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Robodoi, Bajak Laut dari Tobelo

Yudhi Herwibowo was born in Palembang, South Sumatra, but grew up in Tegal (Central Java) and Kupang (East Nusa Tenggara). He now lives in Solo (Central Java) and manages BukuKatta, a home publishing and printing company. He graduated with a degree in architecture, but he finds writing short stories and novels compelling. His stories have been published in Koran Tempo, The Jakarta Post, Jawa Pos, Media Indonesia, Suara Merdeka, Horison, Femina, and Esquire. His novels are Cameo Revenge (Grasindo, 2015), Halaman Terakhir (Noura Books, 2015), Miracle Journey (Elex Media Komputindo, 2013), Enigma (Grasindo, 2013), Untung Surapati (Tiga Serangkai, 2011), Lama Fa (Sheila, 2010), and Pandaya Sriwijaya (Bentang, 2009).

Find his writings at yudhiherwibowo.wordpress.com. Reach him at hikozza@yahoo.com.

Copyright ©2017 by Yudhi Herwibowo. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2017 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Robodoi, Bajak Laut dari Tobelo

 

Apakah ini hari-hari terakhirku?

Robodoi termenung sambil mengeja kata-kata itu dalam hati. Malam ini di kesendiriannya di tepi pantai, ia merasakan semua pertanda seakan mengarahkan ke hari-hari terakhir itu. Kerlip bintang-bintang di angkasa yang makin meredup, bisik angin yang makin tak terdengar di telinga, dan udara yang makin terasa terbatas dihirupnya. Semuanya seperti mengarah ke titik penghabisan. Tubuhnya pun bahkan terasa menggigil karena tamparan-tamparan angin malam yang seperti mampu menusuk ulu hatinya. Sesuatu yang tak pernah dirasakan sebelumnya. Walau ikarena semua tahu, sejak dulu pertanda-pertandalah yang mengantar jalan hidupnya hingga sampai seperti sekarang.

Robodoi, berasal dari Tobelo, sebuah daerah di Pulau Halmahera Utara. Ia laki-laki yang lahir saat langit tanpa bintang. Waktu itu tahun 1785, hanya ada bulan sabit yang nampak di atas sana, bersama angin dingin yang seperti berniat membekukan semua yang ada, dan kesenyapan terasa paling sempurna. Orang-orang desa kemudian berbisik-bisik, “Malam seperti ini adalah waktu yang tak diinginkan bagi sebuah kelahiran. Bayi-bayi akan mudah mati. Namun bila ia bertahan, ia akan menjadi sangat kuat.”

Ucapan itulah juga yang selalu diucapkan Papa Tatto – begitu Robodoi memanggil ayahnya – bertahun-tahun kemudian. Awalnya, Robodoi tak pernah benar-benar mengerti arti ucapan itu. Namun semakin dewasa, ia mulai mengamini ucapan itu, hingga hari ini, saat usianya telah begitu menua.

Lalaba, salah satu kawan seperjuangan Robodoi selama ini, yang sejak tadi duduk di sudut yang lain, melangkah perlahan mendekat. Sejenak ia duduk dalam diam, sengaja tak ingin menganggu kediaman Robodoi. Ia hanya menoleh sejenak memandang wajah orang yang hampir sepanjang hidup diikutinya. Membiarkan angin memainkan anak-anak rambutnya yang panjang, sambil sesekali menampar-nampar tubuhnya yang makin menua. Entahlah, di suasana seperti ini, ia seperti bisa merasakan apa yang sedang dipikirkan Robodoi. Kesendirian ini seperti telah mengikis semua semangat yang dulu membuncah. Mungkin itu karena tak ada lagi Yoppi, dan Pilatu, kawan-kawannya yang dulu selalu bersama.

Lalaba akhirnya menyentuh pundak Robodoi. Membuat laki-laki itu menoleh perlahan. Di bawah sinar bulan, kerut-kerut keriput wajah di depannya itu seperti tak lagi bisa di sembunyikan oleh malam. Lalaba sendiri sebenarnya sudah setua Robodoi, namun wajah pimpinannya ini nampak jauh lebih tua darinya.

“Semua sudah usai,” ucapan Lalaba  terdengar pelan.

Robodoi merasakan suara itu begitu jauh. Namun walau begitu, ngiangnya seperti tak pernah selesai terdengar di telinganya.

***

Semua sudah usai….

Itu ucapan yang tak pernah terbayangkan oleh Robodoi. Sejak bocah, garis hidupnya seakan sudah diarahkan pada satu titik. Robodoi ingat, saat ia berusia tujuh tahun, Papa Tatto membawanya ke tepi pantai. Didudukkan tubuh kecilnya di rakit bambu. Lalu Papa Tatto menarik rakit itu ke tengah lautan dengan perahu. Setelah dirasa cukup jauh, Papa Tatto kemudian melepaskan ikatan rakit itu.

