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, www.bawean.info 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.