Leave it to traditional Indonesian ghosts to guard your neighborhood during a self-imposed isolation amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Tuk Songo village in the Purworejo regency of Central Java has recently gone viral on social media for employing a uniquely Indonesian approach to restrict people from entering and leaving their kampung. Two men, dressed up as the pocong, have been posted to guard the village’s main entrance, after a self-imposed isolation to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was put in place.
For those of you who may not be well-versed with Indonesia’s huge catalogue of mythical creatures, a pocong is basically the Indonesian zombie, wrapped up from head to toe with white cloth as is customary in Islamic burial rites, with only their faces uncovered. With their lack of limb mobility, they hop around from place to place.
The village’s spokesman, Angko Setiyarso Widodo, told Detik yesterday that residents have decided to self-isolate the village as a form of gotong royong — the Indonesian phrase for mutual cooperation — in the fight against the coronavirus, and that no one is allowed in or out until normalcy returns.
“Together with other residents, the pocongs will check on anyone who passes the gate including spraying disinfectants [on people]. The pocongs are only on duty at night, while other residents guard the gate during the day,” Angko explained.
With the ongoing isolation, all other access to the kampung is closed and residents can only enter through the pocong-guarded gate.
According to Angko, there is an important subtext behind the pocong guards.
“The pocongs are to remind us of death, so anyone who’s ngeyel (stubborn) and doesn’t want to participate in the coronavirus preventative measures can themselves become a pocong. Our hope is for the pandemic to end soon,” Angko said.
The residents of Tuk Songo are giving us a glimpse of hope amid many ridiculous COVID-19-related stories circulating on the web lately, including the doomsday shoppers in Jakarta who wore hazmat suits to the supermarket or the Indonesian parents who made their young children smoke “herbal” cigarettes to “resist the coronavirus.”