Hagåtña – First European City in the Pacific
Every time I am in new place, I am always excited. My travel to Guam was quite pricey because all my expenses were all in US Dollars. But I tried my best to find ways to make some of my adventure to be cost-effective or a bit of cheap but still not 100% cheap.
First Time Visit
In my second day in Guam, I didn’t book a tour. I got some brochure for public transportation around Tumon Bay, the place where I stayed in the island and the most tourist populated in Guam. Using the public transportation information that I had, I planned to visit the capital city of Guam Hagåtña to do its Heritage Walking Trail.
Hagåtña or its old name in Spanish “Agaña” is the capital city of US Territory of Guam which located at the middle west part of the island. From the hotel that I stayed which was Grand Plaza Hotel, I walked just few minutes towards T Galleria by DFS mall, wherein I thought its the shuttle bus terminal that goes to Hagåtña from Tumon Bay. Unfortunately, when I reached the said mall and when I asked somebody there, I was told that I already passed the terminal, which is Tumon Sands Plaza. I walked back to Tumon Sands Plaza, I saw the bus coming out from the side of the mall, I waved to the driver of the bus, it stopped in front of me and he opened the door. I asked if he was going to Hagåtña and he confirmed that he was, so I hopped into his bus.
The shuttle bus offers one way ticket, round trip and a day ticket. Since I will be visiting Hagåtña, I bought a round trip, to be able to visit the city and to be able to come back in Tumon Bay. The bus fare was $10. I don’t have specific map for Hagåtña Heritage Walking Trail because the Guam Visitor Center is far from my hotel, therefore I relied only using my research result from the internet. So the places that I found in the walk were the places that I was able to identify from the map that I found in the internet.
I got off the bus when it reached the stop near the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, the first Catholic Church in Guam which significant historical event in the island when it was dedicated last 1669. The church is also included in the Heritage Walking Trail from the map that I found in the internet. From there, I passed the church and walked towards the Plaza de España.
As my observation in a Spanish community which very visible in my country (and I think it’s the same case in other country with Spanish influence or probably not specific to Spanish but with the Roman Catholic influence together with imperialism) is the location of a church and its political government office center. In Hagåtña, the case is not different, Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica is not far from Plaza de España where the Governor’s Palace was formerly standing. I had seen this kind of setting in my country where Catholic churches are near in either in a City or Municipality Hall. Back home we usually call it ‘Bayan’ which most of the time, becomes the capital center of a city or even a province.
While walking at Plaza de España, I saw the map displays information what we can see in the area and what’s left in the site. Based on history, it served as the colonial Spanish Governor’s Palace from 1734 until World War II. The former building stands here became the center stage of government and civic activities from Spanish colonization, to American administration and even to Japanese regime. What we can see right now are only portion of the plaza which they were able to restore since it was destroyed last 1944 during the liberation of Guam from Japanese.
Here are some of the restored part of the Plaza de España
Azotea and Site of Governor’s Palace
Three-Arch Gate to Almacen (Arsenal)
Garden House (former Guam Museum)
Siesta Shed and Fountain
Not far from Plaza de España, I found an interesting monument and when I approached it, I learned that it’s a memorial towards the fallen Chamorro men who valiantly defend Guam against Japanese invasion in 1941.
I wanted to visit Guam Museum but unfortunately, at the time that I was in the city, the museum is closed. A quiet unique design of a museum.
The Pietà of Hagåtña at Skinner Plaza
For all Men and Women Wounded in all Wars
The Tower below dedicated to Guam sons who fought during Korean War
I saw this one, while I was trying my way to find a bus to go back to Tumon Bay. This inscribe a significant event of Guam.
While I was waiting at the bus stop for its schedule to leave the terminal going back to Tumon Bay, I was curious what can I see inside the Agan Shopping Center. Since I still have enough time to walk a bit inside the mall, I discovered something that one part of the shopping center will be familiar to me which is called SM Island. I verified that its part of the SM Store which widely spread in my country, they even have BDO bank branch in the island.
When my time to get back to the bus stop, I went out and waited for a while just to make sure I will not miss it. That was how I spent my first time in Hagåtña.
Second Time Visit
It was Wednesday, I came from an adventure that day, but I still have enough time to visit Chamorro Village. The village is in Hagåtña, not far from where I had my first Heritage walk in the city. While visiting the island, I heard that Night Market in Chamorro is exciting and full of people and the food are all good and in cheap price. Because it happens only once a week, which is every Wednesday Night, it became a popular event and famous destination both for local and tourist alike. The public bus schedule for Hagåtña are changed because a different bus line will serve exclusively for such event.
Because I never drive (since I never knew it), I heavily relied in public transportation. And because of that, before even Wednesday night, I checked the brochure information that I have related to bus going to the village on Wednesday night. And that night, from hotel, I walked towards T Galleria by DFS mall and I bought bus ticket which cost $7 and it is a return trip to Tumon Bay. After I bought the ticket I followed the instructions where to take the bus and there I realized, that a lot of people wants to visit Chamorro Village Night Market. We waited a bit and then our bus came and in less than half an hour driving to Hagåtña, we arrived in the famous local village. When I first came to peek the area during the first time visited in the city, it was a quiet place but that night, it was totally opposite. From the time we went off the bus, there are lots of people who can be seen immediately. Aside from the bus line that serves visitors that night, there is tourist bus and private vehicles. So there are quite traffic to experience in the city.
