Legendary Peneleh – Surabaya boarding house

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(Photo: Freddy Wally)

IO – Peneleh Village, also commonly known as ‘Paneleh’ in Surabaya, is more than a mere village. Several pieces of literature and history experts revealed that the village has been established since the era of the Singosari Kingdom in East Java. Apart from still leaving a number of old houses with a distinctive blend of modern and colonial architectural styles, Peneleh has a strong historical layer, as part of Indonesia’s journey.

In this place, the youth movements whose members later struggled for the independence of Indonesia, once gathered and boarded. The owner of the house was no other than H.O.S. Cokroaminoto, also known as Tjokroaminoto, founder of the Sarekat Islam (SI).

History recorded that the youth movement who boarded at the house numbered 29-31 in Gang VII, Peneleh, Surabaya, later on were national figures from various backgrounds, who also constructed the Republic – including Soekarno, who founded the Indonesian National Party (PNI) and the first President of the Republic of Indonesia. Apart from Soekarno, Semaoen, who was the founder of the Indonesian Communist Party, once lived there.

Sukarmaji Marijan Kartosoewiryo, also known as the founder of Darul Islam/Tentara Islam Indonesia (DI/ TII), and Munawar Musso, a figure involved in the 1948 PKI rebellion in Madiun also lived in the boarding house at Peleneh.

Initially, the two-story house was purchased by Haji Omar Said Tjokroaminoto from an Arab in the early 20th century, around 1902. Tjokroaminoto, who was an indigenous entrepreneur and fought for an Islamic economy, saw the Peneleh as not only strategic and close to the heart of Surabaya’s business in the Tunjungan area but also as offering a quiet environment as it is on the banks of the Kalimas River. The family has been recorded living in Peneleh since 1907.

In 1912, together with his wife, Raden Ayu Suharsikin, Tjokroaminoto took the initiative to open part of their house as a boarding house for students studying in Surabaya. In the early 20th century Surabaya was also known as the place for the elite Dutch East Indies school, starting from the Hogare Burger School (HBS), Meer Uitgebrid Lager Onderwijz (MULO), to the Middelbare Technish School (MTS), which later became the forerunner of the Tenth November Institute of Technology or ITS.

Soekarno himself as one of the students at the Hogare Burger School (HBS), began boarding at Peneleh VII in 1915. Since it opened as a boarding house, the Tjokroaminoto family house was divided into ten small rooms, including the attic.

In his autobiography, written by Cindy Adams, Soekarno described that the conditions of the boarding house in Peneleh VII were only decent, and far from luxurious. “Pak Tjokro’s family lived in the front of the house. Meanwhile, the back of the place is for boarding students,” said Soekarno. “The boarding fee of 11 rupiah includes meals, and a room in a fairly good condition – without mattresses or doors, only a mat,” added Soekarno again.

In this place, Sukarno was matched with Tjokroaminoto’s daughter, Siti Oetari, who later became his first wife. In 1921, after Suharsikin died from a serious illness, the boarding house business in Peneleh VII started to fade. At that time, Tjokroaminoto, who later remarried, moved to Jalan Plampitan Surabaya before finally moving to Yogyakarta with his new wife.

Even though Tjokroaminoto reopened his house as a boarding house in Plampitan Surabaya, the young men who had boarded at Peneleh VII eventually scattered to find their own way to fight for independence and equality of Indonesia.

Currently, the condition of the Peneleh boarding house is still well-preserved and opened as a museum for the public. The public is more familiar with it as “H.O.S Cokroaminoto House”.

There is no admission fee to enter the museum, but visitors are required to sign the guest book. The museum has a showroom, which consists of several sections; among them is the second floor which was occupied by Soekarno and his friends. To access this attic area, visitors must remove their footwear and climb a vertical iron stair.

Apart from the rooms of Soekarno and friends, it also displays some photos of the boarding house throughout the years, and the profiles of the youths who had stayed here. On the right-wing of this house, precisely behind the guest terrace, is the main room occupied by Tjokroaminoto and his family.

In addition to photos, there are also several attributes of Tjokroaminoto, ranging from the style of clothing during his life to his bed and wardrobe as well as his book collection.

Given that the place is fairly narrow and tends to be stuffy without open ventilation, while accessing the museum please pay attention to the applicable health protocols, considering the ongoing pandemic. Do not forget to always use a mask and also keep your distance from other visitors.

Apart from the museum, across from this house, at the mouth of Peneleh VII alley, stands a bookstore, “Peneleh”. It is said that the owner, Abdul Latief Zein, was a Muhammadiyah activist who was also involved with the national movement before independence. Today the bookstore still exists and is managed by the founder’s descendants. In it, we will find a collection of old books about Islam and Muhammadiyah as well as posters of Muhammadiyah figures and posters of Arabic characters. It is noted that the founder of Muhammadiyah, Kyai Haji Ahmad Dahlan, had once been here.

Visiting the Peneleh in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Surabaya, which tends to be hot, is indeed an oasis in itself, especially for walkers or travelers who love educational tours about the history of the struggles of the founders of the Republic. Interestingly, old houses in this area are also protected as cultural heritages and offer interesting photo spots. (Freddy Wally)