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Home >>Geography >>How Quimas changed to Kema

How Quimas changed to Kema

By: Harry Kawilarang / Translation: Roderick C. Wahr

Kema in the Minahasa

This article was edited by Meity Rampen-Pongoh, we investigated the series of historical events in the middle ages and the position of the Minahasa in the world. It is evident that those Portugese and Spanish ships that met in the Sulawesi Sea, proved that the earth did not have the form of a frying pan, but was round, something that before was always denied by the Church. In this article we try to untangle the flower chain of history of the city of Kema, the Spanish "enclave" in the middle of the 16th century. In future, netters hopefully do not need to look for reference materials all over the world to enrich the Minahasa history from various perspectives.
This is important, in order that the references of our history do not depend on so called national (Indonesia) writers of history who too often discriminate our history. Just like that article by the Kompas daily reporter, Agus Soesanto, in May 2004 who wrote that according to him, the Javanese descendants from Diponegoro taught the Minahasa people the padi rice-field culture, but without it being based on any reference material. You cannot do that, place an article in a big national newspaper making interpretations, and drawubg subsequent conclusions. While westerners already knew the Minahasa as a rice barn from the 16th century. Whereas the descendants of Diponegoro and Kyayi Madja only came to the Minahasa in 1830. We hope that the blurring of our Minahasa history becomes our obsession. Let us dig out our history ourselves so that others cannot fool us and our children.
Happy reading.***

The Minahasa position in the middle ages in the International Arena

The Spanish presence cannot be ignored in the Minahasa pages of history, besides of course the Portugese and the Dutch. In the middle ages, the two Hispanic countries were involved in racing each other to develop a maritime force. The competition began on the shores of West Africa and expanded to the Northern Moluccas and Sulawesi Sea waters.

The Minahasa held the role as the rice barn for Spain while they were making efforts for total control of the Philippines.

Road from Kema to Tondano 1843-1845
© Geheugen van Nederland

The name Kema was linked with the Spanish development of a military base when Bartholomeo de Soisa landed and established the port in 1651 in the area that was called "La Quimas". The local inhabitants knew this area by the name of "Maadon" or also "Kawuudan". The Spanish fortress was located in the estuary of the river Kema, which the Dutch called het "Spanjaards-gat", or the Spanish Hole.

Dr. J. G. F. Riedel mentioned that the Spanish fleet already landed in Kema precisely 100 years beforehand. Kema developed as the Pakasaan Tonsea capital from the time of Xaverius Dotulong's government, after the Tonsea taranaks (unit of families) began to leave the old country, namely Tonsea Ure and established new settlements. The Xaverius Dotulong letter of 3rd February 1770 to the VOC Governor in Ternate revealed that his father, I. Runtukahu Lumanauw lived in Kema and cleared the development of this city. This was confirmed by the Ukung (tribal leader) in Manado who claimed to be the descendant of dotu Bogi, the son of the eldest child from several related dotu as likewise brought forward by the Ternate Governor in his reply to Xaverius Dotulong on November 1st 1772.

Christians dressed up ca. 1910
© Geheugen van Nederland

Dutch missionary, Dominee Jacobus Montanus in his travel report on November 17th 1675, mentioned that the name Kema, referred to in the Spanish term, was the name of the mountains that stretched from north to south. He wrote that the word "Kima" came from the Minahasa language, meaning Keong (snail shell). Whereas the meaning of "Kema", derived from the Spanish word "Quema", meant flame, or also lighting up. That understanding was linked with the often performed action by Spanish seamen of burning down the area. Governor Robertus Padtbrugge in the handover notes of August 31st 1682 called this place "Kemas of grote Oesterbergen", meaning big mountains of Shellfish. Whereas in Tonsea words it was called "Tonseka", because it was in the Pakasaan Tonsea territory.

Hendrik Berton in his notes of August 3rd 1767, described Kema, apart from a port during the West wind season, also as the Tonsea capital. This happened as a result of the conflict between Manado and Kema in the birds nests dispute on Lembeh island. The ukung party in Manado demanded the same rights in profit-sharing as the ukung party from Kema. At that time the Ukung Tua (Elder Tribal Leader) of Kema was Xaverius Dotulong.

