On Independence Day of Indonesia, Fun Games are Everywhere



Petir Garda Bhwana

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A young girl led a team of five children on the traditional tug of war rope game. “Come on, pull harder!” she shouted to her friends, but seconds later, she stumbled and fell to the ground. People who were cheering for their children at the game then burst out laughing.

    At a different neighborhood, two young girls, who were in a sack, hopped and jumped their way to the finish line. People named the game as 'sack-race' or balap karung as it is known in the Indonesian language. The rule was simple: Whoever reached the finish line first in the sack, was the winner.

    Children and adults engaged in the fun and games were a common view in neighborhoods around the cities and suburbs during Independence Day commemorated every August 17. Every year, ideas on organizing new competitions and games were thrown up, but for many, the traditional games such as pulling the rope, and sack-race were always a part of the celebrations.


    “This neighborhood organizes the fun and games only on Independence Day. The community here and I already have been doing this for 26 years. We never get bored because the games are amusing, yet it teaches us to relive the struggles of our heroes,” said Feri, a respected member of the RW18 neighborhood, Kebon Sirih, Jakarta, Saturday.

    Despite their entertainment value, the pulling-rope game and sack-race also demonstrated pictures of struggle to the children. “Therefore, we could show our children the hardships of our heroes during their fight for independence,” he explained.

    The children appeared to have imbibed their lessons from these games. A group of children who had pulled the rope said that strong teamwork and hard effort were the two key takeaways for victory. For them, the game could be similar to the struggle for Independence. “We might not be celebrating our Independence Day if there had been no teamwork among the heroes. They must have worked together,” Putri, an eight-old-year girl who pulled the rope, said.

    Besides the lessons of struggle and solidarity among people, the games, according to the organizers, would also serve as a platform for children to start mingling and leaving their phones behind. “Once in a year, we think our children should engage in games in the open instead of being holed up with their phones,” said Nurminah, a mother of two, who organized the events in her neighborhood.

    Outside Merdeka Palace

    During Independence Day, many streets in the neighborhoods were closed for cars and motorcycles due to the fun and games. Not only were the streets unavailable for vehicles, but some main roads such as the one near the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta was also closed for cars and motorcycles.

    Residents of Jakarta and Greater Jakarta areas such as Bogor, Depok, Bekasi and Tangerang City, packed the street in front of Merdeka Palace since early this morning until late to see the opening and closing state ceremonies.

    Even though they were not allowed inside the palace, most people appeared to enjoy watching the ceremonies on the big screen that was installed in the street. Among the crowds, some fathers put their daughters on the shoulders, so that the little girls could have a better view of the ceremonies. Others lifted their phones for recording the ceremonies live and posted them on their Instagram or Facebook accounts.

    Nengsih, a 50-year-old woman who stood out among the crowds because of her bamboo-plaited hat, said that she would come to the street every Independence Day to have the best view of the ceremony. “I come here by myself. It is my sixth time, in front of the Merdeka Palace to have a better view of the troops, the band, and the state ceremony,” she explained.

    For Nengsih, her presence was patriotic. “Our heroes had fought hard for us, my presence here is a small tribute for them,” said Nengsih, who was dressed in a red-and-white shirt.

    Most national television channels had aired the ceremony into the homes of residents. However, for Nengsih and hundreds of others who flocked the street near Merdeka Palace, watching the ceremony from home was not the way to honor their national heroes.

    Two state ceremonies were held at Merdeka Palace. In the morning, the selected team (Paskibraka) hoisted the national flag, and it was held down and kept at a special room inside the palace in the evening.