In 1991 I wrote in my book Legacy of Guam: I Kustumbren Chamoru “Oh, to be home again. We Chamorus have a word for such yearnings. ‘Mahalang’’ speaks of missing someone or something. It stirs a number of feelings inside me – loneliness, homesickness, a longing for the familiar. I see a lifetime of images of Guam compressed within the time it takes to utter the phrase, ‘Mahalang yu’.”
Three decades later I find myself again very “mahalang” but do not have any realistic way of moving back home to Guam like I did 30 years earlier. A friend of mine told me that feeling is a common, almost universal, one that Chamorus away from home speak about. She suggested that I mitigate this by replacing this intense sense of longing with a sense of belonging. She said to find people with similar experiences. Find Chamorus, connect with them and be mahalang together — and in the process, find a sense of belonging.
This transition from longing to belonging is the crux of my new work.
It’s a simple premise: To photograph and share the stories of CHamorus from the Marianas living away from the home islands in a visual documentary, “Manaotao Sanlagu: CHamorus from the Marianas” translated as “our people, the CHamorus, overseas.”