Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Jakartans residents celebrate nation's 58th anniversary

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Marriott bombing that rocked the capital almost two weeks ago and claimed 12 lives, did not stop residents from celebrating the nation's 58th anniversary.

Various games and performances were staged by enthusiastic Jakartans over the prolonged three-day holiday.

Residents had already decorated their neighborhoods with the national Red-and-White flags, banners and special portals to their neighborhood units, a week prior to the big day.

Neighborhood competitions had also begun a week ago, from soccer to badminton, and from table tennis to chess.

People also flocked to various amusement centers in Greater Jakarta to express their jubilation of the day.

"We must celebrate Independence Day, because it is the most historic day for the nation, regardless of the worsening condition of the country," Ahmad, a resident of Gelora, Central Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Ahmad was watching a kerupuk-eating competition, in which children from his area were racing to finish eating the local shrimp cracker. The crackers are strung up in a row, and participants must eat the cracker with their hands behind their backs.

Other competitions for children in the neighborhood included five-a-side soccer matches, held on the street because there are no public playgrounds in the area. Most residents watched the children's games and their joyful antics with delight.

The annual Kalimalang Festival in East Jakarta, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., also attracted thousands of residents and caused severe traffic congestion from Jakarta to Bekasi.

The betel palm tree climbing competition, with various prizes to be collected at the top of the tree, dominated the festival, followed by a pillow fight above the muddy river and a duck- catching contest in the river.

Duren Sawit subdistrict head Tehajuddin said that apart from entertaining the people, the event was also meant to teach locals to how to keep the river clean.

The river is a tap water supply for the city.

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also celebrated Independence Day in their own ways. The Poor People Empowerment (PaRam), an NGO which works to better the welfare of poor people, organized various games in slum areas.

PaRam's event was held along Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan, East Jakarta, and many homeless and street children participated in the festivities. The games included an egg-eating contest, a spoon race, an eel-catching contest and sack races.

Residents of the elite Menteng subdistrict, Central Jakarta, also celebrated the day by holding five-a-side soccer matches and a singing contest.

A bazaar featuring some 35 tenants also attracted hundreds of residents in the exclusive neighborhood. Noted fashion designers Iwan Tirta and Ghea Panggabean also exhibited their work during the event.

In Ancol Dreamland amusement park, North Jakarta, many events had been organized for the Independence Day weekend.

The favorite program at the park was the betel palm tree climbing contest, with 258 trees. Participants were grouped in teams of seven each, and all struggled to reach the top of the tree to claim their prizes, which included brand-new bicycles.

The park's spokesman, Muchrizal, hoped the contest would make it into the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI).

Many visitors traveled on public transportation to reach the park, and paid Rp 7,500 each for entry.

Live performances featuring various cultural shows, such as Kuda Lumping from Central Jakarta, the barongsai Chinese lion dance, Merak dance from West Java and Ondel-ondel from Jakarta also colored the celebration at the park.

On Jl. Jaksa, a popular hangout for foreign backpackers, tourists joined locals in fun games, including hitting a tennis ball with an eggplant tied to their waists, tug-of-war and the bakiak wooden clog race.

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) park in East Jakarta also held a variety of traditional competitions and live performances at the miniaturized provinces, each reflecting the indigenous culture of the respective provinces.