14 Filipino Inventions: Myth or Fact?

The internet is a great source of information – and of misinformation. In addition, Pinoys have a high sense of nationalistic pride, claiming what we ought to claim; however, sometimes we tend to claim too much.

Can you guess which of the following Pinoy inventions are truly our own?

#1: Saltwater-Powered Lamp 

With just two tablespoons of salt and one glass of tap water, the Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) lamp can run up to eight hours. In addition, the SALt lamp can also charge smartphones via a USB cable. Environment-friendly, sustainable and suitable to those living in coastal areas, the SALt lamp is a safe alternative to traditional lamps.

Myth or fact: FACT.

The SALt lamp was invented by a Filipina scientist Aisa Mejeno. This product received various awards in the Philippines and in other countries for international competitions: South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Netherlands and USA.

#2: Fluorescent Lamp

Agapito Flores, an innovator and electrician, has been claimed in local grade school text books as the inventor of the fluorescent lamp. It was reported that Flores presented a glass tube that produces white light to President Manual L. Quezon.

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

When Flores presented his discovery to Quezon, General Electric (GE) of Great Britain was already selling fluorescent lamps at the time. There are several claims to the invention of the fluorescent lamp: Edmund Germer, George Inman, Richard Thayer, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla -- but it's definitely not Agapito Flores.

Many text books claim that the fluorescent lamp was named after Flores -- this is not correct. Fluorescence is a phenomenon where a substance absorbs then produces light as a result of radiation of a shorter wavelength such as X-ray or ultraviolet light. The first known use of the term fluorescence was in 1852; Flores was born in 1897.

#3: Hand Touch-Powered Flashlight

We've heard about manually-powered light sources wherein light energy is generated by shaking or hand cranking. In 2013, a patent-pending invention was submitted to Google Science Fair. Called the "Hollow Flashlight," this award-winning prototype emits light the moment you pick it up.

Myth or Fact: FACT.

Ann Makosinski, a 15-year old Filipino-Canadian student, was inspired by a friend in Mindanao whose family could not afford to pay electricity. This inspiration was turned into the top prize in 2013 Google Science Fair. The Hollow Flashlight produces 24 lumens max; the commercial standard is between 90 to 1,200 lumens. Although several companies have shown interest in her flashlight, Makosinski would only agree to commercialize once her flashlight achieves higher brightness at a lower cost.

#4: Video Phone

A few online resources point to Dr. Gregorio Zara as the inventor of videophone. A University of the Philippines (UP) and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, Zara patented "photo phone signal separator network" in 1955. Five years after his invention, AT&T started to produce trademarked Picturephone. It wasn't clear whether Zara's invention has anything to do with AT&T's video phone mass production. In addition, as early as 1927, AT&T had created its earliest electromechanical television-videophone called the ikonophone, with two-way audio but only one-way video.

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

An early concept of combined videophone and wide-screen television called a telephonoscope was conceptualized barely two years after the telephone was patented in the United States in 1876 by Dr. Alexander Graham Bell but it was in 1936 when the world's first public two-way video telephone service was developed by Dr. Georg Oskar Schubert of Germany's Gegensehn-Fernsprechanlagen (visual telephone system). Checking on the timeline, Zara's invention was 19 years after Schubert's.

#5: Karaoke

The word karaoke came from from Japanese terms "kara" (meaning without or empty) and "okesutora" (meaning orchestra). Why would a Filipino inventor name his invention after these Japanese terms?

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

This is a straightforward myth as musician Daisuke Inoue of Japan in 1971 invented Juke-8 (or 8 Juke), which we now know as karaoke. Some sources claim that the invention was out of Inoue’s laziness – a guest invited him to join a trip to play music, Inoue declined because of busy work schedule and sent the guest an instrumental music so the guest could still sing even at Inoue’s absence.

Although the first commercial producer of karaoke was audio company Clarion in Japan, it wasn't until 1975 when it was patented as "Karaoke Sing Along System" by Roberto del Rosario, the president of Trebel Music Corporation. So the patent belongs to del Rosario but the actual invention is Inoue’s

#6: Moon Buggy

The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), popularly known as moon buggy (from the phrase “dune buggy”) was a battery-powered rover used in the last three Apollo programs – Apollo 15, 16 and 17. Eduardo San Juan, a.k.a. “The Space Junkman,” was an engineer who worked on a project called MoLab (Mobile Laboratory) Rover, a subproject of the Apollo program aimed to land a large mobile laboratory on the moon.

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

San Juan had no hands on in the design of the LRV which landed on the Apollo projects. His study of the MoLab Rover designs happened two years after the contract for the final LRV got signed. The inventors and designers of the LRV are the following: Dr. M.G. Bekker, Bruce Velasco, Frank Pavlics and Sam Romano.

#7: Amphibious Tricycle

"The Salamander," which can operate on electric on internal combustion, is a six-seater (four in water) tricycle that can both run on land and on water -- it allows to sail through flooded streets in Metro Manila, cross lakes and go island-hopping.

Myth or Fact: FACT.

The inventor of this first Filipino amphibious tricycle is Atoy Llave, a car customization expert and behind A-Toy Bodykits, in partnership with H2O Technologies, with technical head, Lamberto Armada. As with many brilliant and innovative Pinoy inventions, the lack of funding impeded The Salamander to get into production. First seen in 2015, The Salamander is still waiting to be developed and manufactured.

#8: Water-Fueled Car

Although, we’ve seen several demonstrations in the past both on local and international news, mass produced cars fueled by water may never happen. There’s a huge conspiracy theory that inventors working on water-fueled cars are getting killed and companies are getting shut down.

The key concept is to use the hydrogen part in water to produce oxyhydrogen or HHO (from H20) via electrolysis or some other means. Earlier claims on technologies making it possible for cars to run on water are:  Charles H. Garrett’s electrolytic carburetor, 1935 (there was an application for a patent but his patent failed to identify new source of energy); Stanley Meyer's water fuel cell, 1980, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen (Meyer died of aneurism although some theories claim that he was poisoned); Japan’s Genepax Water Energy System, which got shut down in 1999, merely a year after their demonstration of the Genepax Water Car; we also have our own Daniel Dingel.

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

Daniel Dingel was a Filipino inventor who claimed to have invented a “hydrogen reactor,” stating that he started research and development in 1969. In November 2000, Dr. John Ding Young of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) signed a “preliminary understanding” with Dingel for several projects, aiming to get an international patent and to commercialize the hydrogen reactor. In 2008, FPG successfully sued Dingel for fraud and estafa. Dingel was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.

#9: Vazbuilt Modular Housing System

There were earlier claims on prefabricated building. The first prefabricated homes and movable structures were invented in 16th century in India by Akbar. These structures were reported by Arif Qandahari in 1579. Sears Catalog Homes in the United States began offering mail-order kit homes between 1902 and 1910. In the United Kingdom, more than 156,000 prefabricated homes were built between 1945 and 1948. There was also a patent on modular housing system by Leonard Berman of the United States in 1971.

Myth or Fact: FACT.

No two modular housing systems are the same but in 1995, Edgardo Vazquez, CEO of Vazbuilt Technology developed a modular housing system called Vazbuilt System, which prides on building termite-, fire-, typhoon-, and earthquake-proof houses in less than a month using prefabricated posts and panels. Vazquez was awarded gold medal in Geneva, Switzerland as "World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Inventor of the Year” for the Vazbuilt System.

#10: Medical Incubator

Both Yahoo Answers and Wikipedia would tell unsuspecting online researcherd that it was Fe del Mundo, a Filipina physician, pediatrician and 1977 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service, who invented the medical incubator. However, the incubator was actually patented in 1889 and del Mundo was born in 1911.

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

French physician, Alexander Lion patented his Lion Incubator, the first patented medical incubator, in 1889. Del Mundo’s name would often appear with the term incubator since she was credited for her effort on devising a makeshift incubator for use in rural areas without electricity. This consisted of two native laundry baskets of different sizes placed one inside the other, wherein hot water bottles were placed all around them, with a small hood as a cover, with attached oxygen for the baby.

#11: Erythromycin

Erythromycin belongs in a group of drugs called macrolide antibiotics. Macrolide antibiotics slow the growth of, or sometimes kill, sensitive bacteria by reducing the production of important proteins needed by the bacteria to survive.

Myth or Fact: FACT.

The patent for erythromycin belongs to Eli Lilly Co., an Indiana-based international pharmaceutical giant. However, it was a Filipino doctor, Abelardo Aguilar, an employee then of Eli Lilly, who first discovered the bacteria that would later lead to the development of the antibiotic erythromycin. The family of Aguilar tried for so many years to claim royalty from Eli Lilly to no avail. In 1994, Juan Flavier, then secretary of Department of Health, said he would write to Eli Lilly’s headquarters to back the Aguilar family’s claim.

#12: Anti-Skin Cancer Removal Cream

BCC or basal cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer. In 1997, a warts removal cream known as DeWarts and a mole removal cream known as DeMole, were marketed to the public. These creams, developed from extracts of raw cashew nuts, were reformulated in 2003 and the resulting product, known as DeBCC, was certified as a viable treatment for BCC.

Myth or Fact: FACT.

A Filipino inventor, Rolando dela Cruz, developed and formulated DeBCC. The DeBCC cream was certified by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and was documented as a possible solution for BCC by University of the Philippines doctors. DeBCC was sold in Canada and Australia in 2008 and is currently being marketed by RCC Amazing Touch International, which has 17 clinics nationwide and has exclusive distributorships in clinics in Singapore, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

#13: Banana Ketchup

Banana ketchup, banana catsup or banana sauce is popular mainly in the Philippines and in the Caribbean although the Caribbean versions are yellow and thicker than our local versions.

Myth or Fact: FACT.

The origins of banana ketchup in The Philippines dates back to World War II when there was a shortage of tomatoes on the islands and it was a Filipino food technologist, pharmaceutical chemist, humanitarian and war heroine, Maria Y. Orosa, who is credited with the making of the first banana catsup.

#14:  Yo-yo

Next to dolls, the yo-yo (also 'yoyo') is considered as the second oldest toy in the world. According to Asian historians, yo-yo-like toys originated in China about 1000 BC. The earliest yo-yo recount however was in ancient Greece, around 450 to 500 BC - a bowl depicts a boy playing with a disk dangling on the end of a string. In the Philippines, the yo-yo was used as a weapon for over 400 years. The Pinoy version was large and with sharp edges and studs and attached to thick twenty-foot ropes for flinging at the enemies.

Myth or Fact: MYTH.

The yo-yo may have been a Chinese, or Greek, or Filipino invention. It's not clear if the toy arose independently in different locations, or spread from one spot to another. In addition, the term yo-yo came from the northern Philippine Ilokano language "yoyo" (which translates to come back). However, claiming that Pedro Flores invented the yo-yo is definitely a myth.

If we are to credit one person with the global popularity of yo-yos from the 20th century onwards, it would be Pedro Flores, a Filipino immigrant in California. Between 1928 and 1932, Flores started and ran the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California before selling the company and trademark to Donald Duncan, who continued to market and sell Flores yo-yos alongside the Duncan line.

The Filipino people can and ought to take pride in their own inventions but we have to claim what we have to claim and claim them right.

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