My Jakarta: Drucella Benala Dyahati, Miss Scuba Finalist

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Ecology graduate and Miss Scuba Indonesia finalist Drucella Benala Dyahati is an advocate for marine conservation. (Photo by Iwan Putuhena)

Indonesia has some of the best diving spots in the world — just ask Drucella Benala Dyahati, a Miss Scuba Indonesia finalist who received the Miss Photogenic award at the competition. Her background as a WWF activist and her major in ecology at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture paved the way for her to join Miss Scuba in promoting tourism and marine conservation.

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My Kemang : SHARON ROSE LEASA

A body artist specializing in tattoos sheds light on the subculture

Body art became popular in Kemang in the late 1990s, with the arrival of backpackers and skateboarders who made body piercings and tattoos as common as clothing accessories. Today, Kemang is still the place to go for quality tattoos and piercings. Sharon Rose Leasa is a body modification artist at Skin Media Studio in Kemang and a member of Indonesian Subculture, a body art organization founded by Indonesian tattoo artist Ucha Cyberborg

How long have you been a tattoo artist? 
I’m not a tattoo artist. What I do is body art, which has always been my hobby, and I just happen to be into body modification, also known as piercing and tattooing. I’ve been working as a body artist for about two years, learning mostly from my friends.

Okay, so have you ever given a tattoo to anyone?
Yes, of course, I’ve tattooed many people, but I don’t do it every day. For me, tattooing is artwork. It’s another media of expression, just like paper, canvas or TV.

How do people react under the needle when you give a tatoo?
Usually someone who wants to get a tattoo kind of knows what to expect. It’s painful Photo dissy eKaPramuditabut the excitement usually tops that. Before I start the whole process, I always do a small line, to see how they react. Then I ask them if that feels alright before I continue.

Do you think a tattoo has to be meaningful?
Well, that depends on the person, but I would suggest getting something meaningful because that way you won’t get bored of it and you will have a story behind it.

So what do your tattoos mean to you?
Well, I was really close to my father when he was alive. Some of my tattoos are for him. I have his name on my right arm, and his zodiac which is a tiger on my left forearm. The flowers behind it remind me of him as well, because when I was little my dad always commented on these particular flowers.

Which part of the body is the most painful place to get a tattoo? 
On my foot, that was the most painful for me because it’s just bone. When I did the henna tattoo on my left foot, it was more of an experience to see how painful it is. I finished it, but if you look closer you’ll see it’s a bit chaotic.

Recently, your other half, Andy Besi, pierced your back and made it into a corset at a Subculture event in Kemang. Did that hurt?
Not at all, he’s a great artist and knows exactly where to pierce. In fact, I didn’t bleed at all. I believe that was the first time this was done in Indonesia.

Do you have any certain rules that you follow?
Whatever I do, there’s no limit. Once I get into something, I want to do it to the max.

What is Kemang to you?
Kemang is family. We are all family under Indonesian Subculture.

What’s Indonesian Subculture?
Indonesian Subculture is a body art community founded in 2004 by ucha Cyberborg. We started with 25 members from Jakarta, Bandung, Bali and Jogjakarta. Today, there are more than 170 members all around Indonesia, who consist of tattoo artists and body piercing artists. My group is based here in Kemang at Skin Media Studio

What’s the main purpose of the club?
Basically, we grant certification to body artists who are qualified to practice and uphold certain standards of body modification, including hygiene and safety. We also have regular events and gatherings to showcase skin art.

Do you think tattoos are becoming more acceptable in Indonesia?
In major cities they are, but in other places in Java tattoos are still unacceptable. Nowadays, tattoos are more of a fashion statement. Many public figures have made tattoos acceptable. It’s not cheap to get a tattoo so for some people it is a status symbol as well — I mean, instead of wearing a Rolex, a great tattoo is becoming an alternative.
Do you have any tips for people who want to get a tattoo?
On the day you’re getting a tattoo, make sure you are fit and sober for at least a day or two. A tattoo artist can tell if you have alcohol or drugs in your system. you tend to bleed more, and the ink color won’t be maximized.
What was the most memorable tattoo that you ever did?
One time my friend who just got out of jail, asked me to give him a tattoo, more of a symbol to start a new life, something fresh. It was an honor for me.

