CHAMORRO ACTIVIST ANGEL SANTOS DIES ON GUAM

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 7) - Former Sen. Angel L.G. Santos, an impassioned and eloquent political and Chamorro rights' activist, died yesterday after a battle with Parkinson's disease.

Santos, a self-described advocate for the common man, died about 3 p.m. yesterday at his brother's residence at Green Park apartments in Mangilao, said attorney Mike Phillips, spokesman for Santos' family. He was 44. Santos was surrounded by friends and family at the time of his death.

"He was awake and then passed away," Phillips said. "It was a very peaceful passing." Rosary will be said nightly at the San Vincente/San Roke Catholic Church in Barrigada, Phillips said.

Santos' family declined further comment yesterday.

Santos, an Air Force veteran, was a Democratic senator in the 23rd, 24th and 26th Guam Legislatures. Flags will be lowered to half-staff at government buildings today, in Santos' honor, according to the office of Gov. Felix Camacho.

He was a member of and spokesman for the activist group Chamoru Nation, which fought for the implementation of the Chamorro Land Trust Act.

Santos was involved in the movement to have excess federal lands returned to the families that once owned the properties.

He fought hard for issues including land rights, Chamorro self-determination and cultural issues, self- government and environmental causes.

In 2000, Santos began a six-month sentence in federal prison after violating a 1993 court order to stay off Air Force land in Dededo that Santos contended was his grandfather's property. Upon his return, he was elected to the Guam Legislature, but his failing health kept him from attending session as his term came to an end.

"This is such a loss. We lost a man who has the interest of the Chamorro people. He has fought long and hard for us," said local educator and Chamorro playwright Peter Onedera. "He made a difference in the lives of many Chamorros. He embodied the ancient Chamorro spirit of pride and belonging to the land."

"I will remember his humility most of all. He never put himself above anyone else. He helped out a lot of people," Onedera said. "He made me proud and made me more cognizant of the fact that I am a Chamorro and what that means."

Onedera has known Santos since the early 1980s.

"He was the son of Guam. He stood up and spoke for his people," Onedera said.

Onedera said he remembers when Santos led a hunger strike and camped at Adelup to protest the government's failure to implement the Chamorro land trust law.

"He was starving himself because of the cause. I asked him, 'Why are you doing this?,' and he said, 'I'm doing this because we as a people we need to be aware, alert and we need to be there for our children,'" Onedera said. "In his heart, he has stood right by his people."

Mangilao resident Doris Chargualaf, who is writing a biography of the activist and former senator, said Santos will be missed by many who regarded him as a friend and leader.

"No amount of words in any language or any color can express the loss I feel," the 50-year-old Chargualaf said.

"He inspired a lot of Chamorros," said Chargualaf, who will chronicle Santos' life in a book titled, "Rise and Fall of the Sleeping Giants."

She said some people misunderstood Santos' cause.

"Some people thought Angel was a racist. He is not a racist," Chargualaf said. "He believed all people are one, but there is a boundary and it's not just about the land. It's the belief in culture and heritage. He is the strongest out of all of the Chamorros I have ever met."

Chargualaf said she and others are pushing lawmakers to pass legislation to rename HagÂtÒa's Latte Stone Park in Santos' honor.

"Angel told me that in troubled times, he would go to the park and that is his praying ground," Chargualaf recalled. "He would pray around the latte stones because he believed it was the grass root of the Chamorro people. The root leads all the way up the hill to the governor's house. Angel had great respect for that park."

Filamore Palomo Alcon, 51, owner of the Guam Gallery of Art in Chamorro Village, said he is part of a movement to rename Latte Stone Park after Santos.

"That is a place he always goes to meditate and pray," he said.

Alcon said fighting for the land was Santos' "greatest accomplishment."

"I would say that would be his legacy," Alcon said.

Former senator and Chamorro activist Hope Cristobal remembered Santos as a man of courage.

"We have lost a great champion of the Chamorro people," she said.

Cristobal served with Santos in the 23rd Guam Legislature, which was his first term. At that time, she said, many Chamorro rights issues were being raised and Santos was at the forefront of that movement.

"He was not afraid to stand up and make a statement," she said.

She worked with him on several bills, including those involving the Chamorro land trust, the Chamorro registry and decolonization.

"He was a personal friend. ... We are going to miss that kind of person," she said.

"There were many times when we sat around and we would talk about the preservation and the perpetuation and the promotion of our people's culture, especially our traditions," said Frank Rabon, 47, the master of Chamorro Dance and the executive director of Pa'a Taotao Tano.

"We were walking down the same path, we just had different ways of walking down the path," he said.

"His biggest contribution to the island of Guam would be that he opened our hearts and our eyes to realize that we have to save what little we have -- our resources, our land, our language, our people," he said. "We cannot allow those to be taken advantage of."

Dozens of family members and friends were at Guam Memorial Hospital yesterday to pay their respects after hearing about Santos' death.

Frank Terlaje, 43, of Yona and godfather to Santos' youngest daughter, was at the hospital yesterday afternoon

He said he had known Santos for more than 10 years. Terlaje said his brother Jose was Santos' running mate in Santos' 1998 quest for governor.

"I'm sad that he passed away," he said. "If you get to know him, he's a good person, very down to earth."

Chalan Pago-Ordot Mayor Vicente "Ben" Aguon, who also was at the hospital yesterday, said Santos played a major role in getting land returned.

"I already received land released by the Navy because of him," Aguon said. "He fought for our rights."

Aguon said he last saw Santos a week ago, during which Aguon and others prayed and lighted candles.

"The thing that hurts me -- he could not talk back to me," Aguon said. "He held my hand, opened his eyes. I think he knows it's me cause he held it tight."

Danny "Pagat" Jackson, 52, of Pagat, Mangilao said he considered Santos a brother and always stood by his side during protests.

"He woke up a lot of people," said Jackson, a council member of the Chamoru Nation activist group. "He knew how to speak to the public."

Josephine C. Jackson, 47, who is Danny Jackson's wife, said they rushed to the hospital after learning of Santos' death.

"His legacy will still be with us in our hearts," she said. "People will never forget him."

July 7, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

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