Reflection of the Expert Seminar in Indonesia 2010

 Photo Impressions of Dr. Monsicha:

Monsicha Overview

Dear all: As my heart goes with Indonesian friends at this time of sad news, I would like to share y'all with our good memories in Indonesia.


e-mail of Dr. Boy from 9 Nov. 2010

(October 23 - 30, 2010)

Anselmo B. Mercado (November 09, 2010)


I came to participate in the "Summer School 2010" with a four-person Philippine delegation (composed of Ms. Lorna Manila, Mr. Noel Alegre, Engr. Dexter and me). The SS 2010 was organized by the ForUm (a network of academicians, practitioners, experts and students of Urbanization, Urban Planning and Development from Southeast Asia and Germany), and, hosted by the Indonesian partners from Gadjah Mada University in Jogjakarta (Octobert 23-27), and Sebelas Maret University in Solo (October 27-30). An optional part was held earlier in Jakarta on October 20-23 in which I could not participate.

For our Summer School, everything had gone very well. Thanks to the leadership of our chairperson, Prof. Dr. Frauke Kraas, and our able and seasoned overall coordinator, Ms. Christine Knie, as well as to our Indonesian host-partners, for their well designed and execution of the SS 2010 program. Their attention to details of the program made our SS 2010 very fruitful and pleasantly memorable.

Unfortunately, it was not so for the many Indonesians who were affected by the recent violent eruption of Mount Merapi (a volcanic mountain which could be seen on a clear day from Jogjakarta). Even as I am writing this paper, the eruptions continue. Prof. Dr. Kraas had sent an email to our partners and others appealing for any help they could send to the victims of the calamity.


The T-Shirt:
At the welcome dinner in "Gadri Resto", the participants were given the "Program Kits". Each participant was also provided with a very nice and meaningful t-shirt. Let me describe it: The t-shirt is dark blue, and on it is printed in bright yellow a graphic linear sketch of the SS 2010 emblem. On the left side, are sketches of landmarks in Germany (the twin towers of the Catholic Cathedral of Cologne, etc.), and below it, the words "University of Cologne". On the right side, are sketches of interesting structures in Jogjakarta and Solo, and below it, the words "Gadjah Mada University" and "Sebelas Maret University". Connecting the right and the left sketches is what looks like a bridge. Below it, is printed the theme of the SS 2010, "Urban Public Space & Governance". Just below the theme are also printed: "ForUm" (acknowledging the organizers) and "DAAD" (acknowledging the funding partner).

The emblem is symbolic of the many "connections" we can perhaps associate with the Summer School, such as: 1) between the "occidental" and the "oriental", 2) between the academic-theoretical and the practical, 3) between the ideal or "ought-to-be" and the actual or "reality", 4) between what the planners "at the top" envision and the views of the people "from below", etc. For this reason, I will treasure my t-shirt for good as I have treasured all the Summer Schools I have attended since my first participation in 2005.



Field Excursions:
The first major activity in Jogjakarta was a whole day of field excursions (Sunday, October 24) to visit and observe four of several "public spaces" in the city, namely: "Malioboro", "Alun-Alun", the "Gadjah Wong River Bank Community" and the "Community Heritage and Public Space in Kotagede". The four places were very well chosen for their unique qualities of historic, economic, environmental, social, aesthetic, geographical, physical and political importance to the urbanization and developmental challenges of Jogjakarta. In a very real sense, these "public spaces" had given Jogjakarta her unique diverse character. For me, it was a good idea to start off the Summer School with this field excursion because I could relate my observations to the academic presentations and discussions with more ease and relevance.

Of particular interest to us participants was the "Gadjah Wong River Bank Community" where we were supposed to apply the "Participatory Rapid Urban Appraisal" (PRUA) methodology in understanding the community. Unfortunately, a pouring rain spoiled the fun. But it did not deter us from going about the "public spaces" in the community. In lieu of the group presentations on the use of PRUA, the participants were asked to write their individual reflections, impressions and recommendations that could be useful to the community. I submitted my reflection paper along with the others.

The Public Symposium:
The second major activity was a two-day "Public Symposium" on the theme "Urban Public Space and Governance" (October 25-26). After the usual welcome speeches, the symposium started with keynote addresses that offered various perspectives (academic, policy, governance and "bridging the gap between theory and practice") on the theme. This was followed by the international-country presentations by participants from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. As it was a "public symposium", a number of local academicians, practitioners and students came to participate enriching the discussions on various issues that surfaced during the presentations.

In the afternoon of October 27, the SS 2010 transferred to Solo City. The participants travelled by train and arrived in Solo in the late afternoon.


A Royal Welcome and Dinner Reception:
On the evening of October 27, the visitors were given a royal welcome and reception with dinner by our hosts led by no less than the Rector, the administrative staff, faculty, some students and other dignitaries of Sebelas Maret University. A group of young talented musicians (despite their physical handicaps) entertained us with their songs and musical instruments.

International and Interdisciplinary Seminar:
The first major activity in Solo was the "International and Interdisciplinary Seminar" on the theme "Urban Public Space, Heritage Management and Governance" (morning of October 28). The Rector of Sebelas Maret University officially opened the seminar with his welcome speech. This was immediately followed by Prof. Dr. Frauke Kraas' keynote address.

The first presentation was by the head of the City Planning Agency (Mr. "Joahnnes") who talked on the "Introduction of Public Spaces in Solo". It was well articulated and clearly to the point. It gave enough information on the vision and thrusts, accomplishments and on-going challenges of urban development of Solo. From his presentation, I noted down the five priorities in their plan, namely: 1) The corridor arrangements, 2) Environment and green spaces, 3) Heritage, 4) River bank areas development, and 5) Relocations of street vendors. Later on, the visitors would "cross the bridge" and walk through the areas in the city to see the actual reality during the field excursions. And, cross and walk, we did!

