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Jesus Crisostomos

Jesús Crisostomos with his belembaotuyan.


My grandfather was much more tied to the old ways as far as the way he worked, and the way he treated people," Therese recalls. "But also what I remember about him is the instrument that he played, the belembaotuyan. There’s a history to that one. When he was ten years old, he learned how to play it from his father. According to my grandfather, he didn’t have a toy at that time so there wasn’t a truck or an airplane for him to play with. So his father taught him how to make the belembaotuyan, a one-string Chamorro instrument, and taught him how to play it. So that was what he played when he was a little boy."



"My grandfather carried on until he met my grandmother and they got married and my grandmother, to tell you the truth, wasn’t too thrilled about that instrument, because she didn’t think it was that important. To my grandmother, raising a family and providing for your family was more important to her, and playing with the instrument was not that important.

"So, according to my uncle, as a warning to my grandfather, she hit him over the head with it. And told him to stop playing. So he stopped playing. And he raised his family."



Some of the materials used today for making the belembaotuyan.



A piece of metal trim and a cat-eye shell form the bridge. The wire is derived from old tires—a mix of ancient tradition and modern materials.


"Then we started having Chamorro Week activities at the schools--that’s another special occasion that we have on going. My mother, who was a teacher at the time, and who was in charge of Chamorro Week activities here, she asked my grandfather if he had ever heard of a belembaotuyan, and my grandfather said, 'Yes, I can make it and I can play it,' and my mother said, 'You can?' And so, he made it, he played it, he brought it up to the elementary school and presented it to everybody.

"And since then, everybody wanted him to come and present the instrument, because it was a unique instrument from a long time ago, from what he learned from his father."



Delores Taitano Quinata

Delores Taitano Quinata, the last pupil of Jesús Crisostomo, demonstrates the belembaotuyan.


"And according to my grandfather, his father’s father and so on, they passed the instrument down, and so that’s how he learned how to play it. Ever since then until he died, he was playing that instrument. He would play it at the malls, he would play it in schools, he even presented here at Gef Pa’go. He had a place here where he would play the belembaotuyan for the tourists to see what the instrument was about."



“My grandfather loved and enjoyed going to the schools and playing for the children, when they sit on the ground and their eyes are wide open and their ears are wide open, they listen and say to themselves, ‘What is that?’ Kindergarteners can sit still long enough to listen to him, and they’re thinking, ‘I’ve never seen that before. How did he learn?’

"I encouraged my grandfather to tell the story, although he didn’t know English that well, but he did speak it well enough to communicate. So, often times I encouraged him just to describe it, in his own way, in his own language, so that children could know what it sounds like in the Chamorro language."



Jesus Crisostomos

Jesús Crisostomos.


"What amazed my grandfather so much was that a Japanese crew from Japan came to videotape and document his instrument, and they recorded all of the songs that he had. Then they went back to Japan, and later my grandfather got a call from them in Japan. What they forgot to do was to write the names of the songs that he played. They had gotten so carried away by him playing and showing the instrument that they forgot to document the names of the songs. So they called him long-distance from Japan.

"Here’s my grandfather, talking on the phone and listening to his music in Japan and telling them what the name of the song is. So he was laughing at himself, and laughing at the situation and he said, 'I can’t believe they are in Japan and I am here listening to my music in Japan!' "




"He was just amazed by the technology nowadays. He passed away not even touching a computer. He knew all about the computer, he knew about it and he had seen it, seen a lot of the “new-fangled” things that were happening, he was just amazed at how things are changing. A lot of people say we should go back to the way traditionally how we do things.

"And then my grandfather thinks, you know what, tradition is good, sometimes we need change too."



Another ancient technique still alive in Inarajan today is traditional Chamorro weaving. Tan Floren teaches us about it on the next page.



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