Guam, a territory of the United States, is the largest island in Micronesia and is located in the northwestern section of the Pacific Ocean. It is west of the International Date Line and, since the sun shines eastward over the Pacific, it is the first American territory touched by the sun’s early morning rays, thus the island’s tagline and the title of this column.
Everywhere you go, the islanders greet you with a warm “Hafa Adai,” pronounced “half-a-day,” the “Mabuhay” of the Chamorros, Guam’s native residents. The island is blessed with so many beautiful beaches, diving spots, paragliding sites, and snorkeling areas that there is a joke going around—everywhere you go, islanders always greet you “Hafa Adai” to remind you that, because there are many leisure activities available to them, they work only half-a-day!
I have been to Guam many times. In fact, I lived there for several months more than two decades ago, when I was tasked to set up the local operations of the international airline I used to work for. That was when I really enjoyed the island because I got to experience those “nice little events” and hard-to-find destinations only the locals knew about. The island is very small, ¾ the size of Singapore and it takes only around 45 minutes to an hour, to drive around it, which is why I easily became familiar with everything it has to offer.
The first time visitors land on Guam, they immediately notice the clean air and the beautiful tropical setting, as I did. The climate is just like ours here, but not as humid. This recent visit certainly rekindled the pleasure I had decades ago when I made more frequent trips to the island. Thanks to my friend, Pilar Laguana, Marketing Manager of Guam Visitors Bureau, this visit unveiled many new things the island has to offer.
So, what would interest first-timers to this beautiful island? In downtown Agana, visitors see a good mix of modern architecture and structures reminiscent of the island’s Spanish heritage. The best part is that, wherever in the island you go, you’re never far from the pristine blue ocean, which lures those who go for snorkeling, kayaking or scuba diving. In the city, there is also a walking trail that weaves through 17 historic sites set up for tourists.
Those who have all the shopping money to burn, the endless line of luxury name-brand boutiques and duty-free shops along Tumon is a delight to see. There are many choices for leather goods, clothing, jewelry, accessories, cosmetics, and perfumes, which are less expensive than those in their countries of origin. There are also large American-style shopping malls and open-air shops, like the Chamorro Village in downtown Agana and in nearby villages, which offer mid-range merchandise for the savings-conscious shopper.
Golfers will be happy to know that, no matter what their level of play is, they will find a golf course in Guam that will fit their skills. There are seven golf courses that the island is proud of, as they have been designed by golf legends like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Sam Snead, and these come complete with a breathtaking view of the blue Pacific.
The hopelessly romantic should make that requisite trip to Two Lovers Point which is at the peak of a 378-foot-high cliff, offering a breathtaking view of the island and the Pacific Ocean. Folklore has it that two lovers, who had been forbidden by their parents to marry, nevertheless made a vow to be with each other for eternity, so they tied their hair together and leapt to their deaths. How’s that for true love?
For the religious, a visit to the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica is a must. Many believe this magnificent church is built on the same site as Guam’s first Catholic church. The original structure was built in 1670 but was bombed during World War II. The present church, which was put up in 1959, houses the original statue of Guam’s patron saint, Our Lady of Camarin.
There are many other things one can do and see in Guam. There are many more white sand beaches to soak in, fiestas that showcase the colorful Chamorro culture and its distinctive cuisine, and adventure sports that thrill even the most jaded enthusiast.
All these, plus the island’s soothing marine environment, the tantalizing sweet flowery scent from plumeria trees, and the warm, hospitable Chamorros with their endless “Hafa Adai” greetings serve as a fitting testimonial to how America’s day should begin!
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