Chamorro Documentary Nearly Finished July 06 2015

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Two and a half years ago, I was introduced to a special lady and a special project for the Chamorro community. Joanne Tabor Modic hosted a popular Chamorro history workshop in Torrance, California in 2011 and 2012. It was led by Capuchin Friar Eric Forbes, better know as Pale’ Eric from Guam. In that first phone call with Modic, she shared with me the vision of the “I AM CHAMORRO” documentary, which would be a compilation of the 26 years of research that went into Pale’ Eric’s history presentations.

It was because of the demand for the workshops, sitting at the Modic’s kitchen table, they decided to create a film to be able to reach the larger community. It would be a film that could be featured in the Smithsonian — something for Chamorros and for all people to see and learn about the Chamorro culture. It sounded overwhelming and it sounded expensive, but with Modic’s enthusiasm and Pale’ Eric’s stature in the community, I was immediately on board to support the project in any way that I could.

Many people have heard about this project by now. I have not been the only one so inspired. The Manhita Chamorro nonprofit organization was formed in February 2013, and its fundraising was successful enough to start the filming in early 2014. A lot of funds came one T-shirt sale at a time. Some came from generous donor organizations.

On her first trip to Guam for the project, Modic recalls a phone call she received in Hawaii from the President of the Bank of Guam, Lou Leon Guerrero. The bank was committing to be a presenting sponsor of the film. Soon afterward, the Guam Legislature also committed to be a presenting sponsor. After the funds that had already come from the stateside community and others, the sponsorships brought the project to life.

The first filming was in Redondo Beach, California in October of 2013. In 2014, the crew filmed on Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan over a period of nearly three weeks. The crew, also known as Click Productions, has been a great fit with the project according to Modic. While following Pale’ Eric’s direction, they have contributed new technologies and filmmaking expertise to enhance the production. On Guam they worked with Shooting Star Productions.

The film is meant for the youth, for those that must constantly explain where they’re from. Like one of our dancers who introduced herself as a person from Guam while in school. One of her classmates commented, “Is that a real place? Are you a real person?”

The film is meant for the Chamorro boy in California who said he had identified himself with the Chinese community. But he wasn’t Chinese and kids had told him he didn’t belong there. He didn’t know where he belonged. He didn’t know who he was.

The film is meant for Chamorros who live in the states, as well as the Chamorros who live on Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It’s also meant for the world, who often doesn’t know what a Chamorro is.

“My father was sent to Guam, along with many other American military, to liberate it,” says Modic, “This film is for them, too.”

The final filming was on June 28 in Long Beach, California where Chamorro dance groups, Kutturan Chamoru and Uno Hit were rehearsing with instructor, Heidi Quenga. In between the dancing, students and organizers were interviewed.

The Manhita Chamorro organization expects to release the movie trailer teaser no later than October. The movie itself should be completed by Christmas.

“This documentary is to tell about their islands in the Pacific and the origin of our ancestors through the eyes and the research of Pale’ Eric Forbes,” says Modic, “And it will live forever. This, you can pass to the next generation.”

More information about the project can be found at


I AM CHAMORRO film crew on its way! February 10 2015

This column was published on February 8th, 2015 by Sandy Uslander.
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February 21st will mark a major milestone for an important project known as I AM CHAMORRO. A crew will arrive to do two weeks of filming on Guam and the CNMI toward completing this effort.

It was just about two years ago that this project began. I remember an early conversation with the project lead, Joanne Carbullido Tabor Modic about what was barely more than an inspiration at the time. Based on the work of Capuchin Friar, Father Eric Forbes, plans were being laid for a full length Chamorro history documentary. She envisioned a widely distributed “Smithsonian quality” film to be shared with the world, and especially our dispersed Chamorros.

This project did not come about suddenly. Father Forbes has been researching and document-ing Chamorro history for more than 26 years. In 2011, he presented a full day history workshop to a Chamorro audience in Los Angeles. I was not able to make that workshop. In 2012, I at-tended two of his three workshops which were presented to capacity audiences in Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco bay area. It was at these workshops that Father Forbes was asked to create a video of his history teachings so it could be more widely shared.

