Otanaha Fort, Portuguese Footprints in the Land of Gorontalo

Benteng Otanaha, Jejak Portugis di Tanah Gorontalo

Helloindonesia.id – Portugal is one of the countries that once occupied Indonesia. One of the evidences of the arrival of the Portuguese in Indonesia can be found in Gorontalo. One of them is Otanaha Fort.

Otanaha Fort is located in Dembe I Village, Kota Barat District, Gorontalo City, Gorontalo Province – the expansion of North Sulawesi Province in 2000. Apart from Otanaha as the main fort, there are two other forts in this location: Otahiya and Ulupahu. All three have become a tourist attraction in Gorontalo. It is located right facing Limboto Lake.

  • Benteng Otanaha, Jejak Portugis di Tanah Gorontalo
  • Benteng Otanaha, Jejak Portugis di Tanah Gorontalo
  • Benteng Otanaha, Jejak Portugis di Tanah Gorontalo

When visiting here, you will first meet Otahiya Fort. Once you’re satisfied with seeing Otahiya Fort, you can reach Otahana Fort and Ulupahu in two ways. The first is by walking up 351 steps. Because, the location of the two forts is on a hill. No need to worry about fatigue, there are four resting posts to take a break to breathe fresh air. The second way is to use a car or motorbike to reach the hill.

Arriving at Otanaha and Ulupahu Forts, beautiful scenery unfolds before your eyes. Limboto Lake and the green hills around it are clearly visible so they are refreshing to the eyes. Tourism of historical buildings combined with the beauty of the landscape.

Otanaha Fort is the oldest. Various sources say this fort was built in 1522. Meanwhile, community stories say this fort was discovered in 1585 by Naha, one of the children of King Ilato who ruled the Limboto Kingdom.

“Otanaha fortress actually comes from two words ota and naha. Ota means fort and naha is the name of the person who found it,” noted Moh. Karmin Baruadi and Sunarty Eraku in the History of Otanaha Fort.

Naha also found two other forts and named them after his wife and children: Otahiya and Ulupahu.

The establishment of the three forts could not be separated from the presence of the Portuguese in Gorontalo. This fort is a historical witness of the struggle of the people of Gorontalo at that time when they fought against the Portuguese.

The Portuguese came to the archipelago in search of spices. At first they took the strategic port in Malacca. The Portuguese then continued their voyage to discover the spice islands. Some reached the Ternate area. Others got lost but found the spice trade route in the eastern region between Maluku and Sulawesi.

“They started exploring the ports on the west coast of Sulawesi on their voyage to Maluku,” said Mukhlis Paeni et al. in the Cultural History of Sulawesi.

Initially the arrival of the Portuguese received a good reception. Trade cooperation was created. But when the Portuguese wanted to monopolize, attacks were launched by local kingdoms.

The Portuguese were expelled from Ternate and then tried to find shelter in the Limboto Kingdom, one of the kingdoms of the Five Pahalaa (Five Kingdoms) confederation with Gorontalo, Boalemo, Atinggola, and Bone which eventually became the Gorontalo Kingdom in North Sulawesi. With the agreement and permission of the king of Limboto, they built three forts.

“At the time the three forts were built, the Gorontalo area was still covered by sea water, making it easier to transport the materials needed to build the fort,” noted Moh. Karmin Baruadi and Sunarty Eraku. It is said that the materials used consist of stone, sand, lime, and as an adhesive tool is the egg white of the Maleo bird.

The relationship between the Portuguese and Limboto did not last long. The Limboto Kingdom considered that the Portuguese had violated the position and customs of Gorontalo. So, Limboto cooperated with Ternate. “Cooperation between the two kingdoms was enhanced, especially in repelling Portuguese colonialism,” said J.P. Tooy et al in the History of Resistance to Imperialism and Colonialism in North Sulawesi.

The Portuguese finally left Sulawesi. The fort was used by Limboto and still stands strong to this day.

The three forts are round without a roof. Especially for Otanaha, its shape even resembles the number eight. Each fort is about 20 meters in diameter. Not big enough for a fortress but strategic enough from a defense point of view. Around the walls of the fort there are gaps for snooping and aiming weapons. The three forts underwent renovations to strengthen their structure in 2009. However, the architecture has remained as it was originally.

Otanaha Fort became an artifact of the Portuguese presence in Sulawesi and became one of the tourist destinations in Gorontalo. The surrounding scenery is still natural and beautiful. For hundreds of years, the Otanaha Fort area has also been a breeding ground for various vegetation and fauna such as birds and tarsiers, a type of tiny monkey. Their presence adds to the attractiveness of this area. No wonder this area attracts many tourists every year.

Because the Otanaha Fort area is full of historical, knowledge, and cultural values, the government has designated the area as a cultural heritage in 2011.

Otanaha Fort is about 8 km from the center of Gorontalo City. On the shores of Lake Limboto, you can visit the Soekarno Seaplane Landing Museum, which is about 2 km from Otanaha Fort. Apart from being a historical tourist attraction, Otanaha Fort offers good spots for visitors who like to take pictures with the background of Lake Limboto.*