Tobelo is a town and also a district on the eastern Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n island of Halmahera
Halmahera is the largest island in the Maluku Islands. It is part of the North Maluku province of Indonesia.Halmahera has a land area of 17,780 km² and a population in 1995 of 162,728...

. It is the capital of the regency (kabupaten) of North Halmahera, part of the province of North Maluku
North Maluku
North Maluku is a province of northeastern Indonesia. It covers the northern part of the Maluku Islands, which are split between it and the province of Maluku. Maluku province used to cover the entire group...

. The city was formalised as the capital of North Halmahera in the district elections held in 2004. It is considered as the best town in the regency in view of its coconut palm studded surroundings "fronted by jigsaw of islands". It has a population of approximately 15,000.
A palm tree lined coastal road connects Tobelo to Galela
Galela is a small town on the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera. It is located in the North Halmahera Regency, part of the province of North Maluku. It is connected by a palm tree lined road to Tobelo in the south. Views of Mount Tarakan can be seen from the scenic coast...

. The town is predominantly Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 and a Protestant Church has existed in Tobelo since at least 1924.


Muslims and Christians had lived amicably in this town of North Halmahera from the 16th century. However, North Maluku
North Maluku
North Maluku is a province of northeastern Indonesia. It covers the northern part of the Maluku Islands, which are split between it and the province of Maluku. Maluku province used to cover the entire group...

 district was majority Muslim. The coastal road from Galela
Galela is a small town on the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera. It is located in the North Halmahera Regency, part of the province of North Maluku. It is connected by a palm tree lined road to Tobelo in the south. Views of Mount Tarakan can be seen from the scenic coast...

 to Tobelo passes through neighboring Muslim and Christian villages. Living peacefully, these two communities followed the local cultural tradition of the Hibua Lamo (a pact between Muslims and Christians to live together without aggressive designs on each other and cooperating on all matters of mutual interest).

However, violence in December 1999, which emanated from Tobelo as a result of initial killing of Christians in North Maluku by the Makian
Makian is a volcanic island, one of the Maluku Islands in Indonesia...

 community (Pastor
The word pastor usually refers to an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. When used as an ecclesiastical styling or title, this role may be abbreviated to "Pr." or often "Ps"....

’s murder and destruction of churches was the triggering factor) vitiated peace in the town and surrounding areas. Christians of Galela and Tobelo asserted their rights by attacking the Muslims in Tobelo as a counter to the alleged atrocities committed on them in Ambon City
Ambon City
Ambon is the main city and seaport of Ambon Island, and is the capital of Maluku province of Indonesia. It is one of the largest cities in eastern Indonesia....

. Unfortunately, there is little or no evidence that Muslim leaders had planned to attack Muslims in Tobelo. External factors are stated to be the reason for instigating the conflict. Initial reconciliation efforts at the sub district level worked for some time in preventing any clashes and assuage hurt feelings. The religious violence, which simmered in January 1999 in Ambon culminated in rioting in Tabelo by end of December 1999. This rioting was further triggered by the fleeing of several thousand Christians from Central Halmahera, and Tobelo had turned into a refugee camp
Refugee camp
A refugee camp is a temporary settlement built to receive refugees. Hundreds of thousands of people may live in any one single camp. Usually they are built and run by a government, the United Nations, or international organizations, or NGOs.Refugee camps are generally set up in an impromptu...

. Though the rioting has been quelled, the mistrust between the two communities prevails. Galela subdistrict with its own language is another place where remnants of strife (burnt out churches and mosques) between the religious groups are still seen with military checkposts established to prevent any further disturbances in the region. In the ultimate analysis, it is reported that the sectarian violence in 1999–2000 had resulted in 2000 Muslim deaths in Maluku and a population displacement of 200,000 Muslim people in the region. Tobelo was the worst affected as over 100,000 Muslim people were from Tobelo and villages to its south, who fled to the island of Ternate
Ternate is an island in the Maluku Islands of eastern Indonesia. It is located off the west coast of the larger island of Halmahera, the center of the powerful former Sultanate of Ternate....

 and Morotai
Morotai Island Regency is a regency of North Maluku province, Indonesia, located on Morotai Island. The population was 54,876 in 2007.-History:...

 during early 2000. Nearly 70% of them returned subsequently as the situation was controlled. However, as a result of violence in 1999–2000, the area is clearly demarcated into Muslim and Christian villages. Tobelo is now almost entirely Christian; while Muslims have fled to nearby villages. Remnants of devastation are still evident. There is a discerned process of peace building emerging between the two communities now.

Suanggi is a spirit related incident, which happened in Tobelo, as an epilogue to the sectarian conflict that took place in Tobelo in 1999–2000. The incident pertains to a supernatural event of the strange appearance of a female form of Dracula
Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor...

