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Standing coffins of Manado, Indonesia

Jojie surrounded by Waruga sarcophagi in Manado

Jojie surrounded by Waruga sarcophagi in Manado

Between 1994 and 1995, I was traveling to Manado, Indonesia doing my very first travel brochure project (the income of which I bought my first PC) for a Swiss client.  I only had a film camera then and it was to document for the brochure.  Back in those days, my composition and output were still unsatisfactory for me.  It was my very first travel in Southeast Asia.

This photo above was taken of me (I forgot by whom) standing beside the Waruga Stone Graves in Sawangan Village, Manado.

For a  little interesting history, this ancient cemetery consist of 144 sarcophagi (coffins) which dated back to the Megalithic age. Made of unique stones with holes in the middle and a triangular lid, the coffins have carved motifs which will tell you the dead’s profession, hobby or interest (a drawing of a female giving birth to a child means the grave of a midwife).

The most remarkable thing was the funeral ritual. The corpse was seated and tied on a chair until it became stiff. The corpse was then untied and carried, encircled around the house 3 times to symbolize the dead moving into another world. The body was then placed inside the waruga, seated on a PLATE (Chinese ceramic bowl to be exact) and surrounded or adorned by its personal belongings like jewelry and precious items. I believe the dish symbolized feeding, in case it gets hungry in the other world.

I found this photo on the net and am borrowing from Ms. Deborah Gersten, for I lost the old negatives of my trip to Manado, Indonesia. This is to give you an idea of how they bury the dead:

Photo by Deborah Gersten

The making of these stone burial chambers was prohibited in 1800 because of the spread of cholera and typhoid caused by the horrid smell coming out of these graves’ holes. Since then, the dead were buried underground.

This was a film photo scanned and enhanced by me. And yes that was me in my early 20s with an 80s getup (don’t ask!). As for the blur and white spot on the photo, I don’t know if that was an orb or a mere flash from the camera. At that time, I wasn’t yet a horror film fanatic otherwise I would have spent more time doing ghost hunting.

It was a good place to haunt wandering spirits with, most likely, stiff back pains from squatting in cramped spaces.

Photo taken in 1994 (Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia)

Signature Jojie Alcantara


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