What other media do you use to express yourself?
I used to produced television ads and programs for Metro TV and SCTV. The first time Metro TV channel launched, they came to me for links to major music labels and exclusive one-on-one interviews with international musicians. So I did Metro Saturday Music Special and Music Blitz program for them, and I also did Kick N Rush for SCTV.

Did you ever get to interview anyone famous?
I interviewed James Hetfield from Metallica, Vanessa Mae and other international artists who came to Jakarta.

Sharon was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Sharon Rose Leasa

Picture by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

My Jakarta: Boki Ratu Nita Budhi Susanti, Legislator and Queen

Beautiful and smart, that is the first impression when you meet Boki Ratu Nita Budhi Susanti, which means ‘Her Majesty the Queen.’ There are still numerous traditional monarchies in Indonesia, but only a few have modernized and now participate in the political system. Boki is not only the queen of Ternate in North Maluku, she was also elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat. Today, she tells us what it’s like being a queen in politics, her current stands on issues and what Jakarta means to her.

Let’s start with the obvious. How did you become a queen?

Well, I am the wife of the 48th sultan of Ternate. I was originally from Java and was crowned sultana, or queen, of Ternate in 2000.

How do you cope with the cultural differences between Java and North Maluku?

I experienced culture shock when I first moved to Ternate because it was so different. However, thank God, I was able to adjust quickly and soon felt at home in North Maluku. I’m Javanese, and traditionally we are raised more gently and to be soft spoken. But I was brought up under two cultures, Javanese and European, because my grandfather had Dutch and French heritage. So this affected the way that I think.

There are many sultanates in Indonesia. Do they still have any power?

Many of the other kingdoms no longer have any real power primarily because they are not willing to change with the times. The only way to survive is to use politics to make your voice heard. Without that it’s difficult to maintain both a monarchy and democracy.

Has politics always been your passion?

At first, I was just a housewife, but then the sultan told me that I had the ability to be in politics. It was tough for me because I’m not originally from North Maluku, but the sultan believed in me. I wasn’t in favor at first, but then I asked him a question: Why us? Why do we have to be in politics? Shouldn’t a sultanate be neutral and act like an umbrella to protect its people? But the sultan said that our role was to maintain harmony, that we had to participate in politics so we could be part of the central government system. So I took it upon myself to become a part of it to influence our traditional values.

Being a queen is already an honor, so why lower yourself to become part of the government?

In politics, one plus one doesn’t equal two. I had to become part of it to play a role in the decision-making process. That way, I can try and make one plus one almost equal two.

How long have you been in politics?

First, I spent five years on the Regional Representatives Council [DPD] and then I became a member of the House of Representatives [DPR] two years ago.

Do you agree that the House needs a new Rp 1 trillion building?

I agree that we should build a new DPR/MPR building to improve the performance of the top state institutions. Imagine the elevator suddenly stopping while there are House members inside? How can we work if we have to constantly think about safety? The current building is not able to accommodate members anymore.

What changes have you made since you came to office?

I’m not going to talk about changes for the nation, but for my people I have made the palace more accessible, more transparent. The palace has to act like parents toward the people, we are not their masters. I have also built a mosque for the women, improved banking and the economy in Ternate, and I have I established a center to act as a base for all the women’s organizations in North Maluku.

What’s so great about Ternate?

When I’m in Ternate, I love being around my people. Another great thing about Ternate is the spices. They are the main commodity and made us famous hundreds of years ago. In fact, Columbus was originally looking for Ternate, one of the Spice Islands, when he found America. America wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for Ternate [laughs].

What’s so great about Jakarta?

I like being here because my voice can be heard, in contrast to when I’m sitting in the palace. In Jakarta, I can enjoy the music scene, jazz and blues. There’s also the malls, which are so convenient. Everything you need in one place.

You’re obviously very busy, so how do you manage your time?

