Atmadja Tjiptobiantoro is a multifaceted man, the generosity of whom mere words could not fully describe. Most would know him as the designer of the beautiful Palladian-style villa built into the side of Mt Arjuna in East Java. While the titles architect, designer and connoisseur are all descriptive of Atmadja, it is not by any of these accolades that he wants to be recognised. Behind the palatial façade of the villa is Atmadja’s true calling: the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation. The foundation has done tremendous work improving the lives of the locals. Even as the foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary, Atmadja is showing no signs of slowing down.
Walking into Huize Van Wely at The Papilion in Kemang, Atmadja cuts a figure of calm collectedness, with the warmest of smiles across his face. Surrounded by Christmas decorations and festive artisanal pastries, one could not help but get into a merry mood.
On the topic of what he was currently busy with, Atmadja had only one answer: the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation. “I am dedicating 101 per cent of my time to the foundation,” Atmadja said with a smile.
Atmadja’s willingness to help others has been a part of him for his whole life. He once found a fledgling that had fallen out of a tree and had been orphaned by its mother. Atmadja built a makeshift nest in his room and nursed the bird back to health. Once it was healthy enough to move about, the fledgling would perch itself on Atmadja’s shoulder, watching intently as Atmadja went about his routines. It was clear to Atmadja then that helping others would be his calling.
One of the foundation’s biggest goals is to bring together the mountain and the people living around it. The mountain is a source of livelihood for the people, but is not being utilised sustainably. Excessive logging is slowly depleting the mountain, reducing the amount of clean water sources.
“Through the foundation, we are able to work with the people and create jobs for them,” explained Atmadja. An organic farm was built not only to help provide sustenance, but also as a more stable source of income for the locals.
For Atmadja, running an organic farm from scratch and without prior experience was quite the challenge. There was a lot of trial and error and constant learning even up to this day. It took approximately six years of hard work to get the farm to be a viable operation.
However, the foundation is not able to run solely on the support of the organic farm. It still needs a significant amount of funding. And thus the Kaliandra Eco Resort was born. The resort is made up of luxurious villas and intimate cottages that bring travellers closer to nature. There is also a Wellness Retreat in which travellers can find a tranquil environment to relax the body and mind. As with the organic farm, Atmadja is still very much going through a learning process on running the resort. Even as the resort reported record levels of profits recently, Atmadja believes that this is just the beginning.
In fact, Atmadja spends so much time at the foundation that he is seldom spotted outside of work. The 20th anniversary celebration of the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation was one of those rare occasions. Just as with the foundation and the resort, Atmadja is 100 per cent committed to planning a great party. He did plenty of the hard work, including picking up guest-of-honour Dewi Sukarno at five in the morning in Jakarta, the day before the party.
The three-day celebration brought together close friends, socialites, and all of the people living around the mountain. The first day of celebrations, coinciding with Independence Day, was a day filled with pride, joy and many celebratory games and activities. Dewi Sukarno kicked off the celebrations with an inspiring speech that rallied all in attendance.
The second day of celebrations was even more festive as the locals got together for a special procession, followed by musical and dance performances. Guests were then treated to an exquisite dinner under the stars, taking in all the natural splendour of the surrounding.
Saving the best for last, the third day of partying was the most magical. As the sun set into the horizon, a masquerade ball started. All in attendance came in their best ball gowns and suits paired with the most dazzling of masks. Dancers lit up the foyer with their bright wings along with giant lanterns shaped like different birds. From long gowns with endless trails, to guests entering on an open palanquin carried by bodybuilders, to fancy hats decorated to the nines, the party had it all.
At the end of the night, each guest held a balloon that was then released into the sky simultaneously with the others. Atmadja explained that the gesture was a symbol of happiness and contentment. “That moment when we all looked up at the balloons slowly disappearing into the night sky was just perfect,” said Atmadja. “Even with all the noise, it just felt so peaceful, like all was right with the world. That was my favourite part.”