One Day In BentengWednesday, December 22, 2010
An idea of covering the daily life of “Cina Benteng” has brought us to Tangerang, where the community has dwelled for centuries. Thanks to Mas Ichwan Susanto who has initiated this hunting trip. The Chinese community we meet today, are far beyond what we have for so long perceived about Chinese people in common.
The rain is pouring down as we step off from the car at Pasar Lama Tangerang. It was seven in the morning, and we are running to find a shelter.
Walking along the narrow street, bisecting the market, we find a tea house, run by a couple of husband and wife. They have run this business since 1980. There, people have daily conversation in a cute mixed chinese-local dialect. And yes, too many posters stuck on the wall.
The temple of Boen Tek Bio.
The “Pabrik Kecap Benteng”. Too bad, They don’t let us in.
Driving away from the town, where the urban ‘cina benteng’ settle, we arrive at Sewan, known as the gettho of rural “Cina Benteng”. Not like those we meet at Pasar Lama – where most of them are traders – here, most chinese work as either farmer or local artist.
If you were there, it would be difficult to know whether someone is chinese descendant or native as both appear to be the same physically. The only way to find out is by looking at the entrance of their houses.
If it’s adorned with papers written with chinese letters, then it’s a chinese family house. If it’s not, then there is a possibility it’s a native family house.
First stop, we come to “Rumah Kawin or Rumah Pesta” – the local term for wedding hall – where we get a very warm welcome from the host. It’s amazing! We have never met before. The hall is named after Lim Liang Hok. As for the wedding, it’s going to be held tonight.
Every guest coming is welcomed by the host who leads them to the dining hall where there are two long tables. Each table serves two different kinds of food: Chinese food and Indonesian food.
The kitchen in the back seems to be the most hectic place now. There are plenty of foods being prepared, mostly are porks.
We get the oportunity to capture this woman that we call ‘emak’. Look at the red thing hanged on the wall behind her. I think it’s some kind of an offering for the kitchen guard. In Lasem (see my previous journal), it is called “Kongco Pawon”.
Back to the front porch, the local singer is entertaining the guest with her (sorry) terrible voice. At night, not only the singer who does the entertaining job, but also the young girls who will take the male guests to the dance floor for ‘Tari Cokek’ with ‘Gambang Kromong’ as the music.
Leaving the hall, we head to another part of Sewan to meet Maestro Goyong (Oen Sin Yang) with his Teh-yan, a two-string Chinese music instrument. Not only is he the expert player, he also makes the instrument himself in a small workshop next to his house. It’s amazing to watch him demonstrate his skill by playing all the instruments; teh-yan, gambang and the trumpet.
His mother, who lives with him, is the second wife of Oen Oen Hoek, a director of gambang kromong group of Irama Masa.
As for the first wife (Goyong’s step mother) lives separately in another part of Sewan, which becomes our next destination. Meet Encim Masnah, the living legend, the only woman who can sing classical gambang kromong repertoires.
Having been a singer since the age of 14, Encim Masnah (now 87) is no longer able to perform as often as she used to. Today, she spends most of her time by staying at home.
At late afternoon, we decide to move northward to Teluk Naga, where we expect to meet another chinese community. After several losts, we finally arive at a traditional village, located at the side of the delta of Cisadane river. For a moment, I let my mind fly to centuries ago, when Chinese migrants came for the first time. They must have sailed through this delta.
Walking farther to the cost, the only so-called store we find is the one belongs to Ci’ Weni. Like many young generation of ‘Cina Benteng’ today, Ci’ Weni doesn’t embrace Buddhism. All her family now is Christian.
A few meters from Ci’ weni’s house, we meet Pak A Kim, a fisherman who lives in a bamboo hut with his wife, two daughters and a son. We are so grateful to this family as they let us in to their house, where the sun light could hardly penetrate the space inside as there are no windows or skylight.
A moment before we leave, we take a picture of A Kim’s wife sitting in the front porch of the house.