Beling’s Guahan – 9 –

– 9 –

The mass of people finally stops. Instead of seeing a camp, they see several trucks. The Japanese start shuffling people onto different trucks. They pause to look at the passes and then push the people onto a truck. Libby grabs her daddy tight. Herman puts his arm around Beling. A soldier grabs Libby and pushes her onto the middle truck. Then Antonio. Then Herman. Beling’s held back. The soldier brushes the mud off her pass. He smacks her on the side of her head. Libby and Herman pull her onto the middle truck as it starts to move. The soldier yells at the moving truck, but it keeps going.

Another ten miles to go. At least in the truck, they have a chance to rest. Antonio watches all the trucks plow through the sea of people who still crowd the street. He pulls Herman up when they approach the gates. They stand in awe. Soldiers on the ground push the gates aside. The truck moves through. People start jumping down from the truck. Another line. Soldiers yell at the people to move faster. The speakers blasting announcements.

You are in the kaikontai area. You will be picking foods for our troops. You will be given a cup of rice a day for your efforts. Some of you will work in the jungle to pick fruits. You will be shot and killed if you try to escape. All children over twelve will work in the fields. Children under twelve will stay behind. You are in the kaikontai area. You will be…

The announcements continue on. The final woman gets off the truck. The Japanese count everyone. A soldier points to the empty field of mud. The people quickly disperse. Libby watches the bags. Herman, Antonio, and Beling gather coconut fronds.

“Daddy,” Beling starts to joke, “next time we should pray for rain or Americans. Not both. Not at the same time.”

Antonio laughs, “Yeah, baby. It’s funny isn’t it? No rain for a year. No Americans for three. When it rains it pours.”

Herman laughs as he wipes the rain from his face. Beling helps Libby with all the fronds. Herman and Antonio go collect more. Libby holds one up while Beling ties them together. Thirty minutes later and they’ve built a decent shelter. Antonio ties down the fronds on the roof. Herman walks over to where Mr. Flores tries to build a shelter. He brings extra fronds with him. Beling and Libby join them. Beling starts humming a beat. Libby smiles.

Y na boneninito y banderan Japones,” Beling begins.

Soh y talo agaga,” Libby joins in.

The girls, now singing at the top of their lungs continue, “Ya yoreya APLACHA!

“One more time!” a Japanese soldier demands. A group of the soldiers now gather around the two girls. “That’s how the praise of the Rising Sun flag should be sung.”

The girls giggle but humor the soldiers singing, “Y na boneninito y banderan Japones, Soh y talo agaga, Ya yoreya aplacha!

All the Chamorro laugh when the girls finish. The Japanese walk away with looks of pride in their eyes. Beling turns to finish tying the last knot for Mr. Flores. Libby skips back over to her daddy humming the tune.

“Those Japanese are so stupid,” Herman laughs to himself.

“Why do you say that?” a young girl asks who overheard him.

“Do you know the song?”

“My older sister sings it. I’m only six. They say I’m too young for school.”

“Do you only speak Japanese?”

“I speak a little bit of English.”

“Well, I’ll sing it to you in English but it won’t be the same. ‘The Japanese Flag is very pretty, The center is red; the border is white.’ That’s how it’s supposed to go. But see, in Chamorro the word for ‘white’ is apaca. The word for ‘dirty’ is aplacha.”

“Why does that make the Japanese stupid?” the little girl asks with a confused look on her face.

“You probably didn’t notice when we were singing since you don’t know Chamorro, but when we sing it, the words are ‘The Japanese Flag is very pretty, The center is red; the border is dirty.’ The Japanese never notice when we change the words. They’re stupid.”

The little girl laughs and runs around the camp chanting aplacha. Herman makes it back over to his hut and sits down. The family sits in their new shelter and tries to dry off. They share stories. Libby shares breadfruit with Herman. A soldier stands in front of their shelter and instructs them to follow him. He makes a few more stops collecting other families then heads to the front gates.

“You will all be working in the jungle,” he instructs, “picking food. There are soldiers constantly on patrol. They will be watching you. Your day begins at dawn and continues until dusk. After you complete a day’s work, head to the rice line located at the center of the camp to pick up your bowl of rice. Be glad you’re in the jungle where there’s shade and shelter. Now go.”

The gates slowly open and the people walk out into the jungle. Chop. Pick. Chop. Pick. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Five days of this grueling schedule. Every morning the family rises early with hopes they’d be able to have a bite or two of the food they brought. The rain pours. And pours. And pours. The broad leaves of the banana trees offer some shelter. The sun sets and the family rushes back to the camp. Two nights there wasn’t enough rice for everyone. They need all the energy they can get.

Day six offers a little change. Herman wanders off too far into the jungle. He’s alone. Alone is not a good place to be. The leaves rustle all around making him quiver in fear. He quickly turns around and starts to run back to the camp. Before he gets too far, he hears shouting in the distance.

Hafa adai! Hello! How are you?” A Chamorro man yells. “Stop! Wait!”

Herman stops running and turns around. The man reaches Herman and shakes his hand. Leaves still rustling behind him.

“I came from Merizo. Early this morning seven other men and myself lead a revolt against the officers in our camp. We killed sixteen. Sixteen Japanese! We managed to escape and canoe out into the ocean. There, Americans picked us up. There are hundreds of ships off the island right now.”

“I don’t know who you think you’re kidding mister,” Herman says in disbelief. “Everyone knows what happens to the people at Merizo. There’s now way you could kill that many officers. There aren’t any Americans –”

“Hi, I’m Sergeant Johnson,” an enthusiastic young American soldier exclaims as he suddenly appears. “Don’t be afraid. Take these back to your camp and spread the word. Americans are here! The Chamorro people are being liberated!”

Herman grabs the chocolate bars and cigarettes. With a smile on his face, he runs back to his camp. He spots Beling and Libby resting under a banana tree.

“Hey, lazy heads! Look!” he shouts as he pulls the chocolate bars out from under his shirt. “I met an American soldier in the jungle. Sergeant Johnson. They’re here. The Americans are really here!”

The girls grab the chocolate bars from Herman. Beling opens one corner of her bar. She bites down hard. Her eyes roll back. A huge sigh of ecstasy leaves her mouth. Herman passes out the cigarettes to the men working in the area. He tells them all the story about what happened in Merizo. Chatter spreads through the crowd. Every person passes on the story adding his or her own exaggerations to it.

By the time dusk falls, rumor has it two men killed thirty-seven Japanese soldiers at Merizo. The men escaped and swam twenty miles to the Americans’ ships. One man almost got sucked under the ship so he had to hold on to the anchor the ship just happened to be raising from the water. Whatever the story was, the fact is the Chamorro are ready. Smiles are returning to their faces.

Beling and Herman skip dinner. They figure the sooner they sleep, the sooner tomorrow comes. The sooner tomorrow comes, the sooner the Americans save them. Libby eats half of her dinner before going to bed. Antonio doesn’t sleep. He stays up and waits. The sound of the rain falling on the roof becomes hypnotic. His eyelids start to get heavy. He drifts off to sleep. Slowly. Ever so slowly.

Gunfire wakes up everyone in the camp. Outside, they see flashes of light. They hear Japanese. Then English. Japanese. English. The soldiers frantically try to fight off the Americans. A small group of Japanese officers gather in the back of the camp. Beling hears them count to three. Hitotsu. Hutatsu. Mittsu. She turns just in time to see them all fall on their swords. Her attention is drawn back to the gates falling down. Americans finally break through.

“Hurry!” an American soldier shouts. “Gather what you can quickly. We need to get you out of here as fast as possible.” He extends one arm and points to the east while rotating the other in the same direction. “Move! Move! Move!”

Everyone grabs what they can and follows the soldiers out into the jungle. The faster and farther away they run, the more it already all seems like a memory. The sound of gunshots fades in the distance. No one knows where they’re going. They just run. Fast. The Americans were leading them. They’d follow wherever it was. However far away they had to run. Before they knew it, they ran seven miles. Two more to Agat.

Someone grabs Beling’s arm. It’s Stella. She tightly holds onto Beling’s hand and catches up to the rest of the family. Hugs can come later. Kisses too. Right now they must run. Finally, they reach Agat. Trucks await the people. For once, they didn’t mind hopping into the back of a truck. The family loads up.

The sun peeks over the top of the truck just in time to reveal Beling’s Guahan. She presses her face into the warmth of the sun. Her first tear of joy in almost three years instantly dries up in the heat of the sun. The rain stopped. The palm trees sway in the wind. The waves roll. For one moment. This moment. Beling feels home. Home and free.

