Ana Acfalle Macek, 87, receives honorary diploma at GW graduation

Ana Acfalle Macek received her honorary diploma at the George Washington High School “grad and go” ceremony Friday morning. (PNC screen capture)

At 87 years strong, receiving a diploma is the last thing on the mind of Ana Acfalle Macek. Today, however, Ana Acfalle Macek turned her tassel as she received her honorary diploma at the George Washington High School “grad and go” ceremony Friday morning.

The following is a brief biography prepared and submitted by the Sinajana Mayor’s Office and the family on the graduate’s behalf:

“Ana Acfalle Macek, affectionately called ‘Tan Ana’ by the residents of Sinajana, was born in the village of Piti on March 10, 1934. Although never knowing her father, Tan Ana, with her mother and older brother, lived a normal life in the village of Merizo. Her family moved to Hagatna when Tan Ana was about 7 years old so she could attend school at George Washington Junior High School. In school, Tan Ana was a quick learner and flourished.

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It was her natural intelligence that attracted the Japanese to the young Tan Ana during the occupation. After her brother was separated from the family to work the fields, Japanese soldiers discovered Tan Ana and gave her the opportunity to attend Japanese school. There, Tan Ana learned the Japanese language fairly easily and became an interpreter for the Japanese soldiers. As an interpreter, she was protected from the torture and harassment that many other CHamorus endured but her mother and she still struggled to survive.

Although cast out by other villagers, Tan Ana still recalls the pain of seeing her friends and fellow CHamorus suffer under the Japanese soldiers. To this day, she clearly recalls all the atrocities, torture, and desperation of the people around her. Japanese soldiers would take whatever they wanted whenever they wanted – including what little food Tan Ana’s mother, Engracia, had managed to scrounge up. Tan Ana remembers when neighbors were kind enough to share what little they had with her mother and herself. It was those moments that kept Tan Ana praying for salvation.

Three years later, at the age of 10, Tan Ana and her mother were forced with their neighbors to march from the island’s capital of Hagatna to Manenggon in the village of Yona. Tan Ana credits her mother’s faith, patience, resilience, and love in enduring the long trek to Manenggon. Engracia would have Tan Ana collect fruits along the way or play games with Tan Ana. Tan Ana is still in awe of her mother’s courage. Through the entire ordeal, Engracia never showed fear. Tan Ana remembers her mother continuing to pray for better days ahead. Tan Ana recalls the joy when those better days came as the United States soldiers liberated Guam.

After the liberation of Guam from the Japanese, Tan Ana struggled to have a normal life as many villagers still saw her as the enemy but she did her best to live her life. At the age of 15, she gave birth to a son did her best to raise him while coping with the trauma of the war, the struggles of fitting in, and the demands of her studies. In 1961, when her son was 12 years old, she met Robert Macek, a sailor in the United States Navy. She married Macek and moved to the mainland United States while her son stayed with Tan Ana’s mother.

While living in the States, Tan Ana learned to cope with the trauma of her past. She learned new skills that helped her flourish and find peace. After her husband retired from the Navy, they decided to move back to Guam to live out their golden years. Of the many things she learned, gardening is one of her favorite hobbies that she continues to do in her ever-growing garden in her little home in Sinajana.

When asked what advice she would give to young people, she paused for a moment. ‘Take up gardening,’ Tan Ana shared. ‘Learn to nurture something and watch it grow. It takes patience, faith, and hard work. This generation needs these to survive in the world and to be happy.’”

Today, Tan Ana graduated with 237 George Washington Gecko Warriors in their “grad and go” ceremony.

(GDOE Release)