#instaGuam: Get to Know Guam’s Tree of Life
Often referred to as "The Tree of Life," the coconut tree, called trongkon niyok in Chamorro, is the most used of all native plants on Guam. Historically, the Chamorro people used all of the parts of the coconut tree to sustain them in various ways. From top to bottom, the nuts, leaves, and trunks of the coconut tree were used by the Chamorro people to build shelters and thatch roofs, weave items for everyday use, and make oil, milk, and medicine. Coconut meat and juice were sources of food and nutrition not only for the ancient Chamorros but are essential in many local dishes today.
The Legend of the Coconut Tree
The high value the Chamorro people placed on the trongkon niyok is apparent in the legend of the coconut tree. Local oral historian Toni “Malia” Ramirez shares the legend that has been passed from generation to generation:
A long time ago, there was a young maiden who became gravely ill and was dying. Her father and mother asked, “My daughter, what can we do so that you can live?” The daughter replied, “Father and Mother, find me a fruit drink that no one on the island of Guam has tasted.” For none of the drinks available could quench her thirst.
Her parents searched village to village and brought home different fruits, but none were able to quench their daughter’s thirst. The young maiden did not become well and soon the day came when she drew her last breath. Her parents wept and grieved the death of their daughter. Embracing his daughter’s lifeless body, the father carried her to a grave and buried her.
Not long after that, a tree grew from the grave site that nobody on Guam recognized. The tree grew very tall and the day came when the first fruits fell to the ground. The father shook the fruit and heard the sound of liquid inside. He took away the husk, cracked open the fruit, and tasted its juice. From then on, the tree that grew from his daughter’s body became the tree of life that would forever provide so many resources to the people of Guam.
Add some coconut flavor to your visit to Guam
Taste: It doesn’t get fresher than slicing open a coconut and drinking straight from the source, and guests can experience this at one of the local fruit stands in the south. At the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village in Inarajan, guests can sample coconut candy and learn how this local confection is made. And when it comes to taste, be sure to try the local cuisine – coconut is an essential ingredient in many Chamorro dishes such as kelaguen.
Demonstration: Visitors can husk a coconut and learn simple weaving techniques at Gef Pa’go Cultural Village. Traditional weaving techniques are also demonstrated at the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park. On many boat tours and dolphin watching tours, there is often a crew member on deck weaving headbands, flowers, and animals for guests.
Purchase: Pure coconut oil has various uses including hair conditioner and shine, makeup remover, skin moisturizer, and more. Made in Guam coconut oil can be purchased at Chamorro Village and local shops. Åmot Farm hosts hands-on workshops where guests learn how to make coconut oil.