Beling’s Guahan – 8 –

– 8 –

“Open up!” a distinctively Japanese voice yells from outside Beling’s house. “Open up by order of the emperor!”

Stella stumbles to the front the door half-awake. She cracks the door a little. Her eyes strain to focus in the pre-dawn light. The man shines a flashlight in her face.

“Are you Stella Perez? The seamstress?” he questions.

“Yes, I am she.”

“Come with me!” he demands. He pulls her out of her house in only her nightgown. He throws her in the back of the truck with other women from around town. She notes each woman’s occupation. In the corner, asleep, is the children’s old babysitter. Leaning against the side is Mrs. Flores. She also sews. Stella thinks she notices the family’s former maid. She wasn’t sure though. Many years had passed since they had a maid. The repeated rocking lulls Stella to sleep.

She wakes up right before the truck pulls into a large fenced off area. The truck passes by the front gate. Around to the back. There are five small houses with five small men standing outside of each. Stella counts the number of stripes on each man’s uniform. She figures they must be high ranking officers to be that decorated and have separate houses. Women peek out the windows. Stella can’t determine if the women were Chamorro or Japanese.

Men pull the women out of the truck and line them up into separate groups. The seamstresses on the farthest left. The maids on the right. Then, the men who stood in front of the houses walk through the women. They begin choosing one from each group. Stella looks around. She tries to figure out where they are and what the purpose of this is.

The sun peeks over the buildings just in time to show the encampment. Tai. That’s the name that hangs on the side post. A few dozen Chamorro collapse once they step inside the gate. A soldier drags an old man over to his family and tosses him down. Children are crying. Mothers are separated from their sons. Someone taps Stella on the shoulder. She looks at the officer who points to the second house from the left. She walks over to it. A woman from inside the house hides behind the curtain when Stella makes eye contact with her.

Back at the lancho, Antonio gets the children ready for school. He makes up a story about how mama had to go into town very early to make a special dress for one of the new principals. Stella frequently left early in the morning to sew. The summer was just starting too. New summer sessions for school. The children know there’s a new principal. They dismiss their daddy’s story and continue eating breakfast.

The girls are glad school lasts longer. They get a break before going to the club. The girls skip along humming. They know a sentry box is coming up so they stop. Herman joins them and they all begin marching. The American bombings in February heightened the Chamorro spirit. Everyone is certain the Americans are on their way to save the island. The children start singing ten yards before the box:

“Early Monday morning

The action came to Guam,

Eighth of December,

Nineteen forty-one.”

“Stop singing in English,” one soldier demands.

Louder the children continue on:

“Oh, Mr. Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam,

Won’t you please come back to Guam?”

“Enough I said!” the soldier yells.

The children bow as they pass the box, but continue:

“Our lives are in danger

You better come”

Screaming at the top of their lungs,


Right here on Guam.”

The soldier continues yelling at the children. His voice fades as does the final chorus,

“Oh, Mr. Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam,

Won’t you please come back to Guam?”

The three of them laugh as they run toward the schoolhouse. They arrive at school to find all the boys piling into the back of a truck. A soldier approaches Herman.

“Are you at least twelve years old boy?” a soldier inquires.

“Yes, sir. I am thirteen –”

Before Herman could finish, the soldier picks him up and puts him in the truck. He closes the tailgate and instructs the boys, “All males between twelve and sixty are being drafted into labor battalions. You will all serve the emperor well.”

With that, the soldier hits the side of the truck and motions for it to go. The girls go into the schoolhouse. School drags on forever. Libby rethinks her joy that school extends into July. She finds comfort in the thought that Americans are on their way. Beling wonders what Herman is building. Finally, school’s out. The girls rush off to the club. After a year of working there, nothing shocks the girls anymore. Except for today. Not a soldier in sight. The girl they met on their first day comes out of the side room.

“Looks like we get the day off today girls,” she boasts.

“Really?” Beling says with excitement in her voice. “That’d be nice.”

“Yeah, no one’s here. Nothing to do. No use in sittin’ around waiting to see if people come. I’ll cover for you if they do come.”

“Where do you think they are?”

“My guess is the labor battalions. That’s crazy isn’t it? You hear about it?”

“Yeah, our brother got drafted this morning.”

“Really? I hear these men talking about a camp called Tai. They’re sending Guam’s best craftsmen there. They get to serve the highest-ranking officers. Last I heard, they might be putting all Chamorro in camps. Something about Americans coming soon. A week or two. Tops. Need to get the Chamorro into camps.”

“What did you say?”

“They’re going to be putting Chamorro people into camps?”

“No, about the Americans.”

“Oh, they’ll be here in a week or two.”

“Thank you! Thank you!” Beling exclaims as she runs out of the building.

Libby tries her hardest to catch up to Beling. Beling hums to herself as she jumps into the puddles. Libby finally manages to catch Beling. She puts her hand on Beling’s shoulder for support. She breathes heavily for a minute then stands up. As soon as she stands up, Beling takes off again. Libby rolls her eyes and follows.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Beling shouts running through the front door.

“What are you doing home? You know you can get into a lot of trouble if you leave the club early,” Antonio barks.

“Oh, it’s okay. There aren’t any men there. It’s empty. A lady told us how they’re all busy preparing for the Americans. They’ll be here in a week or two. Tops! Isn’t that great?”

“That is good news, baby. Did they tell you anything else?”

“Um, something about camps. I don’t know what she was talking about though. Camp sounds fun. I’ve never been to camp”

Libby makes into the house. She collapses on the sofa. Beling laughs at her.

“Slow poke,” Beling jokes.

“Ha ha,” Libby returns.

“What kind of camps?” Antonio interjects.

“I don’t know daddy. She said something about how the Japanese want to put all the Chamorro people into them. Oh, and all the best craftsmen go to one called Tai.”

“I bet that’s where your mama is,” he says under his breath just loud enough for Libby to hear it.

“I thought you said mama was sewing a dress for the new principal,” Libby says. “I thought you said she’d be back tonight.”

“The truth is I don’t know where your mama is. They took her off early this morning. I’ve spent all day in a labor battalion. I haven’t been able to find anything out.”

“That’s where Herman is. They took him this morning,” Libby adds.

Beling twirls into the kitchen and puts a pot of water on. She always makes dinner when mama isn’t home. Fish and rice is her specialty. She starts de-boning the fish. She sees Herman walking up the path. She waves to him. He lifts his hand up once before it collapses back down to his side. He drags himself into the house. Fixes himself a glass of water. Looks around the room for a moment then sits down.

“Have – Have you heard anything about camps, Beling?” Herman asks.

“Yeah, some lady talked about them at the club today. Why?”

“One of the men in my battalion was talking about some. Merizo and Agat. He said the Japanese herd Chamorro into these camps. They then march into caves or air-raid shelters. The Japanese throw grenades into wherever the people are.”

Beling drops the fish and the knife in the sink. Libby walks into the kitchen wide-eyed. Herman turns to look at Libby then turns back toward Beling. Beling slowly turns to look at her brother.

“They do who? To what? What? What did you just say to me?” Beling struggles to find the right words.

“They put people in a cave. They throw grenades into the cave.”

“How do you know this?” Libby asks.

“A guy in my battalion told me.”

“How does he know? I mean, if they throw grenades into the cave. People can’t survive. How would he know they do this?”

“He said he saw it. I believe it. It doesn’t make sense that a Chamorro would want to scare his own people.”

“That’s true.”

Just then, Antonio walks into the room. He pats Herman on the back. He smiles at Libby. “What’s true?” he asks.

Herman proceeds to tell his daddy the story. How the fifty-five-year-old man he works with was sent to Merizo. He passed out from exhaustion on the way to one of the bomb shelters. It took the soldiers awhile to realize he had fallen behind. They shuffled all the others into the shelter. The soldier that went back for him yelled at him and beat him. The man looked up just in time to see one solider throw a grenade into the room. Two other men slammed the door shut. The group of soldiers stood back. The officer who was near the man hit him in the head with the butt of his gun. That was the last thing he remembered.

Antonio listens in disbelief to this story. When he hears about what the Japanese did to his people, he slams his fist on the table. He paces back and forth. He decides to send the children to bed. Beling, Libby, and Herman all walk back to their bedrooms. Libby wants a glass of water so she walks back into the kitchen. She stops at the corner of the door to see her daddy sitting on the couch sobbing. He looks up and sees her. He stretches out his arms. Libby walks over to him. Antonio grabs her and squeezes her. He sobs. And sobs.

