One of my favorite songs of all time is Kenny Loggins ‘Your Heart Will Lead You Home.’ If you have watched ‘The Tigger Movie’ (Yes, Tigger as in Winnie the Pooh’s friend!) then you must have heard this sweet song because it was featured there. The song precisely describes what ASEAN means to me: ASEAN is home.

ASEAN is home in the most literal meaning because I am an Indonesian who lives in Indonesia, and Indonesia is a member of ASEAN. In fact, Indonesia is one of the founding members of ASEAN and it has played a vital role in the development of ASEAN. The first ASEAN Summit was held in Indonesia, the ASEAN Secretariat is based in Jakarta, and the 2003 ASEAN Summit in Bali laid out the foundation of the ASEAN Community (then expected to be established in 2020). ASEAN was, is, and will always be the place where I belong as long as Indonesia is still located in Southeast Asia and I still retain my Indonesian citizenship (which basically means forever).

The ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Pictures taken in September 2017.

The ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Pictures taken in September 2017.

The ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Pictures taken in September 2017.

The ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Pictures taken in September 2017.

ASEAN is home because I feel comfortable there. ‘Home is where the heart is,’ said Kenny Loggins, and that homey feeling cannot be forced upon people. For me, I feel at home in ASEAN – I love the food, the sights and sounds, the culture, and the people of ASEAN.

Clockwise from top-left: Filipino Tapsilog, Thai Giant Prawns, Vietnamese Traditional Ice Cream, and Singaporean Chili Crab – all suitable with my Indonesian taste buds.

Clockwise from top-left: Filipino Tapsilog, Thai Giant Prawns, Vietnamese Traditional Ice Cream, and Singaporean Chili Crab – all suitable with my Indonesian taste buds.

Furthermore, I also find it fascinating how there seems to be a magnet pulling ASEAN citizens together, the feeling that we are part of the same family. When I travel to a non-ASEAN country and meet a fellow ASEAN citizen (not only from Indonesia), we tend to ‘click’ right away. If there are two things that bind ASEAN citizens together, they must be food and karaoke (exaggeration intended, teehee).

ASEAN is home because my heart led me there. Despite being born and raised in Indonesia, my interest in ASEAN only developed in 2011. Prior to that, I was just not that interested in learning about ASEAN – or Southeast Asia for that matter. However, following ASEAN’s development after 2011 made me an ASEAN enthusiast. I started appreciating ASEAN and its effort to provide peace and prosperity for the region. I took interest in the history of Southeast Asia and it fascinates me how ASEAN started as a regional organization in the midst of hostility among the founding members. I love the visa exemption policy within ASEAN, which leads to increasing people-to-people contact among ASEAN citizens. I learned other ASEAN languages such as Filipino and Thai and found out that many Filipino words are the same as Indonesian and Malay – such as kambing, payung, and pintu – and the structure of the sentence in Thai and Indonesian is similar. I came to realize that despite the diversity within ASEAN, the different nations have many common cultural traits. The more I study about ASEAN, the more interested I am to deepen my understanding of the region. And this love of mine towards ASEAN does not seem to fade anytime soon.

Finally, ASEAN is home because I know that no matter what argument, misunderstanding, or difficulties that the ASEAN countries might occasionally experience, they will always find their way back to ASEAN – just like what happens among family members in a home. Many regional issues have emerged throughout the years: territorial dispute, issue of migrant workers, and economic crisis, just to name a few. However, instead of falling apart, ASEAN grew even stronger. As ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, I could not imagine what Southeast Asia would be without ASEAN. I think peace should never be taken for granted and it is important to note that not all regions of the world enjoy the generally peaceful environment in ASEAN.

ASEAN Flags raised at the Philippine International Convention Center, ASEAN Summit April 2017.

ASEAN Flags raised at the Philippine International Convention Center, ASEAN Summit April 2017.

 

By Dira Tiarasari FABRIAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia

 

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