Day 7, Day 8: Loyalty that you can’t explain

There were always stories of miracles in the midst of disaster, like what happened to Singlar Village (Desa Singlar), 8 kilometers away from the top of Merapi volcano. 2010 eruption destroyed the surrounding villages, but Singlar survived. By survived it means out of 130 people in the population, there were ‘only’ 4 who died. And at least the village area isn’t covered with materials (volcano rocks and sand) so people are able to re-build their houses in the same place where it used to be. We met with Pak Sukimin and his family, consist of a wife and two daughters- Putri and Fiani. They were relocated for 42 days during the disaster, and when they were back, they found the house was covered in ashes up to their knees, the roof was gone, the furnitures were burned, and their cattle were died. It took 2 weeks to clean up the ashes only. Now the house has been rebuilt, 3 cows he lost have been replaced, and he develops the business of crossing chicken. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that kind of chicken, but it is the hybrid between Arabic and Javanese chicken, they can produce 7 to 11 eggs per day. He also plants sengon woods, which now grows faster since the volcano ash fertilizes the land. He accompanied us go around the affected area, 2 RT (Rukun Tetangga, or neighborhoods) were all gone. Let’s say, it was an interesting view, that we saw just a dessert, full with rocks and sands. There are no green colors, all are dry. You can only saw the big equipments and trucks were taking the materials, probably bringing them somewhere to the town and sell them as the construction materials. They can get good money for that since volcano materials are known with their good qualities. However, it is hard to imagine the real situation when the disaster was happening. According to Pak Sukimin, most people were trapped. They were running when everything was already dark, everyone were panic, people fell from their motorbike because the ash made the road slippery, but no one helped each other because they need to save themselves and their family first.

However, the disaster made them more religious. Pak Sukimin and his wife only said that they now go to the mosque more often. I guess when you feel like your life is about to be taken, you’ll be remembering God. I used to be so afraid when earthquake hit Bantul in 2007, I was being paranoid that the roof and wall in my house might crumbled anytime and left me buried and finally died. And then I decided to surrender to God, that whatever happen is His willingness. I felt better, it almost like you’re giving the full responsibility to God to take care of you and your life.

Some people though, decided not to surrender. Like Gusti Prabu, one of the son of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, in defending the special region of Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta. Gusti Prabu talked very emotionally, almost didn’t elaborate many things because he was just so flaming in telling the reasons why the special identity of Yogyakarta need to be maintained. Like most of, if not all of, Yogyakarta people, Gusti Prabu adores his father. Hamengkubuwono XI is a very important figure for the independence struggle, and played a key role in developing the state which was so young at the moment. Under the reign of Hamengkubuwono XI, Yogyakarta was the first area in Indonesia that decided to join into Indonesia. This decision was a big deal. Because, as Gusti Prabu explained, there is no single state in the world that will voluntarily merge into another country. It will decrease or even erase its sovereignty. After August 19 1945, Keraton Yogyakarta no longer have its bilateral relationship with another country or kingdom. Sultan Hamengkubuwono no longer became the First Man. But he now had responsibility toward the state government. Yogyakarta also had an important role in defending the independence. Dutch did not stop the effort to regain the power in Indonesia. They had 2 aggressions, in which resisted by Yogyakarta. Keraton spent its diamond savings to buy arms for guerrilla war, and gold savings to support the governance. With all these sacrifices, it is insulting for the royal family when the issue of special region is brought up by the central government.

Unfortunately, this fiery session from Gusti Prabu missed some argumentative details. He shortly mentioned the point that democracy is not always the way out. There are some countries or area that able to stand out with its own uniqueness, but he continued with more anger toward the central government. I sort of hope that there will be a lot more fruitful discussion with Gusti Prabu. However, to see the emotional explanation from the Prince was a new interesting experience for me and for us. I believe that everyone weren’t totally convinced that the special region of Yogyakarta has to be maintained. Even Pak Llyod suggested that this mechanism will not be survived within 15 years. Meanwhile I insist that this status and mechanism will always take place.

I have to admit that my stance is quite emotional too. Cindhi and I once had a discussion with Mbak Azizah, a lecturer of political science in Universitas Gadjah Mada. She raised 2 reasons on why the special mechanism in Yogyakarta government needsto be re-considered. First of all, Yogyakarta people are stuck with the idea that special status is identified with non-election system for governor and vice governor. This kind of attitude is, in some ways, degrading the meaning of specialty itself. We need to broad our understanding that Yogyakarta gains its special status because of many more reasons; its history, its culture, its harmony, and so on. Second, the contract between Hamengkubuwono IX and President Sukarno about the special status is still debatable. This contract is used by most people as the main reason to maintain the special system; because there was such a contract. But then again, the contract only mentioned the name of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX. It can be interpreted that after Hamengkubuwono IX passed away, the contract is finished. I found that Mbak Azizah’s arguments were making a lot of sense. But I just can’t change my stance, I just cannot re consider this special system. It is part of the identity. It is part of the dignity.

From those 2 stories, the Merapi survivors and Gusti Prabu’s stance (okay, and my stance), I found a loyalty that you just can’t explained. Some Merapi people refused to be relocate because they have this strong connection with their homeland. They knew that their area is very prone to the disaster, and it will certainly be affected if the eruption ever happens again, God knows when. But they just can’t get over this emotional influence. So do we, the people of Yogyakarta. People can argue that time goes by and democracy is by far the best system, that can guarantee the rights of the citizen. But we too, can argue that in some area, monarchy system is what people want to.


Day 8

We basically had fun. I can’t even believe that the committee really created this kind of schedule. Our destinations were: Sultan palace, lunch in Loving Hut, shopping in Mirota Batik, dancing lessons in Gelanggang Mahasiswa UGM, and home!

The dancing lessons were interesting because we witnessed the different dance characters from 3 parts of Indonesia: Yogyakarta, Bali and Minang. It was only 3 different areas and the dance movements and paces were already different. Yogyakarta style was slow and details, Bali was energetic and passionate, and Minang was fast. They almost represent the character of the people themselves.

I guess another happy thing for today was I got to spend sometime with my parents and my boyfriend. I definitely am recharged!


Bulaksumur, June 11 2012


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