Libby and Antonio fall asleep on the couch. Beling wakes up in the middle of the night and brings them a blanket. She looks out the window into the dark. She listens to the rain falling on the roof. In the distance, she sees lights scattering. She hears muted talking followed by shouting from a distance. She tiptoes over to the front door to make sure it is locked. While she heads back to the bedroom, someone taps on the window.

“Psst, hey,” the man whispers as he motions for her to come to the window, “come here.”

Beling takes a moment to see if she can recognize who it is. It’s Mr. Flores. She goes over to the window and cracks it.

“What are you doing out so late Mr. Flores?”

“The Japanese have been going from village to village. They’re forcing people to go to Yigo School. I’m on my way to Tai to see if my wife is there. Is your mother home?”

“No, they took her this morning.”

“I’ll check for her too.” He starts to walk off.

“Mr. Flores. Wait. When do we have to be at the school by?”

“The march starts at a thirty minutes to eight. Bring what food you can.” He disappears into the jungle.

Beling quietly shouts, “What march? Where are we going?”

It’s too late. He’s gone into the jungle. She walks into her bedroom to try to sleep. She can’t. She shakes Herman, who fell asleep in Libby’s bed. She tells him what she just heard. She grabs two bags and motions for him to follow her. He does. They walk out into the garden. She starts picking fruits. He starts picking vegetables. Once the bags are full, they go back into the house. Herman gently sets them down next to the front door. Beling goes into the kitchen. Straight to the bottom cabinet on left. She pulls out all the cigarettes and some of the beer and places them into the bag.

Morning announces its presence. Antonio and Libby wake up. He sees the two bags by the door. He hears someone rustling in the kitchen. He stands up and goes into the kitchen. Beling finishes tightening a garbage bag around the bag with the cigarettes.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Beling’s heart stops. It’s the Japanese. They’ve come to get us. Her panicked thoughts seize her and she lets out a sigh of relief when she sees it’s Mr. Flores. He’s soaking wet from the rain. Herman grabs a blanket to hand to him. He sits down on the kitchen chair.

“Are you ready to go? We don’t want to be late,” he states.

“Late for what Mr. Flores?” Antonio asks.

“To go to Yigo School.”

Antonio laughs and starts, “But the children don’t go to Yigo, Mr. Flores. Anyway, it’s Saturday. There’s no school.”

Herman steps into the room and clears his throat. “We have to go to Yigo because we’re all going to go to camps.”

“You shouldn’t make things up, Herman,” Antonio demands with a nervous tone in his voice.

“He’s not making it up, Antonio. It’s true. The Japanese want all the Chamorro in camps. The Americans aren’t that far off now. Things will be better for us if we leave early. And voluntarily,” Mr. Flores interrupts.

“Then we will go.”

Antonio grabs the heavy bag with all the vegetables in it. Herman grabs the bag of fruit. Beling and Libby alternate who carries the bag full of cigarettes and beer, starting with Beling. Mr. Flores folds the blanket and throws it over his shoulders. He picks up his bags that are outside. They begin to march. The rain beats down on them like the Japanese beat down on their bodies. They arrive at Yigo. Many families stand in groups. Some have their bull carts. Others have their belongings packed on the back of cows. Beling places the bag on the ground. She plops down next to it to wait for the march.

“So,” Beling says, “did you find anything out about Tai?”

Mr. Flores looks at her. A man standing near them proceeds, “Tai. Ha. Can you believe they even got some of those women to go voluntarily? Sure, they’ll have it easy ‘servicing’ the high-ranking officers. They ‘service’ them all right, but not with the trade they were recruited for. Those bastards took my wife and my daughter. Sent my daughter back home when she turned up pregnant.” He pauses and cries, “She jumped off a cliff last night. I haven’t seen my wife in weeks.”

Mr. Flores removes the blanket from his shoulders and gives it to the man. The man grabs Mr. Flores by the collar and buries his head in his chest. After a few minutes, he stops and slowly stands up.

He jokes, “Well, at least with all this rain you can’t tell I was crying.”

Everyone laughs. The three families wait. And wait. To pass the time, they sing. Beling and Libby stand up, start dancing and sing, “Uno y uno dos. Dos y uno tres. Ni cuatro, ni sinco, ni sais, ni siete, ni ocho, ni nueve, ni dies.”

The girls fall on the ground and start pounding it while continuing to sing, “Tomba na palapang! Tomba na palangpang! Tomba na palangpang tres!

Everyone laughs. This time Herman joins them and starts singing again, “One and one are two. Two and one are three. Not four, not five, not six, Not seven, not eight, not nine, not ten.” Again they collapse, “All fall down; beat and pound! All fall down; beat and pound! All fall down; beat and –”

The singing stops when the headlights from the Japanese convoy blind the girls. They put their hands over their eyes to block the light. The officer who drove laughs as he jumps out of the jeep. Libby trips over one of the bags as she tries to walk backwards. The officer laughs harder and turns off the lights. He grabs his megaphone out of the back. He turns it on.

He holds it up to his mouth and begins, “You will all be marching to designated camps. You will march the whole way. We will not stop. Those who fall behind will be punished.” He turns to the officer on his right who is pushing down a Chamorro man that is bound and gagged. “This,” the officer says as he points to the man, “is how you will be punished.” He laughs before continuing, “If you’re lucky.”

Soldiers in the crowd start forcing the people into a line. The people in the beginning start walking. The line follows. They march for fifteen miles. Nonstop. In the rain. Through the night. Everywhere people collapse. The screams of men or women indicate who fell. After too much screaming, there are gunshots. Then, silence.

Beling’s Guahan – 7 –

– 7 –

Mr. Shinohara arrives in the morning. He grabs a box from his car. He walks up to the door and knocks. He leans over to smell the beautiful flowers Stella planted next to the door. They really bloom in the summer time.

“Good morning, Mr. Shinohara,” Stella says while pushing the screen door forward.

“Good morning, Stella. I brought your family a few things. I hear that cigarettes and beer are in high demand among the Chamorro people. What’s the phrase I heard them called?” he takes a moment to think to himself.

Kokan tamago?”

“That’s it! I assume these are,” he says while pulling out a few boxes of cigarettes and a dozen beers, “in high demand.”

Stella’s eyes light up. “Yes, yes they are. Very high demand. Where did you get these?”

“The Club. The officers can have them. I thought I might bring you a little gift box to help you and your family. I know things are starting to get scarce.”

“Excuse me for a moment,” Stella asks. “Please make yourself comfortable until I return.”

Stella rushes into the children’s room. She shuts the door quickly but takes careful notice not to slam it. She motions for the children to huddle around her.

“Beling. Libby. Listen to me,” she urgently demands. “There are cigarettes and beer in the Club.”

“Yeah, so, mama,” Libby replies. “Cigarettes are nasty.”

“So, if you girls collect the butts from the ashtrays and bring them back, we can trade them for other things. I know you like silk, Libby. And if you saved the leftover beer from the bottles, you could bring them home.”

“How do we get all the bottles home?” Beling asks.

“I don’t know. You could. You could pour them all into one big bottle and try to reuse the caps –”

“But all the beers aren’t the same, mama,” Beling interjects.

“It doesn’t matter. Don’t you see? People are starting to get desperate. The men are depressed because there’s no work. The women don’t know what to do with the men. Everyone asks for cigarettes and beer every night. They’re in bigger demand than radios or books.”

All their eyes turn toward Antonio who opens the door. He looks confused. The girls stand up and smile. They skip out of the room. Herman follows. Stella stands up and brushes the wrinkles out of her dress. She looks Antonio in the eye. She goes in for a kiss but he puts his hand up to stop her.

“What were you all doing in here?” he questions.

“Oh, nothing,” she replies and kisses him on the cheek.

Stella walks into the living room and holds her finger up to her pressed lips. The girls giggle and wink. Herman’s asking Mr. Shinohara questions about the cigarettes and beer in the kitchen. Antonio, still looking perplexed, walks to the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. He stops and looks at all the people in his house. Mr. Shinohara stands up and suggests the girls leave since it is getting late. He then shakes Antonio’s hand and hugs Stella.

Libby and Beling hug their mama and daddy. They grab the small bags Stella prepared for them the night before. In them are a change of clothes, make up, their rosaries, and their passes. The girls climb into Mr. Shinohara’s car. He shuts the door behind them. Beling shuffles through her bag. Libby turns around and stares out the back window at her family. Herman stands in the door waving at the car.

