OVERNIGHT #01: A Dinner

My phone rang. A message.

“I will come late. Around 4 or 5 pm. Is it OK for you?” My fingers played fast. Replying her message before went out and heading to the nearest traditional market. I need to buy ingredients. I made a promised to cook for her a fish soup. The same food that my moms always cooked for me during my childhood. It will be a dinner. But rather than to take her out to classy and expensive restaurants in downtown, I asked her to stop by and taste my amateur cooking skill.

“I love fish soup. Never taste it before. During my time in Sangir, it was only fried fish, fried eggs, or something similar. Dry and less spices. I cant cook. I will able to have a good, delicious and healthy one if the neighbors stop by or invited me to have lunch with them. Out of that, only miseries. I lost weight.”

I laughed. Funny to know about it almost a decade ago when we met for the first time. I was conducting a research with a good friend of mine -a Filipino who self-declared himself as Marxist anti-Filipinos Maoism. Both of us were tasked to study about communities who lives at the border between Indonesia and the Philippines and how the new-emerged state-nations border affected their mobility from one island to another.

The border between Indonesia and the Philippines always attached with negative publication. All news that you can found from both countries only pointing it as the entry point for fundamentalist Islam or as line of smuggling activity. Both marines and state officials shared this stance. Added with the recent and ongoing fights between the Army Force of the Philippines against the Mautist -the pro ISIS group that emerged in Marawi city of the Mindanao region, things goes more complicated in the border.

For instance, about Miangas.

A small island with an area of ​​6,277 square meters, where only occupied by 787 people (by June 2011). Miangas is the northernmost part of Indonesia making it an interesting theme. From the regular border disputes between the two countries to the issue of public welfare of the Miangas residents. Indonesia paranoia losing Miangas over the Philippine can be easily found if one visited the island.

From a five meters monument that stood upright but seems neglected for many years, a placard as sign that Indonesia is the owner of the island, to another small monument built by the WANADRI (Mountain and Jungle Explorer Association of Indonesia). These apart from number of graffiti worshiped the importance of being part of Indonesia in government offices.

Indonesia news outlets also played important role on enhancing this paranoia. Let me give you an example. TEMPO (January 23-26, 2003’s edition), KOMPAS (January 12, 2009) and GATRA Weekly (No. 15 released in February 2009), all shared similar misunderstanding. KOMPAS took it even further. They published “Menata Pulau-pulau Kecil Perbatasan: Belajar dari Kasus Sipadan, Ligitan dan Sebatik” (Arranging Small Islands in the Borders: Study Case of Sipadan, Ligitan and SebatiK) written by Mustafa Abubakar in 2006, where he argued that people in Miangas all are speaking in Tagalog and not Bahasa Indonesia and using the Philippines’ Peso instead of Indonesia’s Rupiah.

These are just few common mistakes. That’s why I never surprised when Jakarta made mistakes and misjudged Papua.

Apart from all of these, in both sides, one can easily found so-called “undocumented citizens” who now lives in other side. Huge numbers of Sangirese are now struggling for the recognition in Sarangani and Davao of Mindanao, while similar case for the Filipinos happening in two northernmost municipality -Talaud and Sangir- of North Sulawesi province.

She was there in Kawio for a year. One of several foremost islands in Indonesia facing the Balut and Sarangani islands of the Philippines.

Our first encounter was all about my cynicism towards philanthropic action of Jakarta-oriented developmentalist. She was naive and innocence. But for an angry young man like I was, those were not good enough as reasons. So, it left a mark within her. About someone who did not and will not ever shared all her values.

“You was so annoying back then.” She said that years after we met again. “In your head, all your thoughts are correct and other should follow you.” But we somehow managed to keep our relationship over years. We still in touch in unique ways.

“You like a ghost. Come and later gone with no sign and will appear again.” I was laughing when she said that.

* * *

“I am jealous with you. You have your own life, your own private life.” That was she said when she first arrived. I was on the final stage of cooking the soup fish. I was waiting for her so she can eat while it still hot.

“Just wait for another five minutes. It will finished.” I kept stirring the spoon. Was making sure that the ingredients will absorbed into the fish meats.

She opened her jacket and put it on the sofa. I took it and hang it out. “Oh, I am sorry.” I just smiled. “It looks like you are so meticulous.”

“No, I am not. Just making sure that we can have a great dinner without distraction.” I pulled out the bowls, plates, spoons and forks. Arranged it at the table and open the rice cooker. The rice still hot as well. A perfect match.

I grab a beer and open it while she already holding a plate and was staring the foods.

“You wont eat with me?”

“I will. But I want to enjoy a bottle of beer first. You can go first. I know you are hungry.”

She smiled. Less than a minute later, she was sitting on the floor next to me, facing a bowl of fish soup with small amount of rice on her plate.

“Eat more. No need to worry. I made it only for you. So you can fulfill your dream of tasting fish soup of our native cuisine.”

She looked up and smile again. What a night.