In Buloh Seuma, the legacy of family treasure is not a rice field or store, but a tree. This front border of the protected Leuser ecosystem also gives us an insight of what local wisdom means.
Last October, Aceh Tourism Team and South Aceh SAR Team journeyed to Buloh Seuma, known as one of the most isolated area in the region. It is located in South Aceh District, consists of three villages (gampong) with area around 30,600 hectares. The three villages are Gampong Raket, Kuta Padang, and Gampong Teungoh.
According to May Fendri, the SAR Team coordinator, Buloh Seuma has inhabitants of 843 lives and located around 40 kilometers from the sub-district center of Trumon.
It took us two hours to go through forest and swamp. The challenge turned out to be worthy for its beautiful landscape. We arrived at 10.00 PM in Buloh Seuma and greeted by the village and community leaders. We took a rest and stayed overnight in the nearby house of the village leader.
A tree is something special for people in Buloh Seuma. Each family only inherits a tree for their successors to nurture, said Abdullah the beekeepers, a tall man with a dark skin who is an elderly figure in the community and leader for honey collecting during the harvest season.
Famous yet Untouched
Buloh Seuma is widely known for its high quality of natural honey, and there seems like no Acehnese ever unheard of the name despite they perhaps have yet to step their foot in this place.
During our overnight stay, we heard a lot of information about the production of this famous natural honey. The process of honey production has been inherited over generation without neglecting the local wisdom. One family only inherited a tree to their successors along with its bee hives that benefits the family.
These wild bee hives are very important for Buloh Seuma people because it is one of the vital economic supports for their families. The presence of wild bee hives in the big branches of Rubek trees (Alstonia scularis in Latin) are like honey factories in the middle of forest, with Buloh Seuma people as their masters.
The age of Rubek trees we saw in the forest are estimated to hundreds years old according to Abdullah. The diameters are twice or even fourth times the round of arms stretch of adult, while the tall itself can erect for tens of meters.
Abdullah continued, bees are only attracted to only certain Rubek trees. People here call it Tuah and they take care of this kind of trees. The well nurtured and maintained trees could provide 100 to 300 hives during breed season.
These trees of hundreds years old have been inherited from generation to generation as a legacy from their ancestor (endatu). They are not only taking care of the trees, but also other trees in the surrounding area because trees are considered a source of income too.
This information is an important story about Buloh Seuma local wisdom in interacting with their environment. The symbiosis relation reflects their modest life experience and has formed the community tradition in maintaining a harmonious tie with the forest. Their perspective stands outamidst the issue of illegal logging that started to increase in Aceh and Indonesia at large.
The tradition of honey production in Buloh Seuma is unique. Prior to extracting honey from the hives, the beekeepers usually hum a poem about greeting the bees with a peculiar cadence, as if they are singing the middle of the forest. They call this ritual as Meudayang. This is a kind of asking permission and honoring other God’s creature.
The Greeting Bees Poem
At the end of our talks with Abdullah, he hummed several lyrics of the poem to greet the bees:
Assalamu-alaikom dayang hoo, Si Juru Bambang
Heee…Alaika Alaikum Salam… Dayang Hooo…
Hoo… Tuanlah Pawang sehingga jadi Assalamu-alaikom
Assalamu-alaikom hai Dayang, oi Si Dayang kusihani
Dayang kuandi dayang hooo…ooo…Si Bujang Sani…
After spent the night in Buloh Seuma, at the following day, Aceh Tourism Team were taken by several Buloh Seuma youths and community leaders to witness at first hand the location of bee hives hanging on the Rubek trees. The legacy tree is the Rubek tree fiiled with wild bees and their hives. This kind of legacy is a part of their tradition for generations.
It was pleasantful to see that the forest surrounding the Rubek tree up to radius of no less than 5 meters is clean and natural. No wild bushes creeping in the ground, while the forest outside the surrounding Rubek tree is on its original natural condition as well. People here are proven to maintain their forest green.
A young man who joined us, Rizwan (26), demonstrated their way of honey collecting process. He climbed a big Tuah tree that heights tens of meters with a small size log as a ladder. The log was embedded into the stem each step of the way up until he got into the top.
As they are aware that the embedded log in the stem may hurt the tree like humans do if their skin were wounded, they manage to relieve the pain. One of the elders of the community said kindly to us that they put soil in the holes where the log was embedded to fasten the healing process. The young man then, after climb the tall tree to the top, put the soil into the holes all the way down.
When harvest season is coming, almost everyone in Buloh Seuma, be it elders, youths, or even kids, join their way inside the forest to harvest honey in the hives up in that Tuah tree. The season usually comes during the eastern wind period.
According to Zakaria (40), the village leader, everyone will walk for hours into the forest towards the bee hives up on the Tuah tree. At the evening, a group of around six to ten persons, lead by a beekeeper, start the honey collecting process.
The sacred poem will then be hummed gently from the mouth of the beekeeper. Suwa piandang, a stack of stems with the leaves similar to betel leaf, will be burnt. The chopped stems, already dried in the sun, will be tied and burnt as the fire source.
Afterward, suwa piandang will be embedded to the hives. The fire sparks may fall down to the ground and the bees will fly down from the hives to follow the sparks. At that moment several people who already wait on the ground will pull up the honey container by lifting down the rope that is previously prepared. Thus, the honey will soon be taken quickly from one hive to another, before the dawn breaks.
Those are the honey collecting processes in Buloh Seuma. It is done with the touch of love for the nature and local wisdom to preserve the legacy from their ancestors years ago, and still now. (Tim)