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Jakarta Post

How independence is like climbing a slippery pole

  • The Jakarta Post

Ngawi, East Java   /   Sat, August 16 2008   /  11:20 am

Aug. 17 in many parts of Indonesia is an occasion for joyful activities in which citizens from all levels of society participate in our traditional Independence Day games. The most popular game is undoubtedly the panjat pinang (climbing the slippery pole) competition. The panjat pinang competition is often the highlight of Independence Day celebrations, and individuals and groups struggle together to reach the top of a greased pinang (betel) nut palm trunk where they reach the prizes which might be anything from a set of keys to a new motorcycle to towels and plastic buckets. It is unclear where and when the panjat pinang competition originated but it has probably been a part of the Independence Day celebrations since early on. The pinang nut is very deeply rooted in our cultures. In the past, the betel nut (Areca catechu) was widely used as an acceptable recreational dr...