Written by Meravelle Duran Illustrated by Danille Rachel Royales
To my mom – no matter how old I am, you are always looking out for me. And to my daughter Miavelle – no matter how old you get, I’ll always look out for you. - MERAVELLE DURAN
To my family – thank you for your unending love and support. - DANILLE RACHEL ROYALES
Written by Meravelle Duran Illustrated by Danille Rachel Royales © 2021 by JOY Consultants, Inc.
This story begins with a little Filipina girl named Maria Teresa. She lives on the beautiful island of Guam with her mother and father.
One afternoon, Maria Teresa asked her mom if she could play outside their house. “Sige na po, Mommy. I won’t be out too late. And I know to ask for permission when around trees and grassy areas. Please?” Maria Teresa made a face her mother couldn’t refuse, so her mother replied, “Yes.”
Maria Teresa decided to play in the jungle that covered her backyard. As she walked in, Maria Teresa said in Tagalog, “Tabi, tabi po, sana po ‘di manuno. Tabi, tabi po.” Her mom always told her to ask for permission when entering the jungle.
When Maria Teresa walked in a little further to where the trees were big and the grass was high, she spotted a little girl standing near a tree. “Hi, I’m Maria Teresa! What’s your name? And what are you doing in my backyard?” The little girl smiled and answered, “Your backyard? Is that so? This is actually where I live. By the way, my name is Rosa.”
Maria Teresa was puzzled. How could Rosa be living in her backyard? Maria Teresa was glad to see another girl her age, so she didn’t think too much of it. Maria Teresa repeated, “Tabi, tabi po. Sana po ‘di manuno.” Rosa wondered, “What are you saying Maria Teresa? I can’t understand you.”
Maria Teresa explained, “Oh maybe because it’s in Tagalog. That’s how we ask for permission before we enter the jungle, so we don’t get pinched by the spirits and get sick. My mom taught me this phrase.” Rosa chuckled, “But the ancient spirits are CHamoru. We can’t understand you Maria Teresa.”
“Guello yan Guella, kao siña yu' maloffan gi chalan-miyu gi tano'-miyu? This is how you ask permission in CHamoru. It’s what the ancient spirits can understand. Asking for permission is the most respect anyone can show us when entering our sacred land.”
Maria Teresa asked with a smile, “Can you teach that to me Rosa? I would never want to disrespect the ancient sprits.” Rosa nodded her head yes. “Also Maria Teresa, you need to say this before you enter the jungle, not when you’re already inside. Guello yan Guella, kao siña yu' maloffan gi chalan-miyu gi tano'-miyu?”
“Alright Rosa. I’ll remember to say it before entering the jungle. Guello yan Guella, kao siña yu' maloffan gi chalan-miyu gi tano'-miyu?” repeated Maria Teresa. “Thank you for teaching me, Rosa. Will I be able to see you again tomorrow?” Rosa laughed, “This is where I live, remember? Of course you’ll see me again.” Rosa and Maria Teresa gave each other a goodbye hug.
The following day, Maria Teresa asked her mom if she could play outside again. “I made a new friend yesterday, and I want to see her again!” “That’s fine Maria Teresa, as long as you ask for permission before entering the jungle,” instructed her mother. "Oh, don't worry Mom. I know, " assured Maria Teresa, as she leaves the house whispering, "Guello yan Guella..."
Bany an Tr ee
The beautiful tree in this story, the banyan tree or tronkon Nunu (in CHamoru), is a native tree to Guam. In the Philippines, the tree is called balete. According to folklore, the ancient CHamoru spirits (tao’taomona) live in these trees. CHamorus say the chant “Guella yan Guello, dispensa ham låo Kåo siña ham manmaloffan yan manmanbisita gi tano miyu” to ask for permission and to show respect before visiting the tree or entering the jungle. Translated the chant means, “Grandmother and grandfather, excuse us. May we walk through and visit your land?” For those who don’t ask for permission, the spirits may make them sick or pinch them. In the Philippines, the tree is also associated with spirits. Even now, many CHamorus and Filipinos will not go near a nunu tree, especially after dark.
Read about Maria Teresa's friendship with Rosa and how they show respect for our land and our ancestors.