Harold Pangelinan discusses his CD “Chamorro Christmas Mix,” featuring traditional CHamoru Christmas songs as well as new original works in Hagåtña on Dec. 17, 2021. The CD is for sale at Tendan Inda and Camachile Tree Store.
On Guam we know that an island Christmas has a feeling all its own, despite the cultural symbols around it focusing on regions with cold weather.
We revel in this glorious transition to Fañomnåkan — though most holiday imagery and lyrics fixate on snow and staying cozy — which is exactly why Harold Pangelinan’s “Chamorro Christmas Mix” feels so delightful.
The CD, produced and recorded in 2020 by Bear Rock Productions, features traditional CHamoru Christmas songs such as “Na Guinaiyayon” and “Fanmatto Man Henge,” as well as a handful of new original works from Pangelinan and co-writer Jeff Borja.
“It reminds you again of home, of being back home and listening to the contemporary Christmas music, being together with families, relatives and so forth,” Pangelinan said.
“Just because, you know, it reminds you of the island that you’re from. You know, this is where I’m from, this is our music. And this is what we love to bring to the public and to the world and let people know this is our joy during the Christmas season.”
Pangelinan has been active in the music scene on Guam and in the Marianas Islands for about 25 years. He has performed with Candy Taman and Frank “Bonkonggo” Pangelinan as part of the Chamolinians in Saipan, and has put out various albums on Guam over the years.
He eventually went on to sing in the choir at St. Joseph’s Church in Inalåhan, where he found the inspiration for “Chamorro Christmas Mix.”
“People kept on asking me to do Christmas songs, because I used to sing with the choir in Inalåhan … We’d sing the Christmas songs, and then Christmas came,” Pangelinan said.
“So people kept saying, ‘Hey, we like your voice, can you make a Christmas album? We know you do a lot of love songs and break up and make up songs, but we want also to make something Christmas. So can you just bring back some of the old CHamoru music? Old CHamoru songs that we sing in churches?’ Okay, no problem. I’ll do that, too.”
In addition to well known CHamoru songs, Pangelinan has included some of his original CHamoru songs on the album, such as “Kirida,” and “O Bithren Maria.”
“Song of Thanks” and “When I Call Your Name,” which Pangelinan describes as gospel blues, are the only English songs on the album and are his original works.
Pangelinan is passionate about spreading Christmas cheer as well as CHamoru language and culture, both for the enjoyment of people still on Guam and for those who have moved elsewhere.
“The reason we create and distribute music in CHamoru is because we want to keep up the culture, the language and the music, for the generations to come up,” Pangelinan said.
“For them to know that this is their language, and they should learn it and remember that this is their culture. This is their island. This is their people. And this is where they come from. So to make sure that they don’t forget where they came from, even if they go to the States, or they go somewhere else. They know where they came from, and have that pride that, you know, I’m from the island of Guam. And this is our music, and it’s beautiful because it describes our people.”