Dr. Ramon Manalisay Sablan (1902-1970) was the first Chamorro medical doctor. He is also remembered as an influential educator, politician, activist, linguist, and musician. Sablan, the first president of the Guam Teachers Association in 1926, was also the first to call for people to donate their historical items for a future Guam Museum.
Sablan attended the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College at Stillwater in 1919. Inspired by the socio-cultural and political happenings on the island during this time period, Sablan composed the Guam Hymn in English that same year. Lagrimas Leon Guerrero eventually translated it to Chamorro in 1974, and the song was renamed Fanohge Chamorro. The Chamorro lyrics are inscribed on the front of the Guam Museum.
In 1924, Sablan returned to Guam to teach, and later, he served as principal of a local private high school where he became active in organizing the Guam Teachers’ Association.
In 1926 he asked the members of the Guam Teachers’ Association to help collect items for a Guam Museum. He requested that all residents of Guam, and all others who were sojourning on the island, donate any articles they had that would be of value for museum purposes. Sablan asked for antiques, such as old lamps, kettles, charcoal clad irons, taotaomo’na implements, pottery, and historical literature on Guam, etc. Prizes were offered for the most valuable collection of articles accepted by the Association.
Sablan then became speaker of the Guam Congress’ House of Assembly. In 1925, Sablan, Atanasio Perez, and Jose Roberto made an appearance before the US House of Representatives to present an argument on behalf of US citizenship for the Chamorro people. It took 25 years before the US Congress formally addressed the issue with an organic act for Guam.
Five years after the Congressional appearance, Sablan received his second scholarship from the government to attend the University of Louisville Medical School in Kentucky. By 1937 Sablan completed his medical studies, returned to Guam, and established his own practice.
When the government ordered all US families back to the states, shortly before the onset of World War II in the Pacific, Dr. Sablan took over for the Associated Press correspondent, filing the news void until the Japanese invading forces arrived in December 1941.
Sablan moved to his family ranch as did most of the population, and continued to minister and operate on his patients in the jungle unbeknownst to the Japanese. With the help of local nurses, Sablan, the only Chamorro physician on island, assisted the 23,000 local people throughout the Japanese occupation.
In 1951 Sablan and his family relocated to Long Beach, California. He and his wife, Concepcion P. Leon Guerrero, had two children: Alicia and Ramon. Sablan died in March 1970.
Reprinted in part from Guampedia.com
Photos courtesy of Dr. Ramon Salas’s Family