Discovering My Roots

There is this resurgence in me, to rediscover my ancestral roots. I am a Boyanese (descent of the people of Bawean Island, Indonesia also known in the 15th century as Pulau Majedi). However, I am born & bred in Singapore. I cannot even understand the Boyanese language not to mention speak it. I know the elementary numbering sequence, but that is as useful as counting the number 1 to 10 in Mandarin.

Two days ago, an Obek (literal translation for a Senior Aunt, because she is the wife of my dad’s cousin who is older than him or more senior in him somewhat) came to Singapore (via Bawean/Surabaya/KL/Johor) to visit my Dad and other relatives in Singapore. She came along with another Uncle whom we have always been in touch.

Hearing them speak in their native tongue, and not decipherable in any language (yes not even Bahasa Indonesia) keeps the flame in me, in that one day, I will definitely have to make a visit to this island. The Boyanese people make it a point to tell me that till this date, the island is a complete Muslim community as there are no presence of church or small chapels of any kind, although there are Boyanese (Boyaneses?) there who profess other religions or still into animistic beliefs.

I have all along, identify myself as a Boyanese. Yes, sometimes I put down myself as Malay in application forms for the sake of convenience. More than a decade ago, when my great-great-grandmother was still around, she managed to teach me how to count 1-10 in Boyanese;
Sitong, Dudua, Tatalok, Pakpempat, LLimo, Annam, Bapektuk, Bebeluk, Sasangak, Sapuloh.

Common words like I, HIM, HER, MONEY, MARRY, WANT, Don’t Have
Bule, Nehriak, tehriak, pesek, akawina, teraw, tak endek

I have been searching online, someone managed to get Internet access in Bawean now, which includes the whole history of Bawean. The only thing lacking now, is the desire to be physically there. I do not know how the chinese dialect groups here feel about going back to where their dialects came from, but i seriously do feel the need to visit Bawean island at least once in my life.

It has been said that a boyanese male has a character in him called “merantau” which literally means travel, which can be interpreted as going beyond the comfort of one’s home to gain better income for the family back at the island. I feel the need to “merantau” back to the Island, a calling that I have had since I knew more about my race during my teenage days.

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  1. Daphne Maia says:

    i belong to a dialect group called Hakka and i speak less words of it than u do! haha. this is bad.

    ok anyway. i have no desire to go back to the province where my ancestors came from (or at least, i haven’t discovered that urge yet), but what i do want is to be learn more abt chinese and the culture and the language.

    i’m quite the banana, if u realise.

  2. Mintea says:

    I’m half Boyanese from my mum’s side. I actually identify more with being a Boyanese than being a Malay seeing that it’s a Bayonese run household.

    Like you, I want to know more about their culture and their language, though not to the extent of going to the island. Sometimes I wish that my grandmother would speak the language with us just so that we can learn but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    The link that you provided is definitely interesting and I’m actually glad that at least someone else in our generation who is interested in learning more about our roots.

  3. Admin says:

    @daphne I have not realised that, i should pay more attention then. Instead of just your buttons. :x

    @mintea hey hey! :) – I tried going through the website of Persatuan Bawean Singapura (PBS) but found scant evidence of any form of historic or symbolic links. Perhaps, I should visit their office or club, if any, to see how things are run there.

  4. nadzri says:

    Hello hisham!! were’s your ancestor from?? i mean
    their kampong in Bawean island?? I think we’re in the same boat but i’m quite lucky that i can still can speak Bawean language quite well as i’m from Ipoh and stay in Seremban..– Ne e beremman nengkene ? ( Macamana sekarang ? ) I can guide and teach you how to speak Bawean … Are you interested?

  5. Nia says:

    Sigh. :wink: I feel so Boyanese sometimes that I deny that I have other kinds of race ancestries.

    And I REALLY REALLY want to learn Bawean. It’d be hard for me especially. I’m more fluent in European and Oriental languages. :/ Still! I’ll conquer Bawean.

    Heh. I’m not a guy, but I do feel the need to merantau a lot! :smile:

  6. Nia says:

    And there are also clans I heard..?

    GAHHH. If PBS aren’t very active, I’m so gonna march in there and take charge. lol after my exams.

  7. Mohd Fahmi says:

    hey im Fahmi,18,m,singapore & im boyanese :-)

    i need ur guys help in the future :-) ..i do boxing for sport,i wanna be a world champion 1 day :-) & the 1st ever boyanese to become a world champion in i need ur help with a sincere heart,do pray for me to succeed in my goals & dreams..may ALLAH bless us all..AMIN.. :-)

  8. l.a says:

    hi all…wow i did’nt know all this was happening, i mean the website n everything..i was actually surfing the net till i dunno what else to surf, till i tot about my roots…ya gue orang BAWEAN juga..yeah i heard that boyanese have clans too..and i believe i belong to the “Madura” clan, cos i remembered my dad telling me stories of his childhood back on the dad always speaks bawean language with my grandma..Yes..I’ve step foot on the island once 15yrs back i guess..and from what i can was like a normal kampong neighbourhood, the houses are preety close to one another and its like scattered around the area..i think its a preety safe neighbourhood cos my parents allowed me to play around with the kampong boys at night…hahahah..i had a fun time there when i was a kid.. now im just trying to find where i can do some video transferring from an old video cam cassette n copy the footage we recorded while in bawean island to a CD…you guys know where i can do that??

  9. MaslianaMasjor says:

    wow. im glad i came across this post in google. im boyanese and im trying to find out more about my roots too. :) totally can relate to this. 

  10. MaslianaMasjor says:

    just curious, so have u went back to the island?

  11. Frameturnerwins says:

    Check out
    Bawean Singapore/Indonesia documentary film in the making.

  12. Idham says:

    Hi Guys,
    Am doing my research for my studies when saw this posts. Kinda keen to help those having queries. Well, FYI, am 29/M/ Living in Singapore and yes Im too Boyanese. I have return few times to the island and my recommendation…. Go There!!!.. haha.. Provided if you have anyone there to stay with.. Basically my parents are both Boyanese (like duh) and my mum is born there. History about the island I may know bits and but can always ask my mum. So for those whom interested or got queries reply me. I will definitely try to help out. :)

  13. Lina Rahamat says:

    I just come back from Bawean.. its really beautiful & calming there..
    I wish to learn the language coz easier for me to interact with my relatives there..
    Any ways for me to learn it?

    • Mohd Hisham says:

      Hi Lina, are you a Singaporean? if you are, you can head down to Taman Warisan Melayu from now to August. will post about it more soon. you can ask the people there, on language guides. :)

  14. dahlia liew says:

    im really interested to learn bawean!!!! teach me teach me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. mhisham says:

    hummm do you have a blog? :) or msn? add me on :)

  16. mhisham says:

    hey Fahmi,

    you have BIG dreams! but, all the great things achieved in this world starts from small dreams, much like yours.

    hopefully, you can nurture your own success. the only failure will come from within and the only person you need to compete with is your own self.

    all the best for your future. :)


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