Posted by: masaranghk | January 30, 2013

The Masarang-Garuda Tree Planting


Yogyakarta, Indonesia December 1st , 2012


In October 2012 Her Royal Highness Gusti Kanjen Ratu Pembayun, together with Masarang Indonesia and Masarang HK, visited the Garuda Indonesia office in Hong Kong. HRH had already set up a cooperation between Garuda Japan and Yogyakarta for a one passenger one tree program. The meeting with Mr. Rizal Perdama Kusuma led to setting up an intensive cooperation between Masarang HK and Garuda Hong Kong and is in the process of being followed up by a formal overall MoU between Masarang Indonesia and Garuda Indonesia head office.

On December 1st, 2012, we held a tree planting ceremony with Princess Gusti Pembayun in Yogyakarta where Dr. Willie Smits and Harry Kaunang of Masarang Indonesia presented lectures and training and brought 1.000 seedlings of high producing sugar palms for the valley of the Bedog river. The training, ceremonies and the special art festival in the evening all took place in the Banjuraden region, specifically in the Keradenan traditional village along the Bedog river.

The morning session, with lectures by Willie Smits and Harry Kaunang, was attended by many farmers, the Bupati Mr. Sri Purnomo and many of his government staff. They were all very enthusiastic about the sugar palm. Mr. Wiroto, the artistic leader of the art center along the river where the ceremony took place and the organizer of the festival spoke about the earlier tree planting they had done in the previous year with the Princess where one hundred different trees had been planted along the river banks. All of them died, even the ones planted personally by the princess that had been given special care of. But the three sugar palms they had received from the Yogyakarta Animal Rescue Center had all survived…

There were already some wild sugar palms growing along the embankment of the Bedog river that have been growing very well. The local people had, especially for this ceremony, put flags around the stems of the sugar palms, very much the way they do around the roots of certain fig trees that are considered the homes to spirits. There are indeed many magical stories all over Indonesia relating to the special beliefs and the high values local people address to the sugar palms.

After the morning lectures a special ceremony was held in which the seedlings were blessed in a traditional way. Mr. Wiroto, together with some very respected dancers that had come for the event, did an improvised dance where the spirits guided the dancers. It was very beautiful and the many attending farmers and the special royal army of the Sultan all were completely absorbed by the event. Unfortunately for Mr. Wiroto he had a camera and a cell phone in his pockets when the spirits told him to enter the Bedog spring, which meant the end of thse devices. Still, completely unfazed, Mr. Wiroto finished the inspired dance!

An interesting incident occurred when I took some fruits from a wild fig tree, ate them and found the people completely stunned because they had always believed that tree to be poisonous! After I assured them it was not they all started eating the ‘new’ fruit! The local elders explained the dance to me.  It consisted of praising the sugar palms and praying so that they would grow well and bring many benefits to the local people. The presence of the traditional army of the Sultan was to show that these palms received royal protection!

In the evening a huge event was held with thousands of people attending. The Princess spoke and Dr. Willie Smits was also asked to address the crowd while the banners for the sugar palms with the Garuda and Masarang logo were waving in the evening wind. The whole surroundings with the light from thousands of oil lamp created an atmosphere reminiscent of a scene from the film Avatar. The day-long event was considered a great success. The Princess and Willie Smits did a special interview about the role of sugar palms for the well being of the local people.  This film has also been made into a short film that will be placed on the Internet and used for other educational aims.

A photographic report


The place of the ceremony along the banks of the Bedog river. The sugar palms already growing there wild.


One of the planted sugar palms that had survived wrapped in the Indonesian flag and traditional Javanese cloth normally used for fig trees. The fruit on the stem of the tree was unknown to the local people as an edible fruit species.


Here the royal guard crosses the bridge to the planting area for the Masarang sugar palms.


The traditional gamelan prepares for the special dance for the sugar palms to be held while the dancer is getting his inspiration from the spirits from the spring underneath the platform of the gamelan players.


Blessing of the sugar palm seedlings.


The dance in the spring that led to the loss of the dancer’s camera and cell phone, about which he did not in the least seem disturbed since it was the will of the spirits!


Picture with some of the participants of the sugar palm training.


Picture of the interview with Princess Gusti Kanjen Ratu Pembayun and Dr. Willie Smits.


In the evening thousands of people attended the festival around the sugar palms and art. Some rather contemporary and creative dances with “Javanese Hip Hop”


Dr. Willie Smits going up to the podium to address the many guests.


Thousands of oil lamps created a mystical atmosphere for all the attendants and together with the rushing of the spring and gamelan music the whole event became very inspiring.


Princess Gusti Pembayun addressing the guests.

All in all it was a very successful event where the environmental aspects of sugar palm planting and the traditional cultural values of the local people were beautifully integrated in this first major event of the Garuda-Masarang cooperation where thousand seedlings were distributed to the local people for protecting their riverbanks.

Dr. Willie Smits

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