Yesterday I had an opportunity to pay a visit to Wae Rebo again. I dont really remember how many times I’ve come and seen this traditional village since I organized tour to Labuan Bajo and Flores in 2018. But everytime I come here, the feeling is just still the same; amazed by its authentic Manggaraian traditional village with it’s 7 beautiful conical houses (Mbaru Niangs).
WaeRebo, which is at an altitued of 1100 meter above sea level, received Award of Excellence from UNESCO in 2012, the highest UNESCO award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. It received several other awards in the following year, but the recent one was the award from Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy as the best tourism village in Indonesia (tourism attraction category).
We (Mr Stuart, his son, and I) arrived at the village at 5 pm after driving (with scooters) for about 4 hours from Labuan Bajo and another two hours hike from the parking lot to the village. After following the welcoming ritual at Mbaru Gendang (the drum house/main house) we had a chance to talk to Bapa Lipus and listen to their stories about the history of the village and how the feel now as the village is getting more and more attention from global travelers.
Bapa Lipus, one of the local community leaders at the village, stressed that with or without tourism (activities), they would still stay at Wae Rebo since the village is their ancestral land. “Tourism is just a bonus for us. This is our ancestral land and we will preserve what we have and will continuosly pass it on to next generation”, said Bapa Lipus.
He also told us the story of a Japanese researcher who came to Wae Rebo in 1970s and it was the first time for the village to be visited by foreigner. He also mention Catherine Allerton, whom he thinks as the one and only foreigner who stayed for almost two years at Wae Rebo. Catherine, an antrhopologist from UK, conducted research in Wae Rebo and published a book tittled “Potent Landscapae, Place and Mobility in Eastern Indonesia”.
Her research then lead her to know that the Manggarai people believe their land can talk, that its appetite demands sacrificial ritual, and that its energy can kill as well as nurture. They tell their children to avoid certain streams and fields and view unusual environmental events as omens of misfortune. Yet, far from being preoccupied with the dangers of this animate landscape, Manggarai people strive to make places and pathways “lively,” re-traveling routes between houses and villages and highlighting the advantages of mobility. Through everyday and ritual activities that emphasize “liveliness,” the land gains a further potency: the power to evoke memories of birth, death, and marriage, to influence human health and fertility.
Anyway, this is Waerebo, this is Manggarai. Welcome to a place where traditions meet the present and the future!
Foto & Teks: Boe Berkelana
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