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Friday, 30 September 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Mabayuh (Blessing Ceremony) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Mabayuh’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 25th September 2011. Translated by Putu Semiada.





Mabayuh (Blessing Ceremony)

There are ceremonies everywhere in Bali at the moment: wedding (mesakapan), tooth-fling (metatah), cremation (ngaben), and purification (nyekah). That’s probably the palm toddy association members discuss about ceremonies.

In Bali one sometimes has to have a special of soul-blessing ceremonies conducted by a priest” (mebayuh). “One who isn’t born on a good day, needs to have a “mebayuh” says I Made Adat Istiadat (I Made Traditional Customs).

“Well, then all children born these days should have “mebayuh” as they are not born in the right day,” comments I Ketut Katulebo (I Ketut Spider).

“What do you mean?

These days everything is expensive: milk, rice, oil, education and health; rice fields are gone; rivers and lakes have no water left; our island is now ‘owned’ by investors; investors have better ‘status’ than brahmana and kstariya today.

These days are really bad “days” (duwasa). One born these days will not be happy in his life.

Most human, behave like demons these days: small problem become big problems; brothers fight against their own brothers; villages against villages, high ranking officials against high ranking officials.

Nobody feel guilty in this kind of situation: everybody feels that he is the right one or has the right to do anything. Everyone wants everything: money, land and even temples. What if the temples are confiscated by the court? Where would our deities go?

“One born these days will see more people fighting, and find the earth getting ‘hot’.”

“That’s why they need ‘mebayuh’.

“And the grown up and old need ‘mebayuh’ as well.”

“The high ranking official need it too, especially the corrupt ones; and even the traditional or religious leaders need it too.

Mebayuh can be done en masse like other ceremonies. The local government has funds for mass tooth-filing, so they must have for mass ‘mebayuh’ as well. And there must be funds for mass wedding, mass three-month baby, cleansing ceremonies, etc.”


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

HIGH STYLE IN NORTH BALI

Tooth Filing and wedding at the home of banjar village's, best looking family






























Monday, 19 September 2011

TRAVEL DIARIES: Malaysia-Tanjung Pinang-Bali


Published in Now! Jakarta, October 2011

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Malaysia’s larget Buddha statue, outside the Chin Swee Caves Temple.


In 1969, the late Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong had a dream that he would build 10,000 hotel rooms and six casinos in the cool hills outside Kuala Lumpur.


With the help of the nation’s first Prime Minister, Tenku Abdul Razak, his dream was realized. To thank the gods he built a magnificent temple on the approach road to the casino, dedicated to the Chinese Thunder God Lei Kung.


Even if you don’t like losing money hand over foot in a circus setting, the Genting Highlands is well worth the detour from Kuala Lumpur. There are 100 restaurants (Gamblers have huge appetites) and Asia’s best less-sugar moon cakes for sale, and lots of invigorating mountain air.


I had come from a gastronomic tour of Surabaya — where warung-themed cafes are all the rage in the new mega-malls — so was well-primed for Asian-dining experiences in a Las Vegas setting.



LEFT: Pagoda at the Chin Swee Caves Temple in the verdant valley east of Genting Highland Resort.
RIGHT: The altar to the God of Thunder, Lei Kung, which sits in a large prayer hall adjacent the pagoda.


From Kuala Lumpur I went to Bintan Island, the ancient capital of Malay culture, to cover Independence Day for Alam TV.

Like nearby Belitung and Bangka, Tanjung Pinang is an old Hokkien and Hakkah Chinese trade entrepot. Here the Chinese have been completely assimilated into the Malay/Indonesian culture (readers should remember that the cradle of Malay language and culture is actually in South Sumatra and Riau, and not in Malaysia, although the Sultan of Johore did control Pulau Penyengat, near Tanjung Pinang, for 200 years before Raffles moved in).

Sadly, the Sultan of Johore’s palaces of the 18th and 19th century are all gone: just a few tantalizing pavilion bases and mausoleums, and the old mosque remain.


View of the Genting Highlands Resort from the approach road.

The real charm of the port, and the nearby islands, are its people — a mix of Melayu, Sumatran, Javanese and Malay Straites Chinese. The food available is equally ‘cosmopolitan’.

One reaches Pulau Penyengat Island from a jetty in the main port — “Alim’s” seafood restaurant and the Pasar Baru ‘floating’ morning market nearby are not to be missed — where one can charter a cigar boat for Rp.150.000 for the return trip, and the boat will wait for an hour or two at Penyengat jetty.

Once on Penyengat island, tuk-tuk auto-rickshaws are waiting at the wharf; for Rp. 50,000 one gets a quick spin around the island. In an hour one can experience the unique ambience of this historical Malay settlement.