No one’s perfect, but I try to manage it the best I can. I have to be able to know when it’s time to be the queen, mother, sister or friend. I really enjoy being with my children here in Jakarta. I teach them how to be independent; but I also play video games with my little one, pick dresses for my teenage daughter and do her makeup, and just enjoy being a mother.

What else do you like to do besides being a queen, mother and DPR member?

I like to have fun and relax too; just because I’m a queen doesn’t mean I have to be uptight. I pick up my kids from school, go shopping at the mall, I wear jeans and I hang out with college students. I enjoy designing my own clothes, I choreograph traditional dances and I also teach politics and communication. I’m quite an artistic person; I believe there’s art in everything you do.

What about the future?

In the near future, I’m planning to run for governor.


Boki was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Boki Ratu Nita Budhi Susanti, Legislator and Queen

Pictures by Iwan Putuhena & Yanti Junani


My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Dhiah, 21, spends several nights a week clubbing in Kemang and is a regular guest at a number of venues. We caught up with Dhiah at Venue, one of her favorite clubs in South Kemang. She talked about what she loves about the nightlife in Kemang, the hottest places to party and her resolution for the new year.

How often do you hang out in Kemang?
I started coming here around four years ago. Back then I hung out in this area almost every day; lately I’ve cut it down to about three times a week (laughs).

What do you normally do around Kemang?
My night usually starts at Shisha Café, dinner at KFF (Kemang Food Fest), then off to Triple Nine, Venue, Nu China, or wherever the party’s at.

Where do you go most often?
I like to go to Venue, it’s one of my favorite places, because on Mondays it’s 50 percent off for drinks, and Wednesdays is ladies night with R&B music. I feel like I’m promoting the place now (laughs).

Do you get privileges as a regular?
Of course, but I already get special privileges just for being a lady; I’m talking about free drinks and entry on ladies night. I normally get invitations and guest list to places almost every day. And almost everywhere I go, there are people who also party as much as I do. We know each other from hanging out, so we join tables and party together.

Do you call yourself a ‘clubber’?
I don’t go clubbing to get that title or recognition. I just happen to really enjoy going out, being with friends, being around people, talking and drinking. So I think it’s an accidental status (laughs).

What’s the hottest nightclub right now?
I would say Second Floor, because they recently renovated the club and it’s packed almost every night.

Do you live in Kemang?
No, I live in Central Jakarta, behind Grand Indonesia, because it’s closer to my work place. But I would love to be in Kemang. I used to live here a few years back. It was comfortable because everything is in the area. But being away doesn’t stop me from partying here.

Why do you choose to party here, it’s so far from where you live?
It’s my second home. When you’re in the area, everything is near and convenient; the clubs, restaurants, boutiques and lounges. Everything is within a walking distance, so it’s easy to hop around.

Where do you work?
I work in public relations at After Hour Sarinah, a billiard bar in Central Jakarta. Before that I was an SPG (sales promotion girl) for a variety of products and brands.

Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from South Jakarta, born and raised, so I’m comfortable with the area and I’m not scared to go places by myself or to walk in the street.

Do you think Kemang is affordable?
Well, it depends. There are expensive places and fine restaurants, but I think there are many more places for young people and professionals that are affordable.

What do you drink when you go out?
I would like to drink my favorite liquor, Johnny Walker Blue Label, but since I can only afford Black Label, anything mixed with that will do just fine. My friends and I usually buy bottles, because it’s much cheaper at the end of the night than buying drinks by the glass.

Do you have a boyfriend?
Yes, he is a DJ at one of the clubs in the area. But I don’t go to Kemang because of him, because he plays classic disco, and I’m not really into that (laughs).

What don’t you like about Kemang?
Not being able to get a table especially when you really looking forward to go to that particular place whether it’s at the club or restaurant. Kemang is always crowded, and it happens a lot, particularly over the weekend, some places don’t take reservations.

What is your New Year resolution?
I will try to quit smoking, because lately I’m starting to feel like I’m getting short of breath. But I’m not ready to quit drinking just yet (laughs). In the beginning I wasn’t a smoker but when I’m drinking it makes me want to smoke, so it will be a challenge.

