A little bit of Guam in Illinois

This morning, we woke up, packed up the car and drove an hour away from home to Carlyle Lake, Illinois for the annual Guam Liberation Day Party.

Let me guess. You probably have some questions. Guam, what? Guam is where I’m originally from. My mom is 100% Guamanian and was born and raised there. My dad is full Filipino, was born in Maui, but raised on Guam. So that makes me half Guamanian and half Filipina.

Now for a geography lesson. Guam is a tiny island in the Pacific, the largest of the chain of islands that make up the Marianas Islands. It’s a U.S. territory, so us Americans don’t need a passport to get there. And getting there entails about 27 hours of flight time and layovers from St. Louis and a fat wad of cash to pay for it.

But when you get there, you see how absolutely beautiful this tiny gem of an island is. And then it’s all worth it.

Indescribably beautiful beaches of Urunao, Guam

Majestic Talafofo Falls

Pink and blue skies on the northern end of the island

These photos (first two taken by my dad), were captured during our November 2010 trip. It was hands down the best trip I’ve ever been on. I really don’t care what any travel expert says. Nothing compares to these beaches. It’s a shame Guam never ends up on Americans’ travel list.

You history buffs will remember Guam’s role in World War II. Japan attacked and invaded Guam during the war. Guamanians were harshly treated by the Japanese. Many, including my maternal grandmother, were sent to labor camps. After about two and half years of Japanese occupation, the U.S. Marines stormed Asan Beach to recapture the island on July 21, 1944. The U.S. victory on Guam proved to be a turning point in the war.

Asan Beach, November 2010

So every year, Guamanians celebrate the day they were liberated. It’s called Liberation Day. (Duh.) And even though we’re thousands of miles away from Guam, the party still rages on.

In our case, we and 70-some Guamanians who live in the St. Louis area, gathered together at Carlyle Lake in Illinois for island food, drink, music and mingling. It’s no beach, but it’s probably the closest thing we have to one. The park pavilion we rented is heavily shaded with large trees and has a beautiful panoramic view of the lake. Not to mention cool breezes that blow off the water. A welcome relief from the heat and humidity.

Sailboat in the distance

Lounging, chatting and of course -- eating!

A party isn't complete without a party pup. Teddy was in attendance, sporting his Puppy Love Guam bandana, which unfortunately, isn't visible in this photo.

It certainly is nice to get away from the everyday and lounge around with “your people”. Coming from a community (or island) so small, I think it’s only natural to flock to “your people” when you live that far away from home. Because in my day-to-day life, I don’t live every second in my Guamanian culture. I live a culture that combines what I know from home and what I know from where I live today. Finding the right balance of both is important. And being able to draw from both, makes me feel that much more cultured.

Guam’s Liberation Day is five days away, so let me be the first to say Happy Liberation Day, Guam!



Filed under Family, Travel

15 responses to “A little bit of Guam in Illinois

  1. Ma

    Thanks Nen for the wonderful story. You said it all with a passion and love for your culture. It sure made me homesick for Guam and our family there but being with our chamorro family today helped ease the homesickness. Thanks for the beautiful piece. La you. Ma

  2. julie gumataotao

    Hafa Adai, My name is Julie Gumataotao and I am from Indianapolis, Indiana I heard about the Guam Liberation Events would like to get info so hopefully I am not to late to attend one of these events. Hope to hear from you soon

    • Hafa Adai, Julie! So glad you got in touch with me about attending our Liberation Day celebration. My mom is organizing this year’s event, which is scheduled for July 21st at Carlyle Lake in Illinois. I will email you with more details.

  3. Pingback: Islanders in Illinois | Everything Glitters

  4. I have never met a Guamanian since I have been here since 2008.

    • We’ve had these Liberation Day celebrations at Carlyle Lake for the past three years now. You’re more than welcome to join if you’re in the area. We can add you to our e-mail list and send you an invitation when the date draws closer.

  5. Patricia A.Tajalle

    I was born and raised in Guam. Graduated at George Washington High. In mangilao. In 5-30-
    1976. My mom is Spanish. Born and raised in Guam. My father who is also born and raised there. He’s 1/2 Spanish n 1/2 Japanese. I have traveled to Hawaii. Japan. And traveled to 30 different states. Visited Victoria Canada
    And in my travels I searched for guamanians. And Guam clubs.
    I’m so happy to know that there’s a Guam club in Carlyle lake Illinois. I just want to know the events I’m the future. I might run into frens from school or family members / relatives.

  6. Patricia A.Tajalle

    I would love to know wen the upcoming events are happening. And where this is located / address. Thank you

  7. Patricia A.Tajalle

    I was wondering where the exact location of the Guam liberation celebration will take place and dates. I would really love to there

    • Thanks for your comments, Patricia. The group of Guamanians that gather every year for this Liberation Day celebration are spread throughout Illinois and the St. Louis metro area. The party takes place every year in July around Liberation Day, but the exact date for 2013 is still to be determined. We typically gather at the Eldon Hazlet State Park at Carlyle Lake.

      If you’d like to get the party details as the date draws closer, you can send your e-mail address to everythingglitters.blog@gmail.com. We’ll include you on the e-vite when the details start coming together.

  8. Indy

    Hello, I was wondering when the next liberation day around the St.Louis area will be at. My step dad is from Guam and is trying to find other chamorros . And I kinda what to suprise him with this event. It would mean alot to him . Thanks:)

  9. rissa

    I’ve been in Illinois 15 yrs now, met a few people, but they’ve all relocated.. I would like to see some people from GUAM..

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