Itu adalah pertama kalinya Robodoi merasakan ketakutan yang begitu menulang. Ombak terus menghempas rakit berulang kali. Membuat tubuh seakan tertampar berkali-kali. Beberapa kali ia nyaris jatuh, namun masih bisa memegang tepian rakitnya. Inilah yang membuat tenaganya habis. Pada akhirnya, ia tak lagi bisa menahan tubuhnya saat ombak besar kembali datang. Tubuhnya terpelanting dari rakit. Air asin tak henti masuk ke mulutnya, membuat rasa perih di tenggorokannya. Ombak semakin bersemangat, kali ini diikuti pusaran air yang seperti menarik-narik kakinya. Ia hanya bisa terus meggapai dengan sisa-sisa tenaganya. Di saat-saat terakhir itulah, ia berhasil meraih kembali rakitnya.

Ketika pada akhirnya Robodoi tiba di pantai dengan tubuh lunglai, Papa Tatto hanya berujar pelan, “Kalau kau selamat kali ini, itu bukan karena kau hebat. Kau hanya beruntung. Karena lautan tak akan pernah bisa kau kalahkan!”

Robodoi terdiam memandang wajah Papa Tatto yang mendekat.

“Maka itu… jadikan laut sebagai sahabatmu,” ujar Papa Tatto sambil menepuk pundaknya. “Dengan begitu, ia tak akan pernah menenggelamkanmu!”

Sekarang, Robodoi ingat bagaimana Papa Tatto mengajaknya pertama kali dalam perahu. Ia tak banyak bertanya kala itu, namun ketika Papa Tatto menyerahkan sebatang tombak padanya, ia sadar kalau ini tentu bukan sesuatu yang biasa.

Robodoi telah tahu sejak lama bila Papa Tatto menjadi anak buah Sultan Nuku. Itu adalah sebutan bagi pemimpin Kesultanan Tidore, Muhammad Amiruddin. Sejak lama, kesultanan itu memang tengah berperang melawan VOC, kongsi dagang milik Kerajaan Belanda yang sejak lama berdagang di kepulauan itu. Maka itulah, darah Robodoi segera mendesir ketika Papa Tatto menyuruhnya bersama beberapa pemuda lainnya menuju lautan.

Masih benar-benar diingatnya saat itu. Sebuah kapal pedagang budak Iranun membawa puluhan budak-budaknya menuju Sape, sebuah daerah di kepulauan Nusa Tenggara.

Awalnya Papa Tatto memerintah Robodoi dan pemuda-pemuda lainnya untuk menunggu. Papa Tatto sepertinya ingin menunjukkan ia dirinya dan perahu-perahu lainnya menghancurkan kapal pedagang budak itu dan merebut budak-budak yang ada.

Tapi ternyata suasana saat itu benar-benar tak bisa dikendalikan. Teriakan-teriakan penuh semangat, panah-panah yang mulai mengisi langit, membuat dada Robodoi dan pemuda-pemuda yang ada di atas perahu ikut bergejolak. Apalagi saat sebuah tembakan meriam mulai mengarah pada perahu mereka.

Mau tak mau Robodoi dan pemuda-pemuda lainnya meluncur ke tengah peperangan. Itu adalah peperangan pertama Robodoi. Napasnya seakan terhenti saat perahu yang ditumpanginya mulai meluncur. Teriakan pemuda-pemuda lainnya mengalahkan debur ombak, bagai teriakan burung-burung bangkai di kala menemukan mayat. Seiring itu panah-panah menyebar ke langit, bersamaan desingan senapan-senapan yang memekakkan. Lalu tak lama berselang, orang-orang dari perahu berhasil melompat ke atas kapal musuh yang jauh lebih tinggi. Teriakan-teriakan kematian kemudian memecah tak lagi bisa dibedakan, diakhiri pekikan-pekikan kemenangan.

Ini adalah hari yang menentukan. Tombak yang selama ini dikenal Robodoi hanya untuk berburu binatang hutan dan ikan, kini merasakan tubuh-tubuh musuh yang hangat. Darah yang sempat mengalir nampak mengering dan hitam. Sungguh, kematian seakan telah diciptakan untuknya.

Dan kemenangan selalu menjadi candu. Kemudian Sultan Nuku semakin terdesak oleh orang-orang berkulit pucat itu. Setelah Papa Tatto tewas di sebuah pertempuran, Robodoi memutuskan pergi bersama orang-orang yang tersisa, yang dulu megikuti ayahnya. Mereka kemudian berpindah-pindah tempat selayaknya orang buruan; mencoba membaur dengan penduduk desa yang ada di beberapa tepian pantai, lalu pindah lagi ke Raja Ampat.