The plan was commendable, but seemed overwhelming; the creation of a script, the shooting of a documentary, and a budget of at least $150,000. The non-profit, Manhita Chamorro was formed to carry out the I AM CHAMORRO project. Volunteer board members are Rex Agagas, Rich Modic, Annette Ada, Denise Perez Agagas, John Agagas and Father Eric Forbes. They went forward with little more than faith and determination.

“It was the San Diego community that gave it the springboard it needed.” Joanne Modic shared. Early supporters at a fundraiser by the Chelu organization boosted the project financially and energetically.

One of the first steps was to create a movie trailer that gave a glimpse of the final concept, and then Joanne and her team set about raising funds and securing sponsors.

I AM CHAMORRO became a common sight at Chamorro events. They sold t-shirts and other gift items. They offered sponsorships of various levels. Chamorros in the US responded, as did Chamorros in the Marianas. While Father Forbes has worked on the scripting of the film, the Manhita Chamorro team worked with supporters in both California and the Marianas to complete the needed fundraising.

The project has received assistance from all over the world. Rosanne Meno distributed I AM CHAMORRO t-shirts in Washington DC. Heidi Ballendorf and Peter Ada and others organized the September 2014 fundraiser on Guam. “I was just talking with a woman in DeMoines, Iowa who wanted to buy a t-shirt,” said Joanne when I interviewed her. There have been many big and small supporters and many stories along the way. Sorry, I couldn’t begin to share Joanne’s extensive list here.

“None of this would be possible without the generous support of individual and family benefac-tors, business and government entities. We owe them, and our entire Chamorro people, the best documentary that we can possibly create,” said Father Eric Forbes.

Despite the amount of work, the Manhita Chamorro team is glad the fundraising is being done this way. “We could have done this with three big sponsors, but this is the people’s project,” Jo-anne Modic told me. They are grateful to have received an appropriation from the 32nd Guam Legislature and major sponsorship from the Bank of Guam. Many of their contributions, howev-er, came one $20 t-shirt at a time.

Now their initial goal to complete the filming has been met. They continue to need to fundraise, however, in hopes of including more material and features. Opportunities to be a supporter of the project are on their website, www.IAMCHAMORRO. The film will include names of its sup-porters starting at the $1000 sponsorship level.

The final I AM CHAMORRO full length film is expected to be available in time for Christmas 2015.

In addition, this Guam history documentary will be featured at the Guam Festival of the Pacific Arts 2016, and the soon to be constructed Guam Museum.

Said Father Eric Forbes, “We are very excited about filming this unique documentary; unique in more than one way. We are trying to tell the story of a people, not the story of events that hap-pened in this or that place. Instead, the people are front and center in this documentary. We will look at all the Chamorros, wherever they were and now are. We will look at events, but from a Chamorro perspective and at how these events affected the Chamorro people.”

I can’t help but be impressed by how true the vision for this project has proven to be. I AM CHAMORRO will not only be a Chamorro history documentary widely distributed for Chamorros everywhere, it will be included in the Guam collection at the Washington DC Smithsonian museum.

See the article as it was published, below.

It's Happening February 10 2015

Buenas yan Hafa Adai,

In just two short weeks the Los Angeles based film crew will be arriving on Guam to begin the filming of Pale` Eric Forbes' documentary about the history of the Chamorro people.

"We are humbled and excited at the same time, says Joanne Tabor Modic, President of Manhita Chamorro the non-profit organization formed just for this. Over the past two years the Officers, Board Members and countless volunteers have worked tirelessly to make our goal become a reality."

Si Yu'us ma'ase to all who have financially supported us thus far and to all the volunteers who have freely given of their time. But, we still need your help. We ask everyone to pray with us for good, dry, cool weather while the film crew is on island and, we invite you to become part of this history making event. A donation of any amount is appreciated though your individual or family donation of $1k will etch your name in history. Keep in mind, all proceeds benefit the Guam Capuchin Friary.

To donate, please contact Joanne Tabor at 310-528-6339 or visit our website

Si Yu'us ma'ase! Biba Guam and Biba Chamorro