Guma’ Gela: Being CHamoru is a human experience

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Guma Gela
From left, the founders of Guma’ Gela,’ Clay Josh, Roquin Jon-Siongco, and Eddie Acfalle. Guma’ Gela’ is a queer CHamoru art collective rooted in inclusion and inafa’maolek. (Photo from Guma’ Gela')

During Mes CHamoru, this local artist is celebrating the different facets of the CHamoru people through fashion, art, and inclusivity. 

Roquin-Jon Siongco is an artist like no other. Roquin was born in Guam and raised in the village of Yigo before moving to Washington state. As a child, Roquin was introduced to the art of weaving in his 3rd-grade CHamoru class. It was then that he discovered his love and natural talent for creating. 

After moving to Washington in 2008, Roquin continued to hone in on his artistic abilities. He began experimenting with fashion and jewelry-making, heavily focused on strengthening his weaving capabilities. 

Although Roquin was growing as an artist, he recalled feeling lonely and isolated as he struggled with intersectionality. Roquin identified as a queer CHamoru artist and though there were communities for his artistic interests, he longed to connect with fellow CHamorus. 

Eventually, Roquin met fellow CHamoru artists through various networks who were a part of the LGBTQ+ community and living in Seattle. These friendships offered a sense of community and safety amongst Roquin and his friends, and they decided to extend the spirit of Ina’fa’maolek to others through Guma’ Gela.’

“The idea was just to expand our networks—really provide resources for people to find each other. You know when you’re stateside, it’s very isolating. Maybe you’re in an area where there’s not many other CHamorus, or even here back home, sometimes you’re the only member of the rainbow community in your immediate family. So it just started as a group of friends just hanging out, but also just wanting to find one another,” Siongco

The group made a conscious decision to reclaim the word Gela’, which is a slang word that is often used to describe the LGBTQ+ community negatively. Guma’ Gela’ stands to represent the different facets of the CHamoru people. Roquin says that the movement does not wish to erase what it means to be CHamoru. Instead, Guma’ Gela’ aims to expand its definition. 

When asked about what impact Guma’ Gela’ hopes to have on people, Roquin beautifully stated, 

“So it’s very much so, that empowerment to stop cutting yourself in half…Or stop only showing certain sides of you… it’s to exist in your entirety. I really think that is the message that I want to have an impact. CHamoru-ness is a human experience,” Siongco said.

In the same way that Roquin weaves beautiful art pieces, he seamlessly weaves culture, acceptance, and love into everything he does. 

Like so many CHamoru people alike, Roquin and the members of Guma’ Gela’ represent the true meanings of respetu and ina’fa’maolek. 

During Mes CHamoru, Guma’ Gela will be conducting various workshops hosted by fellow Guma’ Gela members Clay Josh and Eddie Acfalle. The group will also be taking part in the Guam Fashion collective. 

For more details, contact gumagelaoffcial@gmail.com and guamfashioncollective@gmail.com