The island looks much different when viewed from a car. It all moves by so fast. The girls can barely pick out their favorite spots on the paths they walked so many times before. They speed by sentry boxes. All the officers bow to Mr. Shinohara’s car as it passes. Leather and chrome is nice, but the girls prefer sand and foliage.

Mr. Shinohara pulls up to a gate. The two girls crawl over to the left side of the car to see where they are. A Japanese officer checks Mr. Shinohara’s papers. He reads them and hands them back. He motions to a man standing by the blockade. He presses down on one side raising the long orange and white bar. The two girls stare at the man who checked the papers. He puts two fingers up to his mouth and flicks his tongue back and forth. In the rearview mirror, Mr. Shinohara sees what is going on.

“You will probably see a lot of that here. I apologize. These men do not behave the way they should. The emperor would not approve, but I am not the emperor, so I cannot do anything about it. If anything ever happens, come find me immediately,” Mr. Shinohara tells the girls. “I will show you where you are to report to. I will come back and check on you as often as I can.”

The girls blankly look at him. Beling hands Libby her bag as she gets out of the car. Libby holds on to the back of Beling’s shirt. They pass through the dark, heavy doors. The smoke from all the cigarettes blinds the girls. Libby sees some girls from their class. She waves to them. Nothing. Their faces return looks of indifferent emptiness. Mr. Shinohara opens another door and leads the girls into the room. He greets the young woman sitting on the bench and leaves the room.

“Do you speak Japanese?” she asks.

“We speaking Japanese a little,” Beling speaks up. “We more understand it.”

“That’ll do. I assume you brought make up with you?”

Beling pulls it out of her bag.

“Good. You got it in good here with Mr. Shinohara. He’s a good man. He got me in here. I’m sure he promised you that he wouldn’t touch you. The good news is he won’t. The bad news is the others will. Or at least try to. I can’t tell you nothing will happen to you. It very well might. Here’s some advice. Flirt but from a distance. Don’t ever sit on their laps. Don’t let them grab you around the waist. Don’t speak English. Look good but not too good. Keep their drinks full. As long as their hands are preoccupied, you’ll be okay.”

“He saying we be safe here,” Libby starts to say with tears coming down her face. “He promise. I want home to go to.”

The young woman walks over to Libby. She grabs the bottom corner of her dress. Gently, she wipes away Libby’s tears. “The most important rule: don’t let them see you cry. If they know you’re vulnerable, they will come after you. You understand?”

Libby immediately stops crying. She nods in recognition. Beling finishes applying her makeup then walks over to Libby. She reapplies Libby’s mascara.

“We understand,” Beling assures.

The two girls head out onto the floor. Libby works behind the bar. Beling makes rounds. She tries to remember what the woman told her back in the room. She flirts. She looks good. She doesn’t let them touch her. Libby fills Beling’s drink orders first. Every three minutes she’s back for more drinks.

“Don’t these men ever stop drinking?” Libby asks Beling.

A man stands up at the bar and grabs Libby. “Why are you speaking English?” In slurred speech he yells, “We don’t send you brats to school to speak English.”

“I mean not to speaking English,” Libby cries. “I’m sorry. You me forgive please.”

“I’ll forgive you alright.” He pulls her out from behind the bar. He starts groping her and kissing her neck.

Beling jumps over the barstool that now lay on the floor and yells, “You leaving her alone.”

He pushes Beling down and continues groping Libby. This time he rips one side of shirt down and rubs her breast.

“You let go of her now. You shouldn’t treat girls like that,” she screams in English while hitting his back.

The man spits in Libby’s face and grabs Beling by her hair. He drags her to the back of the building. Libby cradles herself against the wall. She sits and rocks and cries. She puts her hand in her pocket and starts praying, rubbing her rosary beads nervously. She listens for Beling but can’t hear anything over the commotion in the club. A few minutes later, Beling limps back to the bar to check on Libby. She picks Libby up off the floor.

“You speaking no English anymore,” Beling says through her panting. “Speaking no English.”

Beling turns her back to her sister and walks into the bathroom. The same officer walks back up to the bar zipping up his pants. He smiles in Beling’s direction. He turns to Libby and slams his empty glass on the bar. He points to a liquor bottle then to his empty cup. Libby fills it up.

In the bathroom, Beling cleans off her smudged makeup. She reapplies it. Her bloody lip makes it difficult to apply the lipstick. She cringes in pain when she touches her now swollen eye. She uses the roll of paper towels to wipe the blood from her legs. Changes her clothes. Most of her bobby pins are lost so she decides to leave her hair down. After running her fingers through her hair a few times, she looks at herself in the mirror. Sighs. Then goes back out.

Mr. Shinohara comes to get the girls to go home. He notices Beling isn’t wearing the same clothes. In quiet disgust at what the men did to her, he asks her how her day was. She turns her head in silence. Libby doesn’t respond either.

“What in the world is in your bags?” he asks noticing the increased size. “Those are almost twice as full as they were this morning. And, if I am not mistaken, they were not clanging either.”

Beling smiles, “We were collecting.”

“Collecting, huh? Collecting what?”

Beling pulls out half finished cigarettes. She nudges Libby to show him the beer bottles.

“How many different flavors of beer do you think are in those bottles?” he jokes.

“At least half a dozen. We just wanted to get the bottles full. Mama says the men will drink it anyway,” she laughs. “Yuck.”

Libby and Mr. Shinohara laugh. The girls arrive home. Libby takes special care with her bag. She walks very slowly into the house. She concentrates very hard. Mr. Shinohara turns to look at Beling.

He begins, “I’m sorry for what those men did to you today.”

“It’s okay, Mr. Shinohara. Better me than Libby. Besides, look at all the stuff we got today. You think it’ll be like this every day?”

“It should be. Those men are pigs.”

“Whatever they are Mr. Shinohara, we learned a lot today,” Beling pauses for a moment. “Don’t tell mama or daddy okay. I don’t want them to know. Me and Libby are doing a good job for our family. That’s what matters”

“OK, I will not tell them. Please, if anything like this ever happens again come get me. I am a higher rank than all those men. Tell me who it is and I will have them punished.”

Beling hugs Mr. Shinohara then runs out of the car. Stella waits in the door for her.

“Mama! Mama! I filled my bag today. First day, and I filled my bag. Not bad huh?” Beling shouts.

“Not bad at all Beling. Why are you wearing different clothes?” Stella wonders.

“I – I – I,” Beling tries to think of an excuse.

Mr. Shinohara shuts the car door. He explains, “I promised you I would not touch her. I forgot to mention that I could not promise I would not spill anything on her. You see, I am a very clumsy sometimes. I was carrying a tray full of drinks and food to my table and crash. Food and drinks all over Beling.”

Beling looks relieved and laughs. “You should’ve seen me, mama. I was covered in rice. It was really funny. The whole club laughed.”

“It sounds funny. Why don’t you go get cleaned up for dinner?” Stella asks.

Beling runs into the house with her bag. Stella and Mr. Shinohara hear Herman’s surprise at what Beling brought home. They laugh. Stella turns to Mr. Shinohara.

“I just want to thank you one again for helping my family. I must admit I was worried when the girls left, but I can see the club is a good place for them. You really watch over them.” Stella says.

“There is no need to thank me Stella. The girls take care of themselves. Especially Beling. She is very protective of Libby. Libby is very lucky to have a sister who watches over her,” he adds.

“Very lucky. Thank you once again.”

Beling’s Guahan – 6 –

– 6 –

“What kind of school are we going to again?” Herman asks Libby.

“We’re going to learn Japanese,” she says.

“That’s a long time to learn Japanese. 7:30 to 11:30. When are we supposed to learn real stuff?” Beling questions.

“I guess afterwards,” Herman says.

“It seems stupid to me,” Beling responds.

“I bet I can beat you two to the schoolhouse,” Herman jests.

Herman takes off toward the school. He turns his head back to check the distance of his lead. He looks back and laughs at the two girls.

“Herman! Stop!” Libby shouts. “There’s a sentry box.”

Herman stops running and turns to look at it. “But there’s no one in it.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Libby asserts.

“How ‘bout I do a bow with my back facing the box,” with a menacing look in his eyes he continues, “and my pants down?”

Herman turns to face the girls who have caught up to him. He starts to pull down his pants. Beling smacks his hands.

“Libby’s right. We all need to bow to it,” Beling demands.

“You’re no fun anymore,” Herman says under his breath.

The three children bow at the box. They continue on to school. They can see the building from the box. The new schoolmaster stands outside the door. He receives a bow from each of the children as they walk into the schoolhouse. Libby’s the last one into the school. He waits for her to enter, then shuts the door.