The Chinese quarter is still intact as are the perma-smiles on the faces of the friendly islanders.
After the gamblers’ faces of the Genting Highlands it’s a welcome contrast!

See my Independence Day video on Tanjung Pinang video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nEaJCQRrOw


LEFT: The 10th century Masjid Raya Sultan Riau on Pulau Penyengat, Bintan.
RIGHT: Gateway to a Royal Tomb (for members of the Johor Royal family), Pulau Penyengat.

18th August 2011: To an Indonesian culture free-zone
Form Tanjung Pinang I drive 90 minutes through some charming rural country side to the Bintan Resort Development zone, which is a gated community.

Inside there is no sign of life as we know it but the road verges are well maintained and everything drains perfectly.

All prices at all retail outlets are in Singapore dollars.

A generic tourism mall rises from the sand on Lagoi Beach.

Giant animal cut-outs are applied to high voltage electricity towers.

The beaches: stunning with large boulders are scattered everywhere, with the occasional Jurrasic-era cycad growing in between.

I am designing an ASEAN architecture-inspired hotel on Lagoi Beach and have collected a gang of local merry men to assist me.

Rinto is my Padangese driver with six inch fingernails: he rules the night market at Puja Selera, a little patch of Indonesia with a local life style (messy, vibrant, warm and friendly). Kerabat is my one-eyed bulldozer operator from Central Java: he is the project hottie. I have twenty bushmen with machetes, from Papua: they can clear scrub like nobody’s business.

At my home base, the Nirwana Garden Resort, a team of ‘nancy-boys’ in the coffee shop keep me amused with island gossip.



LEFT: Revellers in regional costumes for the Independence Day celebrations at the Gedong Daerah, Tanjung Pinang.
RIGHT: A member of the elite Bintan honour guard before the raising of the flag ceremony at the Gedong Daerah, Tanjung Pinang.


One feels that this Singaporean government-backed tourism solution — a solution with its own harbor and jetty to Singapore service, and its own immigration (and soon to have its own international airport) — will be a huge success, particularly for Singaporean tourists scared of real Indonesian.

One has to experience the Emerald Class on the Bintan Resort Ferry service to believe it! It’s seamless, from kerb to kerb, with Tom and Jerry cartoons all the way.

The island offers banana boat rides, mangrove tours, jungle trekking and, for the truly intrepid, ‘Heritage Tours’ are available to deepest, darkest Indonesia, outside the gates.

Helmets, tazers and mosquito sprays are ‘issued’ at the gates but many teenage girls return with carved souvenirs, jungle fever, and hickies on their necks.



An attentive Batavia Air steward.

Batavia and Sriwijaya fly direct to Tanjung Pinang which is just outside Tanjung Pinang town.

The Bintan Resort experience is easier to access via the ferry service from Tanah Merah Singapore.


Surabaya’s most famous food stall ‘Si Mbok’ at Central Mall.


30th August 2011, Idul Fitri: To Batujimbar, Sanur, for Halal Bihalal at Tatie Waworuntu’s dream home


Bali is 50% Muslim, but only part of the time.

Just before Lebaran the island’s mostly Javanese Muslims return home for two weeks ‘home leave’.

The island becomes eerily quiet, but just for three days. On the fourth day the island fills up; domestic tourists arrive en mass, having fled their servant-depleted homes because they can’t find the air conditioning switches, or can’t get foot massages on demand.


Kika, Annisha and Nanda Waworuntu at their grandmother Tatie Waworuntu’s’s Halal Bihalal.

Every year, on Lebaran, Bali’s most glamorous Javanese lady, Tatie Waworuntu traditionally holds a Halal Bihalal open house for her large family, and for her Bali friends.

As doyenne of Bali’s now burgeoning community of Jakartans, Tatie is the hostess with the mostess. No-other matriarch can compete with the Indonesian treats that grace her table, and her exquisite garden.

This year there is a bouquet of daughters, daughter-in-laws and granddaughters flittering around Tatie Waworuntu’s garden like exotic butterflies.
Alhamdulillah!!


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Stranger in Paradise: Women in Bali




Sang Hyang Aji (Saraswati), the Goddess of the Arts, is the island’s top deity.

Behind every successful Balinese prince — or priest or real estate baron —is a strong woman.

For centuries, Bali has been symbolized by a big-featured, broad-shouldered, topless woman, wearing a crown of fragrant sandat flowers.

While not a matriarchy — the Balinese men being too chauvinistic to allow that — Bali is a fair place for the fair sex. Women make the offerings, the children and the rice. In general, they survive their spouses, by a decade or so, which is why most courtyard homes have lots of wise and benign grannies, and why, at any moment, there are more priestesses than priests on the island.

