The Cap Go Meh Festival (the 15th day after the Chinese New Year) in Singkawang is not only a magnet for tourists, but it is also recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by the UNESCO.
EMANUEL EDI SAPUTRA
·5 menit baca
After its two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cap Go Meh Festival in Singkawang city, West Kalimantan, this year was a grand occasion. The sea of people of diverse backgrounds at the event fulfilled their longing to watch multiethnic dances and a traditional parade of the tatung (invulnerable men) on Sunday (5/2/2023).
As in previous years, the Cap Go Meh celebration was centralized on the stage of honor located on Jl. Diponegoro, Singkawang. A drum was beaten. Poetry describing Indonesia’s cultural diversity was recited.
From the corner of the stage a soldier walked slowly, carrying the national flag to the show arena. Behind him were dancers in contemporary costumes. One of them moved softly like a hornbill flapping its wings, accompanied by poetry reading.
Soon after that, other dancers in red and gold Chinese dresses holding fans ran gracefully to join the dancers in the arena. Music in an energetic tempo followed.
Some moments later, screams were heard from a number of male dancers in traditional Dayak costumes entering the arena. They wielded replicas of shields and mandau (daggers). Next came dancers in Malay dress, joining the other performers to form harmonious movements.
Malay music accompanied the dancers. Children in traditional outfits of various regions in the Indonesian Archipelago eagerly joined. They clapped their hands as they entered. Their little bodies frolicked along with the other dancers as regional songs were sung.
By the end of the dance, the audience stood around the stage. Along with the dancers they sang the song Dari Sabang Sampai Merauke (From Sabang to Merauke). After a few moments a roaring applause was heard from residents and tourists witnessing the celebration.
I come from Pemangkat, Sambas regency, leaving for Singkawang at 7 a.m. this morning with my friends to watch the tatung parade.
The joyful Singkawang Cap Go Meh did not end there. A procession of participants followed. The parade was made up of a marching band, a replica of nine barongsai (lion dance) dragons and the tatung.
Tatung are men believed to be possessed by gods or ancestral spirits, invulnerable to sharp weapons. Tatung performers paraded along the roads of Singkawang to demonstrate their invulnerability for the purpose of warding off evil.
They were dressed in warrior and royal attire as well as in traditional Dayak costumes. The tatung parade presented a form of acculturation, which has taken place for centuries.
There were 859 tatung performers in the parade. They went around Singkawang’s main streets and were watched by thousands of onlookers who had been waiting on roadsides since early morning.
Many tourists recorded the attraction with their cameras and cell phones. There were also those watching from the front parts of shophouses and the upper floors of shophouses and hotels.
Residents viewing the parade came from different backgrounds. They thronged the roads to form a sea of people that fulfilled their longing after being unable to observe the Cap Go Meh Festival for two years due to the pandemic.
“I come from Pemangkat, Sambas regency, leaving for Singkawang at 7 a.m. this morning with my friends to watch the tatung parade,” said Lisa, 33, one of the visitors from Sambas regency on Sunday morning amid the crowd of trippers.
Last year she could not see the tatung because it was indeed not shown. During the two-year pandemic, public activity restrictions were imposed, including the suspension of the Cap Go Meh Festival. But this year she was again able to watch tatung with her peers.
So is the case with Teguh, 28, a Singkawang resident. He took his family to see the tatung parade as the pandemic had eased off.
“My child likes watching the barongsai,” said Teguh while lifting his child to his shoulders in order to see the lion dance.
Acting Singkawang Mayor Sumastro said after Singkawang had not organized a festival for two years due to the pandemic, this year the activity awaited by the public had finally been carried out again. This festival was cheerful and unique because hundreds of tatung performers paraded around the city.
Singkawang tourism is being promoted to make it survives despite the various challenges it is facing. Such a tourism activity and other forms will continue to be attractively offered because of their multiple effects on the economy. Tourism agendas have an impact on the income of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). They also positively impact the creative economy, hotel and restaurant businesses.
Tourists visiting Singkawang in 2017 totaled 652,184. In 2022 the number reached 1.2 million tourists. In 2023 the target is set at 1.5 million tourists.
West Kalimantan Deputy Governor Ria Norsan said Singkawang was declared the most tolerant city in Indonesia. Different ethnic groups are accepted in Singkawang so that they can observe Cap Go Meh together.
“The tatung parade is a major attraction. The West Kalimantan provincial government always supports the Cap Go Meh Festival,” he said.
Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko was present to witness the celebration. According to Moeldoko, the Cap Go Meh Festival in Singkawang has been listed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
I’ve often seen it on TV. Now I witness this directly for the first time.
“It has been internationally recognized,” said Moeldoko.
Moeldoko appealed to the public through the Cap Go Meh Festival to build and strengthen national solidity and solidarity. This is important for him to call to mind because it involves the future of Indonesia.
State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir attended the event for the first time to observe the Cap Go Meh Festival in Singkawang.
“I’ve often seen it on TV. Now I witness this directly for the first time. Thank you for your invitation,” he said.