm in the morning and return home in the evening.
Mongmong was particularly popular during the early months of the year when people from all over the island would travel there to honor the village’s patron saint Nuestra Senora de Las Aguas, or Our Lady of the Waters. They would pray to her for rain during the island’s dry season. In 1881, a man named James Young wrote to his sister in Australia telling her about the residents’ devotion to the saint. He said people believed that this image of the Virgin Mary appeared to some villagers during a strong typhoon in 1850, and caused a perfect calm that saved their farm from destruction.
In 1898, only seven families lived in the area. Others simply owned ranches there. But this quickly changed during World War II. While the Japanese Imperial Army populated Hagåtña, several families began migrating to the Mongmong-Toto area. And even more families moved there after the heavy U.S. bombardment followed by an invasion of troops on the island, which eventually ended the Japanese occupation.
As Hagåtña became a business area, Mongmong-Toto-Maite was one of the villages that housed the families who used to live in the capital. At this time, Mongmong and Toto also accommodated the Fifth Service Depot, a U.S. Marine supply outlet, pushing residents to the hilly, rugged and swampy areas of the tri-village. It became a popular place to live because residents felt safe being so close to the Marines right after a war. And many villagers found jobs at the depot. Several Quonset huts were built in Mongmong and used for schools, such as the original George Washington High School.
Catholic Church: Assumption of Our Lady
Most Guam residents know the village of Piti from what they see along Marine Corps Drive, Guam’s main thoroughfare. The first noticeable landmark in the village along Marine Corps Drive when heading southbound is the Piti Underwater Observatory. The observatory juts out from the coastline into the ocean.
The Piti coastline is lined by two beach parks: Tepungan Beach Park, with newer pavilions, and the Pedro Santos Memorial Park, with an older, large pavilion and unused basketball court. This area of the coast, known as the Piti Bomb Holes, is a marine preserve, where fishing is now prohibited. This prohibition has resulted in an abundance of fish and other sea life that make the Piti waters popular among divers and snorkelers.
Slightly further south, across the road from the ocean, is the New J-Market grocery store and a gas station, just before the Piti Power Plant at the junction of Marine Corps Drive and Route 11, which leads out into Cabras Island. Cabras Island extends into the ocean to form part of Apra Harbor and is further extended by the Glass Breakwater, named after U.S. Navy Captain Henry Glass. On this island is the Cabras Power Plant, the Port Authority of Guam and the Commercial Port. Further out is Family Beach, a secluded recreational spot.
The village proper is located just across from Cabras Island, on the cliffside of Marine Corps Drive. The village is a small residential area with curved two-lane roads and a scattering of homes, many of which date back to the decade after World War II. The village’s most prominent features are Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church and the Mike S. Tajalle Baseball Field. The mayor’s office is in a small house-like structure, and the old senior citizen’s center is now being used as a youth center.
Piti started out as a small pre-Spanish settlement, with plentiful fishing for the ancient Chamorros. Even after the arrival of the Spanish, Piti remained a small village until the Port of San Luis of Apra (Apra Harbor) near Piti became the chief harbor of the Spanish government.
With the increased presence of other European powers in the Pacific in the early 1700s, Spain ordered the improvement of Guam’s defenses. Between 1720 and 1730, Fort Santiago, a small emplacement with cannons, was erected on top of Orote Peninsula overlooking Apra Harbor. In 1734, the Spanish opened a new anchorage for ships in Apra Harbor, offering better protection from storms and a higher level of defense than fortifications in the village of Umatac. In 1737, Fort San Luis, with six cannons, was completed on Orote (near what is now Gab Gab Beach) to defend the anchorage. The area near Gab Gab Beach was a part of Sumay village, which is now U.S. Naval Station Guam.
After 1740, most ships began to anchor in Apra Harbor when the wind was favorable, with cargo transferred via small boats to a pier near the village of Piti. From the village, the goods were transported by two-wheeled carts pulled by steer or oxen to the government store in Hagåtña. For many years, the road connecting the pier at Piti to Hagåtña, made of crushed limestone, was the only real road on Guam.
In the 1830s, the Spanish helped plant the first rice paddies in Piti, which continued until after the World War II.
