Flores : Semana Santa The Biggest Catholic Event in Indonesia

Semana Santa is tradition that is still well preserved until today and even bigger than previous year, more people flock to join this ritual. The ritual has close relation with the legendary Tuan Ma.

The story started many generations before, mixed of legend and myth. About 500 years ago, at Larantuka beach, the wind was silence, waves were resting and the tide was low. A boy from Resiona tribe played at the beach to fish and snails in between reefs. He found a statue on the beach and he carried it home to give to his grandmother. And afterwards, Larantuka people who adhere animism and dinamism consider the statue as holy.  This story is handed down from generation to generation.

Other myth says that the young man saw a goddess walked on water. He asked the goddess but she sais something he did not understand. He then reported what he saw to the tribe leader, yet when they arrived back to the beach, the goddess had changed into beautiful statue. And nearby the statue, there are shells arranged into symbols that they did not understand. And after the arrival of missionary, they know that the symbol means ‘Santa Maria Rainha Rosari’. And then King of Larantuka made the statue as goddess that they worship. Whenever they were in a war, they did ceremony in front of the statue and they could win. Lamaholot people who live on the coastal of Flores prayed in front of the statue when they start to farm and when they are sick. King of Larantuka considered that the statue was a gift from ‘rera wulan’ or the God. The Larantuka people call this statue as Tuan Ma, which derives Tuan  means Mister and Mama means mother. While Lamaholot call it as Rera Wulan Tanah Ekan, god of heaven and earth.  The King took the missionary to Korke, where the statue was places. When reading the symbol, he kneeled and it meant Mother Mary. He said  that Mother Mary opened the way to this land to spread her son’s religion. The king concluded that Mother Mary opened that way to spread catholic in his land. Catholic spread easiy in here due to the relation with this statue.

Afterwards the king was christened to be Catholic and also his family members and the people, and then the Portugese arrived. And then why the statue arrived first?

In 1510 Portuguese ship sailed to trade to east and then wrecked. The ship in the past usually sailed with holy goods including statues. And that was how Mother Mary statue arrived at Larantuka before the Portugese /missionary arrived.

In 1650, King of Larantuka , Ola Adobala was christened and gave his kingdom to Tuan Ma as the manifestation of Mother Mary . Since then Larantuka is called as Reinha city (Portuguese) or City of Queen, or City of Maria. Afterwards, his son, Don Gaspar I, in 1965 parade Tuan Ma statue around Larantuka

Until nowadays, this tradition has been held for generations for 5 centuries. Every Good Friday or Sesta Vera, two statues Tuan Ma and Tuan Ana are paraded around the city with millions of candles along the route.

Sesta Vera is the peak of Semana Santa ritual, the holy week of Easter, that shows the tradition of Portugesse and Lamaholot becomes one. For more than 500 years, the palace of Larantuka and Semana Tribes come together with Confreria de Rosari, of the association of Mary party, work hand in hand with church to preserve this.

As Tuan Ma and Tuan Ana statues can be seen only once a year, devotees will make time to join the rituals. They come from all over the place, not only from Flores island only. But also other regions of Indonesia as this event is the biggest Catholic event in Indonesia. The devotees believe that the face of Tuan Ma they see depends on the feeling they have, sad or happy.

Various source