Kampung Tugu: The Remaining Portuguese Village in Indonesia’s Capital

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As the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta is known for many things, from its China Town, Port of Sunda Kelapa, legendary culinary destinations, historical cemeteries, temples, Kota Tua (Old Town), mushrooming shopping malls in every part of the city, the most populated city in the country until bad traffic jam. Nonetheless, being born and raised in Jakarta doesn’t mean that I know everything about my birth place.

Situated in Semper, North Jakarta, which is a bit isolated from the city center and main attractions, there’s the one and only village in Jakarta where Portuguese descendants live called Kampung Tugu (Tugu Village). I wonder how come I didn’t know about its presence for decades. What I remember about history lesson during my school live is that it didn’t tell much about Portuguese occupation in Indonesia, that happened prior to the Dutch one.

I was so glad that I joined the walking tour from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta to the village, so I know what I have been missing all these years.

THE ORIGIN OF TUGU

There are some speculations related to where the name Tugu comes from. Some say that it derives from the word “PorTUGUese”. But some others say that the name is referred to Tugu Inscription, whose original inscription is now kept in Museum Nasional Indonesia (The National Museum of Indonesia) in Gambir, Central Jakarta.

THE BEGINNING OF PORTUGUESE DESCENDANTS IN JAKARTA

After the Dutch successfully beat Portuguese over the conquest of Malacca (now in Malaysia) in 1648, they brought Portuguese troops from several parts of India, such Goa, Malabar and Benggali to Batavia (now Jakarta) to become workers.

In order to liberate Portuguese workers from all taxes, called “mardijkers”, that means people who are liberated, the Dutch asked them to convert from Catholic to Protestant, the majority religion in the Netherlands. Then, they were exiled to Kampung Tugu and worked as farmers.

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The Michiels music performance

You may not be able to differentiate Portuguese descendants from the locals because quite a lot of them are mixed race with Javanese, Sulawesi, Ambon etc. Therefore, they may not have Eurasian look like Dutch-Indonesian people or “Indo-Belanda”.

Nonetheless, the surnames define their identity. Michiels, Quiko, Pieters, Andries, Simon, Brone and Bacca are some typical Portuguese descendant surnames. Angel Pieters, the singer who is formerly an Indonesian Idol contestant, for instance, is a Portuguese descendant.

Nowadays, there are not so many Portuguese descendants as before since they’ve moved to other cities in Indonesia and overseas.

THE CHURCH OF TUGU

The Church of Tugu, now GPIB (Gereja Protestan di Indonesia bagian Barat / Protestant Church of the Western Part of Indonesia), has a high historical value and inseparable from the existence of Portuguese descendants in Indonesia. Therefore, it is inaugurated as the national cultural heritage in 1970 by Ali Sadikin, the government of Jakarta at that time.

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The Church of Tugu

Established in 1678, the church experienced 3 times transformation over the years because of destructions from the rebellion. Therefore, it was rebuilt in 1747 and inaugurated a year later, as granted from Justinus van der Vinch, a Dutch landlord.

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Church interior

Some main parts of the church, such as the window, the podium and the roof haven’t changed since 1748. The old bell hemmed between 2 pillars is also one of historical parts of the church. The bell you see today is a replica, however, because the original one is too fragile to display.

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the old bell and I
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The cemetery

Another unique church property is the cemetery of Portuguese descendant from Tugu Village. Simply said that if you’re not a Portuguese descendants and not from Tugu Village, you won’t be allowed to use it as the last resting place. Andreas Andries, who initiated the unity of Portuguese descendants in Indonesia, Arend Juliense Michiels, the ancestor of the Michiels, are some important figures who are buried there.

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The Michiels’ residence

The Michiels participate for the cultural preservation of Kampung Tugu as a spokesman and an interviewee for tourism purposes, such as presenting the history of the village among tour members, authors and presenters. Their residence is deliberately opened for public by appointment, as an example of the original Kampung Tugu house.

While we were visiting the country style house, they also entertained us by singing traditional songs in Indonesian and Creole language. Apparently, musical talent is already in their blood when I saw the nephews aged 10 to 12 years playing cello and guitar pretty well.

TRADITIONAL FOOD

Traditional food from Kampung Tugu is often hard to find in other parts of Indonesia, including Jakarta itself, and you can’t even get them online.

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Pisang Udang

Pisang udang (literally meaning banana prawn), for instance, is a triangular shaped-cake made of dough from rice flour and corn starch wrapped in banana leaf. Filled with spiced minced prawn, it has a savory taste that I can’t get enough with.

