This is our translation of a legend from the Jambi Province.
The Origin of the Melayu Timur Ethnic Group in Kuala Tungkal
(Asal Usul Suku Melayu Timur di Kuala Tungkal)
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Many hundreds of years ago in the country of Melabang, Mindanau (now known as the Philippines), there was a kingdom that was governed by Sultan Iskandar Bananai. That King had two sons. The oldest was Patukan, and the youngest, Mata Empat. These two princes had temperaments and character traits that were very different. Prince Patukan was a very handsome young man who had a very kind and easy going nature. He was wise and always enjoyed helping others in any way he could, whereas Prince Mata Empat had a very unpleasant and bad temperament. He was very harsh with people, wasn’t polite, and he was well known as not being someone others enjoyed being around. The King frequently reprimanded Prince Mata Empat, his youngest son, but with every correction he received, Prince Mata Empat became increasingly more difficult to deal with. The King was very embarrassed of Mata Empat’s behavior and actions.
One day Sultan Iskandar Bananai called all his military officers, advisers, and anybody else who he considered as a trusted friend, and had them all sit down together and conduct a joint discussion.
The King opened the session by saying, “My trusted advisers and friends of our Kingdom! You all know that my son, Prince Mata Empat, has a horrible disposition. I’ve asked you all to come here today to discuss this matter. I want to be straight forward with you, I don’t have the ability to reign him in or to control his behavior. Do any of you have any views concerning this situation?
Hearing the King’s question, the officers and advisers thought long and hard. Nobody spoke. It was merely a time of reflection and deep thinking as they all pondered how this situation with the King’s son could be overcome. After several minutes, one of the King’s advisers stood and prepared to speak.
“Forgive me, My King. Please give your servant permission to present my suggestion on how we can overcome the situation with your son, Prince Mata Empat,” said the adviser.
“What is your suggestion? Speak!” replied the King firmly.
“Forgive me, my King. If I may, I’d like to propose exiling your son to another country,” said the adviser.
“What do you mean, exile him?” asked the King.
“Forgive me if my suggestion sounds too harsh. What I, your loyal servant means is, perhaps it would be better if Prince Mata Empat was commanded to leave our Kingdom and sought employment or a position in another country,” explained the adviser very clearly.
“Hmmm…your suggestion is very good,” said the King. “I agree with that proposal. What about the rest of you? Do you all agree with this proposal?” the King asked, while looking around the room at all those assembled.
“Yes our King, we agree,” responded all the others in unison.
“Okay then! Call Prince Mata Empat and have him appear before me right now,” commanded the King.
One of the officers quickly ran and called for the Prince to appear before his father. Not much longer after that, that officer, together with Prince Mata Empat, arrived at the conference room. Seeing all the military officers and advisers sitting together, Prince Mata Empat was very confused.
“What’s going on father? Why did you call me,” asked Prince Mata Empat.
Politely, King Iskandar Bananai informed his son of the decision that was made at their meeting. Upon hearing that decision, Prince Mata Empat became extremely angry.
“Father, that decision isn’t fair. Why am I commanded to leave and earn my living elsewhere, while my older brother is allowed to stay?” asked Prince Mata Empat, expressing his displeasure with the decision.
“Forgive me, my son! The decision has already been made by the council,” responded the King.
“Father, to be just and fair, my brother, Patukan, also must be exiled. Not only me,” said Prince Mata Empat.
Hearing that request, King Iskandar Bananai felt heavy pressure. He very much loved Patukan and didn’t want him to leave. His plans for the future were to install Prince Patukan in his place when he became too old to lead. After he thought long about this, the King agreed to fulfill the request of Prince Mata Empat.
“Okay, my son. To be fair and just, I will fulfill your request. Both you and your brother will leave and look for work outside our Kingdom,” said the King.
Being a follower, and always obedient to what he was told to do, Prince Patukan didn’t raise any objections. He welcomed the proposal with a happy heart. The next day the two princes prepared to sail. Prince Patukan was given a sailing ship complete with all the food, furnishings, and supplies he would need, as well as body guards and servants. Prince Mata Empat was given a raft, though it also was furnished with all the supplies, body guards and servants he would need for his journey. When the two were ready to depart, King Iskandar Bananai, together with the queen and all the citizens, gathered together at the port to send them off.
“My sons, I wish you well and hope you succeed,” said the King as he sent his sons off with his prayers.
“Thank you, father! We also hope that you and mother will enjoy good health,” said Prince Patukan, while kissing the hands of his parents.
At the same time, Prince Mata Empat was already on his raft, and didn’t say anything to his parents. When his raft was leaving the port he never looked back or waved goodbye. It was clearly evident that he was very upset with the decision his father had made in sending him out of the Kingdom. On the other hand, Prince Patukan was waving goodbye nonstop to all the people who gathered on the docks to see them off, and he kept waving till he was out of their eyesight.
The two princes separated into different direction in their search for their livelihood. After sailing for several days, the two princes experienced huge waves on the open seas. The raft of Prince Mata Empat was thrown about in the storm and it began to break into pieces. All the people with him fell overboard and drowned. Fortunately for Prince Mata Empat, he was able to hold onto a piece of the raft and finally arrived on the shore of Tanah Merah (now known as Palembang). It is said that Prince Mata Empat remained in that area till the day of his death.
At the same time Prince Mata Empat was being hurled about by the storm, Prince Patukan experienced the same thing. The huge waves and heavy winds totally destroyed the ship he was sailing on. All his guards and servants drowned in the sea. Prince Patukan was the only one that was able to save himself, and he finally ended up swimming to the closest land, Pulau Lingga (Lingga Island). The people on the island took him to see King Lingga at the palace.
“Hey young man, who are you and where did you come from?” asked King Lingga.
“Forgive me, King Lingga. Your servant is Prince Patukan, the eldest son of King Iskandar Bananai from the country of Mindanau,” said the prince.
Prince Patukan then told everyone gathered all the events that had transpired, up until the time he landed on Pulau Lingga. Hearing that story, King Lingga felt very happy.
“Prince Patukan, I’ve been married many years, but God has not yet blessed me with a son,” said King Lingga. “If you would be pleased to do so, I would be honored to adopt you as my very own son. At the time of my death, you would then take my place as king over this country.”
At first Prince Patukan was confused when he heard the offer of King Lingga. In his own country, he hoped that one day he would take the place of his own father as king. However, after considering that King Lingga had been so kind to him, he accepted King Lingga’s offer. Since then, Prince Patukan stayed in the palace of Pulau Lingga and he became the adopted son of King Lingga.
Several years after that King Lingga passed away. Prince Patukan ascended to the place of leadership over that Kingdom as its king. He governed the Kingdom with justice and wisdom, and because of that, in just a short period of time that Kingdom became extremely prosperous. King Patukan was greatly loved by all the citizens.
One day the news about Prince Patukan becoming the King over Pulau Lingga reached the Kingdom of Mindanau. The entire populace welcomed the news with great happiness, and the ones that were the most pleased with the news was Prince Patukan’s father and mother, King Iskandar Bananai and his wife the Queen. Many of the citizens of Mindanau desired to move to Pulau Lingga and serve Prince Patukan. Upon receiving permission from King Iskandar Bananai, the entire population of Mindanau began to move, little by little, to Pulau Lingga.
During their travels to the island of Pulau Lingga, some of the people became lost on their journey and landed at the town of Kuala Tungkal. One of those on that ship was Datuk Kedanding, together with his family. It is said that Datuk Kedanding is the progenitor of all the Melayu Timur ethnic group that resides in the area of Kuala Tungkal.