Todo Traditional Village (a journey to the heart of Manggarain Civilazation)
As soon as you have breakfast, our guide will pick you at the hotel where you stay at 06.30 and set off at 07.00 P.M to Todo traditional village located 90 km to the south east of Labuan Bajo. It is four and half –hour drive to reach the village. We will have lunch at Todo arranged by our organizer.
Todo was formerly the seat of a local kingdom ruling Manggarai. This tour is like reading a historical account of Manggarain cultural life in the past which significantly influnces their present cultural life. It gives you an opportunity to learn brieflyManggarain cultural phylosphy reflected in the unique construction of their conical traditional house.. It is being the remnant of a kingdom, entering the village brings you into the past world of the local king living in the palace.
The tour is commonly tought to be the journey to the heart of Manggarain Civilzation as Todo clan was one of the biggest clans and was millitarily strong to rule Manggarai which occupied the entire parts of West Flores prior tothe Dutch colonial adminitraton. Todo was a clan from which the Dutch colonial picked the first king to rule Manggarai in 1930. This made Todo the centre of Manggarain local goverment which play dominat role in shaping the cultural life of Manggarain peopel.
Todo traditional village is welknown for its authentic conical traditional houses which is currently an important cultural site from which Manggarain young generation learn a number of life phylospy tought through the architectural design of the house. Manggarain look upon a house more than a building which serves as a shelter. A house is symbolically a means of teaching life phylosphy such as leadership, unity and strenght, togetherness and belief in God almighty. Our guides usually accompanied by a local guide will provide you with more interesting information about the phyloshopical values represented through the symbols used in the houses design.
Welcome to the palace of Todo Kingdom
It is historically recorded that traditional houses, commonly called mbaru niang/mbaru gendang (drum house/communal house) in local language, with conical palm roof that extend to the gorund without windowswere found throughout Manggarai before the modern arcitecture styles mostly brought by Dutch colonial began influencing the authentic house design. Todo Village and Wae Rebo are the only place where one can see the authentic design of Manggarain traditional house. The traditional houses with conical roof found in other villages in Manggarai have been much influenced by modern construction design.
There were formerly eight traditional houses built in half cirlcle form. The number of the houses represents the number of clans occupying TodoVillage. In 1960, of the eight houses, only one main traditional house where the royal family lived was left while the seven others were destroyed due to their age. In 1990, the main traditional house was about to collapse and the villagers managed to reconstruct it in 1992. Since then only the main traditional houses stands firmly there. In the last five years, the villagers have been funded by an Ecotourism Foundation, Tirto Foundation, from Jakarta to reconstruct the seven houses. Three of which have now been built while the four others are still under plan construction.
What differenciates Todo Village from Wae Rebo?
What attraction does the village offer?
Some visitors think it better to visit Wae Rebo than Todo village because the social life of the local peopel at Todo traditional village have been strongly touched by modern life. They can not preserve their authentic traditional way of life as seen in Wae Rebo.Do not worry, we offer one incredible attraction not found in Wae Rebo even in other traditional villages on Flores Island. It is a drum crafted from human bely skin. This unique attraction has not been widely exposed because the villagers think it is a highly historical heirloom which cannot be shown to public on ordinary occaissons. Even though it is sectretly kept, you are still allowed to see the drum in a glass box designed to preserve it.
Is it really crafted fromhuman skin?
This is a common question of some visitors who are really curious about the drum. Father Stanislaus Orgabek from Poland, a parish Priest of Todo for ten years, once tried to prove whether it is genuine human skin or not. He asked for the village leaders’ permission to take a tiny piece of the drum to be proven in a laboratory. He was astonished to find it genuine.
Is there any story about the drum?
One version of local story says that it was crafted from the belly skin of a charming beautiful young girl from Ndoso, one of the villages which belongedto Todo Local Kingdom.The girl’s name was Nggerang. She grew up in an ordianry family. Her beauty was so appealing that many young men including the king of Todo, King Joma, could not help falling in love with her. The news of her charming personality was widely known.
The present look of the drum
This picture was taken when the drum was still intact
One day, the king ordered his servantsto deliver a an important news to the girl that the king really admired her beauty and wished to marry her. Unfortunately, the king’s love was totally turned down. She promised not to marry any man even the king. The king tried over and over to win the girl’s love, but he could not. The girl did not change her mind to be married.
Being ashamed of the girl’s stubbornness, the king finally decided to kill the girl. She did not run away from the king’s deadly decision since she was aware of the consequence. Before the king’s servants executed the girl, the king told them to remove the girl’s belly skin to make a drum which would be an important commemoration of the king’s most shameful experience during his period since had never been rejected by any girl he fell in love with. The drum was named Gendang Loke Nggerang, taken from the girl’s name.
The drum is looked upon as an important historical account on the absolute power of a king in the past before human right was declared universally. It reminds us of how a king exercised his power unconditionally.
It is worth informing you that both men and women have to don an ikat sarong to enter this site. Once you’re appropriately dressed, a local guide will show you around the house. The guide does not speak much English, so our guides usually help him explain the site to the foreign visitors.