Tapi lautan selalu memanggil Robodoi. Ya, sejak ucapan Papa Tatto padanya semasa kanak-kanak dulu, diam-diam Robodoi sudah menjadikan laut sebagai sahabat terbaiknya. Secara teratur ia manaiki sampan kecil untuk sekadar menikmati angin dan ombak laut. Ia juga tetap menghabiskan waktunya berenang ke kedalaman laut, untuk sekadar melihat aneka ikan-ikan dan gua-gua yang belum didatangi sebelumnya. Lebih dari itu, ia mulai memberi persembahan kepada laut, entah itu berbentuk kepala kerbau atau pun kepala sapi yang masih segar. Maka itulah, Robodoi merasakan bila dirinya dan laut seperti memiliki ikatan yang tak bisa dipahami orang lain.

Robodoi benar-benar tak pernah bisa meninggalkan lautan. Ia mungkin bisa menjauhinya beberapa bulan saat bersembunyi dari kejaran musuh, terutama kapal-kapal Belanda. Tapi itu seperti menahan kerinduan pada seorang kekasih. Ia rindu saat-saat mendorong perahunya ke pantai. Ia rindu dayungannya yang membelah lautan. Percikan-percikan air laut di wajahnya, seperti mampu membuat semangatnya membuncah. Juga teriakannya yang memecah langit, yang akan segera diikuti oleh semua anak buahnya. Sungguh, itu adalah hidupnya. Dan tak ada satu pun yang bisa mengekangnya, walau dirinya sendiri.

Maka di waktu-waktu tertentu, Robodoi bersama beberapa orang yang ia pikir sejalan dengannya, mulai mengendap-ngendap mengeluarkan perahu yang selama ini disembunyikan ke hamparan lautan.

Itu adalah cara Robodoi dan kawan-kawannya bertahan hidup. Awalnya, tak ada orang-orang desa yang mengetahui rahasia itu. Namun semua berubah saat Robodoi berhasil mendapatkan harta karun dalam rampokannya yang jumlahnya tak sedikit. Beberapa guci berisi emas dan perhiasan mahal.

Dari situ Robodoi mampu membeli duabelas perahu dan juga perlengkapan yang lebih lengkap. Ia bahkan mampu membeli beberapa meriam dan mulai berani mengajak pemuda-pemuda pengangguran untuk bergabung bersamanya.

Maka beberapa bulan berselang saja, Robodoi sudah merampok beberapa kapal milik pedagang Gujarat dan China. Ia bahkan berani menghancurkan beberapa kapal Belanda yang sedang melakukan patroli. Tak heran, bila hanya beberapa bulan saja namanya sudah menjadi momok menakutkan.

Ia berdiri di atas perahunya, memandang sepuluh kapal besar di hadapannya. Itu adalah kapal-kapal Belanda yang nampaknya baru datang di lautan ini. Mereka nampak tak peduli melihat kehadiran puluhan perahunya. Barulah saat ia memerintahkan serangan, dan ratusan panah meluncur ke langit, nampak kegelisahan di atas kapal. Meriam-meriam segera dipasang, dan serdadu-serdadu mulai mengeluarkan senapan untuk mulai balas menembak.

Tapi mereka terlambat. Yoppi dan Pilatu yang memimpin perahu-perahu dari arah belakang kapal-kapal itu, sudah menyusul serangan. Hanya butuh beberapa saat saja, lautan dipenuhi mayat-mayat yang mengambang hampir di semua penjurunya. Itu adalah mayat-mayat musuh-musuhnya dan anak buahnya.

Gara-gara perang itulah, namanya semakin berkibar. Orang-orang datang, dan meminta bergabung dengannya. Tak heran, sebulan sejak perang besar itu sudah ada 400 orang lebih yang mengikuti perintahnya. Orang-orang yang diyakininya, siap mati untuknya.

Kini, bukan lagi kapal-kapal kecil yang menjadi incaran Robodoi. Semua kapal tak lagi membuat mereka takut. Ia pernah mengalahkan kapal-kapal Gujarat dan kapal-kapal China, bahkan kapal-kapal Belanda yang dikenal memiliki banyak meriam. Perang sudah menjadi makanan sehari-hari bagi mereka semua.

Tapi tentu saja, sepanjang tindakan itu, Robodoi tak selalu beruntung.

Pernah dalam sekali, pasukan dari  Kesultanan Ternate berhasil menangkapnya. Namanya sebagai perusuh, nampaknya sudah membuat pihak kesultanan gerah, hingga mengirim pasukan khusus untuk menangkapnya.

Untungnya saat pihak Kesultanan Ternate akan membawanya ke daratan, anak buahnya berhasil menghadang kapal mereka. Pilatu, Yoppi dan Lalaba yang memimpin perahu-perahu itu.

Maka tak bisa dihindari lagi, peperangan di dekat pantai pun terjadi. Beberapa tembakan meriam sempat saling dilepaskan. Namun karena jumlah perahu-perahu Robodoi lebih banyak, pasukan Kesultanan Ternate kemudian memilih menyerah.

