Nurlan Ramaur was 12 years old when he auditioned for Pildacil, short for “Pemilihan Dai Cilik,” a junior preacher’s competition produced and aired by private TV station ANTV.
Hailing from the remote Arar island of Sorong district in West Papua, Nurlan and his mother Nurzila, 37, went to great lengths, literally, to get to Jakarta.
“I was glad to be there, to perform in front of an audience. I also got new material and learned new preaching techniques from the competition,” Nurlan told the Jakarta Globe.
Nurlan’s mother is nothing short of dedicated. With little money and plenty of faith in her son, the duo began their journey with two-hour trip on a rowboat to the nearest harbor before hitching a ride on a truck to the district capital of Sorong, where they spent the night in a mosque.
From there, Nurzila, who normally makes a living by selling fried bananas, went on a search for sponsors to cover travel expenses to Jakarta. A dean at a local college, who belongs to the country’s second-largest Islamic group, Muhammadiyah, agreed to donate some money after asking Nurlan to preach in front of the school.
However, the money was only enough for a plane trip to Makassar, with a stop in Ambon, Maluku.
“Nurlan was able to audition in Makassar, but we realized that he did not have a pair of shoes. He was wearing sandals all the time and we forgot some of his papers back home,” Nurzila said.
Satisfied with Nurlan’s soft-spoken nature and his ability to cite Koranic verses “beautifully,” producers gave him the green light to compete in Jakarta.
“We only had enough money to travel by ship. It took us two days and two nights,” Nurzila said, adding that as soon as Nurlan was included among the top 20 finalists, they did not have to worry about costumes and accommodations. That would be taken care of by ANTV.
The effort paid off. Nurlan, who was the only Papuan in the show, finished in second place, winning Rp 50 million ($5,300) in prize money and an umrah package for two.
Asked if he’d had his fill of preaching, Nurlan, who has received a scholarship to an Islamic high school in Jakarta, said: “No, I want to keep doing this. I want to be able to memorize all chapters of the Koran.”