All of the children take their seats. He walks up and down each aisle before taking his place at the front of the class. He clears his throat and begins speaking.

“I am you teacher, Kiyoshi Nakahashi. I teaching you every morning. You learning from me how to read and write Japanese. You also learning from me how to speak Japanese. I only speaking English now so you can understand what I saying to you. I think you Chamorro girls waste too much time with red nails and makeup. Boys and girls are saved by the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. Here you learning the Japanese fine character and individuality. You will not learning anything except for Japanese. Every morning you hearing the Kimigayo, you new country’s anthem. You learning about the nation state, history, and war events. Every morning you saying the oath to the emperor. I teach you now. Repeating after me.”

The classroom remains silent. The boys trying hard not to laugh at the teacher’s comment on the girls. The girls resent Nakahashi for it.

Nakahashi starts saying the oath in Japanese, “One. On my oath, we shall be good Japanese.”

The class tries to repeat, “One. On mine oath, we shall good Japanese.”

He rolls his eyes but continues, “Two. On my oath, we shall study hard.”

“Too. On mine oath, we shall study lard.”

“No, no. Hard! HARD!”

“Too. On mine oath, we shall study hard.”

Aggravated, he explains the last one, “Three. On my oath, we shall work hard.”

“Three. On mine oath, we shall work hard.”

“From now on, I’m speaking Japanese. You listen to it. Repeat it. Learn it. No more English spoken anywhere. Ever. Do you understand?”

The only thing he sees are blank looks from the student body. He continues his lessons for the day. The students look at each other in disbelief. They look at him. Some in awe. Most in bewilderment. The four hours tick by ever so slowly. 9:30. 10:30. Finally, it is 11:30 and the children rush out the door. Nakahashi yells Kimigayo out the door at the children who are too far to hear.

“Did you understand a word he said to us?” Libby asks.

Herman mocks Nakahaski, “I am you teacher, Kiyoshi Nakahashi. I will teaching you every morning.”

Another day of school. Two years later, every day was the same. The children leave for school. Libby eats a papaya on the way. Herman runs and swings a stick at plants and trees. Beling hums and breathes in the fragrant air. Herman thrusts his hips and swings his arms in circles. He makes a funny noise when he finally stops and points at the upcoming sentry box. He waits for the girls to laugh and catch up. Once they have, he stands up straight and the three bow.

When they arrive at school, the children assemble outside of the schoolhouse to listen to their daily dose of Nippon seishin. They don’t need these morning lectures to learn about the spirit of Japan. They learned it first hand within the first few days of occupation. No matter. They stand and listen. All the girls have their nails painted perfectly. Red. Bright red. Even Libby participates in their silent rebellion.

Beling and Libby laugh at Herman who continues to mock their teacher the entire way home. Occasionally, they practice their Japanese. They understand it perfectly but speak it poorly.  A shiny black car sits in their driveway. They don’t own a car. The only people who had cars on the island were the Japanese. The fact one is outside of their house can only mean one thing. Herman goes in first. Libby and Beling stay close behind him. They stop dead in their tracks when they see a Japanese man sitting on their couch. Stella wipes away tears from her eyes.

“Good afternoon, children. How was your last day of school? Good I hope,” she tries to say.

“It was okay,” Herman says with slight contempt in his voice. “Who is that?”

“I am Mr. Shinohara. I am –”

“Japanese. Why is mama crying?” Herman demands.

“Herman! Be nice. I’m sorry about that Mr. Shinohara,” Stella apologizes.

“It’s quite alright. I expect them to behave that way toward me and I understand it.”

“Mr. Shinohara here married a Chamorro woman. She taught in the school a few towns over. Anyway, he’s a Japanese that can be trusted. He came here to help.”

Herman, Beling, and Libby all looked him up and down. They weren’t sure about him, but if mama said he could be trusted, they would trust him. Mr. Shinohara stands up and offers his seat to the two girls. They sit down and bow only their heads. He bows back and smiles.

“All I would need is the rei,” he laughs, “but you needn’t bow to me. I’ve come to offer your family help. The officers on the island have taken a liking to the young girls. Now that it is the summer time they are forcing many of the young girls to work in ‘comfort houses.’ These are not desirable places and the only comfort is that going to the soldiers. I can get you two into the Officer’s Club I attend. You would be my personal girls with the understanding no one else is to touch you. I promise your mother, your father, your brother, and, most importantly, you that I will not lay a hand on you.”

The girls look around the room for reassurance. Stella nods to the girls. Antonio stands up to shake Mr. Shinohara’s hand. Mr. Shinohara rises as Antonio approaches him and extends his arm.

Antonio squeezes Mr. Shinohara’s hand and whispers into his ear, “If anything happens to my baby girls, I don’t care what your people will do to me. I will kill you and everyone you love.” Mr. Shinohara gulps and stares Antonio in his eyes.

“Wh- When would we work?” Beling asks.

Mr. Shinohara pulls his hand away from Antonio and explains, “Everyday after school. Until I dismiss you. I promised your mother I’d have you home at a reasonable time every night.”

“What’s a reasonable time?”

“I can’t give you an exact time. If I look like I’m too easy on you girls, we might all get into trouble.”

“When’s a reasonable time?” Beling says this time more sternly.

“By nine o’clock every night. Promise.”

“And we’ll be safe?” Beling asks.

Mr. Shinohara nods.

Beling squeezes Libby’s hand and agrees, “We’ll go.”

Mr. Shinohara thanks the girls and the rest of the family for their time. He bows to them before he exits. Stella grabs both her girls pulling them close to her. Antonio walks toward the door and watches Mr. Shinohara get into his shiny car. Once it disappears, he shuts the door and sits back down. Beling and Libby go into the bedroom. It wasn’t late but the girls wanted to sleep. Beling rolls over and looks at Libby.

“Don’t worry Libby. I promised mama we’d always stay together and we will. I’ll protect you. I promise,” Beling declares.

Libby smiles. Beling returns one. The girls sleep. And sleep. They didn’t know it yet, but this would be the last night of their innocence.

Dawn breaks. Time to wake up. Herman walks into the girls’ room and sits at that foot of Beling’s bed.

“It’s a medal of the Blessed Mother. I know you always liked it. Don’t tell mama, but I’ve been saving a little bit of my lunch money everyday. It’ll keep you safe since I can’t be there,” Herman assures.

“Thank you so much,” Beling says while giving her brother a hug. “It’s beautiful.”

“Ah, you’re welcome. You’ll need all the help you can get. I trust Mr. Shinohara. It’s just those other ones you need to watch out for. And, Libby. You’ll need to watch her. I don’t think she’s ever gone a day without mama.”

“I know. Everything’s going to be different now. Maybe we’ll be able to find out some information or something to help us. I’m sure something good will come out of it. Besides with a pretty girl like me,” Beling jokes as she pushes her lower jaw forward, “who could resist? Or maybe this one,” she continues placing one hand on each side of her face and pulling her skin backwards.

“Oh, I like that one,” Herman laughs. “Definitely that one.”

“Rise and shine, sleepy head,” Herman shouts. He leaps onto Libby’s bed. Beling follows with a pillow. The three bounce and play. Laughing and joking. Stella stands in the door and watches. It always brings joy to her heart to watch her children. The sadness in her eyes grows deeper everyday.

Beling’s Guahan – 5 –

– 5 –

Rei,” the Japanese man shouts at the crowd of Chamorro people standing in lines. He then proceeds to slightly nod his head at the man dressed in common clothes.

The mass of Chamorro nod their heads slightly. Each one of them careful not to make eye contact with the soldiers patrolling the crowd making sure everyone participates.

Keirei,” the man shouts once everyone is back to their normal positions. This time the man standing across from him is dressed like a soldier. The man bends at a forty-five degree angle.

An elderly Chamorro man doesn’t bow. Not out of disrespect. His back doesn’t allow him to. One of the patrolling soldiers rushes towards the man. The soldier yells keirei at him. The man tries to bow but can’t. The soldier stops wasting time on the man and punches him in the stomach. Keirei he says at the man who now leans at a near forty-five degree angle with his arms wrapped tightly around his waist. The soldier smiles and moves on.

Saikerei,” the man shouts. A man dressed as the emperor of Japan and a few other well-dressed people who represent his family stands in front of the instructor. The man bends all the way until he stands at a ninety-degree angle.

The crowd bows resembling wheat being blown by a strong wind in the field. Even the elderly man bows this time. Then Antonio, who was standing to the man’s right, helps him bend forward and return to an upright position.

The man shouts one last command before he exits the stage.

