Blitar, a tale of a hometown

As a kid, I usually spent my annual school holiday visiting family and relatives in Srengat, a sub-district in the regency of Blitar. I always considered the trip as something casual, a regular “pulang kampung” (going back to hometown) activity. Then when I was studying in Malang, I used to think that the whole “pulang kampung” activity was not fun, boring, and such a waste of my time. Well, when I was a bit younger (like everybody else in the same age), I was more interested in the city’s busy life. It was pretty much acceptable considering the village is quite small (but it grows and changes every year) with very simple people and way of life, thus there wasn’t much to do.

“…I have learned that it’s important to know and understand my own history and culture. It’s also important for someone to have an origin and understand it. And by doing that, we can understand ourselves.”

Now as I grew up and learned many things I didn’t have the chance to learn when I was a kid or in the past, I have learned that it’s important to know and understand my own history and culture. It’s also important for someone to have an origin and understand it. And by doing that, we can understand ourselves. Besides, I recently have also grown a huge fondness toward history, anthropology, and cultural studies the most. Today, “pulang kampung” is not just “pulang kampung”. It is the time to treasure the historical and cultural richness that my hometown hides from me for so long. It is both a journey and an exploration.

The photos shown here are taken from my trips in the last three years to Blitar. There’s a caption for each of the photo. I hope you enjoy them and learn something as I did with my trips. Enjoy! 🙂

[Ramadan, 2010] Blitar is famous for its pineapple plantation. Its been the country’s source of pineapples. This plantation in the photo is located next to a relative’s home.

[Ramadan, 2010] A view of Gunung Pegat (literally means “break up mountain”) in Ponggok (village), Srengat, from the south. It is believed that lovers or newly weds should not go to this mountain otherwise they will break up not long after that.

[Ramadan, 2011] Another view of Gunung Pegat in the dusk, from the east.

[Ramadan, 2010] Boiled vegetables (spinach and beansprouts) and homemade “sambal pecel” on the left, and fried yellow tofu, egg, and carp from the backyard pond on the right.

[Ramadan, 2010] “Nasi berkat” (literally means “rice of blessing”). Every Idul Fitri each household makes packages (in plastic bowls) of “nasi berkat” with various side dishes, such as egg (boiled, then spiced), fried rice noodles with vegetables, sambal goreng (a mix of spiced fried tofu and potato), and garnish such as sliced cucumber, and dessert like “apem” (steamed rice cookie, the one in rose shape and pink color) to be sent to neighbors.

[Ramadan, 2010] Another version of “nasi berkat” with sliced fried egg, another version of “sambal goreng” with tempe and peanut, and fried noodles with vegetables.

[Ramadan, 2011] This is me at Candi Penataran complex (Hindu temple ruins; “candi” means temple; not commonly used as a place of worship anymore since the majority of the people are now converted into Islam), putting my hand on a statue of what is called as “Dwarapala“. A pair of Dwarapala holding a club (Gada) are at the entrance to “protect” the candi complex.

[Ramadan, 2011] Me, still at Candi Penataran complex, on top of one the tallest candi constructions, with the rest of the candi complex as background.

[Ramadan, 2011] In front of one of the candis. On top of the entrance, there’s a relief of Batara Kala‘s head (“Batara” means God, “Kala” means time). Batara Kala is one of the most powerful Gods, symbolizing time as our only limit.

[Ramadan, 2011] Cacao pods, dried up in the sun in Desa Modangan. The village is known for its coffee, sugar cane, cocoa, coconut, papaya, and banana plantations. Indonesia is the second largest cacao exporter in the world.

[Ramadan, 2011] This old building was probably made by the Dutch when they still ruled the village. I didn’t manage to dig more information on the function. However, it is likely to be a building for producer or cacao collector (who was most probably the Dutch government).

[Ramadan, 2011] Another old building and an old truck in the same complex as the building above.

[Ramadan, 2011] Still in Modangan village, a very rare sight of a local dog. Since most of the locals are now Muslim and considered dogs as “haram” (forbidden), I was surprised to see that some farmers still own dogs or let them loose on the street.

[Ramadan, 2011] I forget his name, but he is the caretaker of Candi Mleri or “Kekunaan Mleri” (“kuna” or “kuno” means ancient) as shown in the background. It is located in Srengat, not far from my close relative’s home. The candi is the second tomb of King Singasari III, Sri Wisnuwardhana, in which the first one is located in Malang.

[Ramadan, 2011] The caretaker and a statue of “yoni” (literally means womb) in front him. Yoni is a symbol of fertility.

[Ramadan, 2011] Me beside a statue of Batari Durga, the wife of Batara Kala.

[Ramadan, 2011] Let me introduce you to the local popular treat, Ice Drop Cap Burung Betet. “Ice drop” is a traditional ice pop that’s made locally, and somehow has been a trademark of Blitar. Whenever you want to buy “ice drop”, make sure to buy the “authentic” brand, Cap Burung Betet (“burung betet” is parakeet).

[Ramadan, 2011] This is where Ice Drop Cap Burung Betet is made. Look at the “Blitar Ice Drop” signage on the wall. When I was there to have a look at the factory, it was closed due to Idul Fitri holiday.

[Ramadan, 2011] Another local treat, “madumongso“, made from fermented black rice.

[Ramadan, 2011] Madumongso wrapping.

[Ramadan, 2012] Many locals still use this old school stove made of bricks and clay using wood fire. This photo was taken when one of my relatives was cooking “soto” using the stove.

[Ramadan, 2012] I stayed in this old house for one night. It belongs to an old couple who lives there, Mbah (“mbah” means grandfather or grandmother) Run and his wife, Mbah Sumiatun. The building on the left is the kitchen, in the middle is the dining room, and on the right (also below) is the living room. The house has four small-sized bedrooms.

[Ramadan, 2012] Front of the house. There’s also a sunning area to dry produce, usually peanuts.

[Ramadan, 2011] Wonder what this is? This is the house’s only water closet.

[Ramadan, 2012] Local delicacy, punten (almost like “lontong” but instead of made of rice and water, punten is made of rice and coconut milk). Punten is usually served with vegetables (this one in the photo is “turi” flowers and cucumber), sambal pecel, and peyek (traditional Javanese peanut crackers).

[Ramadan, 2012] This is how punten is made. Mbah Sumiatun is boiling the rice and coconut milk on the clay stove.

[Ramadan, 2012] After it is boiled and steamed, the rice is put into a pot and pounded. At this point it becomes sticky. My aunt, Bu Sul, and Mbah Sumiatun were pounding the rice alternately because the wooden mortar they were using is so heavy!

[Ramadan, 2012] After it is pounded, the punten is now ready and put on a very big plate coated with banana leaves. Punten then shaped for easy cutting.

[Ramadan, 2012] Another local delicacy, tahu lontong (thus tofu and lontong), with soy sauce, peanuts, bean sprouts, celery, fried red onion and garlic, and krupuk (crackers).

[Ramadan, 2012] One of the most delicious local treats, “jenang ketan”. “Jenang” basically refers to any food that’s made from “fermented sticky rice”. “Ketan” means sticky rice. I found this jenang ketan in a relative’s home in Ponggok.

During the making of the photo captions, I found many interesting links on places in Blitar and some other interesting and useful things about Indonesian culinary and history. One of the most interesting websites is srengathistory.org. The web is dedicated to compiling the history of Srengat.

Well, that’s the end of this post. If you think living in the village is boring, or the people who are living there don’t have anything, well, you’d better think again! See you in the next one! 🙂

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