This half-hour educational documentary is shot in an intimate, backyard style. Breadfruit & Open Spaces gives a rare look into the personal stories and open living spaces of the Chuukese and Yapese people who live, work, and attend school on Guam, the land where they now grow and prepare their traditional foods. It explores their journey and challenge to hold their ground and find a voice on a new island, while also maintaining their ties to their families on their home islands in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Kini, Joshua, Justina, and Kathy’s father Sontag bought land in northern Guam in the Gill-Baza subdivision after living in rentals for many years.
Kini Sananap and his wife Iowana always dreamed about having a home on Guam. Outside of their tidy home, Kini grows bananas, sweet potatoes, tapioca, papaya, and ornamental plants that they sell at the local flea market. Their lot is lush and beautiful, shaded by a giant breadfruit tree from which Kini and his neighboring relative harvest a dozen ripe green fruits.
“Nobody should be denied a service by the government. But actually, I think it is a double standard.”
Owning land provides “a sense of security . . . no way to be blown with the wind when it change directions,” says Joshua Peter. Like many others, Joshua moved to Guam from Chuuk for better work opportunities and a better education for his children. Joshua is the eldest son of his family, and he is chosen to become one of the leaders of the United Pacific Islanders’ Corporation when the residents organize to defend their properties. In strong words, Joshua suggests that the reason they have not received basic utility services is because they are a community of Micronesian immigrants. “We are also taxpayers,” Joshua explains.
“I choose who have to come. I choose who have to go. That means I am the power of my land.”
Many moved out of rental apartments and bought land because it was affordable and it allowed more open space for their large, extended families. “No landlord come and harass me,” says Justina, an outspoken older woman. Justina originally built her house as one room for herself and then extended it, room by room, as her adult children moved from Chuuk to Guam and needed a place to stay. Unlike most other women in Gill-Baza, Justina is long-divorced, and therefore the head of her own household. As she describes her growing abode, Justina’s hand-drawn plans for her home are animated to show her house grow as more and more children move in. “The land gives me freedom, for me and my family,” she declares.
“I really like living here on the ranch because we can build our outside kitchens. The outside kitchen makes it easier for us to move around, easier to prepare food, and we also like using the fire.”
Justina is quickly contrasted with soft-spoken Kathy Martin, who moved to the subdivision shortly after her father, Sontag, and his male relatives cleared the jungle to make wide-open spaces. At home on her family’s lot, Kathy explains how significant the outdoor kitchen is for many other women from Micronesia. These kitchens are obviously the heart of the home, the center for interaction between different generations of women, and a place where many comfortably gather. Yet Kathy’s experience is different from that of most other women. She is attending the University of Guam, so she straddles two cultures and two worlds, the traditional and the modern. At school she is seen in typical western clothing, typing emails to her father “about how hard it is to keep up with the payments and bills.” But at home she wears colorful, embroidered traditional skirts and fulfills a traditional daughter’s role, where it is more difficult for her to “talk about the struggles in my family.”
(Photo credit: UPIC Group Photo|David R. Castro)