The business of selfies

Quisque sibi Proximus

by: Willie Smits

Perhaps a strange title for my blog? Let’s find out, I never thought I would still use the Latin of my gymnasium days beyond the botanical work I have been doing. Quisque sibi Proximus means “everyone is nearest to himself” and I thought the present phenomena of selfies is the best substantiation of this around. But why the business of selfies? That has everything to do with Masarang’s head office location at the Amphitheatre. The theatre have one of North Sulawesi’s most spectacular views that thousands of visitors like to have in the background of their selfies. See beneath photo and the view behind me and Dudung, Masarang’s CEO.

Spectacular view Amphitheatre, selfie Willie and Dudung
Spectacular view Amphitheatre, selfie Willie and Dudung

Coming up tourism in Sulawesi

Since the opening up of direct flights between China and North Sulawesi (Manado airport) a lot and still increasing number of Chinese tourists have come to visit. Most just go to the beach resorts, Manado being located in the famous coral triangle, to enjoy the regular luxuries. But most tourist operators also offer the so-called highland tour. Which is taking a bus tour to Tomohon and Lake Tondano which are located around 700 meters above sea level with a pleasant daytime temperature and beautiful view. The must go place to see is, the Mahawu volcano where buses can drive up close to the crater and where a big concrete two story construction to take selfies from is the favourite target.

The photo shows how nearby selfie places are build. They cut down many trees. Masarang's place Amphitheater does that in a more sustainable way!
The photo shows how nearby selfie places are build. They cut down many trees. Masarang’s place Amphitheater does that in a more sustainable way!

Recently several new restaurants have opened in the village of Woloan and these attract many people from the traffic congested city of Manado, but also a remarkably high number of local villagers. They come to enjoy the view over the Kayawu valley and the majestic Lokon volcano opposite.

Masarang Amphitheatre centre of culture, education, information and meeting place

Masarang’s Amphitheater

Masarang’s Amphitheatre has the most spectacular views. But research has shown that a place like the restaurants with panoramic views is only visited two or three times by the same visitors after which the angles for selfies have been exhausted and they go elsewhere to look for fresh inspiration. Masarang’s Amphitheatre, however, has a lot more to offer besides the great views. And we believe that can help us to do more, and to show our vision and mission as well as our on the ground work of restoring ecosystems for thousands more people.

Masarang Amphitheatre
Masarang Amphitheatre

Masarang’s Library

Masarang’s principle is to work with respect for local people and culture. At our head office next to the Amphitheatre we have probably the most complete library around on the subject of the Minahasa, the mountainous area where we are located in North Sulawesi province. It has a vast collection of books on local languages, culture, traditions, history, environment and local laws. It also has files on local family trees of the Minahasa population. Masarang has published books in the local Tombulu language and distributed them to many local schools. This was done with the aim to support the local cooperative tribe spirit, while the modern age increasingly enters the lives of the young generation. This includes keeping old values like having to plant ten timber trees, when you marry so your children will have wood to build their own house when they get married.

Nice Masarang Library
Nice Masarang Library

We already published several books on the local history and in 2019 we hope to publish a book on local cultural objects. That have almost been forgotten, like the traditional stone graves called “waruga” and special rocks in the forest where until this day the older people still bring gifts and that they believe to be special places where they can still connect to and communicate with their forefathers. The library itself is worth visiting to get a glimpse of that past and has a large education room where we can teach groups of school children and students.

Published Minahasa books
Published Minahasa books

Masarang’s head office

Our Masarang head office is also located in a historic location. It is where the village of Woloan was originally built, but it was moved when in 1845 a big earthquake happened followed by three days of eruptions of the Lokon volcano. What was left behind was the graveyard with the traditional “Waruga’s”. The very last one ever built some 250 years ago, can be found near the entrance to the the land of the Masarang Amphitheatre. There are lots of interesting stories about the history of our location and the many stone graves as you can see in the picture below.

Graveyard with the traditional “Waruga’s”
Graveyard with the traditional “Waruga’s”

We hope this year to resume the old tradition of “Mera Waruga”, referring to an ancient tradition of the moving of the grave. It is a huge event that attracts thousands of visitors and will be supported by the parliament of North Sulawesi. We hope to make this into a yearly event that will further increase visitors coming our location.

Unique place and new ideas

The Amphitheatre is also a unique place to hold cultural events and can even be used at night as an open air theatre. We have started a small coffee shop, were you can drink local Masarang coffee! We are in the process of building a larger one, so that then we can serve food and drinks to tourists and other visitors. In this way it will contribute to a sustainable source of funding to support the many non-profit activities of the Masarang Foundation.

Masarang head office, library and new coffeeshop!
Masarang head office, library and new coffeeshop!

A donor whom we told about the plans and the new unique location of Masarang’s new head office, provided us with a donation to construct a nature trail through the forest on the slopes. Along this trail various stops can be made at the springs, the small waterfall and viewing points and special trees. We will position many information boards that explain about the work of the Masarang Foundation to various school groups, tourists that will visit the compound along this trail as well.

So we can say that in addition to taking selfies by tourists, our location is also becoming a center where information (about Masarang projects / activities), education (library with its special books about local nature) come together. But it is also a meeting place for local groups to practice their traditional dances, come for the coffee shop or just as cool place to hold meetings. This all contributes to an added value for the Masarang foundation, tourists, but certainly also for schools and of course the local people!