Introduction / History
The Jawa Pesisir Kulon (West Coast Java) people group is also called the Jawa Cirebonan or the Cerbon people. The center of the Jawa Pesisir Kulon people group is in the regencies of Cirebon and Indramayu in the West Java Province. They live in small cities like Patrol, Anjatan and Haurgeulis. There are also some who live to the east around the vicinity of the Sanggarung River, as well as across the river where there are several Cirebonan villages located in the province of Central Java. Ceremai mountain marks the southern border of their area while the Java Sea coastline marks the northern border. Geographically speaking, the Jawa Pesisir Kulon people group live in Sunda districts, yet they use the Jawa Ngoko Cerbon (Jawa Cerbon) language. This language is apparently a mixture of the Jawa, Sunda, Arab and Melayu languages and possibly some others as well. The Cerbon Ngoko language is taught to every Cerbon child from first through tenth grades.
What are their lives like?
The Jawa Pesisir Kulon people tend to be open and spontaneous in their social interactions. This is visible in their vibrant, colorful and artistic clothing. Their culture leans more toward Islamic culture than toward their own historical Jawa culture. For them, Islam is looked at as the national cultural foundation, which takes precedence over the traditional Jawa cultural values that are still predominant in Central and East Java. The word cirebon is a combination of two words, ci which means water and rebon which means shrimp. Cirebon has always been famous for its salted fish and fresh shrimp, as well as petis and terasi (shrimp pastes used as spices). Most Jawa Pesisir Kulon are fishermen or farmers. Their land is very fertile and has acres of plantations that produce and export crops including coffee, sugar, tobacco, citrus fruits and the well-known Dermayu mango. There is also a local government owned oil refinery. There are many among them who work in government and private institutions. Craftsmen make various products from the world-famous batik cloth, as well as clay, wood and rattan. The city of Cirebon is also considered a tourist destination because of the many historical and sacred landmarks. These historical sites include the palaces of Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Kacirebonan and Kaprabonan, as well as Mesjid Panjunan (a mosque), Gua Sunyaragi (a cave) and Panjang Jimat (a place of mystical meditation).
What are their beliefs?
Cirebon, the main city of the Jawa Pesisir Kulon, served as a base to spread Islam by Sunan Gunung Jati (1448-1580), who was one of the Wali Songo (Nine Apostles of Islam in Indonesia). Therefore, Muslim pride in this area is quite strong. The large majority of the Jawa Pesisir Kulon people are Sunni Muslims although there is a Sufi Muslim minority. Despite this, the practice of occultism is very evident. Dukun (shaman/healer/occultist) are still heavily relied upon. Various ceremonies including ritual meals are done to obtain happiness, safety and peace.
What are their needs?
The economic development of the 'Cerbon' region is indeed promising with every reason to believe in an upward spiral of productivity. The question is: who will profit from the material gains being made? The living standard of the masses remains fixed at about $50.00 per month. They need quality, practical, vocational training and teaching, including appropriate technology. Present industries need to be expanded and the transportation infrastructure must be developed to better enhance the marketing of their products.
Text source: Copyright © IPN, 2011. Used with permission.