The crowd disassembles. Antonio and his family head back to their lancho. Herman, Beling, and Libby all look confused. Herman catches up to his daddy.

“What was that we were doing again?” he asks.

“From what I could make out, it’s called bowing,” Herman replies.

“Bowing. OK. Got it. What’s the point of it again?”

“I’m not sure Herman. I suppose we bow differently for different people. After seeing what they did to that man, I’d suggest practicing when we get home until you know it.”

“Well, it seems pretty stupid to me,” Herman concludes.

There’s a sign hanging on a post outside of a sentry box. The family doesn’t know Japanese so they continue walking. The guards stationed there are offended. They stop the family. The guard picks out Libby to beat since she is the smallest and most frightened.

Keirei,” he shouts as he smacks her in her face. “Keirei.”

Antonio lunges towards the guard who is hitting Libby, but another guard hits Antonio in the face with the butt of his gun. Stella stands there clutching Herman and Beling at her sides. All three of them in tears.

Keirei,” he shouts one more time. This time Libby starts to bow. She bows a few degrees short of forty-five. He smacks her in her face.

Keirei,” he tries again. Libby bows again. She sobs the whole way down and prays she gets it right. This time she bends too far.

Keirei,” he shouts one last time and punches her in the stomach. She lets out a cry of agony and bows down. This time she gets it right. The soldier looks pleased.

Keirei,” he exclaims as he points to the sentry box and other officers. Libby stands back up and starts to walk towards her mama. The soldier hits her on the back of her head when she walks by. Antonio gives the soldier who beat his baby girl a jeering look. The soldier who held him back hits him in the face with his gun again. Antonio picks himself up and goes towards his family. He picks up Libby who sobs on his shoulders and walks away.

Finally, the family arrives home. Stella walks into the kitchen to get a wet cloth. She wipes off the tears from Libby’s face. She kisses Libby on the forehead while handing the cloth to Antonio. He walks into the bathroom to clean off the blood that covers his face. It takes him a few minutes. The rest of the family hears him whimper in pain.

“Stella, why don’t you go make us some lunch?” he asks as he returns to the living room.  “That might make everyone feel better.”

“We don’t have any food,” she replies.

“Then, I will go to Agana to get some.”

“You’re not going anywhere alone. If you go, we all go.”

He looks at her in her eyes and can tell there’s no sense in arguing with her. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”

The family makes the trip to Agana once again. The carefree air of previous trips is noticeably absent. They are all careful to notice the sentry boxes and officers. They still don’t know what the signs mean but they learned to bow at anything Japanese very quickly. The family arrives in Agana and makes their way to the produce store. A soldier with an automatic machine gun stops them. He points his gun at the crowd of people gathered by the church and yells at them.

The family hesitates for a moment. The man shouts and points some more. This time he shouts louder and points the gun in Herman’s face. The family slowly walks over to the crowd. Beling grips her sister’s hand firmly. Herman tries to act like a man and hopes no one notices the wet spot on the left front side of his pants.

A soldier at the front of the crowd shouts something that sounds like “Pigo Cemetery.” The group of people don’t take this as a good sign. An old woman crosses herself. A mother clinches her newborn tightly to her chest.

“Antonio, I think that boy up in that truck is Mr. Flores’ son,” Stella says with concern in her voice.

“Yes, I think that is Alfred. I’m not sure but I think that other boy might be Francisco Won-Pat. You know, Tony’s son,” he responds back.

“Why are they in that truck?”

“I don’t know. Whatever the reason is, it can’t be good.”

The family feels a bigger sense of dread. They knew those two boys. Alfred made the trip with them to get the patches. Stella watched him when he was a young child. Francisco worked with Antonio in the store. He stocked the shelves. The family marches on with the rest of the crowd not knowing what lies ahead.

Once at the cemetery, the Japanese kick the two boys off the truck. Beling notices two freshly dug graves behind the boys. A soldier forces both boys to stand up in front of the crowd. He yells at them in Japanese. The boys remain silent. Other soldiers start beating the boys. The one soldier continues yelling. Finally, the boys crack.

Alfred starts off, “I am guilty of bringing a note to an American soldier. I hid it under some rice in a lunch pail. I wanted to know where the Americans hid the dynamite. I wanted to destroy it so the Japanese could not get it.”

Then Francisco states, “I stole food from the Pomeroy Company warehouse at Sumay.”

The boys inhale deeply as soldiers place blindfolds around their eyes. When the soldiers finish tightening, the boys wave goodbye to the crowd. The soldier who shouted at the boys and got them to confess to their crimes holds up his sword. He lowers his sword with a quick slash through the air and the firing squad fires. Francisco flies backwards into his grave. Alfred collapses under the gunfire. The soldiers pause. They need not shoot again. Alfred falls backwards into his grave.

Silently, the stunned crowd disperses. No one says a word. There was nothing to say. They now see the lengths at which the Japanese will go. This act the Japanese call justice. They saw it and were afraid.

Antonio leads his family to the store. Herman can’t stop looking back at the cemetery from which they just came. Beling drags her feet behind her daddy. Stella walks behind Beling. Libby holds onto her mama’s dress, in a state of shock, horrified at what she just witnessed.

Antonio walks over to the dairy section and picks up some eggs. The family had a little bit of extra money so he bought some rice. He knew it would be a good kokan tamago, something good to use to barter with the neighbors. He scoffs as he pays the cashier the money for the products.

“Those Japanese said our lives would remain the same,” he begins once they leave the store. “Oh, sure our lives are the same. They make us use their currency. Look at the trade rate. Five to one. That’s robbery. I’m going to stop exchanging the currency. The Americans might be back soon. They’ve got to come back soon.”

He has a distinct look of deep thought, with a hint of slight disbelief in what he just said. Before anyone notices, he continues, “We’ll just work harder on our crop. Grow more. Then we’ll have more to trade. That’s what we’ll do. Yeah.”

Beling grabs her daddy’s hand and smiles. “Herman does love to fish, daddy. He could always fish. I can learn.”

“Yeah, yeah, daddy. I’ll teach her. Then we wouldn’t need to come into town to buy anything. We’d have it all right there on our lancho. Maybe if we do it enough, if Beling learns fast and we go all the time, maybe we’d have lots and lots to trade,” Herman interrupts sounding awfully excited about the idea.

Libby reads a sign posted on their door. It was from the Japanese.

“Stop trying to read it, Libby,” Stella says.

“No, mama. It’s in English,” she replies.

“You mean they want us to understand something? They’re not going to post something in their stupid language and then beat us for not knowing what it says. That’s surprising.” Antonio declares.

“Don’t talk too loud with that nonsense,” Stella warns. “You never know when the Japanese could be around the corner.” Directing her attention toward Libby she asks, “What does it say?”

“Something about Lieutenant Commander Homura. He wants us to go see him talk. In the cathedral.” Libby looks at her mama with fear in her eyes and says, “I don’t want to go to the cathedral mama. Nothing good happens when we go there. Only bad things. Please don’t make us go.”

Stella puts her arms around Libby and in a comforting voice states, “We have to go. If we don’t go, even worse things might happen.”

“I know, mama, but I’m scared.”

“I’m scared too. We’re all scared. The trick is to not let the Japanese know we’re scared. That’s what they’re trying to do. If we let them know we’re scared, they win. Can you pretend to be strong?”

“I can try, but I’m not. Not like Herman or Beling. Or you or daddy.”

“Sure you are. You stood up to those men when they hit you. You cried but you didn’t let them get to you like your daddy did. Besides, who else do you know can keep their clothes looking so beautiful? Even in times like these?”

Libby slowly smiles. “No one, mama. No one.”

Beling’s Guahan – 4 –

– 4 –

The sun peeks over the top of the trees just in time to show the devastation the Japanese caused. The Piti Naval Yard, Sumay, and Apra Harbor are barely standing. Agana leveled. All this Antonio would see when he arrives. Until then, he has a long journey.

His journey starts early in the morning. He doesn’t greet the sun this morning. No Buenas dias, atdao today. He doesn’t feel glad to feel the warm sun on his cheeks. He doesn’t feel glad about anything. He wouldn’t feel gladness until he knew what was going on. Not even the bike ride, which brings so much joy to him, cheers him up. He can’t play his game today because there’s no one to wave to. No familiar faces. Just him and the empty road. Nothing to greet him except for a deserted city.

