Jimmy Borja: Writing songs for the stars

THE SINGER AND THE SONGWRITER. World champion vocalist Jed Madela (right) dedicates “Bukas Na lang kita Mamahalin” to the composer of the song, Boholano legendary musician Jimmy Borja (left, seated) during his concert in California on August 27, 2017. |Photo courtesy of Annie Tajanlangit Mercado

When September comes, we know Christmas is not far behind.

And when the ‘ber months get underway, the local radio stations start to spin those familiar songs of the season. While some are merry in tune; others bring in puffs of nostalgia and senti feelings.

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And who can’t feel a tug at the heartstrings with the evocative singing of Jed Madela on these haunting lines:
Pasko na naman ngunit wala ka pa
Hanggang kailan kaya ako maghihintay sa iyo.

Listening to this song while driving on a cold and drizzly afternoon, I hurried home hoping to download the music and (to my amazement!) discovered that its music and lyrics is written by a native of Loay, Bohol!

Jimmy Borja’s “Sana Ngayong Pasko” has become a classic Christmas Original Pilipino Music (OPM) song. It was first popularized by Ariel Rivera in 1996 and was among the tracks included the latter’s holiday album, Paskong Walang Katulad. But the song just keeps sparkling every Christmas as more and more singers are interpreting and recording it – such great Filipino artists  like Lea Salonga,  Sharon Cuneta, and multi-awarded singer Jed Madela.

Whether you’ll be spending Christmas for the first time away (physically or just emotionally) from a loved one or have seasoned through many Christmases away from home, the song always stirs up feelings and a longing for togetherness. For OFWs and Boholanos residing outside their “yuta kong minahal,” this is the kind that will make tears drop unashamedly from one’s eyes.

Such is the intensity of the passions prompted by most of Borja’s original compositions.

Another popular tune by Jimmy Borja which became an all-time hit with the dramatic interpretation of Lani Misalucha is “Bukas na lang Kita Mamahalin.” The song has also been rendered by so many artists. What with its pure raving for an inopportune love.

The melody starts lightly like a smooth ride above the placid waters of Loboc River.

Kay hirap palang umibig sa di tamang panahon

Kung bakit ngayon ko lang natagpuan ang isang katulad mo…

Gloriously, the song goes to heights as in an upstream cruise:

Bukas na lang kita mamahalin

abay sa paglaya ng ating mga puso…

In her 2000 album notes, Misalucha reckoned that while she has been singing professionally since 1983, it was only in 1996 that she made a breakthrough with the song “Ang Iibigin ay Ikaw,” which was written also by Borja.

Kyla’s remake of a song originally interpreted by Ella Mae Sayson is phenomenal and who would ever thought that the No. 1 hit “If the Feeling Is Gone” is also penned by Jimmy Borja. Another very popular song by Philippine pop princess Sarah Geronimo is a Borja original. “I Still Believe in Loving You,” is included in Sarah’s album, Becoming, that easily gained platinum status in weeks after its release.

The songs of Borja are simply all over the music charts and great names in the industry have one or two of them. In fact, we are not just aware that a lot of the songs made for Philippine movies and teleseryes are compositions by the prolific composer from Bohol.

Born to Mr. Jose and Mrs. Cristita Borja, Jimmy grew up in Polacion Ubos, Loay town. He is an alumnus of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, which has not only produced priests but Boholano composers as well. Jimmy pursued his Accountancy course at the Divine Word College of Tagbilaran.

He started writing professionally in the early ‘90s. The first song he wrote “Sultihi Ko” won first prize in the 1st Bohol Pop Music Festival in 1991. He then won first prize in the Cebu Pop Music Festival for three consecutive years. His earlier songs in the Cebuano dialect were recorded by regional artists. A CPA, he quit his job for a full-time songwriting career.

He  is now based in Nashville, Tennessee, known as the “Songwriting Capital of the World.” He became the first homegrown Filipino non-artist songwriter to be signed by an American publishing company.

With more than 100 songs published and recorded by top recording artists in the Philippines and abroad, Jimmy Borja is indeed a Boholano music legend in the making. (Sonieta D. Labasan)



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