Long ago, on the coastal area of Riau Province, there lived a poor young man called Awang Garang. He was a fisherman who fished at the seashore. He hoped one day he would be King of the sea. As he was too anxious to make his dream come true, he changed his job and worked as a cook on a sailing ship. Though he didn’t get paid, he was happy to be able to sail through the straits in the waters of Segantung Lada islands.

One day, the Sultan of Riau ordered the Datuks (persons of high position) and the spiritualists to build a warship. The Sultan entrusted the duty to seven Datuks and spiritualists from Temiang, Moro Sulit, Sugi, Bulang, Pekaka, Sekanan and Mepar regions. Awang Garang was also trusted to take part in that work. The agreement was signed on a small island which lies between Bulang Rempang and Bintan Island.

It was unlikely that the warship would be completely built. The wooden materials had been changed several times, yet it still didn’t bear any satisfactory result.

The Datuks and spiritualists were worried that the Sultan would get angry at their failure. While they were at a loss for not being able to find a good solution, Awang Garang then said, “Excuse me Sirs! As far as I know, there should be three kinds of woods needed for building the ship.” All the Datuks and Spiritualists were surprised to hear what he said.

“Hi, Awang Garang, don’t say anything stupid. Dare you take full responsibility for what you said?” asked one of the spiritualists.

“If what you said isn’t true, you’ll get the punishment,” said another spiritualist with threatening voice.

“All right Sirs, I’ll prove what I said is true,” said Awang Garang confidently.

The next day, the carpenters prepared three kinds of woods proposed by Awang Garang. The planks of the ship were made of Mendang Sirai wood. The hull which looked like ivory was made of Penaga wood. The keel was made of Keledang wood. The warship was nearly built after three months. The Sultan was very glad to hear that and he double paid the wages. All the workers were very excited and worked harder.

One day, when Awang Garang was supervising the carpenters who were chopping the wood, suddenly a small piece of wood flew towards Awang Garang and struck his right eye. “Oh… God…. My eyeball is broken,” he screamed painfully. He was very angry and unconsciously said, “Shit… I curse it not to leave the shipyard!”

Awang Garang covered his blind right eye with a black eye patch. He quitted his work and returned to his village where he rolled back to his old lifestyle as a fisherman and fished at the seashore every day.

The warship was completely built two months after the leave of Awang Garang. It was time for her to be on sea. All the workers gathered to push the ship to the water, but she didn’t even move an inch.

Meanwhile, the Sultan ordered that the warship should be on duty as soon as possible to eliminate the pirates who acted violently and arbitrarily in Riau waters. All the Datuks and spiritualists were afraid that the Sultan would be very upset.

While they were very confused and didn’t know what to do, a spiritualist suddenly said, “We’d better call Awang Garang back, because he had cursed the ship before he left. Perhaps he knows how to put her to sea.” This was agreed by all of them, so that a Datuk was asked to set out immediately to find Awang Garang and requested him back to the island.

After arriving Awang Garang’s house, the Datuk saw that he was sitting in front of the door. “Hi… Awang Garang! You cursed the ship not to leave the shipyard, didn’t you?” asked the Datuk. “Unless you find the way to fix it, you’ll get the severe punishment,” he added.

“Okay! I’m ready to put her to sea if His Majesty grants my requests,” answered Awang Garang calmly. “Yes, we’ll grant all your requests,” said the Datuk.

After the Datuk agreed, Awang Garang put forward his requests. “Listen carefully! I’ve three requests. The first is that you should bring me 37 young men with all the necessary equipment. The second is that all the Datuks and spiritualists should be blindfolded and must be at the location while the ship is being pushed to the water. The third is that you should find seven pregnant women who are in their first pregnancy. All the women should wear clothes in different colors and they should be the family members of the Datuks and Spiritualists.”

The Datuk reported all he had heard to his counterparts. Because of fearing the sultan would get mad and the time was so limited, they approved all that had been requested by Awang Garang, even though they felt that the conditions were too displeasing.

When it was high tide, all the people at the place were blindfolded. Awang Garang whispered to the 37 young men to do something that was not known by the Datuks and spiritualists. When evening approached, a crackling sound was heard followed by the roars of the seven pregnant women in the glorious moonlight.

“Help….! Don’t run over our stomach, help….!” The women cried out. All the Datuks and spiritualists were horrified and worried after hearing that.

It was very noisy, suddenly Awang Garang shouted out, “All of you go to the ship… ready… and push….”

The ship moved by producing a trembling noise, followed by the cries of babies. Afterwards, the ship was pushed to the sea and a splash was heard.

The blindfolded Datuks and spiritualists were anxious to know what had happened, so they took off the blindfolds. “Oh.., Awang Garang used a skinless tree-trunk. A smooth girder was needed,” said all the Datuks and spiritualists one after another.

In the meantime, the seven pregnant women delivered their first born babies safely. They were not being run over as what the Datuks and spiritualists thought. But they were lying in a big hole which had been dug under the warship.

It is said that 18 years later, the seven babies had grown up and became the commanders who eradicated the piracy at sea. Each was named according to the color of his mother’s clothes at the time she gave birth to him. They were the Red Commander, the Orange Commander, the Yellow Commander, the Violet Commander, the Green Commander, the Blue Commander and the Indigo Commander.

The seven heroes formed a union power in eradicating the pirates under the leadership of Awang Garang, the One Eyed Sea Eagle. Afterwards, there were no any pirates who dared sail in the territory of Riau waters.

The above story is the legend of Riau province which tells us the origin of the name of Galang Island. It is said that the name of the island was taken from “Pakai (use), Galang (girder)”, the words which were said by the Datuks and Spiritualists after they witnessed Awang Garang successfully pushed the ship to the sea.

Galang Island (Pulau Galang) belongs to the group of Balerang islands (Batam-Rempang-Galang). It is near Sijantung village, Galang Subdistrict of Batam City. Till now, the island is known as the ex camp of Vietnamese refugees (Sinam Camp).

As the war broke out between the North Vietnam (communist) and the South Vietnam (capitalist), many of the Vietnamese fled to Galang Island. On 30th April 1975, the North Vietnam successfully took control of the South. A lot of the Vietnamese chose to leave their country by boat. That was why they were known as Boat People.

From the year 1975 to 1996, there were thousands of Vietnamese refugees entering the Indonesian territorial waters. Under the request of the United Nation High Commission Refugees (UNHCR), Galang Island was chosen to gather all the refugees and the relief funds were under the full responsibility of UNHCR.

On 2nd September 1996, the United Nation Organization sent back the Vietnamese refugees to their own country on a large scale. In the International Convention which was under the coordination of the United Nation Organization, the UNHCR stated that it was unable to bear the large amount of expenses. Therefore, Indonesian government through the naval operation activities sent the remaining 5000 Vietnamese refugees back to their own country by warships. The Vietnamese refugees returning process took place after the war ended.

Since she was left by her inhabitants (the refugees), Galang Island has revealed a history of human tragedies. The readiness of Indonesia to accept the Vietnamese refugees as well as providing the place for them shows the manner of human rights appreciation. Nevertheless, UNHCR played an important role in this case that built houses, places of worship, roads, camps, schools, hospitals, etc on Galang Island.

Nowadays, Galang Island has become a tourist destination which is interesting to visit. The historical remainders can be found everywhere on this island, such as burial plots, youth center, worship-houses and the giant statue of bodhisattva Kwan Im (Goddess of Mercy) or Quan Nam Im.


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