Of the many legends of the ancient Chamorro people of Guam, it’s tough to beat the one about Chief Gadao and Chief Malaguaña. Gadao’s Cave on the beach of Inarajan Bay features about 20 pictographs, and one of them is thought to depict these two mighty leaders.
It’s not always easy to date pictographs, but the images in Gadao’s Cave may be as old as 800 CE. There are a few different motifs, but the most well-known represents two men, one of them carrying something (a coconut?) under his arm. This is the one thought to be one of the two chiefs of the Chamorro legend.
The story goes something like this — Chief Malaguaña always fancied himself the strongest man on Guam, until he heard about another chief from Inarajan who might be even stronger. So he set out by canoe to find him, challenge him, and set the record straight. When Malaguaña got to Inarajan, the first person he ran into was Chief Gadao himself, who kept his identity secret from Malaguaña so he could show off a little. Malaguaña had such a long journey, Gadao invited him to dinner before he would take him to “meet the chief.” In preparation of the meal, Gadao squeezed milk out of some coconuts with his bare hands, something even the powerful Malaguaña couldn’t do. Malaguaña thought, “If this guy was so strong, his ‘chief’ must be even stronger,” but the contest was lost before it even began. Gadao never revealed his true identity, and he escorted Malaguaña from Inarajan by helping him get his canoe back out to sea, the two men paddling so hard against each other that they split the canoe in two.
The Gadao Cave pictographs were etched with white lime, and they are scattered along two of the stone walls. So, beloved is the legend and image of the two chiefs that it’s been adopted all over Guam as an icon of their ancient heritage, turning up in tourism brochures, businesses, jewelry design, and even the logo of a local middle school.