He crosses himself when he passes by the bodies that lay motionless. He tries to hold back the tears he feels coming. He enters the San Ramon district to find that few houses have walls standing. He passes by Agana’s police lock-up. He chuckles to himself and thinks about the irony of the lock-up not having anything standing to have locks on it. Where the Underwood Store stood now lays rubble. Antonio sees this and stops. He didn’t expect to have to go to work. Not today or even next week, but not never. He finds the church for solace. He falls to his knees and can’t hold back his tears any longer. He stays on his knees for a long time and cries. Cries and prays.

Back at the lancho, Stella tries to make the place feel more like home. She hangs up the new curtains she finished sewing. She decides to start making dinner. Since it will take time to gather everything for dinner, she asks Beling and Libby to go pick some food from the garden. She asks Herman to go to the beach and catch some fish. She warns him to stay clear of the roads and be very careful. She starts looking for her pots and pans.

Herman skips along the path from the house down to the water. Pretending he is a great fisherman, he casts his net out with great poise and preciseness. He entertains himself for hours. The sun starts to set so he decides it’s time to head back. He grabs his five fish and begins to leave. A bright flash of light draws his attention back to the water. He doesn’t believe what he sees. He runs back to the house, gives his mama the fish, and finds Libby and Beling.

“You’ll never believe what I saw on the beach. I think I saw batko. At least five of them,” Herman eagerly says.

“You can’t see batko stupid. They’re underwater,” Beling asserts.

“Come down to the beach with me. I’ll show you.”

The children run down to the beach. Herman and Beling continue down to the water. Libby freezes up where the sand meets the grass. Beling turns around and motions for her to come down. Libby turns around and disappears into the trees.

“I wonder what her problem is,” Beling says to Herman.

“That’s her problem,” he says as he points out to water.

Beling turns around and stands in awe. “How many do you think are out there?”

“I don’t know, Beling. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. But I told you so.”

“Those still aren’t batko. Those are ships. Big ones. We should go tell mama.”

“Why would we do that? It’ll just upset her.”

“Daddy then.”

“Maybe daddy. Bet I can beat you home, Beling.”

“Oh, just try it Herman. I’ll give you my dessert if you can.”

“You’re on.”

The two children rush home. Herman leading. Then Beling. It doesn’t really matter who wins. The two love competing. Especially against each other. Beling manages to pull ahead and beat Herman who collapses once he gets to the yard.

“Ha! I win,” Beling boasts.

Herman suddenly stands up and dusts himself off. There’s a slight look of fear in his eyes. Beling turns around and sees her daddy standing in the doorway looking very firm.

“Where were you two?” he demands.

“We were down by the water,” Herman starts to explain.

“What were you doing down there? Mama told you to be home before dark. Libby won’t come out of her room. What did you do to her?” Antonio inquires.

“We didn’t do anything to her daddy,” Beling states.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Really, daddy, we didn’t. Beling’s not lying. There’s ships. Hundreds of them off of the coast. I guess Libby’s just scared,” Herman says.

Antonio grabs the two children and pushes them into the house. He locks the door behind him. “And, you two aren’t scared? Because you should be. Those ships are probably Japanese coming to attack our precious Guahan. If there are hundreds like you say, then we are in big trouble. As a people and as a family.”

“Daddy, are you really that scared?” Beling asks.

“Yes, I am. While I was in Agana, I saw many horrible things. Most of the buildings are gone. The Plaza was filled with injured people. The soldiers are still there, but there aren’t enough to win this.”

Beling and Herman stand silent. Libby, who came out of her room, runs back in crying. Stella starts off after her, but before she gets back to the room Libby comes back out. She carries five rosaries in her hand and passes them out to her family. She starts praying and they all join. They pray late into the night. Finally, sleep.

Thump. Thump. Thump. Beling wakes up to the sound of hammering. She stands up and walks over to the window. She strategically steps over Libby and Herman since they slept on the floor the night before. Men in uniforms different than the Americans hammer something to the tree outside. She intensely watches them from her window until they’re done. They say something to each other in a language Beling’s never heard before. After they leave, she cautiously walks outside to see what they left behind. It’s a piece of paper. The paper reads:

We proclaim herewith that our Japanese Army has occupied this island of Guam by the order of the Great Emperor of Japan. It is for the purpose of restoring liberty and rescuing the Whole Asiatic people and creating the permanent peace in Asia. Thus our intention is to establish the New Order in the World.

You all good citizens need not worry anything under the regulations of our Japanese authorities and my enjoy your daily life as we guarantee your lives and never distress nor plunder your property. In case, however, when we demand you accommodations necessary for our quarters and lodgings, you shall meet promptly with our requirements. In that case our Army shall not fail to pay you in our own currency.

Those who conduct any defiance and who act spy against our enterprises, shall be courtmartialled and the Army shall take strict cause to execute such criminals by shooting!

Dated this 10th day of December 2604 in Japanese calendar or by this 10th day of December 1941.


“Mama! Daddy! Wake up!” Beling shouts as she runs back into the house. “These men posted a sign. It says the Japanese took over. Wake up!”

Antonio and Stella both wake up immediately.

“Slow down, baby. What do you mean? What sign? How do you know?” Antonio asks.

“There’s a sign. On that tree. Come look.”

Stella throws on a dress while Antonio runs out to read the sign. Herman and Libby are awake now and wonder what all the commotion is about. Before Stella or Beling has a chance to tell them, Antonio comes back in with the paper in his hands. He forcefully hands the paper to Stella who begins to read it out loud.

“We proclaim herewith that our Japanese Army has occupied this island of Guam by the order of the Great Emperor of Japan. It is for the purpose of restoring liberty and rescuing the Whole Asiatic people and creating the permanent peace in Asia.”

Knock. Knock. Stella stops reading and goes to open the door. It’s their neighbor.

“Oh my goodness. You look tired. You must come in, have a drink, and rest,” Stella insists.

“Thank you, Stella,” Mr. Flores says.

Stella brings him a tall glass of water.

“Have you seen this?” Antonio asks handing him the notice.

Mr. Flores nods. “Yes, it’s true. I just came back from Agana. I saw the most horrible things. The Japanese marched into town and fired on anything that moved. The soldiers at the Plaza started fighting as I made my way out of the city. On the road ahead of me, there were groups of families. About twenty I’d say. I heard gunshots and hid in the bushes. The families went down. Those Japanese shot them. They weren’t armed. There was,” he pauses for a moment, “no reason to kill them.”

Stella covers her children’s ears and takes them into the other room. Antonio pounds his fists on the table.

“That’s not it.” Mr. Flores continues, “All Chamorro are to report to Agana to receive some sort of identity badge. Last I heard they’re going to load up all the Americans and send them to prison camps somewhere in Japan. My family is going to Agana today.”

After a moment of silence, Antonio asks, “Would you mind if we traveled with you?”

“I was hoping you’d say just that. I’ll go get them. We can leave from here.”

Mr. Flores sets his glass down on the table and proceeds to go get his family. Antonio walks into the kitchen and looks at his family.

“We’re going to travel to Agana with Mr. Flores and his family. Children, you’re probably going to see some very horrific things. Stay together in the group and remember to pray and you will be okay,” Antonio says.

The children go outside to wait for Mr. Flores’ family. Stella buries her head into Antonio’s chest and sobs. He kisses the top of her head. He lifts her head up and dries away her tears. They walk outside to wait.

Mr. Flores and his family arrive. He purposely takes the longer route to avoid the pile of dead bodies. He and his wife walk at the front. The children walk in the middle. Antonio and Stella at the back. The safety of the children is the biggest concern. Mr. Flores motions for Antonio to come up to the front. He points to the Plaza. There appears to be a lot of commotion, but they can’t make it out from where they stand. They look at each other and decide to go on.

Once in the Plaza, both men decide that it might have been a mistake to enter. Many of the Americans were standing naked in the sun. Others were forced to run around the Plaza by the Japanese. In the corners, the Japanese perform atrocities on the American nurses. Stella and Mrs. Flores both grip their children tight. Antonio and Mr. Flores tighten up the group as they proceed to the lines for the passes.

“Ouch,” Libby says when the Japanese soldier pins the pass to her chest.

Minseisho,” he says while pointing at the top stamp. He promptly pushes her forward.

“What do you think minseisho means?” Herman whispers to Beling.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s what they call us. They said it every time,” she responds.

“I don’t care what it means. I don’t want to wear it. It’s so big and ugly,” Libby adds.

After Antonio gets his pass, he looks at Mr. Flores and jokes, “These Japanese must be pretty stupid people.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because they need these passes to tell us from them.”

Mr. Flores jokes back, “Maybe they’re confused since we’re all so tall.”

“No, no. It’s ‘cause we all wear such fancy clothes.”