Wae Rebo Traditional Village
We head to Wae Rebo at 01.00 P.M and arrive at Denge, the nearest village to Wae rebo, at 03.00 P.M. and then start our trekking.
Wae Rebo is a small heritage village situated in pleasant, isolated mountain scenery on the island of Flores. The village is accessible via a steep pathway, three hour- trekking from the nearest village, Denge the last village accessible by vehicle. To reach Denge, visitors have to drive four hours from Ruteng, the capital city of the Manggarai district, or 7 hours from Labuan Bajo, the main tourist entry point on Flores.The long trekking is sometimes muddy and slippery in rainy season, bringing good trekking shoes is a must.
Surrounded by large green vegetation, Wae Rebo village offers you fresh unpolluted air which relax your exhausted body for the long trekking
Located 1200 meter above sea level, the forest serrounding the village is rich in biodiversity. A wide range of birds, and tree species are found along the trekking to the village. The Wae Rebo endemic birds are the natural music accompanying you along the exhausting adventure and the heartbreaking scenic view of the rain forest along the steep pathway are the reward of your exhaustion.
The village is famous for its 7 traditional houses called Mbaru Niang and the authentic lifestyle of the local peopel. Nowadays, most Manggaraian people have given up and abandoned the traditional lifestyle in the Mbaru Niang for modern life. Only very few people continue preserving their indigenous culture in Wae Rebo. Today, only 25 families are living in the heritage village.
During lovely weather especially in dry season, you have chance of capturing the wonderful view of sunrise at the primitive village
This primitive village of manggarai is just a contradiction of modern civilization that brings much amazement to us, an peculiar architecture that are very traditional based concepts. The construction of houses shows a cliche of the ancient type of constructions with pure natural resources.
The houses are 15 meter tall and consist of five floors. Each of the floor has different sunction. 1st floor is called lutur, used for daily activities such as eating, sleeping, cooking, etc. 2nd floor is called lobo, as food storage. 3rd floor is called lentar, as seed storage. 4th floor is called lempa rae, a place to store raw food for a long period of time. 5th floor is called hekang kode or monkey’s house, used for ancam bubung ceremony, a secret rutual performed tounite spiritually the wood they have brought from different places.
A strong wooden pole stuck in the center of the building called siri bongkok is the only one which supports the entire structure. The wood used for the houses are also special, worok for the basic structure and bamboo for the roof. Tied only with rattan, the building stands strong up to 9 generations. The seven conical houses are arranged in half circle, leaving the grass yard in the middle as the epicenter of the society’s daily activity.
Just look at the roofs that are made of coarse grass or palm leaves in coned form heading to the sky. Meanwhile the wall is made of wood. Over all the portion of roof is bigger than the body of the house itself. They called it:”mbaru niang or mbaru gendang“. These mbaru niang are the place of all traditional rites, prayer, and ceremony of local people. It’s also the place where traditional musical instruments like gong, drum stored. These traditional musical means are used in ceremony of local people to counterpoint the folk songs. These houses stand steadily with majestic view of mountains as their unsophisticated background.They share the same construction design as those in Todo village, but the traditional houses of Wae Rebo are purely constructed out of authentic materials derived from the surrounding nature.
The major sight of this traditional village is the circled coned forming house with a unique architecture and the circular stoned altar called compangin the midst where local people offering the sacrifice to their gods and ancestors.
The interior view of one of the traditional houses at Wae Rebo. Once you enter the houses, you can see the complex architecture design which is full of local wisdom values.
People here in Wae Rebo village are very hospitable, they treat every visitor meekly and serve a cup of grown coffee as welcoming symbol to every guest. Before being offered a cup of coffee, the visitor is usually welcomein a short ritual by one of the village leaders at the main traditional houses located precisely in the middle of the seven houses. He tells the ancestars’ spirit about your coming and ask them to allow you to the part of Wae Rebo peopel’s familiy, so you can have restful sleep at night. A cup of coffee is likewise a socialization instrument even for Manggarain people. Once you are here, you are no longer people from anywhere else other than the part of the villagers’ family. It’s not usual then if you have a chance to visit house of Wae Rebo villagers or Manggarai people in common without being served by a cup of coffee. It authentically is a sign of brotherhood. Coffee being an important drink, trip to the village is often called a journey to a cup of coffee.
Serving coffee with genuine taste is a symbol of welcome to every guest visiting Wae Rebo . Besides, it expresses the villagers’ sense of brotherhood with the guests.
Wae Rebo coffee is wellknown for their genuine bitter taste. The local peopel sell cofee powder as a souver for the visitors. The coffee is available in two varieties, Arabicaand Robusta. The packages are labeled as “Waerebo Coffee, from the Heart ofManggarai”. The label also explains that the coffee is grown without chemical fertilizerand produced by the local community of Waerebo in traditional ways. As seen in the picture, joining the villagers in pounding the coffee beans to produce coffee powder is one of the interesting activities hunted by many foreign visitors during sharing life with Wae Rebo people.
On the left are the packages of coffee powder you can bring home as a souvenir. On the right are two foreign visitors joining the villagers in pounding the coffee beans.
