In the reign of Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa, the making of agricultural projects across the banks of the river was conducted. Each river bank was planted with coconut trees. The irrigation canals for the rice fields from the river were made. They were also made to turn water toward Tirtayasa which was just built as a special area of pepper substitute agriculture. In the book of Sejarah dan Peradaban (Abad X-XVII), it is also explained that the Government of Banten recruited so many people in the development of its rural areas under the reign of Sultan Ageng, not only to overcome the problem of providing food materials which will be discussed further here. One of the reasons which determined the implementation of these big projects was clearly about national security and defense to face the Dutch army in Batavia who had almost continuously become their main enemy from 1619 until 1659. At that time, the Dutch colonial government in Batavia (Jakarta) so worried about the massive development of the rivers that facilitated the transport of agricultural produce from the rural areas of Banten.
For the Dutch, the ‘irrigation’ project was very possible to transport people. Their prediction was it was very likely that this project would later be functioned to transport the troops which would threaten the power of the colonial government in Batavia. The production of the irrigation from the rivers in Banten for agriculture was accompanied by the placement of residents who managed the agricultural land.
“Their concern was certainly reasonable. It was no coincidence that they moved about twenty thousand people first, which meant almost as many as the population of Batavia at that time. It took place immediately after the signing of the peace agreement that was agreed half-heartedly by the Banten people who felt forced to accept the dictates of particular trades by Batavia: a ban on trading in Maluku, for example, and in a region that was actually located on the border between the two countries. At that time, the Sultanate of Banten continued to consider Batavia as the main and the most dangerous enemy.” That was one quotation I got from Claude Guillot’s book, entitled Banten: Sejarah dan Peradaban Abad X-XVII (Banten: History and Civilization in 10th-17th Century) (published by Kelompok Penerbit Gramedia and Ecole francaise d ‘Extreme-Orient, 2008).
The deep hatred against the colonial government grew quickly and from generation to generation in Banten society. River enabled a faster trip from one city to another. Claude Guillot’s text says that there was no clear evidence of a desire of the Sultanate of Banten to make the river area as a military district track. However, the traces of that big project could still be found now. It could be seen on Google Earth, the river path looks slicing the land from Tangerang, Lebak, Pandeglang, Serang to Cilegon. I am amazed by the vastness of the paddy fields in Pontang and Tirtayasa area. The blocks of settlement along the riverbank from Lebak to Tirtayasa became the silent witnesses of the past glory.
***In the 1990s, the residents of neighboring village, Babakan Seeng, which was also dominated by traders, went down to the river every morning to cross into Kebon Kopi, now the market area, where residents commuted to Pasar Pagi. At first they only used Ciujung River for the purpose of taking a bath-washing-going to the toilet with getek (raft) which lined up along the river bank. Besides, getek also became an effective and efficient means of crossing transport. For the citizens, traveling with getek could save time when going to the market. If they walked they had to take turn through the Two Bridges. Now the villagers still maintain the traditional crossing by the bamboo raft from one village to another. I still find this traditional crossing at the border of Lebak Pasar Village and Kebon Kopi although there are only a few rafts remain. Meanwhile in Kebon Kelapa Village, Muara Village, Jeruk Village, Lebak Picung Village, Lebak Sambel Village and some other areas on the bank of the river, there is no longer getek traditional transportation to be found.
According to Enjat, an eretan driver, the peak of the crossing season of the residents was around the 1970s. But some reading and assesment results provide another explanation. In the reign of colonial government, this area was just a coconut plantation. At first glance, it did not seem clear how the citizens built settlements on the bank of the Ciujung River in the beginning. I went to the lowest level of government institution (administrative village) to seek further information. The institution said that year after year, the river bank had been filled with new settlements from outside Lebak. The more people lived there, the more people wanted to cross the river by eretan.
Lebak Pasar Village is one of the populous residential areas in Rangkasbitung. Before it was named Lebak Pasar Village, this area had formerly been known as Pacinan Village. It was located next to the Two Bridges, in the area of the riverbank of the Ciujung River. The previous village area had been the first market in Rangkasbitung. The houses in Lebak Pasar were called by people as the ‘half body’ buildings because it looked half-finished. The Rangkas people called them the Javanese type of houses. They were called Javanese houses because their floors were made of cement with the foundations built above the ground. Generally, at that time, the houses in Rangkasbitung were still stage houses. The walls were made of bamboo which was coated with whitewash. They were like patterned wall at first glance. Meanwhile the poor citizens usually let the soil as the floors in their houses. The sight of that type of house usually became a joke for my friends who came from Cilegon and Serang when I was at school. “Why is the wall of a luxurious home the same as kitchen’s wall?” they mocked although this type of house had once been an idol of citizens of Rangkasbitung in 1950s. When the big holidays arrived, the residents were busy repairing the walls with whitewash. At that time, there had been no paint yet. The Javanese houses now are very hard to be found in Rangkasbitung, especially in Lebak Pasar.
According to Mr. Iyang, an elder in Lebak Pasar Village, in the 1940s most of the residents of Pacinan Village were immigrants. They came from East Serang, worked as water porters of Ciujung River. They supplied clean water for all the residents of the village. Usually the clean water was carried on their shoulders using drums. At that time, there had not been a water pump or government-owned Clean Water Operator yet. There was only one well that belonged to a woman who worked for the government. It was located beside the bridge. All the people at the market had to queue to take clean water. In the past, the water in Ciujung River was clear, but when the flood came, the color of the water changed into the turbid water. Rangkasbitung itself had once experienced a dry season for nine months. The residents of Pacinan Village finally put a drum in the middle of the river to filter water.
Lebak Pasar area, in the past, was a sector 1 area (the area which was under the military control during the turmoil of PKI), in the transitional period of the Old Order to the New Order. The military’s mission was to catch the thieves, jawara (one who excels in martial arts) and gangs who created chaos in the center of the market. Usually, they disguised themselves as residents to investigate people who were chatting, discussing about the badness of the government. People said, the supply of rice in Rangkasbitung was often seized by the partisans of PKI (Indonesian Communist Party). The crisis in the center of the city made President Soeharto place soldiers in Pacinan Village. In each house there should be, at least, four lieutenants. Baba Cikong’s shop workers in Pacinan were asked to work at Major Abdulrahman’s place to become government informants, because, Major Abdulrahman was the one who controlled the informants all throughout the Lebak Regency. The life of the market laborers was like the chicks that did not have a mother hen and could only wander around.
Mr. Iyang also explained that near the bank of the river there had once been the house of the late KH. Abdullah who had been a religious leader in Rangkasbitung. His parents had used to work at the Railroad Company. During his life, he had liked to preach about the resistance against the colonials.
“There! The one sitting, that’s his son, Mr. Juhro, head of the RT,” said Mr. Iyang.
Kampung Lebak Pasar hanya memiliki dua Rukun Tetangga (RT). Satu RT bisa dihuni sampai 20-30 kepala keluarga. Sekarang, Pak Juhro sudah sepuh. Umurnya sudah 80 tahun lebih. Sudah sakit-sakitan dan kalau bicara suka tidak nyambung. Jadi, kalau mau jelas cerita kampung ini, ya, harus menemui beliau. Saya agak sungkan menemuinya. Padahal, saya membutuhkan keterangan tambahan untuk pembahasan tentang jalur-jalur penyeberangan di Sungai Ciujung.
Lebak Pasar Village only had two Neighborhood Units (RT). One RT could be inhabited up to 20-30 households. Now, Mr. Juhro was old. He was already 80 years old. He had already been ill and liked to rave. So, if I wanted to get a clear story of this village, well, I had to meet him. I was a bit shy to see him even though I needed additional information for a discussion about crossing tracks in Ciujung River.
In 1950, the position of the Old Market was adjacent to the public transport terminal which had routes to several districts in Lebak. Meanwhile, under the market there were rafts for the crossing, merging with the bamboo market. Under the market (riverbank), every Wednesday night there was always a bamboo market. The bamboo sellers came from Mount Kencana, Sajira and Cimarga and other villages in the upstream.
“My grandfather told me that Lebak Pasar was a market and the place to begin the spread of Islam in Rangkasbitung brought by Syaikh Muhammad Nawai al-Jawi al-Bantani and his student, Haji Abdul Karim of Tanara,” said Mr. Iyang, telling his testimony. “The kyai (Islamic clerics) of Tanahara, Serang, wandered into Lebak Pasar Village, spreading Islam. They used boats along the river and some were on the ground. Beside the tamarind tree trunk near the bridge, there is no trace of bamboo market anymore.”
Now, all I can see only the sight of tampian (public baths where people wash and bathe on the river bank). The history witnesses who knew about the spread of Islam from Tanahara have already gone. In the past this area was a getek (tampian and crossing) area. These getek could move up to Serang, from Pamarayan to Keragilan. From there, there was a branch of the river that ran to several regions around Banten. Besides the estuary near the sea in Tirtayasa area, there was also an entryway to the old Banten area and it led to Karangantu. If you continued to follow the river, you would arrive at Old Serang’s Kawedanaan. If you wanted to choose another river route, you could enter through the irrigation river flow in Cisangut area. This opinion still needs to be confirmed by the data because it is very difficult to search for the supporting text about the spread of Islam in Lebak Pasar Village without underestimating the oral history testimonies from the residents. Lebak Pasar area is now inhabited by Muslims and Chinese people. The activity each day is trading at the market. This village used to have a big Kyai who came from Tanahara, named KH. Rais, a Nahdlatul Ulama figure who was respected by the residents of Pacinan.
The public transportation terminals of Leuwidamar, Sajira, Warung Gunung, Mount Kencana and some other areas merged with Pacinan Village. Now, the terminals do not exist anymore and this area becomes Lebak Pasar Village. At that time, the market was still located next to the Two Bridges. In the past, the bridge was just one, so pedestrians and the sado (traditional horse-drawn buggy) drivers had to queue waiting for the train to cross the bridge before they could cross it. When the war with Japan was over and the second Dutch aggression came, the bridge connecting Lebak Pasar to Lebak Sambel was rebuilt. The bridge construction was never completed because the contractors kept running away and did not finish their job until finally there were people who were willing to complete the bridge construction project.
“As far as I know, he was Raden Pito, one of the noble families in Rangkasbitung,” said Mr. Iyang. “His house was located at the intersection of Surapati 2 Street (now Sunan Kali Jaga Street) and Multatuli. He was known as the owner of the walled-shop buildings in Pacinan Village or Chinese Village.”
Eretan connected two villages, Babakan Seeng and Lebak Pasar Village. The conflict among residents about eretan and the operational track occured because there were too many eretan drivers, while the passengers only came from two villages. Like it or not, there was always a row. In 1990, there was a riot which expanded into a clash between villages, so that finally an agreement between the two villages was made. The agreement was about the rules of queuing. Usually, the old eretan drivers stood away from the riot. The trigger of the clash was not far from the issue of Kebon Kopi Village’s residents who transported passengers dominantly. I traced those groups of eretan driver in both villages that still existed, which had experienced the clash. The people of the group that had often avoided the riot were still the eretan drivers until now. Meanwhile, almost all of the ones who had been dominant had already shifted their job as ojek drivers. One of them was a resident of Lebak Pasar Village, Oga, who now had a little family in Kebon Kelapa Village. He worked as an ojek driver every day. It was only once in a while that he took people across the river by his old eretan. That would happen when there were no people who wanted to take ojek. When I asked him about the story of his past, he did not want to answer because he thought it was an embarrassing story. I finally asked the people of eretan group who had liked to give in to people from Babakan Seeng Village and who were still eretan drivers until now. From them, I got the story about why a few years ago in this eretan area the riot often happened. Buyan, who was nearly 60 years old and had two children, told me that besides being an eretan driver, he worked in a tofu factory. Furiously, he told me the reason why there had often been a riot in this area.
“Even now, if I wanted to accept the invitation to fight, well, there must have been a fight! Kebon Kopi’s people usually took the passengers across after they had just taken some passengers across the river,” he said. “You know, they just took passengers across and they immediately wanted to do it again! I felt sorry for the ones who had still not gotten a passenger yet. Usually, after taking the first passenger across the river, we had to wait in the opposite direction to carry another passenger back. There were first and second times. That alone could cause a riot. Usually I often stepped in to reconcile the both sides. ‘Well, just put it this way! If you always fight every day, now the getek drivers are only a few, it’s different with the past in which there were many.’ Sometimes, the double passenger became a problem, even though I took the passenger across and back because usually the passenger would pay after he got back. But, across the river another driver took him back and he paid that driver instead, while I got no money. When I asked for my part, they were often angry. Usually, Samsu was the one with the ill-tempered character. This commotion could culminate into a duel on the riverbank. That was a fight over a little money. If you wanted to fight, you could go to Jakarta! If you won, you could be famous. They fought in their own village instead.”