, correlated to a similar spirit form well known in Eastern Indonesia as Suanggi, a vengeful male ghost. However, in Tobelo, the spirit appeared in an unconventional female form and was called as o tokata, which is associated with a "malevolent spirit of the dead whose danger is associated with its incomplete transformation into an ancestor spirit".

In the conventional form of Suanggi, as known in Eastern Indonesia, the spirit tempts men and possesses them. Once possessed, the possessed man leads a normal life during the day, but during the night, after he goes to sleep, his head gets detached from his body, takes a spirit form and roams around the village or town in search of his victims against whom the ghost has enmity. The victim is attacked and his liver is eaten by the spirit. Following this, the spirit also possesses the person attacked. Usually, the local healers then act and try to drive away the spirit and the victim survives. If he is not attended immediately then the victim dies.

In the case of the spirit that appeared in Tobelo, in February 2004, and haunted people of the village for two months, it was an unconventional female form of Suanggi known locally as tokata, “a malevolent spirit of the dead.” The spirit appeared in the form of a beautiful woman and enticed young men, particularly teachers, and when they agreed to have sex with her then “she would attack him and consume his genitals.” It was interpreted as a “revenge of a ghost motivated by trauma.” This resulted in a fear psychosis among people not only in Tobelo but fear also spread throughout North Maluku. The town people, particularly children were forbidden to move out in the night. One interpretation mooted was that the spirit was that of the daughter of the Tobelo village leader. She was a Muslim girl, who had been raped and brutally murdered by a group of young men during the 1999–2000 riots in the town. For six months her whereabouts were untraced. Six months later a 'diviner' had seen in his dream the location of her body in a ravine. This was verified and her mortal remains were traced at that location and a formal burial was done. It was believed that the spirit of this girl had assumed a vengeful form of a ghost, appeared as a blood sucking vampire in Tobelo seeking retribution against her attackers. Strangely, the dracula form had appeared first near the Protestant Church in the town. However, 2004 was the election time in Indonesia and it was the first national election in Eastern Indonesia. A local Christian farmer had heard loud wailing cries of a woman near his plantation and interpreted it as probably that of the dracula spirit "as if she was crying into a megaphone" (as if from loud speakers used widely in Tobelo during the election propaganda). This was the location where large massacres (more than 800 people killed) had taken place in 1999–2000 riots between the Christians and the Muslims. Thus, this provided the needed link between the dracula spirit and the political climate of the time.


Inhabitants of Tobelo are non-Austronesian–speaking people. Tobelo's predominant Christian character is expressed colourfully at Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 with bamboo poles arching over the side of the roads hung with lights and multi-coloured flags. At Easter, local church congregations hold a competition to see who can create the best Easter garden. The Christians of Tobelo are traditionally said to live a peaceful co-existence with Muslims in surrounding villages, although violence broke out between the two religious groups in December 1999.
One festival of note is the annual North Halmahera Cultural Festival, when the Tobelorese wear full traditional ceremonial dress.

Traditional Tobelorese weddings are also said to be among the most colourful and the Christians follow traditions during their wedding ceremonies, with traditional music and dance. A wedding is typically accompanied by traditional Tobelorese music, played with gongs and drums and a Cakele dance is usually performed in front of the bride as she approaches the groom. Around the time of New Year
New Year
The New Year is the day that marks the time of the beginning of a new calendar year, and is the day on which the year count of the specific calendar used is incremented. For many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner....

, Tobelo attracts a number of Yangere groups from all over North Halmahera and perform music and dances.

The main language of Tobelo, the Tobelo language
Tobelo language
Tobelo is a West Papuan language spoken on the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera and on parts of several neighboring islands. The Tobelo-speaking heartland is in the district of Tobelo, located on the western shore of Kao Bay...

, is spoken across North Halmahera, by approximately 15,000 people.

Each year, in April, after the harvest season there is a practice of offering of plates of rice and certain items of basketry by the married women to the Church, duly observing conventional social norms. The offerings are then sold or auctioned during the Sunday services in the premises of the church. The returns from such sales go to the Church funds (kas gereja), which are used by the church for providing public services. It is more of ritual than an economic transaction.

The other ritual observed in Tobelo is on the first Sunday of January when prayers are offered in the Church for the dead. On this occasion, each family decorates the graves of its deceased with flowers. This is also an occasion when women dressed in military uniform hold a parade through the village and enter houses demanding food and sweets.

The rituals observed conform to both pre-Christian Tobelo customs and the post-Christian era culture conforming to the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

. However, marriages are conducted under the Tobelo customs, rituals and practices. The family units are patrilineal.


Tobelo boasts large swathes of locally owned coconut plantations, supplying hundreds of tonnes of copra (dried coconut flesh) every month to the ports of Bitung
Bitung is a city on the northern coast of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is in the province of North Sulawesi, and faces Lembeh Island and the Lembeh Strait, which is known for its colorful marine life, in particular sea slugs. Bitung has a population of more than 100,000....

