My husband moved to Guam a whole year before our daughter and I joined him. Worried about him fitting in and not feeling homesick during the holidays, I gently urged him to attend events his co-workers invited him to. After attending a Thanksgiving dinner, he told me that the people of Guam were very respectful toward the elders. He described the young people going around the room to bow to the hand of every elder. “Really???” I gasped. “Every elder?” I asked in amazement. “Yes, they greeted every elder before they did anything else.” Whoa, I thought. That’s crazy.
Fast-forward 1 year later…
It was the end of a course I was taking at my church. We had a potluck and everyone invited their family. When my group member introduced me to her sons, they all said came up, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Hello, Ma’am. Nice to meet you.” To say I was impressed is an understatement. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY! I told my husband, “THAT is how I want my sons to greet a lady.”
Just the other day…
I was browsing Facebook when I saw this post. I immediately remembered my husband telling me about the young ones bowing in respect to the elders and I knew this is what he was talking about. It’s called mannginge’.
It is a way of starting off interaction with positive feelings. I, who bend down and venerate the hand, show respect; I acknowledge someone’s status; I define the relationship. I, who am venerated, bestow a blessing. We can now proceed. We feel good about each other. What favor do you want?
Neither is it a sign of affection. The mannginge’ has been replaced in modern times by kisses with the lips. Much too intimate for old-time Chamorros, who rarely even held hands in public between husband and wife. I remember almost having to provide a papal dispensation to some manåmko’ to get them to hold hands for a brief moment when celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
Respect, not affection. Nose, not lips. Even the word is “nginge’” which means “to smell.” One doesn’t really take a big whiff of the person’s hand, but when Chamorros kiss (romance aside), they kiss with the nose.
Here on Guam, I see the custom still practiced to a large extent. The other day, here at the friary, a young man reached for the hand of a visiting American priest. The priest didn’t know what was going on and jerked back his hand. I told the priest, “Give him your hand. It’s what we do here.” (Taken from this blog post and I have no idea how accurate it is.)
While I don’t necessarily want to put my nose on anyone’s hand, I do appreciate the high level of respect shown to the elders on this island.I honestly can’t think of anything that is done on a consistent basis for the elders where I’m from. Maybe going through the house giving hugs and handshakes??? I definitely am not a good example! I usually give an all-inclusive “Hey y’all” and head for the nearest exit. (I can be a bit anti-social around people I don’t know very well.) After seeing the Guam locals treat their elders with so much respect, honor, and patience, it motivates me to at least try to do the same.
What do you think about the mannginge?
How does your culture show respect to elders?