A Touch of Rural Tradition

Couple of days ago, I went with my family to my mother’s hometown: Liwutung in Southeast Minahasa. It takes about 2 hours by car. In some parts, the road condition is not so good that it needs an extra attention from the driver, especially if he is not so familiar to drive through this area. Moreover, when it comes to pass a route called ‘Gunung Potong’ (Gunung means mountain & Potong means cut, so it’s literally taking a shortcut through a mountain), everyone who drive his car / motorcycle should be more careful since on the left side of the road along Gunung Potong is a steep gorge. Yet, the natural setting of pine tree forest that covers the area is, I think, worth the trip.

We supposed to go there on Sunday, January 29th to join the festive of Christmas & New Year’s Wrap-Up Tradition but unexpectedly, we received bad news on Thursday that my uncle is dead. So, we went there to attend the funeral ceremony.

We started our trip at 08.55 and arrived there before 11.00. Hereby, I’d like to share about some interesting facts I learned about their tradition when someone is dead.

  • Since most of the villagers are farmers so on the funeral day, none of them will go to work in the field because they, voluntarily, have to attend the funeral ceremony.
  • Weeping time usually lasts for three days. For example, my uncle died on Thursday and was buried on Saturday (if we count it, it is actually two days only)
  • There are some small social groups within the villagers which are scheduled to bring foods (rice, vegetables, and fish/meat) to help the family to feed the guests / close families who come to visit during the weeping time. For example, my uncle died on Thursday afternoon, so the first group (each group consists of about ten members / families) will cook at their own houses and will bring the foods to the family for dinner (of the family and the guests). When there is no enough room / space, considering the size of the house, the closest neighbor provides a space in his house where they can put the food, and the guests / close family or relatives can have their dinner there.
  • On the following day, the second group will bring foods for lunch, then the third group will bring theirs for dinner. So it goes until the funeral day, which is on the third day.
  • The family, relatives, and guests, usually put on their black attire. Specifically for the family, each of them is given a small white towel because they will need it when they cry..
  • Every time a close family, relative, or neighbor enter the room, together with the family they will usually stand beside the coffin and wail while uttering their last memory with the person before s/he died.
  • Local government, church in which the family is affiliated, relatives, neighbors, and other related groups will each give a kind of donation or we call it here diakonia to the family. When the funeral ceremony is over, the  in-charge person will read the names of the givers and the amount of money they gave.
  • A man will hit a small iron bell by using an iron stick as a sign that the funeral service is about to be started.
  • There are six men who will be assigned to carry the coffin on their shoulders, from the house to the cemetery site. White shirts will be provided for them to wear. Another man will walk in front of them carrying a black flag which is just a symbol of condolence.
  • After the funeral, in the evening there will be a third night service held and then all the guests will join the family and other relatives for dinner.
  • Here, they hold service at the third night, the fortieth night, and one year commemoration after the death.

My heart was moved observing their tradition and how their social and emotional ties become so helpful to ease the burden of the family members who are in grief. Back in Tomohon, hmmmm…in some villages, such funeral tradition is still alive though with some differences here and there. But in some ‘towny’-villages which are close to downtown, we can hardly see that. Hope I could write about that in different post.

Good bye, my beloved uncle..rest in peace..

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Categories: Funeral, Minahasa, North Sulawesi, Social LIfe, Tradition | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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