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)

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