“Are you proud of Indonesia?” The question suddenly came out from a friend of another country. Actually the choice of answers that he gave was certainly easy, just proud or not. But for a few moments I fell silent. I want to answer I do proud, but is that true? Then I decided to tell him that I was proud of all the various ethnic groups, unique and different cultural riches, but given the various political polemics that were taking place, it was difficult to say that I was proud.
Then he told how at first he wants to know Indonesia more deeply. Starting from a patterned cake he got from his friend in Singapore. So beautiful, he thought. The pattern looks like a flower but not like the pictures in general. Because of his curiosity, he asked and it was none other than a pattern inspired by batik cloth which originated from Indonesia. Since then, he has been interested in studying Southeast Asian culture and enjoys staying from one country to another in the region.
One of the countries is Philippines. As a country that likes singing and dancing, my friend is often invited to party. Uniquely, not only local and western songs are often played. Sometimes my friend doesn’t know what song he is listening to and then asks. It turned out that the song came from Indonesia. On another occasion my friend worked as a tour guide in Thailand. According to him, one of the most memorable experiences was when he met one of the tourists from Indonesia. They shared stories about what it was like to have experienced an inner conflict because of a marriage faced with religious differences. How religion becomes something important in Indonesia. According to my friend, this is very unique because he has never experienced it in his own country. He also told me that he was amazed how the differences did not obliterate the relationship they built so that they finally married.
Finally, his curiosity brought him to live in Indonesia and learn about Indonesia. At the end of his story, he asked me, “So why are you confused about being proud or not?”. That is where I realized how great the influence of this ASEAN country was on Indonesia. How much support these neighbor countries have for Indonesia. If only these ASEAN countries had never shared the wealth of their neighbors, perhaps my friend has never have any interest towards Indonesia. At this point, it made me realized that I should be proud of my country. Maybe the story is short and ordinary for some people, but for me the birth of my awareness towards Indonesia is surely because of the influence from other ASEAN countries.
By Pricilia Angela, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia