Pekande Kandea Wakatobi is a traditional event organized by the various communities in the Southeast Sulawesi province, in particular on the island of Buton, north of the Wakatobi island chain. The event is held as an opportunity for the young, single people of the villages to meet, socialize freely with each other, and perhaps even find a suitable spouse.
Pekandake-Kandea means meal in the local dialect, and holds a lot of meaning. The tradition was originally observed as a way to welcome the country’s war heroes returning from the battle field. Nowadays, aside from being a meeting opportunity for unmarried members of the village, it is also to give gratitude to God after the month of fasting during Ramadhan.
The festival is usually held one week after Eid al-Fitr, or at the beginning of the month of Shawal. For the people of Buton, this is a priceless festival that has been observed for centuries, and must continue to be preserved to uphold the values and function of the society’s culture.
During the procession, the committee will first prepare trays of food. The girls of the village will dress their best in the traditional kombo wolio dress, which are colorful clothes with a unique knot tied around the head to symbolize that they are still unmarried. Next, a tray is set in front of each of the girls. The tray is made of silver, and contains an assortment of sweet, traditional cakes and snacks.
When everyone is seated and festivities are ready to start, the two hosts of the show will begin the show with the rhyme “sapo Maimo lapana puuna gau, Mia Katupana bari ‘amatajamo,” chanted rhythmically with traditional musical accompaniment.
The young boys of the village will be given the opportunity to sit across from the waiting ladies, with the tray of cakes in between. Once the chanting has begun, the boys will attempt to woo the girls by reciting poetry to the rhythm of the song. The girls will then offer the cakes to the boys as a token of thanks.
Visitors who come to partake of the festivities may also enjoy the cakes, in return for a small amount of money offered to the girls. Once the procession is completed, visitors are entertained by a variety of events, such as songs and traditional folk music. To conclude the event, the girls, children and the general public may join the kombo wolio parade.
The local Buton government has decided that the tradition should be held in the same place every year. That place is the village of Tolandona, Southeast Sulawesi. According to historical records, four knights from Tolandoda played an essential role in the fight to maintain the ancient Sultanate of Buton: a conflict that claimed many lives. About 2,000 residents of the Tolandona village are believed to be direct descendants of the four knights.