ON DEC. 8, 1941, residents of our paradise began their day preparing for the feast of the island’s patron saint, Santa Marian Kamalin. As that day was recounted, people from all over the island made their way by foot, car or wagon to the cathedral in Hagåtña and attended the early morning Mass and procession in honor of the earthly Mother of the King of Kings.
Every seat in the church was taken and many of the attendees who didn’t get there as early stood in and around the church grounds. Flower girls donned their pretty dresses and the young men who were selected to pull the carosa were eager to take their place by the Queen Mother.
As the Mass progressed, Japanese aircraft were seen descending from the northern skies towards the once sprawling village of Sumay. Soon thereafter, loud explosions were heard coming from the southwestern side of the island.
Bishop Miguel Olano, the main celebrant for the Mass, was informed the explosions came from the bombs and gunfire off Japanese airplanes as they were attacking Sumay. Fearing for the safety of those at the Mass, Bishop Olano halted the service and advised everyone to gather their families and seek shelter. Since then, our people have never had the chance to complete that Mass – until now.
Tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m., island residents, most especially the survivors of Guam’s occupation during World War II, will have the opportunity to complete the Mass abruptly halted 70 YEARS AGO. The Archdiocese of Hagåtña and the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation, in partnership with members of the 31st Guam Legislature and Guam’s representative to the United States Congress, will be hosting the Mass at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, and a light breakfast will be served afterwards in the Plaza de España.
While Dec. 8 has always been the one day of the year we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, in 1941 it was the day our island and its people were thrust into the middle of World War II. Though we’ve celebrated the conclusion of the war every 21st of July, we have never commemorated the day our lives were changed forever.
Several years ago, there was a move to recognize Dec. 8 as Remembrance Day and a government of Guam holiday. While that day continues to be a holiday, it is still known as the Feast Day of the Immaculate Concepcion. I don’t believe there is any harm in distinguishing Dec. 8 as Remembrance Day, to honor the many people whose lives were changed on that day 70 years ago and to remember how life was before then. Guam and her people will always know the 8th of December is the Feast Day for our island’s patron saint and is a holy day of obligation and procession in honor of Santa Marian Kamalin (which will be held at 4 p.m.). But seven decades ago, that day marked the end of Guam as a peaceful little island, and the beginning of a time that many of those who lived through it wish never happened.
So tomorrow, please remember what happened on our island and her people 70 years ago and give thanks to our patron saint for constantly watching over us.