My curiosity leads me to the entrance and both sides has kiosks displaying different products being sell to entice people who comes in and out that way. Near the main entrance, there was a building with lots of people some people seats and having a great dining experience with local food and some were enjoying dancing along side with the music. The dance music was familiar to me, it was Cha-cha. I stopped a bit and watch them a bit. These people know how to have a great time.
Chamorro Village at its earlier time
Chamorro Village before it darks
Because we arrived the village a bit early and the sky still clear, I just passed the village and went straight to a point where I can see the Agana Bay. With my camera, I tried to take some snapshots of the bay but it was not as clear as it should be.
Since it was a night market, what else should I be doing. There are many choices of food. But I don’t want to think anymore which one I should choose. Therefore, I selected the store where it has too many people queuing on it. Well, for one reason, why there are so many people wants to try their food? And why people never complain about the long line. And even there was long line, the wait time was worth of it, when I was so near to see my options, I was confused which one should I chose. I made my mind and then I told them my order and they prepare it so fast. So it’s not really that long to wait. I chose the special plate and to be honest I wasn’t able to finish my food because I was already full.
Chamorro Local Dance Performance
After I had my dinner, I walked around again to see what else to see in the Chamorro Village Night Market. One thing is for sure, you will not get hungry since you have lots of options to eat. Then, local products are spread in different parts of the village. Lots of local kiosks stray around the area. My wandering in the village continue until I heard a music being played not far from where I stand. Then I followed the sounds where it coming from. Then, I saw people were gathered and I discovered there is a small stage nearby. I saw people were watching something, I approached the stage and saw some Chamorro locals doing a local dance performance. I was intrigued what it look like. I was curious if it was similar local dances that we have back home. I enjoyed the show specially the part where they have fires while dancing. It was worth time to enjoy the show.
After watching the dance show, I decided to walk a bit more and check if there are distinct local products that I can find, but in the end, I bought some few post cards in Guam. I decided to go back and I didn’t want to be left behind by bus, so I left the market 30 minutes before the last bus will leave the village. The bus schedule was from 6:30 to 8:30 PM every Wednesday.
Third Time Visit
I was able to return to Hagåtña for the third time unintentionally during my Island Tour that I booked because there were no other way for me to see most of the island using public transportation. The buses are only available in Tamuning, Tumon Bay and Hagåtña, outside this part of the island, the only option is to take a taxi, rent a private vehicle or join a tour.
The tour visit lots of places in the island and Hagåtña is just part of it. We had stopped in the city that gave me a chance to see other parts of the walking trail that I haven’t been able to see during my first visit. The surprising thing was that these other parts of walking trail that I was talking about was not far from where I had been during the first visit.
Below are the continuation of Hagåtña Heritage Walking Trail that I had during island tour.
This latte stone is a symbolical pillar that represents the culture of local people (Chamorro) in the island. And the shape of this are commonly seen around Guam. These pillars were the Chamorro houses stands before. These lattes are used as the foundations of important structures in Chamorro Villages.
Based on the displayed description of the monument, I learned that he is a man who advocates the for the Chamorro rights that has been long denied by US because of historic injustices and for equality under the law. He was credited for the success of federal land and disbursement of Chamorro Land Trust property to eligible Chamorros.
Not far from Latte Stone Park, the interlocking caves used by Japanese for storage and air-raid shelters can be found.
Well, it was three visit in the same city, but for those three times that I had been in Hagåtña, all were discovery. All things that I saw and experience were different in those visit. And with those visits, I realized some of its culture has similarity to mine but still there’s distinction to emphasize for its own identity.
1. Plan to visit Hagatna ? – Please check information here.
2. Self-Guided Walking Tour – Please download walking trail here.
Additional Resources : Guampedia
3. Public Transportation Ticket
Guam does not have unified public ticketing system as the island does not have systematic public transportation.
4. Public Transportation to Hagatna
If you are staying in Tumon, there is available public bus that goes to Hagatna.
Ticket Fare : As of April 2017, round trip ticket is $10.00
Bus Station : Tumon Sands Plaza
First Trip : 10:30
Last Trip : 17:45
Additional Resources : guam-beaches.com
5. Chamorro Night Market Shuttle Bus
Day : Every Wednesday Night
Ticket Fare : Round Trip $7.00
Bus Station(s) : (1)DFS Tumon (2) Guam Premier Outlets
First Trip : 18:00
Next Trip : Every 20 minutes
Last Trip : 19:30
Additional Tips :
Always confirm the return of the bus from Chamorro Village to avoid being left behind if you only rely on public transportation. As far as I remembered, the bus last return to Tumon is 20:30. So its better to take the earliest schedule to the village to be able to spend more than an hour to enjoy the night with lots of foods, to be able to shop souvenirs and even to watch Chamorro Cultural Dance Show.