Robodoi dapat bebas saat itu. Namun ia yakin, pihak Kesultanan Ternate pastilah akan sesegera mungkin membuat rencana lain yang lebih besar untuk menangkap dan menghancurkannya. Maka Robodoi memutuskan untuk menepi sejenak. Ia membawa semua pengikutnya ke daerah di tepi SulawesiTimur. Ia mencoba pergi sejauh mungkin dari jangkauan Kesultanan Ternate. Namun tentu saja, sepanjang perjalanan itu, Robodoi sama sekali tak menghentikan upaya untuk menaklukkan kapal-kapal lain di lautan.

Robodoi memandang Lalaba. Teman akrabnya tetap duduk di sampingnya. Lalaba adalah orang yang paling berhati-hati di antara semua pengikutnya. Dia terlalu banyak berpikir, hingga kadang terlihat seperti penakut. Saat kawan-kawan yang lain penuh semangat untuk mengangkat senjata, ia selalu berucap berbeda dari lainnya.

Pernah suatu kali, Lalaba berkata dengan suaranya yang terdengar lembut seperti suara perempuan, “Sekarang kita semua harus memahami. Kini, semua sudah berubah. Apa kalian tak menyadari kalau kita sudah terlalu besar? Penduduk mulai menjauhi kita. Kita tak lagi bisa membaur bersama mereka.”

“Kita akan hidup dimana pun tempatnya, Lalaba!” Yoppi memotong cepat.

“Dengar,” ujar Lalaba lagi. “Kita sudah berkali-kali mengacaukan kapal-kapal orang-orang berkulit pucat itu. Mereka memang nampaknya tak terlalu menanggapi tindakan kita. Tapi aku yakin mereka pastilah sedang melakukan sesuatu yang besar untuk membalas itu semua. Sudah kudengar kapal-kapal mereka mulai berdatangan menuju perairan ini.”

Pilatu dan Yoppi tertawa berbarengan.

“Bukankah mereka selalu datang?” ujar Pilatu. “Dan bukankah kita pun selalu bisa menghancurkan mereka?”

Lalaba terdiam, ia mengalihkan padangannya pada Robodoi seperti meminta dukungan.

Tapi Robodoi rupanya lebih setuju dengan pendapat Pilatu dan Yoppi. Sudah berkali-kali mereka mengalahkan orang-orang bermuka pucat itu. Beberapa kapal yang kini digunakan bahkan merupakan kapal yang direbut dari mereka.

Robodoi memang tak pernah takut dengan kapal-kapal milik orang-orang berkulit pucat itu. Walau kapal mereka besar dan diisi dengan banyak meriam di sisi-sisinya, gerakannya sangat lambat. Hanya dengan satu kali perintah penyerangan saja, Robodoi bisa menaklukkan kapal-kapal mereka.

Tapi dugaan Lalaba ternyata tak keliru. Kedatangan kapal-kapal orang berkulit pucat itu kali ini bukan seperti sebelumnya. Ada beberapa kapal yang datang sekaligus dengan bendera Angkatan Laut Kerajaan Belanda. Dan kapal-kapal itu ternyata dapat bergerak dengan lebih cepat.

Hanya dengan satu penyergapan saja, mereka berhasil menghancurkan duabelas perahu milik Robodoi. Tak terhitung lagi banyaknya anak buah Robodoi yang tewas dalam pertempuran itu.

Kemarahan Robodoi memuncak.  Ini adalah kekalahan paling memalukan.

Robodoi kemudian memerintahkan untuk membeli beberapa perahu lagi. Ia kembali menyusun serangan balasan. Saat seorang pengikut melaporkan sebuah kapal berbendera Angkatan Laut Kerajaan Belanda nampak terpisah di daerah Raja Ampat, Robodoi tak menyia-nyiakan kesempatan ini.

Malam itu juga, di bawah perintahnya secara langsung, Robodoi segera memerintahkan menyerang kapal itu. Yoppi dan Pilatu memimpin perahu-perahu lainnya untuk menyebar membentuk setengah lingkaran. Sedang perahu Robodoi dan Lalaba mengarah lurus ke depan.

Anehnya, kapal Belanda di depan nampak tak berupaya melarikan diri. Padahal jelas keadaanya telah terkepung. Mereka bahkan nampak tak terlalu kebingungan. Saat Robodoi mulai mengangkat tangannya sambil berteriak,“Sera-a-a-ngg!” ratusan panah lepas memenuhi langit. Hanya satu-dua kali saja terdengar dentuman  meriam sebagai balasannya. Robodoi langsung menebak, kalau tak banyak orang dalam kapal itu. Hanya beberapa saat saja, Robodoi sudah menaklukkan kapal itu. Namun saat mereka akan menaiki kapal untuk mengangkat meriam-meriam dan mesiu-mesiu dari kapal itu, tiba-tiba saja muncul kapal-kapal Belanda lainnya, yang entah datang dari mana, sudah mengepung mereka dalam sebuah lingkaran besar.

