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O’Bikoliana Lecture Series Features Bikol Music

The Annual James J. O’Brien, SJ, Memorial Lecture Series is a project of O’Bikoliana, the Golden Legacy Project of the Ateneo de Naga High School Class of 1966, to bring scholarly examination of some aspects of the Bicol culture and pertinent social issues that Fr. James O’Brien advocated for.

O’Bikoliana, located in the second floor of the James O’Brien Library, is a repository of Bikol books, newspaper, songs, videos, poems, and other related materials. It strives to reinforce the connection between the Ateneo and the community by attracting students, researchers, teachers, and cultural workers from the larger community to use O’Bikoliana as an educational resource.

Since its inception four years ago, O’Bikoliana, in partnership with the Ateneo de Naga University and the James O’Brien Library, has presented free lectures on selected topics that perpetuate the advocacy and love for Bicol of the late Jesuit priest, known to his former students simply as O’B.

The inaugural lecture that was given by Bikolano historian Dr. Danny Gerona in 2017 focused on the role that Fr. O’B played in the birth of Bikol studies. It was followed in 2018 by journalist Gemma Mendoza’s presentation on the role of social media in social change. In 2019, Professor Jesus Federico Hernandez from the University of the Philippines lectured on Bikol language mapping as a guide to zelennials.

This year, the fourth in the Annual James J. O’Brien, SJ, Memorial Lecture Series, the lecture title is “Ano Daw Idtong sa Gogon – Original Bikol Music from Folk Songs to contemporary.” It is scheduled on Thursday, September 24, at 10:00 AM (Philippine Standard Time).

Because of the pandemic, there is no in-person lecture. But interested individuals can participate via online webinar. Registration is free at:

The speakers are two known Bikolano melophiles: Joey Gianan Vargas and Jaime Jesus Borlagdan.

Vargas, who is from Catanduanes, is a UP graduate in Communication Arts. He is currently working with UST researchers and artists on a musical theater entitled Sueno Eterno that focuses on the life and works of Julio Nakpil, a musician and general during the 1896 revolution. As a lyricist, he has collaborated with internationally-recognized Filipino composers such as Matthew Maniano and Nilo Alcala.

Borlagdan, who is from Albay, is a UP graduate in Creative Writing. He is an established Bikol poet and fictionist, chalking up awards as a writer, among them the Premio Tomas Arejola for Bikol Literature and Writer of the Year in 2009. In 2015, he was named Outstanding Albayano Artist for Literature by the Albay provincial government. He started writing songs in high school and college. As a musician, he fronts and writes music for Krear Bathala and Ako Kalag (I’m Spirit), bands distinct in their original songs written in Bikol. His songs have been performed over the radio, on the internet, in schools and in bars. His current project for music is Musikarahayan, a local music event in its third year, and Bathala Na: Mantra Music Fest, an annual concert for his band Krear Bathala.

The two reactors are Joseph Reburiano, Program Director of the Ateneo de Naga University Choir and Professor Ramil Chavenia, Chairman of the Humanities Department, Bicol University and producer of the Magayon Musika series, four albums of original Bikol music by different Albayano composers.

To moderate the virtual lecture is Dr. Noel Volante, faculty member of the Media Studies Department of the Ateneo de Naga University and Regional Convenor of Cinema Rehiyon (NCAA), Cine Malaya (CCP), Cine Europa (European Union) and Eigasai (Japan Foundation).

Music is very much a part of O’B’s legacy. In justifying O’B’s love for Bikol music, Dr. Doods Santos, author and literary critic, wrote, “In The Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Bikol People, Fr. James O’Brien, SJ, devotes one full chapter on Bikol Folk Songs in an article written by Ruben Federizon, AdeN Batch ’68. Fr. O’Brien also includes Bikol songs in the article on “The Preponderance of the Religious Element in Bikol Culture,” as well as music sheets of Bikol folk songs in an Appendix. During his presentations, Fr. OB spoke in Bikol, recited a rawitdawit, and typically sang, “Ano Daw Idtong sa Gogon” in his distinctive American twang to the delight of the Bikol audience.”

Twenty-six years after his death on May 26, 1994, Fr. James J. O’Brien, SJ, continues to influence and educate the Bikolanos, whom he loved so very much, through The Annual James J. O’Brien Memorial Lecture Series.

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