The two men joke back and forth all the way home. The children laugh and occasionally add their own. Even Mrs. Flores jokes once. Stella, on the other hand, stays silent and distant the whole time. When they arrive home, Stella carefully removes the passes from everyone. She goes into the kitchen and searches for cellophane. She also manages to find some cardboard. She takes a pass, places it on the cardboard, and wraps it with the cellophane.

“Why are you doing that mama?” Libby inquires.

“I think we’re meant to wear these all the time. If this is the only one we get, we better take good care of them for I do not know or wish to know what happens if we are not wearing them. But don’t worry, I’ll make these look good for us. They’ll last a long time,” Stella says through a muffled voice.

“Don’t cry mama. Here, I’ll help you,” Libby says.

“Me too,” Beling says as she walks into the kitchen.

Stella looks at her two girls and begins, “I know daddy jokes, but these are very serious times. Especially for you girls. You saw what those animals did to those poor women. It’s disgusting. You two girls need to always stay together. No matter what. Promise me that.”

“We promise mama.”

Beling’s Guahan – 3 –

– 3 –

“Beling. Libby. Herman. Get up!” Antonio’s voice echoes through the hut. “I said get up! Now!”

Stella finishes pinning up the last strand of her hair. She puts on her hat leaning it slightly to the left. There. Perfect. “Antonio, you’ll never get the children up like that. I’ll go get them,” she calmly says. She walks into the girls’ room.

“I know you girls are up. I know you know what day it is. It’s the feast of Our Lady. And, on such a special day, I thought we might go into Agana to hear Bishop Urteaga say mass.”

The girls quickly jump up out of bed. Libby starts, “Really? We get to go see the bishop? In the big cathedral?” Stella nods. Indeed a special occasion.

“We get to go into Agana? Do we get to take the shortcut by the beach? It’s such a pretty morning mama please say yes,” Beling adds.

“Of course Beling, we’ll take the path by the beach,” Stella says while she runs her fingers through Beling’s hair. “But we must hurry. We don’t want to be late do we?”

Herman bursts into the room. “Look mama. I’m ready. I’m ready for the trip.”

Stella smiles. “And you look very handsome this morning. Let’s go wait in the kitchen with your father while the girls get dressed.”

We’re going to Agana. We’re going to Agana. The girls chant as they put on the dresses Stella made especially for the occasion. They were both blue to resemble the robes of the Blessed Mother. Lined in lace, Libby’s dress looks delicate and beautiful. Beling’s dress looks simple. She doesn’t care for frills. They both take care when removing their rosaries from the silk pouches where they normally stay except for this special day. It is, after all, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. A very special day indeed.

The sun starts to rise as the family walks along the coast. The kids run in and out of the water with their shoes in their hands. Libby is very careful not to get her dress wet. Herman and Beling leap over the beds of seaweed like hurdles. Herman occasionally picks up a piece of seaweed and pretends he has a mustache. Stella and Antonio walking hand in hand. He occasionally runs his fingers over the back of her neck.

“Mama, there it is! It looks so beautiful this morning,” Libby shouts in glee.

“Good morning, young lady. You look very bunita this morning. Your sister as well. And what a bunitu young man you are. Do you know who I am?” the priest at the door asks.

“No, father. We do not,” the children collectively respond.

“I am the Most Reverend Miguel Angel de Olano y Urteaga,” he says after squatting down to look the children in the eyes.

“I think he’s the bishop,” Herman whispers to Libby.

“That’s correct. I am the bishop of Guam and I am very pleased to meet you. What are your names?”

“I’m Libby,” she says shyly.

“I’m Beling,” she says with a big grin and bigger eyes.

“And I’m Herman,” he says very straightforwardly.

“Well, Hafa adai to you all. If you’re fast, I think there might even be five seats up front,” the bishop says winking at the children.

The children run into the church and up the aisle.

“Don’t run. Have some respect,” Stella says as loudly as she can without going above a whisper.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m pleased to see such enthusiasm from the children. Please, join them. We will be starting soon,” Bishop Urteaga tells Stella.

Stella and Antonio make their way up to the row where the children sit. Stella tries to quiet the children. She nudges Herman with her elbow. He looks up at her. He sees her putting her index finger over her mouth but chooses to ignore it.

“I like that window. The one with the guards,” he tells his sisters.

“No, no. The one with Mary is the best,” Beling declares.

“Well, you’re both crazy. The one of the resurrection is the most beautiful of them all,” Libby demands.

“Shhh! Children. Please be quiet now. The mass should be starting any moment. You don’t want to drown out the bishop do you?”  Stella asks.

“No,” the three children say under their breaths.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” Bishop Urteaga begins.

From the side door of the church, a man enters. He walks up to the side of the altar and waits for Bishop Urteaga to finish the opening. “We are gathered here today to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception,” The bishop pauses and leans over to see what it is the man wants.

“Excuse me, bishop. I am here to tell you that bombs have fallen on the Piti Navy Yard, Apra Harbor, and Sumay,” the man explains. “I think it best that you advise these people to leave the city immediately.”

The bishop turning to his congregation announces, “This man has just informed me that Guam is currently under attack.” Trying to talk over the panic that is quickly spreading in the church, “I suggest you all find shelter immediately. The Piti Navy Yard, Apra Harbor, and Sumay have already been bombed. I will be staying to finish the mass, but you should all go home and gather what you can.”

The congregation quickly stands up and leaves the church, pouring out of the doors onto the streets. Beling and Libby are separated from the rest of their family in the confusion. They stay together and wander around the church. Stella frantically tries to locate the girls. Antonio knew the girls would head back home if they could not find their family. He grabs Herman’s hand and Stella’s arm and drags them towards their home.

Leaving the city is very difficult, as the survivors from Piti and Sumay find their way into the city. Bloody and frightened, they try to find their way to the hospital or police station. Everywhere the cries of women and children are heard.

“There are thousands of Japanese. Bombs falling from everywhere. We’ve got nowhere to go! No one to help us! We’re all going to die!” a man yelled at Libby and Beling.

Just then a man runs down the street shouting, “The Japs will be here in thirty minutes. They’re going to bomb Agana! The Japs are going to bomb Agana! We have thirty minutes to live!”

The girls break away from the man who grabbed them and run terrified all the way home hoping their family made it safely. Libby doesn’t care that the branches tear her dress. Beling loses a shoe on the way. Finally, they arrive home. Beling’s foot bleeds from all the rocks and branches she stepped on along the way. Libby sees Stella coming out of the path from the beach and runs towards her. Stella grabs both her girls and squeezes them.

Antonio instructs Herman to go inside the house with him and grab food and clothing for everyone.

“Mama,” Beling manages to get out. She feels like she might pass out from lack of oxygen. “They say we’re all going to die. They say we’ve got no one to help us. Nowhere to go. Are we going to die, mama? Are we?!”

“No, we’re not going to die, baby,” Antonio shouts as he comes out from the house. He gets down with all of them putting his arms around Herman and Beling. “We’ve collected things that we will need. We are going to our lancho immediately. We should be safe there.”

The family starts off. Libby looks back at her house. She thinks of all the things she is leaving behind. Her dolls she’ll never see again. The way the curtains in her bedroom never let too much sun in in the morning. How she loves standing at the kitchen window helping her mama wash the dishes after a meal. All the things she knows are now gone. For how long, she doesn’t know.

Antonio walks with his bike on the outside of the path. He doesn’t want to hit anyone while they walk. Herman carries the few articles of clothing he managed to grab before they left. Beling walks next to her daddy. Libby cries with her face in her mama’s shawl. Stella tries her best to comfort her. She tries even harder to not let the children see the tears that slowly roll down her cheeks.

After two hours of walking, the family arrives at their lancho. No one ever thought they’d have to live here. Always just a place to visit on the weekends. Lands to tend in the early morning. Never home. Stella puts the children to bed. Antonio stands in the doorway looking out over the cliff. Stella walks over to him and puts her arms around him.

“We’ll be okay. I know you’re strong. You’ll keep our family safe,” Stella says in a comforting voice.

He turns to look at her, “And you’ll keep us together. You must be strong too. We can’t let the children see us crying. This is going to be hard. Tomorrow I might journey into Agana to see –”

“You can’t go to Agana. You can’t leave us here,” Stella demands.

“I must go. I have to see what is going on. This is my familia. I need to know what’s going on so I can protect it. You’ll be safe here. The children will be safe as long as they don’t go towards the cities and are home before dark.”

“You’re right. Now, I think we should go to bed. If you do leave, it will be a long journey and we’ve had a long day.”