Piti and Apra Harbor played an important role at critical points in Guam’s history. The surrender of the Spanish government and military on Guam to U.S. Navy Captain Henry Glass, for example, took place at Piti on June 21-22, 1898 during the Spanish-American War, with the cruiser USS Charleston and a contingent of U.S. Marines anchored in Apra Harbor.
Apra Harbor became the port for U.S. naval vessels under the new American government, and in 1899 a navy yard was created on the former Spanish crown property at Piti.
Catholic Church: Our Lady of Guadalupe
The village of Santa Rita proper, not including the military housing areas, Naval Station and Naval Magazine, is one of the smallest, quietest, and least modernized villages on Guam. There are two small stores – D’s Corner Store and Santa Rita Store – and a more recent addition, the Santa Rita Video Store adjoined to the Santa Rita Store within the main village. The village is surrounded by natural water sources. It’s boundary with Yona is marked by Tarzan Falls, while it’s border with Talofofo is in the vicinity of Fena Lake. Santa Rita’s border with Piti lies along the Guatali river, while it shares a border with Agat along the Namo River. The village flower, previously the gardenia, has recently been changed to the ginger because of its present abundance throughout Santa Rita.
Most of the village’s activities revolve around the church, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, as well as the Mayor’s Office and new Senior Citizen’s Center, and the baseball field that lies between them. Most of the families in the village have been there since it was built, just after the war, so most of the residents know each other or at least see one another at church every Sunday.
The Fena Reservoir in Santa Rita, located within the gates of Naval Magazine, was completed in 1951 with the intent of providing a dependable water supply to the U.S. Navy on Guam. It now serves as the main drinking water supply to a considerable portion of the southern region of the island. The reservoir is also home to a large population of carabao, once valued as an important animal for farm labor and transportation that has now become a cultural and historical icon on Guam. To support growing demand for water, a $1.5 million upgrade was completed in 2007 on the Santa Rita Springs Booster Pump.
The history of Santa Rita starts in the ancient village of Sumay, a small village on Orote Peninsula, whose residents were evicted from the village during the Japanese occupation of World War II before eventually being relocated by the Americans to the current village of Santa Rita to make room for the construction of Naval Station. Being the first village bombed during the invasion of Guam by Japan on December 8, 1941, the residents of Sumay took refuge in the outlying area of Åpla where many families had ranches. Most would remain there for the duration of the occupation.
As American troops made advancements toward the retaking of Guam in 1944, many of the Sumay residents, as well as many from neighboring Agat, took shelter in the Fena caves located in what is now the municipality of Santa Rita. As American forces built up in the waters near Guam, Japanese soldiers one day forced more than one hundred Sumay and Agat people taking refuge at Fena into the caves, many of them in their late teens and early twenties. Many of the women were repeatedly raped, and many of the men and women were killed in the caves by hand grenades, machine guns, and bayonets. On the next morning, dozens of prisoners escaped into the jungle, although some were killed as they fled.
A memorial Mass was held each year at the Fena caves to commemorate those who died there, but post-9/11 security has closed the area off as it is located within the perimeter of Naval Magazine. The annual memorial Mass is now held at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Rita.
In the battle to recapture the island, the American forces completely destroyed Sumay. When the U.S. forces regained control of the island, the people of Sumay were still to be moved, resulting in the naval government’s construction of a temporary settlement of wooden houses with thatched roofs for the Sumay residents at the Santa Rita site. Although this site was supposed to be temporary, the majority of Sumay residents chose to remain in Santa Rita because they were exhausted from being forced to constantly relocate during the war. They were also forbidden to resettle in their old village by the Navy, which expropriated Orote Peninsula and all other property in and around Apra Harbor, including the entire village of Sumay. The land where Sumay once sat is now part of Naval Station.
The once coastal people of Sumay now made their home in the foothills of Mount Alifan, which are not well suited for farming or fishing. The contour and slopes of the mountains made lot apportionment difficult. Many of the postwar houses can still be seen today within the edges of the precipices and deep chasms of Santa Rita, raised on stilts to avoid the floods during heavy rains and to keep pests and other animals out of the house.
