The Festival of Cap Go Meh in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, always has a distinct side that shows the smooth acculturation process of Chinese, Dayak, and other cultures in Kalimantan. Furthermore, the stereotype of Chinese people being businessmen and wealthy, is challenged here.
There have always been exciting stories and sparkles left from the cheerful Festival of Cap Go Meh or the 15th day of Chinese New Year, which was celebrated this year in early February. The whole city of Singkawang in West Kalimantan and surrounding areas flocked into the festival.
Those who never been to Singkawang would be surprised and in awe. Dozens of people—children, teenagers, and adults—of Chinese ethnicity cramped into open cab vehicles. They came from all places, directing to the city center of Singkawang. The common view that the Chinese are always wealthy and businessmen is not totally held in Singkawang.
Domestic as well as foreign tourists always visit Singkawang during Cap Go Meh celebration. Such as the couple who came from Jakarta, Zaenal A. Budiyono and Rika Kartika. The young couple have reserved a special time to watch the festival. Cap Go Meh is in fact a real picture of Indonesia’s diversity. In the past, it was forbidden to hold the festival. Today, it is celebrated in the public openly and naturally. “How beautiful it is if every culture community in the country each has their own space to express,” said Zaenal.
Thus the spirit of unity in diversity is embodied in people’s daily life. This has also break the belief that associates the presence of different ethnic groups with violence. Whereas in fact the violence that often occurred was only involving few people who could not accept diversity.
As a true acculturation example of Chinese, Dayak, and other ethnicities in Kalimantan, its distinctness and local content are the highlights that differentiate the festival from other conventional events. This is certainly a valuable point that attracts visitors outside the area.
Foreign tourists come in big tour groups. The usually come from Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia. They have helped hotels to be fully booked during the Cap Go Meh celebration. To anticipate the situation, the government also prepares the natives’ houses for lodging. (Muhlis Suhaeri)