Batak Ethnic Philosophy as a Motivation for Migrants who are Far from Home Village

by Rivaldi Ihsan, Ethnomusicologist and Lecturer in Music at Sumbawa University of Technology (Instagram: rivaldiihsan, E-mail:

Batak ethnicity is one of the ethnic groups originating from North Sumatra Province and its distribution is almost throughout Indonesia and even throughout the world. This is due to the tradition of migrating to leave their hometown to achieve a better life welfare. One of them is due to economic factors that make a person’s situation must go migrate to leave their hometown. Because the rotation of the economic wheel in the village is slow while the needs of daily life are sometimes insufficient to meet the needs of the family.

Until the idea was born for Batak young men and women in the villages to go to the city to improve the family economy, considering that rice fields, fields, and so on are not individual property rights sometimes belonging to a clan consisting of several clans, it is not uncommon for property disputes to occur in a large family. So this habit of migrating is one solution to avoid property disputes.

Occasionally the migrants return to the village to celebrate the atmosphere of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, or Christmas with their families, then sometimes they hear stories from them about the sparkling beauty of big cities that are easy to make money with large wages, so that the young people are tempted to follow in the footsteps of the migrants to go to big cities in Indonesia or abroad.

This phenomenon is also commonplace for an ethnic Batak who is very well known for his migrating culture, even though he went to migrate as far as possible one day he would definitely return to his hometown. This is also illustrated through some of the lyrics of the ethnic Batak pop song entitled “Mardalan Au Marsada Sada” created by Tilhang Gultom. Where the song tells the motivation of the struggle of a child who is migrating to miss his parents and hometown so that he must immediately succeed and immediately meet the parents and hometown he misses.

Ethnic Batak Philosophy Motivates Batak Youth to Migrate
Batak ethnicity has three philosophies of life in running their lives, the three philosophies are the main basis always remembered while in overseas land for Batak ethnicities who know and understand their customs. Sometimes many of the current generation of ethnic Batak people do not know or even understand tarombo or their customs, this is caused by a variety of internal factors, it could be through a lack of education through the family environment and so on.

As for that is “hamoraon (wealth), hagabeon (descent), hasangapon (honor). With the existence of three philosophies, the Batak ethnicity is always held firmly when they are in the overseas land.

One, hamoraon means wealth, every ethnic Batak feels obliged to have wealth or property that aims to sustain his life and help the family’s economic life and make his parents happy. In addition, the function of having property saved has a positive side for men, so that later when a man proposes to a woman who is loved to have sinamot or money given by the man to the woman with a nominal price of twenty million rupiah to three hundred million rupiah when he wants to carry out a marriage.

Second, hagabeon means offspring, Batak ethnicity believes that a married couple if they have offspring is a priceless treasure even though they are wallowing in property. This is also illustrated through the lyrics of a Batak regional pop song entitled “butet” which means the longing of a father for his beloved daughter while the father is in a guerrilla warfare situation, as well as song lyrics such as a song entitled “anakkon hi do namoraon di au” which means my child is the greatest treasure in me, so it cannot be measured by nominal numbers. Not infrequently when an ethnic Batak returns to his hometown the first thing he is asked is how many children you have, not how much money you have.

Third, Hasangapon means honor, a pride for Batak ethnic families to have sons and daughters with higher education because the higher the education of their children, the higher the degree of the two people that they managed to educate and send their children to school. It is evident that many of the young men and women of Batak ethnicity go to high school from strata one, strata two, and strata three. Sometimes parents’ family life and home are mediocre, but their children’s schooling is high.

Through the three ethnic Batak philosophies above, it has always been a guide for migrants in carrying out their daily lives in big cities in Indonesia where they work for a living. However, it is not uncommon for ethnic Batak parents to settle in the city, then have offspring in the city as well, then cannot also explain or provide knowledge about Batak philosophy, so they become urban communities who do not know the origin of their customs.

This is influenced by a variety of factors, including busy work schedules, technological advances, and the environment that influences mindset and daily social life. That philosophy only becomes a symbol without the need to be practiced again in life so that it makes them apathetic migrants become urban humans full of ambition obsession to reach their goals.

However, there are also some of the Batak ethnic communities in Indonesian cities that form associations or organizations with a sense of togetherness that can be through the line of descent or clan equations, can be hometown equations, can be sub-district equations, and so on. The formation of the organization or community becomes a symbol of longing with the hometown which can be a means of expression to release the longing to exchange news together with the hometown, not infrequently the development of the hometown is also heard from a distance through the community formed by ethnic hobo migrants who live in the city.

Batak ethnic communities or organizations play an important role as an information medium for discussions about customs or discussing future organizational agendas in accordance with the vision and mission formed by them. The purpose of the organization is to introduce, study, preserve, care for, customs, arts, and culture.

As well as providing knowledge to the next generation of ethnic Batak living in Indonesian cities so as not to forget where their ethnicity comes from. So that the next generation of Batak ethnicity understands and applies in everyday life, especially about nicknames such as bone (younger brother of a male mother), nantulang (wife of a male mother’s younger brother), bujing (younger sister of a female mother), and so on. The term name is a form of respect for older people, younger people, or to people of the same age, and so on. Usually these names in the Batak ethnicity are called martutur, meaning genealogical, related through the lineage of clans or clans inherited by the father.

It is hoped that the three Batak ethnic philosophies above can motivate the next generation who live in the city and can continue the Batak ethnic kinship both in terms of knowing, studying, understanding, and practicing in their daily lives as a form of identity of an ethnic Batak. Quoting President Soekarno’s statement never leave history or abbreviated as Jasmerah is a message to all Indonesian people not to forget where their ethnicity comes from as a living history inherent in a citizen of the Indonesian nation.


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