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Father Dueñas


"This white house up here on the corner," Joe points out, "is the home of Benny San Nicolas’s parents. And this home here is historically significant because this is where Father Dueñas was tortured in front of the villagers during the war. It had an open porch outside, and also on the bottom there was an open porch, and they tied him on the corner of the post there. They tortured him in front of the villagers for — according to the Japanese — keeping information regarding Tweed, a US Navy officer hiding here on the island."



"Tweed was an American naval officer that was here on Guam during the Japanese Occupation," Joe explains. "He was the person that was responsible for getting the marines into Guam, into whatever location they needed to get into, but he was also responsible for a lot of deaths here on the island, because people were protecting him.

"Some people see him as a hero, some people see him as somebody that really took advantage of our people. And he no longer lives here. He wrote a book, No Man is an Island, and everybody didn’t like what he wrote."

"A lot of family members had gone off and passed away because they wouldn’t share any information on him," Sherey adds, "and once you didn’t share, if they had any inkling that you had some idea where he was at, you’d be executed.



George Ray Tweed, Radioman First Class. His memoir, co-written with Blake Clark, accused Father Dueñas of violating the confessional by naming one of Tweed's protectors while being tortured. Tweed later retracted the accusation.



Father Jesus Baza Dueñas.
He was born in Hagatña in 1911, and studied for the priesthood in Manila before returning to Guam.


During the Japanese Occupation, many of the American-born priests were removed from the island, leaving only three Chamorro priests to serve the entire population. "Father Dueñas was really the only priest who was responsible for this whole area here in the South. It would take a while before the masses were said in different locations," Bill says. Father Dueñas based himself at St. Joseph's Church in Inarajan.

The Japanese, meanwhile, sent two Catholic priests of their own to Guam, hoping through them to reach the Chamorro people more effectively. According to an article by Dr. Pedro C. Sanchez, one of these men had visited Bishop Olano of Guam, who was interned in a Japanese prison camp. Through him, Bishop Olano sent a letter to Father Dueñas charging him to "defend the Chamorros in in their encounters with the Japanese government." Sanchez notes, "Father Dueñas did not falter in this mission."



"When he came to a ranch," Bill tells us, "he would actually bless the things that were planted, like for instance with potatoes, taros, the banana trees. One thing that my mom was talking about was how miraculous things came out of that blessing, like the sweet potatoes would be harvested today in three days, they come out just as big as three days ago, just like the taro.

"There was a time when one of the Japanese soldiers told him, ‘You know there is no way you can leave this place,’ and he said ‘I want you to move.’ He was almost beheaded at that time and he said ‘Just move, please, because I need to do what I need to do.’ And the soldier didn’t want to. He got down and he just scuffed the guy away, and he got up on his horse and he went on."



St. Joseph's Church in Inarajan, where Father Dueñas based himself.


"Before he was tortured, all the people were at the ranch," Tan Floren recalls. "So he mounted his horse, he was wearing his white gown, and he visited from one ranch to another. He visited the people to check on them. And he wasn't scared, no matter what.

"When he was saying the mass here at the church, in the middle of the mass, a couple of Japanese came in, with a gun, and they held the gun on him — but Father Dueñas continued his mass until it was over — he wasn't scared. But they didn’t do anything, just stood like this, with the gun. And then the couple of Japanese just walked away. They just tried to scare him, you know? But Father Dueñas, he just continued his mass.

"He visited the people, no matter where, he’d just go in the jungle and find them. And whatever he had, he shared with the family that needed it the most. Us, our ranch, we didn’t need it, because my father planted. We had something there like the taro, banana, and we had some breadfruit.

“Father Dueñas, he was so brave a man, you know? He didn’t care what happened to him.”



Planting rice

Chamorros performed forced labor during the occupation. Here they are planting rice in Inarajan, under the watchful eyes of Japanese administrators.



"Father Dueñas was tortured all morning," Joe states. "Enough to scare the people." Sanchez writes that "On the last day of torture at Inarajan, Father Dueñas' bruised and bloody body was put out under the broiling afternoon sun for the flies and ants to do their worst."

Tan Floren recounts, "When we were working at the rice field, my cousin and I we went just to peek, because we already heard about Father Dueñas being punished. So we went, my cousin and I went just to sneak, and when we saw Father Dueñas, he was on a bench, looking up at the sun, and his hands tied in the back.

"The minute we saw, we just ran back to the rice field. And the Japanese were ready to slap us because we were late. But the minute we offered them some soursap, the laguana, they said, 'Okay okay okay. Good good good.' And then he forgave us, because he was ready to slap us. But right away, you know, I offered that sweet soursap."



"From here, they took him up to the village of Tai in Mangilao," Joe continues, "and that’s where a memorial school has been built, an all-boys Catholic school — Father Dueñas Memorial School — and that’s where they executed him."

"I can tell you a lot about this man," Bill says, "He was a Catholic priest and he wasn’t afraid, he stood for the faith, he had the opportunity to leave. He told the others ‘Please go, you do have family. I don’t and I believe that this is what God wants me to do.’

"When I was growing up, I was always picturing this man on a horse, on a white horse. I don’t know whether the horse was white or what. But I became very fond of this man who was always riding on the horse, getting everybody to stay for the mass, and how his kindness, his belief in God was just so strong that it didn’t matter whether he would risk his life, he needed to go out there and do his job, get the people there for the mass."



Father Dueñas depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Joseph's Church, where he is now buried.


While these terrible events were happening in Inarajan, Tweed was being rescued by the Americans, who not long afterwards stormed Guam, ousted the Japanese, and began a new era of Americanization.



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