So popular are Balinese women that many foreigners fall in love in with them in Karaoke lounges and massage parlours; this tradition started in 1560, when two sailors from the Van Houten expedition jumped ship in Klungkung.

Throughout Bali’s modern history, the few western artists who were not infatuated with the lean torsos of male rice farmers have had wife-muses; one thinks here of Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprés’s wife and the Juno-seque Ni Pollok, and Antonio Blanco’s wife Ni Rojik, another statuesque beauty.

In the expatriate world the women are the prime force.

Last month saw the 20th anniversary of Seminyak’s most celebrated restaurant and dance hall, Warisan, for example, which was founded by three talented ladies (see photo below).


(Left to right): Founders Mary Rossi, Susanna Perini, and Simona Casellini at the WARISAN 20th Birthday party.

The other great institution dominated by women in Bali is the Corner Warung (see Stranger in Paradise, “Bali’s Corner Warung”, July 2011). Even Mama’sans of Mixed Rice become legends, in Bali: one thinks here of the curly-mopped sisters who run Babi Guling Gianyar, Mak Beng of ‘Grand Bali Beng’ in Sanur, Ibu Wardani of Denpasar and Ibu Oka of Ubud.

The Waworuntu clan of Batujimbar — a secret ‘coven’ of society beauties and their female offspring — control the Café Batujimbar, Tandjung Sari, and Jenggala Ceramics empires.

And near all of Jakarta’s top-notch ball-breakers now have villas in Bali.

On the art scene, Janet De Neefe runs the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival; Deborah Gabinetti the annual film festival; and Kiwi-born Sarita Newson runs the island’s best publishing house. A host of other expat ladies keep themselves busy saving the island from stray dogs, waste and second-hand smoke.

All in all it’s a Women’s World in Bali, with the men playing an important, but essentially decorative, role.

30th August 2011, Idul Fitri: To Batujimbar, Sanur, for Halal Bihalal at Tatie Waworuntu’s dream home.

Bali is 50% Muslim, but only part of the time.

Just before Lebaran — the Muslim holiday which celebrates the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan — the island’s mostly Javanese Muslims return home for two weeks ‘home leave’.

The island becomes eerily quiet, but just for three days. On the fourth day the island fills up; Javanese-Chinese tourists arrive en mass, having fled their servant-depleted homes because they can’t find the air conditioning switches, or can’t get foot massages on demand.







• • •

Every year, on Lebaran, Bali’s most glamorous Javanese lady, Tatie Waworuntu traditionally holds a Halal Bihalal open house for her large family, and for her Bali friends.

As doyenne of Bali’s now burgeoning community of Jakartans, Tatie is the hostess with the mostess. No-other matriarch can compete with the Indonesian treats that grace her table, and her exquisite garden.

This year there is a bouquet of daughters, daughter-in-laws and granddaughters flittering around Tatie Waworuntu’s garden like exotic butterflies.





1st September 2011: To Puri Bongkasa Palace, West of Sayan, to ‘melayat’ after the death of another great lady (see box).

There are only a handful of Balinese palaces left which still have spacious well-maintained courtyards and purely traditional pavilions. ‘The Bongkasas’ have lived in Sanur for most of the past 50 years in a large compound next to the Segara Village Beach Hotel; despite this they have managed to keep their home palace in top working order.

‘Melayat’ is the Indonesian custom of visiting the house of the deceased in the hours or days after the death. The visitor usually gives an envelope of cash or gifts. In Bali it is mandatory to give a length of white kasa cloth, and some rice and sugar, as a sign of solidarity and respect.

Today I sit with the deceased’s sister-in-law, as lines of nobles from Bali’s first families — from Puri Klungkung, Puri Sukawati and Puri Sayan — file past the ceremonial pavilion where the body of the late matriarch lies in state, and take up honoured positions in the high pavilions, where high tea is served (See my video “Melayat” on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5v57Ualr0g and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5VHksdbmJY

This will go on for the next 6 weeks until the cremation on the 22nd October.

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VALE: Ida Ayu Kompiang Sutarti Oka
(Wife of the late Raja Bongkasa Drs I Gusti Gede Agung Oka)




Ibu Kompiang died peacefully in her Sanur home on 3rd September 2011, aged 79. She had been playing cards with friends in the morning and was gone (lebar) by lunchtime. If any lady deserved a peaceful transition, after a full life of service to her family and community, and to the Indonesian Republic, it was Ibu Kompiang. Her popular husband, ‘Bapak Oka’, had been head of Depdikbud (Dept. of Education and Culture) in Bali for almost a decade and went on to be head the National Sports Council in Jakarta, always with Ibu Kompiang as head of the Dharma Wanita Ladies Auxiliary.

