Waton, The Watu Ulo Pegon Parade, A Tourist Attraction in Jember You Can’t Miss

In Javanese the word waton may be associated with negative notion as it normally refers to an involuntary action, something done perfunctorily or something of a mediocre quality. A rising YouTube channel known as Waton Guyon indicates that waton may also signify the spirit of merely kidding as the videos uploaded contain mere fun to entertain viewers.

Quite the opposite, waton in Jember is far from being perfunctory or mediocrity. While it offers joy and excitement, waton which is an acronym for Watu Ulo Pegon is a public feast where local people participate in a pegon parade held annually over decades. Pegon is a carriage pulled by two cows and decorated colorfully as the participation in the parade means eligibility in a contest. The pegon was used in the past to transport goods, especially agricultural products. In honor of the memory, local tourism office designs the colossal event that allows the pegon to travel 4 kilometers away from Sumberejo to arrive in Watu Ulo Beach where the cultural feast is held.

Anas Ma’ruf, the head of Jember Tourism Office, points out that people of Jember is but pandhalungan in which the residents comprise immigrants from other areas in their neighborhood as there are no indigenous people in Jember. No wonder the cultural arts performed in Watu Ulo Pegon are varied and can be linked to a certain area or town. Anas further said that local people have long had the habit of spending some time in Watu Ulo Beach several days after Lebaran Day (Eid). Along with family members, they would leave their home in the morning for the beach on a pegon while carrying food and snack to enjoy there. The food includes lepet and ketupat which people still carry until today in honor of the past memory.

Waton held annually in Jember embodies profound spirit and substance. The parade allows everybody to take part in the feast and contest where all people gather and unite in single happiness. The ambiance of connecting has appeared to be everywhere in the spot. Not only are people filled with joy, various local cultures can also be preserved in the positive way.

Preserving tradition

Held on June 23, Waton Jember 2019 was clearly successful. The main area just across the stage was packed with people since morning. Faida, the regent of Jember who arrived on a pegon during the parade, take a pride in the number of people swarming all over the place. While inviting her people to embrace peace in Indonesia today, Faida thanked them for the earnest participation that has made the grand event possible.

Thousands of people gather in the premises.

A Reog Ponorogo presented by Singo Brojo commenced the event at 9 a.m. Journalists and bloggers alike rushed to capture the beauty of the traditional dance. The crowd grew merrier as Bujang Ganong was emerging to demonstrate an energetic dance characterized by martial art. Bujang Ganong aka Ganongan is said to symbolize a patih (vicegerent) who is deft, clever, and witty but possesses supernatural powers.

The tremendous reog
Jaran kepang/jathilan
Bujang Ganong in action (Photo: Faisol)

Jathilan aka jaran kepang also made the crowd cheer in delight. The masters of ceremonies have found it difficult to keep the spectators in an ideal distance from the main stage. A variety of cultural arts we can watch in the festival has seemed to be effective to drive heterogeneous people to blend and mingle with one another in total enjoyment without any social partition. When a group of kids from Barisan Seni Tari Muda Ambulu performed a modern dance in agility, the crowd as well as the regent was mesmerized.

Wanna try?

In addition, traditional game named egrang was also demonstrated in Waton 2019. Many people were attracted to watch how several kids could effortlessly ride their egrang (made from bamboo) and walked on it with ease. Some people, including me, tried to ride the egrang but kept falling over and over. I guess it takes great practice to gain that perfection.

Tha’-butha’an is another attractive performer. As the name suggests, Tha’-Butha’an is derived from butha that means evil giant. They are gigantic dolls that resemble ondel-ondel Jakarta but appear in scary face as they represent lust for something improper. The hands of the dolls were tied to their body to imply that strong desire for indecent things should be controlled to have a happy life.

Scary enough?

There goes the FBI!

It is not a feast when food is nowhere to be found. Waton 2019 in Jember offers local culinary delights of Jember including the delicious nasi kuning. In addition to the pegon parade, the economic potential of local produce is amplified in the event as several small and medium-sized enterprises open stalls to promote local richness one of which is coffee. Robusta, Liberica, and Arabica can be found here in the city.

Selected coffee for your affinity
Local herb
The regent and the chef

One of the attractions that visitors await for during Waton in Jember is FBI. No, it has nothing to do with intelligence stuff as we know what FBI stands for all the time. FBI is the abbreviation for Festival Bakar Ikan or grilling fish festival where hundreds of contestants take part in a mass grilling session not far from the main stage. The fish to be grilled are bought from local fishermen and distributed for free to visitors as soon as they are ready to serve. Jember is a marine town and therefore offers a large supply of delicious fish.

Delicious!

Whereas the FBI contestants were busy grilling their fish, Faida the regent looked quite skilful when accompanying Chef Ryan demonstrating how to grill fish well using lemon instead of butter. Not only is the food healthier, it is tastier too. Chef Ryan claimed that local fish is not of inferior quality to that of imported one. The bright side of Waton in Jember is the promotion of local product and agricultural produce in order to help Jember people develop and prosper.

Being a local event that supports tradition and local economy, Waton or Watu Ulo Pegon Jember is a valuable attraction that every tourist must visit. Both domestic and foreign tourists should be able to gain satisfaction and entertainment from this annual event. As many as 14 students from China seemed happy and blended in the crowd when enjoying the tasty yellow rice. Above all, don’t miss the gerebek tumpeng session in which lepet and ketupat were thrown to the crowd as they are believed to contain blessing.

A giant tumpeng made of lepet and ketupat, awaited for its blessing

You’ll also be able to watch the selection process of Gus & Ning during the Waton event. Gus & Ning are a couple of lad and girl assigned to help with the promotion of local tourism through various activities on the basis of positive development.

As soon as Waton ends, direct your way up to Papuma Beach that will keep you speechless when spotting the natural beauty of the waves. Make it your decision to stay overnight in the resort nearby and be prepared for a peaceful morning before sunrise when local fishermen come ashore from the sea with various fish. If you are lucky, you can eat a grilled perka fish without any spices when fishermen set up fire over which the fish was placed.   

The harboring boats (Photo: Babang Eka)

Jember Fashion Carnival may have been very popular around the globe due to the colorfully fascinating dress, but waton cannot be less phenomenal. Waton offers a far more cultural and social ambience you might not attain from other festivals as it is held right on the shore. So pack your stuff and fly to Jember, will you?

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