Another attraction you witness here is the ordinary life style of people that are quite distinct and peculiar. The main occupation of the people is the farmers. Most of them grow coffee as their main livelyhood. Every morning the spend time working in the garden of coffee plantation, cassava plantation and banana near to the village. They return back to their house after the sunset and going to public open are bathroom which is basically traditional shower made of bamboo placed directly to the water springs. You are also offered chance to join the local peopel’s daily activities such as picking the coffee beans, through drying and selecting of the good beans, to the grinding and packaging process, learning the traditional ways of weaving Wae Rebo typecal cloth and so much more.It starts early in the morning, and ends late in the afternoon by sipping a cup of coffee while enjoying Wae Rebo’s landscape
Why is the life of Wae Rebo peopel not much influenced by modernization?Some tourists think their trip to Wae Rebo Village gives them the same impression as the one they have got after visiting Todo village as the traditional houses at the two villages share the same architecture designs. However, it is worth knowing that the scenicconical roundhouses are not the only attraction but also the villagers’authentic cultural life untouched by modern life styles. Visiting wae rebo means getting ready to flash back of those time when modernization was still not prevailing. The villagers seem to ignorethe benefits of modernization. They consider modernization a threat against their cultural identity and the integrity of nature.This is because of their special attitude toward nature. They look upon nature their mother they need to take care of to protect their life.
No wonder, they refused the local government’s plan to provide the villagers with more access to telecommunication and transportation. We don’t expect thus to use gadget like cellphone, mini markets and other things pertaining to term modern. People just savour pure natural foods like boiling cassavas, bananas and sometimes chicken purely without the use of modern delicious ingredients. This chicken is a special offer especially for the guest or visitor coming here.
Consequently, their daily life seems so quiet, peaceful and free from the hustle and bustle of daily modern life. Once you are in Wae Rebo you are supposed to adapt to the local people’s life style. Do not worry; you have natural music which accompanies your adventure going through the dense forest to Wae Rebo. They are endemic Flores birds which provide you with their natural concert. Living harmoniously with nature is a remarable tour experience that reward your challenging adventure to the remote village.
Wae Rebo people are known for their physical strength, so don’t be discouraged when you see them moving swiftly through the steep path while carrying something heavy
Slight story on the award of exellence
Over time, the condition of the old Mbaru Niang houses deteriorated. In 2007, only 3 out of the 7 houses remained intact. A local NGO, Indonesian Ecotourism Network (Indecon), initiated the refurbishment of one Mbaru Niang house, and together with the Waerebo community and a few individual contributors, Indecon gathered support to revitalize the entire village. The fundraising was a big success: since 2008, the traditional village has been revitalized through funding from several organizations such as the Rumah Asuh, and the Tirto Utomo foundations. The reconstruction process was done by the local community; allowing to maintain the authenticity and nobility of the traditional construction process while also providing a learning process for the younger generation.
With the refurbishment of Mbaru Niang houses, the Waerebo people became more aware of their great potential to be an ecotourism destination. Indecon enabled the community leaders to establish a local tourism organization and thus to manage tourism activities in the heritage village themselves. All of the hard work proved fruitful, when in 2012 Waerebo received an Award of Excellence from UNESCO in the culture and tourism category at UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation – which is the highest award for cultural heritage conservation.
Spider Web Rice Field
Manggarain people have a unique way of dividing their communal rice field. They partition their rice field by drawing a border line from the center of the field which is like the way of slicing a pie. These partitions look like a giant spider web.
For Manggarain peopel, their round conical traditional house and the rice field divided into sections like a giant spider web has a set of particular meaning closely related to the way think about the relation between a house they live in and the rice field where they earn their living. Every village in Manggarai has a communal round field called lingko randang (large field). The field is said to be the exact reflection of their round conical traditional houses because if the roof of the houses is put on the ground, it looks like their communal land partioned in sections resembling a giant spider web, so it is commonly known as spider web rice field.The number of the sections are based on the number of families in a village. Manggarain peopel think their house and field as one unit. Houses is a place where they shelter their body and soul, while the field is where they work to earn their living. It is in the house they star their work in the field.
The best view point has been established on the top hill to the east of the spider web rice field.
Liang Bua (The home of Flores Hobbit)
Having had lunch in Ruteng, we proceed to Liang Bua (Hobbit cave) to view the beauty of the natural cave. What is more fascinating is observing the dwelling of Homo Florensiesis whose fossils are 18,000 years old.
This trip offers you opportunity to trace back the presence of Homo Floresiensis living in the cave thousands of years ago. Besides, the long terraced rice field of the villagers along the way to the cave is another interesting attraction captivating your eyes.
Liang Bua which means a cool cave ( Liang means cave, and bua means cool) is a limestone cave located 500 meters above sea level and 25 km to the north of Ruteng town. It is accessible by both cars and motor cycle. It is one-hour drive to reach the cave. It is 50 meters long, 40 meters wide and 25 meters high.
The facial approximation of homo floresiensis
The interior part of the cave
A slight History of theDiscovery of Hobbit Cave