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Spots on the Rock

Find your roots at Fuha

Hike back in time to the legendary birthplace of humanity

  • 3 min to read

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the CHamoru spelling of "Pontan," "Fo'na" and "Fuha," according to current CHamoru orthography. The spelling was codified by the Commission on the CHamoru Language and the Teaching of the History and Culture of the Indigenous People of Guam, or I Kumisión i Fino' CHamoru yan i Fina'nå'guen i Historia yan Lina'la' i Taotao Tåno.'

The hike to Fuha Bay and Fuha Rock is a sacred pilgrimage to ancient hallowed grounds that nurture our 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 island's population now resides in northern Guam with some venturing down south every so often. Five centuries ago, however, the core of Guam's civilization was settled around Umatac and Fuha 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 Fuha Bay, a very special place in Guam's native history.

According to Guampedia, Fuha contains an abundance of archaeological artifacts that indicate a vibrant ancient CHamoru settlement.

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

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

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

"El Camino Real," or "The 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, Fuha'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 Pontan and Fo'na, the CHamoru gods of creation.

To sum it up, the Mariana Islands, and according to some versions – the world – was created through Pontan and Fo'na's sacrifice.

Brother and sister, Fo'na used her spirit to divide Pontan'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, Fo'na 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 Fuha Rock. The first humans emerged from here, according to the legend.

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

Spanish accounts say the ancient CHamoru would pilgrimage to the sacred site every year to pay homage to their creator, Fo'na.

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

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

Ancestral spirits alive on

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 into the modern age.

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

Through 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 Fuha.

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

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

Today, the area 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 Fuha Bay and Fuha 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, Fuha 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 Fuha Rock in the near distance.

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

Here, you have wide-open views of Fuha Bay. To reach Fuha 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 Fuha 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.

After 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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