West Papua is surely not just about the wallaby-shaped mainland. For sure, it also encompasses the alluring surrounding islands and islets – and one of them standing out to the public eye and coming with no exception is the Biak Island. Sitting gracefully in the bay of Cendrawasih, off the northern coast of Papua province, the former home base of Allied forces has ravishing things anybody can’t easily forget. Not only is the piece of land home to the exotic Aguinaldo Cave famous for its natural sublimity, but it also has an unbelievable history you need to figure out.
The Origin of Biak Name
Although there is uncertainty why the island was named Biak, some opines that Biak actually refers to the inhabitants occupying the hinterland. The term of Biak, according to the local language, means “the jungle men” or “non-seamen”. Back in the day, the coastal people skillful in navigating the yacht, as well as catching some fishes, frequently named the population not belonging to their ethnic group, Biak. At the beginning, this one was aimed to throw derogatory remark to the community. Yet finally, the nickname was commonly heard to address the island.
As claimed by the locals, the name of Biak originated from a myth. Once upon a time, there was a fight between two families – Klen Burdam and Klen Mandowen. This harsh circumstance let Klen Mandowen leave the Warmambo Island (the old name of Biak Island) and moves to another isle. When the group was paddling their boat, they looked back to make sure that the land was disappeared from their sight. Instead of getting vanished, the Warmambo kept looming up. This made the people loudly yelled “Viak” – this word means “reappear”.
Biak Island during the European Exploration Period
During the day of exploration, Biak Island was early spotted by a Portuguese cruiser named Jorge de Menezes who was taking his voyage journey leaving from Malacca to the Moluccas in 1526. Two years later, a navigator coming from Spain – Alvaro de Saavedra – also sighted the small island on the 24th of June 1528. At that time, the hipped adventurer was on his way to New Spain (this old term refers to today’s America and Mexico). In compliance with a historical report, Inigo Ortis de Retes, another Spanish seaman witnessed the paradise from his sea craft in 1545.
Before the occupation took place in West Papua, Biak Island had been a trade center between the locals and the world’s explorers. As a result, the piece of ground was mapped by a number of Europeans from Gaspar Vegas in 1537 to Bartolomeu Velho and Joao de Lisboa in 1560. The mutual interaction between the island of Biak and foreigners is in line with the authentic evidence claimed by Fakoki and Pasrefi, the notable figures from the Sultanate of Tidore. Their note stated that the tie-up was influenced by trading activity and expedition as well.
Biak Island under the Reign of Dutch Imperialism
Corresponding to a historical fact, Biak Island was early administered on July 17th, 1918. During the period of time, it was under the authority of Ternate Sultanate and belonged to the region of North Afedling Nieunea. However, when the Dutch East Indies government took control over the landmass in the north of Yapen Island, the territory was then called Schouten Eilanden. Under the ruling of the Netherlands, Biak joined an administration of Biak-Numfor Islands within the state of Western New Guinea. The name incorporation of Biak and Numfor took place in 1959.
The Relation between Biak Island and World War II
It is obviously clear the existence of Biak Island is inseparable from the World War II. The tie of both can be traced up by the occurrence of Biak battle in 1944. The inevitable combat involving both the American armies and the Japanese imperial armies came with an objective to promote the island of New Guinea in the World War II. The fight in regard to the island seizure began when the Japanese side made a trap to the United States.
With full war preparation from automatic guns to artilleries, the American armies were successfully besieged by the Japanese in the heart of the island. Ultimately, the battle ended up with the desolate suffering. According to a report, the United States has lost 474 troops. Meanwhile, there were 6,000 Japanese armies murdered during the tough battle. Arguably, Biak Island was the severe battlefield as it spent draining effort and an abundance of finance.
In conclusion, Biak Island has a magnificent array of historical backgrounds that the Indonesian citizens should not take lightly. The tropical gem off the shore of the world’s second largest island plays a significant role with reference to the presence of today’s West Papua. Additionally, it also becomes the silent witness of World War II, meritorious to the globe’s political development.