27 April, 2020

Author: Nita CJ

There is no better way to get to know a country’s culture and history than by looking at how its people celebrate their National Day, and last year SeaTrek had a unique opportunity to show one lucky group of our guests just how we celebrate Indonesia's Independence Day.

17 August 1945

The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was read at 10 in the morning of Friday, 17 August 1945, and it marked the start of Perang Kemerdekaan Indonesia (the Indonesian War of Independence) fighting over the forces of the Netherlands and pro-Dutch civilians, until the latter officially acknowledged Indonesia’s Independence in 1949. The proclamation document was signed by Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta, who were appointed President and Vice President respectively the following day. Independence Day was made a public holiday by a government decree on the 18th June 1946.

Live Ceremony in the Capital

In Indonesia, it is a common sight for families to gather in front of the television watching the Independence Day military ceremony live from Istana Merdeka (Merdeka Palace), which is located in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. The name Merdeka itself means “freedom” or “independence” in the Indonesian language. The ceremony is hosted by the incumbent President who re-enact the declaration of independence proclaimed by Soekarno in 1945. Certain guests are invited to attend such as ambassadors and diplomatic guests, former Indonesian presidents, vice presidents and ministers, and veterans.

This is how we celebrate Indonesia's Independence Day


Following the ceremony, many families join in their neighbourhood’s “Tujuhbelasan” which translates to “seventeenth”. It refers to the date of the Independence Day – the 17TH of August. This is a very much anticipated party which usually includes a series of competitions, house decoration, parades, and an art night.

The tradition of the competitions started in the early 50s, when the public wanted to have more fun to commemorate the day. The most popular competitions are makan kerupuk (eating crackers with tied hands), balap karung (jumping with flour/rice sacks), gebuk bantal (pillow fight), panjat pinang (climbing a pole with prizes placed on the top of the pole), tarik tambang (tug of war), paku dalam botol (trying to insert nails into a bottle), and so on.

Everyone participates in the series of competitions and prizes are given to the top three winners. This tradition is very much still alive in many areas of Indonesia and even was a big celebration when I spent my childhood in Jayapura, West Papua.

Onboard the Ombak Putih

Some lucky guests aboard the Ombak Putih last year had the chance to bond with our proud all-Indonesian crew as they celebrate Indonesia’s 74th Independence Day with a series of traditional games upon a beautiful white sand beach on a deserted island. They were:

  1. Tarik Tambang (tug of war)
  2. Makan Kerupuk (eating crackers with tied hands)
  3. Paku Dalam Botol (inserting a nail into a bottle)
  4. Berenang (swimming races)

All the crew wore little red and white ribbons wrap around their heads, the colours of the Indonesian flag. Before breakfast while most of our guests were still fast asleep, we went ashore to the beautiful uninhabited island just of the west of Komodo National Park prepare for the games. The night before, guests were briefed about the program and everyone was super excited to take part of the celebration.

The Captain went ashore to give a quick salute to the flag that we had planted on the beach before heading back to the boat and he stayed on watch while we played our games. It started with the Paku Dalam Botol, since the wind was blowing the bottles, we buried them in the sand. We also didn’t have big enough nails, so we had to use pens instead. The pens are tied with a long, white string which is then tied around the waists. The rule is that participants have to put the nails inside the bottles without using their hands. The fastest to do so wins.

The second game was Makan Kerupuk which means that participants have to eat a big cracker that are dangling from a little string with hands in their back. The same rule as the previous game apply, the fastest to eat the cracker win.

Followed by the third game, Tarik Tambang, or tug of war. Everyone was divided into two groups mixed between guests and crew.

Last but not least, the swimming competition. Myself and a crew member get into the dinghy and float about 200 metres from the shore. All participants start from the shore to swim towards the finish line (the dinghy), the first one to touch the dinghy wins.

When all the games were done and the winners were announced, we went back to enjoying the island. Some decided to go swimming, others kayaking, some snorkelling or just beach combing. By lunch time, we are all back on board and sail out to another island. Everyone had a great time and there was a lot of laughing and joining between the guests and the crew. It was a small event, but definitely a fun day to remember.

What a great way to celebrate Indonesia's Independence Day. I wish all Indonesians get to experience it the way that we do, in the beautiful nature that makes up this wonderful country.

Watch the full video of the whole event below