Two more academic presentations of case studies from Cambodia and Malaysia by the respective country experts completed the morning part. The seminar was attended not only by the international participants, but also by a multitude of people mainly from the Sebelas Maret community of teachers, staff and students.

The Field Excursions in Solo:
The field excursions in Solo (afternoon and evening of October 28, and morning of October 30) brought the participants to six "public spaces" places, namely: 1) "Sekartaji Park", 2) "Banjarsari Park", 3) "Notoharjo Market", 4) the "Galabo Area", and 5) "Wayang Wong" (a Javanese human puppet theater and show). 5) "Balekambang Park" and 6) the "Laweyan Batik Village". At the "Sekartaji Park" the group was welcomed and entertained by a music band arranged by the City Mayor of Solo. The visitors responded by singing along and dancing to the tunes. We were having some fun while learning about the "public space". At the "Banjarsari Park", the group was welcomed by children gracefully dancing the traditional "deer dance". The visitors then walked about the park and settled down at a shed by the side of a man-made lake for a slide show about the park and other information related to urban development in Solo. The two parks appeared very neat, well maintained, well managed and well used by the local people and others.

"Street Vendors" Relocation Market:
For me, the most interesting "public space" was the "Notoharjo Market", a place where a few hundreds of street vendors had been relocated. After a briefing and discussion with the leaders and officials of the market association (a "cooperative" organization), the visitors broke up into smaller groups for a "rapid appraisal" of the community to observe the surroundings, visit the business stalls and chat with the vendors. One feature of the market was the segregation into sections according to the kinds of commodities, products and services traded. For example, I saw a goat market, chicken market, vehicle spare parts market, a section for shoes, another for clothes, etc. I must say, this relocation program was a courageous move by the City Mayor and his staff and certainly deserves a commendation. Although the place has a lot to be desired in terms of environmental and sanitation aspects, social organization, management and maintenance, this is a strategy on urban planning and development that we can learn from.

The Night Markets: Fast-Food Market and for Other Goods:
The "Galabo" area was a stretch of street in Solo where moveable food stalls were set-up at night so that people could relax, eat and listen to band music. This "public space" was designated for food. Another area called "Nagarsopuro", was a "night market" for a variety of goods other than food (which we witnessed on the evening of October 30, guided by no less than the City Mayor himself after the closing ceremony dinner at his residence).

The Batik Market:
Batik production is a major industry in Indonesia, and Solo produces some of the finest in the country. The group had a field-visit to the "Laweyan Batik Village" (morning, October 30) where they observed how batiks were made and observed the community and shops along the winding narrow streets. No doubt, the village lives on the batik industry catering to local and foreign tourists and traders. The area was clean, people-friendly (minimal traffic, etc), noise-pollution free, and the houses and shops were well kept. Sales were brisk, I noticed, without aggressiveness from the shop keepers and sales people to sell their wares.

The Unique "Free-Free" Train Ride on an Old "Choo-a-Choo-a-Train":
The experience of a train ride on an old whistling wood-powered train was something unique and unexpected for me. I could only associate these trains with the old western cowboy movies I used to see during my childhood days. But this was real! And it was fun! The group had fun! It was imaginative to see interesting parts of Solo City on a train. This would be unforgettable! In fact, the participants composed a song (adopted from a western song of the ‘50s -- "Choo-a-Choo-a-Train") for our SS 2010 "theme song".

Dinner with The City Mayor:
I mentioned earlier that the City Mayor invited the participants to his official residence for dinner on the last evening of our stay in Solo. It was an honorable gesture and indicative of his character - a man of class and culture, kind, caring and attentive, not only to his people, but to visitors as well. As if it was not enough, he also took time to guide the group in a brief tour of the "Night Market". No wonder, this Mayor is making much progress in the city with the citizens' support. I must say, Solo is a beautiful city, a cultured city, a friendly city, a city that flows with time and progress. Like "Bengawan Solo", a "legend of long ago... you will flow forever... because you have captured people's hearts." (It was wonderful to see Bengawan Solo -- "River of love, we know... where my heart was set aglow..." -- with my very own eyes on our last day of excursion).

Many issues had surfaced during the symposium and seminar in Jogjakarta and Solo related to "Urban Public Spaces". For me, the following are my "points of interest".

1. Definitions, Concepts, the Essence of "Urban Public Space":

Prof. Dr. F. Kraas, In her keynote address (paper), had opened up the issue of "different understandings" and "various perceptions" of people about "Urban Public Space" (or is it "Open Space" or "Green-space"? Whatever). During the discussions, the use of different terminologies alone, let alone the varying concepts and their applications to reality, had confounded the issue. The literature on "Urban Public Space" is like a food court where one can choose what s/he pleases for a certain purpose.

2. Ownership, Control, Location, Use, Function, Form and Management of "Urban Public Space", and, For Whose Benefit?

The various case studies and experiences presented during the symposium and seminar had frequently referred to the above issues in one way or another. Other related issues had surfaced and provoked thinking and discussion, such as:

• In many Asian countries, the "street culture" (side-walk vendors) is prevalent and has posed quite a formidable challenge to urban planners and governance.
• Conversions of "public spaces" into "private spaces" for certain purposes (business, exclusive domains for the wealthier class in society, etc.) have touched a chord among many social-justice oriented citizens.

In conclusion, "urban public spaces" have had historic, economic, social, political, environmental and aesthetic significance to the life and well-being of the people. Cities and communities should plan and develop more of them that will benefit the common good.