Mbela is a traditional boxing event held in Oting and Bekek of Tadho administrative village in Riung, 72 km north of Bajawa - Central Flores, Indonesia. It is held in three consecutive days, from Tuesday to Thursday.
Mbela uses no glove but “WOLET” - a tool made of knotted palm stalk hardens with locally made glue mixed with grain of sands or broken bottles. Wolet is to be hold in one hand only while the other functioned as shield. Although both hands can be used to hit the opponent.
Each Mbela fighters will be accompanied by "Banggang" - a man who hold on a scarf which is tighten to the Mbela fighter's waist. The duty of Banggang is to protect the Mbela fighter from being involved in uncontrolled fight. He may pull back the Mbela fighter or give spirit and advices.
The Mbela fight is supervised by a "Pampang" - a man who determine whether the fight can continue or stop. As sometimes Mbela could be very emotional which could lure the supporters to involve directly to the fight.
Mbela is a joyous occasion. The whole people in the community and neighboring villages come to join. Mbela is traditionally a good occasion for the youth to find partners and it is the time for the parents or families to visit the would be parent in law for their sons.
Mbela in Tadho consist of: Mbela Loe or Petite Mbela where only children involved in. Mbela Loe is normally held on Tuesday. Then Mbela Mese or Grand Mbela held in the following day, starting by children fighters to be followed by adults. Both Mbela Loe and Mbela Mese are held in Oting. Whilst Mbela Tadho is formerly held to respect the presence of formal authorities (government). Mbela Tadho is held in Bekek, which is formerly a place where Kepala Kampong (chief of the village) lives.
The nights previous to Mbela the people in the village will join in "Skutu" which may last until down. Skutu is a kind of dance in a circle where people may join in to follow the rhythm and patterned leg movements again and again while the adat song will be chant accordingly.
How to get there:
Mbela is held in Oting and Bekek which are just next to Riung 17 Islands. The nearest hotel accommodation is available in Riung which is just 11 km away. Or you may stay at local people's houses.
To attend Mbela you may first fly in from Bali to Ende (120 km) or Maumere (266 km) and then take public bus to Riung and stop at Oting or Bekek. Or you may drive to Oting/Bekek directly. There are regular flights connecting Bali and Ende or Maumere. Or you can combine your visit with your Flores Komodo Island Program with a little modification.
Photo: courtesy of Swisscontact - wisata