Catholic Church: St. Jude Thaddeus
Sinajana is perched along a hilltop between Agana Springs and Agana Heights. When entering the village from San Ramon Hill, one comes upon the Catholic Saint Fidelis Franciscan Friary, whose order maintains Sinajana’s Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church, among others. The annual village fiesta is celebrated on the last weekend of October, in honor of Saint Jude, patron saint of the impossible.
The two main schools are Carlos L. Taitano Elementary School, a public school, and Bishop Baumgartner Memorial School, a private Catholic school.
C. L. Taitano Elementary School is centrally located within walking distance of the village fire station, St. Jude Thaddeus Church, mayor’s office, and community center. Within this busy block one will also pass the old Won Pat store, which is now an apartment complex. A hotnu, or old Spanish oven, can still be found in the yard.
Bishop Baumgartner Memorial School sits on the site of the old Saint Jude Thaddeus Junior High School campus.
Sinajana was in existence before the arrival of Spanish missionaries in 1668 and was bordered by the areas now known as Cha’ot and Otdot, the present-day Ordot village. This ancient village was the domain of Hineti, a Chamorro who was loyal to the Spanish and the Marianas Mission, and was baptized Don Ignacio de Hineti. On July 23, 1684, at the climax of the Chamorro-Spanish Wars, Hineti joined with the Spaniards and recruited about fifty Chamorros, armed with lances, to secure the Spanish stockade and the Spanish flag in Hagåtña from Chamorro homeland defenders. For this he was rewarded the position and title of sergeant major by the Spanish governor Captain General D. Antonio de Saravia.
The last Spanish census, taken in 1897, listed 133 residents in Sinajana. There were family names that still exist today, including Quidachay, Fegurgur, Atoigue, Taisague, Concepcion, Agualo, San Nicolas, Dela Rosa, Taimanglo, Gogo, Quichocho, Agui, Neputi, Lujan, Tertaotao, Achaigua, Matanane, Navaro, Castro, Crisostimo, Balajadia, and Fejaran.
Although pre-World War II Sinajana was an agricultural village, at one time operating as the coffee capital of the island and supplying all of civilian Guam, much has changed with modern urbanization. The destruction of Hagåtña during WWII sent thousands in search of homes, and Sinajana absorbed many families when the U.S. military government erected temporary housing in the village. By 1950, the population had swelled to 3,000.
St. Jude Junior High School, built in 1955 under the guidance of Sinajana pastor Fr. Raymond Demers, had the distinction of being the only school on island built entirely through “happy labor.” More than five hundred men from the village volunteered for the construction. The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, from Lacrosse, Wisconsin, administered the school at the request of Bishop Apollinaris William Baumgartner, who the school is now named after.
Saint: San Miguel
Former Mayor Tito Mantanona coined the name “God’s Country” for Talofofo, a nickname affectionately used by many residents and seen on signs throughout the village. At the heart of Talofofo is a four-way intersection recognized as the crossroads of this small village. Anyone giving directions to a location in this village inevitably starts with this intersection, which is also at the heart of economic activity in Talofofo, with three corner stores doing business near the four-way intersection. North from the intersection is the village’s Catholic church, San Miguel Church, as well as the mayor’s office and houses, most of them similar to homes in suburban communities.
East from the intersection is the Onward Talofofo Golf Course, after which the road intersects with Route 17, locally known as Cross Island Road.
West from the intersection are more houses and Talofofo Elementary School, a sports field, and the Talofofo gym.
South of the intersection is the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Notre Dame High School, and as the road heads downhill toward the Talofofo subcommunity of Ipan and Talofofo Bay, it passes the ancient Talofofo Caves.
Sitting below the hills of the main village is the coastal community of Ipan, Talofofo. A number of secluded beaches and a scattering of houses, along with a gas station, make up most of Ipan. The area also includes Ipan Beach Park, a popular spot for barbecues. Jeff’s Pirates Cove is located on the northern border of Ipan and has become an institution in the area. It is best known for its relaxed-atmosphere bar and grill, along with a small souvenir store and an outdoor area used for arts and craft fairs, concerts and other gatherings.
The southern boundary of Talofofo is marked by the Ugum River (joined by the Talofofo River), which flows into Talofofo Bay. But as the Talofofo Bay park facilities are on the southern side of the bay, the area most people visit in Talofofo Bay is actually part of the neighboring village, Inarajan.