Recently the government banned smoking inside public buildings. Do you think they should regulate that for clubs?
Well it would be nice to provide an outdoor space for smokers, like a balcony or roof top. I think it’s a good idea to enforce the non-smoking law in the club, because sometimes when everyone smokes in a packed room with bad circulation, my eyes gets watery and my clothes and hair will smell like smoke when I get home.

Do you think there will ever be a “last call” for partying?
Not anytime soon (laughs). Only when I’m in mourning, like recently when my father passed away. I was sad and stopped going out for 10 days, but then I couldn’t resist wanting to go out again. I guess I can say partying is kind of like a healing process for me.

Dhiah was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Laura Muljadi, Model

It’s not easy being different in Jakarta. In the Netherlands, dark skin and exotic eyes can land you a modeling gig. But in Jakarta those same features, coupled with the fact that you’re 181 centimeters tall, warrant stares and whispers. But Laura Muljadi, 25, became a fixture at Fashion Week. Things weren’t easy for her — her mom made her shower with milk in hopes of lightening her skin. In college she weighed 82 kilograms. But instead of blaming people who put her down, she made things happen on her own. Now, when she’s not doing the catwalk, she tells kids at schools to be themselves. and stop caring about what other people think.

What does it feel like to be stared at all the time?

When I was younger my hair was really short and everybody thought I was a guy or a transvestite.

Even when I was in the Miss Indonesia pageant a blogger said I should join Miss Transvestite Indonesia.

When people stare I just smile back at them.

I’m ethnic Chinese, but you can’t tell. I stopped walking with my dad when I was 14 because I was so tall at that age people didn’t think I was his daughter.

You didn’t always think you would be a model, did you?

When I was growing up my dad only saw things as black or white. He always said: ‘There are only two types of girls in the world.

The pretty ones and the smart ones. You can’t be in the middle. If you’re in the middle you won’t survive.’

My dad always gave me books. I’ve always had books.

You have dark skin, which is normally not considered beautiful in Indonesia.

I grew up in the ethnic Chinese community. Even my cousins always thought I was different.

Once, when I was in elementary school, my teacher was talking about blood types and he said ‘Laura, it’s gonna be tough for her if she gets sick because she’s adopted and her parents might have different blood types.’

How was it even possible for him to say that in front of his students?

I was 9 years old. Of course I cried.

When I was younger, my parents would order pure milk and I would have to shower in it. They thought it would make my skin lighter.

But I always believed that things were going to happen for me.

You received a scholarship to go to school in the Netherlands. What did you study there?

I took up international communications management.

After school, I came back to Jakarta and got an office job related to my major, but modeling took over, and now things have gotten a bit carried away [laughs].

Any advice for young models ?

You need to be smart. Know what’s best for you.

You can buy all the whitening products here, but if you don’t have the confidence you’ll never be pretty.

You don’t need to be sharped- nose or anything. I go to schools and talk to kids and they say ‘You’re so lucky.’

But I tell them in this world only 5 percent of success is luck, 95 is hard work and motivation.

What do you tell the kids when you visit the schools?

I tell them ‘If you don’t want people to hate you, if you don’t like conflict, then don’t take risks.’ When I joined Miss Indonesia people were like ‘What were you thinking? They never pick people who look like you.’

I told them I’m not here to win, I’m here to pursue my dreams and to inspire people like me.

I don’t mean those who are dark-skinned, I mean different from the stereotype of what’s pretty.

When you were in college in the Netherlands you hosted a radio show that was broadcast in Indonesia.

It’s like Radio Indonesia. It’s a government-funded radio station with programs in nine languages. I did a show called ‘Voice of Women.’

The program started out as something completely different, aimed at college-age kids. Why the change?

I did my thesis on migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

People here know all about the bad things that happen to migrant workers in Singapore and Malaysia, but they don’t focus on or broadcast the good things.

So you were talking about good things?

I found a balance. We broadcast the good and bad stories so the people from cities and villages knew what to expect.

Sure, a lot of bad things happen, but there are success stories that no one ever hears about, especially from Saudi Arabia.

I wanted to tell the listeners what they could expect to happen — both the good and bad.

Some people benefit from going abroad. But the media never broadcast those stories.

But does anyone really want to work as a maid abroad?

