Tao Tao Tano ” People of the Land” Guam Culture in Dance


Guam Chamorro Dancers

Guam Chamorro Dancers

The culture of native peoples is often only captured in oral history through language.  It’s imagery, heart and soul is converyed in song and dance. Here are some samples of the native Chamorro culture of Guam in its different periods in song and dance.




Guam‘s Colorful Kottura: Chamorro dancing through the years

by Fredalynn Mortera Hecita, KUAM News

Thursday, March 18, 2004


The Chamorro culture is known for its songs and dances, and when Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed on Guam’s shore in 1521 it evolved into a presentation of Spanish, Filipino, and differing characteristics of styles from people in neighboring islands. Natibu Dance Company instructor Benjie Santiago says it’s Natibu’s goal to represent the indigenous people of the island of Guam through their bai-la and dandan interpretations.


He told KUAM News, “We have about 300 years of Spanish colonization in the songs and in the dances. You will hear the language, which has evolved. The Spanish influence, you will also, see maybe the costuming which can also be contributed to the Filipino influences, the Spanish influence that’s in the Spanish segment. And we’ll be demonstrating some of our contemporary dances which you will see a bit of different influences from maybe those characterized by Polynesian, those characterized by Micronesian and those characterized most especially by Spanish and Chamorro.”


Two traditional dances that trace back to both the Spanish and Filipino influences are the salteez and batsu. Santiago says today’s adaptations can be seen through the movements performed in the upper torso. “Chamorro dance back then wasn’t very expressive,” he explained. “But it’s up to us as teachers of dances to perpetuate our songs through interpretative movements we feel will best represent a phrase that word, that song.”


In terms of music, Santiago says the distinction between Filipino and Chamorro compositions is the choice of musical instruments. “In the Filipino batsu you hear a lot of basically harmonica and maybe the accordion and we do have accounts or recorded accounts of the accordion used. I have seen the accordion used in different exhibitions for the batsu, especially for the Chamorro batsu,” he said.


Modern Chamorro dances have evolved through the years. Santiago says many local dance troops are integrating Polynesian and Micronesian styles that can be seen in dance presentations at parties, hotels and cultural events. “Again, we as Chamorro people are very hospitable and we embrace everything from the Filipino, the Micronesians, to the Spanish, and now you even have the Hawaiian dances coming into the influence,” said Santiago.


As varied are the steps of different Chamorro dances so are the origins from which they came from

29 thoughts on “Tao Tao Tano ” People of the Land” Guam Culture in Dance

  1. My dad is guamanian and I’m really interested in the culture. Also I’m doing a project on my heritage and this was a big help so thank you! :]

  2. Thank you so much for this site! My mother is guamanian and I grew up in Florida , I have been doing a lot of research to learn more about my family’s heritage and our language, the more I learn the more I appreciate the culture… thank you again!!! I am hoping to travel back to Guam with my mother to visit!

  3. Hi there, my name is Antonio Ciccarone – I’m Italian, my wife is Chamorro. I wrote a song for her about Guam, it’s called “The Haole Song”. There’s a lot of good references, kinda catchy – I’m just leaving the link here in case anyone wants to check it out, use it, share it, link to it, etc.


  4. Hafa adai Tasithoughts, Thanks for posting this blog – it’s great to see the videos. May I ask if you have any really big, clear, sharp professional photographs of Chamorro dancers? For instance the shot of the women dancers at the very top of your page has lots of movement in it even though it’s a still photo. We are interested in publishing such a photo in a forthcoming book about art in Oceania, but it needs to be a really high-resolution, good photo. If you think you can help could you please email me urgently? Best wishes Stella

  5. Filipinos are very different from Guamanians. The skin color is different and even the built of their bodies, they have large athletic body and even the culture are very different from the Filipinos and other Asian cultures. Their hair is also different. I don’t see any similarities from them to Asian cultures. And also Magellan did’nt said that they have similarities from the Filipinos.

  6. you obviously havent been to the Philippines if you think that Filipinos look very different. The thing is, most Filipinos who migrate are mixed with Chinese, because Chinese-Filipinos are wealthy and can afford to immigrate. Regular people in the Philippines have a variety of looks, and many look like Micronesians. You can dump all the Chamorros in the Philippines and they would blend in just fine

  7. I have been to the Philippines many times. There are family members who have married into people of that culture. It is a wonderful place and they have a rich and beautiful culture.

    There are definitely similarities racially but culturally, the Chamorros in the Mariana Islands have carved out a unique culture that is distinct and stands out on its own.

    In the history of Guam , with the filipino migration to the island, there was actually a clashing of cultures. It has taken a few generations to build great ties between the two communities on Guam that still remain distinct.

  8. Wonderful blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Thanks!

  9. It’s remarkable to go to see this website and reading the views of all friends concerning this paragraph, while I am also eager of getting know-how.

  10. Where have you been in the Philippines? I bet you blended in just fine, unless you’re mixed with other stuff besides Chamorro. The main difference between the cultures is that the Philippines has had influence from Mainland Asia, especially China & India. Guam didn’t get that influence. The original native cultures aren’t that different though. And Guam is much more Americanized. Most people speak English. In the Philippines most regular people dont use English much. It’s not very Americanized outside the cities.

  11. Gravatar,

    Thanks for your comments. I have visited the Philippines a few times. Mainly to Manila, Makati, Quezon city and I also been to Angeles city area. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people.


  12. Thank you so much for this blog, I’m from the Philippines and I’m aware of the History that tied the Chamorros and Filipinos together, i love Guam, i can compare it to Boracay or El Nido, and Philippine Independence Day which was June 12, 1898 also marked the date of their Independence from Spain, Philippines had been ceded to the U.S together with Guam, Palau y Puerto Rico however on July 4,1946 the Philippines gained Independence while these 3 Islands remain as a territory of the United States .

    Ojala algun dia yo podria visitar esta isla tropical hermosa del paraiso.

  13. Pingback: Master of Chamorro Dance | Island Time

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