The original pre-Spanish inhabitants of Talofofo lived mostly in settlements along the Talofofo and Ugum rivers, although artifacts have been found in the Talofofo Caves, perhaps suggesting that people used the caves for shelter during typhoons.
In 1672, Spanish Jesuit priest Father Diego Luis de San Vitores ordered a church to be constructed at the Pigpug settlement near Talofofo Bay, and this church became the center of the new Christian community.
The settlement never grew very large in size or prominence, although Talofofo Bay was the site of a few notable landings. One such landing was in 1788 of a large group of islanders from Lamotrek in the Caroline Islands, who arrived in canoes on a trading mission to obtain iron. It was the first such expedition since inter-island trade had come to a halt due to the Spanish-Chamorro Wars one hundred years before. The Spanish-Chamorro Wars were a series of rebellions by some of the Chamorros against Catholic indoctrination many years before.
After several months, the Carolinians departed for Lamotrek with iron and trade goods, but it later turned out that they never reached home and were probably hit by a storm. Don Luis de Torres, a Spanish-Chamorro military officer, travelled to Woleai in 1804 to reassure the Carolines that their peers had not died at the hands of the Spanish. Carolinians subsequently resumed their annual trading voyages to Guam.
Talofofo Bay was also the site of the eastern landing of Japanese forces during the invasion of Guam on December 10, 1941, when a detachment meant to land at Ylig Bay in Yona mistakenly landed at Talofofo Bay instead.
Catholic Church, Tamuning: St. Anthony
Catholic Church, Tumon: Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores
The main geographic features of this region are the low plateau of Oka (Saupon) Point which divides Tumon and Hagåtña bays, and the Tumon Bay area which is enclosed by high cliffs leading to relatively flat Upper Tumon/ Harmon areas.
Tumon, with its beautiful white sand beaches and protected waters, has developed over the last four decades into Guam’s tourism center while Tamuning has become a major commercial and residential area. Harmon, the sight of the post-World War II airfield, is now an industrial park.
Tamuning, and its surrounding areas, has a rich history. The large number of latte stones and other archeological finds around Tumon Bay are evidence that Tumon Bay, with its freshwater springs and excellent inshore fishing, has long been a major population center of the island. During the Spanish conquest of Guam in the late seventeenth century, Tumon (Tumhun), Ipao, and Apotguan were all listed as major villages.
However, with the resettlement of Chamorros during the Spanish-Chamorro wars the area was completely emptied of people. For the next two centuries the area was primarily used for ranching, hunting and fishing. The village of Tamuning was established in 1849 by Governor Pablo Perez as a refuge for a group of Carolinians whose islands had been destroyed by a 1848 typhoon.
During the American naval era several changes came to the area. Unhappy with the cultural practices of the Carolinians, Governor Seaton Schroeder transported them to the neighboring island of Saipan, north of Guam, in 1901, which was then under the administration of Germany. Schroeder also established a leper colony at Ypao in 1902 which lasted until 1912 when its inhabitants were exiled to the Philippines, most never to be heard from again. During Guam’s American naval era people began to settle permanently in this part of Guam and established the village of Dededo which was centered at the current location of the San Miguel Brewery building in Harmon but included what is now considered Tamuning and Tumon. Tumon was a popular fishing and salt making area during these years.
World War II brought many changes to the Tumon-Tamuning region. Life went on as usual for the Dededo villagers who did not have to leave their homes during the war, but Tumon Bay was fortified by the Japanese and ranchers were restricted from the area.
Before Guam was liberated from occupying military forces in 1944, most residents in this part of Guam were forced into Japanese concentration camps. After the war, when people began to return to the area, they discovered that their former homes and ranch lands were to be used by the U.S. military for the new Harmon Air Force Base which stretched from Two Lovers Point and Ukudu to what is now the intersection of Airport Road and Marine Corps Drive. Much of the land in Tumon Bay was also now off limits because it had been designated as an Army Air Corps recreation area.
Catholic Church: San Dionisio
The small village of Umatac is located in southern Guam along Umatac Bay. The community of Umatac is relatively smaller than others on Guam and made up of a handful of residents, many of whom are related to each other.