Born into Denpasar’s brahmana house, Geria Tapakgangsul, the daughter of Pedanda Gede Karang — and sister of the well-known boulevardiers Gus Pang, Gus Pong and Gus Pung — she was part of a generation of smart, uber-elegant ladies which included Ibu Ida Ayu Diwangkara, owner of the Diwangkara Hotel next to the Grand Bali Beach.

I first knew Ibu Kompiang when she was secretary to (the then) Hotel Bali Beach G.M., Siegfried Biel, the German visionary who first gave Ubud-based artist Hans Hoefer a leg up in 1970, as publisher of the first APA GUIDE, “The Guide to Bali” — on his way to becoming South-east Asia’s most successful travel book publisher.

Ibu Kompiang was my first ‘mentor’ in Sanur society (when I was a tennis coach at the Bali Beach). I learned at this time that she had had to deal with all the 50s and 60s legends — including President Soekarno, artist Le Mayeur, antiquaire Jimmy Pandy, Cultural Tourism pioneer Wija Waworuntu, Diparda head Pak Riyasa and artists Donald Friend and Ari Smit — and would have had a pivotal role in stabilizing society, with her young husband, post the tumultuous and bloody era of the Communist Insurrection.

She ran an artshop in the Bali Beach arcade and hosted gatherings of the legendary Chicago Group of upper echelon local government officials — the ‘club’ of royals who loved Charlie Chaplin movies, Frank Sinatra music and Balinese Culture of which she was the last survivor. She raised five perfectly-mannered children who all married children of other first families (Puri Agung Sukawati, Puri Agung Karangasem and Puri Carangsari, amongst them) and was a loving grandmother to 15 grandchildren.

In later years she was a permanent court fixture at all royal weddings and cremations and guided her home palace, Puri Bongkasa, into its position as a popular, classic venue for lavish Balinese feasts and dance performances.

She was a peoples’ princess in the true sense of the expression, and a great lady.

She was as egalitarian as she was royal — her smile and trademark giggle could warm a courtyard of stuffy courtiers from 50 paces.

She is survived by her seven children, her brother Pedanda Gede Ngurah Karang known as Gus Pung and three other siblings.

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9th September 2011: Seminyak’s oldest eatery celebrates 20 years in the business


In 1991 a few Italian friends and a Balinese starlet started Seminyak’s first fine-dining restaurant with a view over the rice fields.

Husbands came and went but these ladies stuck together, despite age and cultural differences. Simona was a third generation hotelier, and Mary Rossi an aristocrat from an ancient Sicilian family of meat-packers. Dayu Sri is an Ubud Brahman with an hour-glass figure. She is widely regarded as the Paulette Godard of Batu Belig.

The rice fields have long gone but the restaurant remains, as a base for expat sun-lovers and theme party enthusiasts.

Despite stiff opposition from other big eateries — local restaurants with similar clientele such as Sarung and Metis among them — it is really only Made’s Warung Seminyak which rivals Warisan as a banjar for boisterous buléand their local friends.

Bravo Dayu Sri, Marie Rossi, Jean-Paolo, and Simona and may Warisan help the high-kickers and high-rollers for another 20 years



29th August 2011: To Pura Dalem Kawi, Sayan, near Ubud, for a mass tooth-filing ceremony

The puberty ritual of mepandes — when the top six teeth are filed down — is often held in conjunction with the exquisitely refined series of rites held for the purification of departed souls.
The offerings for both sets of rituals are similar; both involve the gathering of all family members.

Multiply that by 100 and you have an idea of the scale of the mass events popular in the highland villages of Bali these days.

Today I arrive in an outer temple court as the famous albino water buffalo from Taro village is getting a load of offerings; the ceremony is taking place next to the grandstand of the soul effigies, all glittering with gold leaf crowns and rice pastry towers




Inside the temple, the celebrants are dressed as angels — the boys with rouged lips and artificially arched eyebrows; the girls in classic Balinese ‘bon-bon’ confectionary.

In the morning light, with the angklung gamelan playing and the priest’s bell ringing, it feels like the prettiest place on the planet.

The local prince — lead-drummer in the gamelan — and is scheduled to ride the magnificent ‘float’ to the cremation ground at noon.

He tells me that the gamelan is a gift of ‘Tuan’ Colin McPhee, author of ‘Music in Bali’, in 1936.
At noon, pre tooth-filing, the angklung starts a haunting processional tune; and the 100 celebrants and 150-odd spirit effigies plus one albino water buffalo then process three times around the tight outer court.

It is the most beautiful ceremony I have ever seen.

See my video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_BEvh1893E and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEYetJConCE.



PENYIRAMAN Ida Ayu Kompyang Sutarti Oka PURI BONGKASA, 12 SEPTEMBER 2011



























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VIDEO