The Sixth Tomohon International Flower Festival (TIFF) 2016: With Flowers, We Greet The World

Tomohon. Have you ever heard about that name? No, it's not the name of an ethnic food. Tomohon is a small city, located at the hill of two active volcanic mountaints, Mt. Lokon and Mt. Mahawu in North Sulawesi. The road trip from Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi Province to Tomohon only takes approximately 40 minutes. If you love Bali with all its beaches, you should visit North Sulawesi because I guarantee you, ours are three times more wonderful.

So, what happened in Tomohon lately? Well, we just held an international flower festival, or commonly known as TIFF. This year, I was very lucky to join the team as a liaison officer (LO). We assisted international guests from Australia, Singapore, China and Japan.

Tomohon International Flower Festival 2016

The first TIFF was held in 2010, and continues to become an annual event in Tomohon. It was formerly known as Tournament of Flower (TOF) and as the event attracted larger audience across the world, the local government changed its name to TIFF.  The main event was a flower floats parade. It resembles Pasadena Rose Parade in the USA, but with a lot of cooler performances.

This year TIFF was opened with a marathon run competition, starting from Bukit Doa Mahawu to Linow Lake. The distance to be traveled was 10 km. Bukit Doa Mahawu is a pilgrimage site located in Mt. Mahawu. It has a jalan salib with religious statues handcrafted by Mr Teguh Ostenrik, Indonesia-famous sculpturer, a chapel and a Romanesque amphitheatre which sits at the very top of the mountain, where you can enjoy the panoramic scenery of Tomohon.

Bukit Doa Mahawu - one of Tomohon top's tourism site. Photo courtesy of

In August 8, just a couple days ago, the main event was held. The whole Tomohon citizen gathered together with local and international visitors on both sides of the city main street to witness the magical flower floats. There were around 30 floats from various countries, cities, private companies, and public offices, all decorated with flowers which were planted, grew and harvested in Tomohon soil. All floats must also included the special flower variant from Tomohon: the white chrysant (kulo) and yellow chrysant (kuning) in their decorations. All contestants tried their best to show the most unique, colourful, and beautiful decoration as they all will be judged, so you bet, it was quite a show! Here are some pictures that I gathered from social media. You can easily spot pictures from TIFF 2016 using hashtag #TIFF2016 #MariJoKaTomohon or #TomohonFlowerFestival. 

Float Tomohon City opened the parade. Standing on the float is Putri Tomohon 2016. Image courtesy of
The China's float showing the iconic giant panda. Photo courtesy of Instagram: ray_stery

The float of Karo District in North Sumatra brought its traditional Karo house. Photo courtesy of Instagram: karobukanbatak

Australia delegation sent their miniature Sidney Opera House to Tomohon. Photo courtesy of Instagram: ray_stery
The facade of Sion GMIM Church was covered with flowers to celebrate TIFF 2016. Photo courtesy of Instagram: ray_stery

The parade was scheduled at 1 pm, but there was quite a long delay as we were waiting for Megawati Soekarnoputri, the 5th Indonesian president who was the special guest. Most people whined and complained (a lot) because of this lateness but in the end, we were all very satisfied and completely awwed by the performance.

Beside flower float parade, there was also a Flower Fashion Festival. If you considered Jember International Fashion Festival (JIFF) as spectacular, then you must watch ours. The contestant in this show must create the most mind-blowing costumes using not only fabrics and accessories but also real flowers! To open the show, we had the performance of Kabasaran Dance troops - the local dance which moves are taken from ancient war acts of Sulawesi (yes, real swords and axes!) and modernly adapted as a welcoming dance. During the show, our guests were entertained with songs performed by local school students using kolintang.

One contestant of the Flower Fashion Competition. Photo courtesy of Instagram: g_karwur

Not just colourful fabrics, but real flowers! Photo courtesy of Instagram: dediwahyudi23
Kabasaran was initially a dance before war, but now it is used to welcome guest. Photo courtesy of

Our Singaporean guest took the chance to visit Tomohon Traditional Market which is world-wide famous for its extreme culinary menu (thank you National Geographic channel!) In this market, they found "special" meats from a wide range of animal kingdom: bats, snakes, frogs, boars, horses, rats, even cats and dogs. There is a saying in Sulawesi: "We eat everything with four legs except tables and chairs." For most people this seem like a peculiar diet (or even rather barbaric) but it is a part of North Sulawesi culture. So next time you visited Tomohon, make sure to bring your camera to Tomohon Traditional Market.

After the parade, the visitors enjoyed Tomohon Food Festival. The arena located behind the main stage. There were mixed of menus, from national foods such as bakso and nasi goreng to local pastries and cuisine. Most of our guests enjoy the sweetness of cucur, lalampa, bagea, klapetaart, and es brenebon (red beans ice). The price was very affordable, with only USD 10 our guests already filled their bags and bellies with more than enough foods.
Manado traditional cookies and pastry: lalampa (left top), panada (right top), cucur (left bottom) and apang (right bottom)
The closing performance of the day was a musical concert presented by Once, Indonesian famous band vocalist who is also a Sulawesi-born and many other local performers. It was crazy fun!

After the parade, the audience enjoyed musical performance at Tomohon Culinary Festival. Photo courtesy of Instagram: xposedmanadomagazine

If you missed the show, you can watch it online on Youtube:

Eventually, Tomohon International Flower Festival 2016 was a memorable experience for me. As a Tomohon citizen I am proud and honoured to take part in this spectacular event. TIFF had become larger and larger lately, it attracts bigger audience with greater shows each year. There were some mishandlings such as the lateness of the show, and the lack of guests-management but we tried our best to turn this year TIFF to be a real world-class festival and it was very successful. My guest, the Australia consulate general for Sulawesi Mr. Richard Mathews said he enjoyed the show.

The proud LO team in TIFF 2016. Can you spot me?
So next year, if you were confused where to spend your summer holiday, I highly recommend to visit Tomohon. It will certainly give you an unforgettable holiday experience for you and your family. See you in Tomohon!

*PS: Have you visited this year Tomohon International Flower Festival? If you enjoy the show, make sure you share your beautiful photos on social media! Use hashtag #TIFF2016, #MariJoKaTomohon and #TomohonFlowerFestival so the world can see your pictures. These hashtags will help to promote Tomohon as an international tourism destination. Thank you!

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