Imagine a stranger walking into your home, supposedly there for a good time. You entertain them as your guests, and they enjoy themselves.
Suddenly, they help themselves to your water and belongings without even asking. Even worse, before they leave, they carve their names into your walls and write profanities, too. Oh, and by the way, they also left their trash.
In their aftermath, you're left with empty bags of chips and drink containers all over the place, vandalism staining your walls, items haphazardly rearranged and a general mess sweeping your home.
It's a shame, but what can you do without a voice?
This is nature's plight, and is a result of mankind's poor action. It's the relationship some people have with Mother Nature, and it's not only pitiful – it's pathetic.
No respect, no shame
Maria Barcinas, a local hiker, recently shared photos of accumulating carvings engraved into boulders and rock walls at the Fonte Dam swimming hole, which is just downstream from the dam. Various names, villages, years and other irrelevant information are on display at this isolated jungle pool.
"I was so disappointed. These actions are extremely disrespectful and I hope that by sharing these photos we can create better awareness about caring for our island and her beautiful and limited natural resources," Barcinas wrote in her post.
Most of these carvings aren't new, although some of them might be fresh. The area has become a hot spot for vandalism over the years.
The hikers who leave these markings might not refer to it as "vandalism," but what else would you call it? An entitled rite of passage for accomplishing the hike? Your mark on the world? Physical proof of poor character? Probably the latter!
As my grandparents would say, "tai respetu," which means "no respect," or "tai mamålao," which means "no shame."
You're not "cool" if you carve your name or village into rocks. Your legacy won't be preserved in stone.
People who are actually "cool" appreciate the raw beauty of nature and don't deface it. People who respect the land, air and water wouldn't leave them altered in any way.
When we hike into the inner areas of Guam, we ask for permission, and keep our word to take nothing and leave everything as we found them.
According to local practice, we say, "Guella yan guello, dispensa ham, lao kao siña ham manloffan yan manbisita gi tåno'-miyu, sa' yanggen un bisita i tåno'-måmi fanloffan ha' sen mamaisen."
This means: "Grandmother and grandfather, excuse us. May we walk through and visit your land and when you come to our land we will welcome you to do the same."
The use of grandmother and grandfather in this request – literal translations of "guella yan guello" – address ancestral spirits dwelling gi hålom tåno' (jungle) in this manner.
Keeping cultural values alive
Times are changing, and so are our values and traditions. This is a subjective observation, but I think it's fair to say that social rules and expectations are much different nowadays compared to 20-plus years ago.
I'd hope we are passing on our cultural traditions – no matter whether you're CHamoru, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese or from the Federated States of Micronesia.
Especially in this part of the world, all of these cultures have a firmly fixed history and relationship with the land and its natural resources.
Our ancestors have relied on what the land and surrounding waters provide, and over time we have learned to respect nature in reciprocation.
We do not overfish our oceans. We do not litter gi hålom tåno'. We do not destroy our coral reefs. We leave things the way we found them and ask for permission, not forgiveness, in everything we do in the wild.
This includes using the restroom outdoors. In CHamoru, you'd ask for permission by saying, "Guella yan guello, kao siña hu usa i kemmon?"
This translates to "Grandmother and grandfather, may I use the restroom?"
It's all about respect and understanding that no one is entitled to free reign, even in open landscapes. Nature is not yours to freely degrade.
Providing for the future
When I saw these photos of the swimming hole, I was fired up! I'd seen them in person before, but simply dismissed them – disappointed. However, that's something I regret, and definitely one we should not practice.
In this small island community of generally good people, we not only need to watch out for the few bad apples, we need to pick them out.
Our friend Maria did the right thing by spotlighting what she was personally petrified by. She shared these photos, which drew over 100 "likes" and a few concerned comments. Others joined in and also shared her post. This is something easy we all can and should do.
Normal, everyday residents can't be expected to police and patrol the remote regions of Guam that aren't regularly guarded, but we can all be watchdogs who spread awareness of vandalism and educate others about respect.
Graffiti, litter and other forms of vandalism committed in the great outdoors are not things we can completely eliminate or prevent, but they are surely things we can improve upon!
Besides this cavernous swimming hole near Fonte Dam, one of the caves at Ritidian had been vandalized with fabricated "ancient drawings" decades ago, and one of the limestone, mushroom-shaped rocks along the shores of Hila'an Beach has also fallen victim to graffiti.
We don't want to wait around for the crosses atop Mount Jumullong Manglo to be desecrated, or for the cave walls and latte stones at Pågat to become stained by graffiti.
What can we do?
Let's do what we can to stop those who could care less about what we care so much about. Snap and share photos of litter, graffiti and general vandalism wherever you come across it – not only while hiking, but also in the community.
Let's voice our outrage and concern when we run into evidence of these atrocious acts, instead of dismissing them, or, otherwise, being careless in regards to the issue.
Let's set the example for others as responsible environmental stewards, who not only pick up after ourselves but others, too.
Let's continue to teach others the importance of respecting the land, water, air and all things found in nature, which are privileges to us – not ours for the taking.
Let's make it our mission to make litter, graffiti and vandalism a thing of the past, because it will never benefit our future.