The Philippines, a string of 7,100 pearls, is always searching for heroes. We remember names of politicians, revolutionaries, writers, legal luminaries, and entertainment titans.
“Juans” as we delightfully call ourselves, genuflect with awe when we hear names like Dr. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Apolinario Mabini and the likes. Generations remember names like Rogelio de la Rosa, Manuel Quezon, Lapu-lapu, Botong Francisco, Julian Felipe and more.
And in recent history, Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Aguilar, Pia Wurtzbach, Nora Aunor, Erap Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos, Charice Pempengco (now Jake Zyrus), and “Yaya Dub” Maine Mendoza became bywords in both spoken and printed conversations.
“Palefaces” we all are when confronted with names like Roberto del Rosario, Fe del Mundo, Eduardo San Juan, Dr. Abelardo Aguilar, Gregorio Zara, Edgardo Vasquez, Diosdado Banatao, Dr. Rodolfo Aquino, Dr. Enrique Ostrea, Felix Maramba, Dr. TeduloTopacio, and Alfredo M. Anos Sr.
Who are these people? Googling their names and hundreds more of their breed we call Filipino inventors will betray our ignorance of the scientific geniuses we never knew.
This short list invented the moon buggy, karaoke, modular home system, medical incubator, erythromycin, video phone, computer microchips, isolated rice breeds, drug detection on pregnant women, leptospiral disease of domesticated animals, etc. And then we say “Wow.”
We always get excited naming the previous opponents of our “pambansang kamao,” we proudly memorized the line up of Barangay Ginebra, and even the array of over-the-counter menu of Jollibee, Mcdonald’s or Mang Inasal.
We are open-jawed whenever we hear the speeches of politicians but are unimpressed by the breakthroughs made by our scholarly men and women of inventions.
We tend to regard the work of our scientists and inventors lowly or sometimes, we dismiss their work as a practical joke. We are remiss in giving our inventors the support and the respect that they deserve.
And saddest of all, our inventors are given attention by countries beyond our shores.
Take the case of Daniel Dingel, a mechanical engineer who in the 1980s developed a car that could run on water. Skeptics called it a fraud. Dingel stood his ground, insisting that he had conducted enough tests to validate his brainchild, but officials from the Department of Science and Technology only succeeded in projecting him as an oddball and pigeonholed his invention.
The kicker is last year, Genepax, a Japanese company, launched its water car that practically runs on the same process of electrolysis as Dingel’s car. The car, which has an estimated factory cost of $5,000, is going to be mass produced soon. In parallel, Daewoo of Korea has entered into a partnership with Swiss Ethos for the production of water cars that are expected to hit the international market in the coming months. What a disappointment to the 80 plus year-old Filipino Daniel Dingel who came up with his first prototype as early as 1969.
We would be driving cheaper, environment-friendly cars by now and would have saved revenues by paying much less not only for imported fuel but for imported cars as well. We could even be exporting to other countries had the government supported his invention.
Filipino inventors and scientists are always confronted with major obstacles such as threats of infringement of intellectual property rights, the usual cold shoulder and run-around given by government agencies.
A glaring example is the Vazbuilt Modular Housing System, an invention of Edgardo Vazquez. He came up with a brilliant concept of a prefabricated or ready-to-build housing system. Easy to build and less time to construct.
Walls, floors, columns, window panels, and tied beams, with additional implementation could have solved the country’s housing backlog.
Vasquez had invented this housing system that can be built for a couple of weeks or less. This practical architectural masterpiece can withstand even the most destructive and strongest typhoons and even earthquakes.
The World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva named him its Inventor of the Year and his prize-winning entry is the Vazbuilt system—a system for building houses in less than a month using prefabricated posts and panels. And no one noticed.
Vazquez is not an architect or engineer. He is a business graduate who worked for his family’s construction and tile company. “They thought it was the work of a Japanese or a Korean. Nobody thought a Filipino was capable of creating something like this. And when people discover it’s a Filipino product, they think less of it,” he lamented.
For seven years, he fought in court a giant conglomerate that tried to usurp the rights to his invention. The case was not given prominence because it involved a “Goliath” and he was just a “David.” He was financially devastated in his fight and went penniless in the end. And this is what we do to reward a brilliant mind. Only in the Philippines.
As they say, nobody can put a good man down. He unveiled his latest innovation—a cooling solution for open areas. Mr. Vazquez calls his latest innovation Misty Kool—a patented misting system with a timer that lowers outdoor temperature by 3 to 5 degrees celsius. He offers the technology in two forms—a line machine and electric fan-type units. He says Misty Kool is a misting system that sprays ultra-fine microns of water that can cool off any area. It conserves energy while offering an air-cooling effect and repels flying insects, dust, smoke and pollen. And he is now vindicated by the huge waiting list of orders for his creation.
Vazquez, a supporter of Filipino Inventors Society Producers Cooperative, says he also wants to teach his skills to other people. “I cannot do it by myself. The only way you can see a product fly is when people look for it, and people use it. If the inventor just keeps it to himself, it is useless. But when you see everybody using it, it is not about money, but about contentment that you help mankind. The moment you start teaching people, that’s when you succeed,” he said.
Another case is Filipina inventor Aisa Mijeno, whose goal was to mass produce a salt-water powered LED lamp.
Mijeno’s LED lamp can provide eight hours of light powered only by a solution of water and two tablespoons of salt or plain seawater. This could be a boon to remote rural folk all over the world who do not enjoy the comfort of having electric power. This idea is still trying to see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” No pun intended.
That is why in many of these instances, our inventors end up funded by foreigners who commercialize their profit-making inventions.
There is a glaring lackluster support for community-based alternative energy sources amid a power industry that is monopolized by a few companies in partnership with foreign firms. The power sector is dominated by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Aboitiz Power, and the Lopez group of companies, which collectively supply about 60 percent of the country’s total electricity; SM tycoon Henry Sy with a majority stake in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, and Manuel Pangilinan’s MVP Group, which controls power distribution in Luzon through Meralco. SMC and Aboitiz Power are also part of Meralco and are currently moving to wrest control of several electric consumer cooperatives in the country.
Our Motherland will never see the sunrise if more “Davids” like our inventors multiply and are threatened and swallowed by a few greedy “Goliaths” and yes, the “wailing wall” is growing each day. And we only watch.
Good work, good deeds and good faith to all.