Maga’håga – the first-born female in a family or clan, a high-ranking female. This social status represents an authoritative figure in the CHamoru culture.
The CHamoru civilization was established as a matrilineal society. CHamoru women have always held a position of power in the family. The CHamorus believed that any major decision should be made with the consent of the maga’håga because their decisions would be in the best interests of the family. Even in these changing times, it is still very common to find that women are held in high regard and their opinion or decision making is valued and respected.
On Guam, the new political year is definitely is one that will stand out. In November of 2018, Guam elected its first female governor. This month Maga’håga Lou Leon Guerrero was sworn into office. There is talk on the island that this is the rise of the famalao’an especially as women outnumber the men seated as senators in the legislature. (The head of the Judiciary is also a woman.)
The inauguration was a historical moment for the CHamoru people of Guam. Not only was the first maga’håga sworn into office, but the inaugural ceremony included the bendishon (cultural blessing). Many of Guam’s gumas came together to participate in the chanting/singing of the bendishon. The traditional blessing is becoming more recognized and used, but has never before been part of an inaugural ceremony. It is remarkable that the people of Guam value the connection of the culture with the present times.
The bendishon is made up of three parts. The first part Katen Kulu – Call of the Conch was composed in 2003 by Frank Rabon, Eric Reyes, Pat Oliva, in collaboration with members of Taotao Tano’. It was a chant for a warrior’s burial and dedicated to the fallen members of Taotao Tano. The second part is O’asiana, O’ aniti – our elders, our ancestors. This part asks for blessings from them. The last part is the raising or building of the latte, Hinatsan I Latte which was composed by some of Taotao Tano dancers. All three parts make up the traditional blessing.