That’s the thing — some people go abroad and then come back and are celebrities in their villages.

Some people are even given an inheritance from their employers.

Especially in Taiwan, Indonesians are seen as caretakers and nurses, not maids.

Some get rich and just stay in Taiwan. But you never hear that.

People only want to hear how miserable other people are.

How did you get your big break?

When I was going to school in the Netherlands, I worked as a waitress at a cafe.

I weighed 82 kilograms at the time. A regular at the restaurant owned a modeling agency.

She said ‘If you lose all this weight in six months I can assure you’ll get a job.’

I went from 82 kilos to 49 kilos in six months.

Everything went in a blender. I didn’t chew anything for three months.

So what were you having for dinner, oatmeal?

I drank juice and blended vegetables. It was disgusting. I could never do it again. Then I tried to blend rice and meat, and the second month I even blended mie goreng.

 

Laura was talking to Iwan Putuhena & Zack Petersen

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Laura Muljadi, Model

 

Pictures Courtesy of  Laura Muljadi

My Kemang: Erita, Public Relation Coordinator

When rain pours in Kemang, puddles form everywhere in no time. Erita Santosa is a Kemang resident who works for IHE Indonesia, a flood management consulting firm. As a public relations coordinator, Erita helps raise public awareness about flooding. Here she shares her views on a subject close to the hearts of Kemang residents.

How did you end up in Kemang?
I have worked at IHE Indonesia since 2008, and their office is here in Kemang.

What kind of company is IHE?
It’s a consulting firm that focuses on everything related to water. We have workshops, seminars and training programs on water and the environment.

What do you do there?
As a communications and public relations coordinator my job is to maintain networks with the media and stakeholders. I write press releases and organize press conferences to raise public awareness about flooding,

So what’s the best way to solve the flooding problem around Kemang?
I would suggest not building any more high-rises in the area. The investors in Kemang have to gather and find a solution to solve this problem before they start another construction, because the main streets that get flooded are the only access. They cannot rely on the government to do something about it.

The traffic and flooding puts many people off. So why do you think it’s still the “hip” place to be in Jakarta?
I heard about Kemang even when I was living in Jogjakarta. There is a history to this area and people talk about it. It’s an entertainment center.

What do you think about the new high-rise buildings in the area?
Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think their impact has not been carefully considered. Like I said, Kemang is an entertainment center and it is an asset for tourism. I don’t think there should be any high-rise buildings in the area. The roads do not accommodate this.

What other activities are you involved in?
I enjoy doing volunteer work and being involved with social organization activities. I’ve been volunteering at Flowgi Foundation (www.flowgi.org) since 2006 as a coordinator for public relations, and I conduct social activities to enhance the education of poor children who live on the streets and in orphanages. We fundraise by doing several small projects.

Where are you from originally?
I’m from Jogjakarta. I moved to Jakarta in 2006 after the earthquake and after my father passed away.

What do you like about living in Kemang?
It’s near my office and I can walk or ride my bike anywhere. Everything is near — boutiques, spas, bars and restaurants. Everything is here. I enjoy the festivals when the streets are blocked. I also believe that Kemang is a safe neighborhood.

What don’t you like?
The wide gap between the rich and the poor. Just around the corner in the Bangka area you can still spot poverty, while on the other side is luxury. At Bangka you can still find food that costs less than Rp 10,000.

How do you get to work?
I ride my bike to work. Since we have such small streets in the area, and too much traffic, it is convenient for me to ride my bike. Unfortunately, there aren’t any proper places for me to park my bike.

Where are you on Saturday night?
I have a favorite place for Saturdays. It’s called Birdie. It’s an affordable drinking place where you can still find a cup of coffee for Rp 5,000. Or I go to Bremer to have a few beers with journalists.

And Sunday morning?
You can find me at church or at The Wall Street Institute where I study English.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Kemang?
My favorite place is a street stall in Bangka Raya that sells chap chay (mixed vegetables). I’ve been eating there since the owner had only one stall; now he has three in the area.

