The nomadic 'community' of Abah Anom preserves their ancestor-inherited
tradition and customs that, until today, still attract people
from far and wide to visit the community. Abah Anom, which
locally means a person who is considered 'old', refers to
the traditional chief of Banten Selatan, locally known as
Kepala Adat, who is in charge of agricultural matters. Encum
Sucipta, who is the eighth chief, lives with his 'community'
in a remote mountainous area about 1,200 meter above the
sea level in Cipta Gelar, Cicemet village of the Sukabumi
regency in West Java, around 50 kilometers from Pelabuhan
The Abah Anom community consists mostly of traditional
farmers who have unique customs and particular ways of life,
especially in terms of land cultivation and the shelters
where they live. The supernatural also colors their way
of life The position of Abah Anom as tradition chief is
not gained from an election but from what locally known
as 'wangsit' a kind of dream-like supernatural guidance,
or vision. Abah Anom Encup Sucipta, the first son of the
late Abah Anom Arjo with his third wife, received his father's
'wangsit' to become the tradition chief when he was just
18 years old. "I was confused when I first received
the position, but one year later I felt confident after
learning from my relatives and other people," said
the long-haired, laid-back Abah Anom Encup.
No official documentation accompanies the position of Abah
Anom, but people usually get information by word of mouth
or by visiting him. The original Abah Anom and his community
never settled permanently in one area, but lived a nomadic
existence moving from one place to another. Where they settled
depended on the 'wangsit', which usually led them to mountainous
areas. This tradition continues until today.
"Actually, I would prefer to live in my old house
in Ciptarasa - about 9 kilometers from my current house
- but what can I do? I have to move because of the 'wangsit'
from my ancestors which must be obeyed," said Abah
Anom Encup Sucipta. He moved to his current place just one
year ago after a 'wangsit' that he received in 1992.
The Abah Anom housing complex has a serene, tranquil atmosphere
and breathtaking views of lush mountainsides and valleys.
All buildings are made of bamboo with ijuk tepus (black
sugar palm-fiber) used for the roofs. A building on a one-hectare
patch of land comprises the imah gede - a large house for
community activities such as thanksgiving and meetings,
as well as a large public kitchen. The tiang kelapa room
is decorated with coconut wood poles for the Abah Anom's
family, two stage houses for entertainment activities and
several lumbung: small rice storage houses. Like many aspects
of community life, the choice of housing materials is determined
by the 'wangsit'.
The Abah Anom community holds four events in a year as
an expression of thanks to God. They are 'tanam', a thanksgiving
held before cultivating rice padi, 'potong', thanksgiving
held before cutting the padi, 'makan nasi pertama', thanksgiving
held before eating the first rice from the harvest and 'Sarehtahun',
thanksgiving held to celebrate the harvest.
Abah Anom has over 500 representatives, with around 3,000
people spread over three regencies: Lebak in Banten, Sukabumi
and Bogor. 'On Sarehtahun Day, all representatives gather
here to celebrate, with various local art groups enlivening
the seven day celebration," he said.
List of visitors include those from Australia, Germany,
Great Britain, Japan, Italy and the USA. Abah Anom disclosed
that students from local and foreign countries who take
an interest in social work have, along with locals, built
facilities such as schools, lavatories and water channels.
He cited students from Gordon School of Great Britain who
have three times visited his former house in Ciptarasa in
1994, 1995 and 1996. Along with local people, they built
a school. "One of the student was the grandchild of
Queen Elizabeth. He joined the visiting group in 1996,"
For anyone wishing to gain fascinating insights into some
of Java's more remote customs, a visit to Abah Anom as an
excursion from Pelabuhan Ratu would be well worthwhile.
To reach the house up in the mountainous area, a good 4-wheel
drive vehicle is necessary to negotiate the long, unpaved
mountain roads. Due care is necessary especially during
the rainy season, when the windy road becomes very slippery.
An alternate method is to take an 'ojek' - motorcycle taxi.
There are about 10 skilled motorcyclists ready to take you
from the foot of the mountain. They charge around Rp 80,000
per person for a return trip. Abah Anom will be pleased
to offer you accommodation for the night there free of charge,
and if you stay for several days, it is advisable to give
donation for food you eat while with your hosts.
An ideal place to stay is the Padi
Padi Resort Hotel, about 50 kilometers from the Abah
Anom. The hotel has a knowledgeable guide to the region
and a sturdy Land Rover to get you around.