Guam Military, Community Celebrate ‘Back to Sumay Day’

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Guam –  U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) welcomed former Sumay village residents, friends and families to the Back to Sumay Day celebration on the base April 13.
Held for the past four years in cooperation with the Santa Rita mayor’s office, Back to Sumay Day allows former village residents and their descendants the opportunity to revisit the area, which was absorbed into the Navy base following the island’s liberation from Japanese forces during World War II.

“It is an honor and a privilege for my wife and I to host you today and welcome you back to Sumay,” said Capt. Mike Ward, NBG commanding officer. “This is one of my favorite spots on Guam, not for the beauty that it is today, but for those pictures that bring it to life, the celebration that we are taking part in here today to remember what Sumay village is all about.”

Santa Rita Mayor Dale Alvarez thanked Ward for his continued support of the event, which afforded those present the chance to reminisce and share stories of the former village.

“Today is a sentimental journey back in time as we look around and try to imagine how life was here,” he said. “Today, my dear people of Sumay, we are at the place where we came from.”

The village was once known as the “Pearl of the Island” prior to the war. Evolving from a small fishing village to the agricultural and commercial hub for ships in the mid-1800s, Sumay became an economically rich village by the 1930s.

Former Sumay resident and the youngest of 14 children in her family, Maria Tolentino attended the event and remembered her family’s life before and during the war.

“My dad was a farmer, and we had chickens and my job was to feed those chickens,” said Tolentino. “I would also climb the coconut trees to get coconuts to drink the juice.”

Tolentino was 7 years old when the island was attacked.

“The Japanese came around 10 or 9 a.m. and kept on bombing here in Sumay, so I don’t know where to go, so I ran and end up on the beach by myself for six nights under a big tree,” she said. “I kept on crying until my brother found me.”

When the war broke out it was the beginning of the end for the village. All Sumay residents including Tolentino were forced to leave so the Japanese could occupy the homes and buildings.

Three years later the pre-liberation bombardment by U.S. forces destroyed several west coast villages including Sumay, and all former residents were relocated to what is now the village of Santa Rita.

Sailors from NBG, Joint Region Marianas, USS Frank Cable (AS 40), U.S. Naval Hospital Guam and Coastal Riverine Group 1 (CRG-1) Det. Guam volunteered during the festivities.

“I feel great to help out at the event especially since it is important to the civilians and the military as well,” said Master-at-Arms 3rd Class (EXW) Alexis Steele of CRG-1.

Steele said it was important for the military to support the community so each can know where other people come from and better understand how to help people outside of the military.

Throughout the day the event featured food, music, cultural dancing entertainment, historical displays and photos dating back to a pre-World War II Sumay. Former residents were also honored with gifts presented by Alvarez.

In 1974, the former Sumay village area became known as the Sumay Historic District and was listed on the Guam Register of Historic Places.

To learn more about NBG, visit www.cnic.navy.mil/guam.

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas, visit www.navy.mil/local/guam/.