By Manny Crisostomo
A couple of weekends ago, the “Manaotao Sanlagu: CHamorus from the Marianas” documentary team set up a pop-up studio at the Mes CHamoru event in Newark, California.
Over 50 CHamorus stopped by to be photographed, and I got excited. As of now, more than 300 diasporic islanders have graciously stood in front of my Hasselblad camera. This is a small sampling, and I have a lot more shooting to do, as there are estimates of more than 180,000 CHamorus who live away from our ancestral islands.
I’ll lighten up on myself (darn it, I could have shot more) and enjoy this threshold, and more importantly, savor the experience of meeting, photographing, listening and curating stories from my fellow manaotao sanlagu.
I harken back to the words in the introduction to my book “Legacy of Guam: i kustumbren Chamoru” published 30 years ago:
“These photographs are a pastiche of Chamoru identity — who we are, what we look like, what validates our lives, how our family lives. It is a permanent record of images that validates Chamorus everywhere, of all persuasions and ethic mixes.”
Back then, that photographic journey was through the 19 villages scattered among the 212 square miles of the island of Guam. This time, my cameras are focused on following a trail of Marianas bloodlines, photographing as many CHamorus from the 50 states and beyond in the years to come.
That introduction ended with, “He photographed at night, in the early morning, in the daytime, in the evening, indoors, outdoors, in essence, everywhere there was a gathering of Chamorus.”
If you are gathering, please invite me and my camera.
First row from top, left to right: Ivan Aflleje, Mark Aflleje, Gina Perez, Antoinette Martinez Valla, Vicente Torre, Jr., Johna Manibusan, Joe Danzy. Second row, left to right: Joseph Villanueva, Hidelisa Manibusan, Anastasia Worthy, Lisa Martinez, Mark Martinez, Kim Diaz Mendiola, Vince Mendiola. Third row, left to right: Paul Cruz, Marcus Laguana, Margaret Rivera Laguana, Jonah Laguana, Bill Laguana, Matthew Hattori, Ralph Blas. Fourth row, left to right: Frank Perez, Thelma Portusach Perez, Gia Patterson, Angel Perez, Nobert Tydingco, Valerie Apiag Nerito, Jerry Negrito. Fifth row, left to right: Annie Blas, Kin Blas, Josh Blas, Gabriella Blas, Dallas Lizama Harris, Donna Fletcher, Paul Lizama. Sixth row, left to right: Maria Toves, Doris Crisostomo Untalan, David Terlaje Untalan, Janice Garcia Cruz, Phil Cruz, Lucas Garcia Cruz, Ja’aria Muñoz. Seventh row, left to right: Martie Santos, Matt Foley, Isabella Denight, Mariana Denight, Jonathan Muñoz, Arianna Perez Bordallo Cruz, Analyssa Perez Bordallo Cruz. Eighth row, left to right: Olivia Diaz Anderson, Ana Alicia Diaz, Ryan Tenorio Healy, and co-founder and event organizer Anthony Camacho.