by Ahmad Cholis Hamzah When I joined ASEAN-Japan youth exchange program in 1982 – together with youth leaders from ASEAN and Japan I visited Manila, the capital city of the Philippines and Bangkok, the capital city of Kingdom of Thailand. I was surprised to find the fact in Manila that pronunciation and the meaning of some words of Tagalog, the Filipino language are the same with my native Javanese and national language of Bahasa Indonesia. It seems to me that both Indonesian people and Filipino shared common words such as “anak” for child, “Lelaki” or “lalaki” for man, “Kambing” for goat, “bibir” for lip, “Aku (in Bahasa Indonesia or Malay) or “Akoy” for I, “tahan” for stop and many other similar words. Then when I visited Bangkok, Thailand I also found the fact that Indonesians and Thais learned similar culture and literature since in the past. Both people learned from the same great civilization of India. It explains why Thais and Indonesians still read about and dance for episodes from Ramayana and Mahabrata. Like with Filipino or Malaysians, both Indonesians and Thais share names originating from Sanskrit as “Chandra, Aditya, Suriya, Sawitri, Dwi, Tri, Dewi, and Dewa”. We also share hundreds of words, although pronounce slightly different such as: “menteri” for minister, “wanita” for woman, “suami” for husband, “mitra” for partner or friend, “putra and putri” for son and daughter, and “Duta” for a representative as in “Duta Besar” (in bahasa Indonesia) that means Ambassador. Both Indonesian and Thai students study the history of Majapahit in East Java and Sriwijaya kingdom in Sumatra Island. Indonesia has “wayang kulit” and Thai has similar shadow puppet shows that traditionally used to play episodes from Ramayana. In both countries, such shadow puppet performances are also used by local communities/government to spread information about any issue like family planning program, rural development programs, health, and education issue using easy and simple local language which enable public understand the message. In Thailand, people also have many dishes resembling Indonesian cuisine. For example, Thais have Thai sa-te (which is also called sa-te in Thai language). The originality, I believe, is from Indonesia. This Indonesian cuisine was one of the favourite foods of U.S President Obama during his childhood in Indonesia. Well, once again, we are not only neighbor but we are also relative. __ Author is an alumni of University of London, Airlangga University Surabaya and a lecturer at Banking College PERBANAS Surabaya, Indonesia.
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