The meeting in the Sulawesi Sea and Church Reform

Waruga, heathen burialplace in Kema
ca. 1880
© Geheugen van Nederland

Portugal and Spain, based on the strength of the Roman Catholic church, expanded the territory of the Ottoman sultanate in the Mediterranean in the 15th centruy. Moreover Portugal and Spain also were the place where refugee business men and skilled people from Konstantinopel were located who were being controlled by the Ottoman sultanate from Turky in 1453. This settlement represented the pool of knowledge for economy and maritime affairs in Southern Europe. From that time too Portugal and Spain became the superpowers in Europe. Professioal knowledge was obtained from the immigrants from Konstantinopel who enabled the two Hispanic countries to expand to new territories outside of the European mainland and the Mediterranean. The main target was East Asia and South-East Asia. At first the expansion of the territories between the two countries were divided in accordance with the Tordisalles agreement, in 1492. Portugal towards the East, whereas Spain directed to the West. At that time there was no notion that the earth was round. They realised this only when sailing ships of the two parties met in the waters of the Sulawesi Sea. This realization also was the cause of church reform, because not all the church dogmas were regulated, therefore the image of the Pope's authority as ruler and representative of the Lord on earth, and the government's absolute theocratic system, collapsed. This collapse occurred with the appearance of the Protestant church, the pioneering efforts of Martin Luther and Calvin, in Europe which afterwards also spread to various European colonies in Asia, Africa and America.

Docking place drinkwater in Kema 1845
© Geheugen van Nederland

Due to that Tordisalles agreement, Portugal investigated from the African coastal shores and the Indian Ocean. Whereas Spain investigated the Atlantic Ocean, the South American continent and sailed the Pacific ocean. The meeting occurred when Spanish ships under the command of Ferdinand Maggelan investigated the Pacific and arrived on Kawio island, of the Sangir and Talaud group of islands in the Sulawesi Sea in 1521. To prevent competition in the waters of the Sulawesi Sea and Northern Moluccas, the two teams renewed the passage route by means of the Saragosa agreement in the year 1529. This agreement divided the territory by creating a borderline at seventeen degrees eastward in the waters of Northern Moluccan. However in this agreement, Spain felt disadvantaged because it did not gain the trade passage with the group of spice islands. For that reason Spain sent an expedition to the West Pacific in the year 1542. In February of that year five Spanish ships with a crew of 370 commanded by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos headed West Pacific from Mexico. His aim was to expand the territory and at the same time obtain the trade concession for spices in Northern Moluccas. In this voyage Villalobos landed in the group of northern islands called the Philippines, taken from the name of the son of King Carlos V, namely Prince Philip, the Spanish royal heir. The Philippines did not produce spices at all, but the Spanish arrival on this island group caused fierce protest from the Portugese. The reason being that this group of islands was located in the western part, in its territorial environment. Although it focussed its attention on Middle America, Spain continued to want the consession for Northern Moluccan trade in spices which the Portugese also wanted to dominate. But Spain was forced by Portugal to withdraw from the Philippines. As a result Spain lost its influence in Northern Sulawesi which used to be its economical pocket where it had established relations with the Minahasa community.

Warfare in South Philippines partly influenced the Spanish economy. The Spanish defeat was also mainly caused by the revolution of rower's that served the Spanish ships. The Spanish shipping system focussed on rowers who generally consisted of slaves of the Spanish. Usually a Spanish ship is served by around 500 - 600 rowers who are usually taken from the inhabitants of the territories controlled by Spain. Usually a rowers revolt occurred when food rations diminished and were too much restricted during a long voyage, to overcome this Spain distributed second crop plants including various kinds of chilli peppers (rica), ginger (goraka), turmeric (kunyit) etc. All was planted in each controlled territory for the logistical food preparation for the crew and the hundreds of rowers. From that time the culture of eating "hot" food mixed with various cooked spices, that were introduced by the Spanish seamen, spread fast and became the hobby of the Minahasa community.

Hotel in Kema before 1880
© Geheugen van Nederland

Kema city was a settlement of Spaniards, beginning from the circle of rowers who staid permanently and did not want to return to the country of their ancestors. They married local women and lived there for generations. Afterwards Kema also became known to German travellers, the Dutch and English. They then associated and assimilated with the local inhabitants, until Kema was formed by this pluralistic community and enriches the Minahasa with a compound culture that lives in harmony with each other. For that reason the Minahasa community is not uneasy and easily socialize with westerners that they meet.***


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Photos: Het Geheugen van Nederland


2004 by Roderick. All rights reserved.write comments to: