Saturday, July 1, 2017

Foho Matebian: My Favorite Stories

Josh Trindade 

These are my childhood stories about Mount Matebian in Timor-Leste during the time of Indonesia invasion. The events happened around late 1979. I must have been aged 4 or 5. I still remember vividly walking up Matebian through Buibela-Lena (from the Uatolari side). The mountain itself is the second highest in the island and a heaven's gate to the local population.  

First favourite,
We were bombed 24/7 from all possible sides by the Indonesian Army. From land surroundings, the two coasts and from the sky. Luckily they could not bomb us from beneath J J JJ.

Second favourite,
In addition to during the day, we were bombed by two types of planes, each for six hours. We found one of the planes poses less threat because you can predict the plane’s whereabouts by locating the sound. It sounds different when they are above you or on the left or on the right. We called this one Abeaun Matamanukai (coffin-carrier plane) in Naueti. The name is given, I think, because the shape of the plane resembled the local-traditional coffin-carrier. But the dangerous one was the one we called ‘SOSO’. The name is derived from a simplified version of the sound ‘shshshshshshshshs’ (*put your teeth together and try to say ‘sh’ out from your mouth). You got it. The ‘shshshshshshshshs’ or SOSO is how we mimic the sound of a supersonic war-plane. This means that the plane is faster than the sound. So, when the sound disappeared, it means the SOSO is above you, but you don’t know where, and within seconds, bombs will be dropped. And then you hear “broooom broooom….” Bombs dropped and you are like, “oh my god, let it not be me nor my family”. Then you hear the SOSO sound flying away, but within about two minutes max the sound disappear again and everyone hold their head, “please not me … please my ancestors protect me … please god protect me”. And then, “broooom broooom….” Bombs dropped. You are like, “oh my god is not me, thank you ancestor, ….”. This repeated every day for about three weeks, maybe? I am still wondering until today which ruthless heartless country(ies) made those terrifying planes.

Third favourite,
Water was worth more than gold. From where we lived it took 24 hours to go to Waibuita’i, the only water source that still not occupied by “the enemy” at that time. And to get to Waibuita’i you will have to go through constant bombs that shot at you from any direction, and if it was during the day, you will be terrified by SOSO and Matamanukai, the two planes. And from my brother who came back in one piece several times, he told me that there in Waibuta’i there is many people died in the water and around the water. They got hit by ‘enemy’ bombs. Some of their blood and fat mixed with the water. You can see it. But we had no option. We have to take it and drink it.

Fourth favourite,
When an old man who hid above our cave, went to 'toilet' and dropped ‘his thing’ (s**t) near my grandfather’s utubi (a dry fried corn powder as emergency ration which, when you eat makes you thirsty to death and not in the best place to find water). So here my grandfather found that ‘blackish-chocolate’ near his utubi which considered a major disrespect-offense in our legal standards. As a result from the final decision, after long hours of conflict mediation process, my grandfather received a goat as payment for the victim of the old man as the violator. We then had nice meal the next night with goat meat on the menu.

Fifth favourite,
Picking lice on my grandfather’s loin-cloth.

Sixth favourite,
One of my extended-grandmother was blown into pieces by a bomb. A direct hit I think. My family had to gather the flesh and bones scattered on the ground in order to bury her.

Seventh favourite,
A bomb exploded near my mother, taking many lives around and she walked away cleaning the dust off herself.

Eighth favourite,
Oh yah, that small cup (I am not talking about glass) of water I received that late morning from my dear cousin.

Ninth favourite,
When we left the mountain in the end, some families had to leave behind their elderly, who were not able walk themselves. They left them a little bag of utubi and a bottle of water. There was plan to leave behind my maternal grandmother, but then when my sister found out, she also refused to leave the mountain insisting to stay behind with grandma. In the end, my family had to leave them behind and picked them up a week later, after we brought down all our belongings. My grandmother passed away later after five years in 1985.

Tenth favourite, 
Heard entire family (several of them) were buried alive when the bomb hit the rock on top of their cave and covered the cave entrance.

Eleventh favourite,
Was sad to see my dearest cousin, Sikumau who fought for FALINTIL (Timorese Resistance Army) got shot by the Indonesian Army. He got hit in the eye and died instantly. This happen right at the base of Beremeta, the peak of mount Matebian.

Twelfth  favourite,
At 'Soru-iluwai' (gathering spit) you have to pick a rock, spit on it and throw it on to the existing pile of rocks. Failing to do this will bring misfortune. This pile of rocks or soru-iluwai is apparently one of the seven graves of the 'Matebian Mane Hitu' (seven brothers of mount Matebian) who according to the myth, were the original owners of the mountain. 


  1. Congratulations on your article
    Talk about the bombing events in Matebiam and remember our sufferings
    Remembering the past
    The past was so trite

  2. Talk about the bombing events in Matebiam and remember our sufferings
    Remembering the past
    The past was so sad