Erita Santosa was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Erita, Public Relation Coordinator

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

For more information on IHE, go to www.iheindonesia.com

My Jakarta: Patriana Sonia, Business Analyst

Patriana Sonia hides her addiction for adrenaline and all things extreme behind a bright smile and cool demeanor. Patriana, a Washington-based business analyst at Freddie Mac, left Jakarta four years ago. In between skydiving over the Grand Canyon or lapping a Nascar circuit in a race car she makes time to come back to Jakarta.  Patriana tells us what she thinks about the city’s housing market, reminisces over how inexpensive it used to be to go to the movies, and reveals how the move to the United States taught her to become more independent.

So you work for Freddie Mac, what exactly does that company do?

We lend money to the banks and they lend money to the customer. We focus on the residential mortgage market and help create opportunities for home ownership.

What is your position there?

I’m a business analyst. I do pricing for customers, mostly major banks like Bank of America, HSBC and Citibank.

Do you enjoy your job?

Pricing is fun. I do programming. I have to consider all aspects such as the inflation rate, market price and so on to analyze their ability to pay back.

How do you release the pressure from work?

I like extreme sports. Recently, I drove a Nascar circuit in a stock car and I was going more than 200 kilometers per hour. The gas pedal and the steering wheel are really heavy.

In Arizona, I went skydiving and got to see the Grand Canyon from the sky.

Then just last month, I was in Africa for the World Cup where I went bungee jumping. I’ll do anything at least once. Next, I want to fly a fighter jet.

Have you done anything extreme here in Jakarta?

Not yet, but I heard they have base jumping, where you jump off a building. I want to try that, but I bet it’s scarier than skydiving. I want to do all these things before I start having children [laughs].

What did you study in college?

I went to school in upstate New York, got my associate degree and then moved to Washington, DC, to attend George Washington University where I graduated with a degree in economics and religion.

Right now, I’m taking an MBA in finance, [management information systems] and software engineering, so I’m combining IT and finance.

That way I hope I can make my bank account fatter [laughs].

How’s the housing market in the United States right now?

Interest rates are still low, but at the same time it’s not easy for banks to lend money because there’s a restricted lending program. But overall the market is doing better than last year.

What do you think about the housing market in Jakarta?

With all the new development happening in the outskirts of Jakarta, housing is more affordable especially for the middle class.

Do you think the housing market in Jakarta will crash like it did in the States?

No. I think it will remain stable. Our biggest issue has always been a shortage of housing, lack of supply and high demand. We weren’t impacted by the global housing crisis because our economy is isolated.

So how long have you been away from Jakarta and how long are you going to be here?

I’ve been away for more than four years, and I’m only staying for a couple of weeks.

When did you move to the US?

When I was 16. I always wanted to move there. I traveled so much when I was younger and I saw New York as the land of opportunity [laughs].

I love the States because that’s where I learned how to be independent and make my own money. It’s different to living in Jakarta where you have a driver and maids. Living is easy at home.

How has Jakarta changed over the past four years?

More traffic than ever before, but I think the busway is not a bad idea. There have also been improvements in the government with the KPK and efforts to clean up the old system.

What do you think about the lifestyle in Jakarta?

The middle class is becoming more upscale. We have a lot of places to hang out at I think we are getting that taste for luxury.

I notice that people are speaking English everywhere and more international schools are opening, so there’s increasing evidence of globalization.

Where do you hang out when you’re back in town?

I’m out checking out new places, restaurants and malls. I spend time at Grand Indonesia, Plaza Indonesia, Social House, Immigrant and all those hip new places [laughs].

I realize that the prices are more expensive here when compared to the States where you can still find beer for a dollar during happy hour.

My favorite beers like Budweiser and Hoegaarden cost $10 in Jakarta.

When shopping here, do you convert prices to dollars in your head?

Yes, I have a tendency to think in dollars, so everything is either very cheap or more expensive. Since I’m only here for a month and I’m still earning dollars, it’s alright [laughs].

Not so long ago in Jakarta, Rp 50,000 [$5.50] could buy you a movie ticket and food, and you’d still have money left over, but not today.

 

Patriana was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Patriana Sonia, Business Analyst

 

Pictures Courtesy of Patriana Sonia Paago