Everyone at Global Prestasi National Plus School, which is Located at Kalimalang, Bekasi, Indonesia, was in THE mood to celebrate last October 2, 2009. Aside from the school’s Halal biHalal, a program honoring the end of Ramadan that was highlighted by scriptures reading from the Koran, fashion show and a feast, the entire community was rejoicing over UNESCO’s decision about their national costume, the batik. Friday was the day that batik – in the words of one of my Grade X-5 students on her Facebook page – “was ours, absolutely ours!” Her sentiments were succinctly echoed by one of the pastors at Jakarta International Seventh-Day Adventist Church the day after, adding “Goodbye Malaysia!”
The euphoria of the students and staff were visibly seen as they entered the campus in their batik ensemble. Naturally, I joined in the celebration by donning my own batik top that I bought from Cililitan (pronounced Chililitan).The batik is the third cultural heritage icon of Indonesia to make it to the representative list compiled by UNESCO, which details the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The other two Indonesian cultural heritage emblems already on the list are the wayang (shadow puppet) and Keris (sword).
”]Batik has always caught my interest because of the intricate and delicate process involved in using the dyeing technique in “drawing” elaborate designs on the textile. It takes a while to finish a whole length of fabric as it’s done by hand. My first preview of batik-making was during my initial trip to Jakarta several years ago; part of the tour was witnessing a batik demonstration. At the corner of the batik store was a woman “designing” the cloth, simultaneously dipping an instrument in ink and wax, and tracing the pencil outline of the design on the cloth. It was truly laborious, but the woman moved adroitly with ease on the cloth, completing a part of the pattern within seconds.
The declaration of batik as truly Indonesia’s will spur batik makers to come out with more beautiful and creative designs, as well as encourage Indonesians to further preserve the tradition and knowledge of batik and batik-making especially given “the 50 regencies and cities in Java as well as parts of Aceh, Riau and Solok and Padang in West Sumatra” that produce batik according to The Jakarta Post [October 2, 2009].
With such a milestone event for Indonesia, I find myself pondering on what cultural heritage emblem of the Philippines will make it to the representative list of UNESCO. Similarly, I wonder at what is being done to preserve the heritage of the Filipinos that, sadly, seems to be heading to oblivion with the rapid incursion of Western norms in the archipelago.