rembang: why the world need to guard their springs

P1060304lustful water of semen

don’t you just want to jump into the water?

i’m back to yogyakarta after another visit to my favorite part of the northern coast of java: rembang and lasem. i found myself complaining for the unbearable heat and the level of humidity of yogyakarta. it is the second consecutive time this year (or the past month), i’m complaining about the weather in the city i’m living. it is hotter then the coast and jakarta! (i can’t even believe i’m saying this).

while the world just seen a huge storm passes new york, us living in the archipelago have been seeing the change in climate where things become unpredictable. even for us living only with two season: the wet season and the dry season, the weather is so confusing. i remember just in september i’m still snuggling in my tibetan blanket at cold summery nights and finding myself clenching my teeth while taking my late motorcycle ride against the cold wind. nowadays i’m surviving daily at my house in the thinnest balinese sarong. the weather is wrong, people. climate change is here and it is no bullshit.

the last navicula borneo tour give me the glimpse of how bad our last rainforest remains. it’s around 25% forest left in borneo. human greed is such a major destruction to this planet. please check paul daley blog for more information on the attempt in maintaining our borneo rainforest.

P1060292the teak forest preservation, sale, rembang

while now, in the remembrance of the hot afternoon in rembang, i reflected to the many spring water that i’ve seen surviving and should maintain that way. i went up to sale, rembang in the forest preservation area where they have a spring called semen. it was to my surprise that the coastal area of rembang hide this beauty from the last time i was there.

P1060293semen spring in sale, rembang

P1060294the other pond of the spring

P1060296

other side of the spring

it is just a spontaneous trip inspired out of rembang afternoon heat. although before i do wanted to see sale, where one of my old friend puthut ea come from and hear all about it in his story from time to time. this spring is where he learn first time to swim. we packed fruits from the local market (finding myself being excited with the local varieties which are getting rare in the big cities). passing teak wood forest and suddenly finding the little forest hideout where a beautiful spring shyly welcome us.

P1060310proudly wearing the lasem batik

i changed myself to a borrowed lasem navy blue batik and took my first dip. it was a quiet afternoon. the local herdsman let his goats roamed around the field nearby the spring. pop put on his italian oldies song with portable speaker. the sensation of swimming in a spring hidden by a little forest took to another level. we spend hours in the spring and not wanting to get out from the cool calm water. i spent time staring at the sky among the trees while laying back on the water and remembering what it’s like to feel being hidden and covered by so many big trees. it is such a peaceful feeling. in a moment like this i often just want to thank to life for each beautiful gift. for each beautiful moment.

in the afternoon the local kids come to swim and some families also take some dip. pop said this feels like family picnic in the late 1980s. the rest of the guys quietly munching on juwet (the javanese grape) and pomegranate. i guess somehow time didn’t move there and in this spring we all voluntarily trap ourselves in its enhancement.

P1060325enchanted forest

i believe every single spring is sacred. people were not allow to cut trees around the spring so as not to dry the source of underground water. for some spring i found the water come under the tree itself. i found in many local tales that a spring is “keramat” (could mean sacred but could mean spooky for some) for many local beliefs. i personally think our ancestor mean for every single of us to show our respect towards nature.

in some ways i feel in indonesia we have plenty of water, often in abundance. but taking this for granted is a wrong move. in our big cities nowadays clean water is scarce. the jakarta river – citarum is the number one most polluted river in the world. rembang case itself, along the way to the spring, i found just across the teak preservation area is one of the many karst mining site ruining the natural landscape of rembang. it could even dry their river and water resources. it is a heartbreaking sight.

P1060340reality bites: preservation versus mining in rembang

i suddenly remember the mystery of easter island story, where they were building up their statue to praise their gods and using lots of wood in putting them straight up on the ground. until they came to the last tree, they decided to cut it and their civilization going downhill to the path of annihilating themselves. we should learns from these kind of stories. that whatever development of civilization human wants themselves going, it would not last without the consciousness by going in line and harmony with their natural surrounding. that the real progress is existing in the human heart to really appreciate what they have and take care of it. i really hope that we would not found ourselves in deciding to cut the last tree standing. we should guard our spring water for the importance and existence of living beings in this planet.

