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On Walkabout In: Merizo, Guam

Basic Information

  • Name: Merizo
  • Where: Guam, USA
  • Founded: 1672
  • Population: 1,850
  • More Information: Guampedia

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Narrative

After checking out the nearby Mt. Schroeder I decided to park and walk around the small village of Merizo in southern Guam.  Native Chamorros have lived in the area likely for thousands of years, but in European history the village was founded in 1672 by Father Diego Luis de San Vitores when the fifth Spanish mission on Guam was built in Merizo.  The village is very small so there is not much to see, but what there is to see is interesting.  The number one reason people come to Merizo is to take the ferry boat over to the nearby Cocos Island:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Cocos Island is well known for its tremendous snorkeling and the ferry boat makes regular trips back forth to Merizo all day.  In fact the village’s connection to the sea is where it received its name from.  Merizo is derived from the native Chamorro word for a rabbit fish that frequents the area.  Unfortunately I did not have time to go snorkeling and look at fish, but I did have time to look at some of the historic sites in Merizo.  The most interesting building I saw was the nineteenth century era Combento which has historically been the home of the town’s parish priest:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The Combento was restored in 2000 by the Guam Preservation Trust and really is a nice looking building in the middle of the town:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Behind the Combento is the San Dimas Catholic Church:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Despite having the appearance of being an older church due to its use of historical Spanish architecture; the church is actually quite new since it was built in 2002.  The beautiful church nicely complements the historical Combento located near it.  Across the street from the Kombento is the Santa Marian Kaman Park:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The park has a nice little gazebo for people to sit under to get out of the sun for awhile:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

From the gazebo I had a really nice view across the lagoon of Cocos Island:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Next to the gazebo is this statue in honor of the Virgin Mary:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

A plaque in front of the statue explains how three hundred years ago a statue of the Virgin Mary came ashore at Merizo escorted by two crabs.  The statue was made of ironwood which does not float and it was considered a miracle that the statue had washed ashore in Merizo.  The statue was eventually presented to the Spanish Governor and housed in a church in the capital city of Agana:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

This statue in the park was built in honor of this old Chamorro tale:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Adjacent to the park is the Kampanayun which is an old bell tower that was built in 1910:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The bell tower over the decades has been greatly eroded, but efforts have been made in recent years to fix the bell tower:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The most noticeable improvement is the new bell that hangs in the Kampanayun:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

A short walk down the road near the pier for the ferry is the old Merlyn G. Cook School:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

This building was constructed in the 1920’s as a Naval radio operations center. In the late 20’s the building was turned into a public school for the village.  The school is named after the first leader of Guam’s public school system.  The building has been restored in recent years and is still used by the community for public events.

On the outskirts of town is the Merizo Community Catholic Cemetery:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

At the top of slope where the cemetery is located is a trail that leads to one of the village’s saddest locations, the Faha Massacre Site:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Just look for this weathered sign to find the trail:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Unlike many other trails in Guam, this one is well maintained and easy to follow:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The trail is a short walk of about a half mile one way to the site:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The massacre site is located near the top of this hill:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

The trail ends at this small memorial:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

It was here on July 16, 1944 that the Imperial Japanese military selected 30 of the strongest men from the village to be marched up this hill and shot shortly before the US invasion of Guam began:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

It is believed that the Japanese killed these men because they did not want them to aid the US military after they landed on the island.  Truly a despicable act.  There is also a plaque at the site with the names of all the villagers murdered at this site:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

This site is one of many of other massacre sites on the island from when the Imperial Japanese systematically slaughtered the male Chamorros that they had been using as slave labor on the island.  That is why I roll my eyes when I read things about Sergeant Shōichi Yokoi being some kind of hero in Japan because he hid in the jungles of southern Guam until his capture in 1972.  For all we know he could have been one of the Japanese soldiers involved in the massacres of these civilians and the reason why he did not surrender for so long.  Anyway what is ironic about a site where something so ugly happened is how beautiful the views are.  From the hill there is a really nice view of the 1,057 foot Mt. Schroeder to the northeast:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

To the east I could see the 1,105 foot Mt. Sasalaguan:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Finally looking directly north I could see the beautiful coastline of southern Guam:

Picture from Merizo, Guam

Conclusion

If driving around the island or visiting Cocos Island it is well worth stopping to walk around and see the historic sites in Merizo.  The village is located in a very beautiful area with many outdoors activities that can be experienced in the immediate area.

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