Interspersed between old houses that sit along the bay’s shoreline are ruins that have become prominent reminders of the Spanish colonial era in the village. Plaques are placed throughout the village that describe the Spanish era to visitors. Remains of the Spanish times include the former Spanish governor’s residence, the site of the old San Dionisio church and several Spanish forts and a battery.
A bumpy two-lane road runs through the center of the village, and visitors coming down into Umatac from the steep hills in the north will first notice stones placed into a hillside in the shape of the island of Guam, welcoming them to the village. A couple of small stores and the San Dionisio Church, built at its current location in 1939, sit along the road.
The road, with houses built in the first half of the last century, then opens up into a spectacular view of the bay before coming to a small park with a children’s playground built by IT&E in the 1990s. Adjacent to the park is the mayor’s office, right on the beach, with perhaps the best view of any mayor’s office on Guam.
At the center of the bay is an obelisk monument to Ferdinand Magellan’s landing in 1521, bearing the inscription, “Magellan landed here.” The bay is also home to some of the island’s best surfing.
The history of Umatac is among the most rich of all the villages of Guam, especially during the Spanish era. Among other distinctions, Umatac is the home to Fouha Bay in which a rock called “Fouha” Rock sits. The ancient Chamorros believed this rock to be the resting place of a goddess called Fu’una who, with her brother Puntan, is credited with creating the world and people. The rock is also called Creation Point.
The pre-contact Chamorros made a pilgrimage to the rock every year to pay homage to Fu’una and to have their rice blessed to be used to cure people according to Spanish accounts. Umatac is perhaps most famous for being the site, by long oral tradition among the Chamorros, Ferdinand Magellan first landed on Guam. Although other theories about Magellan’s landing site have arisen, the residents of Umatac still proudly celebrate Discovery Day every March 21st with a re-enactment of the 1521 landing.
The next landing by Europeans on Guam, that of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, forty-four years later in 1565, was indisputably at Umatac. Legazpi anchored at Umatac Bay for thirteen days and formally claimed Guam for Spain, and during his stay, a Catholic mass was celebrated in a large cruciform canoe house by the bay.
By the time of Legazpi’s visit, Umatac was already a Chamorro coastal settlement that included a large communal house raised on latte stones, so spacious it could accommodate 200 people along with large canoes, as described by the Europeans. There were also other low houses in which the Chamorros cooked and roasted food.
Umatac was the chief port for the Spanish during the early galleon days, when it was visited annually by a galleon from Aculpulco, usually in May or June. In late 1680, a Spanish settlement was established at Umatac for the first time to serve the galleons, along with a supply ship that stopped on Guam from Cavite in the Philippines, usually in August or September. The supply ship brought necessities such as soap, flour, tools, metal, animals and seeds. The galleon also brought supplies, but mainly Spanish money of Mexican silver to pay soldiers and mission personnel.
These visits were so important that the Spanish governor transferred his residence from Hagåtña to Umatac when the ships were expected. Governor Damian de Esplana built the governor’s palacio, or palace, surrounded by a presidio compound in Umatac in 1690. After the supplies were unloaded from the ships, they were transported by boat from Umatac around Orote Point to Hagåtña since no road existed between the two towns.
Catholic Church: Santa Marian Lourdes
Yigo is the island’s largest and most northern village, encompassing thirty-five square miles. On the map the village looks like a triangle that stretches from Pati Point to Ritidian in the North and from Ritidian to the coast near Pagat.
Yigo is the home to Andersen Air Force Base and has secured access to the beaches of the village. Yigo has numerous housing subdivisions that have sprung up in the last three decades, but it still retains a rural feel thanks to its large open spaces and dense forests supported by some of the richest soil on Guam. Like all northern Guam villages, it sits on top of the Northern Aquifer, which supplies about eighty percent of the island’s drinking water supply.
During ancient times, Guam’s Northern coast was home to a large number of villages. Evidence of latte dwellings also point to a significant population living in the Mt. Santa Rosa and Mataguac areas. During the Spanish Chamorro Wars in the late seventeenth century, major areas of settlement included Hanom, Tarague, Hinapsan and Upi. Hanom, a fresh water spring on the coast south of Mt. Santa Rosa played an important role as a refuge for the Chamorro resistance during the Spanish-Chamorro Wars. In August of 1679 Spanish forces along with their allies from Nisihan defeated the Hanom Chamorros. The battle was described as “one of the fiercest which had taken place in the Marianas.”
