It is hard to describe Flores cultural heritage in short since each district has its own history, culture, customs, ceremonies, Ikat colours and patterns, languages and dialects, local foods, music, do’s and don’t’s. Add the mix of religions to that list and there you have it …. Flores is a melting pot. Traditional ceremonies are an important part of life on Flores, in all districts, communities and clans. It is Adat, traditional custom.
Flores population is predominantly Catholic. Most fishing communities are Muslim. Animism coexists with these religions. You find churches, mosques, Catholic congregations, monasteries, and seminaries everywhere on Flores. Some main guidelines regarding respecting local community members, their culture and religion are that you should not enter a mosque uninvited, always wear appropriate clothing when visiting any community, do not sit or stand on ritual stones or stone offering places – interesting to read The Megalitic Culture of Indonesia by William James Perry. Animism – the belief that all natural phenomena, including human beings, animals, and plants, but also rocks, lakes, mountains, weather, and so on, share one vital quality—the soul or spirit that energises them—is at the core of most Florenese families.
The traditional ceremonies based on animist beliefs are frequent and often go hand in hand with Catholic ceremonies at for example birth, weddings and funerals. A mass might be held and sacrifices are made in one event, for example slaughtering chicken, pigs of buffalo followed by a joint meal. One example are the five ceremonies related to marriage in a large part of Manggarai. At five different occasions family members contribute to the couple or to the wife’s family. It starts with Tukar Kila, a pre-matrimonial ceremonie, followed by Banaring Lembak, then Kempu, followed by the actual wedding itself and then Wagal. For the Wagal ceremony all relatives of the husband’s side gather money to bring the the father of the wife, who in turn divides it between his family members. At a typical Wagal ceremony average Rp. 30.000.000 might be given. The cost of these five ceremonies can amount to Rp. 1.300.000 per family. So in case you for example have five siblings who all get married you need to contribute almost Rp. 6.700.000 over time.
Rimbe, a harvest ceremony
Ceremonies related to harvest in farming communities are also important. One example is Rimbe in Ende district in Nua One near Moni and Kelimutu. Prior to planting new crops offerings have to be made and a period of two weeks rest is declared by Mosalaki Pu’u – the chief of Nua One. During this resting period all villagers are strictly forbidden to work on their fields. Anyone breaking this resting time has to pay a fine of IDR 2.500.000 and in addition has to hand in a pig and rice. The pig and rice will then be consumed by all villagers in a communal meal. This sacred ceremony takes place in the village centre in front of the Rumah Adat. This is a beautiful house, built according to traditional Lio architecture. The height of the house is 16 metres, with a roof made of bamboo and Alang Alang – dried grass. Only thirteen Lio men remain to this day, who master this building technique. On the seventh day the second village chief – the Mosalaki Ria Bewa – who is also the village judge – will announce six more days of rest.
Caci ceremonies are an important part of the Manggarai culture. Try to find out if there is any Caci planned in a village while you visit Manggarai. If there is nothing planned then second-best is Caci performed by a group in one of the Manggaraian tourist destinations. Caci is a form of fighting with a whip or stick. The term caci is said to derive from the Manggarai words ca meaning one and ci meaning test, indicating a one-on-one test between the fighters. Caci is an ancient fighting art indigenous to the Lesser Sunda Islands. According to local folklore, caci during festivals began with two brothers who owned a buffalo. When the younger brother fell into a deep hole, the older brother had to slaughter the buffalo to get its skin to help his sibling escape from the hole. The community celebrated this act of love with a festival in which caci matches were held. More explained at Wiki
Financial burdens of ceremonies
Ceremonies throughout life are costly. One challenge is the fact that families in remote villages do not all have a bank account and are not familiar with the concept of saving. It is difficult to save when you earn very little money to begin with. In case you are invited to attend a ceremony it is therefor highly appreciated if you contribute some too. It is up to you how much you like to give. We recommend to contribute Rp. 100.000 to 200.000, it also depends on your relationship with the family. It is polite to give the money in an envelop.