“Perangka-a-a-p!” Pilatu berteriak lantang. Mereka segera mencoba kembali ke perahu masing-masing. Tanpa menunggu perintah mereka mencoba menyebar ke segala arah, membuat musuh kebingungan memilih sasaran.

Namun meriam kapal-kapal Belanda itu dengan mudah menghancurkan beberapa perahu terdekat.

Malam tiba-tiba saja menjadi sangat mengerikan. Dalam pelariannya, Robodoi masih bisa melihat beberapa mayat pengikutnya yang hancur mengambang di lautan yang mulai memerah karena darah.

***

Robodoi terdiam dikesendiriannya di tepi pantai. Dibiarkannya angin berhempus pelan pada keriput di wajahnya.

“Semua sudah usai,” ucapan Lalaba terdengar pelan seperti menelisip di telinganya.

Lalu lanjutnya, “Semuanya sudah menyerah. Kita tak lagi bisa melakukan perlawanan. Pelarian ini sudah begitu melelahkan.”

Robodoi tak menyahut. Lalaba ada di sebelahnya, tapi suaranya terasa begitu jauh. Ini karena ia sudah merasa sangat lelah. Ia tak lagi ingat sudah berapa tahun melarikan diri. Orang-orang berkulit pucat itu seperti tak pernah merasa lelah memburunya. Padahal sudah beberapa tahun ini, ia tak lagi membajak seperti dulu.

Robodoi memejamkan mata. Akhirnya, semua yang diucapkan Lalaba memang benar adanya. Sedikit ia menyesal, kenapa beberapa tahun lalu tak menanggapi ucapannya saat ia meminta dukungannya.

Kini, Robodoi hanya bisa menarik napas panjang. Sepertinya ia memang tak punya pilihan lain. Semua sudah berubah. Laut memang masih menjadi sahabatnya yang terbaik, tapi ketuaan ini tak lagi bisa ditolaknya.

***

Maka akhirnya, dengan ditemani oleh Lalaba, Robodoi memutuskan pergi menuju Tobungku, salah satu daerah di Kesultanan Ternate. Waktu itu tahun 1852, beberapa anak buahnya masih mengawal dirinya, walau ia sudah berkali-kali menyuruh mereka pergi. Ia tahu, mereka sebenarnya sudah begitu lelah, namun mereka masih mencoba tetap setia padanya.

Namun saat tiba di Tobungku, orang-orang Kesultanan Ternate mengirimkan empatbelas buah kora-kora, perahu perang khusus Namun anehnya, di tengah perjalanan mereka memisahkan Robodoi dari semuanya. Mereka bahkan kemudian menutup mata Robodoi dengan kain hitam dan mengikat erat kedua tangannya ke belakang badannya.

Robodoi mulai merasa tak enak. Namun tak ada lagi yang bisa dilakukannya. Tanpa banyak bicara, orang-orang Kesultanan Ternate itu menggiringnya. Ia rasakan bila mereka membawanya ke atas sebuah kapal yang besar.

Lalu setelah beberapa lama tak terjadi apa-apa, seseorang akhirnya membuka kain penutup mata Robodoi dengan kasar.

“Jadi ini orang yang menyusahkan kita selama ini?” seorang berkulit pucat menatapnya dengan seringai yang tak hilang-hilang dari bibirnya.

Robodoi memandang ke sekelilingnya. Hanya ada beberapa laki-laki berkulit pucat dengan seragam biru putih yang tengah tersenyum mengejek padanya. Beberapa dari mereka bahkan menyorongkan senapan ke arah kepalanya. Ia kemudian sadar kalau Kesultanan Ternate ternyata bersekongkol dengan orang-orang Belanda untuk menangkapnya. Ini membuat amarahnya meluap. Kepalan tangannya mengencang. Walau ia tahu ada hubungan Ternate dengan Belanda, namun ia benar-benar tak pernah berpikir mereka menyerahkan dirinya pada Belanda.

“Kau tahu kenapa kami membawamu ke sini?” Lelaki pucat yang nampaknya pemimpin di kapal ini kembali menyeringai padanya. “Karena kau hanya pantas mati di lautan!” Sambil mengucapkan kalimat itu, ia mengangkat senapan pendeknya dan menembakkannya di paha Robodoi.

Seketika saja tubuh Robodoi terjengkang dari sisi kapal, dan jatuh ke dalam lautan, diiringi tawa dari atas kapal.

Sejenak, tubuh Robodoi tenggelam. Rasa perih dari titik di mana peluru bersarang di pahanya dengan mudah menyebar ke seluruh tubuhnya. Air di sekelilingnya mulai memerah.