P1060320river nearby the spring and hope it never runs dry

north halmahera: wangongira – tobelo dalam

_MG_0283wangongira sacred spring, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

water is our life. most of my travel somehow end up with water. i’ve been even collecting spring water from various springs lately. i even put water as part of bhumy name: wisesa, means water in javanese sanskrit. as while i was pregnant with him, i spent once in two days swimming in the spring just 2 kilometers away from our house then. living in jogjakarta made me being accustom in the tradition of swimming or taking a late night dip in the springs. in the traditional javanese belief, spring water is sacred. they even have the tradition of kungkum, means, meditation in the water.

one of my biggest impression in my tobelo days is the spring in wangongira. we first heard about it in our third day while meeting with the village elders. the village elders from wangongira reminded me with gandalf version of tobelo people and them-whose-name-could-not-be-spoken (but you can write them down). while preparing for the “nusantara water ritual” ceremony in tobelo as the sacred water bearers, their main resource of water itself is being threatened. the national water company (PAM) is currently building their water tank so near to their spring.

wangongira spring is very unique. various type of paddy plant grow in the middle of the spring. they used to held traditional ceremony celebrating their harvest. now the paddy in the middle of the spring is gone, only some grow scattered downstream.

IMG02160-20120417-1219sacred various type rice-paddy plants used to grow here, where the rocks are now :(

we somehow end up going there with the regent inspection hearing about the issue. the track could only be done by a four wheel drive and it’s impossible to be passed when it’s raining heavily. it was a jumpy ride for all of us. the car nearly stumbled twice on our way.

the wangongira spring is so beautiful, i touched the water firsthand to say hi, the rocks that ruins them broke my heart instantly. i feel like crying. i asked the regent a very straight question: “does tobelo has problem with water, that this kind of thing need to happen?”, he answered that it’s not but if tobelo become a big city, it would be. the incident is that PAM before promised the villagers to build the water tank 100 meters away from the spring, somehow they decided to build their water tank so near with the spring and ruin the sacred paddy plant.

IMG02165-20120417-1223PAM water tank on the spring

i never got the idea with this logic of such development. that a city have to grow so big, it sucked everything to the center. it sucked other people’s life, such as the wangongirans to support their existence. the wangongirans rely their daily needs of water from the spring. one more thing that makes me choke, that this water project runs for 90 billions rupiah from the central ternate government. it’s so obvious the motive of this useless and unnecessary project. f*k it.

IMG02168-20120417-1518path to some semi-avatar world

522871_10150677174072043_2101248955_nwangongira village, tobelo, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

IMG02172-20120417-1537crosses on the ground

the only thing that could calm me down is to take a dip into the spring water. beforehand we should ask permission: tabea molulu. the story goes that a long time ago, one of their ancestor from huana lina, a women walked from the hills carrying some newly harvested paddy. she fell from the hill and the paddy plant fall to the spring. and that’s how the legend of wangongira spring started.

_MG_0319the ladies throwing their water buckets, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

_MG_0329me and rinto taking some water back to the villagers, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

_MG_0330rinto passing filled water buckets, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

me and dalih decided to take a walk around the village. our local youth guide is rinto. he is so funny and hilarious. he took us around and nicely answered all of our questions. we ended up taking another dip while waiting for the car to come back to take us.

we were helping the women villagers in filling their water upstream, while some workers were throwing rocks to the spring. the village children were also around helping to carry the water back to their mothers. and suddenly someone screamed: watch out snake! me and rinto swam back and running to the small hill. half of the people watch a medium size snake going into the water. half of them did not. while catching back my breath from running, our driver was back.

suddenly rain pour heavily. it was like flooding from the sky. our car could not start either. we nearly did not make it back if the rain last more than 30 minutes. at the 20th minutes, i remembered something, i haven’t say bye to the spring and the place, while panicking along the running to the hills thing. i said in my heart: tabea molulu, thank you for today and someday we will be back again. we ask permission to go home now. the rain stopped, the car ignited. in a place like this, you should believe in the spirit of the place.

IMG02159-20120417-1215the downstream from the spring

i prayed one day, human could conquer their greed and stop exploiting mother nature. i wish to still see my son and other children could still play in these amazing water. i owe wangongira a promise to go back again one day. i hope this nature beauty stays in their place.

for more about this story: A Public Works Project Threatens Rice Harvest in Remote Indonesia (by Labodalih Sembiring)