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Spots on the Rock

Cradle of civilization

A local legend of the birthplace of the human race

  • 3 min to read

The hike to Fouha Bay and Rock is a sacred pilgrimage to ancient hallowed grounds that nurture your natural spirit and shed light on history. While the trek is short and relatively easy, the hike's sheer spirituality is worth the walk.

The majority of the population now resides in northern Guam with few venturing down south every so often, but five centuries ago, the core of Guam's civilization was settled around Umatac and Fouha Bay.

Can you imagine? There was a time when Umatac was the center of island activity and bustled with everyday business between the ancient CHamoru and, later, the Spanish.

Umatac Bay was lined with CHamoru settlements by the 16th century. Just north of Umatac, another small settlement nested around Fouha Bay, a very special place in Guam's native history.

According to Guampedia, Fouha contains an abundance of archaeological artifacts that indicates the past presence of a vibrant ancient CHamoru settlement.

The coastal area still contains a rich reef and lush greenery, and flows into the freshwater La Sa Fua River. It's easy to imagine a thriving CHamoru civilization in such a resource-rich environment.

Besides the area's ancestral significance, Fouha is thought to be one of the first CHamoru settlements to have made contact with the Spanish, according to oral tradition.

With Umatac, the two villages became prime ports for the Spanish. Fouha Bay was even part of a planned coastal road system commissioned by the Spanish, which was intended to connect Umatac and Hagåtña.

This road, "El Camino Real," or "Royal Road," was never completed. An old Spanish-style bridge at nearby Sella Bay and several shards of pottery scattered across the island's southwest coast are the remnants of this centuries-old project.

However, Fouha's history flows back further than the Spanish – and even the CHamoru, for that matter.

Guam's creation story

One of Guam's more familiar legends is the story of Puntan and Fu'una, the CHamoru Gods of creation.

To sum it up, the Mariana Islands, and according to some accounts – the world – was created through Puntan and Fu'una's sacrifice.

Brother and sister, Fu'una used her spirit to divide Puntan's body into the universe as we know it.

According to legend, his eyes became the moon and sun, his back became the Earth, his chest became the sky and his eyebrows became rainbows.

As the universe began, Fu'una furnished the world with everything life needed to prosper. In the end, she threw her body into the Earth, transforming into what we now know as Fouha Rock. The first humans emerged from here, according to the legend.

The legendary limestone rock rises about 150 feet, and pre-contact CHamorus regarded the rock as a sacred stone that held high esteem and even healing powers.

Spanish accounts say that ancient CHamorus would make pilgrimages to the sacred site every year to pay homage to their creator, Fu'una.

While the CHamorus had honored this sacred tradition for thousands of years, the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 16th century shifted the realm of religion in Guam.

The CHamorus' traditional pilgrimage was deemed "pagan" by the Spanish, Guampedia states. Catholic missionaries destroyed many sacred spaces across the island, including Fouha, and erected their churches.

Ancestral spirits still alive

Hundreds of years have passed since those times, but the colonial destruction of the Spanish era has left much of Guam's lands and indigenous culture irreparably damaged and indistinguishable into the modern age.

Of the few island treasures colonizer after colonizer has failed to destroy or dispel, however, is the ancestral spirit that still resides in certain sacred spaces across the Marianas.

Throughout the centuries, the CHamoru, even now, have rock-solid respect for their ancestors – the taotaomo'na.

They believe in and exhibit a reverence for these sacred places that often lie deep in isolated jungles and in the island's more remote areas, such as Fouha.

Every so often, a group of CHamorus still venture out to Fouha Bay and Rock to pay their respects. Nowadays, these wayfarers make the pilgrimage not necessarily to honor Fu'una, but the ancestral spirit of the ancient CHamoru.

These groups often bring kulu (conch) shells and perform cultural chants and songs in homage to their ancestors. They also leave offerings of katupat (rice pouches) and baskets of local fruit and vegetables.

Today, Fouha Bay and Rock remains a remote, sacred space, flowing with a spiritual energy reminiscent of its legendary beginnings.

The National Park Service designated the area a National Natural Landmark in 1972.

Make your pilgrimage

To make your pilgrimage to Fouha Bay and Rock, see the parking instructions included.

After parking, find the cleared trail to the left of the substation that leads into the jungle.

From here, Fouha is about 15 to 20 minutes ahead. Follow the path as it bends to the right through a brief spot of jungle and grassy hills.

Carefully make your way down the short, steep slope with views of the bay and Fouha Rock in the near distance.

Soon, you will enter the forested shores of Fouha. Continue down the beaten jungle path that eventually leads to the rocky shoreline.

Here, you have wide-open views of Fouha Bay. To reach Fouha Rock, visible toward the eastern end of the bay, walk along the shore, crossing the shallow La Sa Fua River.

At the rock, pay your respects and soak in the legendary history of the location, along with some sun!

Afterward, consider snorkeling in Fouha Bay's fantastic waters, with a depth between 40 and 90 feet, according to the Micronesian Divers Association. Underwater, the reef is flourishing with a variety of sea life and aquatic awesomeness.

When done enjoying this historic hot spot, leave nothing but footsteps and take only memories as you make the short trek back uphill to your vehicle.

Happy hiking!

Reporter

The Scoop coordinator, Spots on The Rock columnist and Life documenter. Email: tihu@postguam.com. Follow Tihu on Twitter and Instagram at @tihualujan.

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