The “Manaotao Sanlagu: CHamorus from the Marianas” documentary team set up a pop-up studio at the Hafa Diego Fiesta on March 5, 2022 in San Diego. Manny Crisostomo hopes to feature the diasporic CHamorus at length at a later date. First row from top, left to right: Mario Reyes Borja, Jenny Santos, Shawn Sourgose, Maia Waki Perez, Chris Perez. Second row, left to right: Melissa Garrido Martinez, TJ Lizama, Tasha Wade, Kyle Taitano, Edward Taitano. Third row, left to right: John O’Mallon, Natalie Santos Velasco, Carmello Velasco, Carmine Velasco, Lisa Benito, Rick Benito. Fourth row, left to right: Valene Cruz, Timothy Manglona, Michele Presnell, Stephen Cruz, Shannon Terlaje Cruz. Fifth row, left to right: Derek Garrido, Elena Tingson, Jerico Aguon, Mirranda Salas, Sean Torres. Sixth row, left to right: JoJo Borja, James Cepeda, Chris Benavente, Rochelle Catahay Doyle, Zach Anderson.
By Manny Crisostomo
Hafa Diego Fiesta event coordinator Marvin Matanane and his partners AJ and Tomas O’Mallan at Guamstyle were pleased with the success of the Mes CHamoru kickoff event this past weekend in San Diego.
“Hafa Diego is actually a pleasant surprise,” said Matanane. “We didn’t expect it to be as successful as it is. We’re from the Sacramento, Roseville, area and it was interesting for us to come down here and be able to bring a thousand-plus people out to spread the love of our CHamoru culture and music and food.”
Matanane and the O’Mallans, are partners in the Sacramento area clothing and apparel brands Guamstyle and Calibis, put in their own money to make the event happen because they felt there was a demand.
“It is more of a break-even and we actually knew that coming in,” Matanane said. “We expected that we weren’t gonna make anything of this, we just thought that doing it would be the best thing since it is needed and wanted.”
“We wanted to bring the older crowd, the young crowd and also bring a new crowd — non CHamorus, for them to understand what we do and who we are,” Matanane added.
San Diego CHamoru saina Mario Reyes opened the event with a prayer.
“On all the festivals, they’ve been asking me to lead the prayer as part of the support we CHamorus help each other with,” Reyes said.
“We have to resurrect taotaomo’na, the spirits of our ancestors, to join us in any celebration. They’re not here, but you know what, they are here, their spirits are boundless. To make ourselves feel at home, the only way we can do that is to bring our manamko’s along with us. That’s what we do with our prayer. Hunggan magahet.”
Reyes’ opening prayer was followed by song and dance from CHamoru dancers from Southern California. “I think everyone is ready to come together and celebrate our culture and our heritage,” said Heidi Chargualaf-Quenga, a fa’fa’någue, or CHamoru instructor. “Kutturan CHamoru Foundation from Long Beach and Uno Hit from here in San Diego will be collaborating together, celebrating our culture through song and dance and chat.”
In addition to the cultural dance group, musical performers, 56 Hope, The John Dank Show and Jason J played on stage as eventgoers visited booths offering CHamoru food and island-themed merchandise and drank beer at Harland Brewery the site of the event.
San Diego CHamoru Kylie Taitano introduced herself and her platform for Congress on stage and in her booth next to the booths of the “Manaotao Sanlagu: CHamorus from the Marianas” visual documentary team and the Socal Pacific Islander Covid-19 Response Team.
CHamoru radio personality Joey “Q” Quenga made opening remarks and kept the energy and excitement throughout the event, despite the forecasted rain, which let up toward the end.
Matanane, 34, and his fellow millennial business partners are inspired by the success of Hafa Diego and October’s Hafa Bay event in San Francisco. They are planning for a Hafa Sac in Sacramento and Hafa Beach in Long Beach, and making the Hafa Bay and Hafa Diego an annual event.
“I just felt like there should be a new generation like, maybe my age group taking that torch,” Matanane said. “I feel like we need to start taking that torch, developing, creating and producing these events. I feel like it’s our time to do it.”