 (North Sulawesi) and Surabaya
Surabaya is Indonesia's second-largest city with a population of over 2.7 million , and the capital of the province of East Java...

 (East Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

). The city, as the main centre for the North Halmahera has thus become the export hub for copra and other commodities.

Pulau Tulang is the nearest islet to the town, within swimming distance of the harbour. The Kupa-Kupa beach is located about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the town, near the oil terminal for the Pertamina
Pertamina is an Indonesian government-owned corporation which extracts and refines the country's oil and gas reserves. It was created in August 1968 by the merger of Pertamin and Permina...

 company. The beach is very clean and attracts tourists for snorkelling. Off the coast of Tobelo town is a group of small, coconut palm covered islands with golden sandy beaches. Longboats frequently travel from them to Tobelo town. Tobelo contains a hospital and a post office and is an important base and port on the island.

Post riots economic recovery
In the three provinces of North Maluku, Maluku, and Central Sulawesi, following the sectarian conflict in 1999 which centred on Tobelo, devastated the well-being and economy of the people. This needed urgent attention of the authorities concerned in the government through a development process. It was a challenging task to both national and regional governments. The UN Common County Assessment (UNCCA) and Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF)
United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF)
The United Nations Development Assistance Framework is a programme document between a government and the United Nations Country Team that describes the collective actions and strategies of the United Nations to the achievement of national development. The UNDAF includes outcomes, activities and UN...

 for 2002–2005 and UNDP’s Country Cooperation Framework decided to pitch in with assistance. They established a programme of linking relief and longer-term development as part of the UN’s support to Indonesia. The UNDP Crisis Prevention and Recovery Unit (CPRU), then launched three support programmes in North Maluku, Maluku and Central Sulawesi, which covered the Galea -Tobelo –South Tobelo Area. Three programmes were launched for the period 2002–2005 envisaging an investment of US $19 million with the objective of:

UNDP launched development project under the Galea – Tobelo – South Tobelo Area Recovery projects in 2002–2003, involved several projects for rural electrification, health facilities (capacity building), transportation, labour intensive projects of roads and drainage, social activities of cross community collaboration projects of culture and sports empowerment, construction of bridges, markets, improvement of drainage systems and bus terminals. Economy is picking up and there are clear signs of recovery. However, education facilities are still at the basic level. Tobelo and its neighbourhood are still considered a danger zone for foreigners.


Tabelo town has many attractions on the islands in its vicinity. One such island is the Tagalaya where sea is calm and the water is clear. The beaches are clean and have extensive spread of white sand. The major attraction here is the broad spread of coral reefs, which are rich in marine life at a depth of 2–10 m (6.6–32.8 ft). The locale is also good for swimming and diving.

Other attractions in Tabelo neighbourhood are the many beaches, lakes, off-shore islands, forested hills and a volcano. Some of the well-known places are:

Luari beach
Luari beach, the ethnic Galela
Galela is a small town on the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera. It is located in the North Halmahera Regency, part of the province of North Maluku. It is connected by a palm tree lined road to Tobelo in the south. Views of Mount Tarakan can be seen from the scenic coast...

rese village of Luari to the north of Tobelo, is on the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. It has clear and calm waters and is safe for swimming and canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

. Snorkelling is also done on the cape
Cape can be used to describe any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening around the neck. They were common in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and have had periodic...

 to the north, from where sunset views, over Mount Tarakani and the coast of Galela, are impressive.

Kupa Kupa Beach
Kupakupa beach, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the town, has huge banyan trees on its shores, which makes the waters in the sheltered location inside the bay ideal for watersports, such as swimming, canoeing and snorkelling. The coral reef at its northern end is stated to be one of the finest. Pertamina harbour for oil-vessels is also located here.

Kumo beach
Kumo beach on the Kumo island is the nearest to Tabelo town – a few minutes of motorised canoeing – is the busiest beach in North Halmahera. Its natural surroundings are scenic. Swimming is safe here.

Tobotobo sea garden
Tobotobo Sea Garden in the Toboto village, which is ideal for snorkelling and diving. Thousands of bats
A bat is a flying mammal in the Chiroptera order.Bats may also refer to:-Films:*Bats , starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Bob Gunton*Bats: Human Harvest -Groups:...

are seen here clinging to the mangrove trees. White and blue pigeons take bath here.

Telaga Paca lake
Telaga Paca is a small crater lake close to Tobelo town to the south – a few km off the main road. The lake is set in a backdrop of thickly forested hills. There is also a small village by the same name Talaga Paca near the lake, which has a lookout area erected over stilts in the water to view the lake. A canoe could be hired to paddle in the lake. It is the source of drinking water to the village. Villagers do fishing in the lake.

External links

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