Ombak kembali menghempaskannya berulang-kali. Seketika air laut menyapu wajahnya, Robodoi menarik nafas dan menyerahkan tubuhnya pada ayunan ombak. Dalam keadaan seperti ini, kilasan-kilasan  masa lalunya seakan hadir dengan cepat. Bagaimana saat pertama kalinya ia mengayun rakit dengan tangannya menuju lautan, lalu petualangannya yang menyenangkan saat menyelam di antara ikan-ikan yang indah dan gua-gua yang gaib. Juga teringat peperangan-peperangan yang dilakoninya hampir sepanjang hidupnya. Robodoi yakin, lautan adalah sahabat terbaiknya sejak lama. Bila hari ini laut ingin menelannya, ia akan membiarkannya dengan ikhlas. Maka ketika sekali lagi ombak menerpanya dan menghantam tubuhnya kembali ke dalam lautan, Robodoi memejamkan matanya. Ia yakin, laut tak akan mencelakakannya.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robodoi, The Pirate from Tobelo

Despite his technical background, Oni Suryaman is driven by literature. In his spare time, he writes essays, book reviews, and fiction. He also worked as a part-time translator for Indonesian publisher Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia and Kanisius Publishing House. He has recently published a picture book titled I Belog, a retelling of a famous Balinese folklore, an adaptation of which was performed at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) Singapore 2017.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 Robodoi, The Pirate from Tobelo

 

Are these my last days?

Robodoi contemplated the words that filled his heart. Tonight, on the beach, he felt that’s where the signs were pointing. The sparkle of the stars in the sky was dimmer, the whisper of the wind seemed softer, and the air felt stuffy—all ominous signs to herald the final moment. He shivered as the evening breeze picked up and chilled his bones. He had never felt like this before. Though he liked to deny it, he knew—as did everyone else—that his life had been directed by the signs.

Robodoi had been born on a dark, starless night in 1785, in Tobelo, a region of North Halmahera, one of the larger Moluccan islands. The sky had been lit by only a crescent moon, and a chilly wind seemed to freeze all beings; the silence felt complete. “This is a bad night for the birth of a baby,” the villagers whispered. “The child is doomed to die young. But if it survives, it will be very strong.”

Papa Tatto—that is what Robodoi called his father—often repeated that saying, even years later. At first, Robodoi did not understand what it meant, but as he grew older, he started to appreciate the words. Especially tonight, shivering on the beach.

Lalaba, had been sitting some distance down the beach. Now, he sauntered towards Robodoi. Not wanting to disturb his leader, Lalaba remained silent and took in the features of the man he had accompanied for most of a lifetime. The wind whipped his aging body and played with Robodoi’s long hair. Lalaba felt he knew what Robodoi was thinking. Their recent isolation seemed to have killed off his strong spirit. It also could be because Yoppi, Pilatu, and their other comrades, were no longer with them.

When at last Lalaba gently touched Robodoi’s shoulder, Robodoi turned his head slowly. The moonlight lit the wrinkles in his face. Lalaba was as old as Robodoi, but his leader looked much older. “It is all over.” Lalaba’s voice was barely audible.

To Robodoi, the words seemed to come from afar, but they echoed endlessly in his ears.

***

It is all over….

This was something Robodoi had never imagined. Ever since he was a boy, his life had been pointed in one direction. Robodoi remembered how, when he was seven years old, Papa Tatto had taken him to the beach.

Papa Tatto seated Robodoi on a bamboo raft, then towed the raft by boat out to of the open sea. When they were out far enough, Papa Tatto released the raft.

The waves pounded and slapped Robodoi around. He nearly fell off the raft several times, but managed to hang on to the side, until a big wave rolled the raft and tossed him into the sea. Salt water filled his mouth and hurt his throat. It was the first time Robodoi had been scared of dying. The waves became more violent and pushed him into a vortex. He used his final bit of strength to swim toward the raft.

When Robodoi finally reached the beach, he was exhausted.

Papa Tatto only said gently, “You survived this time, not because you’re great. You were just lucky. You can never defeat the sea!”

Robodoi stared at Papa Tatto’s face as his father bent toward him.

“Therefore, befriend the sea.” Papa Tatto tapped Robodoi on his shoulder. “So she will never drown you.”

Papa Tatto’s counsel was wise, and Robodoi wanted to please him, so he tried to take his advice. He remembered what happened when Papa Tatto took him out on a boat for the first time. He was fourteen. He hadn’t thought much of it at that time, but when Papa Tatto handed him a spear, Robodoi realized this was not a regular outing.

Robodoi knew that Papa Tatto always had been Sultan Muhammad Amiruddin’s henchman. The Sultan of Tidore, who was also known as Sultan Nuku, had been fighting the VOC, a Dutch trading company, since the company arrived in the islands. Robodoi was excited when Papa Tatto asked him to join him on the boat along with several other young men. An Iranun slave ship was on its way to Sape, a region in Nusa Tenggara, with dozens of slaves on board.

