Sun, 15 Jun 2003

Contest sizes up capital's youngest, `healthiest' ambassadors

Jock Paul, Contributor, Jakarta

After a week of qualifying rounds, the finalists in the first Abang None Jakarta kindergarten contest gathered for the crowning of the winners.

Some of them thought the selection of the most suitable ambassador for Jakarta as abang and none (the terms for older brother and sister respectively in the local Betawi dialect) was going to be their big break.

"I want to be a model," said hopeful Rizky Apriliani, 5, from East Jakarta.

Bima Reza Pertama said he was excited about the event, "because I want to become famous".

The six-year-old student at Al-Azhar kindergarten in West Jakarta, added that when he grows up, "I want to be an artist, and be famous and smart".

For Bima, it turned out that last Sunday's event could help him reach his goal.

Wearing number 51, Bima was the 101st and last competitor to be called onto the stage at the Taman Mini complex in East Jakarta.

As each finalist took the stage, they had half a minute to greet the audience and then answer a few questions.

Bima, looking smart in traditional Betawi clothes made for him by a family friend, started into a traditional Betawi song as soon as he had the floor.

His energetic and clear performance captured the hearts of the jury and the audience. Bima was named the event's Abang Jakarta, and also voted "audience favorite".

It was the first year of the event organized by Nutricia, which produces nutrition products for babies and children, and the Indonesian Association of Kindergarten Teachers, in conjunction with the celebration of Jakarta's 476th anniversary.

The contest is a smaller version of one held for young people; the latter has been the stepping stone for such artists as Alya Rohali, Venna Malinda and Maudy Kusnaedi.

Although the organizers of the event are not expecting to make stars out of the first kindergarten pageant winners, they are hoping that the event will give the participants a boost for the future.

The company's business unit manager, Dr. F. Cisca Dewiyana, said that building the self-confidence to speak in front of a crowd was one of the goals of the event.

"We are hoping to support the children with nutrition, and educate them about their health and also encourage them to be brave," Cisca said.

But the primary purpose of the event is to educate the kids about health, and hopefully improve the health of Indonesian kids, she said.

The final was the culmination of a weeklong contest that involved a total of 762 children from East, West, North, South and Central Jakarta.

Ten girls and 10 boys from each area qualified for the final, with one extra boy added from West Jakarta to bring 101 children to the final.

During the week of qualifying a children's dentist, a pediatrician and a child psychologist met the children and assessed the quality of their health and hygiene.

Children's dentist Dr. Rinati Adrin said she graded the children on a scale of 1 to 20, depending on the number of teeth that showed signs of decay.

She said she decided to be a judge for the contest because of the opportunity to educate children that their health, including taking care of their teeth, is important.

Organizers and judges were emphatic that the event was not a children's beauty contest.

The final two winners and runners up were chosen among the 101 finalists based on their confidence, eye contact, physical health, appearance, sense of humor and additional skills, such as singing, said jury member Riza Fachrizahy.

The organizers are planning to make the contest an annual event. "In the future, we would also like to involve other organizations," said the company's managing director, Rob Versloot.