A must to serve snack in big events in Kampung Tugu is apem kinca, a traditional sponge cake with brown sugar gravy. Brazilians, which is formerly under Portuguese conquest, also has a similar cake.

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ketan unti

For death ceremony, it has a special snack called ketan unti. Ketan unti is made of white glutinous rice with shredded coconut topping mixed with brown sugar.

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apem kinca

Gado-gado, boiled veggies and egg with peanut sauce, is one of the most famous traditional food nationwide from Jakarta. To be exact, it’s a Betawi (indigenous people of Jakarta) style salad dish. Over time, it undergoes modifications in other parts of Indonesia, from East Java to North Sumatra.

However, little known that gado-gado in Jakarta is not only made by Betawi people because Kampung Tugu has its own version. The differences between two of them are gado-gado from Kampung Tugu uses candlenut, coconut milk, spinach, kaempferia galanga (kencur), and the peanut sauce is poured, not ground.

Last but not least, Portuguese egg tart is also popular in Kampung Tugu. Although you can find it easily in bakeries and cake shops in Jakarta, it is claimed that the egg tart from Kampung Tugu tastes better and more authentic.

MUSIC AND DANCE

Undoubtedly, keroncong music is a cultural heritage from Kampung Tugu, which is very well-known in Indonesia. Nonetheless, a lot people think that it’s Javanese music.

Those days, Kampung Tugu was an isolated place, far from the city center and lack of entertainment. Thus, the locals has finally found the way to entertain themselves by playing machina, a hand made music instrument made of woods around the village, resembling an ukulele. The word keroncong is derived from the sound of machina, which is “crong, crong, crong”.

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machina in creation progress

The particular sound of keroncong music inspires a slang “keroncongan”, defining a growling sound of a hungry stomach. For example, when someone says he or she is “keroncongan”, that means he or she is very hungry.

The famous keroncong Tugu music group is Cafrinho, whose leader is Guido Quiko, the 4th generation of Quiko clan. Just like the Michiels, Guido Quiko has a deep knowledge about Kampung Tugu and becomes a resourceful interviewee. His music group has been invited to big cultural events and national television programs.

Nina bobo, the Indonesian version of Lullaby is also a famous keroncong song for generations. Nina is actually not a name, but it derives from a Portuguese word menina, which means a girl.

Since 2016, The Ministry of Education and Culture inaugurate keroncong music as an intangible heritage.

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Noni Tugu dance

For the last 4 years, Quido Quiko introduces and develops Noni Tugu dance, a traditional dance from Kampung Tugu, originally brought from Portuguese descendants from Malacca. The performers are girls and (female) teens wearing European style costume. He hopes that it will add cultural richness in Kampung Tugu attracting more visitors in the future and build children’s interest in preserving local culture.

UNIQUE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION

Kampung Tugu people celebrate new year in 2 stages. The first stage is Rabo-Rabo, held on January 1, to greet everyone a happy new year by visiting each house in the village while singing keroncong songs.

The second stage is Mandi-Mandi festival, the peak of the celebration held a week after Rabo-Rabo, where everyone forgives each other for all mistakes they made in the previous year. I, together with the rest of the group from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, attended the festival inside the building close to the main church.

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Mandi-Mandi Festival

The festival begins with keroncong music performance, where participants dance following the rhythm of the music. Then, they passed us a glass of “bedak dingin”, literally meaning cold powder because it’s cooling like menthol, mixed with water. FYI, that’s how the cold powder is used, you have to mix it with water first before applying on your skin. “Bedak dingin” is the symbol of self-cleansing from sins and mistakes. Therefore, there’s a joke saying that the more powder stain on your face, the more sins that have to be cleansed.

Since 2016, Rabo-Rabo and Mandi-Mandi festival have been inaugurated as intangible heritage by The Ministry of Education and Culture.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH DESTINATION

Since Kampung Tugu location is closed to Tanjung Priok, the busiest port in Indonesia, quite a lot of people from Kampung Tugu rely their income on selling and renting their land to shipping companies to keep their containers. By developing its tourism sector, hopefully that they can have other sources of income.

When Basuki Tjahaya Purnama was a governor, boosting tourism in Kampung Tugu is part of his programs. Unfortunately, after he lost the election, it remains unclear what happens next since the present governor doesn’t do anything about it.

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view of Kampung Tugu with partly rented land for containers

Situated in the coastline of Jakarta, the access to the village is not that convenient and a bit far from downtown. As a result, Kampung Tugu is not a very popular tourist destination compared to the Old Town and other historical places in Indonesia’s capital.

Nevertheless, the existence of Kampung Tugu indicates richness in cultural diversity that requires more introduction and promotion to wider range of people in the country, including the younger generation, and foreign tourists.

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