At first, Papa Tatto ordered Robodoi and the other young men to wait. It seemed that he wanted to show Robodoi how he could destroy the slave ship and capture the slaves.

But the situation soon got out of control. Robodoi and the other mates became excited when war cries and flying arrows filled the sky. When a cannon shot was directed at their boat, he had no other option but to join the battle.

It was Robodoi’s first battle. His breath almost stopped as his boat gained speed. The yelling from the other young men beat the sound of the waves. They sounded like vultures that found carrion. At the same time, arrows whizzed through the deafening artillery fire. It didn’t take long before men from Papa Tatto’s fleet succeeded in boarding the much taller enemy ship. Soon, the air filled with death cries, followed by yells of victory.

It was a decisive day. The spear Robodoi had used to hunt game and fish had now been aimed at humans. Blood that had so recently flowed now dried and blackened on the blade and he realized his weapon had been designed to kill.

The feeling of victory was addictive. The Dutch continued to pressure Sultan Nuku and, after Papa Tatto was killed in one of the battles, Robodoi decided to join the survivors, the men who used to follow his father. They moved from place to place and tried to mingle with the locals of coastal villages before finally moving to Raja Ampat, a small cluster of islands in northeastern Maluku.

But the sea always called to Robodoi. Ever since Papa Tatto had introduced him to the sea, Robodoi quietly regarded it as his best friend. He regularly got on his boat just to listen to the winds and the waves and spent time diving to the bottom of the sea, to look at the fish and explore previously uncharted caves. He began to make offerings to the sea in the form of a freshly slaughtered cow head or water buffalo. Robodoi felt he and the sea had a bond no one could understand.

Robodoi could never really leave the sea. Perhaps he could stay away from her for a few months while hiding from his enemies—the Dutch ships, in particular. But just like someone pining for a lover, he missed her the moment he pushed his boat onto the beach. He missed paddling across the waves. Seawater splashing on his face never failed to revive his spirit. And he missed calling out to the sky, a cry that was quickly taken up by his men. Thus was his life, and no one could keep him from it, not even himself.

At times, Robodoi and some of his mates silently took the boat they kept hidden in the mangrove forest to sea.

That was how Robodoi and his men survived. Initially, no one from the village knew they were pirating. But everything changed when Robodoi discovered a treasure chest filled with gold and jewelry among the loot.

Using the gold, Robodoi managed to buy twelve completely outfitted boats. He bought several cannons and asked some vagrants to join him.

Within a short time, Robodoi had attacked several Gujarati and Chinese merchant vessels. He also dared to destroy a few Dutch patrol ships. His name was feared by the traders, but soon there was a battle that spread his fame even further.

Standing on his boat the day of the battle, Robodoi looked at ten big ships in front of him. They were Dutch ships that had just arrived in these waters. They did not seem to be bothered by the large number of his boats. Only after he ordered an attack, and hundreds of flying arrows were cutting through the sky, did the crew on the Dutch ship become agitated. They loaded their cannons and the crew readied to return fire.

Alas, they were too late. Yoppi and Pilatu, who led the boats at the rear of the ship, had begun to attack. It did not take long before Robodoi could see the floating dead bodies of his enemies as well as his men everywhere.

The battle made him famous. People came to see him and asked to join him. It was no surprise that only one month after the bloody battle, he had more than 400 men under his command. Men, who, he believed, were ready to die for him.

After that, he no longer only targeted the small ships. No ship could deter him. He defeated Gujarati and Chinese ships, he also conquered Dutch ships equipped with many cannons. Doing battle became a daily routine for Robodoi and his men.

Robodoi was, of course, not always that lucky.

Once he was caught by the navy of the Ternate Sultanate. Worried about his reputation as a pirate, the Sultanate dispatched a special convoy to capture him.

Luckily, Pilatu, Yoppi, and Lalaba successfully ambushed the ship that was bringing him to shore. A battle was inevitable. Several cannons exchanged fire. But because he had more ships, the sultanate’s convoy chose to surrender in the end.

Though he had managed to flee, Robodoi was certain that the Ternate Sultanate would make another plan to apprehend and destroy him. So he decided to lie low for a while. To position himself as far as possible from the Sultanate’s reach, he took all of his followers to the east coast of Sulawesi. Of course, he continued to pirate while at sea.

Lalaba did not agree with this decision. Robodoi knew that his friend was cautious and at times appeared like a coward. While the other men were eager to raise arms, Lalaba disagreed with them. “Everything has changed,” Lalaba told him gently. “Don’t you realize that we have become too big? The villagers are avoiding us. We can no longer mingle with them.”

“We can live wherever we want, Lalaba!” Yoppi interrupted him.