By the early eighteenth century the population of Guam had been greatly reduced by war and disease and all remaining Chamorros from the northern part of Guam were relocated to six church-centered villages in central and southern Guam (Hagåtña, Agat, Umatac, Merizo, Inarajan and Pago). However, the area remained open to hunters and fishermen.
During the nineteenth century wealthy residents of Hagåtña began to acquire large areas of land in this fertile part of the island. The rich soil proved excellent for cocoa which was used to make hot chocolate, a popular afternoon drink for Hagåtña residents. Other agricultural products that the area was known for were coffee, avocado, citrus and copra. The area of Upi, now Northwest Field, was particularly important for its cattle ranches while several wealthy landowners established copra plantations along the Northern coast and in the area of Yigo proper.
By the early years of the American administration, some Chamorros chose to settle permanently in Yigo and surrounding areas. In 1912 the first school opened for grades one through four. In 1919 the U.S. Government authorized land use permits for up to twenty-five years to attract more farmers to the area. In 1920, Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel was erected so that the people of Yigo would no longer have to make the long journey to Hagåtña each week for mass.
The new village of Yigo was highly self sufficient because of its excellent farm lands. However, people still had to travel to Hagåtña to buy household goods. In 1925, Jose M. Torres solved this problem by building the first village store. Torres was a copra trader and would accept coconuts in exchange for groceries. By 1940, Yigo and surrounding areas were home to about forty families spread out over large distances.
Catholic Church: St. Francis of Assisi
Fiesta: First weekend of October
Yona is the first southern village on the eastern side of Guam. Its boundaries stretch for six miles, from the south side of Pago Bay to the north side of the bridge at Jeff's Pirates Cove in Ipan, Talofofo. The village also extends west on Route 17, or Cross Island Road, from Route 4, or Chalan Kanton Tasi, to Tarzan Falls, near the Naval Magazine overlook.
Its jurisdiction also includes the area from Pulantat and Manenggon Valley to Lonfit Bridge in Chalan Pago. As such, Yona is one of Guam's largest municipalities in area and is divided into ten sections: Baza Gardens, Windward Hills, Ylig, Manenggon, CampWitek, Pulantat, Triangle, Central Yona, Tagachang and As Namo.
Yona's history dates back to ancient times. Pulantat, one of the village's ten sections, was a prominent interior district before the Magellan arrived in 1521. Many latte stones and an ancient burial site have been discovered in this area. Another ancient burial site has been discovered about 100 feet north of Ylig Bridge along Route 4 along the Ylig Bay. Latte were also discovered and destroyed during the development of Baza Gardens along Route 17. Tagachang Beach Park, along the coast, is also believed to have been the site of an ancient Chamorro village.
From ancient times until after World War II Yona was a rich farming area with fertile soil, good water, and abundant fishing grounds. People lived in scattered ranches. Only two buildings in the entire area were built of wood before the war with the rest being thatch. The village's first public school was built in 1915.
Yona remained a relatively peaceful farming area during the war until the last few weeks of the Japanese occupation of Guam.
On July 12, 1944 the Japanese command ordered the relocation of people from their homes to camps in various parts of the island. The Japanese Imperial Army forces knew United States forces were approaching. Even the sick were forced to leave their homes and march from one concentration campto another, until they reached the largest campsite in Yona's Manenggon Valley.
During those last days of war, Manenggon Valley became home to about seventy-five percent of the island's population which is about 18,000 people. People used the Manenggon River's waters to wash themselves and their clothes and for cooking. They built shelters of wooden frames and coconut leaves. Terrible rains came and flooded these temporary homes. As more people crowded into the two-square-mile valley, conditions worsened. Many people died of malnutrition and other illnesses.
Every day groups of men were taken from Manenggon to various worksites. Some were killed by the Japanese soldiers. Others will killed by U.S. air raids or from shells from naval vessels that were bombarding the island. Many victims were buried in the riverbanks. Some of the remains were later exhumed and given a proper burial.
Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!
Follow us on social media!