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Oct 02nd
Home Columns Noy (Bicol Column) How “Oragon” Probably Came to Mean the “Very-best” Among Bicolnons
How “Oragon” Probably Came to Mean the “Very-best” Among Bicolnons PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Noy (Bicol Column)
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 14:21


By Lolo Bobby M. Reyes of Sorsogon City and West Covina, California


T he colloquial word, “Oragon,” means “a person of excellence” or the “very-best” in the language of Bicolandia, the region that is the southern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon. But to my limited knowledge as a journalist, nobody can tell surely how it was coined or when it was first used as an obvious derivative and made part of the Bicol language.


Here is an example of the use of “Oragon,” as found in this article: A Parable of the Cunning-and-Crafty Child of an Oragon Peasant.  


As explained in the parable, “Oragon” is “the Bicolnon term for excellence in any undertaking.”


In 1961, I was chosen as one of the representatives of my high school, the Lyceum of Sorsogon, in a regional sports-academic contest. (My alma mater was later renamed the “Divine Word High School,” as it was then owned and operated by the SVD Fathers). I was then a graduating student and I was asked to compete in the essay-writing contest of the Bicol Association of Catholic Schools (BACS) Meet that was to be hosted by the Ateneo de Naga in Camarines Sur Province.


My English teacher, Mrs. Maria Jamoralin (now deceased), was my essay-writing coach. Twice to three times a week at the high-school library, she would give me an imaginary topic for the coming essay-writing contest in Naga City. I was then asked to write an essay about the topic and finish it within 30 minutes. She would later grade my work.


One of the “practice topics” given me by Mrs. Jamoralin was “The History of the Word ‘Oragon’.” So I immediately got to work. While I cannot now recall the exact wordings of my practice essay, I remember that I started it by writing substantially the lead paragraph of this instant article.


“Oragon” Was Probably a Spanish Derivative


T hen I said that since no Bicol historian or language expert has written about how it was coined or started, ergo, it was anybody’s educated guess. But I wrote that it obviously started when the Philippines (and the Bicol Region) were Spanish colonial territories. At that time, the Spanish friar (usually the parish priest) was the most-learned man in town. The Spanish priest was the town’s expert of the Iberian tongue, Latin, arts, sciences and everything. The people looked up to the priest as the walking encyclopedia, a mobile library and the repository of knowledge. Many Filipino women of course were enamored of the Spanish friar, usually a good-looking Caucasian, and his grasp of intellect, experience in the Old World and wit.


Prayers said by the Spanish friar were in Latin. He would usually begin any religious service by saying “Ora pro nobis” (Let us pray). And soon the Bicolnon term for prayer was the derivative “Oracion.” Some of the Bicolnons (Bicol Indios) unofficially called the Spaniard man-of-the-cloth as “Señor Ora pro nobis” or even “Señor Oracion,” especially to those whose girlfriends succumbed to the extra-curricular charm of the Iberian priest. It was probably the Indios’ sarcastic way of making fun at the symbol of Spanish colonial oppression.


As the years turned into decades and generations, “Señor Oracion” probably became the colloquial word for a person who excels in literature, arts, science and even in romancing women. And in Sorsogon Province (then a sub-province of Albay) the people added “onon” to mean the “very best,” i.e. “Señor Oracion” to “Señor Oraciononon.” Eventually, I said, people dropped off the “Señor” and later somehow, the word got bastardized to “Oragon,” as a shorter term.


Among Bicolnons today, a person who excels in the school (as valedictorian, for example) is called an “Oragon sa clase” (best in class). A student who excels in sports is called often “Oragon sa basketball” (in basketball, for instance). A lawyer who is reputed to be one of the best attorneys in town is called, “Oragon na abogado.” And of course, a “lover boy” is often called “Oragon sa romansa” (the best in romance).


And Sorsoganons continue to call the “best of the best” as the “Oragononon” or in Naga Bicol, “Pinaka-maorag.”]


My practice essay was short but humorous. Mrs. Jamoralin gave me a high mark but she said I deserved a grade of 110% for “imagination.” And I owe it all to Mrs. Jamoralin for my decision to major in journalism in San Beda College where I maintained a full scholarship for eight semesters.


By the way, I garnered the Silver Medal in the 1961 BACS Meet’s essay-writing contest. The topic was “Bicolandia” and I had fun in writing about our region’s religion, people and their language and its many dialects, tourist attractions, natural resources and history. (Some said that it was a “hometown decision,” as the gold medalist came from the Ateneo de Naga High School and the judges were all from Naga City). But I eventually graduated as the “Oragon” of my high-school class (valedictorian). # # #


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