“Listen,” Lalaba said, “We have wreaked havoc on those white men’s ships. While they did not respond to our act, I’m sure they’re planning to retaliate. I heard that their ships are headed for these waters.”

Pilatu and Yoppi laughed.

“Don’t they always come?” Pilatu said. “And don’t we always succeed in destroying them?”

Lalaba looked silently at Robodoi, as if asking for support.

But Robodoi tended to agree with Pilatu and Yoppi. They had defeated the white men several times. They now sailed ships he had seized from them.

Robodoi had never really feared the white men’s ships. Even though those ships were large and armed with many cannons, they moved slowly. Robodoi had been able to defeat them with a single attack.

However, Lalaba was not entirely wrong. The new ships ships sailing under the Royal Dutch Navy’s flag were unlike those they had seen before. These ships moved much faster. With just one attack, they had destroyed twelve of Robodoi’s boats. Numerous men died in that battle.

Robodoi was enraged. This was his most humiliating defeat. He ordered the purchase of several more boats and planned a counter attack. When one of his followers reported a single ship flying the Royal Dutch Navy’s flag alone in the Raja Ampat waters, Robodoi saw his opportunity.

That night, Robodoi ordered an attack on the Dutch ship. Yoppi and Pilatu lead the other boats to form a half circle around the ship while Robodoi and Lalaba attacked it directly from the front.

Strangely, the Dutch ship neither panicked nor tried to escape. While it was obvious she was surrounded, no one seemed to be bothered. When Robodoi raised his hand and yelled, “Att-taa-aa-ack!” hundreds of arrows swished into the air. Their attack was met with a few canon shots. Robodoi assumed that there were not enough men on board to put up a fight. But when they boarded the ship to steal its cannons and gun powder, other Dutch ships appeared out of nowhere and encircled them.

“It’s a trap!” Pilatu shouted. He and his men hurried back to their own boat. Without waiting for further orders they dispersed in all directions, trying to confuse their enemies. The Dutch cannons easily destroyed several boats that came too close.

It was a horrible night. During his escape, Robodoi saw many of his men’s bodies floating in a sea red with blood.

***

On the beach, Robodoi sunk silently into his loneliness. The wind caressed his wrinkled face.

“It is all over,” Lalaba’s whispers slipped into his ears. “All the others have surrendered. We can no longer continue the fight; this running has become tiresome.”

Robodoi did not answer. Lalaba was sitting next to him, but his voice seemed to come from afar. He could not remember how long he had been on the run. He too was very tired. Despite the fact he had stopped pirating, it seemed the white men never gave up hunting him.

Everything Lalaba had predicted had come to fruition. Robodoi closed his eyes. He regretted having ignored Lalaba’s advice.

Now, Robodoi could only draw a deep breath. It seemed he didn’t have another option. Everything had changed. The sea was still his best friend, but he could not escape old age.

***

Finally, Robodoi decided to go to Tobungku, a region within the Ternate Sultanate. Lalaba accompanied him. It was 1852. Several of his followers escorted him, even though he had told them repeatedly to leave. He knew that, while weary, they still wanted to prove their loyalty.

When he arrived at Tobungku, the Ternate Sultanate sent fourteen kora-koras, Moluccan war boats. Robodoi was separated from the others. He was blindfolded with a black cloth and his hands were tied securely behind his back.

Robodoi knew something was wrong, but there was nothing he could do. Without saying a word, the guards from the Sultanate guided him. He could tell that they were boarding a big ship.

For a long time, nothing happened. Finally, someone ripped off the blindfold.

“So, this is the man who has caused us trouble all this time?” a white man stared at him, grimacing.

Robodoi looked around him. Several white men dressed in white-and-blue uniforms snickered. Some of them pointed a gun at his head. He realized that the Ternate Sultanate had conspired with the Dutch to catch him. Furious, he balled his fists. Even though he knew the Sultanate of Ternate and the Dutch were in cahoots, he never suspected the Sultanate would deliver him to his enemies.

“Do you know why we brought you here?” the white man who seemed to be the captain sneered. He pulled his revolver out of the holster and shot Robodoi in the thigh. “You’re only fit to die at sea,” he said.

Robodoi staggered and lost his grip on the railing. As he fell overboard, he heard laughter coming from the deck.

For a while, Robodoi felt himself sink. The pain from the wound in his thigh spread quickly to all parts of his body. The water around him started to redden.

The waves washed over him several times. When the sea water slipped off his face, Robodoi tried to breathe and surrendered himself to the waves. He recalled the first time he paddled a raft out to sea, using only his hands, and his adventures when diving among the fish and exploring magical caves. He remembered the battles he had fought during his lifetime. Robodoi was certain that the sea had been his best friend all of his life. If, today, the sea wanted to consume him, he would surrender willingly. When the waves once again folded him into a roll and slipped him back beneath the watersurface, Robodoi closed his eyes.

He was certain the sea would not harm him.

***

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